Showing posts with label italian horror. Show all posts
Showing posts with label italian horror. Show all posts

Jun 28, 2020

WATCH ME WHEN I KILL (1977)


Like the American slasher, the Italian giallo can come in many forms. It can be a straight-forward horror-thriller, it can be like its American cousin the slasher, it can be a sleazy soft-core sex romp, or sometimes it can be something more: classy, with much more of an emphasis on mystery than on chilling murder sequences or titillating sexuality. That’s where Watch Me When I Kill (also known as The Cat’s Victims, neither title of which is relevant to the plot), comes in.

Directed by Antonio Bido (Bloodstained Shadow), 1977’s Watch Me When I Kill feels like the redheaded stepchild of the giallo sub-genre — not because it barely contains the same elements as more notable gialli like Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet or Deep Red, but because it contains just enough giallo elements to still be considered one. And again, like the slasher, the giallo commands certain concepts that help to identify the films that fall within its confines. Above all else, is there a killer, masked or otherwise obscured, committing murders? Once the killer is revealed, is there some personal vendetta tied to the person investigating the murders, who may have been a potential target from the start, or who then becomes one after his or her investigation puts them directly in the killer’s crosshairs? According to those parameters, Watch Me When I Kill falls into that sub-genre, and while I’m not saying it’s not a giallo, it’s not the kind of experience one has come to expect--not in execution, and certainly not during the final reveal. 


Watch Me When I Kill is carefully and maturely rendered. We’re far from the sleazy shocks of Andrea Bianchi’s Strip Nude For Your Killer or the psychedelic dreamscape of Sergio Martino’s All The Colors of the Dark (both of which happen to star the gorgeous Edwige Fenech), but closer to one of Lucio Fulci’s most respected works, Don’t Torture a Duckling. I’ve seen other reviews describe Watch Me When I Kill as gory, bloody, and graphic, and sure, with this being both Italian and a giallo, there’s a bit of blood in this, but I’d never use the words “graphic” or “gory” to describe it. Maybe it’s because the film’s finale has depressing and melancholic real-world connections and implications, or maybe the film benefits extra from having been viewed alongside another Italian almost-giallo, Paganini Horror, which is the antithesis of this experience, Watch Me When I Kill feels patient, focused, and I’ll say it again: mature. 

Watch Me When I Kill has remained somewhat obscure over they years, but recently enjoyed a new lease on life thanks to its Blu-ray release from Synapse Films. The distributor mostly known for its recent stunning edition of Dario Argento's Suspiria continues to do strong work with their titles, remaining true to their release schedule of only focusing on a few titles at a time and giving them their full attention instead of relying on the assembly line approach that other third-party distributors tend to do. I like that they’re shining an additional light on some of the subgenre's more unheralded titles. So long as you’re not expecting the kind of slasher-film experience that other gialli titles offer, Watch Me When I Kill gets an easy recommendation.



[Reprinted from Daily Grindhouse.]

Jun 26, 2020

PAGANINI HORROR (1989)


Luigi Cozzi’s Paganini Horror is one of those movies that doesn’t serve much of a purpose—an Italian horror curiosity that’s neither good in general, nor bad enough to be “good.” Though it’s based on a lunatic concept—the “ghost” of long-dead Italian composer Niccolò Paganini coming back from the grave to avenge an ‘80s girl-pop band for stealing one of his last and unreleased compositions to save their fledgling new album—the movie simply doesn’t do enough with it. You might be thinking, “What more could you want?” but you’ve just answered your own question: more. Paganini Horror simply doesn’t know what to do, spending long, looong sequences with characters creeping through hallways of the crumbling estate where they’re staying while they record their new album, only intermittently killed by a masked madman dressed in old timey Halloween costume dudes. Is it truly the enraged spirit of the composer, or a member of the girls’ own party donning the garb to exact some kind of personal revenge, or is it none of the above? Being that this is Italian, just know one thing: regardless of the reveal, it won’t make a lot of sense, but the flick will be so in love with itself that it doesn’t care whether you buy it or not.

Paganini Horror actually proves to be fairly frustrating after a while being that the death scenes contain that perfect combination of gore and incompetence. In fact, the entire movie almost works as a garbage classic because of the hilarious, over the top dubbing, making the performances strange and heightened, along with the too-dramatic camerawork. (Italians love that zoom lens.) Among the cast is Daria Nicolodi, the ‘80s Italian equivalent of Adrienne Barbeau, in that she was romantically involved with a famous horror director (Dario Argento and John Carpenter, respectively), and appeared in many of her husband’s works, though it’s hard to comment on her performance, as it’s mostly overtaken by the hilarious dubbing. Sadly, the same can be said for Donald Pleasence’s very brief appearance as Mr. Pickett, which runs the gamut from appearing to be completely useless to being completely beyond belief. (Pleasence did not dub his own voice in post-production, so unfortunately it’s one less reason to ever try sitting through this mess.)


Even with a scant running time of 83 minutes, Paganini Horror feels like it’s crawling across the finish line. Among the more almost-trash-classic Italian flicks I can think of, they share one thing in common: a strong first act, a stronger third act, and a pitifully drawn out second act. Paganini Horror can’t even claim that, as after a very amusing and engaging opening act, the film remains a flatline through the very end, and not even a dummy crashing through a windshield and bursting into flames can save it.

Just after directing Paganini Horror, Cozzi directed 1989’s The Black Cat, also known as Demons 6: De Profundis, which actually has nothing to do with the Demons series, but was made to serve as an unofficial sequel to Dario Argento’s Suspiria. (Don’t ask. Fake sequels are a hallmark of Italian genre cinema.) Though it’s just as ham-fisted as Paganini Horror, it offers a better pace and a more engaging plot (being loosely based on the Edgar Allan Poe story of the same name), and I hope it proves to be a future release from any of our Italian-horror-resurrecting distributors. I was hoping for a fun, silly, and campy good time as essayed in other Italian horror flicks from this era, but Paganini Horror only proved to B flat ha ha! 



[Reprinted from Daily Grindhouse.]

Jun 16, 2020

THE WAX MASK (1997)


If you’re a horror lover, and if you’re on this site you likely are, then by now you’ve likely seen Vincent Price’s 1959 horror classic House of Wax, itself a remake of 1933’s Mysteries of the Wax Museum. Based on the unpublished short story “The Wax Works” by Charles Belden, the concept about an owner of a wax museum moonlighting as a killer and turning his victims into wax dummies as a means to get rid of the evidence has been used numerous times, the most recent example being 2005’s House of Wax. The Price version is certain to go down as the definitive take on the story (with an honorable mention for Tourist Trap), but as you can see, that didn’t stop people from trying new iterations. 

One of those attempts is 1997’s The Wax Mask, produced by legendary horror director Dario Argento, who also provides the story alongside another legendary horror director, Lucio Fulci. Those familiar with House of Wax will definitely find similarities in The Wax Mask, right down to actor Robert Hossein, who with his pencil thin mustache bears a striking resemblance to Vincent Price. Despite the similarities to House of Wax, produced by Warner Bros., Argento and Fulci decided to lean on Gaston Leroux's short story "The Waxwork Museum" to offset any legal claims made by the studio. Somehow this worked, even though The Wax Mask is clearly borrowing many elements from Price’s most infamous feature, but if Italian filmmakers know how to do one thing, it’s skirt trademark infringement.


Though The Wax Mask bears the presence of several Italian heavy hitters, and though it’s both set in and shot in Rome, the most frustrating aspect of The Wax Mask is how un-European it feels. If you’re well versed in Italian films, you’ve come to expect them to feel a certain way: gaudy, opulent, and very stylistic. The Wax Mask is none of these. Directed by special effects artist Sergio Stivaletti after Fulci, who was originally going to direct, died in 1996, The Wax Mask feels less like an Italian horror production and more like something that would’ve been produced by Charles Band and his cheap mini-studio Full Moon. Subsisting almost entirely on close-ups, the scope of the flick feels stunted from the start, and though there is admirable costume and production design, one can’t help but walk away after having watched the production and thinking you’ve just watched something made for television or the direct-to-video market. Also missing, considering the personnel involved? Fun and gory set pieces. That’s not to say that The Wax Mask is a chaste production because it’s not. There’s plenty of flesh to stoke your fires along with some flying limbs, but when it comes to the latter, especially given the film’s concept, it doesn’t feel like nearly enough, which is odd, given director Stivaletti’s special effects background. The visual effects, though scarcely employed, are dreadful. However, the final twenty minutes are so ludicrously stupid that they more than make up for the previous plodding two acts. 

Italian horror consistently remains a watermark for many horror fans, who point to various aspects as the selling point for them, whether it’s the fluid style, the lurid content, or something less definable. As a film, The Wax Mask doesn't quite work. Though it certainly boasts some heavy Italian personnel, with Argento, Fulci, and producer Giuseppe Columbo coming together for one project, but it’s a shame that this Italian production doesn’t feel very Italian.  


Apr 21, 2020

STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER (1975)


The European cinematic movement of the 1960’s and ‘70s known as the giallo would eventually help kick start the slasher movement in the United States. And, like the slasher movement, gialli could often result in solid, respectable titles worthy of critical appreciation, but they could often vie for much less, wanting to offer their audiences nothing more than pulpy thrills and vapid, surface-level entertainment. That’s where Strip Nude For Your Killer lives. All the stalwarts of the giallo are there: the heightened murder sequences, the too-red blood, the overt sexuality, and of course, the mysterious, black-clothed killer. However, instead of a complex plot with lots of moving parts a la The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, Strip Nude For Your Killer offers a far less complex plot that’s tantamount to Agatha Christie by way of Scooby Doo: Someone is killing off the staff at a fashion studio in Milan and it’s up to photographer Magda (Edwige Fenech) and her boyfriend/also-photographer Carlo (Nino Castelnuovo) to find the identity of the killer before they’re next on the chopping block.


Featuring a short-haired Fenech, who was a popular face in a dozen films in the Martino Brothers’ oeuvre (Luciano, producer, and Sergio, director, which includes their classic All The Colors Of The Dark), Strip Nude For Your Killer is one of the trashier giallo titles to hail from this era. The level of violence on hand is fairly tame considering what other filmmakers were doing at this time (A Bay of Blood had come out four years prior and was far more violent), but where lacks in grue and gore it more than makes up for with its sexuality. Depending on your sensibilities, Strip Nude For Your Killer falls either directly within or hues very closely to soft-core entertainment. And you get it all: straight sex, lesbian sex, gross fat sex, and sex that, in today's standards, is probably rape. Fenech likely spends more time walking around topless than she does fully clothed (I’m fine with it), and everyone is either sleeping with or wants to sleep with everyone else.

There is enough intrigue established that you can invest yourself in the goings-on of the plot, even if that investment is limited to, “Gee, I wonder who the killer is?” Subtextually, there’s nothing else to grasp onto. However, simplicity of the plot aside, Strip Nude For Your Killer offers fascinating characterization. Fenech’s Magda embodies the responsibilities of the final girl, but while leaving behind the chasteness that usually comes with it. She is a feminine force who knows what she wants and is willing to play the bad girl in order to get it. Castelnuovo’s Carlo, however, is a malignant prick — pompous, shallow, misogynistic, and downright unlikable for nearly the entire running time. Complicating this a tiny bit is that he’s also the hero. Or, at least, heroically involved in trying to find the identity of the killer. It’s a bold move hinging your murder mystery on two characters who present atypical qualities from what we’re used to from the genre. They are essentially Sam Loomis and Lila Crane from Psycho, only they bang a lot. (Of course, I can always upend this argument by saying John Carpenter’s Halloween was still three years off, which would cement the archetype of the “final girl” and all the rules that came with it.) Still, making your heroes slutty and self-absorbed is a fun idea no matter if the filmmakers are circumventing expectation or not.


The killer’s presence looms large over the proceedings, although he doesn’t appear on screen very often. When he does, he’s clad in skin-tight motorcycle leather, complete with helmet, a design that would be used again in future gialli titles like Massimo Dallamano’s What Have They Done to Your Daughters? and Umberto Lenzi’s giallo/slasher hybrid Nightmare Beach a.k.a. Welcome To Spring Break. Director Andrea Bianchi, who would go on to direct the ultimate garbage classic Burial Ground: The Nights Of Terror, shows off minimal style, allowing his characters (and their nudeness) to do most of the work. The resolution to the story, preempted by the reveal of the killer, unfolds a little too quickly, forcing you to remember the opening that also unfolded a little too quickly, threatening an audience reaction of “Who?” when the motorcycle helmet is finally removed to reveal the killer’s identity. But none of this matters because the film ends-ends with one of the best, most tasteless “jokes” I’ve ever seen in any genre. Thanks, the Italians!

For every Psycho or Halloween, there are tiers of slashers made in the same mold that vie for a different experience. Strip Nude For Your Killer is the Friday The 13th: A New Beginning of the giallo movement. Its plot is inconsequential, its performers are happy to disrobe, and its characters are broadly painted archetypes who are all apparently sleeping with each other. Oh, and it’s trashy as hell. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this — just know what you’re getting yourself into before you sit down to watch. (And if you’re already a fan of gialli, then you definitely should.)

Strip Nude For Your Killer is now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video.


[Reprinted from Daily Grindhouse.]

Mar 9, 2020

KILLER CROCODILE (1989)


Killer Crocodile is an inept Italian curiosity that, were it not inept, no one would talk about at all. For a while now, distributor Severin Films have excelled at releasing befuddling Italian horror cinema from the ‘70s and ‘80s, including the high watermarks of Italian stupidity, Zombie 3, Zombie 4: After Death, and Shocking Dark. Some horror fans, especially gore hounds, tout Italian horror above all others, citing it’s willing to go to places others aren’t willing to go. I agree with this, but with one caveat: no one does “oops, it’s stupid!” horror better than the Italians. Between the before mentioned Zombie sequels, or titles like Demons, Burial Ground: The Nights Of Terror, and Stagefright, Italian misfires are magically, stupidly delicious, and, to borrow the current Internet catchphrase, I’m “here” for it.

I, badly, wanted Killer Crocodile to follow along in this same vein. The makings of it were there, waiting to be plucked: first, it’s Italian; second, the villain of the piece is a gigantic crocodile that’s barely articulated, never blinks, and for the most part, just kinda floats along in the water; and third, it’s still Italian. (It’s worth repeating.) And like all killer animal movies Italian and non-Italian, it’s clearly been made in the shadow of JAWS, right down to the character dynamics and archetypes. You’ve got your Quint, your Brody, and your Hooper. You’ve got your giant-teethed villain. And to borrow from JAWS 2, you’ve got your young people in peril (natch). What you don’t have is a memorable experience, whether or not you’re here for the irony.


To critique Killer Crocodile in any meaningful way is silly. It’s not trying to be a real film, nor should we treat it as such. Whenever the titular beast isn’t on screen chomping victims with its gigantic plastic dummy jaws, Killer Crocodile is a slog, consisting mainly of people standing around, sweating, and sharing completely unrealistic dialogue with each other. This happens a lot in Italian horror of the stupid kind—moments of glory are often ruined by too-long scenes of people sharing in tepid dialogue and pretending that they’re making a real movie, and not one, say, where Hugo Stiglitz throws a TV at a zombie head and said TV explodes like a fucking bomb. (Nightmare City for the win!)

To circle back to the killer crocodile creation, it’s actually pretty impressive, considering the amount of money that was afforded to the flick’s production. Does it look “real?” In sustained shots, no, it doesn’t, but to be fair, neither did the shark in JAWS. The level of detail in the crocodile is meticulous, from its scaly skin to its conical teeth. (But still, it never blinks, and the longer you stare at that unblinking eye, the funnier it becomes.) 

That’s how Italians do it, baby.

Killer Crocodile ultimately proves to be a frustrating viewing experience: not consistently stupid enough to be entertaining, and nowhere close to being a legitimately good film, it’s just kinda there, bobbing up and down in the water like a kinda top. (If you’re feeling adventurous, you can purchase the 2-disc limited edition directly from Severin's website that also includes Killer Crocodile 2.)

(I’m not feeling particularly adventurous.)


Aug 7, 2019

A WHOLE DIFFERENT ANIMAL: ‘ORCA’ (1977)


By now, JAWS is a Hollywood institution. It not only birthed the summer blockbuster, but, like any popular new idea, it inspired countless knockoffs – a trend that continues to this day. Putting aside the more infamous examples, like the Italian-lensed Cruel Jaws (yes, this is real) and Enzo G. Castellari’s The Last Shark aka Great White, both of which saw their U.S. releases halted by JAWS distributor Universal Studios due to obvious reasons, the “animals-run-amok” subgenre wasn’t actually confined just to sharks. Following the unparalleled success of JAWS, every kind of animal that could reasonably run amok ran amok, regardless if those animals had legs or not.

Even those animals (or insects) that weren’t obvious amok-runners still got their own one-word titles through which to generate “terror”: Grizzly, Frogs, Slugs, Bug, Ants, Gi-Ants, Squirm, etc.

Even automobiles got in on the action, like 1974’s Killdozer and 1977’s The Car.

It got pretty ridiculous.

Addressing the great white in the room, Orca, on its surface, could easily be written off as one of these JAWS bastards. It even takes the name of Quint’s doomed sea vessel for its title. Obviously, the similarities are profound. Sea-based killer animal? Check. Crusty, hard-drinking boat captain tasked with killing the beast? Check. A crew assembled with people of differing philosophies toward the animal and how it should be dealt with? Check. An entire town’s financial stability affected by the maniacal animal? Oh yes. And like JAWS, Orca also gets a huge boost from its musical score – Ennio Morricone’s absolute all-time best, in fact.

Long dismissed as just another JAWS clone, Orca is worthy of much more respectable appreciation – forty years after its release.


While out on a routine sharking expedition hoping to land a big payday for a local aquarium, Captain Nolan (Richard Harris) and the crew of his vessel, the Bumpo, get an up-close and personal encounter with an orca whale during a shark attack. Impressed with the size and savagery of the whale, Nolan switches targets, deciding that the capture of a male orca – alive – would fetch a much bigger payday. But after botching this capture and accidentally killing the targeted orca’s pregnant mate (which miscarries on the Bumpo in a devastating sequence), the orca becomes incensed, ramming the vessel and then stalking the murderous captain all the way back to shore – and beyond – intent on ruining his life by any means necessary. Even from the frigid ocean waters, the orca inexplicably begins to wear down Nolan in every feasible means – physically, mentally, financially, existentially, and philosophically. (If Hannibal Lecter were an animal, he would be an orca.) Soon, Captain Nolan is left with no choice but to take back to the sea and engage in a battle to the death with his massive opponent.

Yes, Orca follows a lot of the same familiar JAWS beats, and though it pales in comparison, Orca is much better than its reputation or immediate sketchy filmic colleagues would suggest. (The opening sequence, which sees the orca kill a great white shark in a violent battle, is a not-so-subtle dig at its legendary predecessor.) Based on the 1977 novel of the same name by Arthur Herzog, what sets Orca off from its unintended brethren is the amount of sincerity with which it was made, with much of the credit going to director Michael Anderson (Logan's Run) for maintaining a level of seriousness and weaving a palpable sense of regret throughout what would otherwise be your standard animal-revenge thriller. Orca is inherent with sadness and despair, from the quiet haunted life of Nolan to the vicious capture of the pregnant orca, right down to the icy finale which sees the crew being led to the unforgiving crushing ice caps and brutal cold of the Strait of Belle Isle. Not a single time during the film can the sun be glimpsed or does daylight look bright and warm. Colors are muted, and at dusk, barely present. Nolan and his crew live a shiftless life, existing only in those strange lands where their fishing work takes them. No one has any roots to speak of – the only relationships they have are with each other. All of this is purposeful; Orca isn’t out for the same kind of adventurous thrills as JAWS, nor is it only interested in cheap but entertaining exploitation thrills like Alligator. Though the furious orca kills quite a few people, it’s not done for titillation like the usual sharksploitation flick. As each character sleeps with the fishes, you feel conflicted, even if these characters have shown off their ignorance toward the dangers that their profession can have on the ecosystem. Like real people, they’re flawed but not villainous, and none of them are particularly heroic; in fact, Nolan only gets up the gumption to resolve the conflict he’s inadvertently created because the town where he‘s temporarily docked blackmails him into doing it – even refusing to sell gasoline to the crew attempting to retreat from their sins. (Heroism!)


Aiding Orca’s effectiveness is the slightly dangerous tone exhibited by ‘70s-era Italian thriller and horror films, which always had their own look and feel, and which were heightened in every sense – regardless of genre. Exploitation films were just a bit more exploitative. The infamous “cannibal horror” period was rife with filmmakers pushing boundaries – so much that murder charges were brought against Cannibal Holocaust director Ruggero Deodato in response to the too-convincing fates that befell that film’s characters. This sensibility would spawn the giallo sub-genre – one that gleefully focused on the exaggeration of sex and sensuality, fluid and poetic camera movement, and, most famously, very specifically choreographed and violent murder sequences. The presence on Orca of Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis, a major figure during this time (and who remained so until his death; he’d go on to produce several films in the Hannibal Lecter franchise), and the largely Italian crew – from the script writers to the production and art designers – inadvertently rode that over-stylized subset of Italian filmmaking, which enhances Orca’s sense of danger and unease; it comes across as similarly loose-cannoned and willing to push the boundaries of good taste, even though, except for the upsetting whale capture scene in the first act, Orca is fairly restrained. (Though this is not at all applicable to Orca, Italian productions were also occasionally unkind to animals, which also enhances the unsettling usage of Orca’s special effects. More on that in a bit.)

Richard Harris’ Captain Nolan is a heavy figure. The fisherman lives a life of isolation, having seen his pregnant wife perish in a car accident caused by a drunk driver – one that’s already taken place before the opening credits, but which can be unnervingly glimpsed through quick flashbacks complemented by the unsettling shrill shriek of an orca. The film draws parallels both obvious (the tragic loss of a burgeoning family) and subtle (obsession leading to self-destruction) between Nolan and the orca that hunts him, and which he then begins to hunt. As life took away Nolan’s family, so Nolan took away that of the orca. They become one and the same — two lost souls navigating a cold and barren seascape; satisfying the avenging beasts within them is the only thing offering them forward momentum.


The death scenes, too, are executed differently. Unlike JAWS, where the shark attack scenes were suspensefully predicated by John Williams’ famous low-end piano and Spielberg’s paranoid shots of the water, the death scenes here are quick and brutal, and over before you realize they’ve happened. The orca lunges with a shriek, takes his target, and disappears beneath the depths. It’s not at all about suspense this time around; it’s much more focused on shock – how, at one moment, you can be sitting safely on the bow of a ship, and at the next, you’re immediately disappeared as if you never existed. Again, a film that clearly exists because of what’s come before is still making an effort to distance itself through different stylistic choices. Yes, both films feature an aquatic killer as the main threat, but each is going about it as differently as they can while remaining in the same genre and delivering, ultimately, what the audience expects.

For its time, the special effects are quite good. Granted, some of the visual tricks, like superimposing together scenes of orcas breaching the ocean’s surface, show their age, but the practical effects are extremely lifelike to the point where certain shots look downright disturbing. Charlotte Rampling sitting on the beach next to the corpse of the orca that Nolan kills during the opening moments and seeing it rock and sway in the coming and going ocean tide offers it a very sad reality. (Production on Orca was even momentarily shut down following outcry from animal rights groups after someone glimpsed a life-sized orca prop being trucked into the shooting location.) A brief shot of a pummeled great white shark floating lifelessly in bloody waters, too, looks alarmingly real. (It wasn’t; all underwater shark photography was captured by ocean conservationists Ron and Valerie Taylor, who famously obtained all the real shark footage used in JAWS.) Honestly, there are times when Orca’s best special effects even look better than some of the troublesome effects from JAWS – and for a film that would go on to inspire a multi-billion dollar franchise and a theme park ride (RIP), that’s not dismissible praise.

It’s fair to admit that Orca would not exist without JAWS, but it would also be unfair to disregard Orca as a lazy cash-grab. It has its own identity and purpose, and its own less traveled path for getting there – one might even argue that it has much more in common with Moby Dick than that aforementioned stillness in the water. Richard Harris once stated to have found the characters in its script far richer and more complicated than Brody, Hooper, and Quint, and that its label of being a mere JAWS rip-off was offensive. Charlotte Rampling, who works steadily to this day, continues to look back on the film with pride. Affirmations like these are important to preserving and fairly examining Orca’s legacy. This isn’t a case where actors, who go on to more prominent roles in wider reaching films, look back on their horror past with embarrassment and dismissal. A good film is a good film, regardless of its genre, unfair reputation, and especially regardless of its inspiration.


Apr 30, 2019

BLU-RAY REVIEWS: ANTHROPOPHAGOUS & ABSURD

“There’s evil on this island. An evil that won’t let us get away. An evil that sends out an inhuman, diabolic power. I sense its vibrations now. The vibrations are an intense horror. It will destroy us! The very same way it did all the others!”
“Shut up, Carol!
Italian filmmaker Aristide Massaccesi is more commonly known as Joe D’Amato, the most prominent of his many pseudonyms. Like his colleagues Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Michele Soavi, Bruno Mattei, Ruggero Deodato, Umberto Lenzi, and the Bavas — Mario and Lamberto — D’Amato was a director and producer primarily known for gross-out, gory horror that featured the kind of gags you’d never have seen during the same era of American filmmaking. I guess it’s because Italians are inherently fucked up (I’m allowed to say that), but even during the video nasty era of Britain, or when Reagan et al. were cracking down on R-rated movies and profane lyrics in music, Italian filmmakers were also pushing back on violence and gore — but in the opposite direction. They pushed violence and gore to the breaking point — beyond “this is fun!” to “I’d like to vomit!” D’Amato was the hardest working one among his colleagues, averaging FIVE feature films a year, and he directed EIGHT in 1981 alone. (To put things in perspective, similarly “boundary-pushing” horror director Eli Roth has been making features for 16 years and he currently has only seven features to his name.) By the time of his death at 62 years old, D’Amato had 197 directorial credits. Granted, a lot of this was porn, but hey — a movie’s a movie. (My favorite title from this era of D’Amato’s filmography is definitely Robin Hood: Thief of Wives.)


1980’s Anthropophagous (The Grim Reaper) is one of D’Amato’s most famous efforts, which would be one of several collaborations with actor/screenwriter Luigi Montefiori (pseudonym George Eastman), who wrote Anthropophagous and its sequel, Absurd, while also playing the maniacal cannibal/killer in each. Anthropophagous was one of many titles infamously included on Britain’s official Video Nasty list, which nearly declared this and films of its ilk illegal and was pulled from video store shelves. I won’t go as far as calling it “tame by today’s standards,” which is a go-to line for retrospectives on once-infamous films, but it’s not a constant collection of gross-out gore, either. For much of its running time, it unfolds as your fairly typical slasher flick: a group of attractive youngin’s go where they ought not to have gone and run afoul of a cannibalistic madman who begins to kill and semi-eat them one by one. 

At film’s end, the villainous Man Eater suffers a fatal blow to his stomach, out of which flow his intestines, which he promptly sticks in his mouth and begins to eat as he stares into the eyes of the man who wounded him, which is the greatest spite-suicide I’ve ever seen.

Sure, Anthropophagous is definitely gross, and its infamous fetus-eating scene is one of the grossest things from this genre, but it’s also more well made than you might expect based on its reputation. For much of the first half, in spite of the intermittent murder scenes, D’Amato is much more interested in creating tension and setting a mysterious and creepy mood. A night-brought storm rages, dumping buckets of rain on the crumbling structure where the friends are hunkering down and filling its darkened rooms with blazes of lightning flashes. He also sticks Eastman’s killer, Man Eater, in dark corners and other faraway places nearly offscreen, revealing him in small bursts like a bearded Michael Myers. Reputation aside, D’Amato was a competent director, and it’s to his credit that he was able to work in every genre beyond horror, and especially beyond gross-out horror, even if the horror genre would come to define his legacy.


A soft sequel to Anthropophagous, called Absurd, would follow just one year and ten more D’Amato-directed films later, and would travel much of the same path, although this time, Eastman’s script would borrow heavily from elements from the first two Halloween films: Eastman, this time given the name of Mikos Stenopolis, is your de facto Michael Myers; Edward Purdom (from the legendary slasher flick Pieces), though whose trench coat may be black, is definitely the regretful Sam Loomis; and young bedridden Katia is doomed to act as the film’s beleaguered Laurie Strode. There’s even a subplot of a babysitter watching two kids while the parents fuck off to a party, both of whom having to contend with a killer in their house. (The babysitter, however, isn’t so lucky this time.)

The reason I call Absurd a soft sequel to Anthropophagous is because it doesn’t feature any returning cast members beyond Eastman, and even then he’s playing a brand new/basically the same character. The film also finds a way during its opening scene to replicate the fatal wound that Eastman’s Man Eater is dealt in the final moments of Anthropophagous in an additional effort to tie the films together. However, Absurd isn’t nearly the same success as its predecessor, surrendering to a more common and less interesting setting and falling back on a less assured pace. In Anthropophagous, tension built from having our characters wander a desolate location where we know the killer to be and slowly put together the events of the dastardly deeds that have gone down there. In Absurd, we spend way too much time watching a bunch of middle-aged party-goers standing around watching American football on TV and eating spaghetti. That sounds like I’m making a joke, but I’m not — that’s really what happen. (Spaghet!) Obsession with American football must’ve been at an all-time high in ‘81 because every character beyond Eastman (who never speaks) mentions football at least once. Like Antropophagus, the murder sequences in Absurd are top notch, but they all occur so far from each other that we’re forced to spend most of our time with the police investigation side of things, led by Sgt. Ben Engleman (Charles Borromel, who looks freakily like Robin Williams).


Interestingly, though Absurd borrows heavily from the plot of Halloween, both Absurd and Halloween 2 were released in October of 1981, and both feature a finale in which the maniacal killer is blinded and the final girl begins throwing off the path of the coming killer by creating false signs of her presence around the room using anything that makes noise, allowing for someone else to come in and dispatch the killer. The very ending even predicts that of Halloween 4, which wouldn’t be released for seven more years, so apparently Eastman piped into the official Halloween series wormhole and got a glimpse of what was to come.

Severin Films’ releases of both titles look phenomenal, as they are finally free from years of cramped and murky transfers that plagued previous video releases.

Supplements-wise, Severin never disappoint, and this duo of garbage cinema titles are no different. Anthropophagus offers several interviews with the flick’s participants: “Don’t Fear The Man-Eater: Interview with Writer/Star Luigi Montefiori a.k.a. George Eastman,” “The Man Who Killed The Anthropophagus: Interview with Actor Saverio Vallone,” “Cannibal Frenzy: Interview with FX Artist Pietro Tenoglio,” “Brother And Sister In Editing: Interview With Editor Bruno Micheli,” “Inside Zora’s Mouth(!): Interview with Actress Zora Kerova,” and caps it off with a collection of trailers. Moving on, Absurd offers an alternate Italian cut (with optional English subtitles), along with “The Return of the Grim Reaper: Interview With Actor / Writer / Co-Producer Luigi Montefiore (George Eastman),” “D’Amato on Video: Archive Interview With Director Aristide Massaccesi,” “A Biker (Uncredited): Interview With Michele Soavi,” the trailer, and a bonus CD soundtrack (first 2500 copies only). Yes, Eastman is on hand to provide interviews for each title, and as he’s proven on prior Code Red releases, he’s extremely to the point. (He calls Anthropophagous, a film he wrote and starred in, “shit.”)

Fans of Italian horror should see each title at least once. I wouldn’t go as far to call them cult classics, but they do feel like necessary viewing for those who have a predisposition toward “extreme” Italian horror cinema.




Sep 10, 2014

REVIEW: SONNO PROFONDO (AKA DEEP SLEEP)


I love revival films. I love this idea of resurrecting a time period from cinema history and finding ways to cleverly and lovingly recreate it in ways that are both genuine homage but still effective enough to create a strong and competent standalone film.

I've explored this art of imitation in a previous post, in which I highlighted certain modern horror films that lovingly revisited every major horror movement in cinematic history, starting with the silent era, and up to and including the 1980s. Sonno Profondo, produced by Italian filmmakers (though lensed in Argentina) is as successful an homage I've seen since Ti West's '70s satanic thriller House of the Devil.

The giallo was a sub-genre of which I have always been aware and always respected for its ability to combine often graphic horror, hypersexuality, and poetry of the camera to create an altogether different and revolutionary cinematic experience. Though my previous experience of the giallo resides entirely within the confines of Dario Argento and the brutal masterpiece of absurdity that is Pieces (it totally counts), it's not hard to have developed at least a rudimentary idea of what defines a giallo film: the killer's point of view, the leather gloves, the rich red blood, the discotheque score, the unrestrained sexuality, and the abstract non-linear sense of time. Add a killer with a whacked background and fixations on the fairer sex, and, well:

Giallo is back, and its name is Sonno Profondo.


Written/directed/resurrected by Luciano Onetti, Sonno Profondo is not just a love letter to the giallo movement. It's a fever-dream art house exploration of madness – what it is, what feeds it, and the chaos it creates. There is very little dialogue outside of some television reports; lacking (though not suffering because of it) are any kind of "big picture" shots. No sweeping exterior scenes of *coughcough*Italy, no day or night establishing shots. As was often the case in previous giallo films, and in the case of Sonno Profondo, scenes of murder and mayhem were always shot from the killer's point of view, but would often cut back either to the protagonist as she or he dealt with the repercussions of the killer's presence, or the inevitable detective hot on the trail of the killer. Not the case here. Similar to last year's Maniac redux, the entire film takes place behind the killers' eyes (and no, my apostrophe is not in the wrong place - we're dealing with two killers, here: the first killer [black leather gloves] responsible for the murder and mayhem, and the second killer [white surgical gloves] who begins to methodically blackmail and stalk the first). 

Sonno Profondo preserves the sensibilities of '70s-era European filmmakers – Michelangelo Antonioni, for example, who assumed his audience was prepared to have patience for the journey he was about reveal to them – even going as far as dirtying up the film's negative to add all the cracks and pops one would come to expect from a forty-year-old film. Manufactured to look like it was both produced as well as set in the 1970s, Sonno Profondo is as immersive an homage you're likely to find in the independent scene. Lots of filmmakers are pledging to make films in the vein of paranoid-at-home thrillers of the 1970s and cheese-ball gimmick dead-teenager flicks of the 1980s; very few have endeavored to recreate the giallo, a movement that likened the horror genre as close to pornography (in terms of tastelessness) as it could get until the VCR boom of the mid-1980s, in which it actually did kind of become the kind of pornography as we know it today. (The Astron-6 crew [Manborg, Bio-Cop, Father's Day] are also working on their own giallo homage: The Editor.)

The first giallo trend would continue for some time and travel to American shores, even becoming embraced by Hollywood powerhouse directors like Hitchcock, though the style would become so watered down that it barely resembled everything that had directly inspired it. Psycho first, and then Halloween later, would both be termed as variations of the giallo movement; Carpenter would state for years he had been a big fan of Argento's Suspiria, around which he had modeled portions of Halloween.

Make no mistake, Sonno Profondo is not a film for the uninitiated. If you've never seen any giallo films before, don't start here. Start with the very first credited entry - Mario Bava's The Girl Who Knew Too Much - and continue on with Argento (but skip the Adrian Brody film Giallo while you're at it), whose collaborations with composers Ennio Morricone and Goblin would soon cement the importance of the soundtrack on the giallo movement. Only when you're immersed in the movement can you truly appreciate the homage.

If Sonno Profondo is successful or unsuccessful just on the merits of being a film alone, I couldn't say. When you have no choice but to experience the murderous exploits of either one or both off-screen killers, you've got no one to root for. You've got no sympathetic protagonist to whom you're supposed to relate. Some audiences don't know how to respond to such an idea.

And that's how you know if you're ready.

Buy it now.

Jun 20, 2012

SHITTY FLICKS: JAWS 5: CRUEL JAWS

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.


Long ago, when the moon was high and the water was rising, a man named Bruno Mattei (R.I.P.) was born. His destiny for filmmaking greatness was carved in stone, but that stone, it turns out, wasn't stone at all - it was stinky, rotting cheese; and soon, Bruno began making the shittiest films you could ever imagine. Titles such as S.S. Extermination Love Camp, Porno Exotic Love, Porno Holocaust and Terminator II (but amazingly enough, not the Terminator II) were blazoned upon movie marquees. His films were hailed as exploitation trash, but gradually they developed their own cult following, as will anything incredibly stupid.

Bruno's masterpiece, Cruel Jaws, is something of a legend. Its title is whispered about on websites and blogs. Anyone who likes shark movies, or bad Italian cinema, has heard of its existence. And Cruel Jaws is unique, to be sure; not because of its plot, or of Bruno's presence, but because the film utilizes blatantly stolen footage from many different shark movies (the entire Jaws series, as well as The Last Shark and Deep Blood). The movie itself is a bold-faced rip-off of the original Jaws, and was even released as Jaws 5 in some foreign territories.

There are some out there who can look at a movie like Shark Attack or Deep Blue Sea and exclaim, "Pfft...Jaws rip-off!" simply because the movie is about sharks. Cruel Jaws is something much more than a rip-off, for it's a literal unauthorized remake of the first Jaws. Same lines of dialogue are spoken by their respective “characters,” only these new characters aren’t nearly as cool as the previous. Instead of Roy Scheider, we get a sweaty sheriff who plays second banana to the Richard Dreyfuss replacement, Wiener Man. And instead of the immeasurably cool and legendary Robert Shaw, we get a freakish-looking doppelganger of Hulk Hogan. Cruel Jaws also steals the disbelieving town mayor archetype. Peter Benchley even receives credit as a writer.

Drooping one step lower than you typical, half-assed shark film, the movie contains a mixture of stock footage, “original” footage, and the previously mentioned outright-stolen footage. Because this footage is so haphazardly smashed together, there is even a scene in which terrified onlookers point at a shark and scream during the day, and then we get a good look at the shark they are screaming at; a shark that's clearly swimming around in the dark ocean waters...at night.

Dag always laughs as he watches his crippled daughter
attempt to use the Slip-N-Slide.

The movie begins and we meet our the main protagonist, Dag, as he cavorts around in an obnoxious neon green hat and plays with dolphins at the aquarium he owns. Then we meet Dag's daughter, Gimp, who is paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair. However, said paralysis does not prevent said girl from kicking her obviously functional legs out from under her when she swims.

Wiener Man, along with his frumpy girlfriend, show up to celebrate the town's upcoming regatta. The couple bears some untold relationship to Gimp, but this relationship is left to wallow in its own obscurity.

It's pretty much right around here, I guess at the eight-minute mark, that the movie begins to blatantly steal from Jaws, as Wiener Man describes spending "18 months at sea on a floating asylum for oceanic research." This same character will later go on to explain that, "All sharks do are swim, eat, and make baby sharks...and that's all." Granted, the boy may be a geek, but he's not the Lord of the Geeks: Richard Dreyfuss, who originally delivered this dialogue exactly 20 years prior to this movie.

As the film continues, the stock and stolen footage continues to contradict itself, showing both tiger sharks and great whites, but hey, who's watching? You're not.

And just when you might notice such a glaring error as that, a man who seriously looks like the former dirty dancer himself, Patrick Swayzee (R.I.P.), shows up, playing the smarmy son of the smarmy mayor and dirtily dances around the beaches with his beach bunny.

Among other things "borrowed" from other films would be, oh, I guess the theme from Star Wars that is changed at the very last minute so as to sound different. I find it baffling that the filmmakers, who clearly have no problem stealing whole screenplay pages and footage from other movies would be remiss to steal the infamous Jaws theme as well. I also find it baffling that I am even watching this movie.

The nerdy couple goes to a disco dance club where they meet up with some equally nerdy friends. One of their friends, a stupid girl, exclaims, "I wanna dance!" as she is already dancing.

Thankfully, the titular shark of cruelty attacks and the town goes apeshit. As per Jaws, people go nuts trying to kill the shark to collect the handsome bounty.

Wiener Man tries in vain to tell the authorities what they are dealing with: "A sort of locomotive with a mouth full of butcher's knives." Shockingly, no one opts to listen to the wiener who spouts odd metaphors.

This event will, unfortunately, see the end of Patrick Swayzee and his battalion of cracker friends. The shark breaches, trying in vain to reach that hunk of meat that's nestled in the nether regions of the stock footage, and Patrick falls in the water.

As Patrick is gobbled up, his annoying girlfriend shrieks wildly and douses herself in gasoline in some half-assed attempt to burn the shark. Random boy figures this would be a perfect time to take aim with his trusty flare gun, and he fires at the shark (in order to edit in stolen footage of a boat explosion from Jaws 2 that this scene is depending on to conclude).

You wouldn't think it to look at her, but Marcy was
fucking hardcore during street fights.

Our idiotic trio has had enough of this sharkery, and the nerdy biologist and Dag decide it is time to go mano-a-squalo. As the two prepare for their battle on the dock, Gimp blatantly stands to hug her freak father before he sets off on a shark-hunting extravaganza of stolen footage and retardation.

Brutish men, on hire from the corrupt mayor, set out after the crew to silence them regarding some bullshit reason. But gosh, in all that open ocean, how will these men ever find them? Perhaps they could use that map that our heroes conveniently placed out in the open. You know, the map that depicts an area of charted ocean that is circled in fat red marker, with "IT'S HERE!" scrawled next to a fat red arrow confirming their destination.

And since we're now officially in a cartoon, I can't help but wonder when they're going to load up their ship with anvils.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Berger has a sudden attack of genius. He grabs a hunk of meat, a large hook, and hops in a helicopter to fly over the ocean, dangling said meat on said hook. He thinks this will work. We know it won't. You can pretty much guess what happens next.

Shark wailed in heartbreak as Helicopter,
who was biting back tears of his own, fled ashamedly.

Sheriff Berger shouts, "We're gonna need a bigger helicopter," gets pulled down into the water, and is instantly eaten. Then the shark lowers itself into the water and FARTS. (Granted, it was merely escaping air that had been caught in the head of the prop shark, but that's erroneous. It FARTED at me.)

Our idiotic trio sets some charges below in the sunken craft (kinda like exactly how Deep Blood ended) and causes the shark to explode… three different times in order to incorporate stolen footage from three different movies.

And at the very clipped ending of the third explosion, Mattei actually has the audacity to recreate the famous bone-to-spaceship shot from Kubrick's 2001, only this time, with a shark-exploding-multiple-times to jumping-dolphins shot.

I know what you’re thinking: you’re going to hop on Amazon to locate your own, personal copy of Cruel Jaws, perhaps one that comes with a digital copy that you could put on your iDag. But alas, the film is not available in the US, due to Universal Studios' immediate lawsuit filed against the movie's release back in '95. However, for the more savvy Googlers, there are copies of it floating around in cyberspace like a terrible shark prop, just waiting for you to Paypal your way into its heart.

In conclusion, when you're at the video store, staring at the case for Jaws, and wondering if you really want to watch it again for the 217th time, I recommend you go home, jump on eBay, and bid on a Region 0 DVD for Cruel Jaws. Then you can sit there and wait and re-bid and wait and re-bid and then get outbid by the big nerd who is willing to pay a lot of money for a stupid shark movie from Italy.

Mar 31, 2012

SHITTY FLICKS - BURIAL GROUND: THE NIGHTS OF TERROR

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.

Released in Italy in the early 80’s as Le Notti Del Terrore, this Italian grindhouse trashterpiece is hailed as such for one reason and one reason only: a midget thespian named Peter Bark. But, we’ll get to that in a few minutes.

An archeologist digs below in a crater, his beard the size of a small inland. Heavy Beard, human name being Professor Ayres, narrates to us about “the incredible secret” that only he knows about. What this secret is remains that way, because the narration abruptly stops.

In the crypt, or whatever he’s in, he begins to hammer away at a section of rock, but oh no! He is immediately accosted by large, sweater-wearing zombies that he mistakenly unleashed earlier in the dig.

"It's Tuesday, beard. You know what that means.
Wrasslin' time."

“Stay back, I am you friend!” he lies, trying to save his beard from their gnashing teeth. The zombies fall on him and remove healthy sections of his abdomen and feast on warm man meat.

We immediately cut to our title, complemented by some amusing and mood-breaking light flute jazz, and then we meet a small family. They pull their car through some fancy schmancy gates and stop outside a glorious villa, followed by a few other cars containing their friends.

Master of the house, George, makes idle chatter with his house staff as his wife, Evelyn, and their freak-looking son, Michael—who is supposed to be ten but looks the retarded kind of 30—walk into the house. It’s clear that a freak adult (Peter Bark!) has been cast as a child, but what’s not clear is why…at least for now. He then goes to bed, I guess, since he's a real child, you know. And not a freak adult man.

In the next room, James and Leslie make immediate whoopee and then begin a fuck session after Leslie parades around in her skimpy little sex outfit.

"You look just like a little whore, but I like that," James says romantically. Leslie doesn't seem to mind, because why would she? Don't be such a square.

And speaking of fuck sessions, George and Mommy Evelyn have one too.

During their show, the door to their bedroom is thrown violently open, and the shadow of a figure grows larger and larger, soon so big that any second one might expect a shuffling monster six feet high to enter.

And a monster sorta does.

It’s Michael, their freak son.

“Mommy,” he cries, spying her delicious body.

“Michael, get back in bed!” she responds, and instead of merely staying in the bed to cover herself from her son’s eyes, she jumps out of bed, buck naked, and runs halfway across the room to sloppily throw on her clothes, all the while revealing even more breasts and vagigi.

Michael flees the room to jerk away this sight.

MAN CHILD FREAK THING is available for parties,
bar-mitzvahs, job conferences, and terror.
 
And yet in another room over, Janet begins hastily packing her suitcase and crying.

“We’re all in danger!” she bellows, as her husband, Mark, tries to calm her. What scary event that preceded this scene to lead to such behavior remains momentarily non-existent, but after a bit of bullshit, we find it’s because she had suffered a nightmare of their impending doom. Mark quickly allays her fears, probably with his cock.

And in the next room over, lazy ghouls in their comfortable looking over-sized wardrobe shuffle to the exit of their tomb to see if they could find one of those all-night men to eat.

Gathered in the dining room, everyone discusses their night of sleep, as freak son Michael complains about being cooped up in the house and wishes to go outside. Soon all the couples disperse to explore the ground, and Michael stares freakly as they go.

Mark and Janet—the ones plagued with nightmares of doom—romp around the bushes as the man takes photos of his wife.

“You’re getting to be quite the model!” he says, laying the foundation for a boner joke.

“Then you getter give me a raise,” she says, accepting this groundwork of the boner joke and facilitating its path to a flaccid punch line.

“Oh, I’m giving you a raise all right, but it’s nothing to do with money,” he says, seeing the boner joke through to its completion, all the while not amusing anyone on Earth.

I’m sure it sounded much more romantic in Italian.

Inside the mansion, Nicolas and Kathy—the house staff—look spooked as all the light fixtures blink on and off, and then begin to explode.

Why those freak occurrences?

Beats me.

Maybe someone in this movie would have a clue if they weren’t all busy having clothes-on sex outside.

Speaking of clothes-on sex outside, Mark is still busy squeezing his wife’s ass, so he remains ignorant of the zombie who is pulling itself from the wormy ground to begin its painfully slow attack on them. It grabs Mark, who easily kicks himself free, and as the couple skirts backwards along the ground, the zombie doesn’t move a solitary inch, merely watching them recoil in fear.

“It’s a walking corpse!” cries Mark.

“I’m terrified!” cries Janet.

They flee back to the house as their robed and rotted adversaries slowly follow.

Back in the house’s cellar, George shows off the mansion’s statue collection to Evelyn—and then promptly shoots at them with his trusty handgun. We’re not sure why. Stupid wops.

“Mommy, this cloth smells of DEATH!” Michael oddly cries, having picked up an old rag off the ground.

“You have the strangest ideas,” Mommy states, moments before zombies burst in on them.

George takes aim with his gun and fires, shooting holes in all of their canvas outfits. Naturally, the zombies don’t die, their wounds emitting spurts of chocolate.

"George, I'm sorry... We ate all the pancakes."

Mommy and Michael flee as George gives all of his organs to the zombies.

Meanwhile, James and Leslie, busy necking and moaning out in the bushes, also remain unaware of the zombfoolery going on just beyond a garden wall.

The woman spots zombie hands reaching over as she blathers in fear.

“It’s a joke!” cries James.

“No, they’re real!” cries Leslie.

They make a break for it.

Mark and Janet, still fleeing in fear, make it to the inner garden and slam the heavy stone doors behind them. Just when they think they’re home free, the woman dumbly gets caught in a bear trap. The pain is intense, but at least they got away from the zombies.

Oh wait, there they are.

Mark attacks them with a pitchfork, stabbing them one at a time. When that fails almost instantly, the zombie grabs the man and begins to strangle him. Amusingly, it almost looks as if the actor playing Mark grabs the hands of the zombie to make it look like they’re fighting each other, but may have been actually guiding the otherwise blind zombie actor’s hands directly to his throat.

Either that or tepid acting.

What do you think, audience?

Mark, bored with his life, decides to take a series of
"mostly bad-ass" pictures.

Luckily, James and Leslie show up with some decent rocks and smash the heads of the attackers, and we’re treated to some serious rock-on-skull damage in full, slow-mo close-up.

Back with mother and freak son, they continue to thwart attacks from their own small horde of ghouls.

Backed into a corner with some nearby paint supplies, freak son points at something and says, “Mommy, we can set it on fire!”

And that they do.

All the couples meet up and make it back into the main part of the house. Once inside, the house staff begins to talk excitedly of how the bulbs had flickered and exploded, yet not a single time do any of the others respond with, “Monsters tried to eat us.”

The boarding of windows and doors ensues as Kathleen the maid investigates the house to look for any more unguarded weak spots. Welp, she spots one, and when she leans ALL the way out to close the outdoor shutters, one of the zombies flings a spike into her hand, pinning her to the outside. With the aid of a convenient scythe, the maid loses her head into the awaiting hands of the ghouls.

They then all take turns kissing it with their teeth.

James discovers Kathy’s headless body, and after briefly mourning, tips her body up and out the window, feeding the zombies and securing his own place in Heaven. He then boards up the window as the zombies search the maid’s body for the wettest of foodstuffs.

The zombies arm themselves with various gardening tools—including axes—and begin to chop their way through the door.

Ravenna's most notorious of zombie frats was rounded up by police,
and despite their hellish reputation, they surrendered fairly quickly.

“They can only be killed by blowing their heads off!” James deduces, and begins doing just that.

“Give me some more cartridges,” he says to Leslie, and kills a few more. He shoots an impressive number of them, but since we’re never given a master shot of the attacking ghouls, we don’t know how many there are.

“Give me some more cartridges,” he says again to Leslie, but no need, it seems. The zombies turn and run off in fear, but in the way that zombies do it, so, slowly.

Thinking they are safe for the night, Leslie opts to aimlessly wander through the house, but that decision is rewarded with the smash of a window and the grabbing of her head.

By zombies.

The dastardly ghoul drags Leslie’s Play-Do face across the glass, cutting her up and killing her instantly.

The occupants in the house arm themselves with various blunt objects as the zombies finally smash their way in. Janet begins to desperately stab at one of the zombies, but obviously that results in nothing.

Luckily THE MEN show up and beat the zombie heads to smithereens.

Freak Michael gets trapped in the corner by one and he shrieks “Mommy!” in his freak adult voice.

Question: Seriously, since the movie is making a concerted effort to make Michael seem younger, and since the entire cast has to be dubbed into English anyway, why wouldn't you take this opportunity to dub his voice with that of a young boy?

Mommy kills the zombie, and Michael, obviously grateful, sits down with his Momma on a bench and does what any thankful son would do: goes for the tits.

“I need to touch you,” Michael coos. “When I was a baby, you used to hold me to your breast. I need your breasts so much, Momma.”

Momma, disgustingly receptive, is okay with this until he goes for the momgina. A single slap breaks them both out of this incestuous tryst.

“What’s wrong?! I’m your son!” he exclaims and runs off, his outburst the sterling definition of a paradox.

During the grossness, the men agree on a plan to escape and set it in motion, so Mommy Evelyn goes to retrieve Michael. She finds him in the bathroom, his insides somewhat splattered on the floor, but mostly splattered in the mouth of the recently resurrected Leslie.

Michael's parties were known for being
the best on campus, but they always seemed
to end the same way.

“My son!” she screams, slamming Leslie’s head repeatedly into a pipe until turning it to a goo egg.

The zombies use a battering ram to enter the house and they continue their pursuit of arrogant and incestuous Italians.

Nicolas the butler is sent on a quick assignment to gather some supplies, but instead of following through with that task, he figures it might be better to be eaten by a ghoul (the suddenly-appearing Professor Ayes)!

The group becomes separated once again as James chases what he thinks is a priest. Well, he’s half right. He stumbles into a large group of hooded men sitting around a table.

If you weren’t born sideways, it’s already obvious to you that these hooded figures eat people.

James is eaten fairly quickly and the ghouls once again go after the remaining survivors. James wakes up minutes later, eager for some of that greaseball flesh.

Janet, Kathleen, and Mark flee down a small path and stumble into what “looks like some kind of model-builder’s workshop."

Luckily, someone is there to greet them: zombie. Once again, these hapless fools find themselves surrounded by their ghoul adversaries, and as the women barricade the front door, Mark attacks the one behind them with what looks like a large bone. Instead of going for the head, which would work, he goes for the shoulder, which doesn’t. But no matter, Mark flips the ghoul over the stairway and it hurdles to the ground in completely unnecessary and awesome slow-mo.

And just when things can’t get any more horrifying, Michael shows up! Evelyn welcomes him into her arms as Mark screams, “Don’t touch him! He’s a zombie!”

Michael, eye-level with Evelyn’s breasts, unleashes those beauties from her blouse.

“Oh, yes, Michael. Just like when you were a baby. Go on, Michael. You used to love it, so.”

Mark and Janet, despite the ghouls hammering their way in to eat them, still need to stop, understandably so, and just wonder what the fuck it is with those two.

Michael, sucking on Mommy’s boobs, takes a nice bite, borrowing a nipple for just a short time, as the rest of the zombies attack Mark and Janet.

And THAT'S why they cast a 30-year-old freak man boy thing for this role—he's gotta get tits in his mouth.

And, you know, the movie ends with everyone having just a really good time:

Michael continues to chew on his Mommy’s boobs.

Evelyn dies from being a nippleless pervert mother.

Mark gets shoved into a table saw.

Janet is torn apart.

And the ghouls go back to Macy's and return their sweaters because they're just way too big.