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Some Kind of a Nut (1969)
Disappointing counter-culture comedy suffers from a miscast Dick Van Dyke
An obscure comedy that bombed in movie theaters in 1969, SOME KIND OF A NUT follows the plight of Fred Amidon (Dick Van Dyke), a Manhattan bank teller caught up in a divorce from Rachel (Angie Dickinson) while planning a future with a new fiancée, Pamela (Rosemary Forsyth). The movie opens with Fred and Pamela picnicking in Central Park and encountering a bee that stings Fred on the chin. Fred grows a beard to cover the bee sting, which his boss objects to and demands that he shave it off. Fred refuses, taking a stand after a lifetime of conforming to other people's demands. After he is fired, co-workers go on strike and Fred is soon joined by hippies and jazz musicians with beards. Garson Kanin's very lightweight "anti-Establishment " comedy begins well but quickly wanes with its one-joke plot, descending into mediocre slapstick despite a few zany comedic moments. SOME KIND OF A NUT suffers from a badly miscast Dick Van Dyke, who often defaults to his broad brand of physical comedy when a more low-key approach was clearly needed. Angie Dickinson is totally wasted here, while Rosemary Forsyth does what she can with an unsympathetic character. Much of the intended hilarity falls flat, as in scenes when Pamela's brothers attempt to shave off Fred's beard. Only Zohra Lambert hits a proper note of goofiness as an overage "hippie" enamored of Fred's cause for independence from traditional values.
The Late Liz (1971)
Anne Baxter shines in religious-themed melodrama
A sincere melodrama that has the look and feel of a TV movie, although it played in theaters around the U.S. between 1971 and 1975. The religious-themed story attempts to show how alcoholism and drug addiction nearly claims the life of a bored socialite (Liz Adams, well played by Anne Baxter), and how Liz via the encouragement of her son and a friendly pastor comes to know God as she embraces a new, sober life. While the film's message is upbeat, THE LATE LIZ is most successful in its more sensationalized first half, as we watch the excessively drunk Liz go through two husbands, alienating one of her sons in the process and hitting all the stereotypical step-downs into a life of degradation and an overdose. The profound change that comes over her mid-movie seems rather pat and all too quick in comparison, although Liz is happily in a much better place. The uneven supporting cast includes a sour looking Steve Forrest as Liz's angry plastic surgeon husband, a cameo appearance by Jack Albertson as the pastor, Bill Katt who is good as Liz's more accepting son who also finds God as a soldier in the Vietnam War; and several familiar faces acting faux drunk at Liz's many high class parties. Foster Brooks, who was well-known in the 1970s as a comic drunk character, scores in a dramatic scene at one of the parties.
The Aborted (2010)
One of the few anti-abortion movies is a home movie that was shot in Jamestown, North Dakota in the dead of winter. The risible story line has teen-aged Tyson (Justin Lavlie) tracking down the killer of his sister, and in the process finds that aborted fetuses are crawling up out of toilets to murder the people responsible for their untimely deaths. These paper-mache mini-zombies laugh hysterically as the jump, run and fly at the small cast of amateur actors. Between death scenes the characters improvise dialog about how they don't know what's going on. Technical and production values are shoddy.
Pointless Except as Cher's First Dramatic Role
Sonny Bono wrote, produced, financed and probably directed (using a pseudonym) this witless entertainment, made at a time when Hollywood did not know how to draw in a younger audience. This film did not help matters. Valuable only as having captured Cher's first performance in a dramatic role, CHASTITY follows an aimless, wandering young woman in search of something... we never quite know what. She does talk about wanting to be loved, but she runs from that, both at the start of the movie and in the final shot. A narration makes an attempt to hold the movie together, but Bono's dialog and situations are so forced and contrived the viewer is never allowed to engage with her apparent angst. CHASTITY is a cynical take on what ailed late-60s youth, but emerges as shallow and condescending toward the very audience Sonny Bono wanted to embrace.
