Archive for the ‘1980s’ Category

Lucio Fulci’s last movie is a right old stinkfest. Its premise – what if the horror director Lucio Fulci started to lose his mind? Mistaking reality for the awful things he filmed? So very meta.

Now what if the fictional Fulci (seen working on two of his last films – Touch of Death & Ghosts of Sodom) took to seeing a psychoanalyst in order to understand why he is haunted by gore and violence. Now what if that good doctor, under the influence of Fulci’s films, started putting the psycho into psychoanalyst? There would be some dead hookers, most likely.

The movie could really have benefited from an increased role of the major plot, especially since David Thompson devours the screen time he is given as the mad doctor. The whole cuckold’s revenge could have made for a better and more effective gore flick.

Instead what we are treated to is a silly frame stuffed around a group of clips form other movies. CAT IN THE BRAIN felt like one of those clips episodes of your favorite sit-com where the cast sat around and recounted the last season’s antics. BOOOOOORING.

But the clips are pretty good. At least they are squishy and oozing and over-the-top as evidenced by the scene of the kid getting his head cut off by a chainsaw! But by the time Fulci is passed out, due to hypnosis (!), and the field is littered with cops and we hear that the murderous psycho has been killed (off screen!), it is hard to care anymore. Especially, since the movie drags on a few more minutes attempting to toss out one or two more desperate sight gags – the basket of gore and the huggy secretary. We realize that the whole movie has been a movie that Fulci was shooting within the movie. Or some damn thing.

Overall, this is a hard one to watch, even for someone like me, who rather enjoys even the worst Fulci has to offer us.


Read Full Post »



Really. This one is something else. And by that I mean there is good and then there is “something else.” Its not unwatchable, nor does it defy sequential narrative. But that is about all it does not do, because it commits a lot of bad movie crimes – namely crimes against the impossible. Aside from the assumed suspensions of disbelief required for any horror movie, there are some things that are just impossible to disbelieve.

Important people, coming through!

For instance, the terrorist who steals the secret formula – Death One – first runs toward the get away van, thinks better of it, ignores the running helicopter to instead flee into the grass. He, literally, runs away from the police/army who are unable to shoot him. But they should not feel too bad, because the terrorist crook proves too hard to hit from a hovering helicopter as he runs very slowly along some trees.

Once the police do finally manage to hit him, they report back to HQ – “I think we got him, but he got away.”

Then there is the science versus military subplot. Who will be able to contain the outbreak best? The military who opt to shoot everyone in a certain area and then burn the bodies. OR the really stupid science guys who think they can still find a vaccine by staring a pieces of paper. The head of this think tank is a part that would have been played by Jeffery Combs if this had been an HP Lovecraft adaptation. He utters profoundly stupid dialogue like – “A contaminated man, of course, can infect other persons through breath, saliva, blood or any other body to body transmission.”

Why is there a blind dj named Blue Heart in this movie? Simply to play the track – “PEPPY SATAN!”

Of course, the infection turns everyone into decaying zombies in a matter of seconds and spreads so fast that entire villages are turned into creeps in a matter of minutes. Of course, this leads to problems for everyone in the movie. But luckily there are guns and ammo everywhere! Hurray!

Take for example the hotel where the terrorist hides out. He turns into a flesh eating monster and attacks some of the badly dubbed hotel cleaning staff. Then the army people show up and kill everyone. But in a matter of hours, after all this, when our heroes arrive at the abandoned hotel, it  is completely overgrown by vines. Maybe, it has been a few hours, but still, that is one aggressive ecosystem. That sort of scary nature could really help us out once global warming takes over the Earth.

Iggy Pop chased during bathtime

There is one great scene in Zombi 3. When Horny Army Dude and his potential girlfriend break down in the middle of that previously mentioned abandoned town, they end up getting chased around by a bunch of kung pow zombies in Chinese gentleman shoes. Girlfriend is thrown over the balcony into a swimming pool. Hero Man Army dives in after her, which was very dangerous and violated at least one of the major rules of pool etiquette, as he did not know the depth of the pool and risked serious injury. ANYWAY. After girlfriend loses both her legs, because, I guess, there was a shark in the water as well as zombies, Mr. Hero Army Action Man is chased by a group of bald headed water zombies! Who knew there were such things?

I should probably mention here something about the zombie birds that attack some motorists. Again, when the birds attack, peeling at some guy’s face, the effect is achieved with a hand puppet. Not very convincingly. I think there may have been a bird attack in the sexy party bus too, but really, who cares?

Meanwhile, back at the abanonded hotel, things are not going as well. There is a bitten nerd who is slowly groaning and moaning and turning into “one of those things!” Which seems to happen in every zombie movie, right? So some other stuff happens, then before you know it all the survivors are nailing balsa wood planks over the windows and doors and construct the single worst barricade in the history of fortress zombie movie barricades. It surprises no one when the zombies push through it. Luckily, one of the Action Army Guys has a flamethrower. Yeah. A flamethrower. Not as cool as it sounds. Sorry.

Once the horde breaks into the overgrown hotel, a lot of zombies climb into the rafters so they can drop down on our heroes. What ensues can best be described as stupid. Why? Because there is considerable time spent fist fighting zombies. Yes, you heard that right.


Meanwhile, back at the lab…Dr. Death One is really upset and concerned now, he just took his glasses off, again. The army is equipped with hazmat suits and sent into the region to kill everything that moves. Whether it is infected or not. Oh no, what about our HEROES?!!

Well, not only are they fighting the infected undead, but now they get to shoot at the white jumper suited soldiers. This leads to one really incomprehensible scene where the military confronts two of the Hero Action Army Dudes. Instead of just shooting them dead, they opt to fight them hand-to-hand. They lose. The good guys escape, blow up a bunch of stuff and get away in a helicopter.

I think, maybe, some other stuff happened? Oh yeah, there was a zombie baby birth that was kinda sweet. Even though the nurse got her face squeezed in before she is attacked by a zombie hand that pushes up through the baby bump. I can’t even really describe it. And come to think of it, the whole scene isn’t really that sweet at all.

All in all, I rather liked this one.

Read Full Post »

The House by the Cemetery

Hold on I'm coming!

Catriona MacColl’s third film with Fulci which is some sort of trilogy, maybe? I don’t know. Sometimes the extras are confusing. Regardless, this is a near masterpiece of schlock.

First the flick opens with a murder in a dusty, near abandoned looking house. In fact, I was convinced these were some of that subspecies of teenagers who always sneak into creepy and disgusting places to make it, only to end up victims of the movie’s monster. I guess these were more important characters, but, I am not entirely sure. Anyway, the notable thing about this opening scene is really the dragging. Fulci delights in the bloody mop hair of the victim dragged along the dusty floor. Its effective. So effective, the film does it twice.

There is some premise about an academic finishing his dead colleague’s research in a creepy small town. Before the family departs for the woods, the little boy (Land of the Lost’s Chaka look-a-like Giovanni Frezza!) starts talking to a little girl, trapped in the photograph, who is warning him not to come to the house. So there is this overlay of ghost story, which is only really there to explain the child killing ending.

A bunch of stuff happens, mainly there is a secret concerning the house, that derails and obsesses the professor. There is a locked basement door, a possessed nannyish girl, a tomb in the middle of the breakfast nook, and a lot of creaky floors. Eventually, the horror that lives in the basement escapes, sort of, but mainly lures various characters into the dark, earthen floor depths. The door slams and then the decapitations, tears, and suspense all happen. There is considerable time spent at the basement door during the last part of the movie, as the monster sneaks – incredibly slowly – toward whomever is pounding on it.

The basement horror does provide the most brutal and bloody bat kill in the history of cinema. Having ventured into the basement with his wife to prove that there is nothing down there to worry about, the professor and his wife are attacked by a vicious bat. Landing on his hand, the professor is unable to get it off, so he grabs and large kitchen knife and stabs it the mechanical puppet SO HARD, that bat explodes in blood, splattering everywhere – especially the shocked face of his young son. Its brilliant.

The secret horror that lives in the basement is a maggot-riddled monster, the Dr. Freudstein. Beside having sawdust, maggots, and black goop for blood, the good doctor needs fresh blood, I guess, to keep plodding about in the basement. The terrible secret that drives professor’s insane is the fact that Dr. Freudstein experimented on his own children! GASP! Which explains the ghostly ending, where Giovanni joins his little ghostly girlfriend and her mother as a true Freudstein now.


That is soooo New England Gothic.

Read Full Post »

Demons a/k/a Demoni

Damn fool.

Demons is a silly treatise on the corrupting power of horror movies are accused of having on the audience. Exploiting conservative commentator’s incessant refrain that movies have the power to influence and dictate violent behavior to the audience. Susceptible audience members are inspired to copy what they see on the screen.

Of course, these arguments are always going to be with us, in part, because we have an innate fear of political propaganda and advertising’s effectiveness. But instead of attacking those engines of our socio-economic system, it is far easier (and safer) to attack a minority genre of entertainment – the weak gazelle in the pack as seen as niche market.

So is it surprising that the movie takes place in West Berlin  – the divided Cold War city always on the verge, a symbol of Capitalist excess pounding at the wall of Communist drab poverty, etc? Is it just by chance that the movie’s movie goers are trapped by a large concrete wall where the doors once were? By the time, the demons have overrun the city and doomed free society, the metaphor is heavy handed and gloved by the otherwise terribleness of schlock.

The story starts with the lure of a free movie tickets. The tickets embody the double fold here – first playing on themes of the test audience of market research. Those influential cross section demographics that drive the desecration of so many genre films (how many happy endings have been re-filmed based on audience comment cards? Notice, too, all the shocking ground breaking film posters in the lobby). Second, free tickets threaten the Capitalist purpose of movie making, the commodification of narrative and star-making vehicles, not to mention the restoration of the old movie theater, are all subverted by the profitlessness of the evening.

As the audience moves into the theater, there is the allure of a shiny fetish object – the demon mask. Again, as a strictly horror convention, it functions as the prime mover, the object of evil, that needs to be activated by blood. Pretty standard. But it, also, operates as a commodity fetish object.  First it is a lobby display, extending the reach of the film, by producing prop-like 3-d advertising. Second, by actuating the contagion of the Demon curse, the nick on the face creates patient zero of the infection (not surprisingly it is a prostitute that grabs the item and sets off the infection!), the mask operates as a metaphor for the desirability of the commodity object. By being a singular item, on display in the lobby, the mask functions as highly alluring and rarefied, therefore increasingly its power as a metaphor for the panic of consumption (the idea that there are not enough objects for everyone who wants one, thereby creating the need of possession which spreads like a virus).

What is wrong with that girl?

By the time the movie within the movie has started, the audience watches the audience watching, as well as watches essential parts of the internal movie. Though the movie interrupts the internal movie to glance at the various doomed characters in the audience to instill a sense of connection and identification that will deepen the ensuant horror. There are our teens on the make sitting behind the unhappily married couple out for their anniversary, there are the lovebirds, the blind theorist and his seeing eye girl, and the pimp with his two hoes. All are poorly defined and stiffly acted and overdubbed in post-production.

What is interesting about the group, though, is the inclusion of the criminals – the pimp and his two prostitutes. The fact that the two ladies-for-hire are the first two to succumb to the demon transformation is not surprising.  They are the logical choice to embody the evil since they are vanguards of morality and outside the social structure of the responsible economy. There is, also at work, the aspect of body modification. Since prostitutes transform their body into specific commodities ,whose access can be purchased for increasing prices, it makes sense to have them the assume the most graphic and visual transformations. Their bodies are overtaken and transformed by a blood borne contagion – the demon inside.  The metaphor is one of consumption, consuming. By acting on the desire for a commodity, the actor is changed into a creature of need, a singular purpose to extend and support the commodity base. The prostitutes make this physical, drawing forth the allusion.

To have the second victim (the other prostitute) attacked and then fall through the screen of the movie being shown is a brilliant, if a bit contrived, touch of flippancy. Here we see the critique of art influencing life, literally, plow through the fourth wall. The movie scene that the morphing prostitute falls out of, is a scene where a demon is attacking a young woman in a tent. As the screen knife tears into the tent, the possessed prostitute uses her long, slutty nails to rip at the movie screen. The disorientation on the movie audience is profound, they are confused to hear actual ripping in concert with the soundtrack of what they are watching. The effect is meant to he horrifying.

After the initial transformation and the famous fangs pushing teeth out effect, DEMONS cuts to a speeding car of petty thugs. Punks, in every sense of the word. They are snorting coke out of a straw stuck in an actual Coca-Cola soda can. The visual pun may have deeper importance. The drug addict car thieves represent the other side of criminality. As opposed to the prostitutes, the drug addict car thieves commit crimes against commodities. They steal and destroy, unproductively, other people’s items. Yet, they, too, are damned to brand loyalty and a crass sort of consumption that moves Capitalism forward. As simple cannon fodder, these idiots offer no resistance, being chomped up quickly and effectively by the hive of Demons, unleashed by violent media depictions. They are solely a consumer group, swayed by the basest and most obvious forms of manipulation. Their snorting cocaine out of the Coke can implies a critique that is void because of the vacancy left by their nihilism. While they  scoop up of the spilled powder they are shown as slaves to the very consumption they seek to rebel against.


Once the movie has tipped the balance between survivors and demons, the action takes on a near-slapstick absurdity that is indicative of schlocky horror flicks. We are treated to some nasty effects, such as the mini-demon emerging from a woman’s back, as well as some touching transformations of supposed friends or lovers. Demons reaches deep to provide us with some truly stupid moments – take the motorcross battle scene, where our hero and his best girl zoom around the theater as possessed bounce and wail and move their bad rubber glove hands in windmills. Our hero impossibly drives over the seats, then uses a ninja sword to cut down the baddies with slice, stab, slice. The whole time the soundtrack is completely overtaken by Udo’s ACCEPT blaring out. And that is not even mentioning the stupidity of a helicopter crashing down from the roof.

The end of Demons is equal parts a conventional horror “gotcha” moment and a hint at survivor porn. The fact that our hero’s best girl turns into a green slime vomiting demon, and is blasted off the back of the stallion white jeep by the Aryan princess in the front seat, makes no sense considering how our hero’s mangled arm has been featured since the theater escape. It is out of sync with the rest of the movie’s silly cosmology. But that is not as contrived as the survivor porn aspect. The white jeep with the well armed motherless family, heading out to the country to see if there are any other survivors, is the wet dream of the Cold Warriors. The singularity of self-reliance, prepared and willing to defend one’s self (and implied continue the correct way of political life), became a cottage industry during the post-World War II Capitalist contract.  See Geopolitics of Hibernation. As the 1980s rolled on, the survivor porn would take on a more militarized form (Rambo, Red Dawn, Day of the Dead) offering a corrective against the hopelessness of the nuclear arsenals and the mutual assured destruction gambit.

How much the movie’s successes are dependent upon the subtle undercurrents of social commentary seems overshadowed by the silliness of the genre’s snide trappings. The ultimate failing of the movie is that it was designed first as a cheap and shocking exploitation flick. A product who’s economy opens up a whole other level of critique, if one wished to explore the fundamentals of drive-in first feature productions – which would include the Contienental sensibilities of the grindhouse, the speed and inventiveness of the filmmakers, etc. et al.

So, yeah, watch this one.

Read Full Post »

Part of a trilogy, I guess, which includes the other Fulci directed movies starring Catrinoa MacColl  – City of the Living Dead and The House by the Cemetery – though I think the only thing linking the movies is MacColl and a certain fatalism.

The Beyond begins with a sepia toned flashback-as-exposition. A group of 1920s dandies float along a river with burning touches and various angry mob weaponry.  As the boatmen reach the shore, they are met by a Model-T driving bunch, which begs the questions as to why some of them needed to glide slowly through the swampy river to reach a hotel easily accessible by road. Maybe, there was no more room in the cars? Maybe, the boat guys came from an island up the stream? Maybe, these were two different or competing vigilante groups that just happened, through no plot of their own, to take matters into their own hands on the same dark night? The possibilities, those endless possibilities, are sadly never explored.

the fantastic Antoine Saint-Johnored.

Nor is the fact that the angry mob takes their touches into the hotel, yet do not burn it down. What ensues is sort of gruesomely silly. There is a painter of horribly morbid pictures working in room 26 or something. The angry villagers bust in and drag this avant garde artiste down into the basement of the hotel. Then they beat him, graphically, with chains – tearing his flesh and unleashing the Fulci goopy torrents. Then they nail him to the wall. Then they take what looks like cement and throw it on him. Only instead of walling him into a secret chamber under the hotel for eternity, for his various art crimes, the plaster substance steams up on his skin and melts him down into a rubbery corpse.

By the time the movie jumps ahead to “present day” – what is this like ten minutes in? – things start to get messy and muddy and the movie’s story pretty much falls apart. Yes, the hotel is haunted. Yes, it is one of the seven doors into hell. Yes, there are strange deaths occurring – how a painter falls a half story to his death, I guess is a Southern thing. Or how a hotel is still standing with a lake in the basement. Or just what Joe The Plumber thinks he is going to do about it.

The doctor/love interest of the very unlikable MacColl, is a moron. Not only is he a piss poor doctor, but when he discovers that shooting the risen dead in the head kills them, he continues to empty his clips into their chests and stomachs. Dummy.

But really, he is needed because the movie needs the morgue he works in. Its a pivotal location for the ending’s mayhem. The morgue, also, serves as a background for the weird EKG type thing that the-glass-in-the-face-doctor hooks up to the limeaway artist corpse. Plus without the morgue, we would never see Willie Nelson’s girlchild take a shotgun blast to her head.

Found the source of the leak!

One thing you can say about Fulci, beside the fact that he hates eyeballs, is that he had no fear offing kids on screen. Pretty much ups any horror ante you got left to play when you show a kid’s head explode.

There is a subplot about a blind ghost woman with a ghost seeing eye dog. Which we will just pass over in silence, since the stupidity of a demoness ghost from the pit needing a seeing eye guide dog is BEYOND any logical explanation. Other than the fact, that the script called for the blind lady to get mauled by her dog-turned-demon-dog.  That scene remains one of the best uses of puppetry in cinematic history.

This is the movie that ends with the two protagonists end up walking into the painting and then turning around to show there white demon eyes. I know it has been bothering you for years. Now you know.

Read Full Post »

Stop shooting me!

David Hess’ range goes from zero to sixty in an eye blink. He does menace the screen with a bug-eye presence, but his danger is all torso and rage. He is a perfect fit for the home invasion/hostage flicks, but as his career attests, does not make the transition into the cartoony action pictures of the late 80s and into the 90s. He is all curly hair and open shirt thug of the fading glory days of a Times Square street hustle.

Perfect for this ridiculous movie. Opening with the stupidest rape/murder ever – a slow car chase crawls to a stop when Hess whips his car in front of the victim’s, then plops into the passenger seat next to the little woman driving. Improbable, silly, and stupid. Yet it is the motive for the rest of the movie, I guess. Though really?

Giovanni Radice hams it up as the mentally slow sidekick of the psychopath Hess. He really jams up the awkward in a fantastic dance sequence, that is both charmingly, socially sadistic. The rich kid party goers are unsympathetic, snobbish, and pained in their attempts to tease out the beast that lurks under the surface of Hess’ Alex.  For you see the whole party is a set up to murder Alex.  By inciting him, having him terrorize them, the party’s host can enact revenge for the rape/murder of his sister. Got that? Yeah, it does not make any sense, considering what these idiots allow to happen in the meantime.

The movie has a weird disconnect as to where the terror and horror is located. The women are painted in highly unfavorable hues. First as temptresses who need to be taken by force. In this regard, the movie is horribly misogynistic.  Alex basically tries to get his lackey to rape a woman, but he can’t go through with it. Then Alex threatens people with the razor, pees on a guy in a pool, makes girls kiss, slices up a young girl after cutting away her clothes.  Funny Games, this isn’t.

Very silly little movie, really.

Read Full Post »

crying blood effect is super creepy

This is so good. It has everything that a schlock horror movie should have! There are extreme death, disgusting situations, murder and madness, and a whole town rapt with hijinx!

The story is structured like a Stephen King novel – meaning that a group of ordinary people are introduced as templates for the oncoming evil. How that evil plops down into their pathetic everyday lives is meant to fill pages upon pages in the King novels and drive home the emotional impact of the terror. But in this movie it just gives an excuse for more actors to mutter silly dialogue and met horrible ends. Wait. That sounds a lot like a King novel too!

Take for instance the woman, Mary, who dies at the seance. She is the motor of the action. Or at least, the movie’s flimsy attempt to explain the silliness. Plus she sets up the graveyard scene, in which two lazy gravediggers leave her coffin half buried, so that the crusty cigar chomping  newspaper man, can rescue her with the pick axe. Mary screams as the axe drives through her coffin, stopping inches from her eye, teeth, and cheek. Terrible way to get rescued.

There is Bob, played with amazing physicality by Giovanni Radice, a creep who has a blow-up sex doll girlfriend, even though all the hotties in town seek him out to party. He gets a garage drill to his temple. Why? Because he is blamed for the murder of the make out kids in the car. The one who was bleeding from her eyes and then barfed up her whole intestines.

There are the guys in the bar. The three of them are used to illustrate how the unleashed horror effects the locals. First they don’t believe anything. The the now-you-see-them-now-you-don’t corpses attack and gut munch all of them right up.

There is Gerry and Sandra. Who’s relationship is strange. Are they doctor and patient? Are they lovers? Friends? Who cares. Gerry is the ultimate hero of the movie. And Sandra gets her head squished. Which brings me to a very strange point in the zombie canon. Fulci has decided that these undead, risen corpses, preferred method of consumption is a hand to the back of the skull, as the zombies fingers rip and crush open the skull, brain bits oozing and glooping as the victim is scalped. Great special effect, but very strange.

keep yer mouth shut!

Probably the best scene in the entire mess is the maggot storm. Four characters are attacked by a flurry of maggots for three to five minutes of screen time. The windows burst open and a huge wind fan blows chunks of foam or popcorn at the actors, as close-ups of patches of maggots squirm and burrow into the actor’s faces. When the scene ends, the room’s floor is, literally, carpeted in maggots. Its the most impressively disgusting thing in the movie by far. And that includes the wormy dead baby and the hanged priest’s zombie corpse speared to show his muddy, sloppy entrails.

While the story makes no sense. There are so many plot holes that to even start to mention them would take hours and probably give me a headache. It is one of the better zombie/ghost/gorefests out there, simply for its take no prisoners attitude and glee. Go see it.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts