Sep 30, 2012

REVIEW: BACK FROM HELL (EX INFERNIS)


Synopsis
Six friends decide to spend their holiday together and rent a manor house in the countryside where they can leave behind the madness of city life. Once there, they befriend a priest, Father Elia, who lives alone in the adjoining church. Very soon the party mood turns frightening, as strange phenomena, apparently paranormal, begin happening around the group. It soon turns into a nightmare when one of the friends, Giorgio, begins acting as if he is possessed, which the group interprets as being demonic.

While Alessandro, his best friend, tries to find a scientific and rational explanation to the happenings, the other friends appeal to Father Elia for assistance. He feels Giorgio is surely possessed by the devil and tries to exorcise him. But in the end what is happening is beyond their ability to understand and, moreover, their possibility to control. Is Giorgio’s possession the sign of a larger, even more diabolical phenomenon about to envelop the world?

Review
It's difficult to review films that leave you with neither a positive nor negative reaction. It's just as easy to throw heaps of love to a film that works as it is to trash a movie that doesn't. But then there are movies like Back From Hell (formerly known as Ex Infernis) that aren't offensive enough to warrant any kind of laundry list of ways it could've been better, nor is there much of it worth pointing out and complimenting.

But I can try.

First off, that synopsis above, which I pulled from a piece of sales art during the film's festival run, is a little misleading. The friends aren't renting a house, but have accompanied Sara, an architect, who has been contacted about visiting an old monastery to see about its potential for restoration. The structure is very beautiful, old age or not, and the high ceilings and tall doors help it to become a character almost effortlessly.

The interaction amongst the friends never feels forced or scripted. And thankfully the actors playing them, all whose first language is clearly Italian, speak English well enough that it doesn't hinder any of their performances. (I bring that up because foreign productions find English-speaking actors in order to give the film more international appeal, which oftentimes can prove distracting.) There's only one weak actor among the cast, and he spends most of his time behind the camera remaining quiet. Giovanni Guidelli is especially good as Father Elias, whose haunted eyes make you sympathize with the poor, isolated priest who seems to know shit's ready to hit the fan even before the audience does.

Making a possession movie is always going to automatically draw comparisons to The Exorcist. It's unavoidable. Because of this, part of me wants to commend director Leonardo Araneo for avoiding over-the-top special effects or sound editing to make the possessed actually appear possessed. The possession comes only from the abilities of the actor to appear so, intended to make it appear as realistic as possible. In theory, this is a good choice. After all, look at Jennifer Carpenter's performance in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Despite how you might feel about that particular film, her performance as the possessed Emily is creepy and effective, and was accomplished not with special effects, but with the abilities that Carpenter possessed. However, in the case of Back From Hell, this decision creates a problem: It never seems cinematic. And because this is cinema, we need more than an evil smile and some drool.

There are interesting ideas festering within Back From Hell, one especially being that Giorgio goes on record during a heated debate in the first act that God doesn't exist (and through an odd defense of his own beliefs, might even insinuate he is a Scientologist). It is Sara with whom he argues, and her beliefs in God are unwavering, leaving the argument to become quite intense. I bring this up because, from what I have read about possession, those with faith are the ones more susceptible to possession than those without it. If this was a purposeful choice, I'd be curious to know why. Or perhaps it was supposed to be that "irony" thing I've heard so much about.

At times the film's plot feels almost improvised, or cobbled together from footage three times as long as the final running time. There's an unfocused feeling of meandering, as if there was less of a script but more of an outline. "We need to get from Point A to Point B, but we can just wing whatever happens in between," etc. Because of this, it's sometimes difficult to pinpoint exactly what is happening or how scared we should be. (Based on the final output, not much.)

Back From Hell is sometimes effective in that way found footage movies are effective by default: A character walks down a dark hallway shining a flashlight in certain rooms, and suddenly there is someone - or something - standing before them. Moments like these are always startling because that's how we as human beings react to something unexpected. So in that regard, Back From Hell provides a few easy scares.

One of the more disturbing subplots features Sara's unborn baby. To spoil this would be to spoil the most shocking moment in the film, so I will refrain. One thing I will say about it is...it's not something I was at all expecting.

Look, could you do a lot worse than Back From Hell? Yes, you sure could. And anything in The Asylum's catalog would prove that almost instantly. Could you do a lot better, too? Yes, you could. But if you consider yourself a fan of the found footage technique, it's worth taking a look; it's low on scares, but high on concept and ideas. 

Oh, and by the way, don't expect anything remotely similar to what you see on the poster to occur during the film. 


Sep 28, 2012

EVIL DEAD: AN ANIMATED TRIBUTE


Published on Jun 19, 2012 by DanielKanemoto

For more information, visit www.exmortisfilms.com.

Follow the evil that roams through the dark bowers of man's domain in this balls-to-the-wall animated tribute to the sights, sounds and unforgettable characters of Sam Raimi's iconic EVIL DEAD trilogy!

This is my cinematic love letter to three influential movies that made me want to be a filmmaker: EVIL DEAD, EVIL DEAD 2, and ARMY OF DARKNESS.

I created all the artwork in the sequence, but the final image is directly inspired by an incredible EVIL DEAD poster created by Olly Moss. The moment I saw it, I only wanted to see it move -- which is how I feel about all great posters. The new wave of artists working with Mondo have made movie posters worth collecting again, and that's a great thing. I hope to someday join their ranks.

And I can't wait to see the new EVIL DEAD remake. My studio specializes in title sequences, and I want the opening credits for this new journey to the cabin to be just as frightening and original as the film they introduce. (I would not-so-secretly love a chance to pitch my take, and if that's even close to possible, I'm open for business at www.exmortisfilms.com.)

Special thanks to the cast and crew of the EVIL DEAD trilogy, Jeff Yorkes (who found me a print of that sold-out-in-an-instant Olly Moss poster), and Joe Pleiman, the most talented sound designer in the world.

CREDITS

Directed, Drawn, & Animated By Daniel M. Kanemoto | www.exmortisfilms.com
Inspired By A Mondo Poster Created By Olly Moss | www.ollymoss.com | www.mondotees.com
Sound Design By Joe Pleiman | www.joepleiman.com
Music By Joseph LoDuca | www.loducamusic.com

Sep 27, 2012

IT'S IN THE BLOOD


After watching this striking trailer (which I don't do, ever, because trailers ruin everything), this has shot to the top of my most anticipated list. Wasn't sure what to think at first because though I love Lance Henriksen, his need for "alimony movies" seemed to take over the majority of his career for the last decade. This, however, looks fantastic.


Sep 26, 2012

REVIEW: SINISTER


Within the first ten seconds of Sinister, I knew I was seeing something fresh, new, exciting, and creepy. And within that first ten seconds, I knew I would love it.

