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Featured Post - Mystery Movie Marathon

I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Friday, February 26, 2021

Cowgirls vs. Pterodactyls (2021)

This title caught my eye when I saw some friends talking about it online. I knew right away that I had to see this. I mean dinosaurs in the old west… SIGN ME UP! I expected a cheesy low budget independent movie, which is exactly what I got. Though I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much. More on that later.

The action starts when a guy walks into a saloon with a bag full of something valuable. We know this because the man who is going to buy it from him is anxious to get his hands on it and says as much. Of course, being the old west there is a double cross and gunfight. Everyone in the room gets killed except for the saloon gals aka. “working girls” who make off with the loot. Then we are introduced to our main characters.

Bunny is an alcoholic gunfighter who has seen better days. She is the hero to the local schoolteacher Rebecca. We also meet Debbie the Madame who runs the bar where the bag was dropped. Finally, there is Doris, a hardened desperado who breaks out of jail when the Pterodactyls attack. They all go after the dinosaurs when one of them carries off Rebecca’s husband. Their plan is to return the eggs which were the treasure in the bag and get him back. Because negotiating with giant sky lizards always works.

This movie is a blast. Doing a western on a low budget isn’t easy, but they do their best. If you look closely, I’m sure you will find historical anachronisms. But how picky should we be about a movie that has cowgirls fighting dinosaurs? The locations are decent, and the costumes worked for me. I suppose if they were trying to do a serious movie, I might find a lot more fault. But they aren’t so I don’t. The cast is solid and is clearly having fun. I was especially surprised by how great the minor characters were portrayed. It’s not just the leads who do a good job. That was impressive.

I love the special effects work!
My absolute favorite thing about this movie is the special effects work. The Pterodactyls are brought to the screen with a combination of stop motion and puppetry. They went old school on us. That means that this just doesn’t feel like a cheesy movie, but an old cheesy movie. Now this hits the sweet spot for me. I loved when the dinosaurs would grab people and then you would get the stop motion figure squirming around. Oh, and then there are the inserts with the puppets snapping at the cast. There isn’t anything quite as fun and it was nice to see someone do it again.

If you haven’t figured it out yet this movie is playing it for laughs. There is some great stuff here from how Debbie pays for the horses, Terry the baby Pterodactyl, and some funny one liners it all works for me. Toss in a nice reference to Thing from Another World with a pickaxe being tossed at a critter and some narration from the legendary Martine Bestwick for a movie that is worth spending some of your time on.


© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Relic (1997)

I used to say that there weren’t any good horror movies in the nineties. Then I started looking around and sure enough the decade was a heck of a lot better than I thought it was. The Relic is one of those that I had seen and enjoyed back then but had totally forgotten about. I haven’t watched it in ten or fifteen years, so I think it is about time for a revisit.

The action kicks off with a scientist named John Whitney photographing a native ceremony in the jungles of Brazil. The locals seem nice enough and even offer him the concoction they just created. He drinks it and is almost immediately scared by a guy in a costume. This seems to mean something to Whitney but doesn’t make much sense to the audience yet. Next, we see him desperately trying to get his crates unloaded from a ship that is setting sail for home. The captain informs him that isn’t possible, so he sneaks onboard. It is only then that we see that the crates weren’t loaded after all.

Six weeks later that ship is found drifting on Lake Michigan and is brought to Chicago. There is evidence of violence with blood smeared around, but the crew is missing. That is until they look in the bilge and find all their bodies. It is here that we are introduced to Lt. Vincent D’Agosta, played by Tom Sizemore, who is investigating the killings. A week later he is called again when another body shows up at the Museum of Natural History. Similarities between the killings on the boat and the body at the museum has D’Agosta connecting some dots and investigating the staff. This includes Margo Green, played by another nineties staple Penelope Ann Miller, a scientist working on DNA sequencing.

Eventually the characters realize that a monster is running loose killing people to eat their pituitary glands, which unfortunately means removing their heads. This also coincides with the big gala event where all the movers and shakers of high society show up for a fundraiser. Not only are people dying, but important people at that! Monster shenanigans happen, mysteries are solved, and science is done!

This movie is a blast. The story is based on a book from Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, which I loved, and is a decent adaptation. Though it is ironic that The Relic (book) introduced their most famous character Agent Aloysius Pendergast who was cut out of The Relic (movie) in exchange for making D’Agosta the central figure. While that is disappointing, I do think that the screenwriters did capture the fun that was the monster running amok. And to be fair it wasn’t for a few years that the Pendergast character really took off.

I love the creature design.
The pacing is wonderful with the action slowing down long enough to dole out a few tidbits of plot or to creep the audience out. The setting of the Museum at night with the lights off is beautiful. The shadows and the way the exhibits look in the dark brings a ton of atmosphere. This helps set the stage for what happens later. This is a very atmospheric movie with a few scares tossed in here and there to spice things up.

In addition to Sizemore and Miller we also get some other familiar faces including Linda Hunt and James Whitmore. Heck there is even an appearance from Audra Lindley in her last movie role. You might not recognize her name but if you watched reruns in the eighties you have seen her. This is a wonderful cast that is given some decent material to work with. What else could you ask for? Well, I’m glad that you asked that.

The creature looks amazing and is brought to life with some latex and practical effects work. Now there is some CGI, but it looks decent. Well except for the very end when we see the creature running around on fire, that is sketchy. But for the most part the work is fantastic. That shouldn’t be a surprise considering it was done by one of my favorite monster makers Stan Winston. In addition to the great creature effects work there are some decent kills and other gory stuff. Multiple heads go flying and one unfortunate SWAT member gets split in half. Like the creature these are “helped” with some CGI, but it isn’t too bad. We do get tons of body parts after the fact that are handled with latex appliances and look amazing. The best scene is when D’Agosta visits the morgue to talk with the coroner.

Good cast, great story, and a fun creature. This is the perfect monster movie. I’m not sure why people, including myself, aren’t talking about The Relic more often. I feel like if this had come out in the eighties it would be considered a classic, but somehow the reputation of the nineties has hurt it. Regardless I highly recommend everyone check out the Relic. I won’t be waiting that long to watch it again.


© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Monday, February 22, 2021

Camel Spiders (2011)

I do like monster movies and this one was executive produced by Roger Corman and directed by Jim Wynorski. It also “stars” C. Thomas Howell. There were a lot of reasons for me to be excited about Camel Spiders. Time to see what I’ve gotten myself into.

The movie wastes no time getting to the spiders. It opens with the military doing battle with the Taliban when some CGI spiders show up and eat the terrorists. A couple of them hitch a ride back to the states inside the body of one of the casualties Arachnophobia style. There is an accident when a criminal being pursued by Sheriff Ken, Howell’s character, hits the truck transporting the body which hits the road, and the spiders are let loose. Somehow in a matter of an hour the couple of spiders turn into a horde of giant spiders that overrun the local area and start killing everyone. This includes random college students taking a class in the woods, the customers of a local diner, and of course the sheriff and military.

I don’t expect much from my creature features, but I do want them to make some sense within the world that they are taking place in. Sure, this might be a giant spiders killing everyone flick, but logic still needs to apply. That becomes an issue with Camel Spiders early on. We have an accident that lets a couple spiders loose and before the partially disabled truck arrives at town there are suddenly hundreds of the bastards creeping around. Some of them as large as a person! How does that work? I mean at least give me a throwaway line about the local chemical plant or radiation mutating them causing them to rapidly reproduce. That would have been dumb, but at least an attempt to explain this away. Again, your movie needs to make sense in the world that you have created.

The script is also a mess. We have a second group of characters that seem to exist only to function as a cutaway to up the body count. They are in the woods, run to a house, and then get killed when a spider jumps from the engine compartment of their car. At least I think they do since we have two women in the car that are last seen screaming at a spider outside eating one of their boyfriends. We never do see if they live or not. Then there is the overly complicated escape of the main group of characters that has them continually splitting up to be picked off when in the end they just walk out the front door to the truck. And why did they need to carry the perfectly fine teenager girl out in a fireman’s carry? She wasn’t hurt… what the hell movie?

C. Thomas Howell is the best actor in the cast, and he has probably the fewest lines of the leads. And I don’t even know if I’d call him a lead since it is obvious they only had him for a couple of days. Halfway thru the movie he goes up to the roof and is killed by the spiders because… reasons? Then there is the conundrum of them taking the truck they know is broken instead of the dozens of perfectly good cars when they make their escape. Now of course that is so the truck breaks down and they get to make their final stand at the gypsum factory, but it makes zero sense. Again, they knew the truck was damaged and wasn’t going to make it out of town.

There are more examples of sloppy writing, but I don’t feel the need to continue. The positives are the bad CGI spiders, which I expected. That is sort of the modern version of cheesy miniatures or a man in a rubber suit. It looks goofy on screen but that fits the movie. We also get to the spiders right away and the plot makes sure that it keeps throwing stuff at the audience. It might not make a lot of sense, but Camel Spiders is at least full of action. While the kills are lame, we do get a lot of them with eighteen characters dying on screen. Most of them are just the actors rolling around on the ground with a badly rendered CGI spider added in later. Still, that is a decent body count so I give them an “A” for effort.

If I’m going to be honest and I am, Camel Spiders isn’t worth your time. There are much better monster movies in the same vein such as Big Ass Spider or Eight Legged Freaks that have the same goofy charm but boast a much better story. Watch one of those and pass on this one.


© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Friday, February 19, 2021

The Jungle (2013)

If you have read my reviews here at the site, you know that I have a weird relationship with found footage movies. I keep saying that as a rule I hate them, but yet I keep reviewing them. And if that weren’t confusing enough, I’ve had some decent luck of late. I rather liked As Above So Below and The Bay was a decent movie so there are some positive reviews. But I kept pressing my luck and sure enough I found a movie that reinforced my dislike for the subgenre of found footage.

The Jungle is about a guy named Larry who is determined to prove the existence of Leopards in the jungles of Indonesia so that the government will work harder to protect their habitat. We get to see him show off the gear he is going to use while having it setup in his backyard. This consists of him talking to his cameraman. We also get to briefly meet his wife, who looks concerned about the trip. No foreboding there am I right?

The pair travel to Indonesia and meet up with Adi and Budi, the locals who are going to help them track the leopards. They also meet a lady who warns them that there is bad mojo where they are going. That won’t be important later or will it? We then are treated to the four characters wandering around the jungle bickering about turning back. The tracker keeps wanting to bail and despite theoretically being in charge keeps being convinced to continue. I mean the guy knows something bad is going on and yet he keeps going. That doesn’t make much sense to me.

And we are walking...
We get more wandering around and arguing before they find a dead Jaguar. Something killed an apex predator and instead of “hey let’s leave” Larry is like “we need to keep going”. Just to be clear they all agree that it wasn’t a man who killed the leopard and leopards are supposed to be at the top of the food chain. After convincing the tracker to keep going, because again he clearly knows it is dangerous, they find some cat poop and a partially eaten human hand. That finally sends them scurrying out of the jungle, but it is too late. Sure enough the big bad creature has finally noticed them and is in the mood for some people for supper.