Slow-moving Indonesian Horror-Comedy Disappoints
Suzzanna watches her husband Satria, a successful businessman, leave for yet another business trip, right after they learned that she is finally pregnant after years of trying. This joyful opening turns to terror when Suzzanna is murdered during a botched home invasion. Her vengeful spirit lives on, leading to tragedy for all. A familiar revenge plot ensues, with Suzzanna's spirit takes physical form and draws the attention of the superstitious townsfolk. Her spirit mostly hangs out at her house and waits patiently for Satria's return, outwardly unaware that she is dead.
This very leisurely paced Indonesian horror-comedy flick is well photographed with polished production values, but is overlong and presents a silly horror story line with unfunny comic-flavored interludes featuring Suzzanna's house helpers. While Indonesian horror movies have a reputation for being outre and garishly gross, SUZZANNA BURIED ALIVE has few wild sequences. Most of it is mediocre soap opera with a few horror scenes thrown in. As the unfortunate Suzzanna, Luna Maya offers an unfortunately stilted performance in a difficult part, and when portraying the murderous Suzzanna spirit she is unintentionally funny.
Pointless horror exercise
White collar workers find themselves trapped in a room while zombies surround the building. They bicker and choose sides, eventually opting mostly for being just as brutal and murderous as the growling, groaning creatures trying to get at them. Interesting in concept, SEPULCHER is cheaply made, poorly written and hysterically acted. The resolution is grim and gory, and pointless.
He's Not Looking So Great (2013)
OK tongue-in-cheek horror short
Some amusingly staged gore effects highlight this one-joke plot about four people trying to hide from a zombie apocalypse. They hole up in a warehouse filled with crates labeled "chainsaw," "rocket launcher," etc., and deal with claustrophobic horror as one of their own turns into the living dead. The punchline is cute. Worth seeing for the death-by-model-helicopter scene, this mercifully short parody can be seen as part of the anthology feature, VAULT OF HORROR PART II.
Friends in Dark Places (2011)
Routine horror short is too dark to see
For unknown reasons, a young boy picks up a knife and starts killing. A ghostly figure in his bedroom eggs him on, while the mother and father wonder what to do with him. This very short horror movie has the makings of a suspenseful anecdote, but the photography is so dark we can't really tell all that is going on here. Apparently professionally made, with decent acting, the movie doesn't register as intended.
Giallo of the Obnoxious Roommates
A sincere but confused attempt to imitate the Italian giallo slasher films of the 1960s, PSYCHOTIC! tells a loosely constructed tale of two roommates in Brooklyn, New York who spend most of the movie stumbling around the underground music scene while they and a clutch of hipster friends are stalked by a masked killer.
Stuart, a singer-songwriter who has just been evicted from his own band and is looking for love, and his roommate Tim, a part-time peeping tom, who stagger through a couple of delirious nights always in close proximity to the routine killings. Consistent with the style of an Italian giallo, the plot of PSYCHOTIC! is fairly incoherent but it benefits from a hallucinogenic set design and eerie, fog-shrouded blue and red visuals.
On the debit side, co-writers and co-directors Maxwell Frey and Derek Gibbons make the mistake of also starring in their own movie, treating the viewer to sadly amateurish performances that result in a different sort of murder, punctuated by several prolonged moments of embarrassing, unintentional humor.
Despite a raft of gory killings, little suspense is generated around the killer's identity, which is the script's most interesting twist but is treated as a throwaway by directors Frey and Gibbons. What is most striking here is that all of the characters are constantly getting high or drunk, making them obvious kill targets but with the attendant inarticulate line readings by actors that teeter and sway instead of delivering meaningful characterizations or dramatics.
