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Featured Post - Amityville marathon

I've been threatening to do this for a while now and I suppose it is time. Despite me swearing that I'd never force myself to sit th...

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The Dungeon of Harrow (1962)

The movie opens with a man facing away from the audience speaking towards his family crest bemoaning the fact that he is leaving a legacy of decay and horror. Then we get a flashback that is most of the rest of the movie. The man is Aaron who is the son of a wealthy family. He is shipwrecked when a storm blows them off course. It is just he and the captain washing up on shore, though they do find his family crest in the debris. He is a bit of a spoiled rich boy complaining about the fish before the captain points out they are lucky to have something to eat.

The island isn’t deserted though since there is a man, Count de Sade, who lives in a castle with some servants. Right away we know he is nuts when he starts talking to the evil side of his personality. Apparently, he likes to torture his staff and guests, because the thinks that they are either out to kill him or are pirates. So a guy named de Sade is a bad guy… go figure. Eventually Aaron and the captain run afoul of them and end up locked in the castle. Some bad stuff happens, and a bunch of folks die before we see that inexplicably Aaron and his lady love get leprosy and can’t leave the island. Meh.

This regionally shot movie, in Texas if you are interested, was made by amateur filmmakers who didn’t know what they were doing. I know that sounds mean but this is an awful movie. The pacing is glacial with long scenes of meaningless dialogue that does nothing to move the story along. The scenes are also disjointed with attempts to explain the action with voiceovers between them. They try and fill in the blanks but even with this the story doesn’t make much sense. I mean where the hell did the leprosy thing come from? I get that they wanted to connect Aaron to the count by having to lock his lady up in the basement. Maybe he caught it from the Count’s wife when he was locked up with her? Honestly, I just don’t care.

The acting is bad with the dialogue being delivered in one of two ways. Over the top scene chewingly bad or without emotion or inflection in the voice. Both are annoyingly terrible and make for a miserable experience. As far as special effects go you need to see the boat scenes early in the movie to believe it. Someone was in the theater club during high school because they basically have a couple of rooms that the crew offscreen is rocking back and forth. It also appears that they are made of balsa wood because they flex like crazy. The only “creature” is the Count’s wife who is crusty and covered in cobwebs. I suppose the makeup is okay, but much like the previously mentioned sets it has a community theater vibe to it.

In digging for the next hidden gem, I end up watching a lot of bad flicks. The Dungeon of Harrow is one of them. As much as I love regional cinema most of them are ineptly made by folks who may have had the money but certainly not the talent to shoot movie. Do yourself a favor and skip this one.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Featured Post - Slasher Movie Marathon 2022

Every summer I cover a bunch of slasher movies for the site. Check in here to see what I've covered so far this summer. You can also check out my previous marathons at the links below. The marathon will start in June. 

2017 marathon          2020 marathon

2018 marathon          2021 marathon

2019 marathon


Movie 1 - Friday the 13th part VIII Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)

I figured I might as well start this year's slasher marathon off with a franchise that didn't age well. I might catch some heat for this but I really don't like this one. Neutered gore, Jason taken away from Camp Crystal Lake, and unlikeable characters. Just not fun. 


Movie 2 - Jason Goes to Hell (1993)

One more Friday movie before I start digging into the obscure stuff. Trust me I've got some weird ones for you this summer. I've honestly always hated Jason Goes to Hell as it really isn't a proper Friday the 13th movie. But this time I watched the copy included in the new Blu-ray set and that changed. I still don't love the movie but the restoration of some gore made me enjoy it. 


Movie 3 - Pizza Girl Massacre (2014)

A found footage slasher movie. Well I guess this was bound to happen. I just wish they had done a better job with Pizza Girl Massacre. Honestly it is pretty bad. Read the review linked above for more details. 


Movie 4 - Moonstalker (1989)

I wasn't sure what to make of this late entry into the genre. Normally when I haven't seen a slasher flick before, especially one from the eighties, that is a very bad thing. Spoilers I've seen most of the good ones. But for this marathon I decided to dig deep and the result is Moonstalker


Movie 5 - School Spirit (2019)

This is another newer take on the slasher genre, this time done for Hulu by Blumhouse. Teenagers are getting picked off at school by someone dressed as their pirate themed mascot. This one actually has a more traditional story that reminded me of the early days of the masked killer out for revenge days. 


Movie 6 - Slumber Party Massacre (2021)

This is an odd movie for someone to remake. Especially when they try to turn it into a comedy that also pushes a lot of woke ideas. Though that does make for a few very funny gags. The biggest issue is that it was made for SyFy channel so the stuff like nudity and gore that makes a slasher movie are missing. 


