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Blair Witch (2016)
If there's one thing I can give "Blair Witch" credit for, is that it makes everyone appreciate the original "Blair Witch Project" even more. It all looked so easy, didn't it? Just throw a cast of unknowns into the woods with consumer-grade cameras, then have them hear strange noises and run a bunch of times. There, your movie's done. If only it was so simple...
The thing this sequel/remake/reboot/cash-in misses so dearly is any sense of dread. The original was compelling because there was just something off right from the start, a creepy atmosphere that made you fear for the character's fates. We just hadn't seen anything like that before, and furthermore it had actors that improvised actual lines instead of just yelling character names to infinity. I swear: if you drink anytime these people shout the name of a missing (read: dead) character, you'll legit get alcohol poisoning. Which is only marginally more unpleasant than seeing this movie all the way through, come to think about it.
Maybe it's just hard to shock people at this point, even for a generally talented filmmaker like Adam Wingard ("You're Next" was pretty great). How many jump scares did the original have? Barely any, because there was no need. The situation was scary enough as it was. This movie constantly uses jump-scares as a band aid, because it has so little else going on. Lightning is simply not going to strike twice. If you're just going to make a bland rip-off of "Paranormal Activity", let this franchise die with a little dignity.
This is actually worse than the universally panned "Blair Witch 2", a sequel that was churned out in less than a year after the unexpected success of the original. At least that movie was something entirely different (maybe a bit TOO different). This just feels like the work of people who saw the first movie, then remade it without actually understanding why it worked so well in the first place. I couldn't wait for these people to die, and that's rarely a good thing when you're trying to make intense psychological horror.
6 Bullets (2012)
Van Damme brings the goods!
Most aging action stars start phoning it in when they go straight to DVD. Recent Steven Seagal movies look like he spent about one afternoon on set, because all the fighting (and even some of the talking) is done by a double. Van Damme however is still dedicated, and I can only applaud him for that.
"6 Bullets" is essentially a complete rip-off of "Taken", with an American girl being kidnapped by European traffickers. Her father (who happens to be an MMA fighter, how unlucky can a trafficker get?) teams up with Van Damme to save the girl and get into some great action scenes. The editing on this movie is great, they don't need ten cuts a second because these actors can actually fight. Van Damme is in great shape here, even if he's essentially a secondary character.
What struck me most about "6 Bullets" is that Van Damme is actually acting here. His character is haunted by demons from the past, which is a huge cliché, but Van Damme turns out to be a good enough actor to make this material work. The supporting cast doesn't go far beyond serviceable, with Van Damme's children playing bit parts, but they don't pull you of the movie either.
At this point Van Damme has realised he'll never get on the A-list again, but he's still making good choices. It's always nice to see a new Van Damme movie pop up, which can't really be said about any other action star from the 90s. Of all the 'expendables', he's certainly aging the most gracefully.
Fateful Findings (2013)
Neil Breen = American treasure
Neil Breen is a director who doesn't care for filmmaking rules, mainly because he doesn't know any of them. You know how movies are supposed to be 'show, don't tell'? Neil Breen tells and tells and tells. Breen doesn't trust our brains to make even the most basic connections. In Breen's universe, a guy who just saw a car accident has to literally say 'I'm a witness!', because otherwise our feeble minds may not understand that complex concept. He writes dialogues like English is not his first language, or even in the top five for that matter.
Because his movies are so surreal, Breen has often been compared to "The Room"'s Tommy Wiseau. The main difference is that lightning only struck once for old Tommy. He hasn't made anything remotely entertaining since 2003. Breen however keeps churning them out, with no difficulties whatsoever. This is a guy who doesn't have to do any effort to stay weird, incomprehensible and because of that, incredibly fascinating.
I'm writing this review for "Fateful Findings", but it could work for any of his movies. They're all pretty much the same. Breen always casts himself as an implausibly perfect being who rids the world of all the evils. The evils are usually found in the big companies, who are driven by greed and don't care about people. I know this because the villains actually have to say that in all his movies. Breen doesn't even know the meaning of subtext, and that's why we all love him so much.
As interesting as his movies are to watch, a making-of would certainly be infinite times better. There are just so many questions that remain unanswered here. How much does he have to pay these beautiful young 'actresses' (models at best) to pretend they're in love with him? Why does a man who's clearly in his 50s keep casting himself as a thirty-something? Why do the characters pause roughly thirty seconds between each line? How do you hack the government on laptops that aren't even on? Why do we have to see Neil Breen semi-nude so often throughout his movies? For a guy who spells our every detail, Breen sure does leave plenty of questions.
Tommy Wiseau and James "Birdemic" Nguyen ended up ruining their charm by becoming self-aware, but I honestly don't see that happening with Breen. To him, there's clearly not a funny moment to be found in any of his movies, and that's why they work: because he takes them so damn seriously while nobody else does. Furthermore, his heart seems to be in the right place. He clearly wants to make a statement about all the injustice in the world, in between showing his abs. I applaud him for that, he's a so-bad-it's-good filmmaker I can really get behind.
