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The Box Set Project

Curtains

index.jpgMy first impression of curtains is that it looks like an old 80s detective show – a Magnum PI or Columbo… We head into a crumbling old mansion as an actress is being admitted to the psych ward (I heard the director played by John Vernon – you won’t recognize the face but that voice is unmistakable from tons of television and animation ) She has an outburst and find herrself in a straitjacket and the movie begins in earnest. Turns out she’s getting herself committed just to do research on the role.

Elsewhere another actress is murdered and then the director gathers all the other prospects for the role to a house for the night. It’s a confusing narrative to say the least, but at least once we get to the house things seem to make sense. The mystery feel pervades the with the masked killer only shopping.jpgvery occasionally coming out to slice up a new victim has a very slasher style. Indeed if not for the slight gore and nudity, I’d be absolutely certain that this were a TV movie.It’s certainly slow enough

Curtains is the weakest entry in this set – and very much feels like it doesn’t belong in this collection. This one is a pass. Enjoy the other three movies in this collection and don’t bother with this one.


Secret of the Clown

index.jpgThe shadowy silhouettes and well done kills that begin Secret of the Clown give us a promising open, though someone needs to teach these guys about set lighting – things are so dark you can barely see anything. The glimpses of the monsters arms though, there mummified and awkward – unsettling and a good introduction. Once we get into the film proper though, the tension keeps up, with quick cuts of the murders and an occult ceremony happening as a young woman research is something in the local well lit library. The parking lot has the same lighting problems though, and I’m afraid this is going to kill the whole movie. The sound mix as well, it’s muddy, Almost as if the entire thing has been ADR. The quick cuts however keep coming as the young woman takes a shower – she’s obviously experiencing visions.

In the background, there is a creepy clown doll – and it’s left behind when Val walks out on her boyfriend. The boyfriend talks about how she thought the clown protected her. One of his friends smashes it in anger, and that’s when strange happenings begin.

Bobby is haunted by the ghost of his friends who died, and visions of things happening in the house – something is controlling this haunting, and he wants to get to the bottom of it. He brings in a psychic in a very exorcist like scene – and together they begin trying to figure out what haunts the house. The battle to find the killer and rid the house of it’s haunting is quite compelling – I wasn’t expecting so much of a haunted house kind of film. There is elements of American Werewolf in London and The Exorcist here. The imagery is frequently compelling and well crafted, with a surprisingly shoppingexcellent set of twists towards the end. When we finally see the clown itself, it’s a genuinely good design – tattooed and clad in rags. The face itself is the only part that really resembles a clown. It’s a great concept, but held back by and inexpert execution. That’s really the problem with the entire film. Great ideas and a definite vision, but the entire thing is dragged down by the low production values.

At the end of the day it’s still recommend, but only for people who can see past The production as it is and can see it for what it could’ve been.


Hoboken Hollow

index1.jpgHoboken Hollow doesn’t waste any time – it begins with a hitchhiker being hanged and somebody butchering human meat before jumping into the credits. It does say it’s inspired by true events, for whatever that’s worth – that’s usually a bit of a warning that it’s going to be complete nonsense.

The credits play out over shots of jerky being hung, a man being chased, an axe and a van – the movie very much is trying to be Texas Chainsaw Massacre (but without a monster like Leatherface), and we know exactly where we stand. Interesting collection of names though, with Dennis hopper, and Michael Madsen, Lynn Shea and C. Thomas Howell – makes me really curious as to what we’re in for.

The Gore is plentiful, but they frequently linger too long on it which makes it clumsy. Nevertheless, the bloodiest hit-and-run you’ve ever seen as well as severed body parts and backwoods creepy keeps my interest.

The story revolves around a ranch that vagabonds come to work at – complete with an ominous warning inside the bunkhouse. A general supplies store front, run by an old woman and her mentally challenged son is it’s public face, but the ranch work however is more like indentured servitude. Sometimes just to step up from slavery, although there are fewer shackles and chains. The rules are a bit looser  for the old timers but these new recruits are very much treated as slaves. In the background, the torture porn keeps going.

shoppingThings start to slow down in the middle, we are supposed to be more repulsed by the horror of these men slavery, but I’m here for gore and terror. It’s enough to make me wonder if the earlier blood and guts were inserts done after the fact when they decided they needed a little bit more torn flesh.

The climax ends up being weak compared to the strong start on the school, and the entire movie is fairly predictable. This one is not a high recommend, I could probably easily pass on this one and I feel like I’m missing anything


Room 33

index.jpgRoom 33 starts with a van full of people on the road, heading out to a Roller derby match. We’re treated to some really interesting looking credits – the film may be grainy, but the credits are scratching letters overlaid on artistically rendered vines and branches and dark backgrounds. It’s actually really effective. Once we get past the credits the van comes upon a couple whose car has broken down and there is some question about the wisdom picking up hitchhikers, this is a horror movie after all!

There is work to avoid something – we’re not sure what, really good quick flash cuts of the background, and rammed into a tree.

The mysterious road that the van is riding on however comes to a dead end – that’s not what the map says, but there is no way to proceed and the van is nearly out of gas.

Look there’s a driveway!

Well where there is a driveway, there is a house right?

index.jpgAs they make their way to the house, they can hear strange noises, screams coming from the woods, before finding an old abandoned building that they decide to stay the night in – They’ll look for gas in the morning.The ominous graffiti inside doesn’t deter them.

Inside they find a young woman with extreme PSTD who initially attacks one of their party with a shovel, misses, then cowers underneath the sink in the kitchen. Outside a man in black stalks the premises… and he has some connection to the girl.

It’s a good set up with some surprisingly fresh innovation, blending slasher, stalking with just a touch of haunt. Shots of the girls on rollerskates (and presumably being followed by a cameraman also on skates) creates an interesting smooth motion and energy to the film. Things start to ramp up before we even hit the halfway shoppingmark, so you certainly can’t complain about its pacing.

I wouldn’t entirely call the ending a twist – but it’s definitely a satisfying resolution, even if it doesn’t give us all the answers we need

Room 33 is a genuinely fun and satisfying horror movie, and if the rest of the films in this collection in it like this, I’m looking forward to finishing it up


They

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From IMDB : “A psychology student finds all her childhood fears and phobias becoming real after a traumatic event. ”

They was one of the reasons I picked up this box set in the first place. It seems like a good opportunity to consolidate my DVD collection a bit. I have seen this film before, it’s probably one of the biggest profile releases on this set! Still, I understand why it was collected here. They has gotten a lot of flak over the years, people seem to really, really hate this film – and I don’t understand why. Is it the “Wes Craven presents” conceit? A backlash or a disappointment that it’s not up to the quality of other Craven films? Objectively speaking, let’s face it – Craven’s involvement in this film was probably limited to cashing a check.

It’s a strong story to me, I remember the commercials being intriguing but I simply never made it out to the theatre in time. Sitting at home watching it on my television, the film scared me. It genuinely frightened me.  It immediately sets the tone for this film and the kind of things that were going to start seeing here. It’s got the look and feel of a lot of films from this era, things like Jeepers Creepers and Darkness Falls. The fact that they never really show you the monster is brilliant – you see enough of it to know that there is something there, something exists in that space and is stalking you but man, the fact that we never get a good full-fledged reveal makes it far creepier than anything – whatever these things are just thoroughly creeps me out.

Of the films in this volume, this may well be the scariest and if I wern’t reviewing it for this column, it would almost certainly be a “in defence of “. I love this movie and if you haven’t caught They, it’s really worth a second look. It’s one that seems to have gathered more appreciation of a time, although it’ll never be a classic it certainly deserves to be more than just a footnote in an eight pack of horror movies.


The Sacred

indexThe Sacred tries to creep us out  right from the beginning, with imagery of spiders and blood and eyes over the credits before dropping us into 1709 and Indian (they say Native American, but they sure look Inuit to me) ceremony hosted by a high priest with cockroaches in his being. The creatures that come from the human sacrifice ramp up the creep factor with a satisfying amount of blood before blasting us back into the present day

A group of geology students sail into the wilderness, guided by a mysterious stranger (The doomsayer that’s in evey slasher film). At this point if feels very “Creature From the Black Lagoon”, but I suspect there’s no monsters here – just ghosts. Indeed, upon finding a totem pole, there are strange voices to be heard in the distance.

Creepy things start to happen once they arrive at their cabin. They discover their grounds were a place of judgement, and execution – they’re not the first to come here, but index2.jpgthe last group didn’t leave alive. The land remembers, the land haunts and the land kills.

The Sacred is haunting and creepy and beautifully executed – one of the best films in the set. They’re proficient with the gore but don’t over use it. The film relies more on atmosphere to support some really well done kills and creature effects. I’m overwhelmingly impressed with how well directed and shot the film is – it may not be original material, but they play in this familiar sandbox really well, and the bloody antagonists of the climax to the entire film justice. This movie alone it’s worth the price of admission and a great reason to buy this collection.


Black Dragons

boxclassicsindexI can’t remember if I’ve watched Black Dragons before or not. It’s definitely on my radar because of Bella Lugosi, even if it is one of his lesser films. We get an introduction – fifth columnists are lurking in the US! this revelation is overlaid with several disasters happening around the country. We got a cabal of people there just to make trouble. Bela Lugosi infiltrates as one of their number, then one by one, they start to end up dead, each clutching a Japanese dagger…baffling the police.

Black Dragons drinking game : Drink every time somebody slides the double doors in the house closed, and take a shot every time Lugosi creeps up behind someone.

While it’s not bad, it’s really nothing more than pulp fiction. Lugosi could very easily be playing The Shadow of The Spider and the story would be largely the same. It’s definitely a worthwhile pick, if only to see some early Clayton Moore in his pre-Lone Ranger days. It’s got a wild twist at the end, but it’s definitely a B-movie classic, and served well by its short 61 minute running time.


Satan’s Slave

mv5bmjezntc3njyzmf5bml5banbnxkftztywmzm3otg5-_v1_IMDB describes this as “A young girl is caught up in a devil cult run by her evil uncle and cousin. She can trust no one and even people she thought were dead comes back to haunt her. ” It’s a little thin of a description, but not entirely out there…

Satan’s slave, also known as Evil Heritage, has an excellent satanic cult vibe to it. That along with Michael Gough gives it a very Hammer-type of feel to it. It’d be easilly mistaken for a Hammer film.

The dream-like quality as our heroine moves thoguh her adventure visiting her uncle is almost reminiscant of Phantasm and in a lot of way’s we’re kept guessing what is actually going on – even at the end. This one was a strong start for me on this set and I’m really digging the whole Crown International Pictures set.


The Devil’s Partner

boxclassicsindexIt might be easy to mistake the Devil’s Partner for a redneck, hillbilly film. You got an old mountain man bringing out a sheep in the wilderness, but then we get a good look at the arcane document that he is writing in its blood and see a hand reach over to help him and my faith in the occult thriller is restored.

Our credits go over a bus on the road headed to the flats, and a lone passenger getting off in a rumled suit to pop in to the local café. He’s way out of place in the small town restaurant. And he announces he’s looking for his uncle, the place clears out And the cops show up.

They suspect foul play in his death, he wasn’t very liked in the community.
As our hero Nick inspects the spell written on the floor, the dog mauls the local mechanic Dave, coincidentally opening up a job for Nick so he can stay in town. He takes employment at local garage, catching the eye of the girl who runs the local restaurant. The real horror here though, is that he’s wearing a bowtie in the shop! Also he’s picking up the local drunk for more arcane rituals. He gets trampled by a rabid horse.

It’s really not good to be an animal in this movie.

index2After discovering the body of the dead drunk,the local sheriff pops over to the shack Nick has been staying in, discovers the spell written underneath the rug, while his Yorkie sidekick digs up a goat bone on the side of the building. The sheriff starts to think there’s more going on here than meets the eye, and contrives a way to trick Nick into revealing himself.

Despite being a B feature from 1961, The Devil’s Partner is actually a pretty solid flick. It would be perfect horror host fodder, and I’d be completely content to stick around at a drive-in to watch this after the main feature. It’s flooding around YouTube and has popped up in several collections, it might just be worth your time.


Voices

indexWe get some j horror up next with voices. It has a strong opening that makes me think of poltergeist with more blood and is a good way to wash the taste of the last horrorfest movie out of my mouth. We head directly to a Japanese high school, complete with all the stereotypes you can expect from one of these films. There is a wedding coming up this weekend. Well there WAS a wedding, until the bride jumped off the balcony and slammed into the floor.

I’m not sure where this is going, but I’m still engaged – in no small part because I wanna get to that scene I witnessed at the beginning. Besides, the hospital the bride is being treated in is incredibly creepy in a ghost story kind of way… and what happens next is quite bloody.

Indeed, Voices is full of brilliant bloody imagery, creepy dream sequences and moves at a nicely quick pace, maybe too quickly as I sometimes give confused as to what was going on.  I’m not sure if the schoolgirl main character is cursed or haunted here, but it’s certainly never drags.

All around our ingenue, people are dying or trying to kill her as she searches for answers. For someone familiar with anime or Japanese film, this movie is comfort food. Everything, the themes, characters, all of it is very familiar. That’s not a bad thing by the way, it’s everything I want from a horror film. Its supernatural with blood and character. Indeed, it’s exactly the sort of thing that made J horror popular in the early to thousands.


Monstrosity

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indexMonstrosity is trying to pull one over on me. I know this film, but I know it by different name… The Atomic Brain. We have a scientist who is trying to transplant animal brains into humans, indulging in some body snatching, and dooing other mad scientist kind of work while a narrator talks over everything. We’re almost 10 minutes in before we actually get any dialogue that isn’t coming from the narrator! The excessive narration may have something to do with the fact that the film was never entirely shot, with the production company running out of money after 10 days of filming and having to try and fix it up in the editing room. Still, the lab looks very good for the period, and the science FX are impressive. Of course the problem with any brain transfer movie, is as old as Frankenstein… you’ve got to get the tissue fresh, and the old lady who the mad scientist is working for, is definitely going to be picky about what kind of young body he transfers her brain into. To that end, they hire some maids from other countries, to give them new imagesvictims to experiment on.

Even at 64 minutes, the movie feels dragged out. It seems like the sort of thing that would work better as an episode of anthology series like Thriller or the Twilight Zone. I also always have a tough time watching straight versions of films already been done on mystery science theater 3000! And this one is so perfectly suited for it, it almost feels empty without The additional spectacle of the robots mocking it. It’s worth having around for the imagery though, and would make a great background film for a Halloween party.


Night of the Blood Beast

boxclassicsindexNight of the blood beast is another one of those movies that I recall seeing at some point on mystery science theater 3000, and I know that I’m pretty much just gonna have to strap in and hope for the best. At least it’s a Roger Corman film, and the spaceship shots are pretty well done over the credits, even the shots of the pilot going down in his ship are tense and engaging.

They rush the pilot to the local hospital. “By all medical standards this man is dead!”

Really?

Of course the problem is, the body is not decomposing. He may be dead, but everything seems to be in stasis… everything except for one strange gash on his arm. They even discover normal blood pressure beginning. Strange things are happening on the cellular level in the blood, with an extra cell present, dominating and keeping it active. It’s enough that our dead pilot is up and walking again by the time we hit the halfway point in the film. They discover he’s got a foreign bodies breeding within index1him, and that’s when the giant monster bursts through the door.

The monster escapes into the wilderness just outside of LA – where every 50s sci fi movie seems to be set – and abducts the ingenue. Meanwhile, the undead pilot argues with his fiancé over whether or not they should kill the monster… Him too… He seems to have curious psychic connection with it, and insists it’s not evil.

Is it meantime, the monster learns to talk, and he insists that he brings ultimate salvation imagesfor mankind… But is it salvation or subjugation?

The ending feels ambiguous, it almost seems like the monster is right… And maybe the humans are overreacting? But they’re not portrayed as overreacting. It makes for a genuinely strange conclusion, on the other hand, any conclusion to this film is a good one. Nice looking monster, but I’d still like my 62 minutes back.


Curse of the Wolf

index.jpgCurse of the wolf starts off in the chat room with someone consulting a bed on how best to tranquilize or subdue the large dog – large like a wolf. I very much get the impression that this movie is trying to be Ginger Snaps, and that worries me – low-budget knock-offs are rarely satisfying.

Our young lady werewolf has obviously been taught by a group of werewolf hunters. We get our first attempt at a transformation sequence through flashbacks as she lays prone and drugged in her basement. It turns out that the other hunters are also werewolves. They do well to keep the suit in shadows and quick cuts as much as possible – because the suit is awful.

We get stark font credits over loud metal music and the whole thing starts to feel very amateur before we even hit 15 minutes. They drag her back to the cavern club house, and we just kind of… Drift. Six months later we cut to a vets office, she appears to be index.jpgworking there mostly to have access to drugs she needs to control her werewolf disease. She stops a bunch of metalheads street dogs from assaulting a woman using her super werewolf kung fu, but at half an hour, about a third of the way through, I’m still waiting for a story to kick in. The hunters are looking for her again to bring her back into their fold– I guess that is close to a story as I’m going to get.

Amateurly filmed with not enough plot (and terrible lighting – everything is crazy dark), curse of the werewolf comes off feeling like a bunch of guys had been playing werewolf the index2apocalypse, or vampire the masquerade too much and decided to make a movie of one of their adventures. Even with the inclusion of several competent martial artists, this is not One of the underworld movies. We get some gore here and there along with copious amounts of metal music and it seems like at some point somebody wanted to turn this into a character study of Life fighting the curse, but it all falls kind of flat. How on earth did they manage to stretch this out to an hour and 45 minutes? Even when viewed on fast forward the movie feels endless. Skip this one – it’s not really even worth putting on for background noise.


The Vampire Conspiracy

indexReading the description for the vampire conspiracy, it sounds like Saw with vampires – in the washed out grey dirty room that it starts in does nothing to dispel that impression. Five people are abducted by maniacal vampire and put into a deadly maze of wits and endurance – if they make it out alive, the vampires fortune is theirs but if they fail they will be doing to be his bloodthirsty slaves forever.

The film starts with two people who are at the end of this particular game, and obviously about to lose as the vampires descend upon them. It’s not a bad start, and I’m feeling optimistic about the next 88 minutes. Maybe less if there is a lot of credits. Then the head vampire shows up, in a long cloak and a frilly pirate shirt, looking like he stepped right out of an Anne Rice porn parody. And now I’m worried again.

On the other side of the credits, the film begins in earnest, with five people in a white marble room – very reminiscent of Cube. 20 minutes and I’m still waiting for the action to start – it’s been a very talky first act with the vampire basically explaining to his index2.jpgcaptives what the plot is. What little action we seen, one of the guys taking a swing at the vampire, the vampire tossing another one out of the way – it’s all stilted and slow.

Once we get into exploring the house, the trap some cells aren’t exactly so complicated – it’s picking the lock on one door and trying not to open the other one that houses the vampires.

They go in for foggy flashbacks, very much like Saw – and attempt to connect the relationships between the people in the game. There is a good deal of squabbling between the prisoners, in an attempt to build tension through the interpersonal conflict – but it’s a waste, we haven’t had enough time to really connect with these characters so the squabbling just falls flat.

The film attempts a third act climax by having the remaining characters confront their pasts – that is to say confront the people that they have loved and lost. Dead partners and brothers, resurrected and to emotionally confront them before revealing they are now vampires.

index2The setting is smart – because they’re wondering through a maze of identical rooms, all they really need is one set with a couple of extra walls to create hallways in. Shooting could be one or two days with a group of extras to provide vampire attacks and the rest of the time we simply got this small cast off for five people.

What really disappoints me, is the lack of  gore. We have some vampire teeth and minimal make up on the horde of bloodsuckers, but the kills and the defense with the stakes never gets particularly bloody – I never get any torn flesh or complex make up jobs. It’s an interesting idea, but lacking both tension and blood. The film ends up being quite unmemorable. You might wanna watch it just for curiosity, but I won’t blame you if you don’t make it all the way through.


Fist of the Vampire

index.jpgFist of the vampire… What a stupid name… And that logo looks a lot like they want to emulate the Shaw Bros intro – the film dives into grainy footage that says it’s from 1977. I don’t know, these 70s vampires look awfully 21st-century to me as they pursue a guy in a ponytail and a three-piece suit down a desaturated alleyway.

On the other hand, maybe I’m being too hard on things – we get into some bloodletting and action right away, and if they keep this kind of pace this may well be a nicely entertaining flick.

The vampire attack is brutal – full of blood and fire. Somebody knows how to use after effects and bought some stock footage. This is especially evident as we watch some very stylized credits over metal music. A lot of quick cuts and flashing images, leading us into the gunfight that begins the film. Young one flees the policeman, shooting it out in a video store and eventually being followed to her hideout where more gunplay ensues. You can tell the makers of the film are movie people, the living room walls are covered in DVD shelves, and I wouldn’t be surprised if index1.jpgthat video store was actually creation in somebody’s basement. Nevertheless, they really know how to stage action, whether it’s hand-to-hand throwing punches and kicks or pistols and automatic weapons enhanced by CG muzzle flashes. It’s well done enough that they’re able to maintain this action sequence for long stretches of time without you getting tired of it. 23 minutes into the film, we are finally getting a breather from the action as detectives investigate this crime scene, – and I didn’t even notice that time fly by.

We move on to a detective investigating an underground fighting ring. It’s being run by the vampires from the 1977 sequence and in large part appears to be there to showcase several martial artists in exciting fighting in sequences that aren’t required to propel the narrative. With all of the stilted performances being delivered by the amateur actors here, I understand why – they need all the production value they can get, and these fight index2sequences really do add quite a bit.

The thing is, even with some of the week performances and by the numbers plt points, this is still a really entertaining action film. A box set like this is the perfect place for it, though it might be more at home in an action set rather than a horror one. Either way, it’s worth a watch. Of all the movies in this said, it was the only one that really made me want to explore the directors other work – and there’s been quite a bit of it – low budget direct to video crap but with as much fun as I had here, it might be worth a look. If you have the opportunity, definitely catch this one at a film festival or marathon. Just remember to turn your brain off first.


Bachelor Party in the Bungalow of the Damned

index2.jpgI’m not really expecting much from Bachelor Party in the Bungalow of the Damned – but I’m hoping that it’s got its got a sense of humour as the name indicates. I noticed that Lloyd Kauffman is gonna pop in here and I’m looking forward to seeing his cameo. It comes early and is one of Lloyds best ones ever.

Set up is pretty much what the title says, a dude picking up bros and heading to his bachelor party at the bungalow. Strippers arrive about 20 minutes in and of course, Demons. They drug the bachelor before seducing all the guys (not a difficult task, tight leather). Debauchery leads into some gruesome deaths before everything is interrupted by a call from the fiance. The best man escorts the succubi out, And they reluctantly comply, staring longingly at them through the windows. The groom is not dead but looking anemic

This is when the three Demon girls return, claiming thier car has broke down.

index2Around this time, the best man discovers the dead bodies in the Demon ladies attack. The word vampire gets used, but they don’t feel like vampires to me – whatever they are though, the film is full speed ahead from here out – bloody and gory and with plenty of action. The pacing gets a little choppy though, there’s at least two places where the film probably should have ended but wouldn’t have met its length requirements to be a feature – the segways between scens are awkward, almost feeling like they were tagged on. I’d have liked that better if it had been integrated more smoothly. Still, I actually really, really enjoy this. It’s low budget, sophomoric humour,and Unpolished production values but great dumb fun.


Grave Mistake

index.jpgGrave mistake starts off with a drunk guy in the middle of the desert by A shallow grave pouring chemicals on it in the hopes it will destroy the body… Well, at least we know how the zombie apocalypse got started on this one!

During the credits we get a zombie attack on a truck in and some kids heading home from the skate park. It turns out the drunk with the chemicals is also an abusive father – nice.

We kept to the mechanic in his office having flashbacks of his time at war – things ended badly there, and there is some PSTD involved. You are moving seen of him trying to decide whether or not to kill himself we cut to a jump in the car reading is on the box and then what appears to be an impromptu medieval fair going on in the wilderness. I’m extremely confused. (It seems to be more of an excuse to have guys who can swing swords at the zombies later on)

Mechanics assistant is a goofy Conrad Brooks type who’s written a book on surviving the zombie apocalypse. Good thing to do, because there is some news report that the zombies have arrived!

Zombie some cells are only in airbrushed grey with some gruesome flight details, but it’s effective enough and someone’s certainly beginning to learn their gore fx . There are some clever mixtures of gore and camera trickery used to achieve some of the more interesting kills, but not much of a story – it’s secondary to the filmmakers ability to show off their make up skills.

index2We get to standard small group on a run (heading to the local armory), as well as the occasional zombie attacks, the running out of gas gag and the “let’s go shopping” scene.

The actors do a fair job and the cinematography is adequate despite the consumer grade equipment being used here.

It’s worth watching as part of a collection like this, especially for some of that kills force the end and hopefully would serve as a good calling card for the filmmakers to go on to bigger and better things.


Awaking the Dead

index.jpgAwaking the dead begins with a highly stylised to CG sort of introduction. It worries me because it usually signals a poor production values throughout the rest of the film.

From shots of the city we move to a small bedroom, desaturated with a young muscular man waking up to an annoying alarm clock.

He opened up a letter that reads “they didn’t die in vain, go to the old house and wait for me”

The next person to wake up is a young woman in an equally desaturated bedroom, her nudity tastefully obscured.

She has a note as well, “stay inside the house, I’ll be there soon…”

Back to the man who is now revealed to be a priest. He tosses a suitcase in the car and heads out.

Driving montage with gloomy metal playing over. He enters the house with the key that was hidden in a Bible. The girl greats him with a baseball bat. It turns out he used to index.jpgwork with her father and had come for her.

Outside, a plane releases vapour trails that infect a couple of badly dubbed schoolgirls. Children play and neighbours point and priest and discovers his tires been slashed.

Knock on the door and the girls huge, slightly homicidal boyfriend makes his way in. She convinces him to leave with a large knife. The priest continues to wait for her father. She also managed to secure a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses with a knife in a particularly funny scene. The boyfriend’s been sitting in his car though, stewing and finally busts out again ready to go get her. It’s too late, the schoolgirl zombies get him first.

index2.jpgInside, the priest falls asleep with dreams of faceless people. Children point of him accusingly. dream wakes him, Disturbed, he turns over and attempted to go back to sleep. In the meantime, zombies are at the windows.

Good news is there only one zombie out there. The bad news is it’s her hulking boyfriend. a blow to the eye dispatches him quite well.

As the zombie plague grows, the house becomes a refuge for more and more survivors.  But the priest notices outside someone watching and taking notes – he begins to suspect that this is not a natural phenomenon on, but rather a manufactured one.

Things go badly and it becomes time to leave the relative safety of the house to go seek index2out the location on a map where this or may be stemming from. Survivors get up and take to the streets.

Some of the action is interesting and the character signs suddenly look a lot better but it’s not enough to salvage the film. Waking the dead as the germ of a good idea but drags in its pacing… The constantly saturation seems to be there to disguise poor production values and attempt in artistic astetec, but the film itself never really manages to get up and running. This one is a pass, even in the box set.


I Am Omega

mastersofterror

index.jpgI know I’m in for some pain when the Asylum logo shows up over the I Am Omega credits. It’s my own fault, I knew that’s exactly what this would be, but decided to take the plunge anyhow.

It begins with a mother evacuating herself and her son from their home, now under attack by some fairly impressive and bloody zombies. It turns out however to have all been a dream – our main character of remembering his wife and son as he sleeps. He’s awake now though, and when a perimeter breach sets off the alarm he knows he has some hunting to do. I’ve got to give the asylum props here – they’ve got some inventive and gory kills right there at the beginning and it gives me hope for the rest of the film.

You got the formula down – brooding, exercising and then gearing up to go out and look for supplies. It actually feels like it’s trying to be an update of Vincent Price in Last Man on Earth.

indexHe heads up to an old barn/garage, greeting the corpse inside with her cheerful “hey boss” . He grabs beer and fuel from the joint and cautiously drives off, encountering and dispatching zombies throughout the wasteland, planting what look like explosive charges in the sewers. This is his life until one night, he receives an incoming video feed on the computer. Before he can answer, his perimeter alarm sounds again and he is forced to run outside to check for monsters. One of the unfortunate louts has got his zombified hand stuck in the power box. Blast some out of the garden comes back inside… Staring at the message, unable to believe it and hesitant to accept it.

“Hello? Can you see me???”

The sight of a living woman on his computer screen startles him so badly that he falls index2office chair – she’s not sure how to react.

She tells him that she is trapped – she was lost as part of a caravan on its way to a place called Antioch, a safe haven in the mountains with hundreds of uninfected people.

He turns her down, returning to his usual routine. But the next day an unmarked white van arrives with two guys that claim to be from Antioch want to talk about the girl he  met online. They want to go and rescue her, convinced that she’s got the antivirus in her blood. They need to do it before the man carries out his plan to blow up the city. They force him to help lead them through the sewers to go rescue the girl.

index2He makes it to her, but so did the zombies – they run for it, and of course not all is as it seems with the man from Antioch.

It’s predictable, and not really anything to do with Richard Matheson’s I am legend, but for a low-budget asylum film, it’s actually a good piece of work that manages to hit a lot of the tonal beats and give us an entertaining ride. I’m genuinely surprised at how much I enjoyed this film – and definitely worth getting as part of the set.


Last of the Living

mastersofterrorindexLast of the living actually starts off pretty nicely – with shots of young men cinematically exploring and abandoned city juxtaposed with news footage of the zombie apocalypse. It’s overlaid with a punky rock song and sets the tone perfectly

We introduced to the trio guys who are living in a house together – young bachelor types reminiscing about the girls  and wondering what they’ve got as far as supplies. The real problem is the beer is low, so they decide they need to make a run. They gear up with sports equipment and run through the abandoned city trying to avoid the zombies while high energy pop music plays in the background. We get some inventive zombie kills and a generally fun vibe from the film. Adam takes a detour to try and rescue a hot girl, but she turns out to be a zombie. We get the impression this isn’t the first time this has happened. They finally arrive at the grocery store and enter cautiously. It’s a stock scene, very much a rip-off of what we saw in Shaun of the Dead.

index1Right around the end of the first act I’m wondering if this is going to be just a slacker dude zombie comedy when our group discovers a young woman and her father hiding in one of the abandoned buildings. The father is immediately dispatched of course because we need some romantic tension, and the young woman reveals that they were trying to transport a sample of what they think might be the cure for the zombie plague to the authorities. She convinces them to help.

They arrive at the lab but things take a turn for the worse when the power goes out in the zombies invade.

index2What was a much more lighthearted film suddenly turned serious as the zombies become more of a threat and the bickering starts amongst our characters. It’s almost as if the film can’t decide what it wants to be, and as we attempt to get this sample to the people who can help during the zombie apocalypse things turn all of it more dire. We get a couple of deaths that I totally didn’t expect towards the end. It ends up being exciting but a severely uneven film. Definitely worth a watch, especially on late night cable or when included in a box set like this.


Dollman

midnighthorrorindex.jpgOh Full Moon, how I love thee. Tim Thomerson too. Albert Pyun perhaps not so much, after all he was the one who gave us that appalling Captain America movie with Matt Salinger. Still, Dollman has been one of Full Moon’s stable of franchises for awhile, so I’m kind of looking forward to seeing how this turns out. Please don’t let me down “story by Charles Band”!

The film begins a galaxy away from earth, on a red planet called Artotos. We get some stock footage from Buck Rogers and then cut to a criminal being chased through concrete alleys. He holds up in a laundry room with 13 hostages and that’s when they send Tim Thomerson . Big gun, sunglasses and an attitude. He’s got a reputation as a Dirty Harry space cop – in other words he’s playing Tim Thomerson . Did I mention he’s also already under suspension? Doesn’t matter, he gets the hostages out without anybody getting hurt and this just makes the index2police chief angrier. Despite him saving the hostages, the police chief and the news reporting that everybody died in attempt to frame Thomerson .

Thomerson is then kidnapped by gangsters who attempt to kill him in the wilderness – he turns the tables on them, blasting them on the pieces before the leader escapes… Pursues his flying saucer in a spaceship and his own and they both plummet through a rift in space, ultimately crashing on earth.

There’s only one problem, the people on Earth are six times larger than the people from index1.jpgThomerson’s planet. It’s a world plagued by graffiti in crime and gangbangers in the middle of a block war.

Six times his size or not, Thomerson isn’t about to sit and watch an assault happened and immediately saves a girl from three gang members with his insanely powerful gun. The girl issafe, but she knows that the gangbangers will be back so she picks up dollman and his entire space ship and runs off. In the meantime the gangbangers discover the head from space, and he makes adeal with them. He promises ultimate weapons  if they take care of him – and more importantly if they take care of Thomerson . The gang shows up at the girl’s house and Thomerson index3.jpgfights them off – the boys are a little surprised that Dollman has such a big gun!.

As the girl attempts to make things better in this impoverished neighbourhood, the 81JvVEaNr2L._SL1500_Dollman starts to give the people hope – hope that maybe they can ultimately get rid of the gangsters. The gangsters of course are ready to respond in kind, kidnapping the girl and spiriting her away to an old ironworks… It’s up to Dollman now to rescue her!

Dollman is classic full moon – an over the top comic book action film with a touch of gore though they’re not veering so far as to be gross. They managed to be low budget without looking cheap and this is a perfect example of full moon when they’re truly on their game!


Ghoulies 4

midnighthorrorindex.jpgI didn’t even realize there WAS a fourth Ghoulies movie – I thought the series died after Ghoulies go to college!

The film begins with a very comic book like Female thief dressed in revealing leather who is able to easily overpower and murder the guards. The killing makes her less than sympathetic but progresses the story quickly. She opens a box from Cairo and extracts a jewel – obviously the prize she was here for. Spray-painting a pentagram on the floor she begins a ritual, and the bodies of the slain guards disappear while in the center a hooded figure materilizes, demanding the jewel. She tried to give it to him but steps over the line, breaking the circle – both men vanish in smoke as the cops arrive. The thief leaves and in doing so misses the arrival of two small Ghoulies.

index1.jpgThese are not the Ghoulies that you may remember from Charles Band’s films, this is really a pair of two little people in suits – more goblin than Ghoulies. They immediately launch into three stooges style violence upon each other before scampering off into the darkness.

I have a bad feeling about this. At least it’s directed by Jim Wynorski.

On the other side of the credits we meet a pair of wacky cops on a stakeout.They foil a robbery at the local liquor store, getting drawn into a bloody gun fight.

In the sewers, our burglar, Alexandria summons the man in the cloak again. He informs her that there is a second stone and that she must find it for him (and it just so happens to be hanging around the cops neck). This means more human sacrifices, fortunately Art index2.jpgCarney’s character from the honeymooners is down there and ready to get killed.

Our two Ghoulies themselves flash back to the first film to try and connect everything… It’s debatable whether or not this was a wise move, it highlights the very different look of the actors in costume from the puppets used in the previous movies. According to IMDb, the puppetry was a cost the film could not afford.

The Ghoulies sneak into the cops trunk to hitch a ride. They accidentally blast a hole in the roof of his car while he is in the quickie-mart getting milk, then run off into the darkness. And this does nothing to inspire confidence from his superior detective Kate. He heads home, too tired to even boff his girlfriend or a hooker or whenever she is… The images.jpgGhoulies follow as he dreams of scenes from the first film.

Elsewhere, the Ghoulies and stop a mugging.

Alexandria luers the cop out by kidnapping his partner, but what she doesn’t know his hooker girlfriend is already absconded with the ruby necklace. It turns out, the cop knows Alexandria – they used to date. When she discovers he doesn’t have the jewel, she commands the brainwashed partner to murder him. We get a fist fight in the warehouse, destroying tons of antiques, conveniently laid out on the table.

Alexandria heads to the cops apartment, but the Ghoulies are already there searching… They pepper spray her and make good there escape.

images1.jpgDetective Kate puts cop to bed and I and meets the hook a girlfriend in a amusingly Catty exchange. Sadly, it’s the last time she’ll see her because Alexandria scoops her up outside the apartment and sacrifices her to hooded guy. Detective Kate notices this happening through the window and it sets the cop off to go look for her. Turns out they used to be Satan worshippers together but she got too into it and he dumped her at the mental asylum.Well now, the inmates are in control of the asylum – and Alexandria is using it as a hideout (And a place to complete her ritual).

Who taught the mental patients Kung fu?

The cop and detective Kate show up just in the nick of time to disrupt the ritual and attempt to save hooker girlfriend.

81JvVEaNr2L._SL1500_In some ways, I really like this.The heavily occult themes of this film really harking back more towards the original movie.I can’t complain that the Ghoulies have minimal screen time, once again that also harkins back to the original film. My main objection is that the Ghoulies are little people in costumes that look nothing like the originals rather than puppets. They are constantly cracking wise – it gets grating .Still, overall it’s a stronger entry into the Ghoulies series then part three and one of the better films in this midnight horror collection


Autumn

midnighthorrorautumn_xlgAutumn has some good ideas. I genuinely like the concept where we see the evolution of the Zombie.

It starts off in urban England which gives it an initial 28 days later feel, but soon moves out to the country and we gt far more of a Night of the Living dead vibe. Forget the cover art by the way, it’s not the sci-fi epic about a plague that the cover would suggest. We don’t really see alot of it, we see more of that first shelter that the survivors are huddled in. We see the first zombies, wandering aimlessly…not eve noticing other people…..not hungry. Not yet.

As the film goes on, we se the zombies start to develop senses, becoming  triggered by sound and light. as time passes, the hunger kicks in and they become the real threat we’re used too. The progression is original and fascinating.

81JvVEaNr2L._SL1500_If this movie has a real problem, it that it’s too long, and WAY too talky. It’s a melodrama in the extreme and would really benefit from some judicious cutting of some of those dialogue scenes. I understand how we got here, the film is based on a book and there’s a LOT of ground to cover. From everything I’ve heard, it’s really true to the source material. Still I think it could have been streamlined into something a bit better paced. This is definitely one to watch, but you need to be prepared for a long somewhat PBS style zombie film and be in the mood for more philosophy than horror.


In the Dead of Winter

midnighthorrorindex.jpgIn the Dead of Winter begins at a bleak prison for somebody out in the mountains… We’ve got a con being released and meeting up with his Friends in their pickup truck. He checks his gun and heads out to cause mayhem…

I can’t help but notice that this film is produced by Tanya York, Donald G Jackson’s old financial partner. That explains the shot on video look to the film and makes me feel just a bit wary.

Sam, the contact that just got out start off by visiting the local sheriff – presumably the man put him in prison. He guns him down front of his family and races off  in the truck. accompanied by a combination of new-age jazz and bad Casio soundtrack.

After that, it’s a joy ride in the mountains on snowmobiles, because why not? They’re looking for an abandoned cabin to hide out in, but when they arrive they find it’s not as abandoned as expected! And amorous young couple have already taken up residence for the weekend and Sam and his crew have found their next victims.

When the boyfriend attempts to fight back, they take him outside and bury him up to his neck in the snow – it’s actually a clever gag.

Inside, girlfriend get Sam scan and turns the table on her attackers – it’s a stand-off, with them threatening the boyfriend and her threatening them. It all goes wrong and the couple both end up dead. Time for Sam and his crew to run off.

After some internal squabbling when they get lost, they discover a cave to hole up in. The cave brings bad dreams but in the morning they take off on the snowmobiles until they run out of gas. That’s when they get shot at.

They flee the unseen gunman and desperately searched the woods for  cover. Their unseen assailant pursues them in a Snowcat. The guys split up, one group and start all the other starts to succumb to frostbite.

All four of the crew are separated – one finding himself and literate than ice, one getting killed accidentally, and one inexplicably encountering Daniel Boone in the middle of the 81JvVEaNr2L._SL1500_snowy wilderness. We discover it’s the local sheriff that’s been chasing Sam- apparently he didn’t die from his gunshot wound. I was hoping for a twist, like it was the sheriff’s widow or something.Sam stumbles into a bunch of bear traps and the sheriff leaves him to die. The ending is so straightforward it feels anticlimactic. This one is a definite skip.