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Woodyanders

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Very clever and enjoyable, if rather flat, zombie horror comedy musical, 17 December 2014
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Arrogant professor of phonetics Henry Higgins (a delightfully haughty portrayal by Lawrence Evenchick) makes a wager with the amiable Colonel Pickering (a solid and likable performance by Barry Craiger) that he can transform lowly zombie Eliza Dolittle (well played with lip-smacking brio by Sacha Gabriel) into a prim'n'proper lady within a matter of six months.

Director Brett Kelly, who also co-wrote the clever script with Trevor Payer, offers a flavorsome evocation of the Edwardian period setting, keeps the hugely inspired story moving along at a swift pace, and offers an uproarious satirical commentary on manners, decorum, and propriety. The screenplay positively bristles with cutting wit, with plenty of spot-on sharp dialogue. Stephen John Tippet provides several neat and jaunty songs. Moreover, it's acted with great aplomb by an able and animated cast: The three leads do sterling work in their juicy roles, with sturdy support from Jennifer Valance as disapproving head maid Mrs. Pearce, Jason Redmond as the smitten Freddy Eynesford-Hill, and Payer as pesky interpretor Neppomuck. Alas, Jeremy Kennedy's pretty static cinematography and Kelly's competent, but overall pedestrian direction make this movie come across like a filmed version of a staged play: It's certainly entertaining enough, but could have benefited from a little more cinematic punch.

Very enjoyable slice'n'dice outing, 16 December 2014
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A high school election for class president turns ugly and deadly after a vicious killer dressed as Abe Lincoln starts bumping off candidates in assorted gruesome ways.

Director/co-writer Chris LaMartina and co-writer/co-producer Jimmy George do a real solid job of delivering the satisfying slasher goods: We've got a hefty double digit body count, oodles of graphic gore, a few bare breasts, bloody'n'brutal murder set pieces, a fairly complex and entertaining plot that zips along at a snappy (the compact 81 minute running time ensures that this movie never becomes dull or overstays its welcome), a neat gallery of probable suspects, old school practical make-up f/x, and, most refreshing of all, an amusing sense of blithely crude humor and an engaging tongue-in-cheek tone that gives this picture an infectious feeling of pure simple fun. Moreover, it's acted with zest by an enthusiastic cast, with especially stand-out work from Nicolette le Faye as the mean and stuck-up Chelsea, Bennie Mack McCoy IV as the laid-back Barry, Lizzy Denning as sweet new transfer student Joanna, Ryan Thomas as the amiable Officer Kennedy, Ruby Larocca as spiky Goth chick Michelle, Shawn C. Phillips as tubby school mascot Dennis, George Stover as dull stuffed shirt history teacher Mr. Wright, Paul Fahrenkopf as the nonsense Detective Kurtz, and Lee Armstong as a creepy anti-social janitor. Kudos are also in order for Joe Davidson's slick cinematography and LaMartina's spirited shivery score. Worth a watch for fans of slasher fare.

Dull as dirt crock doc, 15 December 2014
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A motley assortment of bumbling amateur paranormal investigators poke around the rundown remains of the Burlington County Prison in Mount Holly, New Jersey in a fumbling attempt to prove that the place just might be haunted by the ghosts of a few inmates that served time in the joint. Boy, does this one totally fail to provide any remotely credible concrete evidence about the actual existence of unrestful spirits from beyond: A few strange smeary blots in corners, a garbled voice grumbling "Don't bother me!", an EMT Meter acting funny, and, most pitiful of all, a floating piece of random dust are anything but persuasive. Worse yet, there's no conflict amongst these inept buffoons, so this doc is utterly bereft of any real dramatic tension or interest. The use of stark black and white cinematography reeks of pure desperation, as if director Dan Marro was trying way too hard to make the penitentiary location seem at least a wee bit "creepy." The slow and talky meandering nature of the whole enterprise clinches this clunker's status as one extremely tedious wash-out.

Nifty retrospective documentary, 12 December 2014
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This 25-minute retrospective documentary provides some nice information on the early 80's horror black comedy cult classic "Motel Hell." Among the people interviewed are director Kevin Connor, writers and producers Robert Jaffe and Steven-Charles Jaffe, and actor Marc Silver. The brothers Jaffe talk about being avid horror fans while growing up, how a crazy babysitter was the inspiration for the character of Ida, and how they did their best not to make the film too overly campy (Steven-Charles notes that approached the story as a kind of dark fairytale). Connor discusses how he decided to do the movie straight even though it was tongue-in-cheek while Silver talks about being buried right up to his neck in a pit. Moreover, we also find out that Harry Dean Stanton was originally considered for the role of Farmer Vincent, United Artists want the movie to be more of a slasher flick, and that a munitions factory was located right next to the motel location. Recommended viewing for fans of the film.