Movie 7 - Bloodmoon (1990)

I was interested in checking this one out. I had never seen it before and it was an Australian flick. They tend to make some decent horror down under. Though I was concerned that it was so late in that first wave of slasher flicks, but then sometimes these trends last a couple years longer then they do here in the U.S.


Movie 8 - Slaughterhouse (1987)

Buddy Bacon is one of my favorite slashers that only got one movie. The kills are decent and the actors are decent. While not an "A" list flick it is a solid "B". If you haven't checked it out you really should. It is a good time.


Movie 9 - Girl School Screamers (1985)

This is another example of someone buying up an unreleased horror flick and then repackaging it as a slasher. This time around it was Troma and to their credit they went back and punched up the gore with some inserts shot by Lloyd Kauffman himself!


Movie 10 - Famine (2011)

This is from the director of Gutterballs, which I covered last year during the marathon. This time around he has a bunch of kids on a lockdown to raise money to feed the hungry. Of course there is a killer and a motive for the killing. Decent gore but there are issues. Click the link above for more details. 


Movie 11 - Berserker (1987)

A Viking themed slasher movie. Yes please! This one is a bit disappointing but does have enough interesting twists and turns that I was glad to have spent the time watching. Not a perfect flick but one that if you are a fan of the genre you should watch at least once. 



Movie 12 - Rush Week (1989)

This movie starts off as a by the numbers killer on campus flick but then becomes more of a mystery as our main character shuffles thru suspects and motives before sorting out the who and why of the murder spree. As an added bonus this has a killer soundtrack... if you like new wave punk. 


Movie 13 - Evil Laugh (1986)

This is a one of those movies that had a VHS cover that I'm sure many of us remember. It is also one of those movies that promised a lot more fun then it delivered. Though it is the answer to the question that floated around my local mom and pop rental shop for many years. This is the movie with the microwave kill!


Movie 14 - Trapped Alive (1988)

Another slasher movie about a cannibal miner? Well that has my attention. Does it measure up to My Blood Valentine? Spoilers... no it doesn't. But it still might be worth checking out. Click above to read my full review. 


Movie 15 - Uncle Sam (1996)

The last movie of this summer's slasher marathon is Uncle Sam. Since it was just the 4th of July I figured it was about time to cover this for the site. Sure I thought I had done this a long time ago... but now I really did!

Friday, May 27, 2022

Psycho Ape! (2020)

I’m late to the Psycho Ape game. Most all my friends have been telling me that I had to watch this, but it always got lost in the shuffle. When writer director Addison Binek got in touch with me and offered a screener I jumped at the chance. I honestly feel like a dummy for waiting.

Twenty-five years ago, an ape breaks out of the zoo and crashes a “teenage” party. He kills everyone except for Nancy Banana who he spares. Dr. Zoomis is called to the crime scene since he is a world-famous animal psychologist and starts pursing the Psycho Ape. Twenty-five years later he is still pursuing him when Psycho Ape decides to track down Nancy because he has a crush on her. Zoomis shows up and then the chase begins. No matter how many times he kills Zoomis he keeps coming back! All of this leads to New York City where sadly the Psycho Ape goes out Kong style.

I had expectations for this to be a fun but typical low budget movie that feel into the creature, slasher, or parody genres. But what I got was something else entirely. The narrative is a bit silly, but it works to connect a series of set pieces. There is a great gag of them being chased around the woods that I got a kick out of. We get several movie deaths referenced in the multiple ways that Zoomis gets killed off. When he uttered “clever girl” and “yippie kay yah” I was laughing my butt off.  There are horror classics referenced with a particular bathtub gag coming to mind. I could say more but I don’t want to spoil the fun.

Shit gets weird... awesomely so!
There is a great scene involving a couple of actresses breaking character and talking about Ratatouille vs. Toy Story. They eventually ask the director and crew for their opinion before completing the scene where Psycho Ape kills them! Either Binek was creative enough to use something that happened naturally on set or even better yet he wrote it that way. Regardless this is genius and unlike anything that I’ve seen other low budget filmmakers do. It reminds me of the absurdist seventies romp The Kentucky Fried Movie in the way it plays with expectations. Another prime example of this is the Low Budget Film News that breaks in many times to update the viewer as to what is happening. Their motto is “We can’t afford to make this look good.”

The kills are done on the cheap and we get a lot of CGI blood spraying. Normally that annoys the hell out of me but with Psycho Ape! Binek leans into this. All the kills are banana related as that is the only weapon he uses. Necks gets slashed, couples get impaled, other are choked out, and many other cool gags I won’t spoil. If you can’t afford top notch effects then go super silly, which is what they did here, and it works perfectly.

True Gorilla filmmaking
If the above isn’t enough to get your attention, then here are a few more tidbits. It is shot in the style of an old shot on video flick. You get some groovy Laugh in Style dance transitions. Obligatory Shawshank Redemption parody. We also get to enjoy some true gorilla filmmaking as the people going about their day in New York City have no idea what is going on. My inner Larry Cohen fan was digging that so much.

