Saturday, August 5, 2017

Review: Grindhouse Gutmunchers

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2017
Images from the Internet

Grindhouse Gutmunchers
Deadly Indie Entertainment / World Wide Multi-Media (WWMM) / MVD Visual
150 minutes, 2017

This double-DVD set contains two repackaged anthology films, including two bonus movies, from the pro-KISS and Alice Cooper, liberal-antagonizing Scarlet Fry (this liberal reviewer still likes him, even though disagrees often), who owns and runs the World Wide Multi-Media (WWMM) organization that puts out some amazing and oft overlooked releases. In other words, there is a heeeeell of a lot to see here.

But first this message: there are varying levels to cinema, with the top of the chain being the multi-million dollar sagas, and at the bottom some kid with a camera filming his friends. Scarlet’s work, especially the earlier stuff shot on VHS, is closer to the former than the latter. And yet…no, wait now… and yet, his output is so much fun that it really doesn’t matter in the long run. Personally, I would rather see one of these relatively amateurish anthology collections than, say, any of the Paranormal Activity films, or some of the same old rehashing of older films again and again. There is quite a bit of originality here, through the cheesy effects, corny jokes, and the occasional questionable acting skills. But I’ll delve into all that in a bit more detail as we go along.


Scarlet Fry’s Junkfood Horrorfest                                                      
Directed by Brian Crow and Walter Ruether (aka Scarlet Fry)
Chained to the Wall Productions / Chemical Burn Entertainment
75 minutes, 2007
From the brief opening segment, which is not technically part of either the wraparound or the six stories that make up the main body of the film, we are introduced to a stoned out drug dealer sitting by a dumpster, who is approached by a woman who demands him to give her some dope. He gives her a bag and she gives him a warning that it better be the real thing. What it turns out to be is the video tape that is Junkfood Horrorfest. What makes this even more special, I’m sure especially to Fry, is that the junkie is played by Calico Cooper, the talented and attractive offspring of the infamous Alice. This is quite the coup for Fry, and certainly a thrill for us.

We are then introduced to the wraparound, hosted by Scarlet Fry who uses his own name (stage name anyway) – as a hillbilly kidnapper with a partial leather facemask (assuming human). Every anthology film of Fry’s/Ruether’s has himself, sometimes with others, as some form of host to introduce the tales in Tales from the Crypt fashion (though comics have been doing it since at least the late ‘40s, of course). It’s filled with puns and groaners, as it should be, and I’m cool wid it.

Before I start on the stories, I have to say that even though it was shot on video (I’m guessing sVHS), it has a very clean and nearly digital look that made me happy, too… well, on my television anyway, which still has a cathode tube… don’t judge me; rather, send me bucks to get a newer one!
Scarlet Fry hosting
As with the other films on these discs, I won’t go into great detail because these stories are about 10 minutes each so that my going into great depths would reveal too much of the shenanigans. However, I will pick out some standouts.

There are some stories that are merely there, it seems, as an excuse to show some appliance effects, more than dependent on an actual narrative, such as “The Bloodthirsty Butcher” and “The Devil Made Me Do It” (with the very cute Sasha Lightstone). In many, the acting is quite borderline, some of it even terrible, but there are shining moments, such as the psychological study with Fry doing a solo in “Wasted Life.” I can see some people may see this particular non-action filled piece as the weak link in the film, but I thought it was among the strongest for just that reason. Fry does a great job in stoicism (yes, that’s a compliment).

A couple of the stories, the aforementioned “Wasted Life” and the trippy-albeit-obvious-ending “The Solution,” (which I enjoyed), as with a surprising number of other short horror films, have little to no dialog. This can be viewed as a good thing, as some of the dialog can be cheesy, and others downright (purposefully, I’m sure) offensive. For example, there is the totally nonsensical (and my least favorite) “Griptape Spank,” where a gay man pays a trio of skater duuuudes to hit his thonged ass with their boards, hence the title. One of the duuuudes is afraid of being thought of as enjoying it too much. The “F” words are thrown around a lot (no, I mean “fag” and “faggot” – and “gay,” as in “that’s so gay,” while we’re at it). Even in 2007, using these terms is of questionable taste (what, me PC?). I also believe that is the point of the story, to be offensive, so in context I guess it’s acceptable? I just believe that many people viewing this may actually share the sentiments espoused, rather than thinking about it. Truth is, even if the term wasn’t used, it’s still not among what I would call the best of stories.

Considering the age of the film and the assumption of its (lack of) budget, the effects look really decent, most of the time. Yeah, there’s some fakey looking stuff, but much of it looks beyond its budget, such as with (again) “Wasted Life,” and the final piece that was added on later in an amusing way (i.e., the sixth tale), “Love is Blind,” which is one of the better written bits, though not the best acted (Danielle Fisher definitely comes out the better through most of it).
As an early film, there has to be some forgiveness, especially considering the constraints of budget and acting (for most of the cast, this is their only credit listed). Believe me, I've seen much, much worse from people who have had more filmmaking experience than Fry at this point in his career. In all, it’s a good introduction to his work and this DVD(s) collection. Oh, and stick around after the credits for some cool outtakes.

Scarlet Fry’s Horrorama
Directed by Walter Ruether (aka Scarlet Fry)
Black Mass Entertainment / Pegasus Productions
27 minutes, 1989

Going back even further in time is this collection made when Fry was a mere 19 years of age. There are five tales shot on VHS, although that is pretty obvious from the visual video noise.

Once again (though this predates the feature above), Fry hosts our viewing under his own name in a gruesome Lon Chaney London After Midnight-ish outfit with nicely designed and disgusting teeth (especially when he eats in them).

Considering his age at the time, this release actually looks better than it may sound in my description. Yeah, it’s amateurish, grainy (again, VHS), and the story are not too deep which is reflected in the acting ability, but it has heart and some laughs (it is considered a comedy).

For example, “Manwich” and “Kiss Kiss Me New Wave Zombie” don’t really have proper stories, just set pieces, though the effects look decent (except for the wigs which have an ‘80s hair band level of poofiness). For “A Day in the Park,” an abusive tool finds a gun in the park and puts it to questionable use (“when you have a hammer everything looks like a nail” syndrome?).

The twist in the opening – and best – sequence of “In the Sack” is a hoot. Llana Lloyd (who also wrote this, I believe) is in Rhonda Fleming territory while waiting for her date, a putz who purses his lips (now it would be called duck face) and keeps popping his collar. The acting here is atrocious from all involved, but it’s still satisfying. The last piece, “R.I.P. Rest in Peace” is another subliminally (or perhaps pretty blatant) anti-gay screed as a leather-clad motorcycle hoppin’ woman (well she dresses like it, anyway) in Captain Sensible “Wot” mode is woken from her sleep by her effeminate hubby (also played by Fry) who is ineffectively trying to chop a log.

Thing is, ya gotta start somewhere, and this definitely shows some promise that was pushed forward. I’m glad Fry has kept making films, because you can certainly see some growth along the way. This is also what makes the collection fun, as you can see the trajectory of his career so far.

The last film presented on the first DVD is a somewhat fuzzy rerelease of the public domain cult horror classic from 1962, Carnival of Souls. Definitely worth watching, even if it’s to see that, yeah, even back then sometimes the acting and filmmaking are not up to A-level speed, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a benchmark. The intro and outro of the dreamy CoS is presented as a television program called “Scarlet Fry’s Cinemacabre, with three horror hosts making snarky comments and bad puns, led by Fry again, in a costume that looks more Boy George than horror (though for some of us, it’s a negligible difference).

Also added on are a few trailers for the films on this DVD.


Scream Machine: Unrated
Directed by Walter Ruether III
Deadly Indie Entertainment / World Wide Multi-Media (WWMM)
71 minutes, 2015
The main feature of the second disk has already been reviewed by me during its pre-DVD release, HERE

But there are also some nice extras on the disc that were not included when I saw it the first time (yes, I watched it again). There are also two different trailers for Scream Machine, but the smile-maker for me is a five-minute outtake compilation of Lloyd Kaufman trying to get through a promo for the film. It’s hysterical.

It takes a particular mindset to watch films of this caliber, and I know most of the people who are reading this are just of that ilk, so sit back and enjoy. Yeah, there will be some “WTF” and mocking comments, but that’s part of the fun, and more than likely there will be some amusement and certainly some on-screen disembowelments for all to enjoy.

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