Tuesday, April 30, 2013

DVD Review: House of Bad

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2013
Images from the Internet

House of Bad
Directed by Jim Towns                               
95 minutes, 2013
Shadow Kamera Films / The Adventures of Hannah

“[The] house, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within.”
- The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson (1959)
What, in part, makes an interesting film? One is when the story is one oft told, and a totally new twist is put to it. It worked for Evil Dead (1981) and Scream (1996), both of which were indie films, by the way.

Looking at this as a cross-genre release, let’s start with the crime drama plotline. Three sisters steal drugs from a gangster, and then go hide out, only to have the baddie track them down. How many times have you seen that storyline? Ah, but there is so much more. Add in a psychological touch of who do you trust, a creepy house with a possible bunch of ghosts, reminiscent of The Shining (1980) and the first season of American Horror Story (2011), and being stuck in an isolated cabin 20 miles from anywhere, like Cabin in the Woods (2011), Cabin Fever (2002) and the modern prototype, the aforementioned Evil Dead. Finally, there is the growing and gnawing paranoia of who do you trust, as the sanity gets peeled away (I could bring up The Thing [1982], but that may be pushing it a bit).

The claustrophobic plot involves three estranged sisters – two full, one half – who have stolen a large suitcase full of heroin from one of their lovers, and plan to hide out for a couple of weeks before selling the stash and high-tailing it to Mexico to start life afresh. They decide to ensconce in the isolated childhood home of the two older sisters, and good memories are not inscribed onto its walls.

Heather Tyler
The ringleader is older sister Teig (usually a boy’s name, it’s of Norwegian origin meaning “strip of land”), who masterminds the whole sting. She’s intelligent, but wired like she had a dozen cups of coffee just a few minutes before. Having been in and out of prison for much of her adult life, the money is her way to escape a system into which she feels locked. Heather Tyler plays her with just the right intensity. This is a role that in less capable hands could have been played too far over the top, but Tyler manages the scowl and ferocity in a way that’s wonderfully daunting. You can’t help but be scared of her, and yet at times her eyes are so soulful you can't help but pity the plight. As a child, she was harshly punished and abused by her father, including being locked in a dark basement, and yet she identifies with him, including dressing in the same type white muscle tee-shirt. Yet she resented her mother for possibly the same indiscretion her father had committed. My supposition is that she is suffering from Stockholm syndrome.

Sandie Katz
The middle sister is Sirah (where did they come up with these names?; this one is of Muslim origin, meaning “princess of the multitude”), who until talked into stealing the heroin by Teig, worked in a strip club. Yet, within her overconfidence, there is a kindness. Yeah, it’s a bit of a cliché, the stripper with the heart of gold, but in the dynamics of the trio, she is the one who tries to keep the balance. Sadie Katz (nice landsman name) has some endearing sharp features, switching back and forth between stone-cold and tender without feeling forced or phony.

Cheryl Sands
The youngest sister is Lily (let’s continue with the thread: named after the flower, it stands for purity). She shares the same father as her sisters, but a different mother. A stone junkie, she attempts to cold turkey during the two weeks, even with the suitcase full of heroin in the next room. She is probably the most sympathetic of the characters, which is probably why she connects so well to a fourth character that I’ll pass on describing as to not soil the plot. Lily is played by big-eyed Cheryl Sands, who has kind of an Amanda Seyfried / Eliza Dushku quality, though Sands is the better actor (don’t be givin’ me a hard time, all you Buffy / Dollhouse fanatics). She plays Lily kind of on an edge of insanity / saintliness.

Lisamarie Costabile
The three other main players are drug dealer Tommy (Clint Jung), whose end in the movie comes as no surprise; the two eldests' mother, Danielle (played by the very pregnant Lisamarie Costabile, who gave birth just days after the film wrapped), and the dad of all the sisters, Greif (played by the equally wonderfully monikered Jim Falkenstein). Jung, who has a long list of credits (as do most of the cast and crew), comes off as the stiffest, acting-wise. On the other hand, Costabile and Falkenstein play their roles with relish. Considering their lack of dialog, they express exactly what is needed at the moment through the hint of a smile, the position of their bodies, or the way their eyes go from slits to open wide.

There were a few points that raised my eyebrows in question, and I won’t give away too much, but here goes: in an early scene when the sisters first get to the homestead, Teig mentions that no one has lived there for 10 years, so there will be no mail, no bills, and no bothering them. And yet they have electricity and running warm water? Now, the nice thing about the hot water is they all have gratuitous nude bathing scenes, which I certainly won’t bicker about. Also, they are 20 miles from anything, yet they get cell phone reception. I have trouble with that in the ‘burbs. And after one of them gets shot in the side, how is it she can still run and physically fight? Even if all vital organs are missed, this has gotta hurt beyond the sprinting.

Now that I have that off my chest, I want to make sure it’s clear that this film goes far beyond its realistic limitations. Considering the $150,000 budget and eight-day shooting schedule, this could easily pass for one of the modest majors, or something that is level in quality of an HBO series. Jim Towns has done a splendid job considering the constraints, and some company would be crazy not to just give him what he needs to compete.

This film is set to be released on May 18, and I recommend that you check it out.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

DVD Review: Sexsquatch: The Legend of Blood Stool Creek

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2013
Images from the Internet


Sexsquatch: The Legend of Blood Stool Creek
Directed by Chris Seaver               
SRS Cinema                                   
70 minutes, 2012 / 2013    

This is the lovely story of an impetuous lad missing his girl back home as he nobly fights the dog-eat-dog world of… naw, I’m just messin’ widcha. As you can pretty much guess from the title, this film is just terrible, mostly ineptly created, and was a joy to watch from beginning to end. And I want to make this clear, it was more so because of all of that rather than despite it. Heck, I watched it twice.

The flick is the kind of nearly softcore film that Rhonda Shear would have introduced on late-night television, if not been in it herself. This is total cheezwhiz on a cracker followed by a cheap beer. But there is a catch…which I will discuss later.

Borrowing from the ending/beginning of Cloverfield, we see something splash down in a lake in some rural – I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be hillbilly – spot, which actually looks pretty nice, comprising a big house with a lakefront view and access. It was filmed, of course, in Honeoye, NY (about 35 miles due south of Rochester).

In the prolog scene, a couple with very strange accents (he over-enunciates and she speaks Valley) meet up with the Sexsquatch, and of course, nothing good becomes of it other than joyful separation of body parts for the viewer.

Skippy and Leo
That’s when we start to get introduced to the event known as “Joey’s Fuck Party.” It seems Joey is still a virgin, and to save him from such a terrible state, a group of friends, family and loved ones plan to get him laid, as soon as they can figure out who is going to be the lucky one.

The leader of this group of horndogs is Leo Dechamp (Tobe Lerone, aka Josh Suire). Apparently, Leo is a character Josh has played in such previous classic Ron Bonk (he’s to SRS Cinema what Charles Band was to Full Moon) releases as I Spit Chew on Your Grave (2008; not to be confused with 2001’s I Spit on Your Corpse, I Piss on Your Grave, both of which are also on SRS). Leo sports the purposefully worst wig and mustache on this side of…well, anywhere. With his constant “I Put Ketchup on My Ketchup” tee-shirt, his character is a solid – not to mention chubby – female-body-part-grabby yahoo braggart who has some great lines. He’s also part of a threesome who owns the property where the story takes place. In real life, Suire also directed Death O’Lantern in 2011.

The female part of the trio is Crystal (Anne Marie Nouvo), who is quite fond of grabbing her own boobs at any chance she can get. As with most of the female cast, it’s cleavage front and center. Sadly, she is one of the smarter characters in the piece.