Veronica Hart shines in this early 80's porn gem, 11 December 2014
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Shrewd and seductive financial wizard Wanda Brandt (a winningly sharp and vibrant performance by the beautiful Veronica Hart) goes to New York City to secure a cushy job at a top investment firm. Joining forces with crafty secretary Janie (a marvelously spunky turn by comely redhead Tish Ambrose), Wanda uses her feminine wiles on various company stock holders and uses blackmail to obtain their shares. Meanwhile, ace corporate investigator Lou Perrini (smoothly played by the always reliable Jamie Gillis) and his partner Ed (a solid and likable portrayal by Ron Jeremy) are on the case.

Director Larry Revene keeps the engrossing and entertaining story moving along at a snappy pace, maintains a pleasingly breezy tone throughout, makes fine use of the Big Apple locations, and milks the amusing sense of cheeky humor for plenty of laughs. Rick Marx's witty script offers a few neat twists and turns, with a real pip of a surprise ending. Hart really struts her stuff in this one; she looks positively ravishing and displays a natural and appealing chemistry with Gillis. The top-rate cast of sturdy porn regulars rates as another substantial asset, with especially stand-out contributions from Samantha Fox as the brash Lisa Rogers and Sandra Hillman as the sweet Judy. Sharon Mitchell pops up briefly for a scorching threesome set piece. The sex scenes deliver the steamy and strenuous goods. Steven Kaman's glossy cinematography provides a satisfying handsome look. The funky-throbbing score hits the get-down groovy spot. A real delight.

Motel Hell (1980)
Horror black comedy treat, 10 December 2014
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Amiable Farmer Vincent Smith (an excellent and engaging performance by Rory Calhoun) and his loopy sister Ida (broadly played with lip-smacking zeal by Nancy Parsons) use human beings as the key secret ingredient in Vincent's famous smoked meat. Complications ensue when Vincent falls for lovely young lass Terry (a charming portrayal by fetching blonde Nina Axelrod).

Director Kevin Connor does an ace job of crafting a perfectly ghoulish tongue-in-cheek EC Comics-style creeped-out atmosphere, maintains a steady pace throughout, and pulls out all the thrilling stops for the wild climactic chainsaw duel. The witty script by Robert Jaffe and Steven-Charles Jaffe not only smartly satirizes such horror landmarks as "Psycho" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," but also pokes wickedly amusing fun at the radical cultural shift that occurred when the loose libertine permissiveness of the 1970's gave way to the uptight repressive conservatism of the 1980's (Vincent and Ida think they are doing mankind a great service by preying upon such social undesirables as bikers, punk rockers, and prostitutes). This film acquires an extra chilling and unsettling edge by presenting its killers as supremely friendly and jolly good ol' country folks. Moreover, the cast really sink their teeth into the juicy macabre material: Paul Linke contributes a likable turn as bumbling sheriff Bruce Smith, Wolfman Jack has a ball as flashy televangelist Reverend Billy, Elaine Joyce and Dick Curtis are hilarious as a kinky swinging couple, Playboy Playmates Rosanne Katon and Monique St. Pierre pop up as a pair of hookers, and John Ratzenberger has a small part as a punk band drummer. Thomas Del Ruth's garish cinematography provides a funky neon look. Wholly deserving of its cult classic status.

Potent little melodrama, 10 December 2014
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

White dilettante Carol Lee Byrd (a solid performance by Sheila Britt) and her two friends are arrested by mean racist Sheriff Engstrom (a superbly slimy portrayal by Derek Crane) in the deep south for encouraging browbeaten black locals to become registered voters. After both of her friends are killed, Carol winds up being abducted by two sleazy rednecks who keep her at a secluded cabin so they can use her as their own personal sex slave.

Director Joseph P. Mawra, working from a bold script by Herbert S. Altman, tackles the explosive subject matter head-on with unflinchingly confrontational bluntness, maintains a tough seamy tone throughout, and vividly captures the seething racial tension, foul bigotry, and gross intolerance that was sadly prevalent at the time. Moreover, the strong underlying theme about civil rights gives this picture extra provocative substance. The moments of harsh violence pack a fierce punch. Otis Young contributes a powerful turn as determined and impassioned crusader Paul Jackson. Joseph Lesko's rough cinematography gives the movie a certain scrappy authenticity. William Rose's spirited score does the rousing trick. Worth a watch.

