The Crater Lake Monster (1977)

The Crater Lake Monster (1977) movie poster

director William R. Stromberg
viewed: 12/08/2017

The Crater Lake Monster, if it could talk, would probably take a Rodney Dangerfield defense, “I don’t get no respect!”

Case in point, The Crater Lake Monster is a plesiosaur, like Nessie. Is that what it looks like on the poster?

In reality, it’s very capably and decently-produced for a regional horror flick out of 1977.  It’s downright quaint for 1977, too, a total throwback to The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957),  The Giant Behemoth (1959) or Reptilicus (1961), a giant monster movie, with action rendered in stop-motion effects. The newest of those comparison points was 15 years prior. 1977 was the year of Star Wars (as if anyone needed me to mention that).

I’m talking quaint.

The actors, all across the board, are a strange selection of thespians. The comic relief characters are charming but maybe not so good to take up as much screen time as they do. Still I was sad when one of them got eaten. Sad, but glad too because you need somebody to get eaten and animated in the mouth of the monster.

Total props to David W. Allen and team because this monster, clearly on a seriously low budget, is an excellent bit of craftsmanship and totally makes the movie. I love this stuff, no matter how I, you, or anyone else “rate” it. It’s also kind of awesome.

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

director Shinya Tsukamoto
viewed: 12/06/2017

They don’t make ’em like they used to.

Shinya Tsukamoto’s bombast bomb blast of body horror surrealist industrial phantasmagoria, Tetsuo: The Iron Man not only holds up almost 30 years later, but in my viewing, is even better.

The last time I saw Tetsuo was in film school back in the Nineties. Though visual images, ideas, and impressions were deeply emblazoned on my brain, I had really forgotten what a radical visual effects, editing, and pacing of the film. Also, how little explication is given to the narrative.

I love moviemaking that incorporates so much such tactile techniques. This is totally 16mm film and from the stop-motion animations and other pre-digital effects, you can almost feel the crew making this with their hands on the actual film. When editing was editing actual celluloid strips of photo-exposed images.

Brilliant.

The Undertaker (1988)

The Undertaker (1988) movie poster

director Franco Steffanino
viewed: 12/03/2017

In a world full of morons…

The Undertaker is not quite London After Midnight but this never released lost film was Frankensteined together for release with public domain flicks and who knows what else. Joe Spinell also isn’t exactly Lon Chaney, nor is director Franco Staffanino anyone’s idea of Tod Browning.

This sutured, re-edited flick is a little hard to fully estimate. I suppose the padding and attempts at continuity were well-intended, but ultimately, they end up changing whatever vision was originally there.

The Joe Spinell scenes are a lot of fun. Still can only imagine what they might have been in a completed context.

Death Metal Zombies (1995)

Death Metal Zombies (1995)

director Todd Jason Cook
viewed: 12/01/2017

How apropos that a movie titled Death Metal Zombies would feature a plot point of playing a song backwards to reverse the possession apocalypse.

“What? Do you think I’ve got some kind of machine that will play a tape backwards?”
“Don’t you?”
“No such thing.”

It’s the kind of concept a high schooler might have dreamed up: Houston-based metal fan wins a tape of his favorite metal band’s newest album, but when he plays it the band appears at turns him and all his friends into zombies. It’s not exactly what you call tightly scripted.

This shot-on-video affair will take you right back to 1995. Throw in a whole slew of Relapse Records death metal bands (writer/director/actor Todd Jason Cook’s coup), lots of regular folks roped into acting, occasionally getting nekkid, and some entertainingly gory effects, and you’ve got yourself some wonderfully fun amateur video.

If you’re into this kind of thing.

 

 

Slime City (1988)

Slime City (1988)

director Greg Lamberson
viewed: 11/29/2017

“Flesh Control”

Slime City clearly owes its body horror inspiration to Cronenberg’s The Fly, but it’s glorious effects  are straight up Street Trash colors. This Incredibly Melting Man is not quite Rick Baker level but some cool cheap gloopy gloop melting slime effects.

This low-budget, New York-shot horror film has some real character. The Frank Henenlotter connection is interesting, but highlights the fact that Slime City doesn’t quite have Henenlotter’s gleeful mordant humor.

Props to the prostitute, not with a heart of gold but a stomach of iron, to pull off his gluey bandages and still wanting to get it on with him.

But, yeah, that Black Knight-esque finale really seals the deal. When the head cracks open and the brain pops out and starts crawling around…that is the stuff of which dreams are made.

Oasis of the Zombies (1982)

Oasis of the Zombies (1982) movie poster

director  Jesús Franco
viewed: 11/27/2017

I sincerely prefer the living dead Nazis of cinema to actual living Nazis in the world today. But enough about me.

Oasis of the Zombies has a lot of actors, big props, and explosions in the battle sequence.  Jesús Franco must have had a decent budget on this.

Franco never seems too invested in FX or make-up design so it’s not surprising his zombie movies tend to phone that shit in.

Though slow and not a little dull, Oasis of the Zombies does get sporadically atmospheric once finally rolling.

And yes, it is probably four or five times better than Jean Rollin’s Zombie Lake (1981).

Blood Rage (1987)

Blood Rage (1987) VHS cover

director John Grissmer
viewed: 11/26/2017

While it’s hard to imagine Louise Lasser giving anyone an Oedipal complex, the “blood rage” in Blood Rage seems predicated over her fornication. It’s kind of hysterical how after his initial hatchet killings at the drive-in, how nonchalantly Terry implicates his twin Todd for the murders.

You know, Lasser is pretty much in her own movie here, one she apparently thinks is directed by John Cassavetes or something, not a low-budget Florida slasher due to languish on video until rediscovered years later by fans of obscure and off-beat bloody shenanigans. Her performance is so out of place in the film, it adds a strange flavor to the whole Thanksgiving smorgasbord.

Outside of Lasser’s virtually surreal performance, Mark Soper is actually pretty good in his dual role as Todd and Terry. I also kind of liked Lisa Randall as Andrea(?), the gal who just wants to party.

Beyond that, Blood Rage, does sport a seriously excellent gore game.

Forgoing the oft-quoted “cranberry sauce” line, I’ll up my personal favorite: “You’re going to hurt my kitty!”

Space Amoeba (1970)

Space Amoeba (1970) movie poster

director  Ishirō Honda
viewed: 11/19/2017

Space Amoeba! Space Amoeba! Space Amoeba!

Okay, so the Space Amoeba aren’t really the true focus of this movie. Heck, they don’t even make it to the movie poster. That’s because they are animated fuzzy clouds that take over a satellite and come to Earth and take over some critters, make them huge, and plan to take over the planet.

This is kaiju right off the sushi menu, with a giant cuttlefish, a crab-cum-prawn, and most wonderfully, though all too short on screentime, a fancy snapping turtle with an extendo-neck.

It’s from director Ishirō Honda, so you know it’s legit. It’s actually a lot more fun and entertaining than some more well-known kaijus of the time.

Interestingly, the plot revolves around a plan to put up a big luxury resort on a heretofore unspoiled paradise. Is it social commentary that the amoebae from space want to take over Earth? Despoil our world from us? Lessons learned?

“Thanks to their superstitions we can fish where we want to!”

Faces of Death (1978)

Faces of Death (1978) VHS cover

director  Conan LeCilaire
viewed: 11/18/2017

In the 1980’s, having seen Faces of Death was de rigeur for any horror fan. It was one of the most outré things on most family video store movie racks. As far as Exploitation goes, it might have been the video era’s greatest success.

The bait-and-switch of veritable horrors with hammy fakes fit is well within the carny sideshow tease and titillate. The reality, though, was always cheapened by the fake. And it still is. The voice over doesn’t help though it’s strangely politically progressive.

But these days much worse is readily available on the internet. So, out of the context of its reputation and the scrutiny of fake to realism, where does Faces of Death stand now?

It’s definitely in the Mondo mold, and I imagine that is the best way to categorize it today. It shares with Mondo the faux documentary style, the all-knowing narrator moralizing the stuff, the mixture of real life violence and staged material, especially the use of gruesome animal sequences that set the table and tone for verity and horror.

I d say that it’s flaws start with its structure, a seeming randomness that fails to sense its own strengths and weaknesses. It ends up meandering and working through no pattern of development. Interestingly, the music seems an ironic commentary throughout. Which might help to explain the mind-boggling credit sequence and song.

I appreciate Exploitation movies, though I doubt I need to re-watch this again ever. It’s still eerie and gross.

The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971)

The Blood on Satan's Claw (1971) movie poster

director Piers Haggard
viewed: 11/12/2017

Folk horror classic, The Blood on Satan’s Claw is a truly attractive production. It’s also a very earnest horror film, set in the 18th century in the English countryside. All the children, and some peasants, are going stark raving wild with evil, delving into sex and murder, and devil worship.

Be careful what you unearth when you plow the field.

Most of this is in the foreground, but it’s funny as I was reading up on this before writing, how much more the devil is in the details. When infected with evil, the innocent find a dark hairy patch on their bodies. Am I the only one who didn’t immediately attach that to adolescence and sexual maturity? Like the “deformed anatomy in those furrows,” there seems to be a lot of codified sexual innuendo throughout.

Of course, Linda Hayden as Angel, strips right down in the church to try to tempt the priest. And poor Cathy Vespers (Wendy Padbury) gets raped in a riotous frenzy.

There is that tension in a film like this, whether all is real or imagined. These are witch hunters, after all, seeking out the evil, seeing the evil in the children. Of course, in this case, it seems like the evil is real and there actually is blood on a claw belonging to some devil.

Superior stuff.