Blood Massacre (1991)
Pure Don Dohler magic
First of all, what an amazing title. B-movie titles never really get subtle, but Don Dohler is playing in a whole different ballpark here. A blood massacre, that's the best kind there is!
Don Dohler is mainly known for making the same movie over and over again: an alien lands on Earth (usually a forest, as it is free to shoot there), gets into all kinds of PG-rated havoc, rednecks fire guns, the end. That synopsis fits "Alien Factor", "Nightbeast", "Galaxy Invader" and uhm... "Alien Factor 2". "Blood Massacre" however, is something completely different you don't exactly associate with Dohler. It's an ultra-violent horror movie where most of the cast members die horrible, gory deaths.
The plot is almost non-existent. A group of violent criminals (led by Dohler regular George Stover)goes from town to town robbing and occasionally murdering people. With the police (well, one inspector) hot on their trail they lay low in a farmhouse, but it's a horror movie so naturally the nice, friendly family inside turns out to be cannibals.
As limited a filmmaker as Don Dohler was, I've got to say this is one of his best movies. The suspense is actually build up pretty well, with the old farmhouse gradually revealing its secrets. It helps that Robin London (who, sure enough, only has one credit) gives a genuinely creepy performance as the family's insane daughter. Her bizarre sex scene with Stover is the highlight or the low point of this movie, I haven't decided yet. The minute you see her smirk at the main characters, you know they're in a heap of trouble.
The final act is obviously a battle between both groups, like "The Hills Have Eyes" with a budget of three dollars. Sadly, it's almost impossible to follow. For most of it the screen is almost completely dark, so you really have to squint to figure out which character you're looking at and whether or not they're being killed. The editing is also very confusing, most of the time you don't know when or where the action is supposedly happening. I do really like the random ending though, which borrows more than a few things from "Evil Dead".
Don Dohler wasn't very happy with this movie, which was released four years after shooting had wrapped up. He had to reshoot a lot of stuff at the distributors' request, which made him quit film-making altogether for nearly a decade. With that said, I really have a sweet spot for this movie in all it's micro-budget glory. It's a charming mom&pop-style slasher, just don't expect anything more than that.
Yadda yadda yadda and then the baby died
I really liked Anthony Jeselnik when he first came on the scene. As a fan of dark comedy, I loved his delivery and punchlines. That was a while ago though, and there never seems to be any progression with this guy.
In the "Thoughts and Prayers" special, he has a magnificent bit about how people make every tragedy in the world about themselves. It was a great moment, with Jeselnik speaking from the heart and slipping out of his classic on-stage character to tell a coherent story. I was hoping for more of that in his new special, but it's just an hour of his old schtick that doesn't exactly feel fresh at this point.
I don't think it takes a comedy genius to predict many of the punchlines from this special. Hell, you could make a drinking game out of it. When he started you weren't used to it, so he managed to take you by surprise. Now you just wait for the dead grandma to show up. It feels like lazy writing. Granted, there are some jokes in here that still work, but you have to fish them out between a sea of boring filler. The most aggravating thing is how Jeselnik keeps taking out all the pace by reflecting on the previous joke. I didn't even care for that when I actually liked him, let alone now.
"Fire At The Maternity Ward" (the uninspired title is a red flag) is exactly what you expect, which isn't a good thing. It's not offensive, because we're so used to this stuff by now. It's just monotonous and repetitive. Another disappointing comedy special from Netflix.
Night Claws (2012)
In search of Bigfoot
"Night Claws" looks like it was really fun to make, with David A. Prior meeting a lot of his old friends again. At this point Prior had pretty much retired, but a young producer by the name of Fabio Soldani gave him some money and sent him back to those woods in Mobile, Alabama where he filmed roughly 102% of his movies. Hell, by this point I'm pretty sure I could be a tour guide in that town. Unfortunately, as fun as this reunion must have been, the joy doesn't translate well to the screen.
This movie is supposed to be about Bigfoot, but he's really just an afterthought. His plot remains unresolved and we barely ever see him. For some reason creature features often have the tendency to add human villains as well, which never works and just takes up precious screen-time from the monster we actually want to see. To add insult to injury, this movie looks really ugly. Most of it is shot day-for-night, which really shouldn't be that obvious when shot by a director who's been at this for three decades. There are amateur films on YouTube who use this technique far better than "Night Claws", which is not a ringing endorsement.