Effective hardcore version of the famous horror story, 9 December 2014
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The single most surprising thing about this ambitious and lavishly mounted X-rated take on Bram Stoker's popular tale of legendary vampire Count Dracula is that it works a lot better as a fairly faithful porn remake of the 1931 film starring Bela Lugosi than one might expect. Director Phillip Marshak offers a flavorsome evocation of the period setting, makes excellent use of an actual sprawling castle, and manages to generate a reasonable amount of spooky atmosphere. The sincere script by Darryl Marshak and David Kern for the most part treats the premise in a relatively serious manner, but still adds a welcome element of self-parodying humor. The bang-up cast of tip-top Golden Age adult cinema heavyweights helps a whole lot: A bearded Jamie Gillis portrays Dracula with great aplomb and assurance, a positively ravishing Annette Haven projects an achingly pure and fragile quality as the virginal Mina, and Serena simply sizzles as the brash Lucy, plus there are sound contributions from Paul Thomas as the effeminate and sexually frustrated Jonathan Harker, John Leslie as worried sanitarium supervisor Dr. Arthur Seward, Kay Parker as Arthur's loyal and concerned sister Dr. Sybil Seward, John Holmes as the lusty Dr. John Stoker, Seka as the sassy Nurse Betty Lawson, and William Margold as sarcastic hipster asylum orderly Henry. Richard Bulik has a field day with his juicy role as the unhinged Renfield while Reggie Nalder keeps his dignity and exudes a properly authoritative presence as formidable vampire expert Van Helsing. Hanania Baer's pretty cinematography boasts several funky stylistic flourishes. Lionel Thomas's elegant score provides a real sense of class. A solid little effort.

Amusing send-up of the chicks-in-chains exploitation genre, 9 December 2014
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Sweet goody goody two shoes Janie (a perky and appealing portrayal by Laurie Watton) goes to the worst prison in the Philippines to find her missing sister Callista (very fetching tall drink of water Lauren Graham). While incarcerated at this brutal women's penitentiary Janie meets a colorful array of female felons, discovers that mad scientist Dr. Hurtrider (wildly overplayed with deliciously hammy relish by Travis Willingham) is using the inmates as guinea pigs for his nefarious experiments, and, naturally, finds time to take a lot of showers.

Director Barak Epstein, who also co-wrote the cheerfully inane script with Mike Wiebe, keeps the enjoyably silly story moving along at a zippy pace, maintains an amiable blithely kitschy tongue-in-cheek tone throughout (the running gags about an on-screen shower time clock and blatant product place in particular are quite inspired), and delivers plenty of over-the-top gore along with the expected tasty gratuitous distaff nudity. Moreover, Epstein certainly covers all the pleasingly trashy babes-behind-bars bases: We've got flesh-eating zombies, sadistic guards, nude gals in the shower, a catfight in the mud, a gaggle of bored ninjas who are desperate for action, and a climactic breakout. The enthusiastic cast have a ball with the wacky material, with especially spirited contributions from Rhonda Shear as friendly and horny top con Jackpot, Lloyd Kaufman as sleazy guard Liebowitz, Louisa Lawless as the crazy Cross Eye, Tina Parker as the flatulent Breezy, and Wiebe as the hopeless nerdy warden Wilbur Thorn. Mary Woronov has a funny bit as the ruthless Dyanne She-Bitch Slutface. Ilram Choi almost steals the whole show with his uproarious turn as an overzealous ninja. A real hoot.

Nifty retrospective documentary, 8 December 2014
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This neat little 23 minute documentary provides an enjoyable overview on the post-production for the early 80's backwoods slasher outing "The Final Terror." Post-production supervisor Allan Holzman talks about seeing the 3D movie "House of Wax" in the theater and how he had to overcome his stutter when he got the gig to direct "Forbidden World." Moreover, Holzman points out that an earlier cut of "The Final Terror" moved much too slowly, showed too much of the monster, and had way too much travelogue footage of the woods. In addition, Holzman emphasized Joe Pantoliano as much as he could in every scene that Pantoliano acted in and happily discusses working for Sam Arkoff. Composer Susan Justin reveals that the opening and ending credits music was inspired by Billy Idol's hit song "White Wedding" and that she used her rock band to perform said music for the credits. Better still, Justin does some singing just like she did for the score of the picture. Worth a watch for fans of film.


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