When Sinister was announced as far back as May of 2011, I began keeping an eye on any developments almost immediately because of the director attached to the project: Scott Derrickson. While he’s not a household name, at that point he had already given us the extremely undervalued The Exorcism of Emily Rose and the unfairly maligned Hellraiser: Inferno (my personal favorite entry in the Hellraiser franchise, even though it was never meant to be a Pinhead movie, anyway). I don’t really blame him for the completely inept remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, being that it was a Fox Studio movie, and as many know, they are a studio that can’t keep their grubby mitts off their larger, tent pole films.

Developments on Sinister began rolling in, using the terms “found footage” and “true crime.” Being that I’m a found footage nut ball, this sounded only but good to me. Then Ethan Hawke was announced for the project, and I was completely confused.

“Why are they casting such a big name celebrity for a found footage movie?,” etc.

Now that I’ve seen the film, and know how the found footage is incorporated, it all makes perfect sense.


Ethan Hawke plays true-crime writer Ellison Oswald, who rose to prominence and fame with his book Kentucky Murder, written ten years prior to the events of Sinister. His prominence and exposure came when his book made known the fact that law enforcement had dropped the ball in a number of places while investigating during whatever murderous crimes that took place (they’re kept purposely vague), and Ellison’s book brought to light a lot of information that had been left behind. This is all well and good, and resulted in a bestselling book and a tidy little sum of money for the author and his family. However, there’s a blemish on Ellison’s career called Cold Denver Morning, another true-crime tome that unfortunately got some things wrong and allowed a murderer to walk free of his crimes.

Ellison moves his family, unbeknownst to them, into a Pennsylvania house where the previous family had been hung from a tree in the back yard. He hopes to investigate the unsolved murders and write the book of his career –  one that will erase all his past indiscretions and award him with all the fame and fortune he claims not to desire.

After discovering a box of super 8 films marked “home movies” up in the attic, Ellison begins going through them one by one, and what he sees before him are mere moments of idealized familial happiness and togetherness before the films jump cut and see those very same families being killed in some gruesome or intricate way. They aren’t just shot or stabbed – they’re tied to lounge chairs and pulled one by one into a swimming pool, or they're bound and gagged and pushed into a car filled with full cans of gasoline, only to burn alive. What’s important to note is this murderous footage features not only the family who had previously lived in Ellison’s new house, but other families from other houses from all across the country – and all involving one member of the family, a child, going missing soon after. The footage is genuinely unnerving, made all the more so by the very unorthodox musical choices of such avant garde/ambient musical groups like Accurst and Ulver, while Christopher Young, goddamn legend that he is, scores the more traditionally shot portions of the film.

Though Ellison tries as best as he can to isolate his family from his creepy discoveries, his son's previously conquered night terrors begin happening again with much more intensity, and his daughter begins to draw on her bedroom wall images featured in his ghastly filmstrips.

As Ellison investigates each murder, he begins to slowly realize that he’s not just dealing with terrible murders, but something much more than that…something beyond that boundary he never thought he would cross…something supernatural.

Something named Bughuul.


Blumhouse Productions, who produced Sinister, is quickly becoming a best friend to the horror community, having produced the Paranormal Activity trilogy (make that quadrilogy), Insidious, and the television series "The River." Blumhouse et al. and director Derrickson (along with first-time writer C. Robert Cargill, who knocked this out of the park for his first time out) work well together, and all seem to be on the very same page in terms of realizing this project and bringing it to the forefront. Sinister plays out very much like a kindred spirit to Insidious, with a heavy focus on quiet horror mixed with legitimately creepy imagery, non-melodic music, even down to a monstrous face appearing in every filmstrip Ellison watches.  It contains the perfect balance of quiet terror, disturbing images, and comic relief (which we end up relying on to take a breather from the mounting terror that befalls Ellison every night when the antiquated projector in his locked-up office kicks on by itself…)

What works in Sinister’s favor is that it’s a very simple and very contained story. There are only six people featured prominently in the movie (alive, anyway) and the action hardly ever leaves the Oswald family’s new home. And as for the story being simple, that’s not a slight against the film. Some of our best horror films – Halloween, Psycho – had simple stories, and because Sinister's filmmakers didn’t feel bogged down with having to provide exposition, this allowed them to create sequences to unnerve the audience.

It goes without saying that Sinister is Derrickon's best effort as a director. Watching the film gives you a feeling he's achieved a new way of approaching his material, and it's one that also feels the most unrestrained. It feels as if he was given nearly carte blanche to make this film the way he intended without a studio looking over his shoulder.

Sinister also features a strong supporting cast, featuring Juliet Rylance as Ellison’s wife, Vincent D’Onofrio as a local university professor (featured only in a Skype video chat), James Ransome as Deputy So-and-So (see the movie and you’ll understand), and even Fred Thompson as the town’s grizzled sheriff.

Horror needs more movies like Sinister. It needs high-concept and original ideas that are only out to scare audiences in the purest ways – with images, mood, music, and good story telling. I can only hope that Sinister sees success at the box office when it opens in a wider release on October 12th – not so it can be sequalized, but so once again, like Insidious and the PA films before it, studios can see that low-budgeted original horror fare can and will be successful, so long as you give it a chance.

Sep 25, 2012

YOU EVER BEEN TO MINNEAPOLIS?

So, I'm tendin' bar there at Ecklund and Swedlin's last Tuesday, and this little guy's drinkin' and he says, "So where can a guy find some action? I'm goin' crazy out there at the lake." And I says, "What kinda action?" and he says, "Woman action, what do I look like?" And I says, "Well, what do I look like, I don't arrange that kinda thing," and he says, "But I'm goin' crazy out there at the lake," and I says, "Well, this ain't that kinda place." So he angrily says, "Oh I get it, so you think I'm some kinda crazy jerk for askin'," only he doesn't use the word "jerk." And then he calls me a jerk, and says that the last guy who thought he was a jerk is dead now. So I don't say nothin' and he says, "What do ya think about that?" So I says, "Well, that don't sound like too good a deal for him, then." And he says, "Yah, that guy's dead, and I don't mean of old age." And then he says, "Geez, I'm goin' crazy out there at the lake."

If we don't, remember me. 

Sep 23, 2012

REVIEW: VILE


vile - (adj)
  1. wretchedly bad; highly offensive, unpleasant, or objectionable.
  2. repulsive or disgusting, as to the senses or feelings.
  3. morally debased, depraved, or despicable.
derivative - (adj)
  1. derived.
  2. not original; secondary.
  3. making a film about a group of strangers abducted by a madman who are then locked away and forced to perform torturous acts against each other and themselves in an effort to find salvation.
incompetent - (adj)
  1. lacking qualification or ability; incapable.
  2. characterized by or showing incompetence.
  3. the feature film Vile.
Someone send director Taylor Sheridan a memo. After eight Saws, three Hostels, and a host of bottom-dwelling imitators, the torture porn subgenre is dead. No, wait - it's not just dead. It's had its fingernails ripped out, its eyes sliced in half, and, I dunno...maybe its ears thrown in a really hot stew. It is dead. Dead, gone, finished, good riddance. God damn.

