Starring: Andras Jones, Linnea Quigley, Robin Stille, Brinke Stevens, Michelle Bauer, Hal Havins, John Stuart Wildman,
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
Most filmmakers are lucky to have a handful of movies they’ve done in their career. Some are even lucky to at least get one. For example, my favorite director John Carpenter has twenty one film credits to his resume. Another filmmaker I love, Frank Henenlotter has ten. Where am I going with this? I was reading some information about a B movie filmmaker by the name of David DeCoteau. He got his foot in the door in the movie business at age nineteen working for Roger Corman and quickly worked up the ranks to where he was directing movies. According to IMDB, DeCoteau has one hundred and fifty directing credits! The movies he directs ranges from horror to science fiction to even Christmas family movies made exclusively for television. To answer as to how DeCoteau has been able to direct so many films is according to Charles Band, filmmaker and founder of such b movie horror companies as Empire Pictures, Urban Classics and currently Full Moon Features is that DeCoteau is, “hard, fast and stays under budget.” DeCoteau has directed many films for Charles Band throughout the years. His most famous film is Puppet Master III: Tulon’s Revenge which is regarded as the best movie in the Puppet Master franchise (I concur. It’s my favorite). For this edition of “Guilty Pleasure Cinema Review” we’re going to look at another popular movie of his that has had a huge cult following for the last thirty years. That movie is 1988’s Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (try saying that five times fast)!
I know what you’re thinking about the title and let’s get this out of the way now. This is not a softcore adult film! This could be described as a sexy horror comedy that bounces all over the walls, or in this case bumpers. The story is about three nerds who sneak over to the Tri-Delta Sorority House. They are watching the initiation of two new members getting spanked by the head of the chapter named Babs. The boys enter the house and watching the initiates hose down after getting a whipped cream spraying. Essentially they are caught by Babs. As punishment, they have to go with the two initiates named Lisa and Taffy to steal a bowling trophy from the local bowling alley. If they retrieve a trophy, the boys will not be reported to the police for their voyeurism and Lisa and Taffy will get into the Sorority. Unbeknownst to them, Babs’ father runs the mall where the bowling alley is at so she and the other sisters can watch their every move through the security cameras. Inside the bowling alley they come across a biker looking punk named Spider who is stealing money from the register and the arcades. Spider uses her crowbar to break the chain into the trophy room. From there, the boys and the pledges grab the biggest trophy on the shelf. On accident, the bowling trophy falls to the ground and breaks. Smoke beings to come out from the trophy and out appears an imp. The imp thanks them for releasing him and grants wishes to the group. A couple of them take advantage of this offer. Turns out their wishes would be fake and the imp starts his night of terror among the group by turning two of the sisters into she-demons and electrifying all the doors in the alley to prevent anyone from escaping. Now the survivors must figure out how to either escape or defeat the imp.
This straight to video movie stars Linnea Quigley in her first starring role as Spider. She is another scream queen legend as fans will recognize her from her supporting roles in Return of the Living Dead, Night of the Demons and Silent Night: Deadly Night. The rest of the cast features Andres Jones as Calvin, Hal Havens as Jimmie, John Stuart Wildman as Keith (the three nerds), Robin Rochelle (Stile) as Babs, Kathi O’ Brecht and Carla Barron as Rhonda and Frankie, the other sisters in the sorority, Michelle Bauer as Lisa and Brinke Stevens as Taffy. There is a special appearance from George “Buck” Flower as the janitor of the Bowl-O-Rama. Flower is known for always playing the hobo in such films as the “Back to the Future” movies and in many of John Carpenter’s movies such as The Fog, Escape From New York, and They Live!
Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama is as much of a punk film as Linnea Quigley’s appearance in this. It breaks a lot of rules and lacks consistency. It makes up for it with its sheer delight of goofiness, beautiful looking girls and gore. There’s not much logic in this movie as to why the imp turns two of the girls into demons with one of them a copycat of the bride of Frankenstein and how an imp got stuck in a bowling trophy, although the explanation as to how the imp came to be and its purpose is told through a story by the janitor. If you can ignore all that, you’ll enjoy the movie a little better. DeCoteau made this movie in reportedly nine days which would show why he continues to get directing work.
The imp is a tiny little blue creature with a giant mouth filled with teeth. It reminds me of the donkey from Shrek voiced by Eddie Murphy. Speaking of the voice, the imp does sound a lot like Eddie Murphy. I’ve heard people say he’s sounds like Barry White, but it’s not really a deep of a voice. You don’t see the imp move around. He appears in the same shot for most of the movie with the exception of a few scenes where he is tripping Jimmie or he’s behind the bowling alley taunting Babs. His dialogue and jokes are as stereotypical as they can be.
Speaking of stereotypes, they are in each character. You have two of the nerds (Calvin and Keith) who wear thick glasses and goofy hair and you have Jimmie who reminds me of a mix between Chris Farley and John Candy without the physicality. You have Lisa and Taffy the gorgeous pledges and you have Babs who is the prissy and mean girl of the sorority having her fun at humiliating the pledges. And then you have Spider who you know right away is going to be the heroine of the film. She’s tough and doesn’t have time for games. However, as the movie progresses, Spider shows a sense of vulnerability and confiding with Calvin as to how they are going to get out. That’s a credit to Quigley and the characters she has played previously before this film.
With Quigley being the star, the rest of the cast were decent given the material they were given. You can tell they are playing to the script and the concept of the movie. The dialogue is pure 80s cheese with many one liners and zingers coming from Quigley. Buck Flower also provides comedic relief as he spends much of the film trying to get himself out of a room he locked himself into and when he comes across Spider and Calvin gives the hilarious story of the imp and the person who summoned him.
As I mentioned earlier, the film is not a softcore porn movie, but it does have a lot of sexual overtones. Yes, you have naked women in the beginning and the middle of the movie, but it’s much more than that. First you have Babs spanking Lisa and Taffy and getting a kick out of it. You have the lonely (and presumably virgin) nerds who get a pleasure out of the sheer sight of watching Lisa and Taffy taking a shower. You have the setting of the movie, a bowling alley. There’s so much sexual imagery and thought with the setting. You have bowling balls, bowling pins, gutters……well you get the idea. Finally you have Keith who makes a wish to hook up with Lisa and gets more than what he wished for. What he thought would be exciting in fulfilling a dream becomes a horrible nightmare.
With the exception of the flaws I mentioned earlier the only other gripes I have about this movie is the pacing. It starts to slow down during the third act of the movie. I started to get a little bored and was eagerly waiting for the climax of the movie to be done with. Also, I felt the creative death scenes in the movie could’ve used a little more depth. There’s not much blood and gore in this movie, which is ok. However, you should see the death scene go all the way through. One death scene kicks into another scene just as the victim is screaming for her life.
If you’re looking to watch an 80s horror movie that is out of the ordinary, look no further than Sorority Babes In The Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama. If you’re lucky to find this get a group of friends together along with a few six packs or other preferred drinks of your choice and enjoy this wild and over the top movie. You won’t need to get drunk to understand what is going on in the movie. Don’t be one of those people who tries to use their brain to figure out what David DeCoteau is trying to get out of this movie. You’ll end up giving yourself a headache. Think of it a rule breaking, stereotypical piece of horror comedy that you may end up liking. If you don’t like it, that’s ok. You can blame me. At least I tried to convince you to watch something unconventional.
TRIVIA (Per IMDB):
Director David DeCoteau wanted to work with Linnea Quigley so much that he handed her the script and told her she could play any character she wanted. She eventually decided on Spider.
This was the most popular feature shown on USA Up All Night with Rhonda Shear. The episode was co-hosted by star Linnea Quigley.
Linnea Quigley suggested Hal Havins after having worked with him on Night of the Demons (1988).
In Static-X’s song “I’m With Stupid”, Linnea Quigley’s line from the movie “Yeah, it was…very stupid.” is sampled.
The budget was too low to rent the bowling alley during peak daytime hours, so the cast and crew had to wait till the bowling alley closed at 9pm and shoot all night till 9am.
The script was written in 10 days with only one draft.
John Stuart Wildman (Keith) was originally supposed to have a nude scene in the locker room, but then decided he couldn’t do it. David DeCoteau told him he would at least have to wear tighty whiteys, but then he showed up wearing boxers.
Producer Charles Band held a contest among the employees at Empire Pictures to come up with a new title for the movie, as he felt The Imp was no longer relevant. The title he chose was Bitchin’ Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, which the entire cast hated (except for Andras Jones, who loved it). Fortunately, the MPAA said they couldn’t use the word “Bitchin'” in a movie title and forced them to drop it.
Shot in twelve days.
The janitor tells a story about a man named Dave McCabe. This was director David DeCoteau’s alternate name when he directed adult films.
Since 2018, “The Last Drive In” has become the staple show on the horror streaming service Shudder. For those who grew up watching Joe Bob Briggs host his own shown on The Movie Channel or those like myself who stayed up late watching him on TNT’s“Monstervision,” it was exciting to see the world’s greatest expert of B-Movies and Drive-In culture return in perfect form. “The Last Drive In” has had two seasons and numerous specials filled with blood, breasts and beasts along with Joe Bob’s informative tidbits of the movie that is being played. He is also joined by Darcy The Mail Girl who adds to the show with her creative cosplay outfits, her sometimes dissatisfaction with Joe Bob’s views and communicating with fans via Twitter. On Friday, April 16th, the gang returns to the trailer for a third season of a hootin’ good time.
Lately on the various social media platforms I’ve been seeing lists fans have created of their rankings of the best “Last Drive In” movies and episodes. The lists have been fun to read and provide plenty of back and forth debate between the Drive In Mutants (as the fans of the show are called). It got me thinking to make my own list. My list is ranked based on the movie, the presentation, enjoyment and replay value. A lot of these movies are no longer available to stream on Shudder so I don’t take that into consideration. I will continue to build on this list all throughout Season 3 and any future specials. Without further-ado let’s get the list going:
You know a movie is bad when there’s not even a decent still photo on the internet. This got a rare one star from Joe Bob.
The first film shown on “VHS Night” on Season 3, Sledgehammer is a movie that you would find playing on your local public access station or Tubi. Best thing about this movie is the end credits with the fake names such as I.C. Knun as Choreography director, I.P. Phreilee as the sound designer and Mike Hunt as the locations scout (the majority of this film was shot in writer/director David A. Prior’s apartment).
89. Dead Heat
Joe Piscopo, ‘nuff Said.
88. Cannibal Holocaust
While I respect the movie for its premise, realism and shock factor, Cannibal Holocaust was a film that I could not stomach all the way through. This and Bloodsucking Freaks were revelations that I’m not big on scenes to shock me, rather I’m grossed out by them. I do give the Shudder team credit for making a separate entry for people to watch the Joe Bob segments without having to go through watching the movie.
87. Hack-O Lantern
Only thing I was hacking up was a lung from all the laughter. I was waiting for Tom Servo and Crow to appear to start riffing this film.
86. Phantasm: Ravager
The long awaited finale in Don Coscarelli’s Phanstasm series, Ravager was a big disappointment. While it was great to see Reggie Bannister, Michael Baldwin and Angus Scrimm in his final appearance as the Tall Man, I did not like the glossy digital imagery, its confusing plot and overwhelming ending. The movie ended up asking more questions than answering them.
85. Dead or Alive
With the exception of the scene of the guy snorting the 30 foot line of cocaine, this was a film I couldn’t get into. Too much fecal material.
84. Daughters of Darkness
While the film does have a seductive and sexual atmosphere, Daughters of Darkness doesn’t have much else going. It’s a movie that will put you to sleep instead of keeping you awake.
83. The Prowler
Part of the original summer marathon in 2018, The Prowler was my first viewing of the film where my memory of the viewing quickly faded like Shudder’s rights to the film.
82. Bloodsucking Freaks
One of the most controversial films ever made, Bloodsucking Freaks was another first time view for me. I enjoyed the trivia Joe Bob provided. As for the rest of the movie, this was another case where I respect and appreciate the risqué film, this was another one that was too much for me to handle.
81. Deep Red
One of the best films from Dario Argento’s filmography, Deep Red is a good film, but I felt the pacing was too slow. Add in the trivia segments and you have a viewing where you need to prepare yourself with tons of coffee, soda, spicy foods or anything else to keep you awake.
80. Demon Wind
A movie with too many characters, bad acting and a very shoddy plot. If this were a movie about a killer fart, it would’ve charted higher on this list.
79. Slumber Party Massacre II
The first film shown in the Summer Sleepover special, Slumber Party Massacre II looks like a Beverly Hills 90210 episode with Nightmare on Elm Street knockoff dreams. It’s pretty much a bore-fest until the last act of the film when the Driller Killer appears in the flesh equipped with his jagged looking guitar with a drill on the neck and begins to mow down the rock and roll band babes and their obnoxious boyfriends.
78. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II
Hello Mary Lou has some good effects and some decent performances. However, it doesn’t hold up to the original movie. Of course the best part of this viewing was Darcy getting dressed up as Mary Lou and enjoying a slow dance with Joe Bob.
77. Wolf Guy
Interesting concept starring the great Sonny Chiba. Starts out with some great flourishes of violence and gore, but the story starts to get silly near the second half of the movie.
76. The Legend of Boggy Creek
I’m not a big fan of fictional films that are made in a documentary style. There are some good moments in this film and I liked its gritty and grainy look. However, I felt the music to be overpowering and inappropriate at times. Of course I only viewed this film once which was during the original summer marathon. May give it another chance before criticizing it even further.
75. Blood Feast
One of the first “gore” films made by the great Hershel Gordon Lewis, Blood Feast is known for just that. There is an insane amount of blood and gore in this movie. This movie would become the blueprint for horror movies in the future. Great trivia from Joe Bob as well. What keeps this film from being ranked higher is the plot and acting.
74. Halloween 5
My least favorite Halloween movie of the “Halloween Hootenany” special. There wasn’t much I enjoyed about Halloween 5 including the cheap Michael Myers unmasking. What I did enjoy about this particular episode is Joe Bob’s unexpected destruction of the festive props that surrounded the set.
73. Blood Harvest
Obviously the selling point of Blood Harvest is that it stars Tiny Tim as the oddball character Mervo. There were two special guests that Joe Bob interviewed who knew Tiny Tim well. Justin A. Martell surprised Joe Bob by showing some rare footage of Tiny Tim watching Joe Bob during his tenure on The Movie Channel and praising him for his knowledgeable insights. It was the highlight of this episode.
72. The Love Witch
Written, directed, composed and edited by Anna Biller The Love Witch shows romance through the spectrum of a woman. We follow along the journey of the protagonist on her quest for love. She creates potions to lure potential male partners into falling in love with her only for them to end up getting killed. The Love Witch is a unique take on romantic horror featuring a great art direction with a mix of giallo and seventies with bright cinematography. I love the blend of colors that were used to give an emotional vibe. What keeps this movie from charting higher is the dull acting and a running time that is way too long for this type of concept. Perhaps Biller could’ve used that time to flesh out more of the story as it left questions that didn’t have answers.
Demons is considered a punk horror film. It has no plot, no character development. It’s full of blood, gore and special effects. It’s one big roller coaster from beginning to end.
70. Dial Code Santa Claus
The 1989 French flick known as 3615 Code Pere Noel, Deadly Games, Game Over and Hide and Freak, among its numerous titles is a movie concept that is all too familiar with American audiences. The second half of the movie is a cat and mouse game between a boy who loves to dress as Rambo and sets traps for a mall Santa who is looking to get vengeance after the boy’s mother gets him fired from his Santa gig. I enjoyed the cinematography and the setting of the giant mansion where someone could get easily lost in. There’s a few dead bodies in this one along with painful setups that the antagonist walks right into. Around the same time the following year, another Christmas movie about a boy who is home alone while his family is on vacation in Paris takes on two burglars by setting up traps inside his very own home. Coincide? I think not.
A film that became a victim of financier influence, Spookies is essentially two movies in one. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, but I enjoyed it for its hammy acting and impressive physical effects. Don’t bother trying to work your brain into overtime as to figure out what is going on in terms of the story. As Joe Bob said during the screening of this film, “You need to retire your brain.”
68. Blood Rage
“That’s not cranberry sauce!” This was the infamous line of Blood Rage, the 1987 underground slasher. It has a clever story where the body count stacks up. Great use of effects and has many gory parts with chopped off limbs and ripped up stomachs. The ending would’ve been perfect if it weren’t for one thing…I’m not going to spoil for those who haven’t seen it yet.
Haunt is nothing new nor original, but it’s entertaining enough to keep your attention. There are some grizzly death scenes and unexpected turns near the end of the film. One of the better films to come out within the last year.
66. The House By The Cemetery
I like The House By The Cemetery for its creepy, gory and unsettling atmosphere and scenery, but the plot is muddled and unconvincing. The scenes with the babysitter make you want to throw your hands up in the air when the mother asks what she’s doing which is obviously cleaning up blood on the floor only for the babysitter to answer with, “I’ll make some coffee.”On top of that, this film is notable for having the most annoying dub of child acting along with excruciatingly bad sobbing which is supposed to be the haunted house making that noise that make you want to plug in your ears and go, “La la la!” Thank goodness this is an improved viewing thanks to Eli Roth’s historical insights on this considering the movie takes place near his hometown, although shot in Rome because it’s an Italian movie done by the horror great Luico Fulci. The House By The Cemetery feels like it should be in the middle of the rankings until I realized there were better movies than this.
Italian rip off horror films don’t get any better than Contamination. I liked the cheesy effects and the bad dubbing. Not to mention the weird spacey soundtrack from Goblin. The episode was made funnier with Joe Bob’s tidbits about the movie and how he seemed to get a kick at Italian’s literally stealing from American movies and passing them off as their own original work of art.
William Lustig’s gritty grind-house classic Maniac is a perfect movie for “The Last Drive In.” Filled with claustrophobic atmosphere, gritty cinematography and excellent effects work from the great Tom Savini who was also the special guest during the broadcasting of this episode. While I personally enjoyed the remake better (gasps), Maniac is a great example that you can make a scary and stylish horror flick for an very low budget.
Heathers raised a lot of eyebrows when it was revealed as the second feature in the second episode of Season 2. The debate still rages on as to whether or not to classify this as a Drive-In film. This film is a reminder that Drive-In movies are not just horror movies with blood, breasts and beasts, but films that are designed to give you an enjoyable experience.
62. Tourist Trap
The inaugural film in “The Last Drive In” summer marathon Tourist Trap is a movie filled with strange atmosphere, quirky characters and a bizarre subplot. There are some moments in the movie that do make your skin crawl. This was an early horror flick to experiment with different things seeing what will stick. It may not hold up to the younger audience, but those who’ve seen this film before will still have fond memories of it.
61. Bride of Re-Animator
Brian Yuzna who produced the iconic 1985 H.P. Lovecraft film takes over director duties in this sequel that is lifted from Bride of Frankenstein. The chemistry between Herbert West and Daniel Cain, now Medical Doctors is a love/hate relationship, but realize they both need each other in order to accomplish what they set out to do. While the performances are great and Yuzna ratchets up the blood, gore and the silly creations that Herbert gives life to in order to prove his theory on rejuvenating life through different anatomical parts of the body, the film suffers from its slow pacing and it’s lack of originality which keeps it from charting higher on this list.
60. Mother’s Day
Kicking off Season 3 of The Last Drive In is Mother’s Day and I don’t mean the 2016 movie starring Jennifer Aniston. I’m talking about the 1980 exploitation horror flick released by none other than Troma Entertainment. Written and directed by Charles Kaufman, brother of Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman, Mother’s Day combines elements of Deliverance, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th (the later being shot across the lake from this film) into a grizzly offbeat viewing that has the style and crude humor you would find in a Troma movie. I was thoroughly amazed that this is the all time favorite movie of the Season 3 Premiere guest, Eli Roth who shared with the Drive-In Mutants that he showed this movie during his Bar Mitzvah. His knowledge and insight of the movie was fascinating that even Joe Bob’s bolo started spinning. Roth talks about the influence this movie has had on him since becoming a filmmaker. That’s the power of the drive in movie.
59. One Cut of the Dead
One Cut of the Dead is one of those film within a film concepts. You think you’re watching a zombie movie that is all done in one continuous shot, but then throws a wrench at the second half when it is revealed that it is part of a reality television series. One of the more clever films to be shown on “The Last Drive In.”
Another first time watch when it was aired, Society was indeed a strange tale about elitism. To say that Screaming Mad George’s special effects were hardcore would be an understatement. Of course the shunting party is a vision that you’ll never be able to shake from your mind. Oh and I loved how Joe Bob asked Darcy numerous questions regarding shunting based on her past experiences, if you know what I mean…..and I think you do.
I’ve been meaning to watch Mandy for the longest time as I was curious to see what all the hype was about. My first viewing of the movie was on “The Last Drive In.” It’s a film that won’t appeal to the entire mutant mass. It’s a psychedelic grind-house trip featuring Nicolas Cage doing what Nicolas Cage does. While I appreciate it for its visual style, I found myself losing interest with all the needlessly long scenes and things I felt should’ve been cut out. Sorry fans of this film, I just have a different view on this.
56. The Little Shop of Horrors
The final double feature of Season 3 featuring two Roger Corman films, one he directed and one he produced. The first feature was Corman’s adaptation of Little Shop of Horrors. Released in 1960, this cult classic has become a classic in itself and I prefer this version over the 1986 musical remake. It has a great blend of wit and wacky. It’s indeed a charming B movie which was ignored during its initial release. The film is notable for featuring a then unknown Jack Nicholson in a small role as a dentist patient and you could see by his performance that he would become the legendary actor he is today. I loved Corman’s background on this movie and was surprised it was shot in two days. Of course, that is expected from Roger Corman. Once the light turns green, he’s off to the races.
55. Sorority Babes In The Slimeball Bowl-O Rama
I’ve never heard of Sorority Babes At The Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama until it was shown during the original marathon. This quirky film features numerous scream queens including Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauer. There was so much about this film I enjoyed from the jive talking imp that passed wishes out like candy, a sorority pledge initiation involving smacking booties with large paddles and Linnea Quigley’s all killer no filler performance as Spider. The scene with Spider and Calvin in the bathroom and Calvin talks about how stupid his pick up line was to Spider is featured in the Static-X song “I’m With Stupid.”
54. The Stuff
I’m a huge Larry Cohen fan and I was excited that they showed not one, but two of his movies during Season 1. The Stuff is a quintessential 80s film with great music, special effects and offbeat characters. It was made during a period of heavy product advertisement, additives in food and big corporations profiting from the product. Features the great tagline of “Are you eating it or is it eating you?” Loved Darcy’s cosplay as one of the models during a commercial shoot who is eating a carton of “The Stuff.”
53. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
“The Last Drive In” was a great platform to showcase movies not just made in America, but from all over the world. Yes, this movie was shot in California, but the actors and the setting gives it an authentic Middle Eastern look and feel. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is an isolated atmospheric film shot in black and white and gives a fresh new take on vampire lore. I enjoyed every bit of it.
52. Christmas Evil
The film that got the John Waters Seal of Approval, Christmas Evil is the film that started the killer Santa Claus concept which would be done countless times throughout the 80s. Christmas Evil was known for its grainy cinematography and unique editing style. Writer/Director Lewis Jackson creates a somber story adding themes of social responsibility and personal morality throughout the Christmas season. Brandon Maggart gives a chilling performance as the antagonist who is obsessed with jolly old St. Nick that he takes it upon himself to transform into him and determine whom among his community are naughty and nice. Christmas Evil is a horror flick that doesn’t get mentioned alongside your Silent Night Deadly Nights or Santa’s Slays, but is one that stands the test of time and continues to proudly wear its Cult Status Badge on its chest.
51. The House of the Devil
The House of the Devil is a throwback to the classic horror films of the 70s and 80s. Filled with quiet, but tense moments the movie had me clinching my chest at the thought of what could happen next. It was well constructed and the slow burn would make up to what would be a fast paced and intense ending.
I’ve been seeing lists from other fans’ “The Last Drive In” lists and most of them seem to rank Madman near the bottom. Madman is not a terrible movie. It’s an early 80s slasher that borrows from Friday the 13th featuring a creepy antagonist based on lore and characters that can’t seem to see what’s in front of them. There are some good kill scenes. And how could you not love Joe Bob singing the Madman Marz theme song at the end? I would put that performance alone at the very top of the list.
49. Jack Frost
Another film that is perfect for “The Last Drive In,” Jack Frost is not a great movie, but its over the top silliness makes for pure entertainment. There’s some good effects and creative kills in this film. Cheese can’t even describe the puns Jack says after killing his victims. I’ll always think of this film as Shannon Elizabeth’s acting debut and her crude death scene that if were shown today would definitely be receiving attention from the Me Too movement.
48. Victor Crowley
The fourth installment in Adam Green’s Hatchet franchise is an ode to the slasher films of the 80s. Features some hilarious performances and brutal kills, Victor Crowley is the type of movie you would watch at a sleepover in the middle of the night. And of course I can’t forget to mention the cast of the film appearing as the guests of the show in their pajamas. One thing they left out to make it the ultimate summer sleepover was a campfire and S’mores.
Hogzilla is not a great film, we get it. What makes the episode great is the fact that Darcy was able to get the rights to broadcast this. It was so much fun seeing the crew’s reaction when it was announced Hogzilla would be played. It was the first time on “The Last Drive In” where Darcy played the role of host giving out the Drive In Totals and Awards. We could see Joe Bob having fun with it despite his groans and complaints earlier in the episode. What keeps this from being a top ten episode is again, the overall movie.
46. Fried Barry
A Shudder world premiere film during Season 3, Fried Barry is indeed a trip. A drug addict gets abducted by aliens who then takeover his body and return to earth and ventures through the streets of Cape Town learning the ways of its inhabitants. Fried Barry is an art house style film that relies on visual and movement performances of its lead actor Gary Green rather than dialog. It’s essentially the journey of an extraterrestrial who is experiencing the pleasures of men and women while finding some heart in helping those in need and punishing those with bad intentions. I didn’t go into this movie with expectations and I came out at the end as not only an enjoyable film, but one of the better Shudder originals to air on the channel.
45. Hell Comes to Frogtown
Hell Comes To Frogtown is a great conclusion to what would be an incredible season. You can’t go wrong with a movie starring Rowdy Roddy Piper playing a scavenger whose been recruited by the government to rescue a group of fertile woman by mutant humanoid frogs for the purpose of getting them impregnated to repopulate the world after a nuclear war. Movie is full of hilarious moments and traditional one liners Piper delivers in the same manner as he did in They Live or any of his wrestling promotions. This was a great palate cleanser after the showing of Hellraiser II.
44. Class of 1984
My first viewing of Class of 1984 was on “The Last Drive In” and it was nothing like I’d expected. For some reason I thought it was a zombie high school flick, but instead it was a violent and heartbreaking look at a gang of misfits reigning terror on a school and causing certain teachers such as Perry King’s Andrew Norris to stand up and do something about it when no higher authorities have the courage to. The performances are solid as the mind games dwindle on the psyche of those involved. An overlooked exploitation film that continues to be relatable today with the school system falling apart and very few giving a damn at giving the kids an educational future they deserve. Features a pre Family Ties appearance from Michael J. Fox.
Shown as the final movie in the original marathon Pieces is known for its brutal amounts of blood and gore as the killer takes random body pieces of women in order to create his own human jigsaw puzzle. Joe Bob’s hilarious commentary adds to the weird moments of the film along with the over the top dubbing of the characters since this was made by a Spanish filmmaking crew. I saw this movie before “The Last Drive In” viewing so I had fond memories of it.
42. The Changeling
You can’t go wrong with a traditional horror flick on “The Last Drive In.” The Changeling is a straight up ghost story film with brooding atmosphere and good performances. The film was a great reminder for the viewing audience that you don’t need monsters, blood, sex and any other weird stuff to make a compelling and haunting horror flick.
41. Deadbeat At Dawn
Deadbeat At Dawn is a personal film for me since this was shot entirely in Dayton, OH which is where I’m from and still reside to this day. A gritty underground film similar to The Warriors, Deadbeat At Dawn is known for its guerilla presentation as the film was shot without permits. The plot may not be cohesive, but there’s enough going on with the characters in the movie to keep you focused. For me, it was great to see downtown Dayton shown and remembering the stores and buildings. Most of them are still there although some are no longer inhabited. Amazing how much things change over time.
40. Halloween 4
Halloween 4 ranks as my third favorite film in the franchise and I was excited when it was announced it would be shown during the“Halloween Hootenany” special. After the box office disappointment of Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Universal went back to the drawing board to bring Michael Myers back. Halloween 4 would be the introductory film for future scream queen Danielle Harris who is the star of the film with her emotionally charged and vulnerable performance. There is much to enjoy of this movie from the kills to the return of Donald Pleasance desperately trying to warn Haddonfield about the return of Myers. The Return of Michael Myers was indeed a return to form.
39. Dead and Buried
A film that was on my most request list to get “The Last Drive In” treatment was granted during Season 3. Dead and Buried is a classic story of the undead that takes place is a sleepy seaside town. It uses creepiness over gore to get viewers to shake their bones. There’s some great extensive effect scenes including one that will make you squirm. The film also features early appearances of Robert Englund and Lisa Blount. Oh and of course Jack Albertson steals the show. You’ll never look at Grandpa Joe from Willy Wonka the same after watching this flick.
38. Ginger Snaps
Another film where I’ve heard so much about, but never got around to watching until it was a feature on “The Last Drive In,” Ginger Snaps makes clever use of the concept of a girl being bitten by a werewolf and slowing transforming into one as a metaphor for girls blossoming into womanhood. Katherine Isabelle acts out her hormonal feelings on boys she likes while unleashing her territorial rage on her enemies. The chemistry between her and Emily Perkins make you believe that they are real life sisters. I watched something fresh and original even if it’s been twenty-one years since its release.
37. Humanoids From The Deep
Humanoids From The Deep would be the final feature of Season 3 with legendary filmmaker/producer Roger Corman hanging out after the first feature to talk about one of his most recognized films. While he produced this movie and not directed it, this film has his stamp. Crazy creatures, naked women, a body count nearing 50, tons of blood and gore and explosions. Oh and don’t forget an insane ending. Humanoids From The Deep starts out punching and doesn’t stop until you are knocked out at the end credits.
36. Street Trash
I was quite surprised to learn that Street Trash was not a Troma film despite the fact it has all the elements to be one. Shown along with The Stuff as part of a melt movie episode, Street Trash features multiple storylines with bizarre characters, sleazy comedic moments and of course some colorful melting effects when victims who drink the half century old “Tenefly Viper.” The film was also notable for being the first film to use the steady cam as writer/director Jim Muro would go on to become the most sought after cameraman in the industry working on every blockbuster movie you could think of.
35. Black Christmas
Another classic film that was the introductory showing to the second Christmas special on “The Last Drive In,” Black Christmas is full of dark atmosphere, tension and uneasy imagery. The production is simple as there is no bloody death scenes, natural lighting and numerous first person shots that put you in the shoes of the killer. The performances of Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder are memorable. This is one of the best films made by Bob Clark who would go on to direct two more critically acclaimed moves in Porky’s and A Christmas Story.
34. Tammy and the T-Rex
The first movie presented in the Valentine’s Day Special, “Joe Bob Puts A Spell On You”, Tammy and the T-Rex is a perfect blend of teenage romance, comedy and horror. Fans were treated to the “Gore Version” of this film that had only been seen in Italy until it was recently released in an original uncut edition on Vingear Syndrome. This version keeps the film from being too sappy. The ratchet up blood and gore definitely had me clinching my teeth over the absurd amount. The chemistry between Denise Richards and Paul Walker is genuine in the first half of the movie and I felt their performances were natural. It gets funnier when Walker’s character becomes the T-Rex and how he tries to act like he’s still human. Tammy and the T-Rex is one of those movies that shows how strong the power of love can be given unforeseen circumstances.
33. Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead
The second film shown in “A Very Joe Bob Christmas,” Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead continues from the events of the second film as we see Michael Baldwin return to play Mike who still is being pursued by the Tall Man and enlists the help of Reggie to stop him. Lord of the Dead features a perfect balance of horror and comedy. I enjoyed the Home Alone introductory sequence of the new character Tim. Reggie Bannister continues to sit alongside Joe Bob to talk about this movie along with the continuing lore of the Phantasm series. Phantasm III perfectly sits in the middle when it comes to listing the films from least to best.
32. Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2
Fans have been desperately crossing their fingers in the hopes Joe Bob and Co. would be presenting this film and they delivered during “Joe Bob’s Red Christmas” in 2019. Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2 is the quintessential best/worst film ever although I’ve grown to be fond of this movie after numerous viewings. The film is known for many things including twenty minutes of the first film being shown as the protagonist Ricky goes through the traumatic details of the events that would lead to him being a killer. Of course Eric Freeman’s performance as Ricky is legendary in the horror world with his frequent eyebrow raising when he talks and the infamous screaming of “Garbage Day” as he shoots a neighbor taking out the trash. What would’ve made this presentation great is if Joe Bob brought Eric Freeman to the set to talk about his experience on the making of this film, but at least we got a re-enactment of the deer antler death from the first movie with Joe Bob dressed as Santa and Darcy playing Linnea Quigley.
31. Scare Package
Scare Package was the first Shudder original film to debut on “The Last Drive In.” The film is an homage to the anthology horror films like Creepshow. Each story is different and clever with some decent performances and a great blend of horror and comedy. The best and surprising thing about this movie was Joe Bob himself making a guest appearance in the final story and becoming a martyr and rightfully placing himself in the list of horror heroes.
30. The Day of the Beast
Week 9 of Season 3 was “Devil Appreciation Night” and the second feature was the 1995 Spanish horror/comedy film The Day of the Beast. The film is about a priest who goes on to commit as many sins as possible before Christmas in order to summon the devil believing that Armageddon will happen due to a cryptogram that he deciphered. Directed by Alex de la Iglesia, The Day of the Beast is an intriguing concept loaded with hilarious situations that the characters find themselves in resulting in a big payoff at the end. The performances of the characters and the cinematography gives the film a dark of a mood as its comedy. I was impressed with this film and it kept me on my toes as to what would happen next. I haven’t seen many Spanish horror/comedy films, but The Day of The Beast is the de facto best film I’ve seen to come from the country.
29. Tetsuo: The Iron Man
Ah, there’s nothing like crazy Japanese horror. I consider Tetsuo a hardcore horror flick as it deals with the melding of man and technology. Through the one hour and seventeen minutes of film, you’re engulfed with the most visceral and uneasy imagery in black and white as you see a man slowly transform. I couldn’t get through this film when I first saw it years ago, but was able to push through and watch it in its entirety during The Last Drive In viewing. I have a much better appreciation for it although it still makes me feel uneasy. Oh and how could you not love the ending segment of the episode where Ernie becomes a metal/lizard hybrid. Shudder needs to get a film adaptation green-lit.
Featuring Clint Howard in an early leading role, Evilspeak uses the concept of technology as a way of summoning the devil. In this case, Howard’s character Stanley Coopersmith uses an Apple computer to translate the book written in Latin from demonic priest Father Esteban to unleash his evil spirit to punish his enemies. Evilspeak is a grisly horror film with a sympathetic character. If you’ve ever found yourself in the same predicament as Coopersmith during your school days, you will relate to this film and its vengeful third act. Not only did this viewing feature Howard as the special guest, but we were treated to a Clint Howard Tribute Song with video montage and an ending shot of his very successful but supportive brother Ron.
27. Phantasm IV: Oblivion
Phantasm IV: Oblivion is one of the best films in the series. Despite the limited setting and characters due to the budget, Don Coscarelli still managed to put together an exciting and story enriched film which for the first time in the series explored the origins of the Tall Man. Angus Scrimm and Michael Baldwin’s performances are the best seen through the continuous narrative of the Phantasm story. Of course we can’t forget about Reggie Bannister as he continues to be Mike’s guardian who swore to protect him from the clutches of the Tall Man who provided great insight on the making of this movie as he did the others during the “A Very Joe Bob Christmas” special.
26. Troma’s War
How could they not show an original Troma movie on “The Last Drive In?” Troma’s War is considered one of the best films of Lloyd Kaufman’s filmography with its serious subject matter mixed in with the traditional gags Troma has been known for including tongue rippings, weird hybrid man/animal creatures and a fart joke that took the wind out of me from all the laughter. And what better way to show this film than to bring Lloyd Kaufman on himself as the special guest. It was so much fun watching Joe Bob and Kaufman talk back and forth not only about the movie but the history of Troma. Kaufman was indeed one of the best guests “The Last Drive In” has ever had on the show. I could watch these two talk about movies all day long. They should get together and do a theater tour once this COVID pandemic finally ends.
25. The Exorcist III
The Exorcist III is an underrated horror film with plenty of atmosphere, jump scares and solid performances. This was one of the movies I was hoping “The Last Drive In” would show for Season 2. While the film is based on William Peter Blatty’s novel Legion, there’s small elements that bring you back to the first movie including Jason Miller’s return as Father Karras and the exorcism at the end. The highlight of the movie is Brad Dourif’s emotional performance as the Gemini Killer. If horror was not frowned upon by the academy, Dourif would’ve easily receive an Oscar nod for his role.
How could you not call your Halloween special “Halloween Hootenany” without showing the original Halloween? “Halloween Hootenany” gave us three films from the Michael Myers universe and the first film kicked off the festivities. The John Carpenter classic continues to be fresh, innovative and overall creepy. Carpenter’s music only heightens the tension of what is going on. Let’s not forget the performances of Jamie Lee Curtis P.J. Soles and Nancy Keyes as the first trio of scream queens. Halloween continues to be the blueprint for how to make a great slasher film.
23. Maniac Cop 2
The first Maniac Cop film set the tone of the series and it’s first sequel gets a huge facelift (figuratively speaking. Drive In Mutants were treated to a double dose of Maniac Cop during Season 3. Maniac Cop 2 is loaded with enhanced kill scenes, motor vehicle chases and bodies on fire and falling from windows onto the roof of a bus. On top of that, fans were delighted to see a second special guest which turned out to be the fanatical filmmaker of the series William Lustig. I enjoyed his behind the scenes stories on the making of 2 and was quite surprised of the influences that Lustig features in the second film. Lot of fans prefer Maniac Cop 2 over the first movie, which is understandable. The second film looks and feels more lively. This is indeed a great follow up to an 80s exploitation classic, however my heart still belongs to the inaugural film.
22. Chopping Mall
The film that kicked off Season 2 of “The Last Drive In,” Chopping Mall is another film that I’ve seen before and have fond memories. Only Roger Corman could come up with a concept about security robots going berserk and hunting down teenagers trapped in a shopping mall after hours. I love the music along with the performances and action sequences. This viewing was made more special with the appearance of Kelli Maroney who sits down with Joe Bob to talk about the movie and some unflattering experiences with director Jim Wynorski. There’s not much more to say about this movie without going too further into details only to say, “Thank you. Have a nice day!”
The first Christmas special on “The Last Drive In” titled “A Very Joe Bob Christmas” featured the viewing of four of the five Phantasm movies. While the Phantasm movies aren’t Christmas themed movies, you could argue that the silver balls in the series is a reason to show them in December. What can you say about the original Phantasm that hasn’t already been said? It’s another iconic original horror flick filled with diverse characters, tricky special effects and beyond comprehension moments like how does the Tall Man’s chopped off fingers turn into a giant killer fly? Don Coscarelli’s masterpiece is one that continues to be celebrated year in and year out. It’s a classic flick that deserved “The Last Drive In” treatment.
Wolfcop was another movie I’ve never heard of until it was presented on Season 1 of “The Last Drive In.” I loved everything about the flick from it’s new take on werewolf transformations to the fast paced action and a creative plot. Leo Fafard’s dual performance as Lou Garou and Wolfcop is one of the best I’ve seen from the horror genre in the last ten years. It stacks up there along with the other dual superhero performances. I also enjoyed another history lesson from Joe Bob this time about the Canadian province of Saskatchewan where the film was shot and takes places in. I also learned that “Liquor Donuts” is an actual thing. Maybe Shudder can get the rights to play Wolfcop II for Season 3?
19. The Hills Have Eyes
Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes is another film that makes me feel uneasy and I have to pull my own teeth just to get through. What makes this film uneasy for me is that this could happen in the real world and there’s nothing more terrifying than that. I respect the film for it’s risk taking, gritty and sleazy characters and the feeling of hopelessness. This particular viewing was a little more comfortable for me thanks to the special guest appearance of Michael Berryman. While his character in the film, Pluto is a scary as any character on film, Berryman is a gentle humble giant. Just like the promos for Craven’s earlier flick The Last House on the Left, I have to keep telling myself, “It’s only a movie!”
Takashi Miike is one of the greatest if not the greatest Japanese filmmaker. He never apologizes for creating brutal and shocking films with a strong message about society and politics. Audition is one of those movies where it starts out milk and roses until the milk expires and the roses whither. There are so many moments that had me looking away or feeling uneasy as the Eihi Shiina’s performance as Asami who assimilates herself into Aoyama’s life as a possible bride to be, only for her to take out her past traumas on him. The final act of the movie is intense. In the end Audition can be interpreted as a feminist themed revenge flick due to the misogynistic nature of the male characters in the beginning. Either way it’s messaging is loud and clear.
Clive Barker’s film adaptation of his own novel is still an iconic visual experience. There is so much to love about Hellraiser from the makeup to special effects to the original story. It’s a film that gives no warnings as to what is going to happen and apologizes for nothing in the end. Hellraiser pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable in horror films. What a perfect film to be shown in the original marathon where Joe Bob showed the best the genre had to offer.
16. Brain Damage
I’m a huge fan of Frank Henelotter and his movies and I was ecstatic that “The Last Drive In” would be showing another one of his classics. Brain Damage is a creative take on Faust which also has an anti-drug message associated with it. I loved the visuals of the movie and not to mention the relationship between Rick Hearst and Aylmer the Parasite that develops through the movie which becomes a tug-o-war for control. Speaking of Aylmer, he may be cute with a sophisticated voice provided by the late great John Zacherle, but his intentions are downright sinister. Henelotter is not afraid to push buttons and he certainly does in this movie, especially during the club girl giving head scene.
I know what you’re asking, “Why is C.H.U.D. so high on the list?” Yes, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I ranked this movie higher than other because of the fact the Joe Bob made this film more entertaining to watch. I can’t recall a single time since I’ve watched Joe Bob where he outright bashes a movie that is being presented. Every break he seem to gripe about one thing after another about C.H.U.D. which is rightfully so. Also it’s funny that he only gave a Drive In Academy award nomination for John Goodman in his short small role and when he gave the film two stars, you could hear gasps from the Shudder crew. If Shudder can’t get the rights back to C.H.U.D. they should at least put up the Joe Bob segments. Those alone are pure entertainment gold.
14. Castle Freak
Castle Freak is another original and creative film that uses real settings, has a brooding atmosphere and a sympathetic antagonist despite his disfigured appearance. One of the few films from late legendary horror director Stuart Gordon that is not adapted from an H.P. Lovecraft story. This viewing of Castle Freak is enhanced by the special guest appearance of star Barbara Crampton, who is lovely as ever and provides a humbling take on the film. This is one of the best films made by Charles Band’s Full Moon Features and makes me wish that they would go back to this style of film making instead of making Troma ripoffs.
13. Q: The Winged Serpent
Shown the week of Larry Cohen’s passing (featuring a nice tribute at the beginning of the broadcast), Q is the perfect B-Movie to be shown on “The Last Drive In.” A unique film that blends the genres of monster movies and film noir, the movie is known for it’s great performances from its two leading actors Michael Moriarty and David Carradine, it’s inventive story and like every Larry Cohen film, his use of stealing shots and creating realistic reactions from those who are unexpected pelt with blood or running away from the final battle of the flick. Q is my favorite Larry Cohen film of all time and what better way to honor the late auteur’s memory by showing just that.
12. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
One of the most controversial horror movies made and a film that still makes me uneasy, Henry is about as realistic as it can get. The performances of Michael Rooker and Tom Towles as Henry and Otis are as sickening and disturbing as their real life characters (the characters were based on serial killers Henry Lee Lucas and Otis Toole). The home invasion scene in the film is one that I continue to fast forward to this day as it is too much for me to handle. Director John McNaughton is the special guest on the viewing of Henry and goes into the detail the troubles he had making the film and struggling to find a distributor who would release it. Henry is indeed a controversial work of art that is revered and respected by many in the underground horror community.
11. Hellbound: Hellraiser II
What better way to enjoy watching a Hellraiser movie than to watch the perfect sequel to the original and bring along its two main stars as special guests? Hellbound was the first film shown in the final episode of Season 2. Ashley Laurence and Doug Bradley were brought on to discuss not just this movie, but the original film and the lasting legacy of the Hellraiser franchise. Bradley goes deep into the myths and legends of Pinhead and gives his own interpretations of the character he has played for over thirty years. At the same time, we’re watching a film that lives up to the mantle of the first movie providing a cohesive story and some of the nastiest characters you just love to hate. Hellbound was an experience that kept me chained to my seat.
Rabid was indeed a strange film, but would continue David Cronenberg’s vision of bodily horror. Rabid is a mixed take of a vampire flick and a zombie flick with body experimentation. It is filled with gory moments, an intelligent story and a surprisingly good performance from Marilyn Chambers who is best known for her work in the adult film industry. Rabid is a reminder of the fears that we as humans may have when it comes to surgery or implants.
9. Next of Kin
“The Last Drive In” has shown us international films from Italy, Japan, the U.K. and even Serbia, but Next of Kin is the first Australian film to be shown. From the opening shot of the film into the opening credits with a creepy score from Klaus Schulze, you know you about to watch something unique and one of its kind. Next of Kin is a stylized gothic murder mystery with tense atmosphere, great camerawork and gritty but beautiful cinematography featuring shots of lone roads in the land down under. The performances feel real and genuine as you can feel the uneasiness of the characters. It has genuinely frightening and shocking moments that had me clinching my teeth. Huge credit to director Tony Williams for creating a suspenseful Hitchcockian flick that doesn’t need cheap kills or ample amounts of blood to get the audience shivering. Kudos to the production team at “The Last Drive In” for getting the rights to broadcast this film otherwise I would’ve overlooked the chance to see something that did something to me I haven’t felt since I started familiarizing myself with horror at a very young age…scaring the pants right off of me.
I absolutely loved Mayhem when this was presented on “The Last Drive In.” From the first five minutes I was hooked on this film. I like the raged zombie concept that was originally started with 28 Days Later and brought it to a white collar environment. There are some great performances and plenty of action packed moments. I along with many can relate to Mayhem as some days we just want to lash out at our jobs or the people we’re surrounded by that make us want to throw a chair. This was one of the highlights of Season 2 for me.
Stuart Gordon’s take on the H.P. Lovecraft short story is still one of the best low budget horror films of the 80s. It is filled with unique characters including Jeffrey Combs’s quite but determined performance as Herbert West. Besides the ample amounts of blood and gore there are many comedic moments that help tone down the violence and of course the film is known for a head giving head….that’s all I’ll say. Reanimator was the perfect film to be shown during the initial “The Last Drive In” summer marathon and it is still a perfect film in this writer’s opinion.
As I was working on this list, I wanted to incorporate a recent horror film that I enjoyed the most and had a lasting impact. After going through the list, one movie stood out and that was Deathgasm. Deathgasm is a rare film blending heavy metal, dark magic, demon possession and romantic moments. This movie was a gorehound’s dream come true wanting a movie that brings back all the things you love about horror films. There is some exceptionally good performances in this film. I enjoyed the camera work the special effects and of course the music. Deathgasm is a movie that I have on replay when I go back and look to re-watch movies shown on “The Last Drive In.”
5. Train To Busan
I’ve heard so much about Train To Busan from friends of mine and in my busy world, I could never find time to watch it and see if it lived up to the praise that it has received. After watching it on “The Last Drive In” the praise is well deserved. Yes, Train To Busan is a zombie movie with the typical concept of a biological virus escapes and turns people into zombies, but this is a film that is much more than that. It is a thrilling, tension-laced roller coaster ride as the survivors try to escape and block the zombie herd in tight corridors on a train. In addition this movie gets your emotions riled up as you have characters that you care about and feel for their situation and you have characters that you despise. Writer/Director Sang-ho Yeon delivers an unforgettable viewing that redefines the zombie genre after years of staleness.
4. Maniac Cop
Another movie I fell in love with after the first viewing, Maniac Cop gets not only the “Last Drive In” treatment during Season 3, but we get a special guest appearance from the king himself (Elvis per se since he did play him in a movie once). I’m talking about Bruce Campbell. This viewing was highly entertaining. It was fresh to hear Bruce Campbell talk about a movie he was featured in that didn’t have the title Evil Dead in it. Maniac Cop features a ensemble cast of familiar faces including Campbell, Tom Atkins, Richard Roundtree, Laurene Landon and Robert Z’Dar as the antagonist Matt Cordell who is on a rampant killing spree into not only to give a black eye to New York’s finest, but to seek revenge on those that framed him and caused his disfigurement. Great script from Larry Cohen and incredible direction from William Lustig as they unleashed a societal slasher flick about corruption, police brutality and punishing the innocent which continues to play out today.
3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was shown during the Thanksgiving marathon titled “Dinners of Death.” This was the perfect movie to watch while you stuffed your face with turkey, sides and pie. After Joe Bob opens up the special with a immigration history on Thanksgiving, we dive right in as we will watch in horror the fate of the five characters in the film as they are picked off one by one from Leatherface. Tobe Hooper’s masterpiece is placed rightfully so in the Horror Hall of Fame. It’s viewing experience enhanced by Joe Bob’s knowledgeable trivia about the making of the movie, the actors and crew involved and where the Chainsaw house currently resides and what has been turned into.
2. Sleepaway Camp
I met Felissa Rose at a convention in 2015 and I honestly told her that I’ve never seen Sleepaway Camp before and that I pledged to her that the next time I met her I would see it. Fortunately, the movie was shown during the initial marathon with Rose appearing as a special guest. I loved Sleepaway Camp after the first viewing and became a huge fan that I went out and bought the Collector’s Edition on Blu-Ray. Sleepaway Camp is not just a camp slasher knockoff. There is some memorable death scenes, off beat characters with their own individual personalities and the misdirection as to who the killer may be. Of course Sleepaway Camp is known for it’s more controversial moments including the ending. I enjoyed Felissa Rose’s stories about the making of the film along with the actors she worked alongside with. I met Rose again in 2019 and brought along my Blu Ray copy for her to sign and told her that I loved the film after finally watching it on “The Last Drive In.” This viewing was the second best viewing of a film only to this film being listed number one….
I had been searching high and low trying to find Basket Case ever since I saw the box cover art at Blockbuster back as a kid (yes, I’m that old). When I heard it was going to be shown on the initial “The Last Drive In” marathon, ecstatic couldn’t describe my reaction. I did not know what to expect from the movie as I avoided spoilers and reviews for the longest time. I literally fell in love with Basket Case when the showing had ended. Frank Henelotter created an original and creative exploitation revenge flick filled with blood, breasts and beasts. I loved the grainy and gritty look of New York City that was shown in the film. Each character was great in their own way. I enjoyed the performances of Kevin Van Hentenryck as the lead character Duane who assists his deformed brother Belial seek revenge on those that separated them and I loved Terri Susan Smith as the loopy Sharon with that hilarious wig on her head. Of course the monster Belial was grotesque and I loved how he goes postal on everyone including the well done stop motion effect of him trashing their hotel room. What astonished me the most about this film was that it was made for only $30,000. Basket Case is an example that you can make a great shock horror flick with little to no money. It’s no wonder why Joe Bob loves this movie and considers it one of his favorite films of all time. I’m right there in Joe Bob’s camp. Basket Case has instantly become one of my Top 5 Horror films of all time.
So what did you think of this list? Feel free to comment, provide feedback, disagree, yell at me. All of it is very much appreciated.
Starring: David Carradine, Michael Moriarty, Richard Roundtree, Candy Clark, James Dixon
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
Larry Cohen is perhaps my second favorite filmmaker only to John Carpenter. He’s truly an auteur in the film industry. He wrote, produced, and directed his own movies taking on different genres with creative themes and concepts. Cohen was best known for being a guerrilla filmmaker where he shot his movies without permits and got away with them. His risk-taking no-nonsense style has earned him the admiration from many peers and fans. Sadly, he passed away in March 2019, but his legacy will continue to live on. For this week’s review, we are going to be looking at one of Larry Cohen’s most popular movies. It’s an homage to the early monster movies such as King Kong. It takes place in New York City (like King Kong), but instead of seeing the monster on top of the Empire State Building, you’re going to be seeing a monster on top of another landmark building, the Chrysler Building. This week we’re going to be reviewing 1982’s Q: The Winged Serpent!
As the title suggests, Q is a flying monster that has made its home on top of the Chrysler Building. It flies through the skies of New York City snatching up people for food. No one knows where this creature came from or how it got here. As the monster roams the skies, two separate stories are going on. The first story you have is Police Detective Shepard (David Carradine) who is assigned the case of finding the monster and killing it. He believes the monster has something to do with a series of ritual killings he’s also been investigating. Along with his partner Powell (Richard Roundtree), they link the killings and the monster to a secret Neo Aztec cult. The second story involves Jimmy Quinn (Michael Moriarty), a cheap two-timing crook who is an excellent piano player who is involved in a botched diamond heist. He makes his escape by hiding inside the Chrysler Building where he discovers the creature’s nest atop complete with a giant egg. Jimmy uses this knowledge of the creature’s location to lure his fellow mob pursuers to their deaths at the hands of the creature and to extort the city of money and immunity from prosecution in exchange for giving up the creature’s hideout.
Larry Cohen wrote and shot this movie in a little over two weeks. He was working on a project called I, The Jury until he was fired by the studio (he is credited for writing the script to the movie). Not wanting to leave his hotel room that was paid up, he assembled a small crew from the aforementioned project and started shooting all around the city. It took Cohen six days to write the script for Q. The cast was not aware of what they were making when they received a short telegram from Cohen to arrive in the city and be prepared to work.
When I first watched Q, I was thoroughly impressed with the look and style of the movie. It reminded me of the Godzilla movies that I used to watch as a kid on television. There was a look and feel to them that stuck in my brain and this movie did the same thing. It had me engaged from the first scene and I was on the edge of my seat to see how it was going to play out. I was familiar with Larry Cohen’s work at the time, but not enough to know how he shot films and how he edited them.
Q has an excellent cast filled with character actors and method actors. I’ve always been a fan of David Carradine and I was ecstatic when I found out he was in this film. He doesn’t disappoint. He plays Shepard as a traditional detective, trying to find all the clues and piece them together. When he comes up with his final report, it is rejected by his superiors. Carradine continues to believe what he has uncovered and is willing to do what it takes to stop the monster and save the city. His partner, played by Richard Roundtree is a little rougher around the edges. If interrogators were playing ‘Good Cop, Bad Cop’ with a suspect, Roundtree would easily be the ‘Bad Cop.’ There’s even a scene where he plays that on Jimmy Quinn. Speaking of Jimmy Quinn, he’s the surprising hero of the movie played brilliantly by Michael Moriarty. When he first appears on screen he is desperate to get back in the game of stealing. When the diamond heist goes bad he starts to get edgy and paranoid. As the movie progresses you see that Jimmy grow a brain and develop a plan to get rid of the people who are looking for him and a way to set himself up for the failed heist. Many critics and fans have hailed Moriarty’s performance as the best piece of method acting they’ve seen and I echo that sentiment. He pours emotions filled with anger, despair and cockiness. This was the first collaboration between Moriarty and Cohen and it wouldn’t be the last as they would work together on five more movies.
Like all of his movies, Larry Cohen shot the film with no permits and used real life police officers, construction workers and window washers which gives the movie an authentic feel. The movie is shot in the streets of New York, over the skies of New York and of course the inside and outside of the Chrysler Building. When you watch the people of New York look above when they are getting splattered with blood falling from the sky or taking cover when bullet cases are raining down, those aren’t paid actors, those are real people who are quickly reacting to the situation that they are in. The only permission he received was from the owners of the Chrysler Building. At the cost of $15,000 Cohen was able to shoot inside the building all the way up to the top where no ordinary citizen has gone before. From there you will be amazed by what the top of the building looks like and becomes the set piece for the climatic showdown between the monster and the police which is this reviewer’s favorite scene in the whole picture.
Now let’s get to the character of the monster itself, Quetzalcoatl! The special effects for Q were done using stop-motion animation by Randall William Cook and David Allen. It is custom for stop motion sequences to be shot as they are happening. This was not the case (nothing is ever coherent in a Larry Cohen movie). When Cohen hired Cook and Allen to do the stop motion animation, he had already finished shooting the movie. His plan was to add the creature into shots already taken. This results in the monster looking like he was pasted onto an existing shot. It brings a sense of unevenness when watching the monster when it appears or has moments of action such as plucking the heads off people. The effects are no different from what you would see in a b movie involving a monster, but don’t let the cheapness distract you. You will easily bypass it as you continue to be engrossed in the movie and enjoy the effects for the sheer fun.
There’s not much more I can say about Q: The Winged Serpent without giving too much away. It’s one of the best B-Movies to come out within the last forty years. It continues to have an impact and has inspired other filmmakers to make their own monster movies using this concept. I rank this as favorite film of everything Larry Cohen has done, even The Stuff! It’s example of a film which proves you can make a crazy concept and can execute it with a great story and characters.
TRIVIA (Per IMDB)
A young Bruce Willis wanted to star in David Carradine’s role but wasn’t a known name at the time that Larry Cohen could depend on to be bankable. Bruce later met Larry again when Moonlighting (1985) was a hit.
Pre-production for the movie lasted just one week. The film was conceived after Larry Cohen was fired from a big budget film shooting in New York. Cohen, determined not to waste the hotel room he had paid for, hired the actors and prepared a shooting script within six days.
In an interview on NPR’s “Fresh Air”, Michael Moriarty described the scene in which he auditions as a piano player. The music he played was a self-composed and unrehearsed improvisation, and the dog’s reaction was genuine.
The building in the opening scene of the movie is the Empire State Building. In this scene, a window cleaner loses his head to the monster. His name is William Pilch, and was the actual window cleaner for the Empire State Building at the time of the movie’s filming.
The French movie poster incorrectly shows the monster covered with feathers, a wavy dinosaur frill along its back, and with large white teeth. This is because it was illustrated and printed up before copies of the film were imported into France.
David Carradine agreed to play Shepard even though he didn’t receive a script to read prior to his first day of working on the film.
The jewel store that the bad guys rob in the early part of the film is called “Neil Diamonds” a pun on the name of Neil Diamond.
Cohen stated about the monsters death at the ending, “It’s the exact same scene as the end of the $150 million Godzilla picture. Gee, if I had that money I could have made 150 movies.”
Shepard’s (Carradine) wife is played by Carradine’s actual wife at the time.
Starring: Wil Wheaton, Rutger Hauer, Nia Peeples, Ron Perlman, Michael Harris
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
For those that have followed this blog from the beginning, you might recall a review I did for a Sci-Fi Channel original movie entitled Evolver! If you haven’t seen the post before, don’t worry you still can. All my posts are archived 😊 It’s one of my favorite made for television movies. The movie represented a time in the 90s when the Sci-Fi Channel was really coming up in the cable world and its popularity would spawn its own original movies. Another movie I recall seeing when it first came out that I discovered again was a movie called Mr. Stitch! I remember seeing the trailer for it where it was just a man all wrapped up in giant bandages in front of an all-white screen. As an impressionable pre-teen during the day I was overwhelmingly excited to see this. I don’t recall watching it when it premiered, but I remember I was quite fond of the idea, concept and execution. Watching it again not too long ago I double down on my comments. For a movie that is twenty-three years old, it still holds up despite some moments of outdatedness. With that let’s get to the synopsis of Mr. Stitch!
Mr. Stitch stars Wil Wheaton, best known for playing Ensign Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation as an androgynous human made from body parts and skin from various donors and chooses to be a man despite not having the sexual organs of one. He was created by a group of scientists led by Dr. Rue Wakeman (Rutger Hauer). He’s referred to only as ‘Subject 3.’ Later he chooses a name for himself. He is now ‘Lazarus’ after the biblical character. At first, Lazarus is obedient and follows commands and performs his tests. As Lazarus learns more about himself he begins having memories and nightmares from the lives of his donors. They offer clues as to the identities of those who inhabit his body while simultaneously torture him. This creates a rift between his relationship with Wakeman. Wakeman realizes he is losing control over Lazarus as he is developing independent logic and feeling. Lazarus realizes that Wakeman is hiding secrets from him causing him to no longer want to work with him. Psychologist Dr. Elizabeth English (Nia Peeples) is assigned to help Lazarus deal with his tension between Wakeman and deal with his nightmares and with it develop a sense of trust with other humans. They start to get close until Lazarus mentions a phrase that triggers English as it is a phrase that said to her from her deceased science partner and lover Dr. Frederick Texarian (Ron Perlman). Lazarus starts to be overwhelmed by being trapped in the ward and requests to see the outside world which is immediately rejected by Wakeman. He sneaks out and investigates Wakeman’s true intentions with him. Lazarus understands what his purpose is and must find a way to stop Wakeman’s plans as well as make amends with English.
Written and directed by Roger Avary, Mr. Stitch is essentially a modern day retelling of Frankenstein. You have the Scientist who is looking to create a human being from dead (in this case created by tissue and organs of deceased humans) and you have the monster, which in this case is aware, functional and intelligent compared to the monster of the classic tale. It has the same elements in terms of the scientist creating this new life and teaching it how to interact with others and how to function with the purpose that is only known to them. You have the monster that is trying to learn, but starts to become resilient and unbalanced. The two will clash into this tug of war over power and control.
About ninety percent of the film takes place in this ward where everything is white. The scientists wear white suits and Lazarus is bandaged in all white. To me it represents both the first light we see when we are born as well as a state of purgatory where we are trapped in this area and are waiting to get to the outside of what lies ahead (for Lazarus this would be the outside world). We don’t see the outside of the ward until the near climax of the movie and several flashback scenes that Lazarus experiences as nightmares. Only other color we see in the movie is a black couch similar to a top hat that acts as Lazarus’ bed and the snot colored goo that comes out from a giant eyeball called the Observation Eye that watches Lazarus’ every move and from a device that measures and records his brain wave pattern when he is asleep (both are destroyed by Lazarus in a fit of anger).
The look of Lazarus is comprised of numerous pieces of skin from all different colors of humans (Black, White, and Brown). His eyes have different pigments of color. His hair is long and frazzled, almost like a witch. Although he is androgynous, he identifies himself as man due to his strength and anger that is to be more in common with a man than a woman. I give the makeup department credit for creating a creature like this to represent that we are all human begins regardless of race, color, sex and creed. I think that was Avary’s intention as well.
Mr. Stitch has some unique shots and visuals. What stood out to me are the choice of lenses that were used in certain scenes. For example, the “think tank” office of the scientists is shot like they are working inside a bubble. To me, the bubble represents the inner circle of those who are in it as to their research and their plans as to what to do with the research they are developing. The climax scene is deep underground and has a glossy watery effect that surrounds the confronting characters. Based on your impressions it gives you either a dream like effect or an effect if someone where high on drugs.
The pacing is a little uneven, but it doesn’t take away from the plot. Music is incorporated in practically every scene and it’s appropriate for what is happening in the scene. There is heavy metal during Lazarus’ bouts of anger or paranoia. There is a dreamy soft guitar sound during a hypnosis scene. Each piece of music sets the tone for what is happening.
The movie contains a very small cast with the majority of screen time belonging to Wil Wheaton and Rutger Hauer. Both of them I felt did a good job with their performances despite some flaws in the script. Wheaton starts out as very calm and compliant as he performs the tests that Hauer has him do. He’s quite intelligent by quickly developing his self-awareness and heightened sensibility. He is hostile to the scientists, but finds a soft and calming nature when he is around Dr. English. He develops a deep sense of trust and in some cases, love when they are together. Wheaton is able to channel his emotions of the character in the appropriate scenes throughout the film. Hauer portrays Dr. Wakeman as a teacher and somewhat of a father figure to Lazarus. He is cautious with his responses to Lazarus’ questions and steers him away from anything he sees as a threat to his control of him. Hauer was very unhappy with the writing of the movie that he disregarded the script and began to improvise his scenes to match what he felt was more logical of his character and the story. I honestly can’t tell you that I was able to pick out which scenes he improvised, but that’s what makes him a great established actor was that he knew more about the character than what Avary had on paper.
The rest of the cast includes Nia Peeples as Dr. Elizabeth English who is brought in to help Lazarus deal with his dreams and nightmares. She builds a rapport with Lazarus during their sessions together. As they get to know each other, she becomes slightly distraught at what she discovers about him. Her feelings for him come full circle in the climax of the film. Peeples is very attractive and gives a soft touch to the films constant hostility between the two main characters. The other main performance comes from Michael Harris as General Hardcastle, who is the head of a secret government organization called ‘The Outfit’ and is in charge of the project. He shovels billions of taxpayers’ dollars to Wakeman and his team with the goal of creating a superior human being that could be used not only in warfare but to take down the bureaucrats in Washington so he can remodel the government in his own vision. He is the real antagonist of the movie. This was perhaps the weakest and most laughable performance of the movie. His dialogue reminds me of something a professional wrestler would say, but he gets what’s coming to him and it’s very satisfying. There is also small appearances from Ron Perlman as Dr. Texarian, the original team leader of the Stitch Project, Taylor Negron as Dr. Alan Jacobs who replaces Dr. English and gets a not so warm welcome by Lazarus and Make Up Effects Guru Tom Savini as a scientist.
Mr. Stitch is available to watch on YouTube since it’s hard to find any video copies. I think you would enjoy watching this made for television movie. It’s a creative take on an original monster story. It doesn’t drag and keeps your attention with every scene. I wish the Sci-Fi Channel would make more of these compelling films than cheap monster movies involving five headed sharks or a yeti with the speed of a greyhound dog. Really makes you miss the 90s.
TRIVIA (Per IMDB)
Part way through production, Rutger Hauer completely discarded the script and refused to do any scenes from it. The majority of his scenes were improvised by the actor. Later, Roger Avary was forced to rewrite the remaining script to match up with Rutger’s footage.
This movie was the first “original” aired by The Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy). It would be a few more years before they started advertising their made-for-TV movies as “Sci-Fi Originals”, but they did advertise this quite a bit as new and never-before-seen.
Was meant to be a pilot for a proposed television series. After Rutger Hauer gave up on the movie, the series was sunk.
Starring: Rick Hearst, Gordon MacDonald, Jennifer Lowry, Theo Barnes, Lucille Saint-Peter, John Zacherle (Voice/Uncredited)
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
I’ve been wanting to do this review for a very long time. This happens to be one of my favorite Horror/Drive In/B Movies of all time. It was done by the great Frank Henelotter, who did the Basket Case trilogy (See my review of the first Basket Case movie for Halloween) and Frankenhooker. What’s great about Frank is that he’s only made a half dozen movies, but they’re all creative, original and super fun to watch. I rather have a filmmaker I like make six great movies than a filmmaker like Ridley Scott, who’s made fifty plus movies and thirty-five of them are forgettable. So, without further ado, here is the review for Frank’s 1988 movie about drug addiction in a creepy, funny style titled Brain Damage!
The movie is about a guy named Brian who is laying in bed feeling sick. When he gets up, he notices blood on his pillow all the way down to his bedsheet. He feels the back of his neck which is also bleeding. Unsure of what happens, he lays down again. Suddenly, he starts going on a psychedelic trip where he sees bright lights and colors. Knowing that someone or something is causing this, he asks for this person to reveal themselves. From behind his neck appears a long black/bluish phallic looking parasite named Aylmer (pronounced Elmer). Aylmer reveals to Brian that he has a juice in his body when injected directly into the brain will give the person a euphoric feeling. Brian starts to get addicted to Aylmer’s juice which causes him to isolate himself from his girlfriend, Barbara and his brother, Mike. As Brian goes around town dancing and living it up with this aura in his brain, unbeknownst to him Aylmer kills anyone near him and eats their brain. Brian is eventually confronted by an elderly man named Morris, who was Aylmer’s former host and warns Brian that Aylmer is looking to take over him and by continuing to be on his juice, his brain will continue to turn into mush and become dinner for the hungry parasite. Brian must find a way to get control of himself before he becomes Aylmer’s next victim.
As the title suggests, the movie is about drugs, drug addition and the effects it has on the person taking them and their loved ones. According to Frank Henelotter, he came up with this idea after having a bad trip taking cocaine. Henelotter makes a visually compelling monster movie with a strong message. He takes the audience for a ride through the mind and body of a junkie. You go through the highs (pun intended) and the lows of the character. In between the movie you’ll be caked with blood, gore, brains and some dark humor.
Let’s start with the acting. The film is primarily focused on the two characters of Brian and Aylmer. Rick Hearst plays the protagonist, Brian. This was his first movie and does a dang great job of playing Brian. You don’t know much about Brian in terms of what he does for a living, where he came from. Brian gets easily manipulated once he starts getting high which can be common among addicts. When he goes on his trips, he’s very child like as he’s amazed by the colors and lights around him and how he can feel the music. Hearst plays a convincing addict through his physical appearance, his facial expressions and the hallucinations he sees. You’ll laugh, cry and be horrified by what he goes through. Next, you have Aylmer, who is voiced by the great John Zacherle (AKA Zacherle the Ghoul). If you’re not familiar with Zacherle, he was the host of ‘Shock Theater’ back in the late 50s/early 60s when NBC would play the Universal monster movies on television. Zacherle’s voice is soft and sweet which he gives to Aylmer. Aylmer’s voice is soothing to Brian which makes him feel calm around the devious creature. Aylmer is smart in not revealing his intentions to Brian until a crucial scene in the film. He has the characteristics of a snake. He slithers and sneaks around when in hiding but strikes quickly when he is ready to attack. The great use of stop motion animation, puppetry and Zacherle’s voice makes Aylmer one of the best movie monsters I’ve seen in a long time.
Like his first movie Basket Case, Brain Damage has a similar look and style to it. It’s shot on 35MM film. The atmosphere is gritty as you follow Brian through the various locations in an inner city. Henelotter fills every scene with as much detail to look at. No shot is hollow. You’ll be immersed by the transitional shot of Brian looking up at his ceiling fan which slowly morphs into an eyeball, or the blue colored water which fills up his bedroom as he slowly submerges into it. And like his previous film, there is enough blood and gore to make you squeamish. The most powerful scene in the movie (at least to me) is the confrontation Brian has with Aylmer in the bathroom at a cheap motel. After Aylmer reveals that he needs brains to stay alive, Brian refuses to go along with it and will no longer ask to get high which prompts Aylmer to challenge him that if he doesn’t get a brain, then Brian can’t have his juice. Brian agrees thinking he’ll easily win. There are several dissolve shots of Brian going through severe withdrawal symptoms that are common in addicts who haven’t gotten a fix or are detoxing. Each fade away shot shows Brian in more agony than the previous. On top of that you have Aylmer who gleefully taunts him which doesn’t help the situation. It’s heartbreaking to see Brian struggle, but it shows how powerful drug addiction is.
I’m not certain what the budget was for this movie, but Henelotter has always worked with a very small budget. He squeezes every dollar in his budget and this movie is no exception. The visuals and special effects work are so impressive that you don’t believe this was done on the cheap. I’ve always believed that you don’t need hundreds of millions of dollars to create a great movie. If you have the right story and actors and if the filmmaker can generate a coherent story, then you’ve got a great movie.
Brain Damage ranks very high (no pun intended) on my all-time favorite movies. More than thirty years later, this movie is completely relevant to the issues of drugs and addiction that we face in our world today. This movie gives you a dark, gory and comedic tale of one who succumbs to drugs. While this movie is not kid appropriate, I believe is a good movie to scare straight anyone who thinks drugs are cool. After watching Brain Damage it will make them think twice before doing something that will give them a short ride, but a long wreck in the end.
TRIVIA (Per IMDB)
During the fellatio scene the crew walked out of the production refusing to work on the scene. A similar incident happened during the shooting of Basket Case (1982).
Brian has an unexplained cut on his lip all throughout the film. It was a part of a subplot involving him getting into a fight the night before defending his brother in a bar fight. But due to time restraints the explanation scenes were never filmed.
In a 2016 interview, Frank Hennenlotter said one of his favorite things about shooting in 35mm was that he couldn’t misplace the camera as easily as he did with the 16mm camera he used on Basket Case.
Starring: Jason Lively, Tom Atkins, Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
We’re near the home stretch in Guilty Pleasure Cinema’s Horror Movie Month special. I’m reviewing five films in the Horror genre every week until the last week in October. We’re at Movie #4 for this special. This next film is a homage to the goofy science fiction/horror films of the 50s that is set in the 80s. This was the debut film of Fred Dekker, a man who was rejected into USC and UCLA’s film school program and settled as an English major. He would develop screenplays along with his friend and roommate, Shane Black (best known for writing the Lethal Weapon movies, appearing in the first Predator movie and more recently directing 2018’s The Predator movie with Dekker as the screenwriter). After this movie, he would go on to write several episodes of Tales From The Crypt in addition to writing and directing two more movies, one was the cult following The Monster Squad and the utter failure Robocop 3. Today Dekker focuses more on writing than he does actual filmmaking. His debut film is still the best of his three and one that I continue to enjoy on a frequent basis. Tonight’s review is Night of the Creeps!
Night of the Creeps starts out in 1959 when a college fraternity member takes his sweetheart out for a romantic night out sitting in his car looking at the stars. Suddenly, something from the sky crashes down and he goes to investigate it. When he looks closer, a slug jumps out and enters his mouth and he collapses. The film flashes forward to 1985. It is rush week at Corman University. Two outcasts, Chris Romero (Jason Lively) and his friend J.C. Hooper (Steve Marshall) are looking to get into a fraternity in the hopes of meeting girls, particularly one that catches Chris’ eye, Cynthia Cronenberg (Jill Whitlow). They have a sit down with Brad, who is the president of the Beta Epsilon house. He gives them a quest to steal a cadaver from the medical school morgue and dump it in front of a sorority house. They reluctantly agree. As Chris and J.C. sneak into the medical school after hours, they come across a laboratory. Inside they see a frozen corpse. The corpse is that of the man from the introductory scene. They decided that he would be the body they would deposit to the sorority house. Little do they realize the body is still alive and the boys run off in terror. Meanwhile the body attacks one of the med students and heads to one of the sorority houses only for his head to explode and slugs shriveling their way out of the body. The investigation is led by Detective Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins), a long-time cop who is burnt out. When he interviews Chris and J.C., they admit to the prank and the case is closed. Little do they all realize that the college is in danger as one by one people are turning into zombies thanks to the parasitic slugs that possess them. Now it’s up to the three of them to stop the epidemic before it gets worse.
I can’t remember the first time I viewed this movie, but I enjoyed it on so many levels. It had the look and feel of both a 50s Science Fiction movie and an 80s Horror Movie which was Fred Dekker’s intention. While the concept is nothing original as it takes from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, it is still refreshing to see a take on how the zombies were created. This movie was released in 1986 so prior to that you had Day of the Dead and Return of the Living Dead which had similar concepts. I like the fact that it is a parasite that turns the living into the dead.
The performances are decent. Jason Lively plays Chris as a shy, low self-esteemed kid who can’t seem to find his place in the college world. Steve Marshall plays J.C. as a wiseass, always cracking jokes at the most inappropriate times. Despite that, he is very concerned over his friend and does his best to get him out of his comfort zone and build up some confidence. The real star of this movie is Tom Atkins. Atkins is no stranger to horror films given his performances in The Fog, Creepshow and his most memorable role as the protagonist in Halloween III. Atkins plays Detective Ray Cameron as a drunk, don’t give a shit attitude police officer. He gave us a new phrase to say when answering the telephone. Instead of saying “Hello” when the phone rings, he says, “Thrill Me!” This would become the iconic line of the movie. In addition to his indifferent personality, he is traumatized by the events that happened in 1959. His girlfriend at the time was killed by an escape mental patient during his second week on the force. He comes close to taking his own life but realizes that to find a sense of closure, he needs to help stop the zombie outbreak. I’ve referred to Tom Atkins as “The Pimp of Horror Movies” because he always seems to be getting in bed with a woman he just met. That’s not the case in this movie, but it still doesn’t diminish his title. He has called Night of the Creeps his favorite film that he has done, and I echo that sentiment.
The only performance I didn’t care for was Jill Whitlow as Cynthia. With her soft voice, she is completely wooden with her delivery. There are also times during the movie where she looks like she is in a complete fog or has that look that she is thinking of something else rather than concentration on the situation that she was in. I think she needed to put a lot more life into her.
The effects are cheap and dated by today’s standards, but again I think that was Fred Dekker’s intention. There is an ample amount of gore that is ramped up at the very end during the big battle. I do have to give props to the makeup department for giving each zombie a bit of variety and some personality. The slugs were long and beefy, and they slithered quickly going into basements and hiding in bushes as they prepare to infect their next victim. The music is pure 80s synth that weaves in and out of the frames that it is featured in.
Out of the three movies Fred Dekker has done, this is my absolute favorite. This is one that I have on rotation during the Halloween season. I enjoy it for that it doesn’t take itself too seriously and it has enough scares, violence, gore and humor to keep your attention. It’s a great movie that has truly earned its cult status.
Next week ladies and gentlemen is the final review in the Horror Movie Month Special. Stay tuned, you don’t want to miss it!
TRIVIA (Per IMDB)
All the last names of the main characters are based on famous horror and sci-fi directors: George A. Romero (Chris Romero), John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper (James Carpenter Hooper), David Cronenberg (Cynthia Cronenberg), James Cameron (Det. Ray Cameron), John Landis (Det. Landis), Sam Raimi (Sgt. Raimi) and Steve Miner (Mr. Miner – The Janitor).
Graffiti on the wall of the men’s room where J.C. is trying to escape a number of slugs reads, “Go Monster Squad!” The Monster Squad (1987) was also directed by Fred Dekker.
Tom Atkins’s favorite movie of his own.
“Corman University” is a reference to director/producer Roger Corman.
The tool shed sequence was filmed after principal shooting on the movie had wrapped. After a rough cut was shown to a test audience, several people thought that the picture needed more action so this sequence was added to the movie.
Fred Dekker’s roommate, Shane Black, worked on the script. The next year, Tom Atkins starred in Lethal Weapon (1987), Black’s first produced screenplay.
Starring: Michael Moriarty, Andrea Marcovicci, Garrett Morris, Paul Sorvino, Scott Bloom
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
Welcome to the second week of Horror Movie Month on “Guilty Pleasure Cinema!” For this week I wanted to review a film from one of my all-time favorite filmmakers. Larry Cohen was a pioneer and maverick in the film industry. He made all his movies his way and didn’t let anyone stand in his way. He was known for shooting movies on location without permits. Cohen’s films contain a diverse range of concepts and narratives that are weaved into storylines with strange creatures and offbeat characters. This is perhaps the most popular film in Larry Cohen’s filmography. It is a movie that is still fresh and relatable almost thirty-five years since its release. The concept may be goofy, but you will enjoy the ride this movie provides once you push the Play button on your remote control. If you ask most movie fans to name one Larry Cohen movie off the top of their heads, the majority will say this title, The Stuff! So, without further ado, here is the review to the 1985 horror cult classic The Stuff!
The movie starts with a railroad worker noticing a white bubbly substance coming from the snowy ground. He takes a taste of it to see what it is. To his delight it tastes very sweet with the texture of yogurt. Soon the substance is being marketed to consumers as “The Stuff” which becomes a phenomenon. “The Stuff” is marketed as being creamy, filling and with no calories. You can find “The Stuff” at supermarkets, small vendor carts and even a Dairy Queen style drive thru. While people are going crazy over “The Stuff” there are people highly suspicious of this addictive edible food. First there’s a young boy named Jason who wakes up in the middle of the night looking for a snack. He opens the refrigerator door to see a container of “The Stuff” moving. He tries to convince his family that there is something alive within it, but they are dismissive of his claims. Jason gets paranoid that he vandalizes a supermarket by destroying the massive amounts of “The Stuff” that is being sold. The other person who is skeptical of “The Stuff” is a former FBI agent turned industrial saboteur named David “Mo” Rutherford (who tells people that he got the nickname from whenever people gave him money he always wanted mo!). He is hired by numerous corporate executives of the ice cream industry to find out what is in “The Stuff” and destroy it. He befriends the head marketer of “The Stuff” Nicole and they set out to investigate the contents. Mo’s efforts reveal that “The Stuff” is a living parasite that takes over people’s brains and then mutates the host into zombies. Mo encounters Jason and the three of them are determined to destroy “The Stuff” before it consumes more and more people.
The Stuff is my second favorite movie in Larry Cohen’s filmography (Q: The Winged Serpent is first). It took me a long time to find interest in checking it out. When I first saw the cover art, it didn’t appeal to me. Mainly because I wasn’t familiar with Larry Cohen’s work nor was I interested in low budget horror movies. After seeing the movie pop up on several streaming services, I decided to give it a chance and boy did I not regret it. I enjoyed every frame, scene, characters and effects. It made me wish I had seen this movie a lot sooner than I did.
Like most of Cohen’s films, The Stuff is not just a horror movie, but a social commentary. Cohen made this movie at a time in the eighties where people consumed everything. The eighties was the birth of many electronics such as video game consoles, Walkman’s, VCRs, etc. It wasn’t just electronics people were craving, it was the current fashion trends, fast food restaurants popping up at every street corner. With these new products came heavy advertising and marketing. This was during Reaganomics where the American economy was booming, and people were spending their hard-earned money of anything they can get their hands on. Cohen based The Stuff off the yogurt craze going on at the time. People were obsessed with yogurt because it was advertised as being healthy, filling and tasty. Add heavy advertising to that and you have people become hooked on it turning them into consumer zombies. They consume and consume while the companies that make it rake in the profits.
Michael Moriarty once again returns in a Larry Cohen picture. He follows up his astounding performance in Q: The Winged Serpent with another memorable performance. I loved his portrayal of Mo Rutherford. He has the smarts of a detective and the tongue of a salesman. He’s smooth talking, confident and keeps his eye on the ball. What starts as a simple job to expose “The Stuff” to his employers turns into a national crisis that he must find a way to put an end. The rest of the cast is convincing in their roles. Andrea Marcovicci plays Nicole, the attractive and smart marketer of “The Stuff” who joins Mo in his investigation and become lovers. Garrett Morris plays ‘Chocolate Chip’ Charlie W. Hobbs, the junk food magnet that Mo befriends while visiting a town that has been desolated by relocation of jobs and the great Paul Sorvino as Colonel Malcolm Grommett Spears who leads the operation into destroying “The Stuff” and warning the public about the dangers of consuming it.
The movie is a pure 80s movie in terms of look, music, effects and overall style. You have the bright neon lights of “The Stuff” logo along with its catchy music and commercials. There’s even an appearance from the old lady in the Wendy’s commercials where instead of screaming, “Where’s the beef?” she cries, “Where’s the Stuff?” The effects of The Stuff creature vary throughout the film. In some parts of the film, it looks like a mix between frozen yogurt and marshmallow. In scenes where it bursts through walls, it milky and watery. Cohen does a great job showing that the creature doesn’t take on a basic form, rather it can come in multiple forms and textures.
The Stuff is a rare find. It should’ve been a much more mainstream film considering the subject matter. This is a movie that still holds up after all this time. You can relate this movie to everything that is going on in our world today as consumerism and Capitalism hasn’t slowed down. It’s an iconic B-Movie that stacks right up there with many of the underrated greats. This is the most recognizable film of Larry Cohen’s work and the one movie that people associate Cohen with.
TRIVIA (Per IMDB)
According to audio commentary on the 2000 Anchor Bay DVD, the scene in the motel where the Stuff comes out of the mattress and pillows and attacks the man on the wall and ceiling was shot in a room that could turn upside down, allowing the Stuff to move up and down the wall. It was exactly the same room used in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) when Johnny Depp’s character Glen is sucked into his bed and his blood is regurgitated back out onto the ceiling.
According to Larry Cohen himself, in some scenes in which the Stuff chases characters, a foam made of blended fish bones was used. It stank so much that, as soon as the shots were done, the actors ran to a river in order to bathe and get rid of the stench.
Garrett Morris was asked about this film when he participated in AV Club’s “Random Roles” interview series. He said the production was “crazy,” and when the interviewer noted Larry Cohen’s history as “a character,” and asked Morris what he was like, Morris said that “I was taught growing up that if you don’t have something nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all,” with no further comment about Cohen
Arsenio Hall was considered for the role of “Chocolate Chip” Charlie W. Hobbs.
David ‘Mo’ Rutherford tells ‘Chocolate Chip’ Charlie W. Hobbs to contact agent Frank Herbert from the FBI. Frank Herbert was an American science fiction writer best known for the novel Dune and its five sequels.
Michael Moriarty (David ‘Mo’ Rutherford) and Paul Sorvino (Colonel Malcolm Grommett Spears) went on to appear in 31 episodes of Law & Order (1990) together from 1991 to 1992 as Executive A.D.A. Ben Stone and Sergeant Phil Cerreta, respectively.
The original cut of the film was said to be much longer and described by Director Larry Cohen as more “dense and sophisticated”. Feeling that the film was too long, it was cut to increase the pace of the film. There was a romantic scene between Moriarty and Marcovicci that took place in a hotel room in the original cut.
Writers: David Webb Peoples (Story/Screenplay), Jeb Stuart (Screenplay)
Starring: Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, Amanda Pays, Daniel Stern, Ernie Hudson, Michael Carmine, Lisa Eilbacher, Hector Elizondo, Meg Foster
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
1989 was a big year for underwater themed Science Fiction movies. First, you had the highly anticipated The Abyss, namely because it’s a James Cameron movie and the special effects were the most innovative and advanced through Industrial Light & Magic. The second film that premiered in 1989 was the obscure cult classic Deep Star Six, which was directed by famed Friday the 13th director Sean S. Cunningham. Finally, you had Leviathan, directed by George P. Cosmatos who was known at the time for directing not one but two Sylvester Stallone movies, First Blood Part II and Cobra. All three movies did were not financially successful at the box office. The Abyss made $90 million but it had a budget of over $50 million. While it made a teeny profit, it was considered by many in the film industry as underwhelming considering the magnitude of the movie. Deep Star Six sank as fast as the Titanic. Leviathan debut at #2, but quickly drowned the following week. Out of these films, I chose Leviathan as the next review in “Guilty Pleasure Cinema” because it’s indeed a guilty pleasure film for me. It ranks in my Top 10 Guiltiest Pleasure Movies of all time, which I’ll reveal at a future date.
The fist time I watched Leviathan, I reacted in a way most people did when it first came out: mortified (and not in a good way). When I decided to watch this movie again, I forgot everything I watched the first time around. When the second viewing was finished, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Even though it’s a blatant rip-off of Alien, The Thing and The Abyss. it was entertaining. I loved it so much I began playing it several more times. Before I go into more detail as to why Leviathan is a guilty pleasure film, I’ll brief you on the plot.
Leviathan is the story of a group of underwater miners who work for Tri-Oceanic Corp. They’re finishing their last days of a three month operation mining for silver on the Atlantic Ocean floor. The team consists of eight members: Glen ‘Doc’ Thompson (Richard Crenna), Elizabeth ‘Wilie’ Williams (Amanda Pays), Buzz ‘Sixpack’ Parrish (Daniel Stern), Justin Jones (Ernie Hudson), Tony ‘DeJesus’ Rodero (Michael Carmine), Bridget ‘Bow’ Bowman (Lisa Eilbacher) and G.P. Cobb (Hector Elizondo). Their team is led by Geologist Steven Beck (Peter Weller) who reports to Tri-Oceanic CEO Martin (Meg Foster). During a mining operation involving Sixpack and Willie (whom are working as punishment for an altercation between the two), Sixpack falls off a ravine and goes missing. Willie searches for him and discovers a sunken Russian ship named ‘Leviathan.’ She enters through the blown hole of the ship and finds Sixpack along with some treasure. As the crew looks through the contents of what Sixpack found, Doc uncovers a videotape containing a message from the Captain of ‘Leviathan.’ Beck and Doc aren’t sure what the Captain is referring to. The rest of the crew prepares to take a shot of vodka from a bottle they found in the refuge only to discover after tasting it that Beck switched the bottles out and were drinking water. Unbeknownst to the crew, Sixpack hid a flask containing the vodka in his pocket and shares a drink with Bowman. Few hours later, Sixpack starts to feel sick with chills and forming flaky skin on his neck. He succumbs to his illness several hours later which triggers Doc to perform tests on every one of the crew members. When Bowman sees Sixpack slowly mutating into an unknown creature, she decides to take her own life. As the crew tries to dispose of their comrades’ bodies into the ocean, the monster, now fused from Sixpack and Bowman emerges from the body bag and attacks. The crew manages to sink the creature except for its leg which gets severed off during the closing of the hatch. The severed part mutates into a whole new creature and continues the rampage of attacking the crew and grow by consuming blood. The crew declare an emergency, but Martin tells them there is a hurricane approaching them and their rescue is delayed by twelve hours. The crew has no choice but to find a way to destroy the monster.
I’ll start with the cast. Peter Weller is the lead in the film as Beck. He oversees the crew and its mission. He is very commanding and by the book when it comes to company rules. In the beginning of the film, he feels out of place and senses he doesn’t have the respect of the crew. You see his leadership and command develop throughout the movie. I love Peter Weller. He is a person who is dedicated in every role he takes, and this role was no exception. His iconic performance in Robocop groomed him for this part. Richard Crenna who plays Doc is a loner and disliked by the entire crew especially in the beginning of the film. They feel he has something to hide and as the film progresses, he does what he can to not reveal what is happening to the crew except for Beck. Crenna is another actor I’ve enjoyed for a long time. The rest of the characters were great each with their own personalities. I loved the spunky and ambitious portrayal of Williams from Amanda Pays, the practical joker Sixpack from Daniel Stern, Ernie Hudson as the somewhat paranoid Jones, Elizondo as the union steward Cobb and Michael Carmine as DeJesus whom all he wants to do is go skiing after his work is over. Sadly this would be Carmine’s last film role as he died in October of the same year due to a heart attack caused by AIDS complications. I think all the performances were good apart from Meg Foster. I know she is supposed to play the disconcerted corporate executive, but she comes off as wooden and monotone. I’ve seen her play this part before in They Live. I don’t know if that’s her style, but I didn’t care for it.
The film is well paced when you compare it to the other two movies I mentioned. None of the scenes drag out too long which keeps your attention focused. There’s plenty of jump scares and tense confrontations between the crew. Legendary composer Jerry Goldsmith provides the music and it sounds eerily familiar to his composition in Alien. Wouldn’t surprise me if he were influenced by that film since this film takes several elements from it. The special effects were solid. There is a ton of blood, but not too much gore. Any gore that appeared in the movie was either off camera or was in spurts such as in the reveal of the monster in the middle of film or near the end.
Speaking of the monster, that was without a doubt the biggest disappointment of the movie. It borrows from the thing in terms of a small piece or particle can form a new life as it is shown during the scene where they crew attempts to dispose the creature in its first stage. When the monster gets bigger as it consumes the crew, you don’t see much of it with the exception of some flashes which is a call back to the old sci-fi horror concept of not revealing too much of the monster. The concept of the creature is supposed to be a genetic alteration of a sea creature, but fuses with people it has either encounter or has the same genetic mutation in their bodies. One shot you see this gigantic blob with tentacles and faces of the crew members it has merged with. It reminds me of the pillar with all the faces from the Hellraiser movies. And when the monster emerges at the very end, you can see how fake the head is. It was reminiscent of a monster in a Japanese Monster Movie. What boggles my mind is that the creature design and the effects were done by legendary effects man, Stan Winston. This was the guy that created the Terminator, the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park and the Alien Queen in Aliens. What the hell happened here? Did he not have the budget to make something unique and terrifying? Did he run out of ideas? It’s a damn shame. The creature could’ve been something unique and give the film a better lasting impression.
Out of the three movies I mentioned in 1989, I would put Leviathan second behind The Abyss. The problem the movie had as I mentioned in the beginning was that it borrows too much from the other iconic movies I mentioned. It’s not original in terms of concept. I do give it creative points for the source of the disease and the effects that it causes. Don’t let all that take away from the fact that it is an enjoyable B-Movie and it’s a movie I’ve found myself watching repeatedly. That’s always been the strength of George P. Cosmatos’ films. He doesn’t follow a strict genre. He’s willing to take chances and his movies come about as being fun and entertaining.
TRIVIA (PER IMDB)
In designing the creature of the film, Stan Winston and George P. Cosmatos went through a mini-library of marine life pictures and medical reference books. They were inspired by the physiology of the natural world, and came up with the idea of combining human body parts and elements of deep sea marine life into an unnatural creature never seen on film before.
There are very few scenes in the film that were actually shot underwater, as production went for the “dry for wet” look, with most of the scenes inside the Shack taking place on soundstages and a tank measuring 130ft x 270ft.
Chicken feathers were used at one point of shooting the underwater sequences to suggest things were floating around in the water. According to Alex Thomson this did not work because the feathers floating side to side instead of up and down and the idea had to be scrapped altogether.
Hector Elizondo’s character of Cobb is named after the film’s production designer, Ron Cobb. Also, Michael Carmine’s character of Tony ‘DeJesus’ Rodero, shares the same last name of the film’s first assistant director, ‘Kuki Lopez Rodero’.
Second time that Richard Crenna worked with George p Cosmatos after Rambo First Blood Part II, which also had Jerry Goldsmith music.
Once, during the underwater photography, John Rosengrant and other members of the SWS on-set crew were underwater for so long and at such depth, that they were unaware of a violent storm that had come in, threatening to rip the topside boat from its anchor and smash it against nearby rocks. “We had no idea all of this was going on, until we came to the surface and saw all this commotion,” recalled Rosengrant. “We all go out of the water and helped to push the boat away from the rocks and hold it steady in this storm.”
When Doc is analyzing Sixpack’s skin sample, the computer reports back the phrase “of unknown origin”. This is a winking nod to director George P. Cosmatos and star Peter Weller having previously collaborated on the movie Of Unknown Origin (1983).
Starring: John Blyth Barrymore, Buddy Daniels Friedman, Beverly Washburn, Ann Robinson, Jim Tavare, Len Wein, T.J. Storm, Mel Novak
Warning: Possible Spoilers In This Review
Hello, readers! Once again it’s time for another special edition of “Guilty Pleasure Cinema!” This past Labor Day weekend I had the opportunity to watch the latest release from author/writer/filmmaker Donald F. Glut. For those who may not have heard of the name Donald F. Glut before, let me give you a short biography on his career. Glut started his filmmaking career in 1953 making short unauthorized adaptations of characters such as Superman, Spider-Man and Dracula to name a few. He gained notoriety in the pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland, which was a genre-specific film magazine that was started by publisher James Warren and editor Forrest J. Ackerman in 1958. From there he went on to become a screenwriter, mostly writing for children’s television shows and cartoons from G.I. Joe to Land of the Lost, pretty much any 80s cartoon show you could think of, he wrote for. Glut is most notable for being an author as he has written around sixty five novels that have been published. His biggest work was writing the novel adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back (coincidentally, he and George Lucas were classmates at the University of Southern California). Today, Donald F. Glut continues to make movies based on his own writings. His latest release is an anthology tribute to Mary Shelly’s iconic novel Frankenstein entitled Tales of Frankenstein.
Tales of Frankenstein consists of four short stories based upon Donald F. Glut’s book of the same name. Each story takes place in a different time period and they revolve around descendants of the notorious doctor whom created a monster that is a legendary staple in the genre of horror. The introduction of the film shows Frankenstein’s monster roaming the outside only to discover a portrait of its creator. From there the portrait appears in each tale going in chronological order of the time piece. At the end of each story, the Frankenstein monster appears in the wraparound segments to transition to the next story and so on.
The first story presented in the film is titled “My Creation, My Beloved,” takes place in 1887 Bavaria, which stars Buddy Daniels Friedman as Dr. Gregore Frankenstein, a descendant of Victor. Furious over his family’s legacy over Victor’s original creation, Gregore hopes to restore the family name by successfully creating a male and female creation. This is a strong introductory story to the film as it pays homage to not only the original Frankenstein story but to the visual adaptations made by the legendary Hammer Films series. The performances are solid with Friedman able to carry the weight of the story as he is determined to succeed where his family tree had failed. His performance is filled with manic moments as well as some quirky moments. There are some nice visuals and the setting gives an authentic look and feel of 1887 Bavaria. The story has a nice twist ending that rivals those seen in the Tales From The Crypt television series.
The second story deviates from the Frankenstein story, but instead takes place in the Frankenstein universe. Taking place in Switzerland in 1910, “Crawler From The Grave” is a tale which involves Lenore Frankenstein (Tatiana DeKhtyar) who is grieving over the passing over her husband, Helmut Frankenstein (Len Wein in his final film roll). From there, Lenore receives a call from Helmut’s nemesis named Vincent (John Blyth Barrymore) asking about a ring that was buried with him wearing it. The rival sets out to acquire the ring from the grave of the deceased husband only to be followed by something that is not quite human which seems to be seeking the ring as well. Features a supporting cast including Beverly Washburn and Ann Robinson, “Crawler From The Grave” focuses on flashbacks to show the relationship between Vincent and Helmut and from there deals with Vincent acquiring the ring and the curse that comes with it. This story is dialogue heavy with Barrymore taking the mantle of screen time with not much in the way of scares until the very end. Len Wein also delivers a sobering performance in his final film role as Helmut Frankenstein which is a great send off to his incredible career. It’s a lengthy segment that could’ve been balanced out by trimming some of the backstory and including more of the aftermath of Vincent acquiring the ring. The effects at the climax of the story are decent and the music provides the dread that is about to come in the end.
The film-noir flavored “Madhouse of Death” is the third tale in this anthology which takes places in 1948 Los Angeles. The story follows private investigator Jack Anvill (Jamisin Matthews) whose Jalopy breaks down on a country road. From there he walks to the nearest house hoping to get access to a phone. He is greeted at the door by Mogambo (T.J. Storm) who instructs him to stay where he’s at while he asks permission from the homeowner. The owner is Dr. Mortality (Mel Novak) whom is experimenting with inserting a human brain into an ape. To make Jack comfortable he is attended to by three beautiful Chinese women who ensures that his focus is on them and not what Dr. Mortality is about to do to him. While it was great seeing Mel Novak in another villanous role as the determined Dr. Mortality, “Madhouse of Death” is the weakest story in this anthology. I understand Glut wanting to mix film noir with classic horror, which he does accomplish visually, it overall suffers from the tone of the story. I know this is supposed to be the comedic relief of the film, but the humor was amiss. In addition, the performance of the lead actor Matthews is flat as his narration sounds like he’s reading directly from the script which gives his character a boring tone. The portrayal of Jack Anvill doesn’t come off as likeable, but rather annoying. I honestly was hoping for a clever demise.
For the finale of Tales From Frankenstein, we get a reinterpretation of the Frankenstein story taking place in 1957 Transylvania. In “Dr. Karstein’s Creation,” Jim Tavare stars as the titular character as he moves into an abandoned castle in Transylvania in the hopes of creating a new life using various body parts of deceased human beings in order to duplicate the success Victor Frankenstein had with his monster. Karstein recruits teenage local Carl (Justin Hoffmeister) to be his assistant. From there they collect the parts they need to assemble their creature. This is my favorite story in Tales of Frankenstein as it gives a fresh take on the tale while paying homage to Mary Shelly. Tavare is great as the cunning and determined Dr. Karstein while Hoffmeister plays the somewhat oblivious Carl who thinks he’ll be riding on Karstein’s success only for him to learn a very hard lesson in the end. The story is filled with beautiful imagery, franctic action, just the right amount of blood and gore and plenty of humor. “Dr. Karstein’s Creation” is the perfect closer to the anthology.
Overall, Tales From Frankenstein is an acceptable anthology series that pays tribute to the classic monster. This movie is strictly for those horror fans who love the early era of stories and cinema. Those who aren’t keen with Frankenstein will likely pass on this. Despite the off balanced pacing, there is enough here to enjoy from the performances to the vintage settings and the reimagined tales. Donald F. Glut brings to life his novel in his own cinematic adaptation and you have to appreciate him for doing just that. Its what sets apart auteurs from the rest of the artists.
As we reach the end of summer and heading into fall, there’s much to be excited about when it comes to new home video releases. Shout Factory and its horror counterpart Scream Factory has released some cult classics for the first time on Blu Ray this past summer including one of my favorite “Guilty Pleasure” films Graveyard Shift (See the Archives for previous review) and they’ve made huge headlines last month with not only the announcement of new Steelbook Editions of Pumpkinhead and Motel Hell, but they announced the Friday the 13th Collection Deluxe Edition which features all twelve films on sixteen discs complete with never before seen cuts and a ton of extras. There was another movie I was eagerly anticipating for its release which I received in the mail this past Monday and is scheduled to be released this upcoming Tuesday, August 25th. I’m talking of course about the Collector’s Edition of the 1990 Anthology Horror film, Tales From The Darkside: TheMovie.
Tales From The Darkside was a television series created by horror legend George Romero which debut in 1983. The show which was heavily influenced by The Twilight Zone spanned numerous genres besides horror including science fiction. fantasy and black comedy. The show was a huge success that they spun a movie which was released to theaters on May 4, 1990. The film featured three stories along with a wrap around segment that is considered a fourth story. It was a modest success at the box office and was known for not only for displaying its blend of different genres and originality, but it was also known for being early film roles for then unknown actors Steve Buscemi and Julianne Moore, among others. I’m not going to do a breakdown of the film itself, but what I would say is that Tales From The Darkside: The Movie ranks up there in terms of best horror anthology films. My review will be focused on the new Collector’s Edition Blu Ray and its overall presentation.
The Collector’s Edition of Tales From The Darkside: The Movie comes in a sleeve cover with reversible artwork for the Blu Ray sleeve itself. I love how Scream Factory utilizes the covers as you can have the new original artwork exclusive for the release as your hard cover and then you can change the Blu-Ray sleeve to include the original theatrical poster. You can pay homage to the original art while celebrating the new work. The film itself has been transferred in 1080p so those of you who were hoping for a 2k/4k scan of the original negative will be disappointed. Despite that, the film quality is crisp and clean. The lighting and colors are what really stands out in this presentation. You have the warm amber colors of the first story “Lot 249” which gives it a classic horror feel considering the story was taken from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story of the same name. You have the blue cold colors shown in “Cat From Hell,” which gives the story a deathly atmosphere and you have the smoky gritty look of the third story “Lover’s Vow,” which gives that story a feeling of mystery. Every frame comes alive and you’ll be taken aback by how slick the transition was. There are two options for sound which are DTS Master Audio 5.1 or 2.0 depending on what kind of system you have. I ran the 5.1 sound and I could hear the music, screams and other sounds as clear as crystal. Don’t think you’ll go wrong with either sound choice.
The Collector’s Edition is loaded with extras. In addition to the Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots, Radio Spots and Behind The Scenes Galleries and Footage, there are two Audio Commentary tracks for you to choose from when watching the film. The first Audio Commentary is with Co-Producer David R. Kappes, which is new to this release. The second Audio Commentary which features director John Harrison and Co-Screenwriter George Romero is taken from previous home releases. The commentary from Kappes gives his behind the scenes role of developing the film, what went into the decision making process and his observation of the film as he watches it. The Audio Commentary with Harrison and Romero is a nice gesture to include in this Collector’s Edition. While Romero is no longer with us, it’s still sobering to hear his voice as he talks about his role in the film, which was writing “Cat From Hell” alongside his good friend, Stephen King.
The highlight of this Collector’s Edition besides the film itself is the brand new documentary, Tales Behind The Darkside: The Making Of Four Ghoulish Fables. This retrospective of the film spawns six chapters divided up appropriately. The first two chapters go into the history of the Tales From The Darkside television series to the development of the movie and the choices that were made. I loved the fact that the entire crew was taken straight from the television series. They kept it all in the family which gave the film familiarity. From there the next chapters were devoted to each story presented in the movie. You get some wonderful insights into not only the decisions to use which stories for the movie, but also some great commentary from the behind the scenes crew as to how the lighting was created, what sets were hand made and what sets were borrowed and of course how the monsters and special effects were made, which were created once again by Greg Nicotero and his crew. During the chapter of the documentary which talked about the third story presented, which was “Lover’s Vow,” we get an appearance from the stars of that story, Rae Dawn Chong and James Remar, which was a huge surprise considering the only actor shown in the documentary up to that point was Michael Daek who played dual roles as the Mummy in “Lot 249” and the Gargoyle in “Lover’s Vow.” Chong and Remar say nothing but positive things about their experiences on set and the chemistry that was developed between them. For James Remar, he said making this film was the start of the second phase of his career as he was newly sober at the time he started shooting. I couldn’t watch the documentary in a full sitting. It took me two nights to get through it which tells you the running time. This documentary is one of the best exclusive documentaries to come out from Scream Factory and everyone who worked on this should be given a huge round of applause.
Overall, the Collector’s Edition of Tales From The Darkside: The Movie is another home run release for Scream Factory. For its reasonable price you get a high quality horror film loaded with extras. This release will tie you over until the fall when they unleash to the horror consumer a plethora of titles in various box sets and steelbooks. You can still pre-order Tales From The Darkside: The Movie before it is released Tuesday, but it won’t make much difference at this point in terms of receiving it early. Nevertheless grab this release as it is a great film to add to your Shout/Scream Factory collection.