See the creature? Hope so this is as good as we get.
The Jungle is a prime example of the sort of lazy filmmaking that so many of these found footage flicks represent. Instead of making any effort to have good dialogue or interesting characters with actual story arcs they lean into the “realism” of people walking around the jungle. That doesn’t make for a good movie. That doesn’t even make for a good episode of that silly television show Monster Quest. At least there they have confessional style interviews to break up the monotony of people talking and walking. Here we simply get eighty-four minutes of nonsense with one single bit of excitement a few seconds before the end credits roll.

There are a couple of times where the movie could have given us a good jump scare, but they keep pulling back from it. When they do finally toss one at the audience, I was so bored I didn’t care. The only time the movie got close to being creepy was when you see a pair of arms hugging a tree as something was slowly crawling down it. That was decent, but it is followed up with nothing.

I was very disappointed with The Jungle. The director, Andrew Traucki, is responsible for a great Crocodile flick called Black Water and did the shark movie The Reef. I had expected more from him as I enjoyed both of those. Sadly, this movie is a complete waste of time and I recommend staying far away from it. Do not watch The Jungle!


© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Body Melt (1993)

This is a strange one. I remember renting Body Melt back when the VHS first hit the stores and not liking it. It took me another twenty-five years before I revisited the movie on Blu-Ray (it was an impulse purchase at a convention). I wonder if this is going to be one of those flicks that I totally change my mind about. Might as well jump in and see.

The story opens with a couple of naked people on a couch. The lady shoots some strange green liquid into the man. He then leaves and we hear her on the phone telling someone that he has been taken care of. We later find out that she, the man, and the person on the phone are all involved in a new vitamin supplement. The guy who is to be taken care of was a chemist who got cold feet and went off to warn the families at a planned community called Pebble Court that they are about to be used as guinea pigs. The company wants to see how the supplements effect people before rolling it out to the public.

We also get another plotline that is eventually connected to the story of the supplements where there is a family of hillbillies running a service station. A couple of guys show up and things go sideways. The family is a bit homicidal as well as being inbred. Back to the chemist. He makes it to the neighborhood but as he does his neck splits open and tentacles come waving out of the wound. That doesn’t seem too healthy to me. We get some explanation as to what is going on, the cops show up, and a lot more twisted body horror happens. That is about it for Body Melt.

This movie is what I’d call very trippy. At times it doesn’t make much sense, like the inbred family that some of the characters run into. Also, the effects on the people taking the supplement seems to be all over the place. One person grows a giant tongue, another chokes out a lady and dies during sex. We get a pregnant woman whose placenta goes homicidal before her stomach explodes. It is all over the place. Though I’ll give the movie credit that they do explain the differences later as unexpected glandular responses to their supplement. It is also revealed that the vitamins were sabotaged when someone removed the stabilizing agent from the lab. Guess who did that? Yep, they tie the patriarch of the inbred family in this way. It is all a bit much, but I appreciate a story that tries to make sense in the universe it has established.

The gore is all practical, over the top and for the most part well done. The highlights are a melting head, death by snot, an exploding wang, and my favorite an obnoxious kid face plants while rollerblading. This and the other stuff were done in front of the camera with effects work that are proudly shown off on screen. Honestly, they should be happy with it as the kills are well staged, and the work very solidly done. Did I mention that this was an Australian flick? They really know how to do horror correctly down under.

I do have to knock some points off for how bonkers the movie is. It was hard to follow at times, but then they spread out the gleefully gooey bits that just about every time I started to get bored something amazing happened on screen. I like Body Melt and recommend it despite some of the flaws. I will not be waiting another twenty-five years to check it out again.


© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Monday, February 15, 2021

The Stay Awake (1988)

When I stumbled over this movie and read the description that it was a South African produced eighties slasher flick, I was very interested. I’m always looking for another movie to cover in my annual marathon, so I tracked down a copy and dove right in. Let me say this right up front, this is not a slasher movie. The only question left to answer is if this is worth a watch.

Our story starts with a prisoner named Big John Brown being hauled off to the gas chamber. Since we are given some distinctive fifties music being played, I’m guessing it is either that decade or the early sixties. As he is strapped down we get some inserts that let us know he was a murderer that killed women because he was the angel of darkness. Some Satanic thing I’m guessing. As he dies he swears that he is going to return to finish his work.

Years later we see a group of girls at a Catholic School doing a stay awake to raise money for their school. I’m not sure how that works, the movie never explains, but it means they are all going to be locked up in an old spooky building so that works for the plot. Thru the Evil Dead style camera work we see that something evil is lurking around. Yeah, it is the killer from earlier, though sometimes he is a rubber demon thing. It doesn’t make much sense. It zooms around and kills people, though not all you would think it would, and is eventually killed by high school science… or maybe not.

This is a terrible movie. First off, the story doesn’t make a lick of sense. How does this particular girl’s school get targeted by the ghost demon killer thing? Is there some connection to one of the girls? Was it built on an ancient Indian burial ground? Maybe one of the girls was playing with a Ouija board? See right there I gave three plot devices to explain this. That is three more than the movie ever gives us. I get that you are probably saying to yourselves right now, “But John this is a stupid horror movie.” You are right but even stupid horror movies need to make sense in whatever world they are trying to establish.

My next couple of observations have to do with expectations. This might sound creepy but being an eighties horror movie with a bunch of twenty something actresses it is expected that you get to see some skin. The filmmakers know this and tease us with a random shower scene that cuts away and returns with them fully dressed. At first, I thought my VHS copy must have been a cut for television version, but it wasn’t. I get that might sound a bit sleazy but honestly there is an established formula here and if they fail to deliver on it, I’m going to knock some “points” off.

