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Director Retrospective

Pagan Warrior

Pagan warrior begins with a boy playing in a castle and then heading out into the woods, playing with his ball. He loses it in the forest, and comes upon terrifying creature. The year is 1812, and this boy, much like other Vikings have gone missing in the woods. Some say it’s an animal, some say it’s a monster, a demon from the underworld… one that wakes every year for one day to claim a life.

It is three days from yule, and the Vikings are coming to sack the castle. They meet opposition in the woods The family is slaughtered and the daughter taken, and the raiders move on.

The body of the king is found in the woods by a couple of healers  who manages to bring him back, even as the Vikings take over castle Sussex.  They tell him that they could summon him help. a monster… They call Krampus. 

He will demand a price… The price that will be paid equal to the service he  renders, and paid 10 years hence. 
He walks out into the clearing, in a genuinely good makeup that  looks like a orc with horns and the voice of Frank Welker.  Under all that latex, he’s still delivering a great performance. Still, we’ve had to wait a long enough. With the exception of that brief appearance at the beginning, we’ve had to wait over half the movie for Krampus to arrive.

He does go about his bloody work and it’s quite interesting to see him out there and killing. He is a terrifying spectacle as he carries out the curse, accidentally killing a few people that weren’t on the list… A weird pumpkinhead-like mixup, and the king wants to terminate the contract. That isn’t going to happen so 10 years pass, and we’re back to that prologue… Remember? It’s a great way to book end this movie and how to make it genuinely poignant.

Big problem here, is all of Warren’s medieval films really look so similar. It’s the same woods, the same cast, the same pagan huts, the same cast. The color grading and the composition is the same, and at this point Warren is really overusing those overhead drone shots of the English countryside. I feel like every establishing shot is one of these overheads, and they come every five minutes. They’re beautiful, but they were beautiful the first twenty times and now I’m seeing this shot too often. Still, the Krampus makes for one of the best monsters I’ve seen any of her films… Which makes the title “Pagan Warrior“ all the more confusing.

When I think pre-Christian soldier, I may think Viking and Northern, but I don’t think Krampus. And he does appear to be the titular pagan warrior of the film. It’s not a particular Christmassy film though , so perhaps that’s why they chose not to use the name Krampus in the title. Still it seems like it would give it a little more push. In any event, I enjoy seeing him as part of Warren’s pantheon of monsters, and I’m genuinely hoping will see a return of this creature in a modern day setting, alongside her scarecrows and mermaids and leprechauns and tooth fairy.



Cyber Bride

There’s a real wisdom in starting off the movie with them people building the robot. It’s feeling a lot like Doctor Who but on the other end of the credits we got recently separated man who is in the process of divorce and everything is just ugly. It’s frustrating now that he just takes it out on his robot… One that looks like his wife. At least, until she tosses a hairdryer in his bath!

After some establishing shots, we finally get to a young man who is henpecked by his older sister who seems to be there almost enough to be a roommate. It’s enough that he’s considering life with a robot, and he discusses it with the roommate all while watching one of Louisa Warren’s scarecrow movies. (interesting bit of self referential Easter egging but I can’t decide if it’s cute or self indulgent. Our universal YouTuber is there too, giving advice.)

There’s a couple of texts while new girlfriend is being built, and eventually, she arrives in a large box full of plastic popcorn. There’s a surprising amount that needs to be assembled on site. It’s a nice touch… Considering the amount of effort I had to put into assembling my new 3-D printer, I totally relate!

He fires her up, patterned after an old girlfriend, and behind the scenes we can see the previous personalities in there.
It’s gonna be slow going as she starts to normalize… He’s warned as much by the manufacturer. We get a quick flashback to some of the murderous malfunctions, but surely, it’ll be OK this time, right?

Also, it really doesn’t like pets.

We start to suspect something might be wrong when one of his friends stops by too… almost… deliver a warning but it doesn’t matter, he’s invested in this replica of his ex. This is important, they spent a lot of time establishing them emotional connection to this robot…  there’s a connection here… But it’s awkward. Off.

In the background though, the robots are confused about the fact that humans kill… And kill each other. This robot is asking those questions. And it is this very kind of misunderstanding that leads to the killing in the third act.

Ultimately, it may be a little bit more simplistic in its thought process of why a robot goes wrong, but it also goes it’s own direction and that really is to its benefit. I wasn’t expecting horror here, but we got a nice balance between that and the side story, and it ends up being a story it’s really well done. It still feels kind of like a dollar tree movie, but one of the superior ones that makes me happy when I see them.




Scarecrow’s Revenge

Scarecrows revenge opens a little differently this time. Louisa Warren has a flair for bloody and exciting precredits sequence, but this one maybe one of her best. A nice overhead drone shot of sun soaked corn fields, and a man farming and working out there. Bloody rags amongst the stalks near a scarecrow, changed this time with more of a face on the mask, and prodigious claws extending from the hands. The garb of the farmers is medeval, leather Jerkins and corsets. They are gathering corn for the local Nobel and getting ready to head to his castle.

Then, just out of eyesight, the farmer spies a dark shape moving within the rows of corn. Out of the green, come to the dark scarecrow, with a scythe to cut down the farmer, and come for his daughter.

The credits announced at 1810 in southern England. Oh my God, it’s going to be a period piece! This makes sense, she’s just come off of some Viking movies, so the resources were there. Still, it’s quite ambitious, and absolutely not what I was expecting.

Outside the village, one of the renegades, a homeless low iq type assaults a girl. He’s banished and tied to a scarecrow… And at that point I realize what’s happening. We’re seeing the origin of the monster. A witch helps him escape,… Beautiful effect, with her face slightly shifting constantly. She’ll grant him vengeance in exchange for his soul, and his body is payment for the company (That’s not the double entendre it sounded like), and unleash the curse.

The woods are no longer safe, because that’s where the scarecrow dwels.

This variation works really well. Surprisingly so, because I would’ve expected transplanting into a different era to feel gimmicky. But because we know the history, it really only enhances the story… And the scarecrow itself looks more terrifying than ever in the medieval garb. Louisa Warren is successfully pulling an army of darkness here, creating something that looks and feels very different from the rest of her franchise, and yet fits in perfectly. And they don’t lack for kills. However, I’m very glad for the greater lore here. It’s a trend that Warren would start to follow from here on out, with expansive and interesting backstory for all of her monsters.



Tooth Fairy (and not the one with The Rock)

My first impression was to winder if this movie had anything to do with the 2003 film Darkness falls. The look of the monster on the cover is very evocative of the Tooth fairy from that movie and you never know with sequels. However, this production has nothing to do with the 2003 film. It’s a very different kind of movie and definitely it’s own thing (and don’t put too much stock in that cover either. The actual monster looks very little like it)

the Tooth fairy begins with a family running from something – a dark, shape changing entity entity that has come for their family and can only be sated with a sacrifice – in this case the mother. It’s a moody and creepy intro, as we push through the credits and fast forward to the present. the little girl who witnessed this is a grandmother now, but estranged from her daughter; partially because of her hard drinking, partially because she still scared of the demon – the Tooth Fairy.

Daughter Carla returns home to the family farm (you may recognize her and the farm from Bride of the Scarecrow) to connect with her mother (who looks young enough to be her sister, rather than her mother). She’s mostly here to collect her son’t birth certificate, and isn’t intrested in visiting. She’s got a lot of baggage. Mom sent her and her sister away for some unknown reason (hint, it has to do with a certian demonic tooth fairy returning) when she was younger. The sister came back and died, and Carla holds all of this against her mother.

Hunky boyfriend shows up (You may remember him from his role as Hunky boyfriend to the same actress playing Carla in Bride of the Scarecrow as well.) to whisk Carla away into town and provide some distraction (and plot twists – you see, he was in love with her twin sister back in the day….) When she gets back, Carla discovers several eviction notices – Mom’s in trouble. the farm is falling apart and she’s about to be kicked out. Despite her ire, some concern starts to creep through. There’s bigger problems afoot though. In the gloom of the stables, the Tooth Fairy begins to rise.

The killings begin off the farm – she manages to slip into places looking like a trusting face. A nun. A girlfriend.  And she leaves a bloody scene behind. The neighbors beginning to realize what’s happening and coming, but there’s family drama going on back at the farm, blinding them. but as night descends, the Tooth fairy comes calling…and the only thing that can repel it is sugar.

And the only thing that can destroy it is fire. But is there a sacrifice?

I so amused to see the cast of the first Scarecrow movie coming back to the same set as that film to face down a different monster! It’s still early days for Warren and unfortunately her Tooth Fairy looks pretty awful. It feels like a repainted off the shelf mask from the Halloween store and it doesn’t do her story justice.

Still, there’s plenty of disturbing teeth cracking gore – enough that my wife had to leave the room, and a story that feels like it should be bigger. like there more potential for lore here. The twist of using sugar insted of salt for protection is just brilliant and there’s some really good ideas here. It’s well done enough to make me want to look up the other films in this series – and just my luck! They’re streaming on Tubi! We’ll be back!




The Viking War

I have to admit, I haven’t really been looking forward to the Viking movies. Nothing that I’m interested in, but I did ease in with Scarecrow three, so I still hope that this will be good

We get a early spoken prologue describing the Vikings and their fighting process, as well as the berserker ability to practically go into a trance and rampage. These berserkers have set up tournaments, a battle where any Viking that beats their challenger may walk free, but no one has succeeded… Until now.

We have a family that was confronted by the beserkers. They fight and they lose. Mother and Father were dragged away into captivity but the children are on the run. The first stop is a castle that should be friendly, but was overrun by the beserkers a day earlier. Meanwhile, back at the berserker camp father is trying to teach his son to be a warrior and to avenge the death of the battle. His son wants nothing of it and is nervous. All they have now, is rage. Rage, for revenge. Still, in the meantime they play their games with the prisoners, making them fight for their freedom. And elsewhere, they stalk the woods, like an ever present malevolent force, as pervasive as the trees.

Back at the camp, son breaks, and helps the Family. He frees the wife and attempts to escape but it goes badly and she is killed. With her last breath, she tasks him to go find rest herfamily and warn them… And protect them.

If the fighting and family saga isn’t enough, there’s subplots going on here as well. Strife inside the berserker clan, with one of the women warriors trying to steal the pack leader from his wife, and his son slowly falling in love with the daughter of the family on the run. It’s actually the sort of thing I think I would really love when I was younger. The low budget necessitates them spending most the time in the woods, but the Vikings them elves are noble, and the fighting more than adequately choreographed. I think if you were looking for something like the Vikings series on AMC, you may be disappointed. But if you’re going to this just looking for a fun, low budget adventure… A dollar tree movie, I think you could really enjoy this.



Curse of the Scarecrow

Curse of the scarecrow starts with a recap of the legend, just white text on a black screen much like in the previous film. Then we get some news, people murdered by the scarecrow, grass and a forlorn fellow in a very welsh sweater. More rustic farm than usual, and sweater boy with a gun slung over his arm and crows flocking in the background.

We also have a 20 year old woman talking with her psychiatrist… Trying to work through trauma see her family killed when she was six. It’s suggested that this may be one of the people from the first film’s prologue and the shrink suggests she go back home to try and work out her fears. Her brother thinks this is a terrible idea, particularly since he still trying to hunt that scarecrow. Doesn’t matter though she’s coming anyhow, and he’s about to lose his last fight with the scarecrow.

With her brother dead, it’s time to make the pilgrimage home. The Scarecrow is waiting, killing time by murdering people who wander into the land, or try and make a nookie in the barn. You know, the usual stuff. She’s brought some friends with her as well that way we can have a higher body count. It’s always fun to see the Director, Louisa Warren taking a role in one her films. And I’m amused watching her run around the house at night in dalmatian pajamas.

In the morning, the therapist decides it would be a good idea to try hypnotism to try and get out the truth of what happened. She regresses her to the day that her parents died and she describes seeing a scarecrow murdering them as she and her brother hide in the barn.

In the meantime, best friend finds scarecrow in the barn, along with news clippings, every 20 years. She brings June down to look at the scarecrow kind of to try and Face her fears and it’s frustrating her therapist. Therapist finally decide to come up here, and drag her out, also to try and make her face her fears… grabbing a scarecrow and ripping the mask off of it. Except there’s the missing girl that the scarecrow killed the night before. All the sudden they realize it’s all real all of it. And now it’s a fight to survive the night. 

Actually is improvement over Bride of the Scarecrow. They’ve managed to go a great deal more creepy and really lean into the gloom and strangeness of the whole affair. It still makes the best use possible of returning monster and the franchise feel. It’s genuinely good stuff, and it’s got me excited for the final installment.




Bride of the Scarecrow

Legends say victims have been taken when they walk his lands. Those that are lucky to escape will be haunted for the rest of your life.

Some aren’t so lucky.

A scarecrow walks the field searching for his bride, who died at the same time he did, in the wilds of the welsh farms.

A group of women, alone at the farm, are  just waiting for what’s happening… the time the scarecrow will rise. When he does, he’ll have 48 hours to kill anyone who runs his land., And it’s time for the youngest daughter to learn to be a protector as well.

Nevertheless, that night, they all disappear… And the property moves into the possession of the next of kin. A woman who is disillusioned with her job in life, but didn’t even know she’s a part of this family. She her friends go up to sign the papers and visit the property. In the distance, the scarecrow watches.

There’s blood in the stalls, and a creepy YouTuber up on the computer describing the legend of the scarecrow. In the barn, black crows caw ominously, and the owner gets her first glimpse of the scarecrow stored in that building. It’s playing possum for now, but slowly springs to life to watch her leave, and dispatch the local drifter who is acting as doomsayer for the film.

That evening, we hear a little bit more about the family curse, and one of the friends wants to do a séance to try and some of the scarecrow. This seems like a remarkably bad idea to me, but that’s kind of how these movies go. Outside, scarecrow is ready for action. Inside, he’s already set the scene yes he’s searching for his bride…

Rose petals on the bed boyfriend. Scarecrow is none too pleased to see the boyfriend kissing up on his woman, and goes to stalk some other areas of the house. Dissonant organ music plays in the back ground, and all the friends decide to go out and search for a missing person.

There’s a trail of flower petals in the stable in the area lights emanating. A note that the friends are invited to a wedding peers, and in a stall, they find girlfriend dressed as a bride and Shackled. 
It’s time for the killing to start.

The scarecrow is ever present, everywhere and unbound and unstoppable and the killing spree goes actually surprisingly quickly.

Finally, the girl comes searching for her friend. She looks enough like her ancestor that he’s mistaking her for incarnation. And they walk down the aisle, the hallway at the stables, lined with candles and the dead bodies of her friends. It’s beautifully framed and a great slasher look. Even the horse that they couldn’t hide in the background stall seems to be quite impressed. He keeps nodding his head all through the wedding ceremony. 

She manages to break free and escape, but will it be enough, and can she stop the curse in time?

I actually came into this in the wrong order.I watched the Tooth Fairy films first, even  though those don’t start until after the first two Scarecrow movies. That’s interesting, because we have this entire cast returning for the first installment of the tooth fairy series. Several of the film beats replicated, including the climax. Also, get used to this Farm and stables. You’re going to be seeing a lot of it in the next few films.

It’s not a perfect film. It’s clumsy in some ways, but you can see some real skill in lighting and cinematography here. It’s a simple story… Much simpler than some of the Warren’s world building that she’d dabble in later, but ultimately the film is satisfactory as a one-off.
Of course, it wasn’t a one-off… And I’m genuinely curious to see where we go now in the sequels.


The Apocalypse

Apocalypse starts off with campers watching a shooting star. Well, it’s not just a shooting star, it’s not just a little meteor, it’s the end of the world! Teeny fiery meteors falling from the sky, killing people individually with the smaller ones, and smashing houses with the bigger ones, until finally one large enough to destroy a city vaporizers Monterey.

They’re messing with the radios as well, and disrupting atmosphere.
Because of this pollen meteor, all eyes are in the sky… The one that fell already was as big as a house. And the one that’s following it in four days is as big as the size of Texas… An extinction starter.

We are introduced to A park ranger and his estranged wife, who’re trying to get to their daughter and her college friends down in LA. But right now they have got bigger worry… Toxic ash and a landslide near their home, And a tornado near their daughters. Even stranger, people are vanishing.

I don’t see any real story here. The film just drifts from scene to scene with the disaster as the background rather than being the main thrust.
It’s a very talky movie, with some strange religious overtones. Not specifically Christian… But more, someone who maybe thinks they know what Christianity is from watching Hallmark movies and UP TV? Considering the Asylum makes terrible horror and sci-fi movies, trust them to mess up religious one too huh?

Ultimately, It serves as a good example of how boring a rural disaster movie can be. That’s really more the province of urban films. Buildings collapsing, cars crashing, fire and smoke in… The end of the world! This is just a tornado here and there superimposed on the background. A sinkhole… CG cracks in the street. People huddling in the wreckage, but no real spectacular destruction. Even when L.A. gets flooded by title waves… It’s quick and terrible CGI. Oh, and everyone dies at the end when the big one hits.

I really don’t know who this movie is for. I’m not a disaster movie fan, so OK, maybe that’s part of my problem, but it’s not for the horror fans. And if you were going to make a movie for Christian audience, you’ve got to actually get the theology right. And the theology in this thing is all over the place…(People don’t get raptured here and there just as they die….or suddenly believe.. I know of no beliefe like that. Even the mid-trib folks don’t go there) I don’t really feel like this was made by believers, but rather by somebody who saw the Left Behind films and thought they’d take a crack at it.

Part of me really wants to give Jones a bit of a pass, because it’s his first film. I think you’d be more likely to get that pass from me if it weren’t for these so severely botched theology in here and the pandering attempt at a religious movie when you obviously knew nothing of their beliefs. This thing is just bad. Pass. Skip. Runaway. Avoid at all costs.

Assistant (Dirty Work)

Assistant is a strange film, unlike anything Louisa Warren has done. What makes it stranger is that it’s her first directorial attempt, and while I can see some of her DNA in it, it’s not the sort of horror or  fantastic storytelling I usually associate with her.

It’s a story of a young woman who is trying to break into the fashion industry, and lands a job as a personal shopper for a new author. She quickly finds herself sinking into an S&M world of degradation and depravity. The film Effortlessly glides from the Devil wears Prada into Fifty Shades of Grey, into full on Eyes Wide Shut territory.

This is where things are a little unusual. Warren’s films never seem to have any nudity. There’s been sex in a lot of them, but it’s not generally designed me really titillating. Rather, it’s perfunctory and design to underscore a plot point. This film however, is definitely designed to be a erotic, particularly from a woman’s point of view. We have slow long shots over chiseled abs and statuesque features, with just a hint of 5 o’clock shadow. The truth is, it is central to this plot, even as the domination and sexuality goes more extreme.

Nevertheless, there’s also a feeling like the actual act isn’t dwelt upon. The imagery is, but It’s more about pretty pictures than the actual schtupping. It’s uncomfortable.

The film lacks the budget of a film like Sliver, to make it classy and respectful. Nevertheless, it never quite sinks to the level of porn. But the cheap lingerie and flat lighting does make it feel trashy. On the other hand, that may well be the intent. We spent a lot of time focusing on the eroticism. The film is built around that, but nevertheless, the third act still goes a little crazy. Pushing a crime of passion, and culminating in a climax that was predictable, is more than proficiently pulled off. There’s some intriguing machinations that play out, elevating this to more than just late night Cinemax fare.

I’m glad that I found this last. It goes by the name Dirty Work as well as Assistant, and I had a hard time locating it until it finally popped up on Tubi. The fact that there is a more recent film also called Assistant, didn’t help any. It’s a sort of movie I probably would’ve turned off very early on and never sought out this director again, but finding it at the end of my film reviews, it becomes an interesting juxtaposition of what Warren would do as she progressed as a filmmaker in her career. I can’t say its a recommend, unless you’re genuinely interested in where Louisa Warren came from as a director.



Louisa Warren

This year we’re focusing on Louisa Warren, a european indie filmmaker who have been especially prolific over the past few years. She burst on the scene in 2018 with three films, and then released a staggering six movies in 2019. Since then, she’s consistently released a couple of films every year, at a pace that’s shockingly impressive for an indy studio.

What I’m really enjoying is the shared universe she is trying to create as she transforms traditional fairy tale creatures into monster franchises, such as her Scarecrow, Tooth Fairy and Leprechaun series. Working with the same sets and a repeating troupe of actors, Warrens films quickly become familiar and comfort food. She’s not shy about gore, but goes hard on lore and really plays to her strengths.

It’s going to be a fun year as we explore her significant filmography.


Dance macabre

o_dance-macabre-dvd-90s-gory-horror-movie-0135I’m going to flat out say this – dance macabre may be Graydon Clark’s greatest film. Robert England as the centrepiece here is magnificent obviously, but the Russian setting and the ballet and the atmosphere… It all works so well. It’s a magnificent spectacle overlaid on an inspired mystery. This is not horror.  This is not adventure, it’s not even mystery. It’s a thriller. It’s one of those rare moments where Clark has everything working – all the engines are firing on all cylinders and it just comes together beautifully.

The story is about an American Dancer who arrives at the Russian ballet school (with her father twisting her arm all the way) to study ballet. It’s the first time they’ve opened the doors to outsiders in ages…. Possibly ever. All around her though, people begin to die – until the schools closes and she remains the only student, with an obsessed instructor hellbent on getting her an audition. Its brilliant drama, highly atmospheric and engauging the whole way through.

There’s talk that this was originally meant to be a sequel to Englund’s Phantom of the opera. I’m not sure of the truth or baseness of this tale, but I can certainly see where someone might get that idea. It’s not just Phantom that I see influences from though, I get glimpses of Susperia her as well. It all melds together to create a supremely satisfying package. Seriously, Clark has no better films on this.

Bad Folks


“from the childhood hour it conceived a ring, from the fatherhood hour I met the thing. It feast on sin and there it grew, the demon I made, a death in view.”
Can I just say that’s a little pretentious and high value For a Michael Crum film? (also for a production that lists itself as “saka marbles films” )

This graffiti is scrolled on the bare wall near door 147, and sits there, stark at we begin our film

Someone’s taking a beating out there from  Carlos, a Sort of Indian gangster type who heads into the bar. There’s a couple people there. All ordinary architects. Selfie girl, a dopey blonde with her token gay friend, bartender, and preppies after a business deal. There’s a stage for band’s, but nobody’s playing tonight, just the jukebox it sounds like

Carlos gets a little obnoxious with the girls, Although I gotta say,  the verbal Pacing is a bit off, And that’s something that crumb should be able to catch by now in the edit.

The business deal isn’t going to well either. The 2 guys were trying to sell porn to a distributor… except the guy is just a drunken mess, and the dialog just gets increasingly bizarre.

Thanks to the little stranger from there, and we learn a valuable lesson – never arm wrestle with somebody who’s getting belligerent with you. Things get a little stabby, and a fight breaks out. But that’s just normal bar side shenanigans. What isn’t, is the guy at the end of the bar Suddenly coughing blood and dropping dead.

And there’s the set up. 6 strangers in a bar with a dead body. And things are gonna get a lot uglier before they get any better, as all the secrets come out.

The shotgun blast to the leg, and the stabbed arm are good, bloody effects. Exactly what I expect from Crum, but the photography is off. The whole thing is run off of a very shaky stedi cam, And the framing is wild. People’s heads are constantly getting cut off, the camera isn’t panning and following enough, I understand this you’re supposed to come off as stylized, but to do stylized, you have to do  It with style. This comes off as sloppy.

It’s an interesting subject with slightly more elevated material, and Crumb is swinging for the fences here, trying to make a tense thriller. It’s all about these people trapped together, who’s gonna take the blame, who was the murderer and who is innocent. It’s a locked room mystery. That’s smart too, Crums using his resources efficiently with a small cast and a single setting, but I’m not certain that hes quite talented enough to pull it off. There’s still a lot of his grindhouse horror style pervading it. Basically hes sticking with what he knows. In a lot of ways, it feels very similar to VFW, but with smaller stakes and a more closed space. It’s one of those movies where I’m glad I saw it, but I can’t imagine seeking it out if I weren’t specifically watching this director’s catalog. Still, it’s the sort of thing where I still want to watch Crum grow, and see where he goes from here.


Anna Two aka The Devil’s Fairground aka Freaky Links

Anna two starts off with something horrible happening in the dark. I’m not sure what, because it’s too dark. Flash over to a graveyard where our hero in glasses (Jacob, part of our pair of heroes from the previous film) is standing over someone’s freshly dug a grave. He then mournfully rides his bike off into the sunset. Or the credits. We appear to be in the middle of a pitch session for Freaky Links – the YouTuber’s site name. Flash back to the previous film, to get us context… But this time they’re off to a haunted amusement park… after the crashing a rival ghost hunters investigation.

Turns out, that this group, Spooky Links, used to work with them… They were all employed by Ryan, the gentleman in the grave from the beginning. He left the business and equipment a Spooky Links and Freaky Links are not real happy about that. But now they’re also trying to bury the hatchet, on the anniversary of Ryan’s death, and maybe recruit them to all work together to tackle the park.

They start things off with a stop along the way to visit a demon possessed girl. It kind of goes badly.. there’s blood on the ceiling, gory make up and several gags thrown in. Apparently you don’t make holy water just by soaking a Bible and a bowl of water…
I mean, you kind of can, but it seems to more just piss them off. They’ve definitely got the evil’s attention now, even as they defeat the possessed girl, the haunting follows them to the Local bar.

Anyhow it’s time to investigate the devils fairground.  

Inside, the fairground looks more like your local Haunted House than an actual amusement park. It’s ramshackle buildings with smoking lights and lots of bloody, grotesque monsters. Crumb is going for uglier and more shocking monsters than he’s ever done before. It’s all about imagery. Seriously, we’ve left story well in the rear view mirror. But something interesting happens around the hour mark.

We got some foreshadowing a while back about the ghost hunters wondering what ghosts really are… What happens when you cross over… That sort of stuff. The third act attempts to explore that, sending a team into Crumb’s vision of the netherworld. It’s a bold move, the sort of thing we see very rarely, Hellraiser two, or The Beyond. He attempts to pull this off with sheer audacity and force of will, and while he doesn’t entirely succeed, he doesn’t entirely fail either. It requires a normal suspension of disbelief, but at this point I’m kind of ready to cut him some slack. He also has a good sense not to linger too long before moving onto the next threat, and get back to ghost hunting.

Or is it that the ghosts are hunting them?

You know, this is actually a better movie then it seems like. It’s got flaws, massive flaws, but there’s some interesting stuff to unpack and you can actually see the development of Crum as a filmmaker. I kind of want to revisit around Halloween when I’m hitting the haunted houses, because the imagery is just so familiar. It’s one of those movies were I’d kind of like to see what he could do with a bigger budget, I think he’s almost ready for it.



Digging up the Marrow

mv5bmjm3ndc3mjc1ml5bml5banbnxkftztgwmjm4mja5mze-_v1_sy999_cr00672999_al_Of all of his films, Digging up the Marrow maybe my favorite Adam Green feature. But there is a caveat, I’m a fan of the director….we’ll get that in the moment.

Digging Up The Marrow is a mockumentary done in a semi found footage style about a man chasing monsters. Real ones. Actually, more like deformed people with some spectacular deformities that have established an underground culture that is very rarely discover. The man, Dekker, has enlisted the help of a filmmaker – Adam Green himself – to document and uncover these creatures. Along the way we discover Adam is not the first film maker he’s tried to enlist, and that there is more to this story then he’s telling.

It’s a wonderful tale, creepy and suspenseful. There are twists here and there and it keeps you engaged the whole way through – but here’s the thing, because Adam chose to use himself and his studio as characters in the film, it really appeals to his fan base.  For those of us who have kind of gotten to know him through things like his podcast and Holliston and the shorts on his Ariescope website, we already have a connection to the character that he is playing. We walk into it with that affection and interest. This is not to say that the film is inaccessible to the casual viewer, however it is going to be more work for an outsider to develop that sympathy for the character than it is for the fans. Adam is a very sympathetic character indeed, and I think this is still going to work whether you know who he is or not. But it really does work so much better if you do already know him. For Adam Green fans, I think this is really is epitome – it is his masterpiece and is love letter to the fans. I’ve saved this for last for a reason – I want you to experience his other films, I want you to watch Holliston, and I want you to understand him as a filmmaker… And to some extent as a person. That’s what’s really going to make this film pop for you it’s what’s really going to make you care about it. It really is my favorite of all of his films, with the best monsters and creepiest creatures that you will see.



garfield-a-tail-of-two-kitties-2006-medium-coverThe Garfield films get a lot of hate and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s just the normal backlash at the kids films with CG characters….I don’t know. What I do know is that when the first Garfield film came out, I was hooked. I’m a lifelong fan of the character and I loved what  Iwas seeing. It was funny and sassy and it really FELT like Garfield (apparently a lot of people disagred). My main complain was that the dog Odie, was real and not CG (not enough budget for him to also be a cartoon apparently)

I was shocked when I heard there would be a sequel.

Director Tim Hill has taken a lot of the criticisms from the first movie and addressed them. Odie is still not a cartoon, but there’s WAY less of him. Garfield doesn’t dance (except for a goofy bit at the end) and there’s more of him. Twice as much in fact.

It’s a simple twin swapping story, Garfield takes the place of one of the royal cats of England, trying to save the family manor. Our villain, in a brilliant bit of casting, is Billy Connally who manages not to die in a film for once.

I kind of feel bad for Hill on this one, because while he crafts a funny and entertaining film, this one seemed doomed from the start with the bad press from the first and Bill Murry’s reluctance to come in for the voice – I think the studio expected this to do meager numbers. The movie deserves better. Hill treats the material with respect and is more than just a hired gun on this one. Seriously, if you have good memories of watching the Garfield holiday specials on TV, you should check this out – especially if you have kids!

Lake Fear 3

You know how a lot of the times, these dollar store movies have a spectacular cover that the film can’t possibly live up to? Sometimes it’s the opposite, and the cover just doesn’t do the movie justice.

At first glance, Lake Fear 3 looks like it’s going to be a ghost hunters knock off. We begin with spooky intro credits from one of those ghost hunting shows on discovery, complete with a goofy cameraman doing his thing. We pull out of the TV and into a bar where people are watching the program. A man wanders in, ripped shirt, and bloody. His name is Remmington and he brings  some surprise gore and demons with him. While I’m confused and don’t know for the life of me what’s going on, I sure do like it.

We cut to the credits burning in the sky over a spectacular drone shot, and switch to a desolate phone booth and gas station. A girl is trying to post “missing” posters in this one horse town, and one of the locals tells her that if the person in those posters was lost around here, she’s just dead.

The girl, Revol jumps in the car with her friend Chloe and they race off to plaster their missing signs all through downtown. One of the places there, a local opera house is hosting an appearance by the ghost hunter, Vincent, from the opening credits. He’s unsuccessfully trying to hock autographs, but opportunity and another great drone shot are laying right around the corner for him, as the girls come to meet him.
“Can you find her sister who’s been missing for three years?” Chloe asks. She’s sure he’s a scam, but is willing to pay his expenses if he’ll even just make something up to give Revol closure
Suddenly, a shotgun blast rocks tonight and everybody runs to the window. There’s a woman holding a man at bay, it’s our bloody torn shirt guy Remmington from the beginning. She tells him to go back where he came from,  declaring she’s heard talk about a man who shows up at night and brings only death with him
“It’s my right to refuse service to anyone! Especially Hellspawn!”
Remmington warns that they need to get inside, and Revol tries to grab the gun from the woman… But it goes off in her shoulder. The shotgun wound is the least of her worries though as she melts into a terrifying monster who attacks Chloe. Remmington just looks sad as Vincent stares in shock and awe. He turns and flees into the restaurant, with the monster in pursuit. He grabs up the nearest object to use as a weapon… It happens to be somebody’s leg. The Revol creature speaks noise and its eyes glow looking into his soul. It’s almost a laughing, mocking sound. Suddenly the leg morphs, becoming a creature itself and attacking the ghost hunter, who struggles with it through the misty darkness of the restaurant.

The next 10 minutes are full on, gore fueled, relentless, monster attacks. It’s largely practical as well, with Aftereffects really only providing glowing elements to the whole affair. And just when you think they can’t keep this pace up, they do.

Vincent and Remmington toss Chloe into the backseat, bandaging her up as best they can and head out. No one‘s talking much, everyone’s pretty well in shock. Everyone that is, except Remmington. It’s not enough to flee though, monster Revol materializes in the car and goes after Chloe again. The evil is following them. A quick shotgun blast to the face is enough to propel her through the window and out of the car, but monster Revol picks herself up and puts her self back together, getting ready for another go around.

46 minutes in, we get our explanation. Apparently Remmington went on vacation to a cabin and unleash some unspeakable evil from the TV that now follows him (The flashback is inexplicably told in a bizarre and cheap looking flash animation). Now his plan is to lure it back to its own home, and he’s going to need Vincent and Chloe to help.

Remmington creates a circle of protection, then summons the evil which looks like a fleshy bloody garbage bag, spitting and growling at them. The shotgun does no good. Chloe breaks and flees as Vincent stands confused. Remmington is blinded by the blood the creature is spitting, and takes time to recover; then attacks, charging the creature which vanishes into the darkness. Vincent is bitten though, and the wound begins to twist and morph, a monster emerging from the shoulder. He gingerly picks at it with his fingers removing it as the possessions spreads over the side of his body. The creature re-emerges and Remmington bludgeons it with the shotgun. Vincent seems to be free of its hold once Remmington has administered the beat down.
Time to return to the cabin, (We never actually see a lake Do we? Because of the name of the film, I assume there’s a lake outside the cabin but really, we can’t be sure!) where the final battle will be fought. It plays out mostly in darkness, and mostly by the Foley artists. Still, considering everything we’ve seen so far, leaving us in the dark is quite effective here, allowing our imaginations to supply us much of the climax, and makes the sudden monster reveals that much more effective.
Unlike Lake Fear 2, Lake Fear 3 is in fact an actual honest to God sequel, made by Michael and Gerald Crum who show an enormous amount of growth both in technical skill and the storytelling ability in the four years since their original effort.

I’ve read in several synopses that Revol is looking for her sister who originally went to the evil cabin… I can only assume they’re referring to one of the four girls in the original film, because this movie was shot in Texas (and it LOOKS like Texas), where as part two is obviously in Florida. Still, the connection is never firmly made, and the film could’ve benefited from a stronger tie to the original Lake Fear. Likewise, I’m perplexed at why our flashback scenes were these weird flash animations rather than simply cutting to shots of the original film. It’s been the same distributor all along, I would hope that that would smooth over any rights issues.

The filmmakers very much wear their influence on their sleeves, you can totally see Evil Dead and The Thing represented here. While I criticize the make up in the original, Gerald Crum’s creature FX in this are stunning and excellent. The monsters are every bit as chaotic as what we see in Carpenters The Thing, and many of these effects shots are comparable. There’s a definite Evil Dead vibe once we get to the cabin, but these creatures supersede anything that I ever saw in Raimi’s classic. I love it when people succeed, and Michael and Gerald Crum have both knocked it out of the park with this one. It’s astonishing what a difference four years makes.

Of the three films, this is far and away the best, and worth sitting through the first two to discover this one, And it’s enough to actually make me want to go back and take a second look at the original Lake Fear!

Kenny and company

Kenny_&_Company_FilmPosterI will readily admit that I can’t exactly call this the first film entirely though it’s one of Coscarellis earliest released works – it’s preceded by Jim the worlds greatest, but I’ve never got my hands on a copy of that one… This is a quintessential 70s film – and in a lot of ways it’s childhood in the 70s as viewed through the eyes of someone who was a child in the late 50s… There is still an idealized neighborhood, where everyone knows everyone else on the street and children all played together, building soapbox racers in planning their Halloween costumes… There’s always​ The younger kid tagging along with the older ones wanting to see how things work and be a part of the world. Kenny and Company also documents the first awakening of romance, that first crush and the desire to get to know the girl – and kiss her. It’s from a period, where childhood and adulthood are still far more firmly separated than they are today.
tumblr_inline_nea2y1jZsm1sqr9zcMike Baldwin from Phantasm is in this film, but he isn’t the supporting lead… he’s the secondary lead. However he is very much playing the prototype of the character that he would later immortalize in the phantasm films… Indeed I can see this as being what his character would have been like in those films if he hadn’t been haunted by the mysterious tall man. He’s handy with a hammer, foul mouthed, Brave and brash.

There is a sort of dreamlike quality to a lot of the film, a Coscarelli trademark.  Still, the dialogue ring is very true and it’s definitively in Coscerelli’s style. In the end, I found myself entranced– completely sucked in.  I genuinely didn’t expect to like it as much as I maxresdefaultdid… These days, this is a perpetual Halloween watch… And interesting drama, mixed in with my normal slate of horror films. This is a must watch, if you can get your hands on it.

Fall of Grace

Fall of Grace starts off well enough. Interesting credits that shiver and shake over news reports of a demonic attack. There’s a weariness about our characters, as a fight goes on under a blue filter. They don’t waste any time getting our victem possessed on the other side of the credits. She talks through a mirror to a shadow behind her, and it’s painfully casual.

Fight club still going on in the darkness of rooftop, and we cut back-and-forth between that and the girl talking to her imaginary friend. It’s almost reminiscent of the child that speaks to the demonic pig in the Amityville horror. Green glows from her closet, and its door opens by itself. She leaves the room, and wanders the empty house, searching for her wayward mother. A light snaps on in the kitchen, but there’s no one there. Just her imaginary friend in the green glow. It wants to go somewhere. 

What happens next is actually pretty shocking.

We fast forward to a month after the horrifying events and the parents are still recovering. Mom’s drinking and dad studying the occult. Dad tells Mom he’s going to get their daughter back… as he plunges the knife into his arm. She’s drunk enough that it doesn’t even phase her. He heads out to the garage and draws a circle in blood and begins a ritual. The effects are bloody with flashes of scary imagery, and really the exact thing that Crum excels at.

Dad shifts the demon into his drunken wife, and proceeds to torture it. To be fair, the demon has it coming… It’s got a mouth full of smack talk, and disturbing images.. it’s really what Trump does best, reading grotesque imagery… But at the same time he makes a rookie mistake and lingers on it for far too long. Fortunately, it pauses once the chainsaw comes out. He’s now in a garage full of dead girls, lit only by a lantern. It allows them to throw a jump scare here or there and go subtler.

And that’s just the first half hour!

Back in the girls room, creepy dolls open their eyes and stare at him. The closet opens, and something comes out. It claws him and flashes in an out of existence,  there is the sound of a music box in the distance and it’s long white teeth create a mocking and garish grin.

Chainsaw. Threats. Time for real exorcists to get involved.  We have an old priest and a young priest! Of course kid exorcist’s elder tells him it’ll never work. You can’t trust evil. It doesn’t matter, he’s going to try and rescue the girl. For a spiritual battle though, this is awfully physical, with some serious violence going on… And a flair for the fantastic.

While kid exorcist is getting beaten up and his eyes ripped out, the dad is getting worked over by the cops, one of whom was having affair with his wife. Finally they let him go, and he comes home to discover the bloodied priest there… Still offering to help him get his daughter back.
It’s the old priest’s turn next, and it ends up as bloody as any of the previous encounters. Dad comes to the rescue with chains and a stake through the heart. The young priest, now blind, prays and a fiery portal to hell erupts out of the ground. It’s still not enough, and the demon gets away. 

“What gives you the notion that pathetic humans could take me down?”
Time for the final boss fight. He’s waiting for Dad in the girls room with her.
Crum is working with some new techniques here, really experimenting with compositing and camera speeds to create a stuttered jerky look. Nevertheless, it’s got his distinct touch to it… Particularly when we look at the monsters. Their bloody and misshapen, gruesome to the extreme. There’s some discipline though, creating several distinct looks and recognizable monsters. It’s a film that shows all polish and some restraint on crumbs part. Rather than the unfiltered lunacy that we get in his Lake Fear movies. It’s and unmistakable growth as a filmmaker, and one of the better films he’s done.




Jim, the Worlds Greatest



The “teen movie” really came into its own in the 80s with the John Hughes series. Jim the worlds greatest predates that. It’s a sort of film that lays the groundwork for what the teen movie would become. Don Coscarelli’s touch really shows through in this movie with his signature dreamlike quality, tracking a non-linear path through the story. In this way you can actually tell this is from the same director that made Phantasm.  Such themes are only reinforced by the fact that it’s a story of an older brother watching out for his younger brother… Indeed the entire thrust of the film is an older brother, probably a senior in high school who is already taking on the responsibilities that really should belong to the delinquent father of this piece.

Jim World’s Greatest also has a sort of meandering slice of life quality to it… There’s no 18A-Rory-1024x774real narrative or story here, there’s just life as we drift from set piece to set piece. It’s much  the same technique he would employ in his next film; Kenny and Company. Just drifting, at least, until the third act – when things get serious.

I didn’t expect this to be a comedy, but I’ll admit I didn’t expect it to get as intense as it did either. Angus Scrimm gives a performance of a lifetime here, grim and depressing as the out-of-work father who occasionally gets drunk and beats his kids. We really only get to know the present-day father, the failure… and we know it wasn’t always like this. We get glimpses of him during happier days trough flashbacks – it’s an impressive juxtaposition that Scrimm delivers brilliantly.

Reggie Banister (who apparently never had hair on top) shows up as well, giving one of hqdefaultthe most lunatic and wacky performances I’ve ever seen him do. It’s a little more than a cameo as a crashed wind rider, but man it’s always nice to see a familiar face.

In the end, it’s quite an emotional film – and it really shows Coscarelli’s skill. It almost makes me sad that he transitioned into low-budget and horror, and yet this is the kind of film that was ideally suited for the 1970s, and that era  would not last forever. It genuinely makes me wonder though, what Coscarelli would do with such material today. I’m not sure that he could even get it made – the era of emotional low-budget dramas in the theater seems to have passed, and thanks to Coscarelli’s negative experiences during his brief sojourn in to the studio system, he’s been jaded enough to never venture there again.

There is a definite evolution present here, a direct line from Jim the worlds greatest, through Kenny and Company, directly leading into Phantasm. Seriously, THAT’s the trilogy. You can see Coscarelli and his sensibilities develop while staying very true to the concepts that intrigued him, and it only reinforces my belief in how underrated this filmmaker is.




Nicely creepy doll for this, and it actually looks like the one on the cover. You get points for that. Also get points for not including any horror posters or dvds in our character’s room… Romcoms on the shelves, typical books and stuff. They lose points though for the shot on video tape look and the warning at the beginning that it’s “based on a true story”.

It’s a bare room… It looks like somebody tried to make up a basement space as a set. The sleeping girl finds the evil doll next door… And weird sounds.… It’s all just a very very bad memory.

A couple of paranormal fanboys discovered that the doll has been removed from the house and put in a paranormal museum. They take the tour, distract the guide and swipe the doll.

Turns out they are YouTubers… They’re going to do the seven days with a haunted doll. Except nothings really happening. Suddenly, they certainly realize the problem is, all the victims have been women.

They hit the bar and pick up a lady that just might be a working girl, and invite her back. She shows up in their basement hang-out early, while the guys are out grabbing a couple last-minute supplies. She chucks the doll out the door, and that’s when things go wrong. She killed in a disjointed blaze of images, and then vanishes. As far as the guys know, she just never showed up, and their next trip is out to a local witch. The witch summons the spirit of the doll, who kills and possesses her, a bizarre and bloody spectacle.

The guys wake up dazed and trapped in the witches underground basement layer… With the doll sitting in the corner and a message written in blood. “Find her, kill her”.
Time to put their paranormal tools to work. The Witch has been turned into a bizarre, head splitting monster that walks on all fours and is hunting them. The problem is, they can’t leave. The basement has trapped them, and the doors don’t actually lead out. It turns into a cat and mouse game in a possibly large seller, with occasional interesting set pieces.

The doll agrees to let them go if they’ll send her more women. They agree and run away, hoping to figure out something or just escape. They then visit a psychic to see if she can exorcise the doll, but she just becomes another victim. The monster in the house is growing, and when the guys realize their mistake they break back in to try and rescue her. But the monsters aren’t playing games anymore.

This feels to me like it was made by haunters. The maze-like quality of the cellar sets and the bloody set pieces, the dark and slimy monsters, the back lighting, it all feels like haunted house techniques. These guys are very good at their set pieces and I feel like this would be a great Halloween party movie… Plenty of creepy imagery that you can enjoy with the sound turned off.

The story is just about adequate, but never quite knows what it wants to be. They drift back-and-forth between horror and humor, never quite blending the two and frequently falling short with the humor. I feel like these guys have read some of David Wong’s books like John Dies at the End, and they wanted a couple of slacker losers as their funny main characters. It never quite tracks though. They’re held back by their location as well. It feels like they really only had some person’s basement to shoot in, and were constantly re-dressing it.

It’s worth seeing if there’s nothing better on television, and really for some of the effects. However, it fails to be funny or scary, and that’s a shame… Because in better hands, this might just be something.



The Hills Run Red

index.jpgOne of the things that I ‘m always struck by in Parker’s work is how he evolves and grows as a filmmaker. The Hills Run Red is the kind of film I almost expect him to make when not bound by the house style of Full Moon. There’s horror and thriller mixed together in this, with a grittier take than the sort of thing we’d seen before with him.

The Hills Run Red is the story of a young filmmaker trying to research and document the making and existence of a notorious cult film by the same name. To this end he tracks down the director’s daughter who is the only surviving cast member (shades of Manos!) and together with his small crew, they make the pilgrimage to where the movie was born.

There’s still buckets of blood and a masked killer in this film, but it’s far more layered images2.jpgthan The Dead Hate the Living. It’s not as straightforward a story, and it’s not really until you get to the end that you realize just how much misdirection there’s been here.

Mixing obsession, degradation while it twists the heroe’s journey archtype, the Hills Run Red may just be Parker’s best work.

I Like To Hurt People

indexI like to hurt people was billed as a documentary, and maybe it is… But Donald Jackson presents it as a linear narrative – far more like a feature than a documentary. It lends itself to this format, because of the inherently staged nature of wrestling, pushing a story line  right alongside the gladiatorial combat. Indeed, this feels familiar, with plenty of ringside interviews and grandstanding to inter cut between staged scenes .

We get backstage imagery of one Wrestler threatening the cameraman, spectators at the snack bar discussing the current match, backstage antics and the like. The most notable of these kind of scenes is one with wrestlers waiting in their car to meet their opponents. The camera captures perfectly, their shock when Andre the giant emerges, gargantuan and bigger than life from his ride. I’m going to go on record right now and say this movie is worth the watch just for this and to see more Andre.

In great part, this is the story of heel wrestler Edward Farhat, better known as the Sheik. In the early days of television, the Sheik almost single-handedly escalated the violence and commercial appeal of professional wrestling with a style that was “Hardcore” long before that genre of wrestling ever existed. Steve Slagle, a student of wrestling, wrote in The Ring Chronicle that ”perhaps no other wrestler is more responsible for influencing the current generation of ‘hardcore’ wrestling than the one and only Arabian madman known as the Sheik.” “I like to Hurt people” follows the 6 foot tall, 247 pound villain as he cuts through the wrestling world, changes managers and fights his way through with a showdown against Dusty Rhodes : the American Dream on the horizon. This is professional wrestling, it’s old images2school. It’s not the glitzy polished events we’re used to seeing with the WWE. These wrestlers are a barrel chested, big guys with less muscle definition, but every bit as much attitude and big personality as you have ever seen in any pro wrestling event. There is blood here too, not quite as much as you might see in the underground hard-core wrestling circuit that 42nd Street Pete promotes , but more than what you are probably  used to in your average royal rumble!

I find it particularly amusing to watch Andre the giant literally lift people up over his head and then toss them out of the ring.

In the background, we have the President of the “Stop the Sheik” movement attempting to derail the upcoming match, and get the Sheik out of the circuit. It’s a subplot that helps to hold the entire story together between matches. Interestingly enough, this wasn’s part imagesof the original pitch, but was added in years after the footage was shot to pad the run time and give the film more structure. Eventually the “Stop the Sheik” movement ends when the man behind it just… disappears!

Contrived subplots aside, there’s still plenty of interviews, giving you a clearer picture of why the wrestlers do what they do and what it means to them. It keep the film feeling like a documentary, even as it unfolds as more of a hybrid.

“It’s how I found true meaning. I like to hurt people”

Jackson isn’t content to just cover mainstream wrestling though, we get a side story about a female wrestler named “Heather Feather” who really wants to wrestle a man. Jackson documents  the arm wrestling match that leads to the images.jpgreal thing. We follow her into the ring for what is billed as the first pro wrestling match between a woman and a man. It’s a novelty act, but an Ernest one. Jackson not only covers women’s wrestling but also matches with little people – as brutal and pitched as any fight you can imagine.

Back on the mainstream circuit, trouble arises, and the shiek’s manager quits and has to be replaced by an even more colorful character. The Sheik continues on, bringing his boa constrictor with him to the ring and bowing to it before the matches. He rarely speaks, and what he does say is in Arabic, spoken in sinister tones. In the back on his limo, he and his manager ride off to the future.

When we talk about Donald Jackson, we usually like to focus on the bad films. But I’m going to come straight out and say this is a good movie. How can I tell? Because I don’t like wrestling. I may know some of the names because they are pop culture, but I do’t have any interest in the form or genre. Nevertheless, I was completely sucked in. I was riveted by this film on a subject I don’t care a bit for. It goes on Ebay from twenty to fifty dollars.Do your self a favor and scour the goodwill, salvation army and other thrift stores to find a battered old VHS copy of this.


Allegiance of Powers

From IMDB:

“Groups of super powered people begin a war that will bring the city they live in crumbling down. Allegiances of super powered people fight for control of a young girl, who holds the ultimate power to control anything and everyone in the city. They will begin a war that in the end could bring the entire city crumbling down.”

Flat out, I’ve been looking forward to this one. Allegiance to powers from its description and cover looks very much like a big departure from what Crum has done before. He begins in a heavily edited green screenshot of our heroes legs arriving in 2025. He seeing the aftermath of a battle. That’s when we flashback and we see the bomb drop. It destroys entire city intimate press of stock footage.

But that’s kind of what I’m talking about, Crum’s trying something different (in fact, it’s feels more like what I would expect from Daniel Armstrong – the post-apocalyptic punk feel). Trying to elevate this film and throw his ring in to the post-apocalyptic superhero fare, with something that at first glance there’s a passing resemblance to Roger. The credit fly over the post-apocalyptic, masks and goggles and grim looking people,  then plug it into some more abstract imagery before coming out the other side of the moon pulling back on a badly rendered CG city and landing on our heroes.

They all deliver soliloquies to try and give us some context, in this in enormously  filtered hyper-real environment. It’s almost the sort of video game looking environment that we see in films like Sucker Punch and Sin City. Interesting designs, and some impressive use of digital effects, but we need some story and fast.

It’s a very confusing beginning. Talk of innocents, and deadly red rain, introduction to characters and super fights, but no context. It’s a high concept an art film, but not necessarily ready for prime time.
We seem to be watching this song is it worth a video replay, I think that he was trying to figure out what happened… And he’s searching for a special young woman – actually I know that from the IMDb description. But the way things are still nonlinear and disjointed, it’s for a very difficult watch.

That’s really the big thing that disappoints me here. This really should’ve been a few YouTube videos, some short films. Because it seems like the entire point of this is to dive into digital FX and experiment with superhero concepts. This could be really interesting, even in its stylized form if there was just a good solid script here. The problem is, there’s not.
It’s brilliant visuals in dazzling eye candy, but it’s also the same feeling as watching a video game, and there’s sadly nothing of substance here. Visually and may becomes strongest work, and yet he magically it’s also probably his weakest.



Gone in 60 Seconds 1974

I’m actually a big fan of Gone in 60 Seconds with Nicolas Cage. In fact, I much prefer it to The Fast and the Furious, which feels like a very similar movie to me – at least the first one did before the franchise turned into ghetto James Bond. There’s something charming about Nicolas Cage when he’s on his game and surrounded by good people. It’s one of only a handful of films that Angela Jolie stars and where I don’t feel like punching her in the face. I mean, I don’t know a thing about what they’re talking about when they’re describing the various cars or engines, but man it sure does makes me wish I did. There’s also something just charming and the filling about a good heist movie where you’re not sure who you’d rather root for – the detective or the thieves. Gone in 60 seconds is absolutely one of those films that I’ll drop everything and watch whenever I’m flipping through the cable channels.

Imagine my surprise to discover that it’s a remake.

Back one year before I was born, H B Halicki was plotting his cinematic debut. He was a mechanic who fixed cars, ran impounds and was a general competent gearhead all around. They say to write what you know, so that’s exactly what he did. He crafted a story around cars and high-speed chases and threw in as many car crashes as he could possibly get away with. He spent the previous years buying up as many cars as he could from auctions and impounds and etc. most of which were purchased for the express purpose of destroying them within his debut film, Gone in 60 Seconds.

You’ll recognize a lot from this film if you’re familiar with the Cage movie. There are a few changes of course. Halicki is an insurance adjuster who moonlights as a car thief, but it’s still a massive car heist on a deadline. They specifically target cars that are insured, that way the owners will be made whole, but this puts him at odds with his brother and his job. We get other elements from the Cage film as well – the scene with the drug dealers car where they have to blow away the heroin by gunning the exhaust is here, as well as the relationship with Eleanor. Also much like the Cage film, the final chase takes up much of the film – this one goes on ridiculously long clocking in at right around 40 minutes, and culminating in the same type of epic jump that Cage manages in the remake… only in the original, the jump isn’t a CG monstrosity against a blue screen, it’s the real thing that ramps up Eleanor 30 feet into the air and 130 feet in distance, landing with an earth shattering crash that jammed 10 vertebrae in Halicki’s spine. He never walked quite the same again, and never regretted a moment of it.

It’s a fairly rough film, and you can tell that it’s Halicki’s first effort. It took a while to complete and occasionally they’d have to shut down production and fix cars in the very garage they were shooting at to raise funds. A great deal the film is overdubbed and shot on extremely grainy stock. The hair and fashions are 70s in the extreme, and I don’t mean Hollywood 70s either. Some of the stunts aren’t actually stunts either. For instance, when Halicki wraps Eleanor around a telephone pole towards the end of the film, that’s not a stunt, that’s an accident. The driver in the car behind him tapped him on the back and sent him spinning out of control. Halicki blacked out as the car came to a teeth rattling stop. When he woke up his first words were reportedly “Did we get coverage?”.

Despite all of its flaws that I can’t help but really digging the movie. The film just has so much heart and I genuinely admire this guy for really going for it. This is a dude who created a film out of nothing, doing his own stunts and creating his own world, and ultimately crafting something that would last forever.

If you dig the Nicolas Cage Gone in 60 Seconds I can’t recommend this enough… If you enjoy 70s films or car chase movies it’s once again an incredibly high recommend and I cannot for the life of me understand why this man did not have a much bigger career.