Not only is this one of the best independent movies I’ve seen in many years, but it is also made me laugh more than I have in a very long time. I love Psycho Ape! Hell, I was worried that they were going to kill the puppy… but they don’t! I’m sure that I missed something in my enthusiasm and if I did, I apologize Find yourself a copy of this one my friends. Binek is a filmmaker we should all be supporting.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Throwback Thursday - The Stuff R.I.P. Larry Cohen

 note: This was from an article that I wrote for Grindhouse Purgatory a few years ago. It was not long after Larry Cohen passing away and I wanted to cover one of his movies for the report. 


The Blu-Ray Report: The Stuff

by John Shatzer 

I’m back with another Blu-Ray report. With the recent passing of Larry Cohen, I decided to pick the copy of The Stuff out of my to watch pile and take a look. I knew I wanted to do a Cohen flick but found my choices limited. I have many of his movies on DVD, but a decent Blu-Ray release can be hard to find. Many are just recycled DVD content on a new format. That is certainly not something that I wanted to cover here. But then I remembered The Stuff and I hadn’t seen it in years so that made my decision much easier.

As always, I’ll first talk about the movie in case you haven’t seen it before, and then chat about the special features. By the end you should be able to decide if it is worth upgrading from your earlier release to the fancy new Blu-Ray. Along the way I’ll try to compare it to the media that I already had in my collection. In the past people have emailed me about different releases and while I do my best to find out what was already out there sometimes I miss things. If you should disagree with my article, please feel free to email me and let me know. I always leave my contact information at the end of these.

Let me give a brief synopsis of the movie. Things kick off with some men at work. One of them finds some odd white stuff bubbling up from the ground and immediately decides to taste it! Not something that I would do but to each their own. He finds that it tastes great and shares it with his friend. The scene shifts to sometime later where a cabal of ice cream moguls have hired a corporate spy, Mo Rutherford, to discover the secret formula of this crazy new dessert product The Stuff. While we know it is bubbling from the ground that is apparently a big secret. After some shenanigans Mo dives in to investigate.

Without giving too much away and spending too much time rehashing the plot we are introduced to a few other characters including a precocious kid, a love interest for Mo, a cookie mogul, and the leader of a local militia group which comes to the rescue. Yeah you heard that last part right. The ‘80s were a different time man… They all end up trying to warn the country that The Stuff is not good for you. I mean what kind of movie would we have if it was?

Larry Cohen was a master at making something out of nothing and he does it here again. The plot is very thin and forces the viewer to jump thru some serious hoops. The mental gymnastics include Mo stealing a kid away from his family without them calling the cops and a crazy militia oddball getting on the radio and telling everyone that the Stuff will kill them, and everyone immediately believes him! As a child of the ‘80s I can assure you we weren’t that gullible. I don’t consider these issues to be deal breakers as they add to the charm of the movie. Though I can imagine it annoying the heck out of some viewers, so I thought I’d mention it.  

What Cohen does to help gloss over story issues is fill the movie up with interesting set pieces to distract you from the plot holes. We get a weird bit with a dog and one of the men who pushed the Stuff thru government testing. Then there are a couple random scenes with “Chocolate Chip” Charlie doing martial arts. The character is played by Garrett Morris and brings a lot of silly energy to the screen. It seems like every scene he is in has a punchline or a reason to pay attention to it. Overall the editing is tight and keeps the action coming at you rapidly. I suppose what I’m getting at is that you are so distracted with the movie that it isn’t until afterwards that you question what was going on. That takes a lot of skill to pull off and Cohen was a master.

Since The Stuff is basically a creature feature we have to talk about the special effects work. This isn’t the sort of movie that will have a lot of kills or gory bits. But we do get a giant gooey monster that slips in and out of people thru all their orifices. When it leaves you get a creepy hollowed out husk that we see a lot of on screen. This is done with some practical latex work and looks awesome. There is a scene near the end when an unexpected person “stuffs” out that is always a blast to watch. Mixed in with the practical effects are some green screen shots that honestly don’t hold up well. Some of them are quite bad actually. But overall for a low budget movie from the ‘80s I can’t complain too much about the work.

The Stuff isn’t anywhere near the best work that Cohen did. I’d say something like Q the Winged Serpent or Black Caesar are far better movies. But it does serve as a fun bit of monster movie goodness from a director/writer that always delivered the goods. If you haven’t seen the movie, I’d recommend you check it out.

So what of special features do we get? Here is where I was sort of surprised. Normally these Arrow releases are filled with all sorts of goodies. The Stuff Blu-Ray is awfully thin with a single documentary Can’t Get Enough of the Stuff: Making Larry Cohen’s Classic Creature Feature being the only new item on the disc. Though being 52 minutes long gave me some hope that there were some goodies to be had. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. We do get Cohen talking about the idea behind the movie and his take on consumerism. That was sort of interesting but much of the time is spent talking about his career in general. I was disappointed.

There are a few tidbits from Steve Neill, one of the effects guys, about creating some of the special effects including the great gag with Garrett Morris’ head in what might be the best scene of the movie. Also lead actress Andrea Marcovicci talks about working with Michael Moriarty and how he and Cohen kept changing the dialogue. The lack of interviews with Moriarty, Garrett Morris, and Paul Sorvino left me wanting more. Between this and the constant referencing of his entire career rather than The Stuff makes this a less than stellar extra. If you are interested in Cohen, you should check out the excellent documentary King Cohen.

Other than the trailer the only extra on the disc is a trailer commentary from director Darren Bousman. I think this is part of the Trailers from Hell series and is maybe 90 seconds long. Nothing really much to it.

The saving grace and the only reason to upgrade to this Blu-Ray is the picture and sound. I’ve mentioned more than once that I’m not the kind of guy that obsesses on this sort of thing. Even I can notice how much better the movie looks and sounds. This might backfire with some of the effects work, but for the most part is a welcome change from the grainy copies that I’ve seen in the past.

This is where I tell you if I think it is worth upgrading. This is a hard question for me to ask because I realized I didn’t own a copy of The Stuff before I bought this release. I had seen and rented it dozens of times, but never picked up a DVD or even a VHS. I’m glad to have this in my collection and will be revisiting it in October when horror movie season rolls around. Though if I had an old copy I don’t know if I would have felt that this was worth the extra money. Again, it looks and sound amazing, but the lack of good special features kills much of the appeal for me. In the end I suppose if you are willing to drop 30 bucks for picture and sound then this is certainly worth your hard-earned cash. Otherwise I’d stick with what you’ve got.

Well that is it for me. As always please feel free to email me at gutmunchers@gmail.com with any questions or comments on this article. I shall see all of you again here on the pages of this fine magazine in six months where I will again try to steer you towards or away from upgrading your movie collection.

 

Ó Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Fangs (aka. Holy Wednesday) (1974)

This is a strange little drive-in flick that I’ve not checked out before. It has to do with a fella named Snakey Bender who has this moniker because he likes snakes and carries them around with him. He pays the local kids to catch birds and rats to feed them and generally seems like a harmless old guy. We even see the local teacher, Ms. Williams, give him a letter from her class thanking him for bringing his snakes in to show the class. But there is also a darker side to things.

The teacher has a weird fetish about snakes and while we don’t see anything on screen it is sleazy as hell. Because she asks him to bring his friends over this makes Snakey think they are in a relationship. When the creepy brother and sister who run the local store find out they use this against Williams to make her “entertain” their advances as well or else they will tell the school board. Again, it is only hinted at but is clear what happens. There is also a booze guzzling preacher who finds out as well and makes her convince the kids to stop catching critters for Snakey to feed his friends. The only other thing that Snakey enjoys is his John Phillips Sousa band music, which he listens to with his friend Burt. But him bailing on their weekly concert is the final straw that pushes Snakey over the edge. Soon he is getting his revenge by killing off those that have wronged him and pushing them off a cliff in their cars.

This is a great low budget drive-in flick. This is a simple revenge plot that has a character who honestly overreacts to what he considers to be a slight. I mean did these people really deserve to die. I did appreciate that they gave us the trauma of him “breaking” up with Ms. Williams and then his subsequent loss of his friend Burt as the reason. Sure, it is a it delusional for him to think that these relationships were more then they really were, but that kind of makes his character more of an innocent and therefore more sympathetic. I do prefer my psychotic killers to be someone I can root for you know.

The story does drag a bit while they are setting up this scenario and introducing us to the characters. But when the ball gets rolling it is a lot of fun. Don’t expect any gore or explicit stuff like that. This is an early seventies movie so most of the kills are implied at or offscreen, as is most of the sleazy bits. But it is done in a way that I found satisfying and it gets good. I really dug how they decided to end it, which I did not see coming but thought was perfect.

The cast is solid and is filled with characters actors Bruce Kimball, Les Tremayne, and Marvin Kaplan. Though the actress that played Sis Palmer, the evil lady shopkeeper, seemed awfully familiar so I looked her up. God Damn Large Marge is in this! I suppose if you aren’t a Pee Wee’s Big Adventure fan that might not mean much to you… but then if you aren’t a fan of that classic, you can get the hell off my website! Really though the cast does a wonderful job with what is admittedly a silly premise.

You can find this movie both under the Fangs title as well as the Holy Wednesday title. I don’t believe that other then the title card there is any difference between them. Just about the time I think that I’ve seen everything a movie like this pops up. Mostly I can see why it wasn’t on my radar, but sometimes you get a fantastic little flick like we have here. I highly recommend it.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Crazy Knights aka. Ghost Crazy (1944)

I’m always on the lookout for movies that I haven’t seen in my many years of watching goofy stuff from the forties and fifties. One of my favorite mashups is when filmmakers take horror and comedy and do an old dark house type flick with some laughs. Crazy Knights aka. Ghost Crazy (you can find it under both titles) is one of them. 

This is an interesting flick. A group of carneys are headed to their next show when they run into a pretty woman and her uncle who are headed to a family country house. Someone is trying to kill the uncle for reasons I don’t think are every completely explained. But none of that matters because two of the carneys are played by Billy Gilbert and Shemp Howard. Yes, that Shemp Howard! During the time between his stints in the Three Stooges Shemp did some solo movies and this is one of them. 

There are lots of shenanigans packed into the movie with a creepy housekeeper, a gorilla, tunnels, a creepy repairman, and a voice that taunts them. Many of these gags might seem familiar to fans of the Three Stooges. Where this movie succeeds, and other fail is in the execution. Howard is great, as you would expect. But what surprised me is how well he and Billy Gilbert worked together. I recognized Gilbert from supporting roles in other movies but had no idea that he had such great timing. This means that the jokes land and there are a lot of laughs in Crazy Knights. This pair worked on three or four other flicks together and I need to find them. 

The non-comedic bits don’t work nearly as well. The rest of the characters are rather forgettable, and the action/romance is boring. Then again, I’m thinking all of that was just to tie together the comedy bits. The best examples of a movie like this normally has a great supporting cast and story that gives you more than this, so I have to knock my overall rating down a few notches. Still the funny stuff lands enough that I do think this is worth checking out. 

If Shemp Howard isn’t enough to convince you to check out this one then how about the fact that it was directed by the always fun William “one shot” Beaudine? He was well known for getting the movies in on time and under budget, but I’ve always found them to be entertaining and fun. The guy had the ability to make something worth watching despite the budget, cast, or script. That is probably why he has over four hundred directing credits and that doesn’t include the many lost films he worked on. Heck if that didn’t get your nerd juices flowing the movie was produced by the legendary Sam Katzman. Again, a guy who cranked out a lot of movies, many of them genre classics! 

This is a perfect storm of creative folks that I’m a fan of who combined to make an entertaining if not original movie that I’m recommending folks check out. This can be found on the web and is public domain. There is nothing stopping you so go watch it!


© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer


Friday, May 20, 2022

Invisible Ghost (1941)

Bela Lugosi stars as Charles Kessler. When we first meet him he is having his butler setup his anniversary dinner with his wife. Only there isn’t anyone in the other chair! That seems… odd. It turns out that his wife abandoned him and his daughter a few years earlier leaving town with her lover. He hasn’t gotten over it and has this odd tradition every year on their anniversary. We also hear the household staff talking about the murders, so something is clearly afoot!

Kessler’s daughter, Virginia, has her fiancé over. Thru some dialogue we find out that they are madly in love but that he has some history with the family’s maid that threatens to throw a monkey wrench into their plans. Here is where things get weird. We also find out that the family gardener has the missing wife in his basement. Apparently, the night she ran off there was a car accident, and she was injured, losing her mind. He doesn’t want to break Charles’ heart by letting him see her that way, so he keeps her hidden. But she gets out and when her husband sees her he goes into a murderous trance. Damn he is the killer! None of this should be considered spoilers because we see it right away.

The rest of the story has to do with Charles killing the maid, the fiancé being blamed, him getting executed, and then his brother (played by the same actor) showing up to find out the truth to what happened. Eventually he goes catatonic and murderous in front of the police and the end credits roll. This is a weird movie.

Bela Lugosi made a lot of these poverty row studio films, which is a fancy way of saying low budget movies for small studios. A surprising number of them are good and this is one of them. While not perfect Invisible Ghost tells a simple story with a decent twist. It keeps the costs down with a limited cast and locations. The only actor of note is Lugosi, but he is excellent in the role. Things are way more interesting with him on screen and luckily that happens a lot in Invisible Ghost. His transition from loving father to murderous killer is done with a subtle change in his body language and works well. You can see his experience as a classical trained theater actor coming across in his performance.

Lugosi gets a bad rap and is considered “hammy” by many modern horror fans. That isn’t at all fair as he was working during a time when the industry was still figuring out the difference between screen acting and stage acting. Many of his performances seem overblown because he was used to delivering dialogue so that the folks in the back row of the theater could hear them. He was also hindered by low budgets and admittedly terrible scripts. But he was a hell of an actor and if you give movies like Invisible Ghost a chance you will see that.

I suppose I will have to admit that despite all the positive stuff I’ve written above that this isn’t a perfect movie. I was a bit shocked when they killed off the fiancé as I thought for sure that saving him was going to be the plotline that drove the story to its conclusion. But other than that the rest of plot was predictable and of course they let us know who the killer is right away. Overall, this was a cheapie made to fill the second or third bill on a matinee showing and was there to kill an hour. It does that rather well, so it accomplished its goal. I did find it funny that there isn’t a ghost nor is anyone invisible. Maybe that is the big twist?  This is the Lugosi show and if you dig him then I recommend checking out Invisible Ghost.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Monday, May 16, 2022

The Cat Creature (1973)

This made for television flick is a by the numbers take on the vampire myth but has a certain charm that I rather liked. Things kick off with an appraiser going to a spooky old house to look at the collection of a wealthy deceased man. This includes a basement full of Egyptian artifacts. He leaves to go get his recorder and we see a thief sneak in and steal a necklace from a mummy. Well, that isn’t going to end well.

Without the necklace the mummy comes back to life and kills the appraiser after he returns. We then see the burglar trying to sell off the stolen trinket but the woman who runs the shop tosses him out. She doesn’t want to deal with hot merchandise you see. When her shop assistant picks up a stray cat and then tosses herself off a balcony there is a job opening that is filled by a new girl named Rena. I’m sure that won’t be important later. It is because Rena is the mummy come back to life. She needs to drink blood to survive and can turn into a cat because she was a follower of the cat god Bast. Toss in a local professor called in by the police to make sense of the Egyptian stuff and a police detective for a good time.

I’m glossing over a lot of the plot because I don’t want to spoil anything. Yeah, I know that I let you in on the fact that Rena is the mummy, but that is so obvious it doesn’t matter. The Cat Creature is a solid movie with a decent plot and direction. The story might not be all that original, but it excels in the execution. I was amused to find out after watching this that the movie is an unofficial remake of The Cat People, which is my favorite Val Lewton flick. They certainly double down on this by casting the leading man from that flick and its sequel as the appraiser who meets his end early on in this one. That actor was Kent Smith in case you were wondering. Though if I’m being honest this movie doesn’t come close to the classic film it was inspired by, but then not much does.

The pacing of the story is decent, though it does drag a little in the middle. The script was written by Robert Bloch so that shouldn’t be any surprise. He knows the formula for writing horror and makes sure that something interesting or important is happening to keep the story moving along. The cast is filled with familiar faces like Keye Luke, John Carradine, Stuart Whitman, Meredith Baxter, and David Hedison. There is a lot of talent in front of the camera and that makes The Cat Creature all the more entertaining to watch.

If I had a complaint, it is that even by the standards of the early seventies made for television movies The Cat Creature is awfully tame. They lean too heavily into the attacks being shown as shadows cast on a wall which I understand is an homage to The Cat People, but there they use it sparingly as the payoff for the action here it is used again and again. This gets old quickly and I was hoping for some variety.

In the end this is a solid if unremarkable effort. I’m glad that I watched it since it checked a lot of boxes for me. Remake of a movie I love, fun cast, and made for T.V. are all things that I enjoy. But I don’t know if that is going to be enough for the average viewer. I suppose I give The Cat Creature a lukewarm recommendation.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Friday, May 13, 2022

Fatal Exam (1990)

I’m always on the lookout for older movies that I’ve never seen before. Fatal Exam has been on my radar for a few years as it has a great cover/poster. But then I finally got around to watching it and I now see why it was never recommended to me back in the days of the Mom and Pop VHS stores. Yikes!

The movie opens with someone pounding on a guy’s apartment door. The guy’s name is Nick and we quickly… well not quickly but eventually find out that he is a college student, has a friend named Roger and a sister, Dana. They are all in the same parapsychology class. Oh, the guy pounding on the door is a mullet having sword carrying maniac. But it was all a dream anyhow so who cares? The final exam for the class is spending a weekend in a haunted house where we see in a painting that the guy from the earlier dream is the same dude who killed his family at the house and now haunts it.

The three of them as well as some classmates head out to the house. After wandering around doing nothing they go to sleep and then a head shows up in a coffee table. Then they see some ghosts, a couple of them disappear, and they find a painting. The painting leads them to go digging on the property for some buried treasure because… reasons. Then we get a long monologue about science and parallel universes trying to explain what is happening. This confused me because nothing is happening. Then we get a finale where we find out that *gasp* the creepy professor from earlier is trying to do a ritual by sacrificing the kids so he can make a deal with a demon for ultimate power.

This movie is awful. First up it is almost two hours long and has maybe fifteen minutes of interesting material. Though I might only have thought it was interesting since everything else was so monotonous. The acting is dreadful and the dialogue tedious. There was nothing natural about these characters and I was rooting for the end credits to show up after less than twenty minutes. The editing is also quite bad allowing shots to linger long after they should. I don’t need to see them investigate the basement of the house for ten minutes! You can show a couple minutes and then use the dialogue to tell us that they were thorough. The day for night is a disaster as well with them going to sleep at night with a window behind them showing that it is broad daylight.

'80s hair... so much product
Despite a release date of nineteen ninety this movie was shot in eighty-five and took a few years to finish. That explains the mullets, giant hair, and clothes. This was my favorite part of Fatal Exam, but then I’m a child of the eighties so that might just be me. The synth soundtrack is also very similar to other output from the decade, but here it is very intrusive. Honestly how can you add music to a scene and have the levels so far off that you can’t hear the dialogue?

The gore is negligible with a throat cut being the highlight. We get a very cheesy looking demon and a guy in basic white makeup playing the ghost. Even for a low budget I found the proceedings tame. This along with the horrible performances, bad pacing, and other filmmaking mistakes makes Fatal Exam a movie that I would have been happy to never of checked out. Still, it does have an awesome cover. Take my advice and stop there.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Call Girl of Cthulhu (2014)

It doesn’t happen often anymore that I pick up a movie solely based on the title, but that is exactly what I did here. While browsing for a copy of Bone Tomahawk, which I will eventually get around to reviewing here, I saw this on the shelf at my local used shop and had to have it. I think we can all agree that most of the time this sort of purchase ends in disappointment, but not this time around.

The story opens with a man named Carter being questioned by the police. They mention that they are dealing with forty-three bodies and a new STD. This movie already has my attention. Thru a series of flashbacks, we see that Carter is an artist and virgin who becomes obsessed with a hooker named Riley. The thing is he really is a good guy so when he hires her to sit for one of his paintings, she takes a liking to him, and they start to date. But things go wrong when a crazy one-eyed professor asks Carter to recreate a book, the Necronomicon I think, so that they can stop some cultists from summoning Cthulhu. Many weird things happen before we get what is an ending that is honest to the Lovecraft universe.

I kept things a bit vague above to not spoil the movie. But be warned that the rest of the review is going to ruin some of the coolest gags in Call Girl of Cthulhu so if you don’t want that to happen skip to the last paragraph. To begin with the basics this is a very low budget flick that uses the resources at hand very well. They have a smallish cast and just a couple of locations that I think could have all been sets in a single warehouse. They keep the cast small, though we do get a lot of faceless cultists and a nice batch of demonic hookers. But as far as speaking roles go, they kept it to a bare minimum.

Why is this important? Every penny they didn’t spend there they were able to dump into the practical effects work. We get so much good stuff like monster boobs (who knew internet porn was bad for you?), exploding heads, tongues cut out, death by dildo, some girls lose their heads, some minions’ heads explode, and a tentacle is jammed thru yet another noggin’. This is a very bloody movie filled with nifty practical effects work. It reminds me of the glory days of the eighties and that wasn’t even the best bits. Riley goes thru a change from attractive working girl to full on latex monster. Along the way we see her grow vagina tentacles, pee acid in a golden shower gone wrong, drops some monster feet on a fetishist, and eats her customers in very bloody ways. You know this one might not be for the kiddies.

Toss in some surprisingly plentiful sleaze and nudity with some jokes that land well, and you have a decent flick. Oh hell I didn’t even mention the STD that gives one unfortunate fella a monster dick and not in the good way! Call Girl of Cthulhu checks so many boxes that I can’t help but to highly recommend it. It is a fun trip from start to finish and I’m glad that the title caught my attention. Check it out.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Monday, May 9, 2022

Ghost Catchers (1944)

I’m a huge Abbott and Costello fan so I’m always interested in checking out other studios attempts at creating their own comedy duos to cash in on the popularity of the pair’s movies. I’ve covered some of those here at the site already and Ghost Catchers is another of them. Though I just now realized that I’ve never covered Abbott and Costello here. I’m going to have to fix that oversight soon.

A southern gentleman has arrived in New York City with his two lovely and talented daughters who are about to put their debut concert at Carnegie Hall. They sign a lease on a mansion that is supposedly haunted and sure enough the first night some spooky stuff goes down. The oldest daughter, Susanna, runs next door for help and ends up in the middle of a night club act with the comedy duo Olsen and Johnson. After a misunderstanding and an extended bit of singing and dancing the boys eventually come next door to sort things out.

What is going on? Well, there is a ghost, who they chase away with loud music. Then there are gangsters in the basement stealing a million dollars of booze from a hidden cellar. But then the ghost comes back to save the day when they are walled up Edgar Allen Poe style after the crooks catch them. Making their escape thru the wall into the club there are some more shenanigans and even more singing and dancing. Then the credits roll.

I wanted to like this movie, but it falls into the trap that many of these knock offs do. The comedy isn’t that good. I know that Olsen and Johnson did a few movies together, but they aren’t that funny. All their gags are “borrowed” from much better performers and that sort of recycling was annoying. This is especially obvious when they mention Abbott and Costello by name and even reference Hold that Ghost which this movie is obviously trying to copy. They do their own take on the famous candle gag from that one and trust me it isn’t good. I’ve said this many times before and it continues to be true. Don’t reference a much better movie that I’d rather be watching.

The pacing is off as we get way more musical numbers then we do comedic stuff. The supposed stars Olsen and Johnson feel more like supporting actors then they do leads. I was excited to see Lon Chaney Jr. and Tor Johnson in the credits, but they are hardly in the movie. Johnson is unrecognizable and Chaney Jr. is wasted as a nameless thug. You had a perfectly good villain and instead we get a generic forgettable bad guy. I mean Chaney Jr. had already done several legit horror flicks at this point for Universal so what is up with that? Then again did we even need the gangster stuff if you were going to do the ghost story? The filmmakers really needed to make up their mind.

This is a hastily put together cash in on a trend that is such a pale imitation of what inspired it that I can’t recommend it. Want to watch a great movie with the same plot filled with a genuinely funny comedy team? Watch Abbott and Costello’s Hold that Ghost.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Friday, May 6, 2022

The Crimson Cult (1968)

I pride myself on being a horror nerd but occasionally I stumble over a movie that has somehow escaped my attention. The Crimson Cult aka. Curse of the Crimson Altar is one of these. The cast includes Christopher Lee, Barbara Steele, Michael Gough, and Boris Karloff! Seriously how did I miss this one? Well one order to Kino Lorber and I have the Blu-Ray in my hands.

After a trippy set of scenes with a naked woman being whipped and Barbara Steele sitting around covered in some odd blue makeup, we meet our protagonist. Our story follows Robert Manning as he goes looking for his missing brother Peter. It seems that they are in the antique business and Peter was out looking for things to buy. After Robert gets a note pointing him towards a small town he jumps in his convertible and goes looking for his overdue sibling. One that we realize was part of that psychedelic opening scene.

When Robert arrives at the country estate where his brother was last seen he ends up in the middle of a happening party with lots of body painting, booze, and half naked ladies. Here he meets Eve who takes him to see her uncle Morley (Lee’s character). They claim that his brother never stayed at the house but not long after accepting an invitation to stay the night he finds a candlestick that matches one his brother included with the note. The rest of the movie is Robert trying to figure out what happened to Peter, dealing with the locals, and trying to bed Eve. Spoilers he does!

This is not a good movie, and I can see why I’ve never seen it pop up on my radar before. The story is uneven with several painfully slow spots. It never establishes the town, locals, and most importantly the legend of Lavinia Morley the local witch legend. This is further confused by an ending that left me wondering what the point was. Spoilers ahead. Morley was using hypnotism to make the characters have bad dreams insinuating that none of the supernatural stuff happened. Why did he do this? Someone mentions as the house is burning down that he must have been mad. That is about as good as we get. Then the movie doubles down with the characters seeing Morley turn into Lavinia… so there was a witch? This ending was confusing and was a bad ending to a mediocre movie.

Karloff is wonderful
Despite a stellar cast we spend most of the time with Manning and Eve. Now both are decent but when we have Steele, Lee, Gough, and Karloff in the cast I’d much rather be watching them. Gough is decent as a stuttering manservant to Lee’s Morley. He doesn’t get much screentime but what he does get is fun. Christopher Lee is honestly not very good in the role of Morley. Though I don’t think it was his fault as there is nothing in the story for him to sink his acting chops into. The character as written is a terrible villain as we don’t even know he is the cause until the last five minutes or so. Karloff is very frail and spends most of the movie in a wheelchair but damn is he good. He has a couple great monologues and there is a reoccurring gag about appreciating a fine brandy that had me cracking up. The guy does more acting with a look then most can do with pages of dialogue. He also gets to be the hero in the end, which was awesome. Karloff is the only reason to watch The Crimson Cult. Barbara Steele is wasted in what can be best described as a glorified cameo.

If you are a fan of Boris Karloff and haven’t seen The Crimson Cult, then you should. This is one of the best performances from the latter part of his career. In fact, it is my understanding that this was the last movie to come out while he was still alive. If that doesn’t interest you, I’d recommend skipping this one. Sadly, it was a missed opportunity to have a good time with some very well-known genre actors.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer