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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Say it in a "Blood Song" (1982)

With a title like "Blood Song" and Frank Avalon starring as an axe wielding maniac in a drive-in style slasher movie, you may expect something weird.  You wouldn't be disappointed.

There's  not a lot to recommend this movie for your average viewer, but for fans of 80s horror, fans of independent underground cinema, those who miss the drive-in or late night movies and fans of anyone of the interesting cast members of this flick (Frankie Avalon and Donna Wilkes being the main draws) this movie is almost a "must see".

On the face of it, it's a very straight forward 80s maniac movie (and an early example at that).  Not a supernatural slasher like Jason or Michael Meyers, or a wise-cracking dream killer, such as Freddy, but rather a regular run of the mill serial killer with a very simple back story.  It was popular in these movies to have a child experience a trauma and grow up to be a crazed killer with a simple trigger.  For Paul Foley (Avalon) that trigger is insulting his flute, a gift from his "Daddy".

There is, however, a supernatural element to the movie and it's used to bring together our killer and leading lady (Wilkes), who for the first portion of the film seem to be occupying two separate movies.  Wilkes' character, Marion, has a psychic link to the killer and sees him commit terrible acts.  This is used to create suspense or horror to varying degrees of success.

Richard Jaeckel and Antoinette Bower play Marion's parents and turn in solid performances as expected.  Donna Wilkes does a good job as the troubled teen who is recovering from an injury and trying to deal with the fact that nobody seems to believe her nightmares are real.  Kudos to the writers for giving the Marion character a reason to fall down multiple times right from the start of the movie.  Her bad knee makes the horror movie chase scenes that much more believable. 

Frankie Avalon's performance here is the real stand out.  At times he's a bit over the top, but it fits the genre, the period and the dialogue he was given.  In some moments, his inner psychopath really shines.  What you never see is the beloved beach movie hero he's famous for and that's a good thing.

There are no particularly clever kills, but the chase at the lumber mill added action I didn't expect from a low budget film.

According to the trivia BCI was forced to use a video source as the master  in order to release the movie on DVD.  I'm guessing from the 4:3 aspect ratio that the Amazon Prime version I saw used the same source, which likely explains some of the grainy quality and lack of contrast in some scenes.  

If you enjoy movies like "Pieces" and "Blood Rage" I'd give this one a shot, especially if you're watching it included with Prime.  Be prepared for a trip to the past and keep an eye our for the "Starsky and Hutch" Torino in the H.S. parking lot.  I guess that paint job was pretty popular for awhile.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Inspectres - They ain't the Ghostbusters!

When you read the description for "Inspectres" the first thing that will come to mind is that it's a Ghostbusters rip-off.  It's not.  It's a movie that takes the concept that if a world existed where supernatural beings were "normal" then there would be organizations to dispatch them.  It's a broad concept and where the similarities (except for a team "mascot") end.

This is an action comedy of sorts.  There are funny lines and the usual pop-culture references that post millennial movies seem to exist for, but the concept itself isn't really funny.  It's one of those movies that relies on putting bumbling work-a-day stiffs in the path of greatness in order to get laughs.  Oops, there's another Ghostbusters similarity.  But really, that's kind of a sub genre of its own.  The problem here was that I didn't find the "work-a-day stiffs" relatable or that funny most of the time.  I guess part of that can be my age, because many reviewer really seemed to connect with these characters.  

I nearly didn't write a review for this one because it already has some great praise on Amazon and I feel like I didn't enjoy it as much as others did.  Normally I try to lift lesser known movies  up or bring some outlying "stinkers" to light so others can judge for themselves.  It's rare that an indie effort was enjoyed by others more than I.

Perhaps the high ratings raised my expectations and the movie's humble beginnings didn't meet those expectations, however, the second act it picked up and marched along nicely from there.

I admit, I left the room once or twice without pausing it, but I don't think I missed much story telling.

"Inspectres" will be a fun movie for monster fans, fans of goofball movies (like many of mine), and people who like to laugh when characters in one movie quote another movie and then say something to show that they're aware they did that.  Dara (Melinda Ryba) got some of the best lines and put in a very solid performance.  Most of the acting, in fact, was okay to good, which is a plus in movies like this.

The special f/x are far from spectacular, but none are bad.  Some are retro, several are silly, but again, this is a comedy.  For an indie shot in 2013, it's a very good looking movie (things go uphill after the video store scene) and the sound is, well, not awful.  There are moments I couldn't hear characters at all and then another character's lines would hurt my ears.  This is more common than an indie director or producer likes to admit to ourselves or anyone else.

All in all, if you have Prime and haven't seen this one, give it a play.  If you find yourself wanting to stop it, do yourself a favor and either stick with it until at least 30 minutes in or fast forward that far.

Oh, and it was fun to see in the credits that Chris Lott, who provided the music for my film, "Indiscretions", was also the composer on this movie.  ( I still remember him telling me that he thought "Indiscretions" was pretty bad.  You can follow the link and judge for yourself. )

PS: If you enjoy the toaster in the corn field scene, please do head over to Amazon and check out my short film, X-24.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

"Tunnels" - aka "Criminal Act" - Was this a TV movie?

"Tunnels" on Amazon Prime was apparently known as "Criminal Act" when it was released back in 1989.  The movie is listed on IMDB as having an "R" rating, but nothing I noticed would validate that rating today and I think it was a pushed for rating back in `89.  I will admit, this one didn't keep my attention much, so maybe there was some adult language or a slip of nudity that I missed while reading updates on my phone, but I never saw or heard anything that would merit an "R".  Even the blood and violence was pretty tame.

I only mention this because the movie plays much more like a made for T.V. movie than a theatrical release.  It stars Catherine Bach of "Dukes of Hazzard" fame as an investigative reporter with other TV notables such as Vic Tayback (Mel from "Alice") and Luis Avalos ( over 80 acting credits including five seasons on the "Electric Company").  John Saxon, an action and Western star, is wasted here as the wisecracking newspaper editor who never seems to know what his reporters are up to at any given moment.

Charlene Dallas plays Sharon Fields, a sidekick photographer to Bach's Pam Weiss, investigative reporter.  The two are the vision of female empowerment as seen through the eyes of 1989 Hollywood.  They're capable, smart, self sufficient, but still find time to be romantically manipulated and fight over a man.  Nicolas Guest plays their love interest, Ron Bellard.  He's rich, charming and the brother of the main villain, a business tycoon with plans for the city's "bums".

The IMDB description mentions giant rats.  Reviews mention human rat hybrids.  None of these interesting creatures hold any kind of significant role in the film that I was able to notice.  If you're watching for monsters, look elsewhere, this movie isn't for you.  I guess the "Tunnels" title was supposed to be sort of a horror angle and so they played up the "giant" and "rat man", neither of which is anywhere near as cool as they sound "on paper".  (Bit of Scooby-Doo going on there if you ask me.)

Now, look at the cover for when the movie was called "Criminal Act".

That makes the movie look like a cool, retro, film noir kind of thing.  It's not.  If you want a great film noir from more recent history look up "Face Down".

The reviews on IMDB are mixed and the reviews on Amazon are largely negative.  I think this is mostly due to the deceptive marketing targeting a horror and monster audience, when what you really get is a cutie pie, buddy comedy movie.

The strangest thing is, although this movie obviously had a limited budget, it doesn't suffer from the types of problems many low budgets movies (especially micro budgeted digital movies) do.  There are no terribly cheesy monsters or F/X, because there are few F/X and no real monsters.  The lighting and cinematography ranges from competent to pretty darn good.  The opening and closing are actually pretty impressive.  The acting is mostly a bit flat, but again plays to that T.V. movie level.  It's like this thing was shot as a pilot for a show that never took off and then released as a direct to video feature instead.

And yet, with none of those technical problems, it still falls flat.  The "twist" is predictable, especially if you watched a lot of TV in the 80s.  The pacing is often off.  Action sequences look like rehearsals instead of performances, although there is a cool crash scene and some nice on screen fighting by Bach.  In the end though, the tone is a bit childish and underwhelming, but the late 80s were just like that.

Extra points for featuring a carbon copy of the Escort Wagon I drove in college.

If 80s style monster action is what you're looking for, we've got you covered at Hocus Focus Productions.

You can find this short with robots, a Fishman and a hairy beast on Amazon for Free.


Monday, April 2, 2018

Experiment TC-9585 - A Review of a Short

Experiment TC-9585 is a short film.  I discovered it and the creators, TBR Video, thanks to the poster pictured below.  My love for 50s and 60s sci-fi has made me a sucker for Monsters Carrying Maidens movie posters.

Movie Poster for Experiment TC-9585

Unlike many of the posters of its kind, this one pretty accurately depicts the monster AND the "Maiden".

Being just under ten minutes, the storyline of the movie is a simple one, familiar and yet handled very well.  A mad scientist, trying to cure diseases, stumbles upon what he thinks is the perfect formula.  Being a bit "mad" he works alone and so the human subject he experiments on is himself.

He has a great line when  he figures out things have gone awry and I'll let you hear it for yourself when you watch the movie.

The creature is a "man is a suit", but what a suit it is.  It makes my own rubber monsters, like The Crazy Fishman and Terrible Treeman pale by comparison. Seriously, I am astounded by this monster suit.  It's simple, yet effective and everything you see in the poster and more.

The cast, small as it is, is very talented.  Everyone turns in a capable performance with Crystal Meyer being the standout, mostly because her character carries over the movie from the comedic, self aware parody of older creature features that it is, to the eerie, dark horror movie it becomes by the end.

The location, creature and basic premise of stumbling across a scientist just as he turns himself into a shambling monster are all reminiscent of 1963's "Curse of the Swamp Creature", but unlike that movie, all of the elements work here. Director Todd Redenius certainly made the most of the reported $1500 budget.

The monster design is more effective (no ping pong ball eyes, although I personally love those).  The acting is a step above.  The humor is minimal, but effective and the pace, because this movie kept it short, is much quicker.  It's sort of like a Saturday morning cartoon come to life, but with more nudity and violence.

Posting it below, but please, do visit the original YouTube page comment and let the producers know if you enjoyed it as much as I did.

For More Monster and horror fun visit TBR Video's YouTube Channel

And for Even More, stop by Hocus Focus Productions Amazon Page for my own monster movies.

Friday, March 16, 2018

I'm not going to review this one at all.

Because it's one of mine.

This is the short season 2 premiere of "The Simplest Things".  It should be the only episode still publicly searchable on YouTube and that is likely to change soon.  Both full seasons are now available for viewing on Prime Video.

Dinosaurs, spaceships, time travel, ray guns, a Chihuahua and the end of the world.  TST has it all!
It's sci-fi adventure comedy like you've never seen before because nobody would dare present such a silly series before this.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Demon Wind!

Get those fart jokes out of the way now so that we can discuss the movie.

A Product of it's time.

Charles Phillip Moore's 1990 monster movie, "Demon Wind" is a mash-up of the horror films that came before it.  A lot of people compare it to "Evil Dead" and the inspiration is undeniable, but there are definitely elements of "Night of the Living Dead" in there too.  And then the movie brings in a big helping of occult movies from the 70s, such as "The Devil's Rain".  It's actually a nice divergence from the knife wielding, faceless stalkers that surrounded it at the time.

What's fun.

If you've read a few reviews here then you know that I love my monsters, enjoy retro F/X and enjoy a straight forward story with characters who act out of some kind of motivation.  "Demon Wind" treats us to most of these elements.

The make-up F/X get a bit "sloppy" at times, but gooey, drippy, puss filled demons were the order of the day in the late 80s and early 90s.  When these demons get attacked their whole body sneezes, spewing forth a yellowish green goop that will make the uninitiated viewer gag.  

The human blood and gore are fairly well done too.  It's your standard syrupy blood that sprays or drips depending on the circumstances.  There's a fairly unconvincing severed head, but they found a way to make sure you knew whose head it was by accessorizing it. ( I did this in quite a few of my movies because nearly every severed I used was one of only two I had at the time. In "All Wrapped Up" we gave him a hat and sunglasses to match him to the actor.)

The creature f/x are a mixed bag.  There's a scene in a  barn that I won't discuss too much, but the effect is very well achieved and one that I've used several times in the "Alien Vengeance" movies. (That will probably give you a hint of what to expect.)  Later in the movie when we finally see the main demon I felt like an opportunity was lost.  Like the demons that came before him he's a bit of a deformed slime covered mess.  That may be scarier to some, but for me, well, we've been looking at melting possessed people the whole movie.  At this point I wanted a well sculpted horror from Hell.  Oh well.  His legs were cool and they did give him some nifty demonic powers.

