Thursday, January 31, 2019

Reviews: Albert Pyun Twosome: Blast; Crazy Six

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2019
Images from the Internet

 Albert Pyun, for those young’ns who don’t know, is a director who specializes in both action and sci-fi genres, and is still actively churning out films. That being said, his career had seen better days before the Millennium, with such classics as Cyborg (1989), the Wrecking Crew (2000) and Dollman (1991). Both of the films reviewed below came out the same year, in 1997.

Directed by Albert Pyun
Moonstone Entertainment / Imperial Entertainment /
Filmwerks / MVD Marquee Collection

105 minutes, 1997 / 2018

There are three key elements to this film, tapped from other sources. The first is obvious: this is a direct tie-in of the classic Die Hard (1988), but rather than a tall building, as hinted by the Blu-ray’s cover, it’s an attack by terrorists on the Atlanta Olympic Games. More on that in a sec. Also, in this story the hero (vas Van Damme busy? Too expensive? Too egocentric?) Jack (Linden Ashby) is an ex­-Martial Arts Bronze Medal winner who is sidelined by an injury, while his ex-wife, Diane (Kimberly Warren), is the coach of the Women’s swimming team, and is in the occupied building being threatened. This should also sound familiar to Die Hard fans.

Linden Ashby
Second, as this is pre-9/11, the opening title cards let us know that there were FBI stings on possible terror action at the real Atlanta games, and one was found credible. Blast is explained as a what-if story of what might have happened had they not been caught, as at the Munich Games when Palestinian terrorists murdered Israeli athletes, which is the third part of bringing this story together.
The bare bones of the plot is that a group of terrorists of various nationalities are led by the Russian, Omodo (Andrew Divoff), essentially in the Hans Gruber role. They set bombs throughout the Aquatic Center where the American team of female athletes are practicing, but of course not before the young lasses have the chance to don their bathing suits (including Shannon Elizabeth in one of her early roles). HHHpwowpowHHardWhat is the goal of these terrorists? Well, odds are you’ll figure it out before Interpol.

Along the way we meet eccentric terrorist expert Mr. Leo (Rutger Hauer, seemingly to be channelling a The Island of Dr. Moreau-era Marlon Brando) who has been following our baddie for a while, and the police commissioner (Tim Thomerson, who is well-underused here in basically an extended cameo donning a Southern accent).

Andrew Divoff,  Kimberly Warren
While it’s obvious this is not the same budget level as Die Hard, Pyun does well to keep the story moving along with fisticuffs, gun fire, and some digitally layered explosions, the latter of which real look fake, but hey, 1997 technology, eh wot?
There are definitely some shortcomings, such as few of the actors here have the personality or appeal of the Die Hard characters (yes, the comparisons continue), and there’s no Yippie-ki-yay-type quotables, but on the other hand, the film moves along in a rapidly paced manner, keeping the attention going.

Speaking of which, it was nice to see a woman in one of the leading bad-guy roles, and while Warren is no Bonnie Bedelia, she eventually manages to hold her own. As for the swim team, they seem to just there for the swimsuits and to be hostages.

For a Blu-ray, there actually aren’t that many extras, being only chapters and a quartet of MVD Marquee Collection trailers, including the one for this film. I’m not complaining; all those extras take time.

Only thing that pissed me off, though, was that I was going to make a reference here about “the Burning of Atlanta,” and the film beat me to it. Snap. Anyhoo, this is pretty solid action flick that’s solid meat’n’taters.

Crazy Six
Directed by Albert Pyun
Moonstone Entertainment / Imperial Entertainment /
Filmwerks / MVD Marquee Collection

94 minutes, 1997 / 2018

This is a crime drama, but honestly, the tone is solid Western, in the same way For a Fistful of Dollars (1964) was a Western that was a crime drama. But rather than the Old West or even Italy, this film takes place in the ruins of the USSR, 10 years after little Ronnie took credit for “tearing down this wall.”

Beyond the Fall of the Bloc, according to the storyline (and no too far from the truth), crime and corruption quickly replaced the totalitarian regime before it. Of course, many players on the international field have shown up to take a slice of the pie. As we all know that a slice is never enough.