That's not to say the movie is completely without enjoyable moments. The climax is very low on Bigfoot, but high on laughable plot twists and unexpected deaths. Everyone's favorite Norm MacDonald punchline Frank Stallone shows up from nowhere for a cameo so brief I'm pretty sure he left his engine running. Sherrie Rose co-stars as a deputy, but looks way more like a stripper. The best part has got to be the unknown Art James though, who gives us some great line readings as the town drunk who tells us everything about Bigfoot (in exchange for alcohol, naturally). This movie has some decent laughs, but no story progression or coherent action. Given that you don't know what's happening half the time, you'll be looking at the clock regularly.
P.S: The credits read 'no Bigfoots were harmed in the making of this movie'. It deserves an extra star for that at least.
Relentless Justice (2015)
Glacial pace with a worthwhile 30 minutes
David A. Prior's "Relentless Justice" was made back-to-back with "The Deadliest Prey", but curiously it was released two years later. It's a very similar movie, with an invincible fighter (this time it's a woman, does that count as originality?) getting 'hunted' in the woods by the dumbest villains ever. Apparently our bad guys have been killing people for years, but their military tactics consist of splitting up for no reason and then patiently waiting to be murdered. How did they even keep this gig up for so long?
The main difference with "Deadliest Prey", on the other hand, is that this movie has a very leisurely pace. In "Deadliest Prey", it takes about two seconds before the action starts. Here, we get a full hour of time-wasting. Just when you think the fight scenes are coming, we suddenly get Eric Roberts in an utterly pointless sub-plot that seems to come from a different movie altogether. It's obvious Roberts agreed to do this movie after the script was already finished, but the same goes for Troy Donahue and Cameron Mitchell in the original "Deadly Prey". Their inclusion still felt somewhat natural, while the scenes with Roberts are just baffling. He shows up in this movie and then just disappears fifteen minutes later, having had no impact on the plot whatsoever.
In all fairness, the addition of some enjoyable B-list actors is pretty much the only thing this movie has going for it. Apart from Roberts, we also get vVernon Wells and Andrew Rolston to liven up the mood. Ted Prior is pretty entertaining as a villain as well, but there's only so much this ensemble can do with their stilted, repetitive dialogue and no character traits other than 'evil'. "Relentless Justice" is not a farewell that really sums up Prior's career. He wasn't a brilliant filmmaker, but he did always give the audience what it wanted. He does that for the last act, but the set-up is so boring and pointless that most people won't even get that far.
Parts of the Family (2003)
Slow as hell, but good for some laughs
"Parts Of The Family" is from the same director as "Maniac Nurses", but it's never quite as trippy as that flick. It is about twice as incompetent though. While "Maniac Nurses" at least had some kind of atmosphere to it, this just looks cheap and nothing else. There's not much in the way of plot either. It starts off okay with some (albeit very low-budget) action scenes, but then we're stuck in a boring old house for most of the running time. The gore scenes are laughably unconvincing. We never ever see a weapon actually touch a victim, it's all cut-aways and ketchup wounds. There's just no excitement whatsoever to any of the kill scenes.
So why a 5? Well, the movie does have some charm to it. I'm just a sucker for Belgian horror cinema, mainly because there's so little of it around. It helps that this movie is shot mostly with Belgian actors who are forced to speak English for the international market. This leads to some really awkward and thus magnificent line readings, particularly from the hapless police inspectors. Furthermore, lead actor Bob Dougherty does bring some charisma to his role as a gangster. His dialogue is nauseatingly repetitive (basically nothing but threats), but somehow he still sells it and stays entertaining throughout. Strange how he only appeared in two films and called it quits. Cecilia Bergqvist isn't going to win any Oscars for her performance, but she's topless in the very first scene! Talk about not wasting any time.
P.S: I've seen the original version, not the re-release by Troma. I hear that version is actually better, but I haven't obtained a copy yet.
Ridiculous, but loads of fun
"Eraser" isn't quite as insane as "Commando" because let's face it, no movie will ever be. But still, it strikes exactly the right tone you need in a Schwarzenegger movie. Arnold goes from one over-the-top action set piece to another, jumping out of planes, strolling through gunfire and even feeding villains to some terrible CGI crocodiles at one point. It's old school action at its finest, with Schwarzenegger chewing the scenery like only he can. Obviously, "Eraser" isn't perfect. For one thing, it's glaringly obvious who the 'leak' is within Arnold's squad, but somehow the makers still treat it like it's a huge reveal that you could have never seen coming. Also, Vanessa Williams gives a very flat performance as the damsel in distress, so you don't care much whether she stays alive or not. However, these flaws don't really hurt the overall experience.
Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines (2012)
Clumsy awkward writing, but some great deaths
The most positive thing you can say about the surprisingly long "Wrong Turn"-series is that at least they never make the same movie twice. Hell, this one even has a promising new premise. This time around One Eye, Saw Tooth and Three Finger do their killing during some sort of Halloween festival, which certainly has a lot of potential. Sadly the movie does absolutely nothing with that element, completely abandoning it halfway through (I'm assuming for budgetary reasons).
