Sunday, February 26, 2017

Spider Baby (1967) Retro Movie Review (Public Domain)

This was a lost film for most of its existence. Lost films happened in many ways. Nitrate film stock used before 1952 is flammable causing film fires wiping thousands of films off the face of the earth. Fox had a big fire in 1937 wiping out their film vault and MGM had one in 1967 taking out many early films. Most film buffs have at least heard of Metropolis (1927) which was lost but found early in the new millennium. Most studios didn't then have a way to monetize movies after their theatrical run until TV, home video and art houses came around. So there was little interest in preserving or storing them, even though a copy of every film since 1909 was to be preserved in the Library of Congress. Interesting to note Lon Chaney Sr. film London after Midnight (1927) is also on the lists of lost films even though through promo photographs they have reconstructed the entire movie from stills. Luckily for us, this movie miraculously was released on VHS in the late 90's, when an owner of a television station in Finland realized the rights had lapsed allowing him to sell copies of the reel he had.

Spider Baby Trailer YouTube

Spider Baby had a rough go of it from the start. Starting with a minuscule budget of $65,000. Causing it to be filmed in black & white. Even though since Technicolor 'Process 4' came out in 1932, color films had become the standard. Televisions since the mid-fifties had color available. For budget reference, The Night of the Living Dead (1968) had a budget of $114, 000. So Spider Baby was made for little over half of what George Romero scraped together. The interior scenes were filmed in a warehouse in Glendale California in the middle of summer with no air conditioning (studio was going broke). Which had the effect of making most of the actors look bat crazy between sweating and being a moment away from heatstroke. The viewers get the sense that Lon Chaney was going to mentally snap at any time. After the studio went bankrupt it sat for several years before being released with little fan fair. With several name changes The liver Eaters, The Attack of the Liver Eaters, Jack Hill's Spider Baby, Cannibal Orgy, Or the Maddest Story Ever Told it never had much of a chance and the lyrics in the opening don't make much sense unless the movie is named Cannibal Orgy.

At the time of its release, the most famous cast member was Mantan Moreland who starred in many early comedies as a house boy, manservant, or chauffeur playing a stereotypical character. Mr. Moreland broke many barriers for black actors but the style of comedy he was known for was quickly swept under the rug after the civil rights movements in the 50's. 

Lon Chaney Jr. was mostly known for low-budget horror movies and as the guy that played the Wolfman. Even though his father had taught him make-up, strict union rule prevented him from doing anything with it. Watch some of Lon Chaney Sr.'s films, the level of horror he brought to the screen with no help from CGI, modern camera tricks or sound is remarkable. There was a huge gap in the world of horror movies for make-up, from Chaney Sr. to Rick Baker in the seventies. A piece of horror movie trivia is Chaney jr. is the only person to play all four of the major Universal monsters on film.

Sid Haig gives a standout performance in this movie. Still very bald (didn't that guy ever have hair?). But wandered in bit parts as a heavy for forty years until Quentin Tarantino and Rob Zombie came calling. Looking at his list of credits he literally played a bad guy on every TV show in history Star Trek, Six Million Dollar Man, Dukes of Hazzard, and A-Team to name a few. But he, like the director, wouldn't be appreciated till many years later.

Jack Hill wrote and directed many of the well-known exploration movies in the seventies Foxy Brown, Coffy, The Big Bird Cage, Switch Blade Sisters and The Terror (with Jack freaking Nicholson and Boris motherfing Karloff). He said just as long as he put blood, violence, and nudity in the films the studios would allow him to add intelligent ideas and concepts in the films. Hill left movies all too soon cause the movies the studios green lit for him weren't exactly what he wanted. His student film 'The Host' (1960) is well worth watching. The only place to find it is a bonus feature on the Switch Blade Sisters DVD. Francis Ford Coppola said 'The Host' was a major influence on the last part of Apocalypse Now (1979).

The movie tells the story of a family chauffeur that made a death-bed promise to the head of the household to keep the family together and hide their dark secrets. A family that has skeletons in the closet, bed, basement, and dumb-waiter. Caused by a disease that runs in the maternal DNA that causes members to regress after the age of ten to a primitive state. The chauffeur played by Chaney is barely hanging on to his own sanity. Having to take care of covering up the transgressions of the household he is slowly being tasked with more and more hideous chores. When into the red with no warning, distant family members come sniffing around hearing rumors of a family fortune.

Spider Baby Full Movie Public Domain YouTube

There is a reason this film has grown a huge mass cult following, with only being available in the last twenty years, missing the building a fan base over most of its early life-like most films, it's very well done. Rated a seven on IMDB and 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. The 2007 release has some cool special features namely the early 2000's premier. Sadly Lon Chaney, Mantan Moreland and Jill Banner (played Virginia Merrye) all past a few years after the theatrical release of the film. Any aspiring filmmaker should watch this film to see what is possible with no budget and twelve days. It's entertaining from beginning to end. The only real knock is towards the end the make-up they used for Uncle Ned, makes it feel like they had no budget or time. Still not as bad as the tall alien at the end of 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' (1977) seriously what was up with that dandy long legs alien? That's not even the worst thing about that movie, family man Roy jumps on a spaceship and no one is like what about your wife and kids, he doesn't think to ask how long this trip to another galaxy is going to take or when his family should expect him home, Roy is clearly the villain of CE3K and a deadbeat dad. Have fun with this goody but an oldie and don't be a bug caught up in a spider web! Whatever you do, don't play the spider game........

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Strange Invaders (1983) Retro Movie Review

This movie used to be a staple on late night TV. Saw it again on one of the free movies channels on cable. Sad that a number of movies disappeared from theaters all too quickly. While some of these like 'The Big Lebowski' (1998), 'Shawshank Redemption' (1994), 'Fight Club' (1999), and 'Office Space' (1999) got a second life through social media, older movies sometimes never had a chance. Short theatrical releases, along with name changes as it went region to region, marketing got dropped to save money, causing confusion and not being released in some areas altogether. These old movies tell a story in a different way, they didn't have CGI, big budgets, or sometimes completed scripts, the pace is slower with less action. Studio meddling was all too common leading to post production edit hack jobs that left incoherent prints to be shown in theaters, 'Once a Time in America' (1984) or any Sam Peckinpah movie are good examples of this. Only after being re-edited for home video were these movies watchable. Even successful movies a different version is better to watch providing a fuller story like the European version of 'Vanishing Point' (1971). With all that being said, there is plenty of entertainment value here.

Viewers will recognize a few well know actors. June Lockhart, the mother from Lost in Space has a small role as do a few others. Michael Lerner was the Senator in 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' (2014). Half the fun watching these old movies is trying to remember which tv shows and movies you've seen the actors in. Nancy Allen is the best-known actor and should have been in more movies, but you know, Robocop two and three would've killed anyone's career. Mel Gibson was rumored to be up for the male lead. Whatever you think about the guy he is a great actor, very interesting to watch. The casted lead Paul Le Mat is boring. Most of the scenes in New York could have been cut or made to include Allen would've been a more enjoyable film to watch.

Watch Strange Invaders Classic Movie Trailer

In the movie, Paul was married to an alien and never knew. Apparently, the difference between blonde ditz and a never been to earth before alien isn't too much of a difference for Paul to notice. Of course, this is the same guy who never tries to clean up his apartment, drops his kid off at his drunken mother's apartment to take off cross country after his disappeared ex-wife. Now, most guys I know if they got sole custody of their kid and ex-wife left the planet they would be very happy. Get a wish from a magic genie and only wish for a 'cold beer' kinda of happy. But nooo Paul needs to track down his missing weirdo ex-wife. Of course, if he stayed at home we wouldn't get to see the aliens kick his ass. But his bestie gets it, giving the viewer one more reason not to like him. Can you tell who I rooting for? During the day this film was made the woman couldn't be the heroine and aliens couldn't be portrayed in a sympathetic light, be an antihero, or have a noble cause for coming half way across the galaxy to Earth. Woman have to be saved and aliens are evil. The fact Ms. Allen could slap Paul around easily sort of ruins the illusion of the damsel in distress.

The special effects are great for the time the film was released and holds up well. The alien makeup is worth the use of the virtual rewind button even by today's standards. Many of the movies from this time period used cheesy FX, make-up and bad stop motion that makes them almost unwatchable. The spaceship does looks like it was borrowed from the Flash Gordon movie. Almost expected a Birdman to come down on a hover cycle to get into the action. Maybe give Nancy Allen someone to ride off into the sunset with. Because you know she's not shacking up with Paul. But this is an enjoyable movie. The freaks they meet along the way keep the movie entertaining and watchable. Seriously if this movie was made in the last decade the director would have found a way to kill off Paully and make the awesome Ms. Allen the hero. Throw some Jiffy Pop on the stove, pop open a can of Tab and enjoy this forgotten nugget from the grainy fuzzy coked-up early 80's.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Range 15 (2016) Movie Review

A zombie movie made by a bunch of PTSD-suffering juvenile ex-military guys which was funded by a record raising crowd funding campaign should be worth a look. Think Team America the unrated version mashed-up with the first draft of Superbad. The sheer number of cameos is pretty amazing except Ron Jeremy, it's more shocking to see a movie made without him. The screen actor guild must have it in their contracts that he must be given a cameo in every movie. Mr. Jeremy must have some muscle on very big players, maybe some photos of huge characters or at least leverage on top of some important people.

We all know you never go full retard. Well, some will say this movie went full retard, it did clearly go full d-bag. It is ok to have the slimy characters whose jokes and lines cleverly portray them as such. The language is brutal ensuring a reduced audience range. Blunt gutter jokes don't play any better the second time. On the other hand, innuendos and witty sly jokes play better not only the second time also the first time thoroughly making the movie more watchable to a wider audience. It's clear they wanted to parody the image of the military by some wackos in America. There are also too many inside military jokes that aren't going to mean anything to the average juvenile males who make up a large portion of a zombie movie's market. Too bad they didn't use a little more humor, little more gore, spend more time developing the script. Being this movie was made by two clothing companies it would have been fun to see some catchy t-shirts slogans worn by zombies before they get blasted, see some more puns on clothing.

While this movie started out strong it just sort of petered out. Jokes seemed repetitive and flat plus a senseless killing of a member of the group that will leave most wondering why? Maybe the cast and crew got worn down by the filming schedule. This isn't the first movie that would have benefited from spending more time before shooting on read-throughs and developing the script. They also didn't seem to know how to use the women in the movie. They cast two good looking girls at the very least they should have been able to visually get them more involved. Most horror directors would love to get women this attractive to be in their movies. It was once said it was a good thing Superbad took so long to make because it would have been all bad fart and dick jokes. Be interesting to see these guys next movie.

All that being said this movie is worth checking out. It starts off entertaining enough. Mindy Robinson has a slew of movies due out in the next year, so this is a chance to see this talent without waiting for the other movies. Plus a really sweet gear up montage. Betting these guys make another movie in the future. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Skinned Deep (2004) Movie Review

The funniest thing about this movie the guy who played "The Brain" got the role by agreeing to run through Times Square naked. This guy thought 'no way in hell the producers of this low budget film, who are operating out of a van down by the river, will ever come up with the money to fly me and cameraman out there to film it'. Well, he ended up getting accosted by a bunch of old ladies while he was running through Times Square naked, who turned out to be undercover cops. The second thing is that very toned leg coming out of a very tight short leather miniskirt IS NOT Female! Warwick Davis is entertaining, way too big for this movie, and accent was out of place! It's weird to have this inbreed family in the middle of nowhere to have a member with a thick English Accent. Even weirder is his weapon of choice.

The heroine is a very pretty one and done actress. I'm always amazed when I see a talented actor or actress but they only did one movie than they disappear. No one thinks of how long it takes for a movie to make it. Especially a pasty D&D fanboy living in mommy's basement, but think they have their own place cause they have a whole level to themselves except for laundry days, creepy weirdos that watch this type of movie. Once a low budget gets made, travels the film festival circuit, gets picked up, has the distributor adds a nude scene or two, then releases it on VHS or bundles the rights with a couple Cirio H. Santiago films to be shown on late night cable. Couple years later the right people start noticing the film and want to cast the actress in their film. But she is now married with children and embarrassed about the "artistic" film she did in college. Even well known widescreen releases don't cause good actors don't break out right away, Kevin Bacon went back to small acting parts after Animal House (wonder why Friday the Thirteenth got such a big name.... he was still a starving actor), Rose McGowan went nine years after Encino Man (she was the actress that did the body art on the sliding glass door at the end) before Generation Doom came along. Not saying any actor in this movie is good enough to be in another one, just the actress was a couple levels up on the old Dante meter than the rest of the cast. Definitely a level or two above being buried up to one's nose in human waste with people stepping on your head.

Movies like this show talented people can make an enjoyable low-budget movie that other people besides relatives who politely nod and smile, while desperately trying to go to their happy place hoping for the horror to end. Not the horror like in horror movie but like soul sucking, never getting this hour back, want to shove a Cheeto in the their eye so something interesting will happen, or at the very least they can get out of watching the rest of the artistic expression that can't be called a movie cause the definition movie is an interesting visual representation of a great story. I hope they didn't show this to relatives if they ever wanted to be invited for Easter brunch ever again. Not saying this is a good movie by major motion pictures standards, more of this make more sense if you're tripping on acid after lobotomy surgery. God knows how they got Warwick Davis to be in this movie. He must be into some sick twisted stuff to be blackmailed to do this sick twisted movie.

Just something about an inbreed, backwater family, that have enough mental issues to make Dr. Phil go screaming buck naked down the street in the middle of the night, makes for great low budget horror or X-Files episode. There are more than a few scenes that will leave a scared image on the brain, and a few others that leave the watcher more confused than a millennial stuck in a panic room with a rotary phone. But anyone watching discount bin trash like this already has a few mental issues......

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories (2016) Review

Verite Cinema has a new holiday horror movie for you to snuggle up in front of the fireplace with. Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories is the sequel to 2015's Volumes of Blood, an indie hit that redefined how to create an original idea within an old genre.

Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories steps up the kills to keep your cravings for carnage nourished. You won't have much time to sit back and wish for more from this buffet of blood, it comes full force and spooned right into your horror loving soul. 

While the kill scenes may be a little campy from time to time, you probably won't mind, because they have hidden many a horror fan easter eggs throughout the film. If you're watching with a friend, you can quickly glance over to share a knowing smile, or ridicule them later for not noticing something!

The dialogue in the film is better than most Hollywood films when it comes to being witty. I think even Shane Black would be hard pressed not to want to write down some of the lines for use later.

The stories all take place in and around a single home. Such as the first film centered on a single library location, only this time the plot jumps back and forth between timelines. While it can be a bit confusing at times, by the end of the film you will be completely caught up and in the know. Some stories are stronger than others, and for me personally, the current timeline lacked some of the punch of the past storylines. Also, for those who missed out on the first film and are starting off with this one (you're not doing it right) just remember that the first act is purposely hokey, so hang in there cupcake, the carnage is coming!

One thing that really stood out to me in this film was product placement. Maybe I'm just getting older and more cynical, but I'm pretty sure that by the end of the movie I had memorized the phone numbers for a cleaning service as well as a realty company in Kentucky. 

All in all, I enjoyed the sequel as a fan of horror movies as well as indie films in general, and wouldn't hesitate to encourage others to enjoy it as well, especially around the holidays.

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And check out the trailer below!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Witching & Bitching (2013) Review

Disclaimer: This movie uses what has been the cause of many fist fight and even some hair pulling for control over the remote – Sub-Titles! Most long hair, smelly, have the taste for the chronic, basement dwelling, pizza faced, horror aficionados would rather go upstairs and talk to their moms than watch a movie with subtitles. It's a shame the horror, gore, cinematic blasphemy counter culture has a long history of spewing out from countries that don't speak English. During Kung Fu Hustle my buddy firmly had the headlock engaged (might have passed out just for a second or two) before I earned a reprieve for bringing a subtitled movie into his house by everyone on screen kung fu fighting.

This movie opens at a run and keeps the pace up throughout, except for some creepy dude's close up while he is trying to get a cheap feel from an unexpecting, hot on the tail, just trying to use the nasty third world public restroom, ex-wife. A lot of the movie the viewer just has to hold on and let it do to you what it will (kinda like the first date in a creepy old dude's, with one hand, Delta 88 with the passenger side door handle nonfunctional). A lot of people can call out every plot point and twist before they happen, on top of never shutting up. But with this movie just relax and take it, it will all be ok I promise.......

Jose is a poor sap who just wants to drink, have fun and get laid, and hang out with his son -- all things that piss off the ex-wife. As his own personal “No Ma'am” support group flees the scene of a crazy opening (take note future directors) with cops and ex-wife closely on their tails, things keep going downhill and weirder. The definition of a good friend is someone that will bail you out, but a great friend will be sitting beside you saying “that was fun!.” This trio of female hating man-children quickly wish they were safely in jail surrounded by bodybuilding members of the man-on-man love association while the guards are getting coffee with the surveillance cameras turned off. All the while, Jose's son Sergio is having the time of his life through all the mayhem. He is happy to be out of school and even happier to be hanging out with his dad.

Things start calming down once they meet the hot leather wearing blonde amazonian motorcycle chick played by Carolina Bang. (My sole goal in life right now is to watch more of her movies). This is just the thing three honorary members of No Ma'am need, want or have anything to do with is a bondage with a little castration practicing Fertility Cult. Strangely Sergio is totally ok with letting the hot blonde do whatever she wants. Jose, on the other hand, knows what's coming in a one-time, one-way ticket to snip town. He wants nothing to do with the vivacious girl licking his face. Of course, being in front of a girl's mom and grandmother is always a little awkward (unless that's your thing).

No, this isn't the kind of film that would be behind the grimy curtain, in the smelly video store, north of town up by the state line. This is the most awesomeness horror movie EVER! But seriously, while Blockbuster would have had a policy against a movie like this, Netflix knows what pasty skinned basement dwellers wants, (cough cough Human Centipede). Thanks to the internet, bringer of all things we can watch late at night in the privacy of our own rooms far from the judgment of society (unless you're stupid enough to write a review about said movie).

Warning: If you watch this with any females or PC righteous asshats, they do not talk to you for at least a week (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). But they will put this on the list of things they will hold against you until the day you die (of course one more thing can't hurt). So make sure to clear not only your browsing history and on Netflix, and be prepared to have a good cover story just in case you come home to an intervention, like a computer virus that loaded and watched this movie when you weren't home.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Don't Fuck In The Woods (2016) Review

Dont Fuck In The Woods is the latest feature from Concept Media Films. The movie garnered plenty of buzz last year as being one of the most anticipated horror films to be released in awhile. The film ran a successful crowdfunding campaign and despite some production delays it is finally seeing the light of day. The film will be released through Vimeo on Demand on October 22nd followed by its physical disc form release on October 25th. For those horror fans in the New York area, you can catch the world premiere of "Don't Fuck In The Woods" tonight at The Fear NYC film festival followed by a Q&A with cast and crew of the film.

The story follows Alex (Ayse Howard), who after having a stressful time during college finals, is convinced by her girlfriend Jane (Brittany Blanton) that their planned vacation escape is just what she needs. The two girls pile into the car with their group of friends (Nadia White, Brian Cornell, Hannah Herdt, Roman Jossart) to have a fun, leisurely time in the woods. As they start to unwind, something lurking in the darkness has discovered a new and intoxicating scent. It's a modern-day creature feature that's sure to please horror fans.

The film is a fun nod to the old creature flicks of yesterday. Taking the character rules we've learned growing up with horror and slasher films and instilling that within the story. We all know that if you have sex, drink, or do drugs in a horror movie then you better watch your ass. There's plenty of all three in this film. With a title such as "Don't Fuck In The Woods" you know to expect some nudity. The beautiful female stars of this film did not shy away from shedding their clothes a time or two. Don't let the title fool you, the film isn't a porno nor is it campy trash. It's actually a very well made film. As a curious fan I had followed the film online during its course of production and can see that the dedication, passion, and money that all invested truly shines in the final product. The cinematography is beautiful, the performances are great, and the soundtrack rocks.
Without spoiling much, there is a bit of death in this film. I mean, if you're not watching this film for its T&A factor then you're definitely watching it for the blood, right? The special effects are top notch so you gore hounds out there should not be disappointed.

I personally enjoyed the film. Had a great time watching it. It's release is just in time for Halloween this year. So if you're looking for some bloody, boob filled fun then look no further than "Don't Fuck In The Woods". This is some independent horror at its finest!

I actually was fortunate enough to have an interview last year with the film's Writer/Director Shawn Burkett while the film was still in production. If you'd like to check out that interview you can find it here.

For all the latest news you can visit the film's official Facebook page.