Killer Campout (2017)
Forced, numbingly outrageous gore movie bombs
Movies that imitate the style of sleaze master Herschel Gordon Lewis are inherently problematic. KILLER CAMPOUT starts out with a montage of all of the killings that take place throughout the movie, narrated seemingly from the grave by Mr. Lewis himself. Lovers of the ultraviolent stuff might want to check out after about two minutes into the film, because Mr. Lewis practically divines that there is nothing else to see beyond this incoherent prologue of carnage.
The remainder of the movie plays out in the overused style of FRIDAY THE 13TH, as a group of wayward teens get lost in the woods of West Virginia and one by one encounter a hulking, cannibalistic man monster who systematically butchers the cast. You can forget about well-developed characters. Acting also suffers, with mostly unknown performers that can barely articulate the trite dialogue.
In a revealing bit of perhaps autobiographical screenwriting, one of the characters complains that even though he loves watching the most violent horror movies he is in his heart a non-violent person who was put on medication because of his anti-social attitudes. Could explain where these filmmakers are coming from.
In a scenario such as this, the only purpose of these witless characters is to line up for slaughter in ways that in some cases seem physically impossible. Wailing stabs of electronica intended to wake us up prior to the killings is also very 1980s by design. The movie's emphasis is on the killer, but he is a run-of-the-mill head bashing, drooling maniac played by an actor who seems to be enjoying it all too much. The director, Brad Twigg, can't construct a scene unless it is supposed to make you wretch.
Film historians will note there are cameo appearances by fan magazine editor George Stover and John Russo, the man from Night of The Living Dead. While Stover has made a marginal career of appearing in schlock, Russo should know better.
The most interesting aspect of KILLER CAMPOUT is the critics' reviews from apparently different websites that are in some cases use the same verbiage and push unconvincing gushing admiration for the director. A bit of promotion that didn't quite come off.
Incest Death Squad 2 (2010)
Check your brain at the door
I have not seen Part One, but Part Two tries for a Wacky, Horror Filled Road Trip kind of feeling but quickly gets submerged in a silly, convoluted plot-line, the characters' endless whining in uncomfortable, poorly framed closeups and unrealistic (mostly off-screen) violence. It's got a bunch of backwoods psychopaths gunning for one another as Jeb and Amber try find solace in the Lord via unprompted roadside killings, greasy sex, and a trip to visit the guy who knocked up Amber and left her without saying goodbye. The use of religion as a pretext for killing is juvenile. However, there is a sense of romanticism in the attempt at John Waters-style freakishness, which is destroyed by the the raft of completely unlikable characters and the inept delivery of the players. Only Greg Johnson's hulking Jesus-inspired assassin maniac makes an impression even though he mumbles all of his dialog. The filmmakers point to a few telling references, showing a movie poster of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and including a cameo appearance by creepy Troma producer Lloyd Kaufman, who is an embarrassment. How this badly done movie could retain a 7 rating on IMDB is questionable, indeed.
Knuckleheaded fun but aimless comedy
After the success of TRUE GRIT, Glen Campbell and Kim Darby re--teamed for this lighter than air comedy, like TRUE GRIT based on a Charles Portis novel but definitely more of a homespun Andy Griffith-hayseed type flick. The novel was set in the 1950s, so some of the plot devices play like wheezing cliches (e.g., the story's uninteresting pregnancy flap and some of the relationships are straight form TV sitcom land). Yet, a lot of the dialog from the novel made its way into the movie and that makes for some good humor. Carol Lynley practically steals the movie in her brief cameo, and Dom DeLuise has some of the best shtick on view. Campbell is good natured and sings a few decent Mac Davis tunes. He is so like the Norwood character, so typecasting helps here. Darby is wasted. Pat Hingle has a few good moments but Tisha Sterling and Joe Namath are embarrassments. Meredith Macrae makes an impression, but like so many characters in this episodic fiasco, she is buried under the hokum. You could do worse if stuck with nothing to watch in the early morning hours.
