Always Shine (2016)

Always Shine (2016) movie poster

director Sophia Takal
viewed: 10/05/2018

Always Shine opens a little meta, in a script read focused on actress Caitlin FitzGerald’s face, intimidated by the unseen men in the room. This opening sequence is reflected with Mackenzie Davis, shot the same as way, though her dialogue with the mechanic turns out to be actually happening.

It turns out that these women are both actresses, FitzGerald a moderate success, while Davis has had nothing but struggle.

So nothing like a girls’ weekend in Big Sur to catch up and find out how much resentment roils beneath the surfaces!

Mackenzie Davis really rocks the casbah. Though FitzGerald is also good.

Director Sophia Takal really squeezes a lot from the material, much more than other films that run similar tropes. The ultimate doppelgänger angle, I felt, was the weakest aspect. Still, very strong.

The Bees (1978)

The Bees (1978) movie poster

director Alfredo Zacarías
viewed: 09/28/2018

“You have to listen to what the bees have to say!”

It’s really hard to tell where the intentional comedy stops and the unintentional begins in Alfredo Zacarías‘s The Bees. Really, it’s kind of a farce.

At least Johns Saxon and Carradine and co-star Angel Tompkins seem to enjoy themselves, not taking the killer bee invasion too seriously.

What’s also quite funny, alongside many hilarious reaction shots of people to the swarms, is the amount of stock footage employed by Zacarías. Possibly the most ever since the 1950s. Including shots of Pasadena Rose parade and Gerald Ford.

It’s funny that Irwin Allen’s competing bee disaster movie of 1978, The Swarm, ranks among the worst movies of all time. The Bees is just an also-ran. It’s quite amusing crap.

Yeah, John Carradine really leans into that German accent.

Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988)

Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988) movie poster

director David DeCocteau
viewed: 09/21/2018

“Sadomasochism just doesn’t appeal to me.”

Oddly enough, I concur with this sentiment. However, the more cheese than sleaze horror-comedy Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama does appeal.

Big time voyeurism and hackneyed comedy abound in this David DeCocteau mess of puppets, sexuality, nonsense, and limited logic of genre conventions. It’s the earliest of DeCocteau’s films I’ve seen (and most enjoyable), but already many template elements are in play, echoes of which I’ve caught in his later work.

“What about that punk dyke?”
“I can handle her!”

Linnea Quigley outclasses the whole here. Easy to see why she’s everyone’s favorite scream queen and fantasy friend.

Cards of Death (1986)

Cards of Death (1986)

director Will MacMillan
viewed: 09/10/2018

How many more “lost” films, so obscure that hardly anybody knew that they were even lost, will come out from the crevices? Cards of Death spent its brief moment in the sun on video in Japan before being re-released and given new life in 2014.

Cards of Death is a moderately high concept shot-on-video 80s horror flick that features levels of sophistication in many areas: story, aesthetics, acting, editing, FX.  That this Los Angeles production never got a U.S. release for 28 years is kind of astounding.

An underground club (of sorts) deals (ha!) in death and violence and weirdness, doled out through Tarot poker(?) eventually attracts the attention of detectives. Its heightened oddity started to remind me of a Herschel Gordon Lewis movie.

How exactly do you measure something like this? “SOV masterpiece” was in my notes.

Wolf Guy (1975)

Wolf Guy (1975) movie poster

director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
viewed: 09/05/2018

Sex, rape, drugs, rock’n’roll, syphilis, lycanthropy.

When you’re Sonny Chiba a coin can be the currency of violence. And if you can take down a gang of goons with your pocket change, who needs to actually turn into a werewolf?

Wolf Guy features supernatural revenge, weaponized wolfmen, and flesh galore. Action-packed and unloaded on the audience.

This manga turned movie genre mashup maybe should be more than it is, but it is worth a gander.

Creepshow 2 (1987)

Creepshow 2 (1987) movie poster

director Michael Gornick
viewed: 08/19/2018

I really had no recall of seeing Creepshow 2 before watching it just now. And even as I watched it, I didn’t experience the déjà vu that can arise when watching something that you had forgotten you’d watched before. Oddly, that déjà vu came later as I contemplated the movie, the more it seemed familiar. Now I’m almost certain I saw it back in the day, somehow, some way.

Creepshow 2 is Creepshow‘s much weaker cousin, though it does sport a George A. Romero script, adapted from Stephen King stories. The spirit is willing but the sauce is weak. Weak but not devoid of fun.

Poor FX hamper “The Raft”, seemingly everyone’s favorite segment. 

The animation is indeed atrocious.

A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1973)

A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1973) movie poster

director Jesús Franco
viewed: 08/05/2018

I think I may be forgiven for mistaking A Virgin Among the Living Dead as one of Jesús Franco’s lesser works. In reality, it’s one of his best.

The late 1960s through early 1970s, when gratuitous nudity was de rigueur, Jess Franco found himself as director. Franco burned brightly during this time and in this period made his finest films. True, along with some much less fine films, but when you’re releasing upwards to a dozen films a year, they’re not all going to be wonderful.

Here, Jess appears as a babbling idiot, a gofer for a family of arch weirdness, kooky sexuality, and supernatural possibility. Christina (Christina von Blanc) comes to visit, having never met any of her family before, and discovers her heritage isn’t what you’d call “run of the mill”.

For me, this is one of Franco’s most aesthetically pleasing films. The dreamy nightmare is beautiful and the plot isn’t challenged by unnecessary logic.

It’s been a decade since I saw Vampyros Lesbos and Venus in Furs, two other high point Francos. A Virgin Among the Living Dead may be in the running for my favorite.

The Prowler (1981)

The Prowler (1981) movie poster

director  Joseph Zito
viewed: 07/26/2018

The more I delve into classic slashers, the more I realize that most of my previous “back in the day” experience was tied to the  bigger franchises, rather than the one-offs and unique individual films. It’s another argument against corporate franchises, in my book. No matter the individual qualities, these one-off slashers have something unique about them.

Absolutely, The Prowler (1981) shines brightest around the FX work of Tom Savini. Seriously vivid viscera and evisceration.

But there is definitely more than gore to The Prowler. Director Joseph Zito and cinematographer João Fernandes effect some amazing sequences. That swimming pool death scene might well be the most aesthetically beautiful death in the genre.

I also liked the some of the little bits and pieces, like the hilarious scene with the fat hick cop pretending to check on the sheriff, while really just goofing off.

Nice stuff.

Ghostwatch (1992)

Ghostwatch (1992) movie poster

director  Stephen Volk
viewed: 07/17/2018

Arguably a descendant of Orson Welles 1938 radio play of War of the Worlds, Ghostwatch aired on BBC in 1992 and freaked out much of the viewing public.

I’m rather late to the game on this one, but it’s rock solid in its facsimile of a live BBC show investigating a poltergeist on Halloween night. Also in featuring recognizable contemporary program presenters in the narrative.

Extraordinarily well done.

Oddly it also reminded me of the bizarre “docufiction”, Mermaids: The Body Found (2011), though this recent fake documentary was more a ballsy lie on the Discovery Channel, which doesn’t typically traffic in fiction.

Hat tip to my Letterboxd community for helping me discover Ghostwatch.

Blood Harvest (1987)

Blood Harvest (1987) UK VHS cover

director  Bill Rebane
viewed: 07/03/2018

Tiny Tim Wayne Gacy.

A certain type of person, ie me, has a film like Blood Harvest on a bucket list.

A killer and sexual sadist using fast-acting chloroform is troubling a small Wisconsin town. A town, already troubled by the repossession of many family farms by a local capitalist. But more than anything he’s troubling Jill (Itonia Salchek) who has returned home to find her parents missing and an old flame brooding. (The old flame (Dean West) vaguely looks like Jeffrey Combs when he’s pouting.)

And middle-aged Tiny Tim, prancing about in clown make-up, apparently gone dotty over the slaughtering of family pets.  He’s genuinely disturbing, or maybe just annoying.

The film, though turns out to be essentially one about a demented stalker, an obsessed young man tormenting his fixation (Jill) and all of those around her. Their relationship is actually creepy in a real way.

As a slasher, it’s pure oddity, from the mind of Bill Rebane and the farmlands of the Badger State.