Instead, we get a bunch of British actors with unconvincing American accents walk through a town that literally has one street. Usually a thing like that doesn't bother me in a cheap B-movie, but this is some of the most blatantly obvious sound stage work I've ever seen. The graveyard scenes from "Plan 9 From Outer Space" certainly come to mind when you see these people walk around the cardboard sets. These streets are also completely deserted, even though there's a music festival in town. Again, the hillbillies blending into a crowd (which would be easy at a horror festival) and killing people left and right could have been a great scene, but clearly too much of a hassle for these filmmakers.
I also have a problem with the story of the movie, because the plot is fueled by main villain Maynard (Doug Bradley, creepy as always) being locked up in the local police jail. His dialogue consists mostly of threats about how 'his boys will get him out'. You assume it's going to be a retelling of John Carpenter's "Assault On Precinct 13", with the hillbillies finding clever ways to kill their victims in and around the police station, slowly getting closer to freeing Maynard. None of that happens. Even though they're all fully aware of the threat, the characters just leave the station one by one anyway to stand around cluelessly and be murdered. It's lazy writing and it makes you lose any sympathy you could have had for the characters. When crazed cannibals are running around 'town', you don't stand around in the middle of the 'street' screaming the name of whichever character died a couple of scenes ago. Even the average horror movie character isn't that retarded.
With that said, the movie does provide some of the best gore scenes in the entire franchise. I was somewhat worried about that, because the first two kills rely very heavily on dirt-cheap CGI. Particularly the scene where the deputy loses his ears looks like something a (messed-up) kid would make on his home computer. It also falls into the lazy writing category, as the armed deputy just stands there waiting to be killed. Later though, we actually get some great-looking practical effects. The lawnmower kill scene might be my favorite of the entire franchise. Furthermore, we also get two genuinely likable characters: sheriff Angela and Mose, the town drunk who tries to redeem himself over the course of the movie. Them defending the police station could have been a great third act, but the movie doesn't even bother to give us an actual ending.
So "Wrong Turn 5" basically just drags itself from one death to the next, but I guess you can't expect much more from a title like this. However, it could have easily been more with some more money and effort put into it.
The Antwerp Killer (1983)
A classic (for all the wrong reasons)
The backstory to "The Antwerp Killer" is actually much more interesting than the movie itself. It was made by Luc Veldeman, an 18-year-old kid with a silver tongue and no filmmaking skills whatsoever. Somehow he convinced the Ostend film festival to book his clearly unfinished and clearly unwatchable movie, then he quickly disappeared with the money he got and was never seen again. He's like D.B. Cooper, only instead of jumping out of a plane he just made a horrible movie.
You know you can't expect much from your viewing experience when the first scene is a girl getting knifed... without a knife. Apparently the crew didn't have one, as kitchen knives are so hard to come by. So they left everything to the power of suggestion. We mostly just see the aftermath: a girl laying in a surprisingly well-lit alley, pushing on her stomach as hard as she can. Reason for that last thing: her blood packet didn't work, so she had to push the fake blood out. Professionalism at work here!
This movie, which clocks in at a measly 51 minutes, doesn't have a beginning or an ending. It's just a depressing pile of middle where pretty much anything can happen. The closest thing we get to a main character is the police detective, but instead of investigating the murders he spends most of the time figuring out the name of a little kid that lost her mother AND trying to stop a drug deal in the harbor. How does he know there's a drug deal going on in the harbor... it said so in the newspaper. You'd think gangsters would find a different location once their drug deals are announced in the media, but thinking isn't this movie's strong suit.
The Antwerp killer himself is essentially an afterthought in this movie, and his plot is never resolved. He's not caught, we don't learn a motive, the movie just ends randomly because the production probably just ran out of film. I don't think anybody who's ever watched this dreck ever complained about it being too short, but some kind of resolution certainly would have been nice.
The best thing about this movie is the soundtrack, mainly because it's blatantly stolen from Hollywood movies. There's one scene where our killer attacks and I was sure I heard the soundtrack before. Then of all sudden I heard "Mr.Sandman" mixed in with the music. That made some kind of sense for "Halloween", the movie this track was clearly copied from, but it's just baffling here. The guy who played the detective actually wrote a soundtrack, but it was thrown aside at the last minute for music Veldeman clearly didn't have the rights to. Ow, the things you could get away with before the Internet was around...
One part community theatre, two parts fetish porn
Wow, this is a weird one. I mean, even by Ted V. Mikels' standards. Though this is probably not the worst movie I've ever seen (how sad is that?), it might just be the most tedious one. Mikels is really testing our patience here, even the opening text crawl goes on about fifty times as long as it needs to. This is it what it needs to explain: an evil landowner (Mikels himself, of course) is trialed by his former servants after Apartheid is abolished. See how I didn't need three minutes to explain that? I don't think Mikels has ever been this desperate to pad out his running time.