Meandering, very conventional Frankenstein movie
Here's a very conventional retelling of the movie Frankenstein story, set in a classy mansion but featuring some real dullards for characters and routine performances. The poor soul that gets turned into a monster is a cipher, barely in the movie except he does get progressively slimy and cheap makeup changes. The main character is a new female assistant to the Doctor, who suspects things aren't as they seem... etc., and this plot has been traveled many times. The movie has the dubious distinction of being part of the "blaxploitation" trend that came about in the 1970s. The movie is largely forgettable.
Killer Pickton (2006)
The strangest serial killer movie
I can't say it's a good movie, but it is unlike any serial killer movie I've ever seen. The movie does not really follow the historical Robert Pickton case except in one crucial area -- the movie Pickton also drugs his victims and they seem very high or crazed when he kills them. The low-key nature of this movie is practically at odds with the "outre" scenes, of stuffing females feet first into a wood chipper and then the bizarre moments when the killer sloshes around in the bloodless wood-chipped guts of his victims. The final third of the movie concerns the killer's inadequate attempt to connect emotionally with one of his victims. The movie has something to say, as well, about how the cinematic Pickton's family is not even aware of their sibling's terrible killing "hobby," until the last moments. The real Robert Pickton was probably not as interesting a character as the person we observe in this movie. It helps that the leading actor playing the killer delivers a creepy, under-played performance that contributes to whatever value the movie provides.
Castle of Evil (1966)
Mediocre, played lower bills in theaters
A bunch of hopeful heirs to the estate of a reclusive but wealthy scientist arrives on an isolated island to hear the will. The sinister housekeeper, Lupe (well played by Shelley Morrison) turns out to be in cahoots with the horribly scarred scientist. But there is a murderous, equally horribly scarred zombie robot the scientist has made in his own image that threatens and / or starts killing some of the assembled heirs. It becomes a race against time for the survivors to uncover the person responsible for the scientist's disfigurement, to call off the rampages of the robot. The story has some nice touches but the soap opera dialog and unpleasant characters keep Castle of Evil in constant low gear. It is good to see the underrated Lisa Gaye but her character is so dull. Hugh Marlowe and Scott Brady are well cast, and Brady provides a tongue in cheek attitude when he keeps referring Lupe as 'Loopy.' Virginia Mayo is terrible, and she seems to know it... The zombie is menacing, however. As played by William Thourlby, the zombie scientist only has to cock his head slightly to be frightening. (Thourlby was the star of the lamentable Z-movie, The Creeping Terror.) Paul Dunlap's music is not boring and kept waking me up. The secluded castle has many unusual features, including an elaborate electronics and surveillance system.
Dated and marginalized by time
This is a sincere depiction of racial issues during the 1960s, with an excellent cast constantly upstaged by the director, Jules Dassin's arty farty camera-work and pace less storytelling. In addition, unless one is familiar with the times UPTIGHT might come off as pedantic. There are some parallels between that era and current times, but compared with true agit-prop movies of the late 60s, such as Robert Kramer's or Melvin Van Peebles' works, UPTIGHT comes off as watered down and Hollywooden. For audiences of the 2010s, an accompanying Cliff Notes version of the 60s black riots would be good to have handy, so that the movie makes more sense.
House on the Hill (2012)
Disturbing, but Low end
Now for something rather different in the slasher-sex killer-serial murderer genre, and not without some merits. The film makers pushed hard on sexual violence in the grim recounting of how two scowling unemotional pair of murderers were compelled to kill for pleasure, also taking out their rape fantasies on a succession of drugged out women who occasionally fight back ineffectively. Documentary footage of one of the real killers talking blandly about his sick fantasy is a highlight. The camera-work gets a little wobbly but the acting is good enough. The violence, humiliations, beatings and knifings are disturbing but rather matter of fact in the presentation. The movie imparts a suitably sick attitude. The focus is on the victims more than the killers, and because of the underplaying the scares are infrequent. It's all very up close and personal, showing the doomed victims struggling or trying in vain to survive. Give it a C for succeeding in being just a bit different enough.