Another expectation that I have with a movie like this is that there is at least an attempt at gore. The censors of the late eighties weren’t kind to genre movies. But it is clear that The Stay Awake never even attempts to put any effort into the kills. All them are offscreen. Let that sink in for a minute. We don’t get to see much of anything other than a heart getting tossed on the floor. There is zero gore at all in this movie. For fun there is a cheesy rubber monster that looks to be maybe four feet tall but that is all you get. Now I’ll admit I sort of liked the creature, but not enough to save the movie.

I should also mention the pacing, which is terrible. The movie lingers way too long on useless scenes and destroys any momentum that it might have built up. The acting is rough in spots, the soundtrack is bad, and the dialogue painful. I could go on, but do I need to? This is a bad movie that everyone should skip.


© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Friday, February 12, 2021

The Barge People (2018)

I saw this one pop up on Shudder with a lot of positive buzz, so I thought I’d check it out. The movie appears to be a British version of Wrong Turn with some mutant cannibals lurking around the canals of rural England. I could be down for that.

The movie kicks off with a text that lets us know that people have been mysteriously disappearing along a particular stretch of canals for the last ten years. Then we get to see a woman crawling around a tunnel watching a monster/mutant drag a body away. She is then quickly dispatched offscreen. Then we see a guy jogging who stumbles upon someone lying on the ground. I think it might be the lady that we just saw get killed but I’m not sure. He gets killed by someone or something sneaking up on him. So, two kills that may or may not be related and no explanation. I’m confused.

We are then introduced to a couple of sisters named Kat and Jade. They have brought their boyfriends along on a long weekend cruising the canals on a rented barge. Mark is Kat’s boyfriend and is a decent dude while Ben, Jade’s significant other, is your typical douche bag businessman. Yeah, he is so dead. So, they head out on their trip, have a run in with some locals, find a weird pub, and get attacked by mutants. Bodies pile up, twists are revealed, and generally you get about what you would expect from a movie like this.

This is a by the numbers fish out of water backwoods murder flick. It has that Wrong Turn hillbilly cannibal vibe that itself was a copy of movies like The Hills Have Eyes and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Now let me be very clear here that The Barge People never rises to the quality of the movies that I mentioned above, but it does fit into that genre. As characters are introduced, I could call who was going to live and die right away, with one exception that I will talk about later. The filmmakers didn’t try and reinvent the wheel with this one and I’m okay with that. Not everything needs to be art and sometimes sitting down with a comfortable and predictable movie makes for a good time. That is of course if it is executed well and here is where I have a couple of issues.

Our characters
The couple of kills at the very beginning are confusing and feel tacked on. I’m thinking that they might have been added when someone either looked at the finished film, while editing, or during the script writing process. I say this because other than those kills nothing much happens for the first twenty-five or so minutes of a movie that is only sixty-eight minutes long. We get a lot of talking, drinking, and steering the barge. You also get to see how locks work and have an extended scene in the pub where everyone says how gross it is and still tries to order food.

I’m thinking that this is done to establish the characters but after all that time we get asshole local guy and girl, rude douche bag boyfriend, sister who is totally going to die, weak boyfriend, and final girl. Seriously I keep having to refer to my notes to remember their names. These characters are paper thin with zero development. This is something else that I’m okay with… as long as you don’t spend a third of your movie trying to give character backgrounds before the good stuff starts. I’d have to say that this is a huge failure.

Mutants look amazing
I also have to talk about the editing. Basically, it is terrible. I’m going to point out one sequence where Mark has to pee, but Ben is preening himself in the mirror and won’t come out for fifteen minutes because… reasons. So, Mark goes out into the woods to water the plants. He is being followed or watched by something. The next time we see him he is fishing and having a chat with Ben while fishing just in time for random science guy to stop by and tell them that the water is filled with bad stuff that killed all the fish. No connecting scene, no dialogue to bridge the gap, nothing. That is just bad editing. This is one example of many that bugged me as I was watching The Barge People.

My criticisms so far have been more or less objective. This final one is kind of a personal thing that bugs me. I’m not a huge fan of bleak endings though one of my favorite movies is Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. When done right and if they serve the story, I can be okay with it. Other English horror like Amicus’ The Skull, The Wicker Man, and more recently The Decent have all done this fairly well. Here the ending doesn’t seem to fit the movie and that bugged me. And then they double down with another pet peeve of mine and give us a bleak non-ending that only hints at something bad happening to our survivor. It almost feels like they couldn’t commit to the finale anyway so why hint at the worst outcome at all?

It gets bloody
Now it isn’t all bad. When the action starts and the mutants show up to attack our characters things get bonkers and a bit more fun. Multiple throats get slashed, an arm gets lopped off, an axe gets planted in a chest, and someone gets hacked to death with a cleaver. While these kills aren’t terribly explicit, I give the filmmakers huge props in that they tried to do all of it with practical effects work. Blood and other bodily fluids are sprayed all over the place which put a huge smile on my face. It was awesome to see a movie not take the easy route of CGI and instead put the work into going with old school effects.

My absolute favorite thing about The Barge People has to be the creature design. Again, this is practical effects work and is brought to the screen with latex. We get not one but four unique creatures with different sculpts so they actually look like four different creatures. Between the excellent makeup and the actor’s performances underneath it these are really cool mutants that I loved. I’d put these creatures up against anything that I’ve seen in the last five or ten years.

Clearly, I have issues with The Barge People. I think it is a flawed movie and that anyone reading this review thinking about watching it needs to know the issues I have with it. But there is something here that I do like. The creatures, how nuts the last two thirds of the flick gets, the practical effects work, and yes the gooey bits spraying everywhere makes it worth a watch. So, despite my issues I’m going to recommend everyone give it a watch. There is something cool here and I can’t wait to check out what the director and writer do next.


© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Conversations with John

I thought I would do something a little different with this show. Instead of covering movies with co-hosts and talking about the news I would sit down and talk to some of my favorite people. Over the years I've had a chance to meet and become friends with some interesting people. I hope that this show gives me an excuse to chat with them as well as make some new friends along the way. Things here will be very laid back and while I hope to have a new show for you every couple of weeks I'm not going to make any promises. All I will say is that I will endeavor to make each episode the best that it can be. 

Episode 1: Daniel Boyd

In this first show I was pleased to have a conversation with independent filmmaker Daniel Boyd of Drunken Yinzers productions. I got to chat with him about one of my favorite independent movies, Jagoff Massacre as well as their latest project a remake of Blood Freak. Dan is also a big movie fan and we got to share our love for Argento's Suspiria. It was a fun interview that I hope you enjoy. If you want to buy one of their movies check out the website here

Maddie Deering is not only a good friend of mine who shares my enthusiasm for bad shark movies but she also is a filmmaker. Spirit Animal is a fun shot on video... yes actual video... horror film that I enjoyed the heck out of. We not only talk about her movies but also chat collecting VHS and our mutual love for Dario Argento flicks. I was very happy to have her on the show and encourage everyone to check it out. 

Anthony Moran is an independent filmmaker from Detroit Michigan who made a fun movie called Strong Arm that I covered for Midnight Magazine. He is a cool guy and I had a wonderful conversation with him. Not only about his movie, but collecting VHS, muscle cars, and some of his favorite directors/actors/movies. We talked for quite a while so I split it up into a couple of episodes. 

In this second part of the interview we take a deeper dive on his movie Strong Arm. What was it like shooting in Detroit and the message that he hopes the movie delivers are discussed. We also talk a bit about the state of the world and what he has in store for his next project. I'd like to thank Anthony again for taking the time to sit down and talk with me. He is a great guy and you should check out Strong Arm. 

This is the first of another two parter. In this episode we cover Band's early career and his founding and running into the ground of his first studio Empire pictures. We also chat briefly about Wizard Video days. People seem to forget that he was early on in the VHS craze of the late seventies and early eighties. The picture is Tim and I at Cinema Wasteland... remember conventions? Hell remember seeing people's faces? Well for me the mask thing might be working.

This is part two of Tim and I's chat about Charles Band. This time we are talking about his later years and the founding of Full Moon. We talk about all the big franchises including the Puppet Master movies. There is a lot of cheesy movies discussed so if that is your thing download the episode and have some fun with us. 

42nd Street Pete stops by to talk about growing up watching movies on television. Horror, Spaghetti Westerns, and all sorts of genre movies get brought up. We also get in some drive-in talk, kiddie matinees, and how video impacted the local movie shows. Spoilers... it wasn't good. 

Jurassic Florida by Hunter Shea

I’ve reviewed some other books by Shea for the website and when I saw this one and the description of giant lizards eating a small town in Florida I was sold. He did such a good job with the Loch Ness monster (review here) and the Orang Pendek (review here) that this went right to the top of my to read pile. Did it live up to my expectations? Time to find out. 

The book takes place in a small town of Polo Springs located on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Things kick off with the talk of an oil spill and the following ecological disaster. Sometime later the residents of Polo Springs start to notice a lot of geckos running around town tearing up gardens and damaging the sidewalk. That doesn’t see like a big deal until their much larger kin start to show up. Think house sized lizards that not only accidentally kill the locals by stepping on them but also occasionally pop into the houses to snack on the inhabitants. Things get bloody pretty quickly and build up to a satisfying if rather abrupt ending. 

In reviewing books as well as movies that deal with monsters, I tend to refer to the “formula” a lot. Jurassic Florida follow that formula to the letter. We are introduced to a community of characters while at the same time given some foreshadowing of what is to come. There is normally some mechanism used to isolate our potential victims, here a hurricane cutting them off from the outside world, keeping help from arriving. I know that some reviewers don’t like the feeling of a familiar pattern like that, but I love it. There are times when I want to sit down with a book and know what I’m getting into. When that happens all I’m concerned about is how well the formula is executed. 

I’ve already mentioned that I’ve read a couple other books by the author and that I thought he did a good job with those. This one is no different. The narrative is tight and paced quickly. I was very pleased with the characters and while many fall into the typical archetypes, for example the dad protecting his son, we also get some fun twists. One of the people trying to survive is a homeless guy that is actually a low-level mobster hiding out in town. The mayor is normally someone who makes horrible decisions and makes things worse, but here Shea makes the character a teenage girl that is trying her best and eventually saves some people. These changes might not seem like a big deal, but it is different enough to be interesting while familiar at the same time. 

One other thing that I wanted to mention is how well the author handles the gore. This is a book so there aren’t any limits on how the characters can die. Unlike a movie that is constrained with budget and what can be done with effects the author can be as twisted and vicious as they want to be. While Shea doesn’t go too crazy, we get some decent kills as people are squished, bisected, and eaten in all sorts of fun ways. I suppose it might just me being weird but when I sit down to read a tale about giant lizards, I want some mayhem and gore. Jurassic Florida delivers the goods and it made me quite happy. I highly recommend this one.

© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Children of Camp Blood (2020)

If you have stumbled over this review you might want to check my look at the Camp Blood Franchise by starting at the beginning with Camp Blood. Click here to start things off right. 

Well, we have reached the end… at least for now. There are rumors of another Camp Blood movie coming. But until then this is the eleventh and last in the franchise. Mark Polonia returns as the director. This is his fourth bite at a Camp Blood movie so I’m hoping for the best. I mean one of the previous three wasn’t terrible.

