Beyond the Darkness AKA Buio Omega (1979)

stewJoe D’Amato’s BEYOND THE DARKNESS is beyond a mess. By that I mean it is a gory, goop-filled mess of drips and sops and deviant behaviors. It exists, not to tell a coherent story, but to piece together a mud room throw rug of gross-out exploitation.

For instance, the characters are pencil sketches of Gothic douche nozzles. There is the rich spoiled husband, who cannot live without the literal suckling teat of his creepy Nursemaid-cum-Housekeeper. Like all rich white boys, his hobby is taxidermy. A skill he uses to preserve his dead ex-wife, after eating her heart.

Did I mention that the rich kid might be a closet cannibal?

Well, he might. It’s hard to tell.

When the rich idiot seduces women, he tries to make it with them in the bed next to his preserved dead wife’s corpse, which causes the other women to freak out and get murdered. Sometimes he bites them, other times he strangles them, or rips off their fingernails – which is highly and immediately deadly in this world.

The Nursemaid-cum-Housekeeper is clearly insane. She practices voodoo, dismembers corpses, and has murderous intentions on the rich boy she raised. Her real shinning moment in the movie comes, though, in a dinner scene in which she disgustingly eats a globule-filled porridge stew – right after dumping the dissolved body into a hole in the backyard. The moment of mundane domestic activity is rendered incredibly bleak and hilariously disgusting.

There is so much in this movie. It is like they hired an effects team, asked them to come up with some nasty stuff, and then wrote a script around it all. Aside from the thumping meat cleaver dismembering scene, there is a cremation scene where the body twitches and shrivels.

There is a dissection.

Several brutal attacks with biting and gnashing teeth. Stabbings.

And finally, a funeral director who cracks the case when the cops can’t seem to figure it out.

I give this one 4 shadow filled hallways out of 10 shadow filled hallways and little paper bag filled with fake finger nails.

Curse of the Headless Horseman (1972)

curseJohn Kirkland’s CURSE OF THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN is awful. Simply terrible. The plot is roughly an episode of Scooby Doo.

There is an inheritance, a creepy caretaker, and a group of suspicious hippies all cobbled together into a story of sorts. The Headless Horseman is an eternal force that demands sacrifice and death every polar moon (or something like that).

So the movie begins with a snide narrator talking about mumble jumble something. A Resident who won’t marry his square lady hears he inherited his uncles Old West tourist attraction. Only he has to make the property turn a profit for six months or he loses his claim to the property.

The Resident is part of a big hippy commune that soon wants to live in the Old West town. So the hippies take over the park and start staging a doped up Old West show. There are some flashbacks about a six gunfighter shoot out that is notable for the cameramen being in several of the shots AND the squib detonator strings whipping around as the gunfighters get shot in slow motion.

There is a talent show. Ultra Violet shows up carrying a Superman lunchbox and offers to buy the whole ranch-tourist-Old-West-pit. She leaves disappointed and horrified by the creepy caretaker who stares at her through the window. But I mean, really, she was an Andy Warhol Superstar, she’d seen worse.

Some people die, though. I am not really clear how. Then the whole plot is unmasked as the work of the Resident Doctor guy because of gold, I guess. He goes on a shooting spree and ultimately becomes one of the six eternal gunfighters demanded by the legend of the polar moon.

Or something. Honestly, I stopped paying attention by the end.

I give this 1 Headless Horseman out of a Million Headless Horsemans because of that lunchbox.

Carnival of Blood (1970)

Carnival Of Blood (48)Leonard Kirtman’s CARNIVAL OF BLOOD feels like exploitation flicks should feel – sleazy, sweaty, mean, and cheap.

Somewhere along the boardwalk planks of Coney Island, a killer stalks his female prey. It is firmly established that the killer is one of the two creeps who work the balloon pop dart game booth. One is a poster boy for repressed psycho sex killer, replete with creepy voice, balding head, and wimpy mannerisms. The other is a hunchback nincompoop with open facial sores and a limited vocabulary named GIMPY (played by ROCKY’s Burt Young).

The victims all take a loooooong time making their way to the dart booth. We spend like a week listening to the first couple argue. The man wants to go home because he is exhausted and his shrill, annoying incomprehensible wife wants to stay. They argue and argue and argue. Loudly. I hoped they would both be chopped up.

Instead they visit a fortune teller, who basically spends fifteen hours telling them nothing but to go home immediately. They ignore her and go to the dart booth. Where the wife demands her husband win her a stuffed bear. She screeches and screams, until the bald goon gives her a bear just to get that horrible woman out of his sight.

Next they go on the Fun House ride. The wife has her head cut off. It is a surreal and impressively incompetent scene, where a group of gawkers watching the horrified couple emerge from the dark tunnel, point and laugh. Only this time, they are the ones horrified as the woman’s head rolls off and blood squirts out.

This exact same pattern happens three more times with equally annoying patrons and equally hackneyed death scenes.

The movie ends with the killer literally being unmasked as a victim of a terrible mother’s unloving upbringing and for some reason facial burns.

The special thing thing about this movie is the space and time that the movie gives to the various actor’s playing the doomed couples. They are given plenty of time to show off their ability to barely read and stomp all over each other’s lines. So much so, much of the movie is overdubbed.

And the fortune teller should have been arrested on the basis of her scam alone! She charges five dollars to read the tarot cards, but then like four cards into the reading, becomes seriously disturbed. “I can read no more. No more. Please sir, take your wife/girlfriend/self home. There is danger.” Rip off.

I give this three stuffed bears out of five because everyone in this movie seemed sweaty and uncomfortable and that is realism I can appreciate. 

Sweet Sixteen (1983)

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Jim Soto’s SWEET SIXTEEN is a “horror” movie in that it is pretty horrible.

Mostly the plot cannot decide if it is a movie about racism or if it is a psycho-sexual murder mystery.

It fails at both.

The movie starts with a Gothic horror scene which turns out to be a dream of the crime novel-reading-virginal-sheriff’s-daughter. In some draft of the script, Marci Burke is a spitfire Nancy Drew-esque figure who’s whip smarts and spunky attitude would provide a Scooby Doo ending. But sadly, that was not the shooting script.

Then the movie introduces a bunch of drunk townies who terrorize the Native Americans who live in town. Again, these two knuckle suckers could have provided a satisfying foil to the mystery, stumbling around making things worse for everyone until they receive their just desserts. Alas…

Hey! What is infamous English nudist Patrick Macnee doing in here?!!

I can’t say that I cared much about the plot. In fact, by the time the movie ended with the “shock scene, ” I was mostly in MEH Mode.

UNTIL…

I started thinking about the problematic message of the movie. While one is definitely that “RACISM IS DEADLY AND WRONG!” The other is that underage girls’ sexuality is DEADLY and WRONG, too.

Melissa Morgan is a drug gobbling, hyper-sexed underage girl seducing boys (her own age) to meet up with her later – only instead of meeting up with her, they meet up with DEADLY DEATH! In some draft, she is written as a confused girl on the verge – exploring the power she has to control men, but also, frightened and disgusted by it.

And the fact that her mother has hidden her whole identity because of the (suggested sexual) violence of her grandfather should further complicate and implicate that message. But instead, the generational impact of male violence is glossed over when Bo Hopkins’ Sheriff and Patrick Macnee’s Melissa’s father have a truly stupid apology orgy after the big reveal.

But again, the movie is too cheap and exploitative to really delve into female exploitation as the source of the horror. So instead, the underage girl repeatedly strips nude for the ultimate male gaze – the director’s camera – thus sinking completely into the muck of its own genre tropes.

I give this one 2 bloody knives out of 12 bloody knives because this is a wonderful example of 20-somethings playing “teenagers.”

 

 

Terror Out of the Sky (1978)

terror out of the skyTERROR OUT OF THE SKY is the sequel to Alan Landsburg Productions’ SAVAGE BEES.  That should strike you as odd, not only because it is a made for TV movie sequel to a made for TV movie made two years after the original, but, also, because they recast the leads!

That’s right everyone! Playing the role of bee-leaguered (see what I did there?) Jeannie Devereux is no longer Gretchen Corbett but now Tovah Feldshuh. And Jeannie’s boyfriend went from the dreamy Micheal Parks to the hirsute Dan Haggerty. Yes. Grizzly Adams, who once hugged bears and mountain lions, is now trying to kill killer bees!

The plot of this movie is identical to SAVAGE BEES – right down to the car covered in bees. Only this time, instead of a single pretty woman trapped in there, now there is a pretty woman and a boy scout troop! And what a troop they are!

First, Jeannie makes these dumb boys head into the woods to locate the killer swarm. This defies even bad movie logic. She simply broke down on the plane moments before in a full blown panic attack over a re-shot flashback to the Super Dome. But minutes later she is marching children into the woods to find a swarm of killer bees. That kill kids.

Which I suppose in bee movie (aaaaaahahaha) circles makes her some kinda a hero.

But it gets better.

After endangering the whole Boy Scout troop, who are all long hair bowl cut 1970s kid actors, Jeannie piles them into a school bus and attracts the swarm! Here I am thinking, since sequels always have to outdo the first movie, these boy scouts are goners. I expected soooo many dead kids.

Instead. The movie makes all the pre-adolescent boys strip to the waist. And who says Hollywood has a pedophilia problem?

Not Grizzly Adams. He was high on coke for the entire movie.

The body count in really low for this truly awful remake of SAVAGE BEES. Though just to remain mean-spirited, the movie kills a family dog.

I give this movie 2 School Buses full of endangered kids out of 10 School Buses full of endangered kids.

Savage Weekend (1979)

SWcap_012David “SCHIZOID” Paulsen’s SAVAGE WEEKEND is billed as one of the first “slasher” movies. I guess it kinda is, since the killer wears a mask, is sorta inventive in his stalking and killing, and likes to hunt the sexually nude.

But.

I thought SAVAGE WEEKEND was more of an American take of a giallo than it was a set piece of endless slaughter. For instance, there is a plot that resolves itself without establishing a franchise monster to continue the killing across new movies. In fact, the killer’s motivations are political and specifically emasculating.

The giallo tropes are much more on display than any proto-slasher ones. Otis the creepy handyman is closer to the dangerously idiotic simpletons who tend the gardens or sweep the hallways of most giallos,  than he is to the inbred cannibals of the slasher genre.

The killer displays more giallo techniques than he does slasher ones. For instance, the killer is happy to improvise anything into a weapon – a hat pin, meat hook, or barbed wire are all readily at hand. This sort of randomness is not usually the providence of slasher fetishists who stick to TOOLBOXES or CHAINSAWS of their titles. Plus the killer wears gardening gloves instead of black leather ones to further heighten the mystery of his identity.

The killer’s identity, too, is more giallo then slasher. The audience always knows the slasher’s name or identity, it is part of the appeal of the genre – marking the return of the carnage of our favorite monster. SAVAGE WEEKEND has no interest in establishing such a narrative, it is more focused on the criminal spree than on fantasy slaughter.

There is an interesting loose end in this movie. Shirley Sales is left bound and gagged to a table saw that will only turn on if the second basement light switch is flicked. It amounts to the only moment of tension in the whole entire movie. The scene lingers on after the movie ends, because NO ONE has found her yet. There are so many terrible ways that discovery could go or perfectly happy ones too. It is a strange oversight by the film makers and one that, frankly, makes the flick a bit more interesting.

Okay. Enough. I’ve made whatever weak case I can for this movie being closer to a giallo than a slasher flick. An argument that is only interesting because this film has star power –  Christopher Allport (prolific tv character actor), David Gale (Re-Animator, Creepshow) and William Sanderson (Blade Runner, Newhart, Deadwood) – and is supposedly somewhat influential.

I give this movie 15 decibel screams out of 25 decibels because for some reason there is a subplot about a boat being built in a barn.

 

 

The Savage Bees (1976)

hairy navyAlan Landsburg Productions’ Made-For-TV-Movie THE SAVAGE BEES continues the fear of immigrants’ theme of the Landsburg When Nature Attacks movies.

This time a Brazilian tanker is rammed by the hairiest crew of the New Orleans Coast Guard ever set afloat. The tanker was carrying a swarm of Africanized South American Killer Bees. African Brazilians? I mean…

So anyway. Right away this movie kills a dog and a kid.

RIGHT AWAY. Like right after the credits. The dog is the sheriffs dog he believes was poisoned by some of his powerful enemies.

The kid is a sweet little girl off to church for choir practice.

BRUTAL!

Anyway, the dog, being law enforcement, is more important than the kid – who isn’t discovered until well into a few commercial breaks. The sheriff braves Mardi Gras because this is, of course, New Orleans during Mardi Gras to demand an immediate autopsy and toxicology report on his dead dog.

Quickly everyone learns there is a swarm of killer bees loose. But there are scientists, from something called BEE FARM, who don’t want the public panicked. There are police who can’t deal with the swarm without proof. There is the deputy mayor who humors the acting medical examiner and lady science lady. There is the pompous South American expert who is super mean to the pretty lady scientist woman character. I mean, SUPER pompous and SUPER mean.

This pompous jerk from South America has a cockamamie plan to switch out the queens and thereby render the Africanized bees harmless in a few years. It doesn’t work because Mardi Gras.

Not to spoil the movie, but the climax involves a slow motion, nearly real time drive through the Latin Quarter with a Volkswagen beetle covered in bees. Then an exciting countdown in the Super Dome as the air conditioner lowers the temperature. Seriously. Its like five hours of the 90 minute movie watching that darn countdown.

There are some nice scenes of bee attacks, but they are not enough to save this movie from the ending chase. And Ben Johnson’s portrayal of the beleaguered Sheriff is somewhat inspired in its low key rage.

I give this 2 out of 5 bead necklaces because there was no need to kill the little kid.

Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo (1977)

trannt11Alan Landsburg Productions’ made-for-TV-movie TARANTULAS: THE DEADLY CARGO seems awfully familiar. Maybe because it is basically the same general plot as ANTS!

It even has guys digging a ditch which ends up full of gasoline and the on fire! Though how a dirt bike riding over it causes that or who was even on that dirt bike are unresolved mysteries.

This invasive species horror revolves around a crashed plane carrying coffee beans from South America to San Francisco, but really, it is overloaded with a DEADLY CARGO! The fact that fine actors like Tom Atkins and Howard Hesseman die in that plane crash is one of the real faults of the movie.

The other faults are equally gigantic and head shakingly stupid. For instance:

  • Nobody notices the thousands of tarantulas that were shoveled into the coffee bean bags.
  • Nobody notices the thousands of tarantulas that skitter out of the side of the crashed plane.
  • The thousands of tarantulas cover an impressive amount of distance and terrain in a matter of hours.
  • Wasp buzzing paralyzes thousands of tarantulas, all who are gathered around a few orange slices, so they can be shoveled into alcohol buckets, one at a time.
  • There is a power outage caused by an idiot doing something idiotic and kinda randomly unexplained.
  • It features one of the worst roof escape sequences ever filmed.

I did love the scenes with Claude Akins and Bert Remsen. To see these two stumble around at odds with each other over the orange shipment is pure hilarity. Especially, since Remsen is constantly threatening to have Akins arrested and thrown in jail! Its a great threat and Remsen hams it up in full Queen Mayor style.

While we do not get to see tarantulas creepy crawling over semi-naked starlets, there is a level of brutality to this one that was rather unexpected.

First there is the death of the sheriff’s cheating wife. She gets bitten by the spider then rolls down the hill to slap her head against a tree. Double tapping that double tapping cheater.

Second, the movie kills a kid. Prime time TV killed a kid – right there in the middle of the street on the orange truck, with plenty of adults watching as he scampered up the ladder to check out the DEADLY CARGO hiding on top. The kid even knows the spiders are deadly, yet grabs it anyway. Thus proving, once again, it is amazing that any of us kids survived the ’70s.

I give this movie 5 out of 8 legs because THEY KILLED THE KID!

 

 

 

It Happened at Lakewood Manor aka ANTS! (1977)

03e00e3ec2c3f1fa5003cb4a779ebfc4Made for TV movie, IT HAPPENED AT LAKEWOOD MANOR was later released on video as ANTS! Produced by Alan Landsburg, the same producer responsible for IN SEARCH OF… and THAT’S INCREDIBLE, in a string of other attack of the animal kingdom prime time movies.

IT HAPPENED AT LAKEWOOD MANOR is a perfect example of what passed as made for tv movies in the 1970s. The production is minimal, the acting off the cuff, and the story moronic. Real and true mind rotting fare.

It features a 72 year old Myrna Loy, who never stands up the entire movie, and Suzanne Somers in a one piece bikini.

Basically, the plot can be summed up as such: Ants attack a seaside hotel. The ants are special killer ants who swarm and bite. Their bites cause paralysis and the death, unless you are one of the two main characters. Or something.

There are some really hilarious moments that are not played for laughs.

For instance:

  • Robert Foxworth’s Mike keeps his hard hat on for most of the movie.
  • The hotel’s chef Luis should have been fired long ago. He is seen wearing sandals in the kitchen, does not notice the piles and piles of ants marching out of the sink he is using nor the streams of them on the kitchen floor coming in from the infested dumpster.
  • In order to prove his theory that ants are to blame, Mike takes a bulldozer to the anthill thus unleashing the entire swarm into the hotel. Thus killing several more people and endangering his girlfriend and her wheelchair bound mom.
  • The helicopter sent to airlift the stranded hoteliers to safety, can only take one person at at time. Its only about 50 yards to safety, but these idiots are only going to pick up one person at a time.
  • Also when the helicopter lands it blows up a dust cloud of ants into the crowd watching the rescue attempt. The only thing that saves them is a guy with a fire hose.
  • Wallpaper strips make great breathing tubes, so you can breathe and not upset all the vicious ants crawling all over you.

The most impressive special effect in the movie is the fact that the actors were so coked up on the cocaine that they allowed themselves to be covered in real live ants. But I guess if your skin is already crawling due to being high, what are a few ants?

I give this 100 pissy ants out of a 1000 pissy ants because a kid falls into a dumpster.

The Deadly Bees (1966)

DeadlyBees1Amicus Pictures’ THE DEADLY BEES is arguably a “good film” by BEE Movie standards ( see what I did there?).

Stalwart and polite British thespians Frank Finlay and Guy Doleman play dueling bee keepers.

You heard that right. Bee keeper competition is deep and it is real in this movie. There is a subplot about a pop star recuperating after collapsing from exhausting on live tv. But that is not very interesting.

The real action is between the two nutter bee keepers. And they are both totally nutty. Hargrove versus Manfred. Clearly one of them has developed a new species of bee. One of them has bio-engineered a deadly bee (see what I did there?) A bee that can be directed by smell to swarm and kill.

The bees kill a dog. Trigger alert!

The Bees kill Hargrove’s miserable wife.

The Bees nearly kill the inn keeper’s daughter and the inn keeper.

The Bees nearly kill the pop singer while she is in her brassiere.

By the time we figure out who the real mastermind behind these Deadly Bees (gotcha again, didn’t I?) It hardly matters.

Really. It doesn’t, because there is a massive house fire that saves the world from the killer bees (HAHAHAHAA).

The most interesting thing about this movie is the consistent politeness of all the bad guys. Even while revealing his dastardly plans, the bad guy suggests a nice pot of tea. Even when one loses his temper, it is usually about the fact his wife refuses to answer the ringing phone. Its incredibly rude to whomever is trying to call!

I blame horror author Robert Bloch, who wrote the screen play. American’s love to over-dramatize British antiquated sociability.

I give this one three out of ninety deadly bee stingers, because there was NO NEED to kill the dog.