Granted: the concept could work to some extent as a cheesy exploitation movie. Slaves taking revenge on their cruel master after years of torture, that's kind of an entertaining starting point. The only problem is that the movie never goes beyond this starting point. So we get this trial, and it's just scene after scene of 'actresses' doing endless monologues they can barely remember. At the end of these scenes, we see why this movie was really made: because Mikels really liked embarrassed-looking women stepping on his back with high heels.
Seriously, that's the entire movie. One servant tells her story, everyone is appalled, and then they punish the landowner by stepping on him. It's the exact same thing over and over again. Absolutely no effort is made to provide anything entertaining. Mikels has made plenty of so-bad-it's-good classics, but this is so bad you just feel saddened for everyone involved. The fact that this is shot on a video camera and with really awful sound doesn't help matters much either. Then again, I don't believe I've missed crucial dialogue.
So who is this movie for? Did Mikels genuinely think he was making a historical film or some kind of suspenseful court drama? Was this made especially for perverts? Or did Mikels just think he could pretty much sell anything to his small but loyal fanbase, regardless of effort? That typical Mikels charm that makes you go 'this isn't good, but he's trying so hard' is pretty much absent. I mean, we do get stock footage from nature documentaries super-imposed over a map to show us this house in the suburbs is actually in Africa, but overall you really miss moments like that.
There is one semi-amusing moment though: the part where one of the servants dresses as a nun to get past the guard. How does she show she's a nun? By wearing a napkin on her head, of course. In an amazing twist, she does this as an excuse to step on the landowner with her high heels.
"Important things are going on... it's raining in the forest!"
Norm MacDonald is a guy that's openly against doing specials, so it's nice that we actually get some televised stuff for the first time in six years (apart from a brief Letterman appearance). To start out with the good: Norm's still an absolute genius, making people laugh at the sheer absurdity of his premises. There are no rapid-fire punchlines, as the years progress Norm's increasingly comfortable with just having long, meandering stories and takes his time to set up a joke. The absolute best bit in the special is the one where he teaches us you never have to lie... if you say everything in a sarcastic voice. The way he acts that out is classic stuff.
With that said, there are two somewhat disappointing elements about this special. For one thing, Norm doesn't like it when his performances get edited but this could have definitely used some editing. Some bits just go absolutely nowhere and just confuse the crowd. For instance, there's a bit on George Washington that just completely dies, and it makes you wonder if Norm really thought his delivery could save a bit that literally has no jokes. Norm's delivery and timing is amazing, maybe the best of all time. But you still need to write, even if you can make people laugh by mispronouncing the word 'capsule'.
Another thing that's somewhat of a letdown is that a lot of this material is old. There are some decent quality bootlegs available from 2009 and 2010, and I recognised a lot of bits from those bootlegs. He's been doing these bits for seven or eight years now? For a guy who allegedly hates to tell the same joke twice, that seems pretty lazy. I can laugh at the restaurant bit a hundred times, but I was hoping I'd discover lots of new material. That didn't happen, I knew pretty much everything.
However, it's good to see he's still having fun with this. He's a natural and an incredibly mysterious guy, so all the new footage you can get of him is a gem. Furthermore, I don't think I've ever laughed more at the ending of a comedy special, because it was just so perfectly in character for Norm. Overall I'd say this special is a little below 2011's "Me Doing Stand-Up", but certainly not by much.
.357 Magnum (1977)
Close to an actual movie!
It's kind of refreshing to see a guy like Nick Millard do such an ambitious plot. So far I've only seen two types of 'stories' from him. It's either a) people have sex in a moldy old house or b) people get stabbed with a tinfoil knife in a moldy old house. Now all of a sudden, we get international espionage? Count me in!
What's striking about "357 Magnum" is that Millard discovered a new location: outside. Obviously his house does make an appearance, but this movie also takes us to Angola, Hong Kong, Japan, England and Tucson (clearly the most impressive one). For practical reasons most of these locations are actually San Francisco, but it does seem like this movie had some kind of a budget. It's shot on (granted, atrocious) film with some semi-competent actors, which seems downright alien if you mostly know Millard from his shot-on-video projects from the 1980s. Hell, it doesn't even reuse the credits from "Criminally Insane"! All the names are clearly made-up though, with Millard giving himself the bizarre pseudonym Jan Anders. Come on, a script supervisor? A costumer? For the love of God, this movie barely has a director.
It's such a bizarre experience to see Millard actually try. I mean, this movie has an actual story, actors that appeared in other movies, it has music and dialogues and you know, things you associate with cinema. The Millard movies I know (and love, in a strange way) are essentially home videos that run out the clock by any means, usually with huge chunks of stock footage from his earlier movies. This on the other hand looks like it took more than a weekend to film. Maybe two weekends. It even goes over 60 minutes, though not by much.
That's not to say that avid Millard fans won't get what they're coming for here. This movie is still awful in a way only he can achieve. The gunfights literally look like what me and my cousins used to act out in grandma's attic. The photography is hideous, but I guess there's not much you can do with such cheap film stock. The editing appears to be done with a hacksaw. Some characters appear to have no chin because of weird framing choices (or possibly a bad transfer). Right in the middle of the 'finale', the movie suddenly cuts to footage of some girl performing a blowjob on a vibrator. This goes on for five agonizingly awkward minutes. The movie's terrible, but it's a masterpiece when compared to some other things Millard has done.
Biggest downer: I was looking forward to seeing the late, great Priscilla Alden in this movie, but she's only in it for about ten seconds. For shame, Nick, for shame.
Each Time I Kill (2007)
Strange farewell from Doris Wishman
Up until recently I was totally unaware Doris Wishman ever made a comeback, at age 88 no less. Wishman is mostly (in)famous for being the only woman to make sexploitation movies in the 1960s. Then she moved on with the cult action movie "Deadly Weapons", and I figured her career ended with arguably the worst slasher movie of all time, 1983's "A Night To Dismember" (the title is the best part, trust me).
But then you have this, and it's... strange even by Wishman's standards. For one thing, she shot it with a video camera, which takes away some of the typical exploitation charm. Ted V. Mikels had the same problem in his final movies. On the other hand, it does give her some new opportunities. For one thing, she can actually move the camera around during a scene. For another, this appears to be shot with (albeit terrible) sound, though we still get a lot of close-ups of feet. I guess a lot of the dialogue had to be re-dubbed later on.
The plot is typical for a drive-in flick from Wishman's heydays, though it sounds more like a Herschell Gordon Lewis flick. An ugly girl that becomes more beautiful with each time she kills, that narrative structure (I use that term loosely) is taken from stuff like "Blood Feast" or "Color Me Blood Red". H.G. Lewis certainly did it better though, if only because he delivered the goods. There's almost no gore in this movie, so splatter fans really shouldn't bother. The T&A fans have more luck. Once our main character is pretty, she gets naked pretty much all the time. Tiffany Peralta isn't exactly an actress you run away from either.
"Each Time I Kill" doesn't look much better than an amateur project you'd see on Youtube, but Wishman's inherent strangeness saves it. There's a mystery to her that is tough to grasp. Was it her intention that several actors look directly into the camera, or did that just happen by accident? Did Wishman genuinely think a person could die after being strangled for roughly four seconds? Why is the scene where our main girl learns her parents are dead somehow the funniest thing ever? Wishman was a fascinating director because every movie you see of her just adds more questions.
With that said, particularly the second half of this movie is genuinely entertaining, not in a so-bad-it's-good way. The pace is much better than in the average Wishman movie, and there's actually some coherence to this plot. I'm not saying this movie makes any sense, but things make sense... in this universe. Take the guy from the ice cream parlor for instance. He's an implausibly happy, nice character and he seems to be thrown in randomly, like so many characters in Doris Wishman movies are there for no reason. But he's actually important for a couple of minutes near the end! I don't know, maybe I just wasn't expecting much. That might also be why I think the ending has a genuinely clever message woven in.
"Each Time I Kill" is not a great movie, but it does give you a great feeling. It's kind of like when you go to an art exhibit for a relative you like. You don't necessarily like the art itself, but rather the idea that she keeps making it and clearly enjoys it. It reminds me of the interview she gave in the documentary "The Incredibly Strange Film Show". "I'll stop making movies when I die, and then I'll make movies in hell". That's why this movie is a huge triumph, she kept her promise of literally making movies until she died. This is certainly a better closer than the woeful "A Night To Dismember", such a shame it went so far under the radar.
The Giant Spider Invasion (1975)
The one they'll remember him for
You've got to hand it to a guy like Bill Rebane. I mean, you can laugh at his movies all you want (or be incredibly bored by them), but the man made a living as a filmmaker with virtually no money or talent in filmmaking. The guy was a brilliant salesman. This horrible movie was a huge box office hit, it was among the fifty most successful movies of 1975. Impressive for a director with no major studio backing who shot all his features in Wisconsin rather than Hollywood.
The movie itself is nearly unwatchable, but it's a great time document of how easy it used to be to find a cinema release for your movies. This is not worse than whatever you used to find at the bottom shelf at a video store, but paying good money to see this on a big screen? That's a whole different animal. Particularly because you have to wait a really long time to actually see the huge spider (which is clearly a Volkswagen with legs) the trailer promised you. Up until then you see a bunch of people that you never want to see again talk and talk and talk. By the time that thing actually shows up, you're already too numb from the tedium to even laugh at it.
Bill Rebane's movies can best be enjoyed when you know all the background to them. Rebane has a charming mom&pop style of filmmaking, mom (Barbara Rebane) is even credited as the assistant director. One of his daughters 'plays' one of the huge spider's legs. He sure writes great parts for women. It's made by a cast and crew that genuinely seems to be trying to their best, it's one of those movies that seemed way more thrilling to make than it is to watch. But you can't blame Rebane, he certainly did the best he could. He made a giant spider movie with 250.000 dollars, spent a lot of time with family and friends, actually sold the thing to theatres and somehow people still talk about it more than forty years later. That alone should earn him a place in film history.
Monster a-Go Go (1965)
The ultimate low point for H.G. Lewis
"Monster A Go-Go" was supposed to be the first feature film for Bill Rebane, who started filming this thing in 1961. His monster flick, originally called "Terror At Halfday", had a budget of 80.000 dollars, which was pretty much gone after a couple of days of filming. After he ran out of funding the film lay on the shelf for about four years, unfinished and with no hope (or desire) of actually being released.
Cue Herschell Gordon Lewis (of "Blood Feast" fame), always on the look-out for the cheapest way he could get a film released. So he bought the abandoned footage from "Terror At Halfday" and 'finished' the movie. To cut costs, he decided to only ask a couple of performers back, which did not include Henry Hite. I should point out Henry Hite played the monster. He finished this monster flick ... without the monster. That's one of the main reasons why this movie feels like such a blatantly cynical cash grab.
So Lewis only had a tiny little bit of footage shot with Henry Hite, and none of that footage could be edited to look like an actual ending. Lewis 'solved' that problem by creating one of the saddest anti-climaxes in the history of filmmaking. I honestly can't imagine how the people that paid to see this left the theatre after this screening. To quote Rich Hall: "It was so bad I wanted everyone's money back!". That was about a Bob Dylan concert, but it works equally well for this movie.
For what it's worth: Rebane actually did try to shoot a big climax for this, that's actually the main reason the budget ran out so quickly. Some of the ending scenes feature dozens of extras, so that's clearly Rebane's footage. Lewis really wouldn't bother to do any of that. In later interviews Rebane has stated he hates this movie even more than the audience does, and I can't blame him. Lewis didn't even put his name on it, Rebane is the only credited director. Did I mention he only sold his "Terror At Halfday" footage for 8.000 dollars, while it cost ten times as much to film? I guess he got a really quick course on how film business worked.
Howling: New Moon Rising (1995)
Near-impossible to sit through
I'm aware that I couldn't expect much from a micro-budget movie made by complete amateurs, but am I too much of a diva if I want my werewolf movie to have, you know ... a werewolf? I 'happened' to be looking at the clock during the big transformation scene: our werewolf doesn't actually show up until we're 87 minutes in! I should probably point out that this movie is 89 minutes long. What on Earth do they fill the rest of the time with? Well, line-dancing and horrible country music of course. Most cheap horror movies have filler scenes to pad out the running time, but this movie is different. This is literally nothing but padding. Every scene in this movie is solely made to run out the clock. Occasionally the movie teases you with a stock footage werewolf from "Howling V", but mostly it's satisfied with just having rednecks do fart jokes. Horror movies often have some actors that have never been in anything else, but the cast of "Howling: New Moon Rising" honestly looks like they've never even seen a movie. I guess there's a sick pleasure in seeing these non-actors desperately trying to get through this dialogue unscathed, but that's all the pleasure you'll get from this movie.
The Glimmer Man (1996)
Steven Seagal does buddy comedy!
Has any Steven Seagal character even been so implausibly perfect as Jack Cole from "The Glimmer Man"? I mean, he's an untouchable fighting machine in pretty much every movie, but here he's also fluent in Russian, capable of killing multiple guys at once with a freaking credit card, AND he's climbed Mount Everest! That last bit of information is thrown in so randomly and forcibly that it makes for a perfect so-bad-it's-good moment which is easily the funniest part of the movie. "The Glimmer Man" is mostly just a discount "Lethal Weapon", it relies heavily on Seagal's talent for comedy and the chemistry he has with co-star (well...side-kick) Keenan Ivory Wayans. That sounds like a total train-wreck, but strangely enough there are actually some genuine laughs in this movie. Adding a dark, stylish kill scene which is clearly inspired by "Se7en" doesn't help things though, because it really doesn't fit the overall tone. I do very much enjoy the finale to this movie. We get a pretty great villain here, though obviously the ending fight is as one-sided and unexciting as in every other Seagal movie (with the exception of "Under Siege"). "The Glimmer Man" is nowhere near Seagal's worst, but it can't hold a candle to his earlier stuff either.