Ah, the light effects.  Lightning, "fire bolts", magic and whatever else you'd like to call it, we're treated to all of the pre-CG glowing f/x they could think of here and I loved it. Cheesy? Yes.  Effective? Yes.  Fun? You betchya!  I specifically added a light effect to the closing of "Indiscretions" because it was a "stranded in a cabin with a monster" movie and they all need some glowing magic effect to be complete.

Our lead character has a believable, if not totally realistic, motivation. Cory ( Eric Larson ) is looking for answers at his ancestral home, where his grandparents died under mysterious circumstances six decades earlier.  Some of his friends seem like genuine friends, but others are obviously just there as demon fodder and why they went along on this journey or stayed for any length of time after things got weird is never really explored.  It doesn't need to be though.  We're given a basic explanation and then the magic (evil magic, mostly) starts and that's enough.

The Performances. 

Overall, we have a pretty strong cast here.  No real weak links in the acting.  A few over the top performances, but they're all called for and well placed.  There are even a few very creepy kids if that's the kind of thing that scares you. 

The Story gets lost a bit.

Towards the end the movie takes some odd turns and I think they may have been partially explained by the big demon, but his voice was so synthesized that his maniacal ramblings were a bit difficult to understand.  In the end, I wasn't sure what had made Cory's family so central to the plot or what we were supposed to think was going on.  We get an action packed, monster tossing heroes, fire spewing finale of a fight scene though, so I'll forgive it.

The Wrap up.

You can currently see "Demon Wind" included with a Prime membership.  Last I checked it has a four star rating on Amazon with over 31 reviews, which is pretty high praise for a movie of this kind.

Check out the trailer and decide for yourself if this fun, demon filled, goopfest is for you.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Drainiac! and Bacterium

I'm reviewing these movies together because they're both from writer/director Brett Piper, both involve a group of young people stumbling into a house with something monstrous and both utilize similar practical F/X.  They're also both currently available on Amazon Prime.

Drainiac! was originally released in 2000, but the credits suggest that some improvements were made to the movie since then.  I'm not sure what those improvements are, but I really liked this movie, flaws and all.  Haunted pipes might sound corny (and it should), but once you embrace the concept, it's great fun.  The fun factor is mostly due to the retro approach to the F/X.  Much like my own Lumber vs Jack and Alien Vengeance: Bad Morning movies, this movie makes use of miniatures and tentacles and slime.  Piper, however, does a better job with the F/X than I ever did.  Even the "car eating scene" is pretty amazing, if only by 80s standards.  It takes awhile to get going and there are one or two weak performances, but overall the movie is either grossing you out, weirding you out or making you laugh.  So, entertaining once the plot is established.  Lots of monster action toward the end too, which is always a treat.

Bacterium uses the same premise of young adults in an abandoned space, but this one takes a more science fiction approach to the monsters.  If you like movies like "X: The Unknown" or old episodes of the original series of "Doctor Who" you'll get a kick out of Bacterium.  Some cool contamination suits, more practical F/X monsters, lots of ooey, gooey blobulous creatures and some very well placed jokes.  Also, if you enjoy the tentacle whipping in the "Alien Vengeance" series of movies, you'll be blown away by the F/X here. 

The IMDB trivia states that this was Alison Whitney's film debut.  She did an excellent job of leading a pretty strong core cast through this sci-fi horror comedy.  A few strong performances and none that stood out as truly weak.

The practical F/X don't let us down either.  One reviewer complained that the monsters were shown plodding around for too long, but I spent that whole time trying to figure out how they gave those little slime balls life.  Stunning retro F/X work. (I'm repeating myself.)

A.J. Khan makes a brief, but worthwhile appearance as her character adds some dry humor to a scene that's essentially a set up for a very odd action packed "finale".

There is a scene in the movie involving bikers and I think,  as I did in "Stopped Dead", actual motorcyclists were used as opposed to actors.  This is evident in one particular shot where a biker can be seen making "pow-pow" noises while pretending to fire a gun.  Or maybe that was characterization and I need know to the biker's backstory for it to work.

In conclusion, if you have Amazon Prime and wish they still "made 'em like they used to", then these two retro inspired monster movies are for you.  I would watch them in the order they were created as I feel like Bacterium is a slightly stronger movie.  Of course, that might just be because I enjoy science fiction more than ghostly influences.