The last of the ménage a trois is my favorite character, the donut-obsessed Skippy (Steven Deniro, aka Andrew Baltes), who has a long ponytail (I’m guessing also a wig), and is in constant Robert Deniro mode, with the squinched up face and voice. He has, by far, the best bon mots, many of which are non-sequiturs. Here are a few:

1. “Hey, you guys remember Falco? What the fuck was that guy’s deal? ‘Rock Me Amadeus’? Looks like something that fell out of Boy George’s asshole.”

2. “Buffalo wings? Bah. You know what they call wings in Buffalo? Wings. Buffalo wings; makes my hole burn.”

3. “Looks like a fuckin’ mountain goat or one of the velociraptor things I keep hearin’ about. I mean, look at the wounds. Classic raptor or goat attack.”

Actually, there are so many great and outrageous pieces of dialog throughout that I could do this whole review with parts of the script. Going forward, I’ll add some when I discuss the characters. And I’m only scratching the butt… I mean surface.

Joey, the virgin
And to answer Skippy’s question of “So who do we have coming to this orgy of pain and pleasure indivisible?” The party is for Joey Jeremiah (Chip Rockastle, who is supposed to be a teen, and the closest he makes that is to get his voice cracking). He’s a dumb shit – to be fair, so is everyone else – who can’t see what’s being offered in front of him. His big life plan? To be The President of Show Business. He posits, “I’m just finishing up a great movie idea about a bunch of space turds that invade a New York suburb. I think I can get someone like Woody Allen or Roman Polanski to direct it.”

Muppet wannabe, Jennifer
His obvious love interest is the cute Jennifer (Savanna Ramone, who played the ‘30s style actress in the 2009 Terror at Blood Fart Lake… yes, butt humor is big with this troupe). She has a hysterical blink-and-you-miss-it moment as a Betty Lou muppet move. Jennifer is probably the closest character to reality, but she still gets to say lines like, “Look, I know how you feel about my tits and ass. Do something about it. Like I said, use that passion for your films and put it all over my body. Make me a work of art by using your mighty dick and using it as a pen. My pussy is your canvas. Mold me…experience my flavors.”

Also along for the ride is Joey’s mom, Muffy (Francine Mitchell, who is probably not much older than most of the other cast). She wears clothes that are too tight and short for her body parts, and can’t seem to draw within the lines of her mouth with her lipstick. Oh, and she also commonly makes what is now known as the cell phone self-shooter’s “duck lips.” The scene where she queefs out the “Happy Fuck Day” cake candles is priceless. She is excited to see her little boy become a man. On arrival, she informs Joey that it “seems like only yesterday I was tit-feeding you. And now, now you’re about to bury your flesh trunk into the swollen and juicy caves of some tramp. Life is good. Party! Woo-ho-hoo!“ Muff later challenges the potential cherrybuster, “Well, bitch, what say you? Don’t leave him hanging. Literally.”

Three of the fodder characters are the extremely busty Mudhoney (Varla Darling; nice Russ Meyers reference in her role name), and the 1980s togged and constant high-fiving Lucas (Dutch Hogan) and Lance (Peter Lieberman).  Their best moment is after one of them is killed by the Sexsquatch, the whole group goes Bollywood of sorts, and breaks into a brief Ska moment.

Marmalade and Stink Fist
Then of course, there is Stink Fist, the Sexsquatch (Rod Bollo Skin) from another planet who has a bet on how many earthlings he can eliminate by – get this – the Sabbath. He kills people and then cornholes them with his (unseen) baseball bat sized schlong of death. Quite erudite, relatively speaking with this group, he has a bit of a British accent and a keen sense of direction of killing (e.g., ripping out intestines, turning victims into human puppets). The ginger make-up and costume on him is both funny and ridiculous, but works in this context.

He is followed around by the insane and corpulent Marmalade (Spamuel L. Jackson, I kid you know; I am assuming that most of the actors’ names are made up). With her TMNT tee-shirt buried under layers of clothes, she is cross-eyed, and has it in for the group who have not taken kindly to her being there, confronting her with, “Who the fuck are you? Get the fuck outta my fucking house you fucking piece of shit!” (said by Leo). She is totally loony tunes as shown by this piece of dialog between her and the Sexsquatch:
Marmalade:  Now it’s just, who’s next? Who are you going to pick? I say you go for the ladies first. Then you can cut off one of those big old teats, and I can sew them on my own chest and walk around like Cloris Leachman, or, you know, somebody elegant and fancy like.
Stink Fist: You know, I’m going to say this out loud, so you can grasp the severity of it. You creep me the fuck out. You know how much it takes to creep out the Sexsquatch?!

There is some (but not lots of) cartoon blood and gore, but that doesn’t stop the party. As Leo states at the top of his lungs at the suggestion of calling the cops, “Fuck the police. Fuck cryin’. Fuck goin’ home. Fuck this movie [looking directly at the camera]. We stay; we party like we never partied before!”

Crystal and Leo
Let me digress and give you one more piece of pure heavenly words, once again stated by Leo to Muffy as he flips pepperoni slices into Crystal’s ample bosom: “Well, I was All-Star Champion three years running at the International Cleavage Pissing Games in Germany. My award hangs proudly next to my mummified head of Hitler, the various buttholes I scalped off people who fucked me over in the last decade. I can show you Muffy; it’s some interesting stuff, I assure you.”

A funny thing about this film is that with all the sex talk, the boob and butt grabbage, and the simulated softcoreness I mentioned earlier, there is absolutely not one piece of nudity in the entire thing. Cleavage, a ton. Nipples, nary a one. Well, on the men, there are, but that doesn’t really count, does it…

Backing the film is a lot of great ska music, including the likes of Mu330, Troglodyte, Skankin Pickle, and the amazing The Planet Smashers (check out their “Fabricated”). Extras are some SRS trailers and a fun bloopers reel.

Yes, this is one wickedly stupid and inane film that makes Family Guy look like Happy Days. But it’s just so much fun to view. Plus, it seems like everyone on this set was having a blast. And in the words of the Wizard, a character that crops up occasionally in some of Seaver’s films, “Shabbat Shalom, motherfucker!”


Friday, April 5, 2013

DVD Review: Night of the Tentacles

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films Blog, 2013
Images from the Internet


Night of the Tentacles
Written and directed by Dustin Mills
MVD Visual                      
90 minutes, 2011 / 2013

 I admit it. Dustin Millis is becoming one of my favorite indie $2 budget horror film directors lately. Yep, he’s the guy who brought us the wonderfully moniker’d The Puppet Monster Massacre (2010; reviewed HERE) and Zombie A-Hole (2012; reviewed HERE). Like early Cronenberg, Raimi and Craven, each film shows enormous growth as a filmmaker. I’m looking forward to seeing his most recent release, Bath Salt Zombies (2013)

But I jump ahead. Let’s discuss the film at hand. True to form, there are a few consistencies that seems to run throughout a Dustin Mills film. First, there’s Brandon Salkil (as Dave), who in body or voice has been present as a lead across the board. This is hardly surprising, because he is (a) handsome in the Bruce Campbell mode (more on that later), and (b) can easily run the gamut of subtle acting to over the top in a split second, and makes it work.

A second recurring theme is lots of nudity, sex, tattoos and piercings. Both men and women tend to be unconventional beauties, but still carry off a certain charm when necessary. A good example is the lead love interest, Nicole Gerity (as Esther), with white peroxide hair, skin ink, and multiple piercings in her face. And yet there is an obvious charm about her that doesn’t make it seem like an odd pairing with Dave. Oh, did I mention that Esther is also in her third trimester?