The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
Infinitely charming 90s action flick
The great thing about Shane Black (of "Lethal Weapon" fame) is that he makes action movies work by doing things that look really obvious on the surface. It makes sense that you have the audience care for the characters before you put them in mortal danger, but how many action movies actually bother to do that? You don't even need a long build-up or anything. There are just these quick moments here, subtle touches, some funny lines that make us like Geena Davis' character right from the start. Once you realise her wholesome family life is nothing more than a cover for a professional killer, you genuinely feel bad, even though you've only seen a couple of scenes. That's great writing. Geena Davis is kind of an unlikely action star, but she does fine and Samuel L. Jackson (who can take more abuse than RoboCop in this movie) is a great comic relief. "The Last Kiss Goodnight" was a complete dud at the box office, but thankfully it's gained a cult following once it hit the video shelves.
Maniac Cop (1988)
Great slasher, not much of a finale though
"Maniac Cop" definitely has one of the coolest villain designs and backstories I've ever seen. By 1988 it was tough to find something that hadn't been done before in this genre, but this one is completely unique. It surpasses the genre, because we get characters we actually care about in situations that are actually unpredictable and suspenseful. Director William Lustig also does some amazing things with dark back alleys, the movie bathes in a chilling atmosphere. However, the last fifteen minutes of this movie are so dumb that they kinda pull you right out. None of the characters' actions make any sense anymore, everything happens simply because the movie is wrapping up. The big showdown between our hero and the killer is an incredible letdown, and the 'twist' at the end is as transparant as they come. It's almost like they were getting close to a deadline or something. Thankfully, all this comes after an infinitely rewatchable first hour or so.
Office Christmas Party (2016)
Slow starter with a decent pay-off
"Office Christmas Party" is the kind of movie that Hollywood has been making way too many of lately. How many movies are there now where the plot is basically just "party gets out of hand"? The first act doesn't exactly pull you into the movie either, because the character development is just tedious and incredibly stilted. It's been a while since I've seen a movie be so clumsy at establishing character's back stories. And yet... I thoroughly enjoyed the movie once the party gets going. There are plenty of predictable, clichéd moments, but the movie is saved by a very talented ensemble cast. The actors are what makes this movie work so well. They have a great comedic chemistry together, and for me that makes up for how hack- neyed some of the set pieces are. Of course there are going to be animals in the building for vague reasons, of course the stuck-up woman is going to be incredibly loose when drunk, of course the client they're trying to impress is going to get massive injuries. You could write most of this movie yourself, but there are some great improvised dialogues in here that keep this show on the road.
The Last Slumber Party (1988)
What the hell's going on?
Was this movie edited by Salvador Dali on drugs? When I'm trying to get invested in a movie, it's important to have a vague idea of what's going on. When your killer teleports as often as this guy does, you have two options: learn basic editing or, if you don't have the talent for that, write in a line about how he knows teleportation. Writer/Director/Star Stephen Tyler (not to be confused with the much scarier Steven Tyler) never made another horror movie after this one, and neither did any of his actors. I'd be grateful for that, but then again: "The Last Slumber Party" is also intensely fascinating. How bad can a movie get before you stop calling it a movie? You just stare in awe because you have no idea what the next scene will bring. When you look at it that way, this is much more entertaining than a halfway competent project. My favorite parts: every time our mad psychopath (Tyler himself) opens his eyes real wide because he can't come up with any other way to act crazy. That's some great stuff.
August Underground (2001)
Nearly unwatchable with plenty of redeeming features
"August Underground" is an unbearably vile experience, but that's mainly because it's so realistic. This looks like a genuine snuff film. With absolutely no build-up we see a girl being tortured by a deranged serial killer, while his friend conveniently films everything. The acting of both the killers and the victim is incredible, and so are the make-up effects. I'm assuming all the dialogues are improvised, if only because the two main actors are also credited as the writers. The main criticism to this movie is that it has no plot, but that's kind of the point. Would an actual serial killer's video diary have a plot, or would it just be random, unrelated vignettes like these? With that said, I did wish director Fred Vogel would have come up with a slightly more intriguing ending. That's something "The Blair Witch Project" (the inevitable comparison) did well, cutting away at an interesting point. This movie just ends on a total dud. "August Underground" is an interesting gimmick, but it's not exactly something I'd rewatch.
Boll goes artsy (with hilarious results)
I've never really hated Uwe Boll for his video game adaptations, mainly because he was brutally honest about them. He clearly knew he was making garbage and was not ashamed to say he just wanted to cash in. I don't applaud that motive, but Boll was a bearable director back then. "Seed" on the other hand is from the phase where his movies actually started 'meaning' something. On the surface it's a poorly made (and extremely poorly lit!) slasher movie about yet another mute serial killer with yet another ridiculous disguise, but don't be fooled. According to Boll it's actually about all the evils man can do! Boll recorded a hilariously pretentious commentary for this movie, which is good because the movie is dreadfully boring without it. The scene he's apparently most proud of is the one where an elderly woman gets bludgeoned to death for five straight minutes, a scene which might have the worst CGI effects I've ever seen outside of the SyFy Channel. I could buy Boll as a clever businessman. I can't buy Boll as a filmmaker that actually has something to say, because it all seems so fake to me.