Bu yet here we are with Vile, which exists for some reason. Why that is I couldn't say. It's certainly not for our entertainment. It sure as shit wasn't for mine.

We’ve been here before, folks. And I was hoping we would never be here again. But let’s just get this out of the way and save us all the misery that Vile did not save me.

A group of young twenty-somethings are out in nature laying around on blankets, contemplating life, and not holding down jobs, apparently. We get to know very little about them other than, boy, they’re all in love with life!

On their evening-descending drive back to civilization, a cougar-esque woman asks for a ride from a gas station back to her stalled car. The kids oblige, and the woman then hilariously (though it’s not supposed to be) straps on a gas mask and sprays the car with knock out gas. The kids awake in some kind of inescapable old house, meet a bunch of other strangers, and then an unfortunately-faced woman on a TV screen explains that the kidnapped folks all have some kind of hose thinger plugged into the back of their neck that will collect the special brain juices secreted by the body when it undergoes severe physical torture. You know, OW GOO. And so the kids must now agree to torture each other for as long as it takes until enough of this OW GOO is supplied.

That is literally it. The entire movie is these characters torturing each other.

Oh, and the guy who looks too much like Shaun White is in on it.

Did I just ruin that twist for you? Fucking thank me. I watched this nonsense for free and I still felt like a crime had been committed against me.

The film is directed by Taylor Sheridan, probably most famous for having played Deputy Hale in the first three seasons of "Sons of Anarchy." I like to think that, upon the announcement of his departure from that very high-rated FX show, a member of the press asked Sheridan, “What will you do next?”

And Sheridan smiled his very toothy grin and said, “I want to make a HUGE piece of shit.”

He should be commended for his uncompromising desire to fill his entire cast of characters with actors who did not deliver a single line convincingly. I’m almost in awe that he was able to locate a completely talentless group of people to bark and growl at each other, and with such wildly stereotype-busting character traits!

Oh, you mean the hot girl is the bitchy one? The dumb blonde surfer is the dumb one? The main guy super duper loves his girlfriend and is a good man?

Fuck you.

Vile is not worth dissecting because it does not present any themes that dozens of other movies like it have not already presented. And on top of that, they are presented so poorly and are lost in such a collection of bullshit gory set pieces that any such themes eventually become irrelevant.

If Saw did not exist, Vile would not exist. And Saw is not even a good movie. But I would promise my first-born daughter to Saw’s first-born son in an arranged marriage if my only other option was sitting through Vile again.

Vile is vile. It sucks. It blows. I really, really hate it. It’s not even worthy of my Shitty Flicks banner, because I got nothing from the film. Not a single thing. Except my time stolen.

If you liked Vile, you are a dumb human being.

Sep 20, 2012

ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE TRAINING

Zombie Apocalypse Training: HALO Corp. To Train Military, Law Enforcement On Virus Outbreak
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is ready for a zombie apocalypse. Gun owners got prepared for a zombie apocalypse. Now, the military and law enforcement are getting ready.

And next month, they'll begin training.

Security firm HALO Corp. announced yesterday that about 1,000 military personnel, police officials, medical experts and federal workers will learn the ins and outs of a zombie apocalypse, as part of an annual counter-terrorism summit, according to the Military Times.

Sure, the lesson is tongue-in-cheek -- and only a small part of the summit's more serious course load -- but a zombie-like virus outbreak is a good training scenario. Visitors will learn to deal with a worldwide pandemic, where people become crazy, violent and fearful. Zombies will roam the summit grounds in San Diego, Calif. harassing troops and first-aid teams that will be participating.

Further details are unclear, but the Military Times made sure to note that zombies are not real.

The training comes at a time when the term "zombie apocalypse" is so viral that several branches of government have released statements on the matter. Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security reported that "the zombies are coming" as part of a hilarious bid to get citizens to prepare for a real disaster.

The CDC has released similar statements using zombies as a playful guise to get the public prepared for actual disasters. To assure that no one's confused by these announcements, CDC told The Huffington Post that zombies are not real.

Yeh...YET.



Sep 19, 2012

DEAD IS BETTER


"Dead fields under a November sky, scattered rose petals brown and turning up at the edges, empty pools scummed with algae, rot, decomposition, dust..."
Image source.

Sep 15, 2012

SHITTY FLICKS: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION

Shitty Flicks is an ongoing column that celebrates the most hilariously incompetent, amusingly pedestrian, and mind-bogglingly stupid movies ever made by people with a bit of money, some prior porn-directing experience, and no clue whatsoever. It is here you will find unrestrained joy in movies meant to terrify and thrill, but instead poke at your funny bone with their weird, mutant camp-girl penis.

WARNING: I tend to give away major plot points and twist endings in my reviews because, whatever. Shut up.


Usually it takes until the eighth chapter of any infamous horror franchise to be downright ridiculously and absurdly bad. Your lead antagonist can suddenly do anything, whether it's take Manhattan, appear in a webcam show broadcasting within their old home, or even haunt a website, or something.

We lucked out with this one, however. While it is only the fourth entry in the long running Leatherface saga - a sequel/re-imagining of the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre starring Matthew McConaughey and Renée Zellwegger - it's so insane that even Ed Gein was quoted has having said, "Jesus, I used to fry vaginas like eggs and even I'm weirded out."

So, okay - Chainsaw 4 starring two competent actors. What could go wrong?

Everything. Or nothing. It depends on how shitty your taste is.

It's prom night! The movie hasn’t even tried to suck yet, and it already does, setting its series of events on the most over-used night of terror of all time, even more so than those random unlucky Fridays.

Mousey Jenny (Renée Zellwegger) hastily applies her make-up before being carted off to the prom by her equally flavorless date. The two have their pictures taken, as the now-famous picture-taking sound effects used so effectively during the opening of the original movie are layered over the scene.

Upon arriving, there is almost instant drama: Jenny’s good buddy, Heather, has misplaced her boyfriend, Barry.

Oh, there he is: necking with a girl that’s not Heather. In response, Heather flips out and steals Barry’s car, which she drives around the parking lot before he catches up and climbs in.

“Guys need sex. If we don’t get it, you can get ‘prostrate’ cancer,” he claims. Luckily, mousey Jenny, who was in the back seat the whole time with her date, pipes up:

“That’s not true.”

During this scene, we learn so much exposition about everyone that it’d be easier to just take notes:

Jenny is quiet, plain, and sexually repressed. She does not have much of a social life, unless she is with her plain date, Sean.

Heather is really, really, dumb, and while seemingly a floozy, will not have sex with Barry. Heather routinely says dumb things, like “I just thought of something so cool. What if we got into a wreck and crashed into a car in front of us and we all died? They could write a song about it.”

Barry is the biggest asshole in the world. Literally. And when Heather says things, he says, “Shut up.”

Sean and Barry used to be friends when they were little, until Barry got “too cool” aka too huge an asshole. Sean is also a pothead.

That’s about it for development.

Gary, the prom night photographer, specialized in bringing out
each couple's raw emotions.

The kids continue to drive, even though it’s painfully obvious there is no destination. At no point does anyone ask, “Where are we going?” or “Can we turn around and go home/back to the prom/to somewhere with lights and paved roads?”

“There’s no place to turn around, there’s NEVER a place to turn around, THIS SUCKS,” oozes Barry, insinuating he’s caught in this kind of predicament every night.

By the time someone does come up with the genius idea of leaving the area, another car comes out of nowhere and smashes into them.

“I’m not hurt,” says the other driver, and then falls down, hurt. 

Jenny begins the hike to find some help along with Heather and Barry, leaving Sean at the wreck to wait for…something.

The kids stumble into a small office hosted by Darla, a dumb secretary, and the following bewildering dialogue takes place:

Heather: [concerned] Call the police. There’s been a horrible accident. A man is dying!
Darla: [overjoyed] Prom night!
Heather: [retarded] Someone bring me a glass of water, please?

Darla tries to call someone named Vilmer, and when she catches Jenny looking at her allegedly large breasts (we’re never given an establishing shot, which is something people called “directors” usually do), she coos, “phony as three dollar bills!”

Why is there such a lack of care for anyone or anything in this weird alternate universe known as Texas?

Darla continues to talk about her breasts as she waits for Vilmer to answer the phone. He eventually does, and she gives him directions on where to find the wreck and the dying kid. Then she hangs up and immediately asks, “Why do blondes stick their heads out of car windows?”

No, seriously—what is this? What is going on?

Why doesn’t she care about the dying kid?

Why don’t these kids care that Darla doesn’t care about the dying kid?

Why do the kids ALL LAUGH TOGETHER when Heather doesn’t get the joke?

Why would this film’s director go out of his way to “re-aimagine” the first Chainsaw film as a stupid, stupid, stupid movie?

Before anyone knows what to do next, a rock flies through the window, which Darla blames on “some farmer’s wife.” She rushes to the window and yells at the vandalizers:

“Read ‘em and weep!”

And we finally see those breasts; bare, glorious, and brandished in the night.

Back with Sean, Vilmer shows up to assess the situation. Oh, Matthew McConaughey. It’s about time. This movie needs a new kind of insanity.

Vilmer checks the boy, says he’s dead, stares hard at Sean when the boy who denies Vilmer’s diagnosis, and then promptly snaps the boy’s neck.

“He’s dead now!”

Oh, Vilmer.

Sean flees in terror as Vilmer looks disappointed. Vilmer easily catches up in his truck.

“Please mister, you’re scaring me!” Sean cries. He attempts to flee again, but Vilmer effortlessly runs him down with his truck. He puts on a cassette tape of rock and then rolls back and forth over the boy as I guess we're horrified? Or amused?

Something.

Meanwhile, Heather and Barry chase down a passing car to get some help, which Jenny refuses to do, citing the possibility of getting arrested for trespassing. Arrested by police officers. That would suck, right? Especially when you’re trying to find some.

We’re twenty minutes in, and I’m already exhausted.

Jenny continues on the road by her lonesome, her only company a flashlight. A bag flies in her face and she gets scared.

Hey Jenny, might you spare some bag so I can end my life?

Heather and Barry find an old farmhouse, and they knock on the door intending to ask for a ride. When no one answers, Barry goes around back as Heather sits her not-so-bright ass on the front porch swing.

A dark, hulking figure in an apron shows up and starts touching Heather’s hair from behind. After a few rounds of this, Heather turns and sees the toucher: Leatherface!

Heather does a round of the usual shrieking and tries to flee, but Leatherface grabs her and stuffs her in a freezer inside the house.

And guess who doesn’t lock that freezer?

Leatherface.

Heather bursts out almost immediately, and Leatherface freaks out and stuffs her back in.

Thanks for that scene.

During all this, Barry has run afoul of his own nemesis: a shotgun toting, famous quote-spewing redneck. Barry tries to lie his way out of being killed and it barely works. He locks the redneck out of his own house and wanders around inside, searching for Heather, not the least bit concerned someone is trying to shoot him.

Thankfully, Leatherface is still inside and easily dispatches Barry with his big awesome hammer. Heather also takes this opportunity to free herself from the freezer, AGAIN, but Leatherface picks her up and plops her on a meat hook.

Oh no, the end of Heather!

No, wait—it’s not. She’ll be back. Again and again.

Vilmer picks up Jenny by the side of the road under the guise of giving her a lift to help. He starts harassing her almost immediately. The two exchange completely unrealistic dialogue before Jenny sees Sean’s body in the back seat and throws herself out of the truck. Another truck/foot race takes place until Vilmer cackles and leaves her behind, telling her to “live and learn.”

Leatherface is never more excited than when getting an idea.

Leatherface pops out of nowhere with his chainsaw and a chase begins. Jenny runs until she finds the farmhouse, running inside and procuring a gun from a dead cop before throwing herself from the top window onto the roof. Leatherface follows, and Jenny smartly climbs to the top of the TV antenna.

One quick swipe from the chainsaw makes short work of the antenna and Jenny plummets to the ground, which she deserves.

And everything is suddenly quiet.

No chainsaw, no shrieking man child, no nothing.

Oh wait, there he is.

More running, more screaming, more revving of saws.

Jenny finds herself back at Darla’s office, and Darla calls good old W.E. to come pick her up. W.E. shows up pretty quickly with a sack in which to stuff Jenny.

So, wait... Was Darla being an antagonist supposed to be shocking? Because the movie sure wants you to think that.

W.E. stuffs Jenny in the sack, hits her with a stick, and then tazers her.

“I’m going to pick up pizza,” Darla says, and leaves.

In the drive-in line, Darla flirts with the window guy, all the while Jenny screams inside her drunk.

“What’s that?” asks the window guy.

“Wanna come see?” Darla asks, popping the trunk.

“No thanks,” says window guy.

Jesus Christ.

CHAINSAW DANCE PARTY!!

On the way home, Darla sees Heather in the middle of the road.

How’d she get off the hook, you ask?

Beats me.

Beats Heather, too. Darla does, that is. Very, very, very lightly. With a stick. Until Heather asks her to stop.

Darla relents, acting as if she actually cares.

“Don’t go crawlin’ off,” she reasons, and then fucking just leaves her in the road, not at all worried that someone else might come along and find her and have her and her whole retarded family arrested and tried for murder.

Darla makes it home, and Leatherface, dressed as an old woman, bursts out of the front door being zapped by W.E. Leatherface gathers up the Jenny sack and carries her inside.

Jenny and Vilmer are finally officially introduced.

Vilmer goes out for a bit, but then comes back with Heather. Yep, she’s still alive! He smashes her face and down she goes. Again.

And again, she continues to be alive.

Darla takes Jenny to clean her up a bit, and then regales her with the “people” that Vilmer works for: a team of shadowy, Big Brother-type people who monitor certain situations for God knows what reason. They also killed Kennedy.

Are you terrified?

Darla bursts in and catches Vilmer about to molest Jenny, and a huge fight ensues. Jenny takes this time to procure a large shotgun. Everyone lies down on the floor except for Vilmer, who unzips his shirt and dares her to shoot, in order to prove he’s really as insane as it’s pretty apparent he is. Then he steps on Darla’s throat, because whatever. Why not? His remote-controlled leg braces give him the feet force of a cyborg, and Darla begins to freak out. During this, Jenny tries to gather up Heather, but she’s too dumb and hurt to move.

Jenny flees and Vilmer follows close behind, jumping on the roof of her getaway car. Jenny crashes and Vilmer gathers his prize. Again. And around and around we go.

Meanwhile, Leatherface dresses up like his idea of an attractive woman, as Darla and Vilmer have a frantic, dirty-looking make-out session in the kitchen. Darla snatches one of Vilmer’s leg remotes and uses it against him, which I guess really turns him on. (Get it?)

Later, everyone gathers together, and they sit down to have some dinner. I think we all know where this is heading: a re-enactment of the original film’s genuinely disturbing dinner table scene, only this time with the guy from Fool's Gold.

Jenny flips out and yells at Vilmer, who strikes W.E. in the head for no reason. The previously-vegetative grandpa gets up and leaves the table.

Can I come where you’re going, gramps?

John Carpenter couldn't believe he got out of bed for this.

Vilmer sets Heather on fire and throws her against the wall and everyone starts screaming.

But she’s still alive.

Just before dinner gets to be too awkward, Rothman, the shadowy, Big Brother-type man Darla had talked, about shows up. This Jon Favreau-looking man disciplines Vilmer, telling him that he “wants people to know the meaning of horror.”

Why?

Who knows?

Rothman begins licking Jenny’s face and showing her his stomach that appears to have a patchwork of self-imposed scars and piercings. He leaves, and Vilmer crushes Heather’s head with his robofoot.

And she’s actually dead now.

He takes out his trusty razor and begins slicing up his own body as Leatherface screams and Darla begs him to stop.

Screaming and screaming everyone is doing. And I am, too. For mercy.

Jenny escapes as Leatherface, who really has had shit to do in this movie, follows close behind. 

"Get her, Leather!” screams Vilmer before screaming his own name.

Enter the Spottishes, the best part of this movie!

Mr. and Mrs. Spottish, a delightful elderly couple in their RV, are enjoying a nice drive. Jenny, still fleeing from Leatherface, ends up running right across their path in the road.

“There’s a monster chasing her with a chainsaw!” Mrs. Spottish shouts, pulling Jenny on board. “Step on it, Mr. Spottish!” (The best line in cinema history.)

Vilmer then shows up in his trusty truck with Leatherface swinging his chainsaw at the RV until the drivers freak out and flip their vehicle. Jenny escapes from the wreck unscathed and flees across a field. A nearby crop-dusting plane figures it’ll intervene and dive-bombs Vilmer, giving him a good chop with its propeller. 

Leatherface begins shrieking like a little bitch as Jenny hops into Rothman’s suddenly-appearing limo.

Rothman begins to apologize for his failed “spiritual experience” and peppers it with random French bullshit.

“Fuck you,” Jenny says, as weakly as I feel.

At the hospital, a police officer (‘Grandpa’ from the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre) asks Jenny several questions while a fat orderly (Franklin from the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre) wheels a gurney by with a crazy woman (Sally from the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre) strapped to it.

See? Because the guy who actually brought you this atrocity WROTE the original film, which is groundbreaking, terrifying, and a genuine classic. So I guess The Next Generation is good, too, for that reason. You know, by default.

Right?

Sep 14, 2012

KARLOFF

 
"Mr. Carl Laemmle feels it would be a little unkind to present this picture without just a word of friendly warning. We're about to unfold the story of Frankenstein, a man of science who sought to create a man after his own image without reckoning upon God. It is one of the strangest tales ever told. It deals with the two great mysteries of creation: life and death. I think it will thrill you. It may shock you. It might even horrify you. So if any of you feel that you do not care to subject your nerves to such a strain, now is your chance to, uh... Well, we've warned you."
 Frankenstein woodcut by Loren Kantor.

Sep 12, 2012

FORMALDEHYDE FACE


Coming November 6th from Scream Factory.
They influence our decisions without us knowing it. They numb our senses without us feeling it. They control our lives without us realizing it. They Live.

Horror master John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing) directs this heart-pounding thriller in which aliens are systematically gaining control of the Earth by masquerading as humans and lulling the public into submission. Humanity’s last chance lies with a lone drifter who stumbles upon a harrowing discovery — a unique pair of sunglasses that reveals the terrifying and deadly truth.
Special Features:
  • Audio Commentary with Writer/Director John Carpenter and Actor Roddy Piper
  • Independent Thoughts – An interview with Writer/Director John Carpenter
  • Man vs. Aliens – An interview with Actor Keith David
  • Woman of Mystery – An interview with Actress Meg Foster
  • Watch, Look, Listen: The Sights & Sounds of They Live – A look at the visual style, stunts and music from the film with Director of Photography Gary B. Kibbe, Stunt Coordinator Jeff Imada, and Co-Composer Alan Howarth
  • 2012 Cast Reunion Q&A with Roddy Piper, Keith David, and Meg Foster. Presented by Ain’t It Cool News and Texas Frightmare Weekend
  • Original EPK: The Making of They Live
  • Never-Before-Seen Footage from the Commercials created for the film.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Still Gallery 


The commentary seems to be ported over from the Region 2 release from several years back. If that's the case, I can safely say us 'mericans will be getting a great and fun commentary.

Sep 10, 2012

BLOODY ART

World-famous surrealist and New York City native VINCENT CASTIGLIA is pleased to announce his upcoming solo art exhibition entitled ‘Resurrection’, taking place from October 4th-31st at Sacred Gallery NYC (located at 424 Broadway 2nd Floor between Canal and Howard, NYC). The gallery will host an opening reception on October 4th from 8-11pm. This retrospective encompasses all of Vincent’s available work from the beginning of his career and aims to examine the congruency of life and death. Propelled by correlated personal experiences just this year, his deep and continually renewed understanding of the consistency between the two themes will come to prominence at this haunting and memorable exhibition.
‘Resurrection’ will include a striking collection of Vincent’s paintings, which are created exclusively in his own human blood. Vincent’s figures, their musculature and skin, are painted with what could be thought of as “liquid flesh”. Its tendency to quicken the subjects is likely inapproachable by any other medium—as it is actual tissue with which it is being rendered. In this way the subject’s realism is not merely an optical illusion due to its level of detail, but rather is an actual transference of flesh and blood to each work.

In the privacy of his studio, Vincent practices a kind of modern-day phlebotomy, siphoning the life force which contains his own psychic energy, while giving it an outlet and form. In doing so, he dissolves the barrier between artist and art in a most literal and immediate sense.

In a personal statement, Vincent states, “This exhibit is the culmination of a lifetime of searching and posing many questions through images, making declarations of truths uncovered and pouring a myriad of emotions, conflicts, and bliss’ into these coagulations which delineate all aspects of the past decade of my life.”

For more information on Sacred Gallery NYC, please visit www.sacredgallerynyc.com or contact Kevin@SacredGalleryNYC.com.


VINCENT CASTIGLIA is the first American artist to receive a solo exhibition invitation from Oscar Award-winning artist H.R. Giger in the history of the H. R. Giger Museum Gallery. Vincent’s art has been praised by fellow artists, musicians, and other notables throughout his career.

“With such precise technique, his depiction of human musculature is nothing short of outstanding.”
– Paul Booth / World-renowned Tattooist, Artist, Gallery Owner, Fanatical Nihilist

“If the body is the temple, then the heart is the altar and the blood is the sacred flame that enlightens the shrine. Vincent is painting with holy light.” – Martin Eric Ain / Musician, Celtic Frost

“The ominous truth that his art confronts, along with the exquisiteness in which it is portrayed, provides a timeless revelation into human existence.” – Joe Sopkowics, Forensic Photographer

VINCENT CASTIGLIA’s impressive work has seen many sides of the entertainment world, as well. MTV New Media’s Horror-Slasher Film, Savage County, featured his art as its official movie poster, depicting the three murderers in the film. Prior to the film, Vincent painted album art for heavy metal band Triptykon’s 2010 debut release,Eparistera Daimones. Triptykon is founded by former Hellhammer / Celtic Frost singer and guitarist Tom Gabriel Fischer.

His work has been featured on New York 1 News, Spike TV, as well as the television series, Miami Ink. His work has been explored by countless art and culture, and media publications, in the US and internationally, including the New York Post, New York Daily News, and the recently released, Lexikon Der Phantastischen Künstler “The international encyclopedia of fantastic, surrealistic, symbolist, & visionary artists”.

His work hangs in many distinguished international collections; one of his most celebrated works of 2006, “Gravity” was recently acquired by Rock legend Gregg Allman. Vincent’s paintings have been exhibited at museums and galleries in the US, and internationally, including CoproGallery, (Santa Monica, California), Last Rites Gallery(New York) The Museum of Sex (New York), The Museum Of Porn In Art, (Switzerland), The HR Giger Museum Gallery, (Switzerland), , The Mall Gallery (London, England) Canvas Los Angeles (Los Angeles California), Fuse Gallery (New York), Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center (Ft. Myers, Florida), Art @ Large Gallery (New York)Gallery Lombardi (Austin Texas), L’imagerie Gallery (Hollywood, California), Museo De La Cuidad De Mexico, (Mexico), C-Pop Gallery (Detroit, Michigan), Shooting Gallery (San Francisco, CA), Seed Gallery (Newark, New Jersey), The 7th Annual Dirty Show (Detroit, Michigan), as well as The Congregation Gallery (Hollywood, California).
For more information on VINCENT CASTIGLIA, please visit www.vincentcastigliaart.com.

Sep 9, 2012

BUY ME THIS: THE HALLOWEEN TREE DVD


Courtesy of Warner Bros. Archive, 1993's animated version of The Halloween Tree (the one narrated by author Ray Bradbury) is finally seeing a DVD release. Unfortunately, because it's being released through the archive collection, the disc is considered "made to order," which means you'll be receiving a DVD-r of the film, not a typical pressed DVD. Still, it would be nice to finally get rid of the bootleg version I, ahem...acquired...several years ago.

This helpful review explains exactly what you'll be getting. Basically, full screen format, no special features, but a good looking and sounding picture.

Buy the DVD here. (For me.)

Sep 8, 2012

THE HORROR


This isn't horror related. Not at all. But that doesn't mean it's not horrific.

Something terrible happened to the world last night.

Are you brave enough to see the truth for yourself?

If so...click the mushroom cloud...

Sep 7, 2012

REVIEW: I AM A GHOST


I Am A Ghost is not your typical ghost movie. You should definitely know this before sitting down with it. It emphasizes the expression “slow burn,” and very little action propels the story forward. But that doesn’t mean it’s not an engaging watch, because it definitely is.

Emily is a young ghost haunting her former home. Years ago (how many exactly we’re never told) she was murdered in her room, stabbed to death on top of a carpet at the foot of her bed. A large portion of the movie is comprised of snippets of her day-to-day life. She wakes, stretches, makes breakfast, looks through drawers, gazes at photographs, and stares into the mirror as she cries out in pain, her wrapped wrist spotting blood. Occasionally she takes trips to the nearby market place. Every so often she’ll look into her bedroom and see something ghastly – enough that it sends her running down the hallway, her mop and bucket abandoned on the floor behind her. We’re not sure at first the relevance of these scenes, or why we’re seeing them repeated as often as they are. But it soon all makes sense…which worsens Emily’s post-life in unfortunate and horrifying ways.

The time period in which the story takes place is kept purposely vague, but based on the décor of the home, the photographs we see, and the lack of any electronic gadgets whatsoever (no computers, no TVs, and definitely no cell phones) intimates that this story is set in the past. Emily’s housedress is antiquated in its design, and the nearest clue we have to a time period is the old tabletop radio that she listens to while preparing her breakfast.


I Am A Ghost is a rarity in that the audience spends their entire time with a ghost. There is no cutting back and forth between her and the family that resides in that same house and wants to see her go. And there is no Sixth Sense/The Others third-act twist that let’s us discover she’s been dead the whole time. We know this pretty much from the start, especially when the disembodied voice of the very much alive Sylvia, a clairvoyant, sounds through the house and demands that Emily repeat after her: “I am a ghost…I am a ghost…I am a ghost.”

Working on behalf of the family, Sylvia wants Emily to move on, and by actively communicating with her, she is attempting to collect enough information to trigger a connection. She needs Emily to realize that not only is she dead, but there’s absolutely no reason for her to stick around. It would be best for both her and the family in the living world that she move on. A tough conflict, to be sure, but once Sylvia gets things in motion and begins to communicate with Emily more and more, a revelation rears its head that threatens to make the removal process much more complicated. This twist is often used to death in more mainstream fare, so at first it was a momentary let down in the sense of “oh, they’re going to do this now...”

But that disappointment lasts only so long, because it soon shapes the events for the remainder of the film, and in a strangely abstract way makes perfect sense. And once the physical embodiment of this twist materializes, well…look out. It’s unexpected and definitely creepy. This is when I Am A Ghost transcends the experimental character study into full-on horror.

Anna Ashida as Emily has a tough job. She spends 99% of her screen time talking to a ceiling. She has very little interaction with other beings, and no one really to bounce emotions off. It’s, for all intents, a one-woman show. It's difficult for performers to attempt an emotional connection with their audience when they have very little opportunities for character interaction and exposition, but she makes us care for her plight all the same.

What writer/director H.P. Mendoza was able to accomplish on a shoestring budget is something to awe over. While there are no immense set pieces or special effects, his ability to effectively capture on film such an unusual approach to a horror film is a thing worthy of praise. It was a "what if?" movie. And it works.

While the patches of film that contain dialogue are few, the dialogue itself is engaging, natural (despite the situation), and occasionally amusing. All of our exposition comes from the information swapped between Emily and Sylvia; along with everything we’ve observed about Emily thus far.


The film is described as being an experimental horror film, and while I suppose that’s true, I Am A Ghost remains very accessible. It might not quench the thirst of the hardcore exploitation crowd, but willing fans of Kubrick and Polanski will be highly rewarded with an oddity of a film. In keeping with the current trend, I Am A Ghost is shot to look like a 1970s low budgeter. Beyond simply an attempt to associate itself with the films of those aforementioned filmmakers, I wonder why Mendoza made this decision. Perhaps one day I'll have the opportunity to ask him.

I Am A Ghost is currently playing the festival circuit, and as far as I know, has not secured any kind of distribution, which is a shame, but one I’m confident is a temporary problem. For developments, keep an eye on the film's Facebook page, and subscribe to H.P. Mendoza's status updates.

Sep 5, 2012

Sep 4, 2012

IT AIN'T THAT BAD: THE WARD

In this column, movies with less-than-stellar reputations are fairly and objectively defended. Full disclaimer establishes that said movies aren’t perfect, and aren’t close to being such, but contain an undeniable amount of worth that begs you for a second chance. Films chosen are based on their general reception by both critics and audiences, more often than not falling into the negative. Every film, no matter how dismal, has at least one good quality. As they say, it ain’t that bad. 

Spoilers abound.



Listen, after 2001’s Ghost of Mars, John Carpenter’s previous theatrical feature, we all wanted to love The Ward. We wanted it to be worth the ten-year wait. After all, it was directed by a living legend who has been consistently five years too early for all the concepts he's introduced to the genre. Many of his most heralded films received lukewarm-to-middling reviews at the time of their release, but slowly and steadily began to be recognized for the genius (or just downright fun) little tales of beautiful nastiness that they were. Halloween received ho-hum reviews for several months until a positive one by The Village Voice turned it all around. The Thing, now rightly hailed as a classic and a defining moment in the horror genre – having inspired filmmakers as diverse as Quentin Tarantino, Guillermo Del Toro, Eli Roth, and so many others – was vilified upon its release. Critics called The Thing a porno of violence and accused Carpenter of filling his movie with irredeemable set pieces. 
David Ansen of Newsweek called it "an example of the New Aesthetic - atrocity for atrocity's sake" while Alan Spencer for Starlog contended that "John Carpenter was never meant to direct science fiction horror movies. He's better suited to direct traffic accidents, train wrecks and public floggings" (IMDB).
Despite his consistent post-Thing filmography, Carpenter openly states that his remake of the Howard Hawks 1951 classic nearly destroyed his career. It forced him on a path to grin and bear safer studio projects before fleeing back into the world of independent filmmaking, thanks to a distribution-only deal with Universal (which resulted in both Prince of Darkness and They Live, both considered among the master’s best).


So, the question remains: How will The Ward be looked upon in ten years from now? Will people’s general indifference and disappointment toward it subside? Will it be elevated and looked at with a new pair of eyes? Well, considering the director’s own and aforementioned Ghosts of Mars is still considered the dung pile most said it was in 2001, the jury can and will be out on that for the next decade.

But here’s the thing about The Ward, people. It ain’t that bad. It really, really isn’t. Yes, the script could have been stronger and a bit more unique. And yeah, it would’ve been nice to have a better twist ending than, “oh, she’s a crazy split personality.” Many negative reviews for the film have pointed to the script as the main reason for the film’s failure. And I will not sit here and try to convince you otherwise. No, the script is not very good. It's a convoluted amalgamation of J-horror, typical slashers, a bit of the ol' torture porn, and psychological thrillers. But I really take offense to the claims that The Ward is point and shoot; uninspired looking and almost TV-movie in scope—that Carpenter’s ever-dependable look and feel were completely absent from the film.

Guys, when I read those claims, I really have to wonder what fucking movie it was you watched.


After the movie’s initial opening, in which we see Amber Heard’s Kristen fleeing through the woods after having burned down a house, we cut to the psychiatric institution where our characters are committed. And the camera slowly pushes down a long hallway, inches off the ground, as background music echoes off the wall. We’re not even five minutes in, people, and it sure feels like a fucking Carpenter movie to me.

Except for the director’s most unheralded movie, In the Mouth of Madness, he’s never made a movie that actually fucked with your mind—that showed you only pieces of the overall puzzle as you sat back and tried to make sense of it all. And that’s precisely what The Ward is: a puzzle, being slowly put together by Kristen. While the destination may be all-too-often traveled, at least the intent is to shock and surprise you.

As to the claims that the film lacks energy and enthusiasm from the director (one report actually had the audacity to claim he was directing the movie from his trailer), I can only point to the impromptu dance the girls share in the common area of the hospital. The sequence is directed with, at first, such an infectious sense of enthusiasm that you can’t help but smile as you see these girls trying to exorcise themselves of all the bad mojo hanging over their heads and just, for once, get some enjoyment out of life; and that’s of course before the scene quickly takes a turn for the worst, showing in brief, nearly-subliminal images the ghoulish face of the ghost that is haunting them all. It’s a new bag of tricks that Carpenter is trying out, and I, for one, welcome the change. Much as I’d like for him to consistently churn out the types of movies that he made in the ‘80s, well…that would be boring after a while, wouldn’t it? Don’t you want to see growth from your filmmakers? Don’t you want to see them leave their comfort zone and try something new (at least, new to them)? That's up for debate. He could announce tomorrow the long-mooted Escape from Earth and people’s boners would shoot through their computer screens, but he tried revisiting Snake Plissken once before, didn’t he? And that didn’t turn out all that great.

Plus, I could think of worse ways to spend 90 minutes than watching Danielle Panabaker run around in that Daphne-from-"Scooby-Doo" outfit.

"Mind if I titillate?"

Carpenter, his old age having caught up with him, is no longer the jack-of-all-trades he used to be.  Instead of editing, writing, producing, scoring, and directing, he has, in recent years, opted only to go with the latter, leaving everything else up to his colleagues. And yes, that has changed (not destroyed) the look and feel of his films. But not in any way that makes them less deserving of our attention. They're different, but not inferior. They reflect a Carpenter in his golden age. They reflect a man who doesn't want to entirely throw in the towel, but just wants to make it a little bit easier on himself. He's put in the time, had his battles with studios (Universal) and ego-maniacal actors (Chevy Chase). He's earned the chance to take it easy. If we want to experience a great Carpenter screenplay, there's always Halloween, and if we're jonesing for an iconic score, there is always The Fog.

Speaking of music, Mark Killian's haunting, ethereal, and unusual score for The Ward picks up where Carpenter left off, who'd scored his previous (and probably last) film Ghosts of Mars. But Killian knows what makes Carpenter's music so effective: It's simple, to the point, but ever-present.

If nothing else, The Ward should be considered a potential conduit to getting Carpenter back behind the camera for more features. Apparently (and disappointingly) The Benders has been appropriated by Guillermo Del Toro, man of a thousand announced projects, and I don't know what's going on with Darkchylde, but Carpenter is ready and willing to get back behind the camera, should the circumstances be right.

Lazy script or not, inconsistent or not, The Ward brought our director back to us. For that, I’ll always be grateful.

Sep 2, 2012

REVIEW: SCREAMING IN HIGH HEELS: THE RISE & FALL OF THE SCREAM QUEEN


For a person to say they like horror movies is kind of a misnomer. While it’s easy to break down films into horror, action, comedy, etc., that really only scratches the surface of the multiple sub-genres and mini-divisions of each of those basic genre groups. But within the horror genre, there are so many of these aforementioned subsections that it’s easy to become lost, and even intimidated. Somewhere down this rabbit hole exist the B-horror comedy, the B-horror softcore, the B-horror exploitation, and on and on and on.

So again, when a person says, “I like horror movies,” does that automatically include stuff like Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, or Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers? Who knows? Probably not. But while they may have been shot in 5 days and cost $50,000, they’re still horror, through and through.

For those of us old enough to remember the mom-and-pop video stores that provided most of us horror-loving sociopaths our fixes in the ‘80s and ‘90s, these titles may sound familiar. Their cover art featured glorious cartoon cleavage, belonging to a group of blondes and brunettes cowering in terror from a monstrous thing. I personally recall wandering down row after row of gigantic VHS cases like these, transfixed by the chesty ladies right before my eyes, terrified my mother would catch me leering at the halfway-pornographic images when I should have been in the Kids section. 


Screaming in High Heels: The Rise & Fall of the Scream Queen celebrates that gone-but-not-forgotten subgenre of horror: the cheap, low rent, trashy, direct-to-video movies that overflowed video store shelves during their reign. The doc begins, literally, with an ending – that of the heyday of drive-in theaters – and explained the tactic behind their programming, something I’d previously not known and found incredibly interesting. Many drive-in theaters would show not one but two films in order to appeal to the entire family unit. The first, the A picture, was the one with more appeal, and the more family-friendly tone. But somewhere during that A picture, the kids would fall asleep, leaving the parents alone with the B picture, featuring the types of films celebrated in High Heels. The films were fun and titillating, and because they were cheap to produce, they should have made an instant profit. But because of the questionable investors and release companies involved with these types of films, the filmmakers hardly ever saw such profit.

But that all changed once drive-ins became a thing of the past, and filmmakers realized they could make films directly for video stores, and with moderate publicity, rake in the profits.

For fans of the cheapest, most low-rent horror films that could be found in said video stories, Screaming in High Heels: The Rise & Fall of the Scream Queen is an endlessly fascinating piece of entertainment. While the skeleton of the doc is centered around the three scream queens of the ‘80s – Linnea Quigley (The Return of the Living Dead), Brinke Stevens (The Slumber Party Massacre), and Michelle Baur (The Tomb) – the doc really covers the genre in which these ladies worked and prospered. Featuring additional interviews with known trash-makers Fred Olen Ray (Jack-O, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers) and David DeCouteau (The Tomb, Puppet Master 3), this unheralded and looked-down-on subgenre is explored and discussed with great, but not at all deluded, admiration. The filmmakers and actors interviewed know they were making trash, but there is not a detected ounce of shame in regards to their films, which they recollect with fondness. Nor should there be, really.

This is Fred Olen Ray.
He directed Alien Dead.
He says, "you're welcome."

The doc makes great and clever use of hundreds of clips from films being discussed, not just as reference material, but to fill in the on-screen gaps and keep the study moving forward. Even as the interviewees explain the video store era, or recall specific anecdotes, appropriate scenes from these cheapie movies are spliced into the doc to complement the information we're being provided. It was a clever tactic and one I appreciated. The quality of sources from which the doc's film clips are grabbed range from crisp to 37th generation VHS. Personally, the first time I saw The Slumber Party Massacre was courtesy of a previously viewed VHS with hundreds of miles already on it, so the degradation of the film clips weren't a distraction at all, but rather strangely appropriate and indicative of the many films like it that I watched in my youth.

Our ladies start at their beginnings—with their upbringings, their exposure to the biz, and their highs and lows affiliated with their careers. They speak candidly about being comfortable with their bodies (though Quigley shocking admits to having been been very shy and self-conscious about her body during her youth) and how they had eventually become known for doing such movies. In the same way Schwarzenegger and Stallone became the default choice for action films during the late '80s/early '90s, these ladies, too, had soon become the default choice when a film needed a lead character to have a little fun, get a little dirty, and kick a little ass.

I was interested enough to sit down with this doc and give it a watch, being that I love watching documentaries based around horror movies, but admittedly I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate High Heels’ focus. I consider myself pretty well-versed in the horror genre, but I’ve only seen a handful of films featuring Linnea, one with Brinke, and hadn’t even heard of Michelle. Despite that, High Heels proved an immeasurely interesting watch, as it covered not just their careers, but the subgenre for which they skyrocketed to B-movie stardom. Not only that, but I came away looking at all three ladies in a different light; they were no longer just “those girls” who took off their clothes for whatever array of films in which they appeared, because in High Heels they had been humanized, explored, and celebrated in a way that most people never would have even considered doing.


Hats off to director Jason Paul Collum for this little endeavor. While a few more talking heads to fill out his cast of interviewees would have been nice (where the hell was Jim Wynorski?), those who did sit down and discuss their careers more than made up for the absences.

Strap on some High Heels, people. It's a hell of a lot of fun.