Someone has decided to open up a rehabilitation clinic at Camp Blood. That seems like a terrible idea since people keep dying there. They double down though with the first batch of patients being people who are dealing with the premature deaths of loved ones. Those deaths were due to them being killed by the clown. I’m no expert when it comes to therapy, but this sounds like it won’t end well. Sure, enough the homicidal clown shows up and starts killing everyone. But who is the clown? Well, it is the brother of the original killer because that makes sense. I suppose that was a spoiler but if you have ever watched a horror movie it is obvious who it is.

They did it again. This story exists solely to have characters sit on a couch and “tell” the stories of why they are so screwed up. Those stories are an excuse to dump in footage from earlier movies. Not only do they reuse the kills, but we see entire scenes of dialogue. I’ve already seen and disliked those flicks I don’t need to watch them again! When we aren’t watching the “greatest hits” of earlier movies we get to watch characters walk around with some terrible dialogue mixed in. Honestly nothing new or interesting happens until we are past the forty-minute mark.

I don’t want to give the impression that the movie gets good after that point. It is just less bad than before. The kills are lame and are all call backs to what we have already seen done better in earlier movies. I mean we literally just watched some of those kills in the therapy sessions. There is an axe to the face with an annoying CGI assist and a head gets cut off. Most of the rest are offscreen or forgettable. Overall, this is a downgrade from Camp Blood 8 and remember that movie including those kills were played for laughs.

The movie is also awkwardly shot. Like we have an actor clearly waiting for the clown to come up and stab him. Why? It isn’t even a good effect shot and just feels clunky. The acting is a bit off as well. I won’t call it bad as they get their lines out but it falls flat. There is also a call back to the random lady we kept seeing in Ghost of Camp Blood like that is supposed to explain something. But the already establishes that those events happened much earlier, the son of one of those victims is in this movie, so she couldn’t possibly be the same woman. Unless the haunted mask from that movie was showing the events from this movie? You know I’m probably putting more thought into this than the filmmakers so I’m out. In reality I’m thinking it was just another excuse to reuse footage.

This isn’t the worst of the Camp Blood movies. Then again that isn’t a hard bar to clear. What I can say is that I don’t see any reason for people to waste their valuable time on this mess. And before anyone emails me to ask if I’m really going to watch the next movie if and when it comes out. Yes, I am. Why? Because I’m an idiot.


© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Camp Blood 8: Revelations (2020)


If you have stumbled over this review you might want to check my look at the Camp Blood Franchise by starting at the beginning with Camp Blood. Click here to start things off right. 

It took ten attempts, but someone finally made a Camp Blood movie that I liked. No qualifiers here either. Camp Blood 8 is a decent movie with a fun story and cast. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This installment of the franchise was written and directed by Dennis Devine. I wish he would do more.

The movie starts out with “20 Years Ago” and a girl running the woods. She is being chased by a guy wearing clown makeup, not a mask. Somehow that is even creepier. He catches her and then cuts her throat as she begs for her life. Then the action moves to some girls playing volleyball on the beach. I’m fairly certain it is also jumped to “now” as the killer seen previously will be mentioned later as having been gone for years. The girls are very attractive and in bikinis. Movie you have my attention.

Those ladies end up in a car driving to a tournament when they take a shortcut and end up stranded in the woods near Camp Blood and of course the car breaks down. They get stalked by a clown wearing a mask, this change is explained later, and are yelled at not once but three times to leave the woods. This is a recurring gag that I liked. You have the old guy telling them to leave and then getting mad when they don’t listen. Only they do and ask for directions which he ignores. Then they meet survivalist Fred who also warns and then ignores them when they ask for help getting out. Finally, we have a ghost, one of the girls can see dead people, who is utterly useless and knows it.

There is also a storyline with the girl’s coach which explains why they are in the woods and being killed. There is a bit of fun with a captured girl being made to sing to a MILF’s boobs, a survivalist with a blow-up doll girlfriend, and a girl that keeps eating stuff off of the ground. All of this leads to the final girl doing battle with the killer clown.

A Clown and his Mom... yikes!
In case you haven’t figured it out, yet this movie is playing the story for laughs. Don’t worry though as we get some creepy stuff too. The clown lives near the woods with his mom who is very affectionate with him, VERY AFFECTIONATE if you understand my meaning here. His dad was the original clown and was killed by his mom who was annoyed with him. The son isn’t good enough to use makeup, so he wears a mask. Though eventually he tries the makeup out and goes after the girls. This explains why the clown looks different throughout the movie.

The jokes aren’t beaten to death and are played well by the cast. There are some funny lines as well as amusing characters. Shaun C. Phillips is good as Survivalist Fred. He plays awkwardly weird about as good as anyone I’ve seen. Though my favorite character is Brandy, played by Emilyrose Morris. Seriously playing a dumb blonde isn’t as easy as you would think. Her timing is perfect and she kills the delivery of her dialogue. Between these two and some of the absurd situations in the movie I laughed more than once.

Brandy rules!
The kills are fine. We get a decent throat slash, a beheading, and several stabbing. Sadly they do the CGI blood splatter which I loathe, but this isn’t about the body count as much as it could have been. I’ll give them a pass. The filmmakers did do an excellent job with the music matching it up well with the scenes. Considering how many times this franchise has just blared generic rock music at us this was a nice change. I also though that the movie was shot nicely and whomever did the lighting for the night scenes knew what they were doing.

Camp Blood 8 is worth checking out. I love the fact that someone decided to have fun with the killer clown and toss some humor into the movie. While the horror portions of the movie are fine the comedy lands so well that it elevates it into something worth checking out. I recommend everyone track down a copy.

Next up Children of Camp Blood


© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Monday, February 8, 2021

Ghost of Camp Blood (2018)

If you have stumbled over this review you might want to check my look at the Camp Blood Franchise by starting at the beginning with Camp Blood. Click here to start things off right. 

Well damn. They had managed to make a couple Camp Blood movies in a row that I didn’t hate but then we get Ghost of Camp Blood. The movie kicks off with a woman getting naked in the show and then getting killed in a garage and then getting naked in the shower and getting killed in the garage again. Later in the movie we must go back in time because she is alive, and we get to see the sequence play out again with the killer stabbing her and then pulling her guts out. Who is she and why is she being killed? We never find out, but I think it was just another vision that the ghost of the killer clown keeps dumping on people. 

Yep, the killer is truly dead this time around. We meet a television host that is about to get fired and his show cancelled. But he pitches the incredible idea of doing a show on the Camp Blood killer. To do this he gets the mask, which I think is haunted. The ghost starts to give everyone bad dreams, including some college aged ghost hunters that want to help him out. Those bad dreams and visions mean they can show us all the kills that have been in the last few installments. We are back to a movie that is mostly made up of movies that we have already seen. Between that and the constant walking around this is such a slow flick. 

I don’t know why they keep doing this. They just did two movies that had interesting plots and real characters for us to follow. While those were perfect at least they felt like an actual attempt at storytelling. This is just cheap nonsense that looks like it was mostly shot over a weekend at a college campus filling in for most of the locations. I suppose if you wanted a tour of their hallways you might dig Ghost of Camp Blood, but that is about all we get. I get that they were trying to do a twist where the killer was actually a ghost that possessed people in an effort to come back to life, but it doesn’t work. Honestly did we learn nothing from Jason Goes to Hell? I guess not. 

If you ignore the kills from previous movies, which I do, there are a measly six none of which are any good. There is a stabbing, a throat slash, and an arm off. I’ve seen them do all these before so I can say without qualification that they put zero effort into the special effects work. For comparison the previous movie, Camp Blood 7, had sixteen kills and many of them were creative. That movie and this were both directed by Mark Polonia so what the hell happened? This doesn’t look like it had a much smaller budget than the previous movie. Did they just have an extra weekend and shot something to release a year later? It definitely feels like leftover footage. There is even an actress from the previous installment that shows up as a different character. 

The movie also uses the bad CGI rain effect, is filled with terrible dialogue, characters that are supposed to be running for their life and are actually strolling casually, and generally filled with terrible acting. I feel foolish that I had hope that the series was finally getting if not good at least passably mediocre. But this is right back in the old dumpster fire. I’d say avoid Ghost of Camp Blood at all costs. It is just terrible. 

Next up Camp Blood 8: Revelations

© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Camp Blood 7: It Kills (2017)

If you have stumbled over this review you might want to check my look at the Camp Blood Franchise by starting at the beginning with Camp Blood. Click here to start things off right. 

It only took them a year to crank out another Camp Blood flick. They changed directors again with Mark Polonia returning to direct a script from Amy Suzuki. I wasn’t thrilled with Polonia’s earlier effort, but I normally like his movies, so fingers crossed this one is better. 

There is a brief voiceover establishing the history of Camp Blackwood, aka. Camp Blood, before meeting a couple chilling out on their boat in the middle of the lake. She gets topless and he sparks up a joint. Okay movie you know the formula. They notice a creepy clown watching them from shore and before you know it people are getting pulled in the water and slaughtered. Nice way to kick things off. Roll the opening credits.

We get introduced to our main cast. They are headed to some event and stop at a store long enough to have issues with the locals. They don’t take kindly to city folk you see. Then they take a shortcut and pick up a hitchhiker named Bishop. He is looking for his wife who went missing around Camp Blackwood. They drop him off and decide to stretch their legs by checking out the camp with him. When they go to leave the car is missing and they are stuck spending the night at the camp. Of course, the clown is around and starts to stalk them. One by one they are picked off until we get our final girl.

This is a by the number’s slasher movie. You get isolated characters getting murdered in predictable ways and in the order you would expect. Almost immediately I knew who the final girl would be and in what order the characters were likely to die. And all of this is okay. There is nothing wrong kicking back and watching a familiar movie like this. The story is paced well enough that I never felt the need to look at the clock and didn’t get restless at all. The characters are fine and while the acting at times is a bit rough this is about what I’d expect from a low budget slasher movie. They do the normal silly stuff like fight and split up only to be brutally killed. But again, that is the formula, and I can’t hate on them for following it.

The soon to be victims of the clown
The kills aren’t particularly great, but I consider them acceptable. We get too much CGI used and the practical effects are a bit goofy. That includes what appears to be a papier-mâché head floating in the water. But we do get a couple hands lopped off and wheelchair dude gets a machete thru the top of his head. These aren’t stellar but again for the budget it’s not too bad. Speaking of CGI, we also get some digital rain that looks awful and it isn’t helped by the fact that the cast is perfectly dry when they step out of it. I was also annoyed at the continuity of the killer seemingly being able to jump all around the place. Honestly, I thought there was going to be a twist where there were two killers. It was that obvious. 

By this point my expectations for the Camp Blood franchise are clearly very low. That said this isn’t a terrible movie. While it does suffer from many pitfalls of the low budget, especially when it comes to the effects work, it is a decent flick. The story is familiar, fun, and good enough. I’m okay with that. Do I recommend this one? There are better slasher flicks to be had, but if you want to watch a Camp Blood movie there are a lot worse choices than It Kills. 

Next up Ghost of Camp Blood

© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Camp Blood 666 (2016)

If you have stumbled over this review you might want to check my look at the Camp Blood Franchise by starting at the beginning with Camp Blood. Click here to start things off right. 

You know I said I was going to watch all of these and review them, but the last couple were so terrible that I almost bailed. Then again, a promise is a promise, so I sat down to watch Camp Blood 666. This movie was directed by Ted Moehring from a script by Monte Hunter based on a story by Moehring. This movie was surprisingly not awful. 

The fun kicks off with Satanists praying to the devil and sacrificing a girl at the altar in the hopes of resurrecting the killer clown. A light shoots out and illuminates one of them who immediately puts on the nearby mask and kills all of the other cultists. Later we see a naked girl posing in the woods for some pictures when the clown shows up and slaughters them. 

Now we meet our main character Betsy who gets a call from her father. Seems that her brother was in the cult and he asks her to go find and bring him back. She recruits her boyfriend and together they head out to Camp Blood. Along the way they find a Park Ranger who warns them off and is promptly killed as soon as they are out of sight. They also find her brother’s diary and go looking for an ex-cult member who has no information for them but is promptly killed as soon as they are out of sight. This pair is cursed! Eventually the sheriff decides something is up and heads off to the woods with them in tow and is promptly killed. They find the killer clown and all hell breaks loose. There are a couple of twists and then it ends. 

I’m not going to say that this is a good movie, but it is actually a movie. Instead of seventy minutes of nonsense and rehashed kills we get a narrative with characters who do things. If you haven’t read my earlier reviews of this franchise, then that might not make any sense but trust me this is a nice change. The past movies have always had a random person in the mask which is fine. But seven flicks in it was fun to see someone do something different. Here the killer is a possessed cult member with supernatural powers. I’m not sure what the eye lighting is but they use it a couple times and I liked it. I was never bored or looking at the clock which was very different from previous entries. 

The kills are about what I would expect from a super low budget movie. They lean heavily on the stick a machete in offscreen and then cut to it being twisted as the victim spits up blood. It’s not great but at least this is practical. I don’t think that I saw a single bit of CGI in Camp Blood 666 and that was great! Some of the highlights is a tongue getting ripped out, a neck slash, and an arm getting chopped off when someone decides to get a picture with the killer clown. There are a lot of kills, sixteen in all, and they all seem to have had some thought put into them. I appreciate that a lot. 

We also get some great one-liners, especially from one of the deputies as he runs away from the clown. The character names did get a bit annoying as this is another example of an independent filmmaker thinking it would be fun naming their characters Sheriff Carpenter, Deputy Meyers, Ranger Combs, etc. I get it you like horror flicks like the rest of us. The audio is also a bit uneven with different volume levels and wind noise. But they did ditch the obnoxious metal music of the last couple entries and went back to a proper soundtrack.

It took seven tries but I think that Camp Blood 666 might be the best one of the bunch. At least so far there are still four more for them that may screw up or do better. I don’t know that I can recommend this in general, but if you want to watch a Camp Blood flick this is certainly the one to watch and is an okay independent movie. 

Next up Camp Blood 7: It Kills

© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Friday, February 5, 2021

Camp Blood 5 (2016)

If you have stumbled over this review you might want to check my look at the Camp Blood Franchise by starting at the beginning with Camp Blood. Click here to start things off right. 

The last movie ended with “To Be Continued” so I guess this is what they meant. We get a flashback to the end of the last movie and then get some very slow opening credits that are stretched even more than last time. Again, padding is going to be an issue here. Eventually we get back to our final girl, who is asleep in bed… wait what? I guess she survived offscreen somehow (they never do explain it). It is three months later, and everyone thinks that she killed the clown, and her mind won’t let her remember doing it, so she claims the real clown showed up.

She gets up and goes for another walk around town before stopping to do some shopping. Then has a discussion with her Mom and watches some movies after making plans for the following night with her friends. This watching movie bit is important because it gives writer/director Dustin Ferguson an excuse to show us the movies that our characters are watching. We see the greatest hits from Ferguson’s Meathook Massacre as well as those from the Things, also released by the same company.

After watching the movies our main character, named Raven, tells her friends that they need to go into the woods and kill the clown. Just in case you were wondering I didn’t just decide to use her name, but I finally noticed a note that they use in the movie has what I think is her name. This movie doesn’t have a lot of dialogue and I don’t remember them ever using her name. Regardless she and her two friends drive out to the woods and luckily the clown is right there and they can fight it out. This leads to a very dumb ending that I don’t care to explain.

Headbands = Fight time
I’ve mentioned in previous reviews of Camp Blood movies and this is especially true of Camp Blood 4, also from Dustin Ferguson, that they clearly didn’t have enough material for a feature length movie and padded things out. I did some number crunching and if you do the math, we have about forty minutes of footage from other movies. If you subtract the stretched opening and closing credits as well as the scenes of people walking around town, shopping, and staring at each other we have about eight minutes of movie left. They squeeze four kills and a bit of dialogue into eight minutes and then the final credits roll. That isn’t good.

Other things that I noticed in the few minutes of new material we get. The lighting is bad only this time instead of night shots being dark they manage to screw up daytime scenes as they shoot directly into the sunlight thus bleeding the color out. They did toss some early nudity in as the mom gets naked and takes a shower before work. The audio is bad and the levels on different actors in the scenes is uneven. Also, Ferguson decided to do what many low budget filmmakers do and blare terrible generic rock music at us instead of trying to match music to what is happening on screen. Since we have so much of the movie without dialogue that means there is a lot of this.

I really disliked Camp Blood 4 but I’ll be damned if they didn’t double down on all the crap that made that movie a dumpster fire. Stay far away from this one as well. Not only do I recommend not watching Camp Blood 5, but if you have a copy, I’d recommend tossing it in the trash. It’s that bad guys.

Next up Camp Blood 666


© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer