Starring: Matt Laumann, Michael Peake, Jack Burrows, Kayla Clark, Jake Robinson
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
What’s the weirdest horror monster you’ve ever seen in film? I’ve practically seen them all. From a Siamese twin brother who looks like a squashed octopus to a killer condom with teeth and a flushed fetus that turns into a radioactive bloodthirsty killing machine to a crazy gingerbread man. Monster films can be creative by taking some ludicrous idea and making a character out of it. Take the review for this week. It’s a movie involving a giant monster made of human, radioactive substance and ground beef. This next movie in “Guilty Pleasure Cinema Review” came out of nowhere like something falling from the sky. The first thing that caught my attention was the movie title followed by the image of a sloppy joe with teeth. The title of the movie was called Inhumanwich!
Inhumanwich! is a Sci-Fi/Horror/Comedy about an astronaut returning to earth from a space mission. As he prepares to eat a sloppy joe sandwich his wife made him for his trip, he gets caught in an asteroid field damaging the ship’s reactor core. Radiation leaks out which gets on him and the sandwich. When he crash-lands in a wooded area, he slowly turns into a meat monster with tentacles. From there it wrecks having in a small southern Ohio town eating one human to another causing it to grow in size. The scientists at NASA team up with the military to stop this creature before it consumes any more victims.
Written and directed by David Cornelius, Inhumanwich! is a throwback to the silly sci-fi monster movies of the fifties. It’s shot entirely in black and white which gives it that authenticity of being a movie from that era. The look of the film is amateurish in nature complete with a local cast and crew, but they all work well together to create a film that doesn’t take itself seriously which makes it enjoyable.
I love the fact that the movie takes place in Ohio. The crew is from Cincinnati and the entire film is shot there. The filmmakers decided to give Dayton (my hometown) its own NASA Mission Control Center. I’m telling you right now, we don’t have an actual Mission Control Center here, but we do have the National Air Force and Space Museum. Other than that, the film does a good job showcasing the area with its suburban neighborhoods and heavily wooded areas.
Like a cheesy monster movie from the fifties, the performances are filled with familiar characters found in most of those films. You have the stereotypical housewife who shows concerns (or lack thereof) of her husband, scientists who come up with ways of stopping the monster only for it to backfire and the military officers complete with firepower who’s only remedy to the situation is to shower it with bullets. There’s plenty of gags and situations with the characters that it reminds me of something Monty Python would do.
As for the star of the movie, the creature is essentially a giant meatloaf with eyes and tentacles. The first time you see it, he is chasing a hunter using fast motion effects. I was literally chocking on my sandwich as I saw this. The creature essentially eats the meat of its victims leaving the bones behind as shown in various shots of skeletons that looked like they were bought from a Halloween Store. It has the ability to camouflage itself with any ground meat as shown in one particular scene. I have to give the filmmakers props for coming up with an ingenious creation.
The film makes do a good job of limiting the use of special effects in Inhumanwich! There’s a mix of physical effects with ones that were done on a computer. They didn’t lessen my enjoyment as I continued through the structured and easy to follow plot. One thing is for sure is that David Cornelius made sure to throw every fifties sci-fi monster trope out there and many were able to stick.
Inhumanwich! is a great throwback to the monster movies of the era. I give the filmmakers much kudos for creating a funny and entertaining movie. If you’re sick of the big budget monster flicks, this is the total opposite. It makes you want to go back and revisit those style of monster movies.
TRIVIA (Per IMDB)
At about 57 minutes while General Graham is arguing with scientist Ed Farley, the crew can be clearly seen in the reflection on the general’s glasses.
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.
Writers: Rupert Harvey & Barry Opper (Story), Joseph Lyle & David J. Schow (Screenplay)
Starring: Don Opper, Terrence Mann, Paul Whitmore, Anders Hove, Angela Bassett, Brad Dourif, Eric DaRe
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
The Critters franchise is one of my favorite Horror/Sci-Fi franchises. While the first film is considered a knock off from Gremlins or Ghoulies, it’s a movie that holds up to this date. I loved the story, effects and of course those intergalactic hairballs getting into mischief mayhem with some situations resulting in their deaths. The first Critters movie was a surprise success at the box office and produced a second movie two years later that did as equally as good. The Critters franchise has spawned a total of five movies and a short-lived miniseries on Shudder. The franchise featured great character actors and future leading stars including a sixteen-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio who made his silver screen debut in Critters 3. One of the sequels in the series happens to be a guilty pleasure of mine. While many fans groan over the results, I happened to enjoy it. I remember the Sci-Fi Channel playing this film Saturday afternoons and I would spend those days laying on the couch watching it every time it played. I’m talking of course of Critters 4. Why do I enjoy Critters 4 more than the average fan? I will tell you, but first a quick synopsis.
Critters 4 picks up right at the ending of 3 as bumbling bounty hunter Charlie (Don Opper) does a thorough inspection of the burned down apartment building looking for any remaining Krties. He discovers two eggs in the dryer. Charlie takes them out and gets ready to blast them. He then receives a distress signal from his friend and fellow bounty hunter Ug (Terrence Mann) who tells him it is illegal to destroy those eggs due to a intergalactic mandate. He instructs Charlie to place the eggs in a pod, which crashes down on him to be transported back. Charlie places the eggs as instructed by gets trapped inside the pod when the door closes on him and is gassed. The movie jumps forward to the year 2045. A small group of pirates discover the pod floating in space and acquire it. They are contacted by a galaxy conglomerate called TerraCorp claiming ownership of the pod and instruct the team to head to their station where they will be rewarded. When the team gets to the station, they find that it has been abandoned. As they wait for their payment, the captain of the group, Rick (Anders Hove) decides to rip off the pod after being humiliated by co-pilot Fran (Angela Bassett) in a memorable shower scene. After opening the pod door, Charlie awakens, and the eggs have hatched unleashing the Krites which kill Rick. With the two furballs on the loose it’s up to Charlie and the rest of the team to either stop them or escape the station alive without their reward.
If you’ve managed to check out the Shout Factory release of the entire Blu-Ray collection of the original four movies, they each come with their own little behind the scenes specials. In the documentary for 4 director and producer Rupert Harvey claimed that New Line Cinema gave them a combined budget for 3 and 4. Due to the team on 3 spending the most money out of that budget, there was extraordinarily little left for 4 hence why they had to reuse scenes, lack of Krites and other dollar store sets.
Regardless of the budget, what made this movie was the acting done by the mixed of new and veteran cast. Don Opper and Terrance Mann reprise their roles from the previous films. I was enthralled by Mann’s performance this time around with Ug as he went from being a bounty hunter to a corporate bureaucrat. His promotion into that ranking corrupts his mind as he is only concerned with his mission rather than what happened to his friend. Guess the old saying goes, “Power can corrupt someone!” Brad Dourif once again steals the spotlight as engineer, Al Bert. He is witty and a smart ass but knows his way of computers as evident when he tricks the computer of the abandoned station to give him full security clearance. He essentially becomes the de facto leader as the movie progresses which suits him well as he is the most experienced actor. My other favorite performance in the movie was Anders Hove as the captain Rick. He is a pain in the ass leader when it comes to the crew members always scheming to get more than what he is offered. The other cast members include Angela Bassett in his film debut as co-pilot Fran, Eric DaRe best known for playing Leo Johnson in Twin Peaks as Bernie, who is obsessed with getting access to the station pharmacy and Paul Whitmore as the apprentice, Ethan who sees Al Bert as a friend and mentor and gets the brute of Rick’s temper tantrums. There was a rumor from fans that suggested that Al Bert and Ethan may have had a “more than just friends” relationship. There’s some evidence displayed in the movie, but it’s as big of a mystery as Bigfoot.
The Chiodo Brothers return for one final time (well..not the final time) providing the Critters and the puppetry work. The Critters look just like they’ve always been except they are somewhat bigger in size than what they were in the previous movie. They are still ruthless and won’t let anyone stand in their way of reaching earth. The special effects in the film are mundane compared to its predecessors. They even stole a few shots from Critters 2 and another early 80s Sci-Fi flick starting Opper called Android. Because there are only a few of the intergalactic hairballs to wreak havoc, Harvey uses them like the Xenomorph in Alien where they are running amok around the station and use stealth to sneak up on their prey before they unleash their attack. There’s minimal blood and gore and the death total is the lowest in the series. Again, the performance of the actors keeps the film going at a steady pace.
There’s plenty of flaws that this movie has including the repetitive computer that’s not up to date that gets on the nerves of the crew. I think it’s a failed attempt at adding comedy to a series that has comedic elements to it. Some of the sound design sounds distorted or frazzled like someone is playing on a broken synthesizer and the overall timeline of the story. I don’t think this movie needed to fast forward fifty years to get to where there at considering the advancement of technology and galactic lifeforms other than the Krites that appeared in the first movie.
Personally, I prefer Critters 4 over Critters 3 and the more recent Critters Attacks. While Critters 4 is not the definitive conclusion to the franchise, it does close the chapter on the storyline that was started from the first movie.
TRIVIA (Per IMDB)
All external space scenes and many sets are lifted from one of Don Keith Opper’s earlier films, Android (1982).
First Critters movie where Don Keith Opper is the highest billed actor.
Filmed simultaneously with Critters 3 (1991), from February 1991 until July 1991.
The footage of the cargo retrieval ship, and docking with the spaceship are from Android (1982) but the footage of Ug’s ship at the end are taken from Critters 2 (1988).
Terrence Mann and Don Keith Opper have appeared in all four films in the series.
Critters 4 is the only Critters movie where the Critters are unable to shoot poison darts at their victims.
There are mostly only two Critters in this movie, and the second one gets a haircut from a laser rifle, in order to separate the looks for both Critters. However this is also an obvious reference to Critters 2 (1988) where one Critters gets a similar haircut from a laser rifle held by a bounty hunter.
Disclaimer: The rankings are based on my personal viewings, thoughts and opinions. I have not been influenced by outside parties as to where to place certain movies in these rankings.
Most of you readers may have never heard of Al Adamson. You will be familiar with him after this posting. Al Adamson was the son of early Australian film actors. He joined his father, actor Victor Adamson’s (known professionally as Denver Dixon) production company to learn the business. Eventually, Adamson would go on to make his own movies starting his own independent production company where the only person he answered to was himself. Adamson’s films were based on trending genres in the movie world. His eclectic filmography includes Westerns, Horror, Blaxploitation, Sexploitation, Martial Arts and even two Children’s films that spanned three decades. Adamson was known for making his films fast and cheap with very little money and allowing only two takes per scene. He would have his friends and collaborators play multiple roles from acting to set design, performing their own stunts, etc. While his movies aren’t anything revolutionary, they did find an audience. Adamson saw the Drive-In theater trend as a marketing opportunity and took every advantage of it. He along with his producer pal Sam Sherman would re-release their own movies under different titles based on what was hot at the Drive-In. Adamson’s career would come to an end near the mid 80s. Tragically his life would be cut short as he was murdered in 1995 by a contractor working on his home in Indio, California. While Adamson may not be remembered as a great nor influential filmmaker, his works continue to live on thanks to a devoted fanbase along with a new generation of viewers thanks to a recent box set that was released.
Last April Severin Films released the most comprehensive Blu-Ray box set dedicated to Adamson. Al Adamson: The Masterpiece Collection features all thiry-one of Adamson’s films inlduing the critically acclaimed documentary Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life and Ghastly Death of Al Adamson. Severin released the movies based on the available prints they could find through original negatives, 16mm prints or VHS prints. The box set included Commentary Tracks for each movie, Trailers, Promo Reels and Early Interviews. The Box Set was completed with a one hundred twenty six page booklet chronicling Adamson’s career and information on which version of film you would be watching. The Box Set sold out quickly as it was a limited print.
I acquired the Al Adamson Masterpiece Collection in late January and spent the past month watching all of his films. For this special edition of “Guilty Pleasure Cinema,” I decided to rank all of Al Adamson’s movies based on my viewings and impressions. I started at the bottom listing my least enjoyable viewings all the way to the one film I found to be my favorite. For this list I excluded the Blood & Flesh documentary. This is strictly on Adamson’s films. For those who are familiar with Al Adamson’s filmography, you may be shocked as where I have certain movies listed. So without further rambling, let’s get the rankings started:
30. Hell’s Bloody Devils
The worst movie on this list happens to be a previously released Adamson film with new footage and this will not be the last movie on this list with this cut and paste concept. Hell’s Bloody Devils takes the previously released film The Fakers, which is about a government agent who infiltrates a Neo Nazi organization in California in hopes of retrieving some counterfeit plates from Germany the Nazis plan on using for a counterfeit scheme and adds a biker gang to the mix. There are only a few scenes of these bikers in Nazi garb and they add nothing to the plot of the film. What’s worse is that this film is shorter than The Fakers. The question that I keep asking in my head while watching these films is why didn’t Adamson turn these concepts into stand alone films? I’m sure he would’ve been able to secure the money to do so. Hell’s Bloody Devils is an example of a filmmaker and a studio trying to capitalize on a merging trend and doing it in the laziest way possible.
29. Nurses For Sale
From the opening scene you would think this is another Al Adamson skin flick, but then it goes downhill from there. Nurses For Sale is a culmination of two films smooshed together. The essential plot of the movie deals with a stolen drug cargo that was supposed to arrive in West Germany. The nurses’ involvement is not very clear as they seem to be helping out with the shipments thinking that they’re medical supplies. Nurses For Sale is one hot mess (no pun intended). This was originally a German film made by Rolf Olsen and then Adamson somehow got the rights to it and added some nude scenes to try to pass it off as a Sexploitation movie. The story is incoherent, and the characters are laughably dumb. Thank goodness this movie clocked in at 67 minutes, otherwise I’d be pulling my hair out in frustration until I became bald. Easily the worst movie of Al Adamson’s filmography, if you would even consider crediting this to him. I had to flip a coin to see whether this film or Hell’s Bloody Devils would be placed at #30. Obviously, this squeaked out…barely.
28. Five Bloody Graves
If Social Justice Warriors created a list of Culturally Inappropriate Films, Five Bloody Graves would be on the very top. Of course, you have to remember this was filmed in the sixties and during a period where white actors would be cast as different ethnic characters. You would think that the filmmakers would do some research about Native Americans and their history rather than choosing the default of all of them being savages and if they’re supposed to be performing as savages, they would learn the correct way of scalping someone. Nevertheless, Five Bloody Graves is a pretty bad Western film. The plot goes in various directions, the action is laughably inept, and the editing is poor. There is a shot of John “Bud” Cardos, who plays the tribal leader raising his spear and screaming that is shown several times including one scene where it’s completely misplaced. There’s also back and forth shots that are mismatched with some missing the sound. The acting leaves a lot to be desired with the exception of John Carradine who plays a preacher. Like the veteran professional he is, Carradine makes a consolidated effort and has a few humours moments as well. The only thing I liked about Five Bloody Graves was that it was shot in Utah with its beautiful countryside. I was in awe as to how clean the rivers were, the gorgeous mountains and Marigold blossoming everywhere. Five Bloody Graves is a prime example of how Al Adamson shot movies cheap and on the fly with little to no effort or care as to the art they are making. I wouldn’t watch this movie again even if it did end up on a Banned Movies List. It belongs in that vault never to see the light of day again.
27. Blazing Stewardesses
The Naughty Stewardesses was a surprise success at Drive In Theaters that Adamson rushed a sequel titled Blazing Stewardesses. Taking inspiration from Blazing Saddles, Blazing Stewardesses brings back the characters from its predecessor and puts them in a crazy story where they stay at a resort of their wealthy friend again from the last movie and then mixes in a western heist element to it. Blazing Stewardesses is a skin flick that never gets started There’s really nothing to like about this movie. except for seeing Lilly Munster Yvonne De Carlo appear in the movie. The plot doesn’t make a lick of sense and there’s too many scenes involving the surviving Ritz Brothers doing their schtick that would only make people the same age as them laugh so hard that they collapse a lung. This is a movie that will be collecting dust inside my Al Adamson Collection until I pass it on to someone else and it will be their decision whether to watch this salty garbage.
26. Mean Mother
Mean Mother is Al Adamson’s first foray into the Blaxploitation genre. This is another patch job as Adamson takes a previously released film, this case Leon Klimovsky’s Run For Your Life from 1971 and adds his own footage. The plot of the movie is two US Soldiers who deserted their platoon during the Vietnam War, go their separate ways and both enter the European Criminal Underworld. The film stars Dobie Gray and Luciana Paluzzi of Thunderball fame. The acting is campy which is what you would expect from a sandwiched film. The Vietnam scenes look like they were shot in a Midwestern location with bare trees, hay, and all kinds of weeds. What little action that Adamson injects in this movie is fun is a nice rush of entertainment before it falls back to the dull, messy plot. Mean Mother is unquestionably the worst Blaxploitation film Al Adamson has done, and this is a genre that seems to be his strongest as you will see quite a few of these films rank higher up on the list.
25. Nurse Sherri
Nurse Sherri is another Al Adamson film combing two film genres into one. The film starts with a cult trying to resurrect one of their members who’s dead and then his spirit somehow enters a nurse named Sherri who then proceeds to go on a murderous rampage in the hospital she works at. Nurse Sherri is a film where the story goes nowhere fast. You see the cult in the beginning of the film, and they don’t return. There’s no explanation as to how Sherri gets chosen to be possessed. The hand drawn animation during the possession scene is so bad it would make the guys in Monty Python laugh. Nurse Sherri includes some outrageous characters including a professional football player who goes blind and suddenly becomes an expert in demonic possessions. Only good thing Nurse Sherri has is the traditional sex scenes in Al Adamson movies and some quality kill scenes. The version in the Al Adamson collection is scanned from the original 16mm print so it’s grainy with some fogginess. Nurse Sherri may appeal to those who love cheese and sleaze, otherwise this would be a candidate for assisted film suicide.
The final completed film of Al Adamson’s career, Lost is about a little girl and her dog getting lost in the desert wilderness of Utah and work together to find their way back home. Lost reminds me of a Hallmark Channel film. It’s a story about friendship and how strong the bond is that they can overcome anything. While the title and premise sounds like this is going to be a sad and depressing film, it’s a painfully frustrating ninety minutes of a poorly written script, characters who don’t seem to know their shoelaces are always untied and moments that make you want to sink your teeth into the skin of your hand. The dog is cute but is useless as all it does is follow the little girl around and be her companion. Lost is a forgettable film and in an ironic way is Al Adamson’s filmmaking career coming full circle.
23. Angels’ Wild Women
Just from one look at the cover of Angels’ Wild Women one would assume that Al Adamson wanted to make his own version of Charlie’s Angels. Only problem with that is that the popular television series would not air until four years after this film was released. The lead women in this film have some flashes of being able to handle themselves against their masculine counterparts, but then they abruptly become vulnerable to the situations they get it. Except for the beautiful women which include Adamson regulars Vicki Volante and Regina Carrol Angels’ Wild Women is another film that doesn’t go anywhere quickly. The story is muddled and falls further deep into the rabbit hole with random subplots added and the characters in the movie are stupid including a naïve farmhand who gets raped by the women in the movie that is sequenced like it came from a bad porno flick. It’s the first movie I’ve seen where a man gets raped by a woman. The bad guy in the movie is some zealous cult leader who allows the women to stay at his ranch only for them to be sickened or killed by the cult. Speaking of cults, Angels’ Wild Women is notable for being shot at the Spahn Ranch where Charles Manson and his family were held up before and after their murder spree. The ranch is where most of the film would take place including a hilarious fight sequence where men are holding onto their beers as they wrestle on the dirt road outside. Again, another film that could have had potential but was poorly executed in the end.
22. Half Way To Hell
Released in 1960, Half Way To Hell is technically regarded as Al Adamson’s directorial debut. He took over for his dad, actor/director Victor Adamson who was known professionally as Denver Dixon (Dixon is shown as director in the opening credits). Half Way To Hell is a simple western shot in black and white. The plot regards a woman Maria San Carlos, the daughter of a wealthy landowner who is an arranged marriage with a Mexican revolutionary general named Escobar. Maria believes in marriage for love, escapes and travels to the US border. She is intercepted by some American outlaws hired by Escobar to bring her back. It’s up to an American cowboy who teams up with Maria’s servant boy and protector also looking for her to save her. The film looks like it was made ten years prior to its actual release. The film is notable for featuring Adamson in a key role as one of the cutthroat cowboys. There’s very little in terms of shootouts or action sequences. The dialogue and performances are what you expect in a low budget film from this era. There is an attempted rape scene that was edgy for its time, but would also be a glimpse of what to expect of an Al Adamson film where taboos are broken in the name of art. Again, it’s a simple black and white western that allowed Adamson to dip his toes into directing and set the blueprint as to how he was going to tell stories through the lens of a camera.
21. Blood of Ghastly Horror
Blood of Ghastly Horror is another film that was previously released as one title and then re-released with a newer title and newly filmed footage. In this case it takes clips from the movies Psycho A Go Go and The Fiend With The Electronic Brain and adds a plot about a mad scientist who experiments on dead bodies and creates zombies in order to find a way to revive his son who was perished in a fall. This film was billed as a quasi-sequel to Fiend, but really makes no sense especially given the ending to both films (which is shown for the third time in this feature). The only thing I liked about this movie is the cheap makeup of the zombies and the appearance of Regina Carroll, the buxom blonde who was Al Adamson’s wife in real life and would appear in the majority of his films. I would not be surprised if Blood of Ghastly Horror was the inspiration for the concept and presentation of Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2 as they took a large chunk of the previous movie and added a new story and newly filmed scenes to make it appealing to viewers.
20. Cinderella 2000
Billed as an out of this world musical sex comedy, Cinderella 2000 doesn’t deliver much on the musical or comedy part but has an overabundance of softcore pornography that will get men googly eyed. Al Adamson out weirds himself by taking a loose version of the fabled fairy tale and setting it in a cyber-Orwellian future where sex is outlawed, and Bid Brother decides who are allowed to participate in this adult activity. The story of Cinderella is the same one we all know and love, but this time the woman who is chosen by the “prince” of the film will have the opportunity to join him in consummating the union. The movie is a trip from beginning to end. Adamson throws so many strange characters and ideas into the plot that make you wonder what kind of grass he was smoking when he made this. A form of punishment for a woman who was caught having sexual relations in violation of the law was she was shrunk down into a miniature sized doll. The characters are boisterous, but don’t have much personality other than they’re all as horny as a three-ball cat. Some dialog made me chuckle especially with the stepmother’s two children taking her for help telling the doctor, “She’s got a case of the hornies!” One of the central characters that is supposed to be the comic relief in the movie is a robot who is programmed to uphold the fornication laws and goes berserk if it catches couples in the act. The robot is so annoying in the movie that surpasses the robot from Lost in Space as the most annoying robot ever shown on film or television. There’s very little musical numbers which is a good thing because the singing is cringeworthy. Again, men will find this movie appealing with the plentiful abundance of T&A in the movie. Cinderella2000 features a fourth wall moment with Snow White wishing she were getting lucky only for her wish to come true thanks to the help of the seven dwarfs…. that’s all I’ll say on that matter. Cinderella2000 is a movie that you could watch in a late-night viewing, but for the most part it will appeal to drunken frat boys looking for cheap thrills or prepubescent boys looking to get their rocks off.
19. Sunset Cove
Sunset Cove is Al Adamson’s first and only attempt at a raunchy teen sex comedy. The film is about a group of teenagers who band together to keep their beach from being bulldozed to make way for a developer to build condominiums. Sunset Cove features the stereotypical characters you would see in these type of teen comedies including an overweight character cleverly named “Chubby,” but are likable for the most part thanks in part to the decent performances from the cast of the movie. They’re working together for a common goal not just for themselves but for their community. There’s a surprise cameo from the great John Carradine who plays the town judge at the climax of the movie. This would be Carradine’s seventh and final appearance in an Al Adamson movie. The film features many tropes you’ll find in a beach movie: jocks, girls in bikinis, bumbling law enforcement officers and a corrupt mayor. Sunset Cove features the most lighthearted fun you’ll see in an Al Adamson movie. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Al Adamson movie if there weren’t any sex or topless women. The film does suffer from a listless plot and some of the locations are left to be desired. Sunset Cove may not be a memorable film of this genre but is one of the pleasantly surprising viewings of this filmography.
18. The Naughty Stewardesses
The Naughty Stewardesses is your typical T & A softcore skin flick. Think of Sex and The City on an airplane. The film wastes no time with the hanky panky between a pilot and a stewardess. Eventually the plot starts to form as the veteran stewardess crew show new hire Debbie the ropes and talk about their sexual fantasies. This leads to them staying with a wealthy man who gets to act out his fantasies with the nymphomaniac bunch while Debbie gets romantically involved with an amateur photographer who uses her to take pictures and start an affair that seems to go back and forth all throughout the movie. The Naughty Stewardesses was another attempt by Adamson to make money and exploit a growing trend. The acting doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination and the plot seems to stray away from its heading. The only good thing about the movie is of course the stewardesses although it’s gross that they are getting themselves involved with a man that thirty years older than them. The kinky happy fantasies of the women take a dark turn at the climax of the movie that gets utterly ridiculous. The Naughty Stewardesses doesn’t hold up today considering the volume of sex and pornography that is found today in film, television and of course the internet. Only the hardcore devotees of B Movies and Drive In Culture would be able to bring this film back from its involuntary celibacy.
17. Black Heat
Black Heat was Al Adamson’s first foray into the merging Blaxploitation genre that emerged during the early seventies. It’s a simple story of a Las Vegas cop, played by Timothy Brown in his first, but not last Adamson films who is out to shut down an upscale hotel that is being used a front for numerous illegal activities including loan sharking, gun running and prostitution. He is supported by his partner Tony, played by Geoffrey Land arrive to diffuse the situation and a TV camerawoman named Stephanie, played by Tanya Boyd whom he strikes a romantic relationship with. The film includes Adamson regular Russ Tamblyn as Ziggy who is the middle man for all the criminal activity going on in the hotel and Adamson’s wife Regina Carrol as a musical performer of the said hotel. The storyline is nothing that we haven’t seen before, but it has a decent cast of characters to keep the film moving. There’s a little more effort into the technical side of the film with a good chase scene and some shootouts. The romance element of the film between Brown and Boyd is humorous and playful. Unfortunately, there are some bizarre moments in Black Heat, most notably a horrendous sexual assault scene involving a woman who is a degenerate gambler who loses everything and is forced into a gang-bang to cover her debts. Finally, Black Heat starts to run out of gas during the third act and drags to where you start to lose interest. After watching this film, I felt this was a learning process for Adamson in this genre as he would continue making more Blaxploitation films and correcting the flaws that are in this.
16. Horror of the Blood Monsters
What do you get when you take footage from three separate films and then add your own footage with a different plot, edit them together and then flood them with various color tints? You get Horror of the Blood Monsters. The film opens with a narration sequence from late legendary actor Brother Theodore about a virus that is turning humans into vampires. From there a space crew travels the farthest reaches of the galaxy hoping to find help to stop the virus. They land on a planet that is filled with every kind of danger from dinosaurs to lobster people to a cannibalistic tribe. Not to mention the planet is filled with heavy radiation (the reason for the shades of colors throughout the film). Horror of the Blood Monsters looks like it was made during a bad acid trip. The opening sequence features several crew members including Adamson dressed as vampires biting the necks of unsuspecting victims. From there it morphs into a Sci-Fi film using footage from an untiled unfinished Filipino film, and an unfinished stop motion prehistoric film (One Million B.C.) with some cheap spaceship sequences and a mission control sequence where the screen is in freeze frame during the broadcasts from the spaceship. The cast includes Adamson regulars Robert Dix and Vici Volante with a special appearance from John Carradine as the ship doctor. There is a moment in the movie where Robert Dix explains to Vicki Volante about how the Spectrum Radiation works and how it changes color, followed by them engaging in a long love making sequence. The color of the film changes based on the time of day in the movie and vary from red, yellow, green and blue. It may not be pretty to look at, but that’s the justification Adamson used as cover to the black and white movies he cut and pasted. Horror of the Blood Monsters would’ve been a great film if they stuck with creating a film based on the opening sequence and could’ve used the jumbled movies and release it as a separate title. Then again, what do I know about cheap filmmaking?
15. The Fiend With The Electronic Brain
The Fiend With The Electronic Brain is essentially Psycho A Go Go with a few added scenes explaining why the killer in the movie acts the way he acts to give it a Science Fiction twist. The added scenes feature John Carradine as Dr. Howard Vanard who talks to a detective looking into the murders committed by the killer. Vanard explains that the killer was a soldier who returned from fighting in Vietnam with a traumatic brain injury and Vanard experimented with him by implanting an electronic device for him to recover and live a normal life. Instead, it turned him psychotic. Roy Morton who played the killer in Psycho A Go Go areturns in the added scenes to take care of Vanard from further talking to the police. Carradine’s death scene is hilarious when you watch the performance. While it does give a plausible reasoning for the killer, in the end it wasn’t necessary to make Psycho A Go Go any better than it already was.
14. Carnival Magic
Carnival Magic has the honor of being the only film of Al Adamson’s to be featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and found its audience through the hilarious riffs and commentary from Jonah, Tom Servo and Crow. Carnival Magic marked a turn for Al Adamson as his first 80s film would not only be his second to last, but his first attempt at making a children’s family film. The story is about a carnival that is trying to keep from going under. A magician that has been the main attraction of the carnival reveals that he has been keeping a talking chimpanzee under his roof named Alex. Alex becomes a part of the magician’s act and becomes an instant crowd pleaser. His popularity catches the attention of a scientist who wants to take Alex and experiment with him to see if he’s the true missing link of human evolution. Carnival Magic in its original non MST3K version is dated for a children’s film but has enough going on to be entertaining. The antics of Alex are funny including him stealing a car and taking a joyride on it. The power of this movie comes from the bond of the magician and Alex as kind of a father/son relationship. Alex makes friends with some of the other carnival workers who look after his well-being especially when he does go missing. It reminded me of another film I liked in my mouth called Dunston Checks In where a monkey escaped his abusive master and made friends with a lonely boy who looks after him. Carnival Magic is a movie that may get the attention of children under 6 but may not be appealing to the other ages. You’re better off watching the MST3K version for a laugh out loud good time.
13. Death Dimension
Jim Kelly returns in another Al Adamson Martial Arts film that while not a direct sequel to Black Samurai but has a lot of familiar elements. Death Dimension is essentially the same storyline as Black Samurai with Kelly trying to find the daughter of a scientist who has a microchip surgically implanted in her forehead that contains instructions on how to create a destructive freeze bomb. She is being pursued by a world-renowned gangster named “The Pig” who is looking to acquire the plans so he can use it to hold the world at ransom. Death Dimension is an odd title considering there’s extraordinarily little in terms of Science Fiction. The film ratches up the Bond elements by adding Oddjob himself Harold Sakata as “The Pig” and one time James Bond George Lazenby as one of Kelly’s contacts which was great to see. The action scenes are fun to watch most notably a boat chase scene with Kelly fighting and knocking his adversaries into the beautiful blue water. While the story of Death Dimension is nothing new, it’s easy to follow along and doesn’t have any twists or things to turn your brain into a pretzel. The film quality of this version is grainy due to the print that Severin Films was able to acquire, but you can still see what’s going on in the frame. Finally, the music is decent with a laughable track during the final chase scene as it sounds like the composer was mashing on a synthesizer. Death Dimension is another fun Martial Arts film that fits in Al Adamson’s Kung Fu Trilogy along with Black Samurai and The Dynamite Brothers.
12. The Fakers
As previously stated in my review for Hell’s Bloody Devils, The Fakers is about a government agent who infiltrates a Neo Nazi organization in California in hopes of retrieving some counterfeit plates from Germany the Nazis plan on using for a counterfeit scheme. Adamson wanted to seize on the success of the James Bond movies by creating a spy thriller of his own. The Fakers has a nice blend of action, story, characters, and music. In traditional James Bond fashion, The Fakers features a romantic sub plot where the protagonist encounters a beautiful young woman caught in middle of the events that are unfolding. Best scene in the movie is where the main character and his love interest are eating at KFC and Colonel Sanders appears in the flesh asking them, “Isn’t that the most wonderful chicken you ever ate?” He refused to say the original scripted line, “Ain’t that chicken finger lickin’ good?” which caused the crew to shoot several takes, which in an Al Adamson movie is a no-no
11. Blood of Dracula’s Castle
Blood of Dracula’s Castle was one of many good concepts from Adamson that doesn’t quite hit their mark. Starring Alexandar D’Arcy as a fangless mustached Dracula he resides in a castle in the middle of the California desert along with his wife the Coutness played by Paula Raymond and their loyal butler George played by John Carrandine. With the use of a henchman named Mango, they kidnap young women who wonder into their property and hold them in the basement to take their blood. Their lives get turned upside down when the original owner of the property passes away and gives the deed to his nephew. He along with his fiancé travel to the castle and meet the squatters. They soon realize that there is something wrong with their new inheritance. There are many things to like about Blood of Dracula’s Castle. The cinematography was good for being an Adamson film apart from a few cuts and scratches from the film translation itself due to it being old and recovered for the box set. I loved the setting and set decorations of the film. While the castle is in the desert, the inside still has that vintage look of Dracula’s original layer settled in Transylvania. John Carradine is the standout performance as George the Butler. Surrounded by amateurs, Carradine’s veteran professionalism and seriousness of the part sticks out. While the story is cohesive, it could’ve been fleshed out more. The biggest thing I didn’t get was why Dracula and the Countess chose to drink blood from a glass rather than bite the necks of their victims the old-fashioned way. One of those mysteries that may never be solved. Blood of Dracula’s Castle may stack at the bottom as a forgettable Dracula movie, but it has enough going on for it to be a decent late night B movie.
10. Psycho A Go Go
Al Adamson’s second feature film Psycho A Go Go is about a jewel heist that goes wrong with one of the burglars tossing the bag of jewels into the back of a pick-up truck driven by an ordinary pedestrian who’s on his way home to celebrate his daughter’s sixth birthday. The thieves track him down and hold his family hostage until they get their stolen loot back. Psycho A Go Go has plenty of zany moments, most notably one of the henchmen who abruptly becomes the main antagonist near the end of the film. The acting is cheesy which includes a doll that sings like Alvin the Chipmunk. There’s enough going on in the film to keep your attention span, most notably the opening heist and the final act. The climax features a long chase scene that starts with the killer stealing a car and going after the wife and daughter of the innocent man and ends up in a snowy mountainside where the final standoff ensures. The cinematography was done by Vilmos Zsigmond who would go on later in his career to win the Academy Award for Cinematography for his work on Close Encounters of the Third Kind. This was his first Director of Photography job and you could see the talent that he had for lighting and framing as his later works would continue to give him much praise and success.
9. Brain of Blood
Brain of Blood is the story of a dictator from a fictional Middle Eastern country who is dying of cancer and arranges with his aides and future bride for his body to be flown to America where a scientist is preparing to transfer his brain into another human body in order for him to continuing living. What he’s not aware is that the Scientist is planning on putting his brain into the body of his acid scarred servant. This is the most comprehensive film from Al Adamson. While not an original idea, it’s well executed. The story is easy to follow along and has some decent performances, most notable Angelo Rossitto in his first Al Adamson film playing the Scientists’ assistant. You could tell he was having fun with his character especially when checking up on the women who are chained in the Scientists’ basement. There’s also a well-choreographed fight scene and a car chase sequenced to keep the film from being too dialogue heavy. Of course, Brain of Blood couldn’t be a horror film without seeing blood and a brain. The surgical sequence is long, but the effects are gruesome. Kudos to the props and effects department for making a realistic looking brain drowned in blood. Brain of Blood is a movie I would watch again and even draw a little inspiration into writing a script with this subject matter.
8. Jessi’s Girls
Starring Sondra Currie in the eponymous role, Jessi’s Girls is a movie about vengeance and female empowerment. Jessi and her husband, who are devout Mormons are attacked by a group of outlaws. Jessi is raped several times and her husband is killed. With very little strength she finds safe haven in a hut of a hermit who nurses her back to health and teaches her how to use a gun. Jessi then goes out in the world to seek revenge on the outlaws. She frees several female prisoners and starts a gang. Jessi’s Girls is a rare film where it feels Al Adamson took his time on and focuses on character development and emotion rather than fast loose gimmicks. The metamorphism of Sondra Currie is amazing how she went from an innocent devout Mormon woman to a vengeance seeking vigilante with a deep hatred for men. The torture scenes are brutal, and the music heightens the tension and pain being inflicted. There’s enough action and shootouts to keep the film from being too preachy on the morals and ethics of what they are doing. Great supporting cast including Regina Carrol, Jennifer Bishop and Ellyn Stern as Jessi’s partners who slowly infight among themselves in the film and it’s up to Jessi to keep her girls in line. Unfortunately, Jessi’s Girls suffers from having an abrupt ending where the credits roll immediately after the climax. It felt like a slap in the face to what was turning into making Al Adamson a mainstream filmmaker. Jessi’s Girls is still a good film on the merits and worthy of a top ten slot.
7. The Dynamite Brothers
Continuing the trend of making movies featuring trending genres, Al Adamson jumped on the success of Bruce Lee’s final film Enter The Dragon by making a Kung Fu film of his own. Released in 1974, The Dynamite Brothers star Alan Tang as Larry Chin, who arrives in America via Hong Kong searching for his brother. While at a stop in San Francisco, he meets Stud Brown, played by Timothy Brown via being handcuffed to each other by a racist corrupt cop named Burke, played by Aldo Ray. After escaping custody, Larry and Stud head to Los Angeles with the help of a driver by named Betty, played by Clare Torao. I loved this movie. The action starts right at the beginning and doesn’t wear out. The fights are perfectly choreographed and the chemistry between Alan Tang and Timothy Brown remind me of the relationship between Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in Rush Hour. The Dynamite Brothers also features legendary actor James Hong as the antagonist who is quiet, but brutal as you will see in the film where he kills a henchman using a single acupuncture needle. The story is simple and flows easily with an intriguing twist during the final act of the movie. The flaws are little, but rather noticeable especially during a shootout scene where a car flips over and bursts into flames. Nevertheless R. Michael Stringer does a great job with the cinematography with shots overlooking the San Francisco Bay to the mean streets of Los Angeles. Quentin Tarantino has talked in length about The Dynamite Brothers and I could easily see why. It is truly a fun B movie watch for fans of the Martial Arts genre.
6. Satan’s Sadists
Biker films are known for their honest brutality and Satan’s Sadists pulls no punches. Starring Russ Tamblyn as Anchor who leads his gang the Satan’s Sadists on a venture of rape, murder, and revenge. After terrorizing a group of people at a local diner in the desert, a man fresh out of the Marines fights back to defend the waitress against the gang which leads to a chase in the desert where they attempt to hide from the gang finding them. During the search, the gang comes across a trio of college girls working on a project and slowly being to unravel as the day falls into night. The overall presentation of Satan’s Sadists looks like something Quentin Tarantino would’ve made (I believe he mentioned in an interview about really liking this film, but I can’t find the source). The story is easy to follow. The cinematography is gritty and captures the wastelands of the desert along with the long straight roads where the bikers ride in formation. There’s great sixties music that fits the feel and themes of the movie. The performances are solid with Tamblyn being the standout as the quiet but sociopath Anchor and Bud Cardos as the Native American member of the gang Firewater who gets into a power struggle with Anchor. The rest of the gang act like despicable little children due to their antics throughout. The film also marks the feature debut of Adamson’s wife Regina Carrol who would appear in all his films going forward. She has many notable scenes in this including dancing on top of a diner table. It’s something you would see in a Tarantino film. There are some scenes that are hard to watch, most notably the rape scenes involving two women, one at the beginning of the film and one during the middle. It reminded me of the rape scenes in The Last House on the Left. Finally, a biker film wouldn’t be one if it didn’t have any fights. There’s plenty of fights including a great scene where the protagonist takes a snake and hurls it at a biker who gets bitten on the neck and slowly succumbs to the snake’s venom. Satan’s Sadists is without a doubt one of the best films Al Adamson has made and one that was not afraid of pushing the boundaries. It’s the perfect Drive In B movie.
5. Uncle Tom’s Cabin
We’re now down to the final five in the Al Adamson movie rankings. We start with Adamson’s film adaptation of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s immortal novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Released in 1977, the film was originally a German production that ran quite long until Adamson bought the film, trimmed it down and added a few of his touches, most notably nude scenes, and a lovemaking scene between the character of Napoleon and the nurse that heals him after he escapes from a riverboat. It’s been a long time since I’ve read the novel so I can’t testify as to how accurate the film is from the novel. The production and filming of Uncle Tom’s Cabin is quite astounding. While Adamson may have not shot the film in its entirety, he took with great care editing and matching the film to create a cohesive narrative to present a dignified film adaptation about the changing attitudes of slavery which would lead to the Civil War. There’s a real authenticity to this film from the settings to the clothes and the music. The performances are top notch, with German actor Herbert Lom playing Simon Legree. He is shown having half of his face scarred reminiscent of the Batman villain Two-Face. There are violent moments in the film that are hard to watch. I had to close my eyes on a few scenes, but you must remember that Adamson put these scenes as context as to how African American slaves were treated. Not as human beings but property. There are not many film adaptations of Uncle Tom’s Cabin out there, but this was the most driven and emotional version I’ve seen that sticks out among Al Adamson’s filmography.
4. Girls For Rent
Starring Adult Film legend Georgina Spelvin, Girls For Rent starts with Spelvin as the role of Sandra escaping from a prison work detail and rendezvous with a woman named Erica, played by Rosalind Miles. There she meets Chuck, played by Preston Price and gets involved in his prostitution business by managing the girls. One of the newer clients named Donna, played by Susie Ewing freaks out and leaves after her client dies of a heart attack. On the lam, Donna hopes to escape from Sandra and Erica who are ordered to track her down and kill her. Girls For Rent is a surprisingly good cat and mouse film. Spelvin delivers a solid performance as the hard-nosed and sadistic Sandra and Susie Ewing as Donna who seems to find herself in one bad situation after another. There are some shocking moments in the film which show how these girls are not here to mess around and they will not let anyone stand in their way. There is a small romance that blossoms between Donna and a man who invites her to camp with him in the mountains and then take her to where she wants to go the next day, but it does not happen until the third act of the movie. Girls For Rent includes plenty of action, surprises and of course sex to keep you engaged and featured a great ending to wrap things up. Girls For Rent easily makes the top of this list for me.
3. Black Samurai
Al Adamson teams up with iconic Martial Arts champion Jim Kelly of Enter The Dragon fame to create Black Samurai. Kelly plays Robert Sand, who is a secret agent for the group D.R.A.G.O.N (Defense Reserve Agency Guardian of Nations) who is vacationing in Mexico is cut short when his superiors assign him to save the daughter of the ambassador of Hong Kong, who just happens to be Robert’s girlfriend. Black Samurai combines Martial Arts, Blaxploitation and Secret Agent genres to create a fast, fun and thrilling film. This is one of Kelly’s finest performances delivering humor, seriousness and of course his fast fists. Black Samurai has a James Bond feel to it featuring Kelly wearing a jetpack and flying around a perimeter, encountering a beautiful but deadly enchantress and stopping an over-the-top antagonist nicknamed “The Warlock.” Of course, there are traps Kelly must escape from most notably a jail cell filled with rattlesnakes. The fight scenes are furious and fun to watch. Kelly takes on all kinds of bad guys notably dwarven henchmen and a giant vulture looking to tear him to pieces. Kelly demonstrates why he is considered one of the greatest in his discipline, which was Shorin-Ryu Karate. The Martial Arts genre was the greatest strength for Adamson as he seemed to know how to frame an enjoyable action flick. Black Samurai easily makes the top three on this list. It is one long roller coaster from beginning to end.
2. Dracula vs. Frankenstein
Who would’ve thought it would be Al Adamson that would bring two iconic monsters in literature and early days of cinema to duke it out on the big screen? Dracula vs. Frankenstein is perhaps the most notable film of Al Adamson since it’s been played at Drive-Ins and on late night television. The major plot of the movie is Dracula uncovers the remains of the Frankenstein monster and convinces Dr. Durea, the last surviving member of the Frankenstein family to resurrect him. The B story of the movie involves Regina Carol who searches for her missing sister and encounters not only a biker gang, but a carnival where one of the attractions is a cover for Dr. Durea’s lab. The film is notable for many reasons. First, there is a veteran cast including J. Carrol Naish as Dr. Durea, Lon Cheney Jr. as his hulking assistant Groton, Angelo Rossitto as the shorter assistant Grazbo who pretends to be the tour guide of the attraction and Russ Tamblyn as biker gang leader Rico. The performances are good with the highlights being the forementioned actors. Roger Engel (credited as Zandor Vorkov) plays Dracula in a stiff monotonal way. Thanks to the bad editing, he appears at times without makeup and fangs and near the end of the film, he appears with fangs and wearing white clown makeup, which is cheesy but strangely appealing. John Bloom plays the Frankenstein Monster whose lips look like they were swollen due to an allergic reaction to a bee sting plays the monster somewhat clumsily with a few grunts here and there. I liked the cinematography in this as the settings of the movie are a mix a beachside carnival with the final sequence being shot in a church and the final battle taking place in the woods. The fight is more of a tug of war but gets entertaining at the end. I thought the cinematography was good for this type of movie with some funny still frame shots of Dracula using his powers to burn someone. For you gore hounds there’s an ample amount of gore including head rolls and an axe to the face that made me squirm. Dracula vs. Frankenstein is the most impressive film of Adamson’s library from a technical standpoint. It’s not as terrible as some people claim it is. I like to think of it as a good Mystery Science Theater 3000 Movie that you could watch late at night with some friends and riff on it.
1. The Female Bunch
The first film I watched in the Al Adamson Masterpiece Collection turned out to be my overall favorite film of this list. It’s a movie I kept thinking back as I was watching the rest of the films and starting my rankings. Released in 1971, The Female Bunch starts with a woman named Sandy, played by Nesa Renet together with a man named Jim, played by Geoffrey Land who are hiding in the mountains from the female gang looking to apprehend them. The movie then goes into a flashback where Sandy goes into narration of the events leading up to this point. She was working as a waitress struggling to make ends meet. One night she tries to kill herself, but is saved by her Co-worker Libby, played by Adamson’s wife and regular contributor Regina Carrol. Libby takes Sandy to a ranch owned by a female gang. After going through an initiation test, Sandy becomes a member of the group. From there they travel to Mexico to party, get drunk and score drugs. As the film progresses, Sandy becomes unsure if this is the life she wants and questions the motives of its leaders Dennise (Leslie McCray) and strung out sexaholic Sharyn (Sharyn Wyntes).
The Female Bunch features an eclectic cast of newcomers and veterans including frequent Adamson collaborator Russ Tamblyn and Lon Cheney Jr. in his final film appearance. The Female Bunch starts with some great western music and aerial shots from a plan courtesy of Bud Cardos, another Adamson regular who had his own plane. From there it’s a cohesive story of a woman looking for something better in life and finding acceptance within a group which is something we’ve all be involved in at one point in our lives. The middle gets a little dull with the almost never-ending partying in Mexico but makes up with it with some hot sex and dancing. The performances are good. Most of the gang members were amateur actresses who didn’t know how to ride horses until they did this movie. For what its worth they did a valiant effort even though you can tell is some shots they did not look comfortable. There’s plenty to humor to cut through the seriousness of the plot. In Lon Cheney’s role as the Stable Keeper Monti, who gets teased by the women thinking he’s going to get laid by one of them. There’s quite a bit of gruesome violence including a scene where Tamblyn gets a permanent marking on his forehead because of his failed attempt to rape one of the women. There are some hiccups during the third act in which the ADR does not sync up with the actresses’ dialog (this is something you’ll see in most Adamson’s movies). The Female Bunch is a film of female empowerment and they show that they’re playing with the boys on their terms. In the end it was no contest that The Female Bunch was my favorite Al Adamson movie. It’s perhaps my favorite underrated Western film.
So what did you think of the rankings? Agree/Disagree with my list? What is your favorite Al Adamson film? Feel free to leave comments/feedback. I’d love to read your responses.
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: 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: Damien Chinappi, Richard Tyson, Scout Taylor-Compton, Billy Wirth, Erika Hoveland, Yan Birch, Mel Novak, Vida Ghaffari
Warning: Possible Spoilers In This Review
As I’ve previously mentioned in my review for Attack of the Unknown, there are times here on “Guilty Pleasure Cinema” where I receive an opportunity to watch a film sent to me directly from the distributors or producers. This review is going to be another special review since it falls a little outside the normal reviews I’ve put on here. There won’t be any audio clips or trivia. Instead it’s going to be a straight up review as to why I recommend you check out this particular film. With that being said, I had the pleasure this past weekend of watching a unique film that was written and directed by Harley Wallen, whom has appeared in over forty feature length films and TV shows. His filmography includes Agramon’s Gate which stars B Movie icon Laurene Landon, Betrayed starring John Savage and Abstruse starring Tom Sizemore. I’ll be reviewing his latest release, Eternal Code.
Eternal Code follows the story of Corey (Damien Chinappi), an Iraq War Veteran who is in an unfortunate position like many veterans as he is homeless and unable to find work, not to mention having suicidal thoughts. Sitting on a park bench, he befriends a prostitute named Stephanie (Kaiti Wallen) along with two teenage girls who bring him food and money, Miranda (Angelina Danielle Cama) and May (Calhoun Koenig). Miranda’s mother is Bridget Pellegrini (Erika Hoveland), who is the head of a biological company that is developing technology which could bring eternal life to human beings. She is fighting against a merger that is being led by Oliver (Richard Tyson). To make sure the merger goes through, Oliver assembles a team to kidnap Bridget and her husband Mark (Billy Wirth) and hold them hostage while intimidating the other members of the board to vote yes for the merger. Miranda manages to not be taken and enlists Corey’s help to rescue her parents. Using his combat training and skills, Corey seeks out to find Miranda’s parents as well as protecting her from being kidnapped.
Clocking in at a runtime of 105 minutes, Eternal Code is a dramatic thriller with science fiction elements. The film deals with the concept of life, death and afterlife. While the concept of life after death remains a mystery to humans, science is hoping to solve the mystery. It also deals with the morals and ethics of this research. You have Bridget who is wanting to use this breakthrough for peaceful purposes while Oliver is wanting this for his own personal ambitions, which you will uncover as you watch the film. He’s not going to let anyone nor anything stop in his way even if it means using retaliatory measures which we find so often in our business world today.
The performances are strong in this film especially from the main leads. Chinappi plays Corey as a lost soul in the beginning, but it would take the decency and good heart of Miranda for him to snap back into a sense of purpose as he is determined to pay his debt to her by rescuing her parents. Chinappi’s performance reminds me of a mix between Jack Bauer and Bryan Mills (24 and Taken for those who aren’t getting the reference). He doesn’t rely on torturing his suspects to extract information. Instead he uses stealth, cunning and the old fashioned gun pointed at the head to get what he needs to move forward. Richard Tyson is in a familiar antagonist role as he has been known for playing villains for most of his career, most notably in Kindergarten Cop. His character of Oliver is cold, calculating and is done reasoning with others. The rest of the supporting casts play their parts appropriately and each bring something to the story. There’s two special appearances in the movie. The first is from Scout Taylor-Compton (Rob Zombie’s Halloween and Halloween II) as Charlie, who is in charge of watching over Bridget and Mark and gets easily annoyed by their constant complaining and her frustration shows during her screen time. The other is Mel Novak (Game of Death, An Eye For An Eye) who plays board member Pomeroy. His appearance is a mix between Cliff Robertson and a certain United States President whom shall remain nameless. Novak is known in the film industry for playing villains, but it was a breath of fresh air to see him play a different role as one of the more reasonable executives and would not be beaten into submission even if it meant losing his life.
You’ll need to be patient when watching this movie as the pacing starts out very slow, but then picks up around the thirty minute mark. From there you have many moments on screen that will make you tense.For those of you who are expecting long shoot em up scenes or explosions, there’s none of that in Eternal Code. There are fight scenes and dead bodies, but it’s minimal. Instead, Wallen’s direction makes you use your brain and think about what would you do in the situation that they find themselves in. The presentation fits with a real life situation if your loved ones were kidnapped, what would you do? How far involved would you be to get them back? The only gripes I had other than the uneven pacing was I felt some scenes could’ve been trimmed down as they would dwell on matters that have already been established.
Eternal Code is a pleasant flick that is a nice breather from all the blockbuster action films that need car chases, things blowing up and a high body count to keep the audience’s attention. It’s not going to fit everyone’s tastes, but if you’re looking for something that is a little more clever and dramatic, then this is worth a viewing.
While major Hollywood studios have closed their doors during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has not stopped independent film companies from taking advantage of the situation by releasing their movies. One of those companies that is showing no signs of taking a break is Mahal Empire Productions. Mahal has become one of the leading companies for independent movies. Besides the quality and originality of their pictures, they’ve seized upon the concept of using campaign sites such as Indiegogo to ask fans for money to finance their films in exchange for perks. Mahal has exceeded their fundraising goals for each movie campaign and within a matter of days. They clearly know their market and have done it the right way as well as paving the way for those who want to get into the film industry. Now the company will be releasing their biggest release of the summer with Attack of the Unknown.
Directed by Brandon Slagle who in addition co-wrote the script with producers Michael and Sonny Mahal, Attack of the Unknown starts off as an action thriller as an LAPD SWAT team raids on a meeting orchestrated by notorious drug cartel leader Miguel ‘Hades’ Aguirre (Robert LaSardo). After a blazing gunfight, the Feds swarm in and take over the operation much to the disappointment of the team. From there, the story focuses on SWAT leader Vernon (Richard Grieco) whose life is starting to crumble. Besides going through a divorce, he is told by his doctor that he has cancer which has him caught in a miserable vice. Meanwhile in another part of Los Angeles, two police officers with a drunk driving suspect in the back of their vehicle come across what looks like a damaged spaceship in the desert. The ship explodes as the officers reach it only for them and their suspect to be killed by a strange tentacle that jabs them once. From there, a giant spaceship hovers over the city and an alien invasion begins. Vernon and his crew get caught up in it as they are transferring Hades to jail only to have them and their crew work together to figure out what these aliens want and how to defeat them.
Attack of the Unknown takes the ingredients of various science fiction eras, most notably the 50s and the 90s, adds modern day action followed by some solid digital effects, polished cinematography and finishes it with some high quality sound, puts it in a film can and through the projector releases a movie that is all killer and no filler. It’s a film that has some serious tones, but in the end is a homage to the cheeses B movies of past and present. Considering the content, Attack of the Unknown works as a film that is perfect for a Drive In viewing since they’re riding the storm while theaters are hunkered down.
The highlighted performances in this movie are its two leads. First is Richard Grieco whose portrayal of Vernon reminded me of Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid 4 where he is on a death clock and musters the last of his strength for one final mission. In this case, Vernon’s final mission is to save the planet from its unwanted visitors. Grieco plays it with grit and is in no mood for games. Then there’s Hades played by Robert LaSardo, who has been a character actor for more than thirty years and I remember him from his appearances in such film and television most notably in Hard to Kill and Out For Justice with Steven Seagal, playing different criminals in NYPD Blue and more recently in Clint Eastwood’s The Mule. It was great to see LaSardo play a significant role in this as he plays Hades as an arrogant gangster who tries to get underneath the skin of Vernon and the other SWAT teams with his smug and cocky insults to stir up who he is antagonizing in order to get a violent reaction out of them. The rest of the cast offers their own unique traits and abilities including a survivor who runs a podcast and says he can kick some alien ass due to his nonstop playing of Street Fighter. There’s even a cameo from Tara Reid, another frequent Mahal contributor although she is delegated to a flashback.
Another positive about Attack of the Unknown is that it a fast paced film that doesn’t boggle down on tedious scenes that don’t progress the story forward. The initial raid scene in the beginning is fourteen minutes long, but doesn’t feel that way as your eyes are engaged at all the bullets flying and bodies piling up. It makes you feel like you’re playing a video game. From there the invasion starts to happen and the survivors are strategizing as to how they are going to make it out of the situation alive. The film clocks in at 103 minutes which is an appropriate length for a film of this concept.
The design of the giant spaceship borrows from the major ships in Independence Day and even move in a similar fashion. As soon as they arrive on earth, they don’t waste time and start blowing up buildings in downtown Los Angeles and causing a chain reaction where citizens are running for their lives. The design of the alien creatures are picked and pulled from infamous creations. their bodies resemble those of the Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation while their claws seem to be taken from Roger Corman’s Attack of the Crab Monsters and the helmets they used are lifted from Ridley Scott’s Alien. While the creatures look dated they are not to be taken lightly as they pack a wallop with their quick kill abilities. Kudos to the makeup and costume department for creating antagonists that pay homage to their sci-fi ancestry.
With a lackluster release this movie year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Attack of the Unknown is just the film that you need to watch to escape the real horrors going on in the world. The film will be released on Video on Demand on Blu-Ray August 28th with a DVD/Blu-Ray release to come in October. Be sure to mark that date on your calendar since it will be the first big release of what is shaping to be a fall finale for new movies to be released on home platforms instead of the traditional theatrical release.
Starring: Ethan Embry, Cassidy Rae, John DeLancie, Cindy Pickett, Paul Dooley William H. Macy (Credited as W.H. Macy)
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
The 90s saw the boom of video rentals. Chains like Blockbuster had not only the hottest theatrical releases, but movies that went straight to video. Low budget B-movies used the rental boom as a way to get their films out to the viewing public. Companies like Full Moon Features profited and flourished using this concept. Some of the straight to video films began to appear on designated channels. The Sci-Fi channel was known for not only playing classic science fiction and horror films, but they played straight to video exclusives and started making their own movies that would be played specifically on their channel (a trend that has continued today). One of the first titles to come out during this period was the movie Evolver.
The movie is about a teenage gamer and hacker Kyle Baxter (played by Ethan Embry) who is an avid gamer trying to get the high school on an arcade game called Evolver. Evolver is a virtual reality game where the player must track down and shoot a fast moving robot. The company that created the game, Cyber-Tronix is having a contest where they person with the highest score will win a prototype home version of the game which includes a physical robot of Evolver itself. Kyle being a few points short of first hacks into the Cyber-Tronix network and fixes the score so he would be first. He wins the contest and the robot is delivered to his home complete with a big marketing promotion form the company which features the CEO of the company Jerry Briggs (played by Paul Doocey) and the creator of Evolver Russell Bennet (played by John DeLancie). Kyle and his friends start to play with the new robot and seem to have fun. Later as the game continues, Kyle starts to notice some strange things going on with Evolver. He hacks into the program and finds that the game’s source code is run on a program called ‘SWORD’. Later while addressing his concerns with Bennett at Cyber-Tronix’s headquarters, he sneaks into one of the computer rooms and discovers that SWORD was originally a military program designed by Bennett and was inputted into robots used in war. The project went haywire when the prototype robot began killing its teammates, forcing Bennett to shut down the program. When confronted by this information Bennett admitted that he was trying to prove that his programmed worked, but lapsed in judgment by not adapting the program enough for home consumption. Now Kyle must find a way to defeat Evolver as its primary objective now is to terminate him.
The movie was released in 1995. I remember seeing previews for this film on the Sci-Fi channel and thinking this looked cool since it was a movie about a video game robot. When I saw the film for the first time, I was thoroughly impressed. It was one of the better robot movies that I had seen in my short time (I was ten years old in 1995). I watched it again not too long ago and I enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time. It’s a rare breed of films that were played on the Sci-Fi Channel that I liked.
The opening scene is Kyle playing the Evolver VR game. The VR graphics are similar to the ones that were in The Lawnmower Man (if any of you have seen that). There are some nice first person scenes inside the game that make you feel like you are playing the game (I wish they came out with an Evolver VR game. Now is the opportunity with all the headsets out there). There are a lot of first person shots involving Evolver. There are scenes where you are seeing through the lens of Evolver’s visor and you can see all the programming and targeting that it has. When Evolver moves, you’ll notice the camera is hovered low to reflect Evolver’s height. I thought that was clever. The film has more physical special effects than visual. Most of Evolver’s kills deal with using physical tools and the environment that surrounds him. The only visual effects I found were when he uses electricity and laser weapons, which is fine. Evolver can be predictable on numerous occasions throughout the film, but It’s still a fun little joyride with some intense moments.
This movie had a nice cast of familiar faces. All of them were well suited to their roles. There were a few characters that I felt were fillers for the story. Of course, the film had to have a romantic interest, hence the character of Jane portrayed by Cassidy Rae. At first she becomes a nuisance to Kyle, but finds an immediate attraction to him and early on tries to convince him that Evolver is not what it seems. The one character I didn’t like was Kyle’s best fried Zack. I can’t remember the actor’s name that played him. At first I thought it was Adam Richman from Man vs. Food because he looks like him. Sadly it wasn’t. Anyway, Zack is a self-centered perv who only uses Kyle to get what’s best for him. In the beginning of the film, he is placing bets on Kyle to beat the Evolver’s game. When Kyle wins the Evolver robot, he wants Kyle to put it in the girl’s locker room so it could record the girls inside. I did not feel any sympathy for what happens to him in this movie.
Amway, let’s focus on the three central characters of this film.
This was one of Ethan Embry’s first teenage roles (he’s been a child actor long before this). He was well suited for the role of Kyle. Like most boys his age during this time period, video games were a way of life and a way of escaping from real world issues. Early in the film, he is very dismissive of his mother due to the fact she is always going out on dates and having to watch his kid sister. You have a sense that he blames her for what happened with the family. It’s only until a scene involving his sister in danger when Evolver is trying to kill her does he show heart and how his selfishness nearly cost him the life of his sibling. He comes to the realization that his family is more important than a piece of rolling metal. In the final confrontation, Kyle shows grave concern for his family when Evolver gives him an ultimatum. In the end, Kyle realized that in order to beat Evolver, he had to think outside of the virtual world and use the real world to his advantage.
The second central character in the film is Russell Bennet. I love John DeLancie and he was perfect for this role. Star Trek fans are well aware of who DeLancie is in their universe as the adversarial character Q from The Next Generation series. For those who aren’t Trekkies, DeLancie is also known for playing the character Donald Margolis in Breaking Bad from Season 2 going into the beginning of Season 3. Bennett is obsessed with making his program work. While the CEO of Cyber-Tronix assigns Bennett to create a holiday techno toy, Bennett is only focusing on his scrapped military program and proving the powers that be that there is nothing wrong with his program. When his boss seems concerned regarding the early data from Evolver and feels that it is not ready for public consumption, Bennett dismisses his notion and comes up with answers as to why Evolver is reacting the way that it is. When Kyle confronts him about the concerns he has with Evolver, he ignores the warnings and fights back at Kyle saying, “I created Evolver. I know what makes him tick and you don’t!” It’s like he is in complete denial. It’s only until the turning point in the film does Bennett understand the real dangers and admits defeat. Unfortunately it will be too late for him to stop it.
Finally, there is the titular character. Evolver is voiced by William H. Macy (credited as W.H. Macy). Now I’m sure you’re asking why a big name respected actor like William H. Macy is voicing a robot in a straight to video film. William H. Macy was not well known during this time period. ‘Fargo’ wasn’t released until a year after this. I’m he took whatever came to him as most actors do. Evolver’s primary objective is to win. In the VR game, no one has defeated Evolver at Level 4 and that carries over into the home game. Like its namesake, Evolver evolves at every level and he adapts to his surroundings and what he observes. Evolver’s lines are basic in the beginning, but as it confronts new players it mimics their taunts, threats and jokes. Macy does a great job keeping these lines monotone to the robot’s voice, but does it in a way that is humoring. Near the end of the movie, Evolver’s voice becomes more evil and desperate with his enemies still being alive and Macy’s voice easily transitions to that.
This movie came out at the height of the Arcade industry. Virtual reality was still a technology being played around with but it wasn’t available for entertainment consumption. Being a long time video gamer, I loved the concept of having your own interactive gaming robot you could play with. Who wouldn’t want to get their hands on their own Evolver robot to play with? This is another in a long line of films dealing with artificial intelligence and the dangers that are associated with it. You saw a lot of these movies come out shortly after ‘The Terminator’. Evolver takes it to a different level by being a portable video game robot. What is programmed to be a kid’s game becomes a killing machine. With technology continuing and artificial intelligence widening, it only takes one glitch or one error for things to go critical.
Overall, Evolver is still a fun movie. If I had to make a list of my favorite straight to video movies, this would be on my Top 2e list. Like I said earlier, I would love to start a campaign to get an Evolver VR game going. We should take up the social media platforms and let VR companies know we want this to happen and send them a copy of the movie. If by some miracle this indeed happened, it would move the Evolver movie from a simple made for television film into virual reality immortality!