Then there is gore. Lots and lots of gore. Some of it is digi, but Mills also mixes in appliances and prosthetics that sometimes looks real and other times not, but in the overall feel of the film, again, it all works. Hey, remember those fakey looking stop-motion demons at the end of Evil Dead (1981)?

And then there are the puppets. Yes, even in the live action films, there are plenty of costumes and puppetry that comes into play. But again, I’ll explain more of that later.

So, plot-wise, we are introduced to lonely apartment dweller Dave, who makes a living as a graphic artist for alien porn boxes and posters, and has a hidden crush on Esther, who lives directly below his space. He also has a cute dog named Charley (Dustin’s real dog, named, of course, Charley). Apparently, Dave possesses a bum ticker and is in need of a new one, i.e., he’s just about a goner. But who shows up in his flat but the devil, offering him a heart in exchange for…well, you know the drill. Problem is, it’s not in his chest cavity, as he’s loth to find out, but rather it’s a tentacled, cycloptical monster with four sharp-pointed tentacles that lives in a wooden box. Of course, it also needs to feed on two people per week in order to survive.

A question that comes to mind at this point is as follows: when does a film that is a collection of homages become original in its own right? There are many themes and images that come from other sources, but the film still retains a feel of originality. Here are some examples.

Of course, the whole sell your soul to the devil with regret is right out of the German Faust legend (first published in 1587). Dave’s not reading the “fine print” has been used before, as well, with other Faust-based comedy films, such as Bedazzled (1967, 2000). However, the biggest Faustian story of recent time is also heavily referenced, The Little Shop of Horrors (1960, 1986). In fact, the first line of the heart is “Feed me.” Note that the heart in this film sounds much more fey than did the demanding and menacing Levi Stubbs (d. 2008). There’s also a bit of Evil Dead in here, too, especially with the facial expressions made by Salkil that are right out of the Bruce Campbell / Ash playbook. Salkil is really great at it (it’s that overplay I was mentioning earlier). I cannot forget to mention the nod to Basket Case (1982), with the evil other part of the hero living in a box and slithering out to kill. Heck, Mills even borrows from himself, with the thumping lovers next door named Iggy and Mona, the names of similarly entangled lovers from his own The Puppet Monster Massacre (thought no one would notice, Dustin?)

Dustin definitely seems to becoming more comfortable in the filmmaking craft. He has a good eye for lighting, both natural, added, and atmosphere. The use of garish, almost neon shades of green and red work with the mood of the moment, rather than indicating what the viewer is supposed to feel. His editing is also becoming stronger, as most scenes are cut back and forth between characters, rather than letting the camera linger. Unless, of course it is intended that way, such as a long shot when a drunken Dave has a conversation with an off-screen devil (during the commentary, the reason for the lack of on-camera Satan made me laugh).

It’s pretty obvious that most of the actors on this film are not professionals, but then again, every single one carries their role solidly, even when the call is for over-the-top (such as Salkil’s hilarious “What the fuck” when he sees the heart for the first time). It’s all part of an independent and humorous horror film.

Yes, there are definitely some cheesy moments. For me, the biggest is when you finally get to see the heart in all its gory… I mean glory. Honestly, it looks silly, sort of like a fuzzy toaster cozy. But I am so willing to forgive that because, well, this film is such a hoot.

One aspect of the film that impresses me, and what makes it worth owning (though it’s also available as a VOD), is the commentary. Mills handles it so correctly. The biggest mistake in commentaries (in my opinion) is that there are too many involved. Any more than two people it becomes a mishmash of “who said that?” Mills does it on his own, and keeps a perfect level of filmmaking information (camera used, funding, etc.) and anecdotes (such as how and why he switched a particular character from female to male, without changing the dialog). He keeps it interesting all the way through, which is so rare. Two other extras are trailers for his earlier films.

There are many good acting moments here (Gerity comes to mind), and also in the story and in overall filmmaking style that shows that Mills is definitely a star on the horizon. I just wonder what he could do with a real budget.