Rob Lowe
It’s quite the cast in this film, such as Burt Reynolds (d. 2018) as a Texan – Stetson included – who is a police detective over there (say what?), Ice-T as the head of a drug dealing crew, and Mario van Peebles (I’m a fan of his dad, but I digress…) who runs a prostitution ring out of his club; and yet, the lead actor and titular character (aka Billy) is junkie and thief Rob Lowe, who was riding a bit higher on the star status at the time. While still acting regularly, he’s cropping up more in B-films. But now back to this review.
Where the Blast was pretty straight forward in story and technique, Pyun shows his artistic side with this release. Between shadows, editing, and especially the primary colors of lighting, he takes us on a grander tale of a robbery gone badly, and the result of that: never rob a drug dealing gang, please. Within the story they always say it’s an easy mark, but it always turns out bad.

Lots of shoot-em-ups, knives and fisticuffs abound (some things stay consistent between films), but add the element of drugs (crack, in this case), and watch the camera lilt about. On one hand, this shows that Pyun has an artistic edge that does not get expressed very often in his action releases, but honestly, on the other hand, in this case it feels heavy handed and convoluted. The story suffers a bit as we wait through the miasma of style to get to the next beating or firing of lots of hand guns by many people usually in a tight space (such as a single room). It’s hard to tell who is killing whom, sometimes.

Ivana Milicevic
This is not a bad film, but honestly it doesn’t feel very successful in what it was trying to achieve, because it was being pulled in too many directions. I mean the opening shot feels like it’s right out of Pulp Fiction (1994), mixed with Italian giallo (lighting) and like I said, the crime/Western genre mix. While I respect what Pyun was trying to do, the characters don’t really achieve much as far as personalities go, and it’s Ice-T that comes across as most solid. Reynolds looks like he’s making his grocery list as he recites his lines, Van Peebles has this cliché dandy French accent, and Lowe’s junkie is so toned down I was hoping his character would switch to Meth so he wouldn’t stumble around so much. The two women in the film, the constant smoking Ivana Milicevic and Blanka Kleinova fare better as characters, and are both stunningly beautiful, so there’s always that.
Again, for a Blu-ray, there are just chapters and a quintet of MVD Marquee Collection trailers, including the one for this film.



Friday, January 25, 2019

Review: VooDoo

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2019
Images from the Internet

VooDoo (Unrated Version)
Written and directed by Tom Costabile
HyperCube Films / Agenda Avenue Productions /
Wild Eye Releasing / MVD Entertainment

84 minutes, 2017 / 2018

So how long does it take to overstay your welcome at someone else’s home? For this this film, we meet Dani (Samantha Stewart), and the answer is a single night. After the break-up of a relationship (he’s married; more on that later), she heads from New Orleans to visit her “cuz” Stacy (Ruth Reynolds) in LA. Stacy is staying at a house with the rest of her band, who are trying to “make it” (though we never hear their music). Interestingly, the house share is filmed in Billy Idol’s actual home, so there are lots of instruments and sound recording devices around. This was a nice touch.

Ruth Reynolds and Samantha Stewart
Dani is a bit of a ditz, and not exactly likeable, though not a horrendous human. For example, she ended the relationship with the married guy when confronted by his wife, a (wait for it) voodoo priestess who curses her (shades of Drag Me to Hell). However, on the being an ass side, she steps all over her cousin boundaries without a second thought, and films everything (oh, did I mention this is a found footage flick?). Thanks to her conscious actions, she also involves Stacy into her own curse. Of course I won’t go into detail about that, but it was a real shitty move to do to someone who is opening their place for you. Now mind you, Stacy isn’t exactly a shining light as a person either. But they do get to have a cameo with Ron Jeremy, so it can’t all be bad, right?
My next question is, what is it about found footage films where the first 20 minutes are just following the characters around and not really giving too much info about them? I mean, we do learn a bit about their personalities, and the set-up of why the curse is happening, but that could have been done in much less time. However, this is consistent with so many films these days, where the first 20 minutes are padded on to make it into feature length, or to fit in the cameos. I’m not pointing a finger at this film specifically, as it is almost endemic in both indies and mainstream releases (of course with blockbusters, the rule is reversed and the over-indulge to the point of drowning the audience with too much).

Now, interspersed between the 20-minute mark and the 20-minute-plus finale, there are some really fine moments of spookiness that come unexpectedly, and is quite the relief from the annoyance that is Dani’s personality. Again, I’m not saying she is a bad person, just grating. But does she deserve what she gets in the end? I’m not saying.

Where Drag Me to Hell ends with the main character being – err – dragged to Hell, but here we get the scenic route. Needless to say, the film truly picks up at the moment Dani gets there, delving into a cavalcade of blood, gore, demons, and certainly makes up for the drips and drabs of the first 40 minutes.

What confuses me (lots of questions, you see), is it continues with the found footage style even in Hell. Who is going to see it? Well, other than us, of course.

I really don’t want to give away the different levels of Hell, because each one makes a point in Christian dogma, and also the result of Christian (in this case Roman Catholic) “salvation” by priests. For the genre fan who likes “blood and gore and veins in mah teeth,” as Arlo Guthrie once postulated, this vision of the underworld will be mild after the likes of Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) or any of the Japanese or American Guinea Pig series. For the average film goer, used to mainstream cinema, this can be seen as quite extreme. Personally, I think many crime dramas they show on cable are more horrific, but that’s me.

The cast is quite attractive, and also accomplished, if one looks at some of the credits for the actors. While Ron Jeremy may be the most famous of the bunch (which makes me happy in an odd and twisted way), there is a lot of talent in this group. I guess I should say the two main leads of Stewart and Reynolds anyway, as they are the draw of both the focus of the camera and story. Everyone else is kind of peripheral, even the architect of evil here, the priestess Serafine L’Amour (Constance Strickland), who’s ironic name translates as “Angel of Love.”

It may sound like I’ve been a bit hard on this film, but note that it is the director’s first feature, and found footage (hopefully a dying breed at this point) is somewhat easier to work on the learning curve as technical precision can be fudged over a lot easier on a moving and somewhat spontaneous camera (even with storyboards and pre-blocking). I hope Christensen has learned from the experience and will continue to grow, as I see potential in here.

One recommendation I have to the viewer is check out the Trivia section for this film in IMBD. It is chock full of interesting goodies that may have you go back and revisit certain scenes, if’n yer so inclined. This is especially true as the only extras on the DVD are a cavalcade of Wild Eye Releasing trailers, including for this film.


Sunday, January 20, 2019

Web-series Review: Under the Flowers: Season 1 and Season 2

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2019
Images from the Internet

Under the Flowers: Season 1
Written and directed by Richard T. Wilson   
Mad Shelley Films / RTW Productions
17 minutes, 2016

Starting out as a ghost-themed short film called “The Halloween Girl,” it has been expanded into a Web series.

Jackie (Katie Stahl), who is about to drop out of college, is searching for a boy who seems to be in trouble. She’s been having visions and sees dead people, and it seems like everyone she meets knows more about this strange boy than her, including, Nick (Scott A. Evans) a guy by a campfire who appears when she passes out, or Poe (Lauren LaVera), who looks like she fell into a vat of goth.

Katie Stahl, Gabrielle Huggins
Helping her as she can is Jackie’s bestie, Ella (Gabrielle Huggins), who has a whiff on the situation, and seems to know more than she’s letting on. Meanwhile, Jackie keeps passing out and having these odd and scary visions.
 Broken up into four chapters (averaging 4+ minutes each), we enter Jackie’s world in Southern New Jersey (near Philly), and see things from her perspective, learning at the same time she does. This is an unusual take on a ghost story whose ending I didn’t see coming.

There is little blood and minimal onscreen violence, but rather it focuses more on the characters and the story, and thereby drawing the viewer in. With its short span, it manages to cover quite a lot of ground. There’s a bit of an artistic flair, with some quick editing, but none of that gets in the way of the most important part, which is the tale itself.

The cast is attractive, and happily for this rare moment seems age appropriate (i.e., they look college age, rather than about to go into their Middle Age).

There is one question I have about the ending, which I won’t posit here and give anything away, but I am assuming it will be resolved in Season 2. I’m looking forward to that. 

 Under the Flowers: Season 2: Circle of Hell
18 minutes, 2018

The second season focuses more on Poe (Lauren LaVera), who transforms into Rose (Amanda Kay Livezey), thanks to her Virgil-like guide, Nerissa (Kirsten Lee Hess), who is taking her through her paces as they are fleeing from evil forces trying to get Rose/Poe’s soul.  

Lauren LaVera
Along the way, they meet other travelers, some innocent, others not as much. With additional digital effects that are actually quite effective and striking, we flip locales, between the forest and elsewhere. In the latter, we once again meet Charlotte (Catherine Kustra), the character from the original “The Halloween Girl,” who had more of a cameo in Season 1.
The first season won some awards, and thanks in part to that, the second is a bit more grand in style and form, having a more solid looking foundation with better editing, effects as I mentioned, and is even more engaging than the first (and both kept my interest throughout its run, albeit short).

This second season kind of answers the question I had from the previous one, though of course there are questions raised about the ending here, which I’m sure will come to light in Season 3, which is now in development.


Thursday, January 17, 2019

Review: Babes in Psycho Land

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2019
Images from the Internet

Babes in Psycho Land
Directed by David Silvio
Baywood Films / Kiss of Death Productions / z-Diet-3 Productions
82 minutes, 2019

The last film directed by David Silvio was a ditty called Fetish Dolls Die Laughing, from 2012 (reviewed HERE). So you can see, he has a way with titles; before calling out the Sexist Squad or PC Wagon, perhaps it should be noted that the film was written by David's spouse, Diana Silvio.

One thing is clear, and that is while fetishism is not the focus of this release, it is certainly present in many forms, including S&M, bondage, lesbianism, chloroform (yes, that’s a real thing), and sexual asphyxiation. It’s almost like it’s one of the characters, rather than the plot itself.

Danielle Brickman, Ryan Bergman
The story kicks off with the nabbing of a young runaway/petty thief named Cheryl (Jill Mesaros) by the cops, including the Sheriff (David Ogrodowski) and hot-pants wearing Officer Piper Paisley (Danielle Brickman). After fleeing the coppers, Cheryl finds herself at Aunt Mary’s (Melissa Rae Bender), an abuser and dominatrix who is trying to get reaccredited to run a group foster care home for boys. Apparently the last time didn’t work out so well, but the money was good, so...
Also living on the property is PTSD-laden Andy, his insane killer twin (or is he?) Alex (both played by Ryan Bergman, the centerpiece for this release), and Sam (David Dietz), a perverted growling grounds keeper who reminds me of Arte Johnson's Tyrone Horneigh character from "Laugh In." See, the problem is that Alex is fixated on his childhood friend, Jenny (Mary Houle), who… well, I’m not going to give it away, but it’s not good and it traumatized him.

Into this mix comes our short-shorts officer who is looking for Cheryl, and has a few sexual leanings of her own, as we come to find out. She sneaks around the house trying to get some information on Cheryl and learns a bit more than she’s bargained for, but is she equipped to handle it?

Well, that’s as far as I’m willing to say about the story proper, so no spoiler alerts. I should also confess that I am a happy wuss who has none of the fetishes presented here (mine is punk rock and horror films… duh), so some of the attraction goes over my head, but I can sympathize if not empathize. Desire is desire, and one can look at it that way; or, do what I did, which is see it as a slasher film with lots of (often weird, pinkish colored) blood. Most of the violence, and there is plenty, happens just beyond the frame of the camera, much like Hitchcock did with Psycho (1960), but the splatter is everywhere – and as far as I can tell, it’s all practical SFX; I didn’t really see any digital enhancements, which is cool.

Mary Houle, Melissa Rae Bender
This is the kind of film that you just need to turn your brain off, and enjoy the ride. There are plot holes, the occasional over- or under-acting, and behaviors of characters that would make no sense in the real world. But this is not the real world, this is micro-budget indie filmmaking, and in that context, it is successful. The characters are interesting, especially the question of who is real and who isn’t, and there is also a very subtle dark-dark-dark humor that runs throughout.
Because of the need for suspension of disbelief,
which can also be a really good thing, events happen that are unexpected. This is easier to do when the filmmaker is a bit lax on following the mainstream rules without the studio pressure for bottom line profit margin at any means necessary (e.g., the over-the-top-ness of Comic Book related mega-releases these days). That’s part of why I love indie films so much: the formula sometimes gets chucked out the door for Why Not?!

There are a few jump scares that aren’t that scary, but the thriller part of the story holds up decently, all things considered, as people are chased down, captured, escape, get captured, killed, etc. What’s also nice, in my opinion, is that despite the film’s title, it isn’t just women that fall victim to violence here and not just men that commit it, and it actually comes out quite equitable. Again, indie cinema = breaking rules.

Be sure to stay after the credits because there is a lead in to Silvio’s possible next film, Cannibal Sluts of Satan Place (oy, such a title…).


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Review: House of Purgatory

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2019
Images from the Internet

House of Purgatory
Written and directed Tyler Christensen
Watching Eye Productions / Terror Films / MVD Entertainment
75 minutes, 2016 / 2018 

As I’ve oft said, tangle up enough well-worn tropes and you may find yourself with something unusual. This one has a blast of ‘em, from structures that appear out of nowhere and are (of course) evil, to malevolent forces that know your secrets and fears, all based around a couple of couples of overaged actors playing high school teens on a road trip. This I get from the trailer, alone.

Halloween “haunted house” attractions are becoming increasingly popular. A truly haunted one is almost too good an opportunity to miss. Location? Unknown. That’s where the road trip comes in, of course. It sounds like a supernatural Talon Falls, but we shall see.

After a nice jump start, we are introduced to a group of high school (have to stop here to giggle) students who are partying on Halloween. Four of them decide to find the urban legend Halloween house that pays you back if you make it all the way through.

Brad Fry, Laura Coover, Anne Leighton, Aaron Galvin
The first couple is Amber (Laura Coover) and Ryan (Brad Fry). He’s the instigator and a bit of a macho dick who pressures everyone to keep on a-goin’. Amber comes from a religious family and we actually don’t learn too much about her, but more on that later.

The second couple is “nice guy” Nate (Aaron Galvin) and the unofficial star of this short feature, Anne Leighton. I guess she could be considered the level-headed one, but she’s in the same sitch as the rest of the kids [giggle].

When they do find the House of Purgatory, whether it’s the place of the urban legend or not is unclear, which is a wise choice on the part of the filmmakers, we learn that it is being run by a guy with a skull loosely painted on his face (Brian Krause, who in an extended cameo, is the biggest name in the cast, having been a “Whitelighter” on the television show “Charmed” for years) a la Captain Spaulding of Night of a 1000 Corpses (2003).

Brian Krause
The House also knows your deepest, darkest secrets; says that right on the entrance. However, we know little about this band of fodder for evil purposes, so while we learn their secrets eventually, fortunately we are given a miniscule portion of what their life is/was like, and what brought them to that moment at that point. What bothered me, though, is that in two cases, their “secret” is/was not a choice, but something that is/was put on them. No spoilers promise.
Which makes me wonder about the backers of this film. One could actually see it as a “Christian” fear theme sub-genre, with punishments that go beyond the deeds. In some cases, it seems like the parents are the ones who should be there, rather than these teens [giggle].

I’m also a bit annoyed at the throwing around of words like “gay (as in “that’s so gay”) and “retarded.” In the right context I don’t have a problem with the use of the words or not, but in this case it took me out of the moment, which is what you don’t want to do when watching a film, especially a genre one. For example, wondering if a particular character is gay because he’s nice is, well, whatever. But the “that’s so gay” is tiresome and passé.

Okay, so I’ve whined a bit upfront, but that’s not to say there aren’t some really fine touches throughout. For example, when our foursome finally do get into the Shed of Purgatory (you’ll see what I mean when you watch the film), there are different floors leading downward. Wisely, it starts slow and then continues to build tension as different floors are reached, escalating to a couple of perfectly pitched lulls in the bam! excitement level, letting the tension build again. No constant clobbering over the head, this is more like riding the waves. And yet, the angst remains in both the confusion of the characters and for us as everyone tries to figure out the characters’ next step (both figuratively and literally).
Note that there is practically no blood, but the sets look great and the cast is attractive.

A fun game when watching films like this is to “guess the references” to other genre films whose tropes are present. For example, there is one key element here from I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), and a bit from the Sarah Hyland horror (read that as you wish), Satanic (2016).

The film is short at 75 minutes, and it could have been beefed up just a little with some expository info about the background of the characters, rather than just at the point of the secret revelation. That being said, there are also other parts that could have been cut down a bit, such as much of the pumpkin carving scene.

The extras are sound choices, chapters, captions (for which I am always grateful), and three trailers (one non-genre, and one for this film).

This is what I call a serviceable story. What I mean by that is that it’s not rocket science, but it does its job of being entertaining. Sometimes that just what a viewer needs when dealing with characters that are teens [giggle].


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Review: Welcome to Hell

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2019
Images from the Internet

Welcome to Hell
Directed by Tony Newton (bookends and collection), Michael Agular,
James Cullen Bressack, Brad Bruce, Colin Clarke, Henrik Bjerregaard Clausen,
Jeff Kacmarynski, Sam Mason-Bell
Vestra Pictures / Wild Eye Releasing / MVD Entertainment
92 minutes, 2018

Sure, anthology films can be hit and/or miss, but that’s part of their charm. Don’t like this story? Next! Usually, there’s a thread or bookends that ties them all together, sometimes loosely, others not at all. In some cases, the collection is designed to be created for the thread, and in some of those situations, the stories may even overlap. Other sets are put together independently, with the director of the thread being the one to gather them, much like a collection of short stories with an annotated prologue. This particular one from the UK is the latter, taking films from the international level and assembling them.

The bookends here are of a couple who receive a mysterious VHS tape through the mail slot, and watch these tales of hopefully terror. Yeah, it’s a well-worn trope, especially after Ringu (and its various sequels and versions made in other countries – and they are lots), but it’s fine because it’s just the bits tying things together, usually with a “surprise” at the end. In this case these bookends are inconsequential and probably could have been left out, honestly. The meat is in the shorts (get yer mind outta da gutter), which are separated only by VHS “noise.” All the better for it.

The first story is Michael Agular’s “After Hours” from 2016, starring the great Bill Oberst, Jr., one of the most naturalistic genre actors around. He never disappoints. Here is plays a police detective out to solve a late-night (hence the title) mysterious murder in a religious charity thrift store. Of course, the religious (Christian) theme ties in with the title of this collection. The ending is quick, so pay attention. Personally, I don’t think the short achieved its goal to scare because not enough information is given about what (a) happened to the employee, (b) the guy in the hoodie, and (c) well, the ending (not going to give it or any other spoilers).

Next up is Colin Clarke’s 2015 “Slit,” from Ecuador, though the extremely minimal dialog is dubbed into English. We meet two women who, apparently, have just met each other, and decided to continue their – err – conversation at home undressed. The film is beautifully shot with Dario Argento-ish bright primary colors, and for a long time we see mostly partial faces (lips kissing, close-up of eyes), but not the whole cara at once. With some quick editing (but not dizzying) the hot pulse of the moment is cinematically translated. Into their life comes someone with some sharpies (hence the title), as well as coming into our view is some (primary?) red herrings. This short was nicely done.

Following is James Cullen Bressack’s 2013 “Family Time.” In shades of To Die For (1995) with a special and sick twist, Susan (Calico Cooper, daughter of Alice) welcomes us to her nightmare mentality as she manipulates her teenage son to do something terrible. So far, this is the most uncomfortable piece, and just the idea alone of it as than anything that happens onscreen. The question is, as we see, how far she will go to manipulate those that she professes to love to destroy those she hates. And the ending is quite satisfying in a really creepy, organic way that’s bound to make you say eww. Nice blood SFX along the way.

So, it makes sense that next up continues the family theme of sorts with Jeff Kacmarynski’s 2014 “Dead Therapy.” While it’s easy to pick up the clues of what is going to happen, this is still a pretty fun and original story about a 12-step style support group of the survivors of a two-week Zombie outbreak. A new member joins and we get to hear the horrific stories of all these stalwart and damaged people who had to do soul-crushing deeds of survival and are now all PTSD-laden. While predictable in some ways, it is worth the watch.

Following is the brief 8:21 Danish short (in English) by Henrik Bjerregaard Clausen, 2016’s “Lucid.” Shown as a dream sequence, this is a really interesting nugget of deep psychological schizophrenia of a depressed man. It felt like under 5 minutes because it was so absorbing. The visual image look is like VHS warm and fuzzy, but the story is anything but those two things.

Many times the best of the group either leads to entice the viewer until the end, or it is put at the end as a showcase. In this case, Brad Bruce’s 2015 “Maternal Instincts” ends the series with a bang. Scream Queen Felissa Rose (if you don’t know who she is, look her up) plays a mysterious woman who is picked up in a bar by some tall-but-not-too-smart egocentric gangster lout, and gets over-drugged by this asshole in a subtle commentary about date rape culture. But, of course, you know things aren’t what they appear, and there will be hell to pay. It’s a smart piece, and again, on some level you can see what will come, though the method is held to the end in a very satisfying way. Some of the acting is a bit clunky here and there, but the story holds well.

As a set, this is a nice combination of various genres, from the psychological to the slasher to a couple of creature features. It’s well rounded, the stories are all intriguing in one form or another, and with the exception of the bookends, they are just the right amount of attention grabbers. I didn’t skip over anything, which I rarely do anyway, but with a short, it’s actually more tempting than a feature. Not here: it’s watchable straight through.

Extras are a bunch of fun Wild Eye Releasing trailers, including this one.


Saturday, January 5, 2019

Review: Worst Horror Movie Ever Made

Text © Richard Gary/Indie Horror Films, 2018
Images from the Internet

Worst Horror Movie Ever Made
Directed by Bill Zebub
Bill Zebub Productions / MVD Visual
110 minutes, 2008

If a viewer is seeking Spielberg-Lucas-Scorsese-type mastery of cinema and suspense, well, you’re questing in the wrong direction. However, if one is more into the likes of Craven, Carpenter and Hooper, well, you’re still aiming a bit too high. What you have here is, simply, a film directed by Bill Zebub.

And if one is willing to suspend disbelief (via will power, or other substances), his guaranteed-to-offend-everyone style is a laugh-a-minute joy ride that will not make any sense, not leave you better for the viewing, but may satisfy something deep inside that speaks to the DIY-punk ethics and may remain with you past the end, even if it’s a “what the hell was that?”. This is sloppy fun that may actual make you think, “Hey, I can make something as good, if not better, myself!” Bill, I get the feeling, and would encourage that. As he warns on the back of the box: “Contains nudity, creativity, and a complex plot.”

This entire film probably cost less than a coffee. Well, perhaps more because it was filmed once before in 2005, but scrapped and redone. Officially, the name of this is actually The Worst Horror Movie Ever Made: The Re-Make. Unfortunately, I never did get to see the original.

There are two main protagonists: Bill (played by Zebub) and his girlfriend, Danish Jeanne (portrayed by Andrea Szel; she’s not listed in the credit on IMDB, so I’m wondering if this was her choice – which would be understandable – or if she didn’t get along with Bill, and he snubbed her.

The film is fired off in the first of a number of set pieces, during a card game of strip poker. While some guests are being murdered in the kitchen by an ax murder who maniacally states lines like “Ax-acty,” and “I’ll bet you’re ax-periencing ax-crusiating pain,” Bill and Jeanne are arguing, and during a game of 52-card pick-up, Bill ax-cidentially – now he’s got me doing it! – kills one of the guests (see the DVD cover above), all by the six of diamonds. Bill and Jeanne take off to escape, only to fall into every (intentional) horror cliché one can possibly think up.

I won’t give up all the jokes or nods, but here’s a few, both interesting and cheesy. Well, it’s all cheesy, but you know…

Bill pulls down his pants in the woods of New Jersey (all of Zebub’s films are done in Jersey, and a large portion take place in the woods for some reason). A woman sees his bare butt and claims, “Oh, no, a full moon,” turning into a werewolf. Well, a rubber wolf jowl that fits over her face that they probably picked up in a Halloween shop. Jeanne is attacked by a monster made of Bill’s poop (though you never see her or it in the same shot), and at the end she has what looks like chocolate pudding on her face. Of course, Bill states when he sees her, “You look like shit.”

From here Zebub mocks Catholics (Jesus, with a southern accent, is a villain), Muslim jihadists, the military, gays, and mostly himself. When Jeanne becomes the 50’ woman, the army shoots Bill into her, and her comment is, “As usual, I can't feel Bill when he’s in my vagina.” Yes, that’s a quote, folks.

Then there are zom-bees (yes, undead insects), spider puppets, ravaging trees (Evil Dead), and marauding rednecks. Oh, speaking of that, here is where the largest piece of suspension of everything comes into play: After being in the woods, Bill and Jeanne come out of a basement into a house. Jeanne, now mysteriously a blonde for only this segment, verbalizes how a flood came and took them from the forest and deposited them here, and she thinks it’s the deep south. Whaaaa?! I’m telling you, I replayed this comment three times because I was laughing so hard. While in that southern house, they get attacked by a mad scientist who wants to experiment on them, I should add, this is before the cretinous rednecks make their presence known.

That stretch of credulity though is just one of a series of head-scratching moments. Another is when members of the army are looking at a 50’ Jeanne through their hands shaped like binoculars, with nothing in them.

At one point, Bill ends up overmedicated at an asylum, filmed at what is obviously a food establishment (the Clash Bar in Clifton, NJ), and Jeanne manages to get him out by offering her body. They escape, and Bill then kicks her out of the car because she packed Monopoly money. While she is then attacked by Zombie Jesus (obviously a Zebub theme), Bill is picked up by two lesbian vampires. He threatens them with his own “wood” which brings derisive laughter at his “splinter.” There is a lesbian sex scene obviously here just so there could be a lesbian sex scene.

A lot happens in this film, so much more than I described, all of it of questionable taste and certainly nothing socially redeeming in any stretch of the imagination. But what it does have it a ton of fun if you like this kind of out-there filmmaking.

Shot on a digital, handheld camera, this truly is DIY. The acting is stiff (especially Szel), the writing is non-existent, the effects are – what part of chocolate pudding don’t you get? – though there are some digital effects that were interesting, like Jeanne’s 50’ treatment, and Jesus flying through the air while nailed to a cross. The music, mostly death metal, is supplied by Sophia, Leaves Eyes, Septic Flesh, Korova, Beau Hunks, Hollenthon, Parzival, and the Jethros. There is also the incidental music from The Little Rascals and Laurel and Hardy thrown in (along with an evil Hardy puppet a la a sexual Chucky.

Watching the 15-minute outtakes and bloopers, Zebub comes across as either the fun guy at a party, or a complete jerk (suddenly screaming in the face of his costar without notice to scare her, is one example), I’m not sure. I do bet that his shoots are memorable.

Two shorts are included, both of which are extended scenes: Elyse Cheri does bikini strip in the wood for 3 minutes (feels longer), and Kathy Rice leads the lesbian vampire scene for a lengthy 8 minutes.

All 10 of the coming attractions are Zebub’s releases, such as Bad Acid, Dirtbags: Evil Never Felt So Good, Revenge of the Scream Queens, ZombieChrist (reviewed in this column earlier), and the metal documentary Metal Retardation.

The real bonus, however, is the inclusion of one of Bill’s earlier releases, Assmonster: The Making of a Horror Film (2006), about a trio of friends who find the DIY spirit when they realize that someone is selling bad DVR films at conventions for $30 apiece, and they sell because they include nudity and – and I use this word loosely – horror. This film is also fun, and actually is probably closer to autobiographically how Zebub began his career, such as it is.

So, bad film, bad acting, bad writing, no talent to speak of, but from beginning to end, it will hold your attention, make you laugh, raise your ire on many levels, and if you’re like me, lead to you wanting to see more of Zebub’s work.

This review was originally published in