Featured Post

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...

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Man with Nine Lives (1940)

I recently realized that I hadn’t been paying as much attention to the classics that I used to. I’m a big fan of horror from the thirties, forties, and fifties. Karloff, Price, Chaney, and Lugosi are favorites of mine. It has been way too long since I’ve covered them here at the site and I figured it was about time for me to correct that. Why not start off with this little seen but fun flick starring the great Boris Karloff.

The movie kicks off with a doctor, Mason, showing off his latest procedure. He has found a way to freeze and then revive people. This is a big deal because while frozen the people can heal terrible injuries and diseases. His research is based upon a book by Dr. Kravaal who mysteriously disappeared after writing it. The hospital administrators aren’t happy with the publicity that Mason has been generating with his experiments and decide to send him on a forced vacation while they have other researchers verify his results.

Mason and his nurse, Judith, decide to spend their time off looking into what happened to Kravaal. This leads them to an isolated house and the discovery that Kravaal has ended up frozen for over ten years. Also frozen with him are a group of men that we discover thru a flashback had been investigating Kravaal and a patient he was treating. Things go sideways on them and they all end up in the deep freeze for a decade. The length of time is a big deal since it is far beyond what they have been able to do previously. The formula for the solution that allows this is lost thru some shenanigans and the good doctor decides he must start experimenting on the survivors to recreate it for the good of mankind. This leaves Mason and Judith to stand by helplessly as Kravaal goes about his work.

This is an excellent movie. Karloff plays Kravaal with a degree of kindness that belies the fact he is straight up murdering people to try and recreate the formula that will finish his life’s work. There is no over the top cackling here as he instead seems quite sad by what he feels must be done. This is yet another example of Karloff showing a great deal of respect to the genre and taking his part seriously. No matter how poorly written or minuscule the budget was he always gave it his best and with The Man with Nine Lives it helps make what is a decent movie into a great one. The rest of the cast is made up of actors that I have seen before in supporting roles. While not household names they were all solid working professionals that know what is expected of them and deliver the goods.

Karloff is so good in this movie!
The story is solid and follows many of the tropes involved in a traditional mad scientist flick. You have the well-meaning but misguided genius who is far ahead of his time. There are the characters who don’t understand and thru their ignorance make the situation worse. We also get the requisite outsider who can act as a proxy for the audience helplessly watching things play out. All of this is wrapped in a tight seventy-four-minute runtime that gets to the good stuff and never lets up. Combined with the outstanding performance from Karloff this makes for a wonderful way to spend an evening.

The sets are simple but effective. Most of the story takes place in Kravaal’s underground lab. This consists of a couple small rooms and the ice chamber where he freezes his experimental subjects. I liked the look of the movie as they light it very dark and make great use of the shadows. They also pull off the trick of making it appear as if the room is light by the oil lamps and fireplace. I might just be an old guy here, but nothing is quite as atmospheric and creepy as an old black and white movie done right. The Man with Nine Lives is a perfect example of this.

I have nothing bad to say about this movie. When you mention Karloff, everyone thinks about his performance as the Frankenstein’s Monster, and his later non creature roles in the classic Universal Movies. The guy was so much more than that with a lot of his best work coming in films like this one. It is easy to find and worth checking out. I highly recommend The Man with Nine Lives.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Silence (2019)

Time for some honesty. I had been avoiding watching the Silence as I sort of lumped it in with the similarly themed A Quiet Place and Birdbox, both of which I did watch. I’m just not a fan of stuff like this. But I have to say that when I finally broke down and checked this one out I was pleasantly surprised.

Stanley Tucci is Hugh Andrews, an architect and family man. He and his wife Kelly have a young son and a teenage daughter named Ally. She lost her hearing a couple of years before in an accident, which means the family can communicate using sign language. This is important later. Why you might ask? Well some explorers decide to crack open a cave in the mountains of Pennsylvania and accidentally unleash a swarm of giant bat looking creatures that rip and tear thru everything they can find. But the catch is being locked in darkness for millennia these creatures have no eyes and hunt by sound. See why the daughter thing was important?

The creatures show up, the family with grandma and family friend Glenn make a break for the country thinking it won’t be as bad there. Less noise means less creature activity. Have no fear though they get plenty of monsters in pursuit. Some of them blind bat creatures and some of them crazy people. I mean you must have some society breaking down in this kind of flick. People die, some live, and we get a sort of happy ending. I mean if you consider millions of dead folks and the human race on the brink of extinction a happy ending.

The story here doesn’t break any new ground but is executed perfectly. We get just enough background on the characters to not only understand the family dynamic but root for them as well. I liked these characters and wanted them all to make it. But this is a monster movie so you can probably guess that they don’t. The cast is very good with Stanley Tucci carrying much of the movie himself. This guy is sneaky good in everything he appears in. Miranda Otto is the mom, John Corbett is family friend Uncle Glenn, and Kiernan Shipka is the hearing-impaired daughter. All of them do a great job in their roles and are fun to watch. There is a lot of talent in front of the camera and it makes for an engaging movie.

I do dig the creatures
If you are looking for an ultra-gory movie The Silence isn’t for you. While I do love the design of the creatures, who get a ton of screen time, the kills are tame. We do see some mangled bodies and get the shock of seeing that the creatures lay eggs in their victims, but no real blood is shed on screen. The horror and honestly the scares come from other places. There is a scene where some creepy locals show up with their tongues cut out. They keep insisting the family join them, which they don’t. The insistence of the preacher/leader is finally explained when he calmly writes “The Girl is Fertile” while starring at Ally. Now that is creepy.

Some other kick you in the gut stuff has to do with the family dog, a woman with a crying baby on a subway, an angry lady with a shotgun, and the best use of a woodchipper onscreen since Fargo! While not terribly original this is a very entertaining movie. I don’t know if it would hold up to repeated viewings, but if you get the chance to stream this, it is currently on Netflix, then I recommend you give it a couple of hours of your time.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Friday, July 24, 2020

Terrordactyl (2016)

This movie has Space Dinosaurs… let that sink in for a minute. Loyal readers of Crappy Movie Reviews (it could happen!) should know by now that I love a good monster movie. What you may not realize is that I also love a bad one. The cheesier the better I say. Without giving too much away I can tell you right up front that Terrordactyl scratched that itch for me.

Things kick off with a long-haul trucker pulling his rig into a rest stop. Something falls from the sky and smashes his truck in a giant CGI explosion. Crawling from the wreckage is a Pterodactyl, aka. a flying dinosaur! Things go about how you would expect and then we are introduced to our main characters. Lars and Jonas are doing some lawncare and then head to a bar. There they get the bright idea to go looking for meteors from a waitress because they can be worth piles of money. Lucky for them there is a lot of them suddenly in the sky and crashing to the ground.

Of course, we the viewer know that isn’t good. Before you can say “Meteor Shit!” there are Pterodactyls everywhere chowing down on the locals and making a nuisance of themselves. It is up to Lars and Jonas to save the day with some help from their friends from the bar. This leads to a big fight, the revelation that the meteors are eggs returning to Earth, and the miraculous reappearance of a character that we thought was dead. Though really if you have ever watched a flick like this you had to know he would return.  

This is a silly, dumb, and entertaining bit of cheese. Not everything needs to be art, sometimes I just want to have fun. Terrordactyl is just that! The story opens with some action, spends just a few minutes establishing the characters, and then jumps back into the good stuff with the rest of the movie being a running fight. There is nothing new here as it follows the typical monster movie formula, but for the budget it is executed very well. I was never bored or distracted as the movie held my attention until the final credits rolled.

Dig the creatures!
The cast is solid and does a decent job. But for me the real stars of the movies are the creatures. We get a lot of them and the filmmakers take the time to give a few of them unique looks and even personalities. This includes old “barbeque face” that chases the cast around for a good chunk of the story. Since the creatures are all brought to the screen with digital effects this extra detail is welcome. Plus, this movie is being played for some laughs and again is very cheesy, so the CGI doesn’t bother me too much. Especially since it allows for a giant queen pterodactyl to be defeated by a “booze bomb” in the big finale. I did mention that this is a silly flick, didn’t I?

Some other highlights are a skull being “horked up” by one of the dinos, a spectacular and patriotic kill, a montage scene where the characters are creating improvised weapons, and lots of explosions. How can you not love a movie that just goes for it like Terrordactyl does? While not a “good” movie in the traditional sense this is such a blast that I have to recommend everyone check it out. I found the movie streaming online so it is easily available and cheap to rent. Give it a chance.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Bad CGI Sharks (2019)

Some titles just grab your attention and don’t let go. Bad CGI Sharks is one of those that once I saw it pop up online, I knew that I was going to have to watch the movie. I figured it would be a terrible killer shark flick that would try to play the formula for laughs and would be disappointing. Imagine my surprise when that isn’t what I got at all.

This is the story of two brothers. Matthew is the youngest and most responsible one. He has a job or at least does when the movie starts. His older brother, Jason, is a crazy man child that is still holding onto their boyhood dreams of making an epic shark movie. When their father gets fed up with Jason, he ships him out west to go live with his brother Matthew. The brother’s reunion is complicated by the fact that a magician named Bernardo has decided to let them live in their shark movie. Something about a muse and his scene clapper allows this to happen. Before you know it, the boys are being chased by a CGI shark that floats around in the air angry that her “people” are being used as villains in the movies.

I realize my plot synopsis is weird but then so is this movie and I love it. I thought for sure we were just going to end up with a movie about badly rendered digital sharks eating up an attractive cast while winking at the audience that it knows it is shitty. What we have here is instead is an interesting story of two brothers reconnecting during a wacky adventure while being menaced by some bad CGI Sharks flying around in pursuit. I never saw that coming and it makes for a fun time. The addition of the character of Bernardo and his breaking of the fourth wall to speak directly to the audience adds an element of whimsy to the proceedings that was a lot of fun and shows how creative and well developed the script was. I’m an old guy who has spent most of his life obsessed with movies so when you can show me something I’ve not seen before I take notice.

Bad CGI Sharks... promised and delivered!
The cast is great, especially real-life brothers Matthew and Jason who play… Matthew and Jason. They have great chemistry onscreen and perfect timing. This is a funny movie filled with great jokes that need to be delivered correctly for it to work. Both guys nail it with perfectly. Matteo Molinari also is equally good as Bernardo winking at the audience as he delivers lines directly towards us. Toss in some funny sight gags like the classic bit with struggling to climb a wall as another character walks a couple of feet to the left and goes thru the opening and you end up with a genuinely entertaining flick.

I could go on, but it should be obvious now that I enjoyed the heck out of Bad CGI Sharks. I went in expecting a bad monster movie and ended up with a well-executed comedy. The fact that the filmmakers were able to pull this off with a budget that was reportedly around six thousand bucks amazes me. Do yourself a favor and track down a copy of Bad CGI Sharks. Not only will you have fun with the movie, but these guys deserve our support. I highly recommend this and consider it to be one of the best independent movies that I’ve seen in years.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Monday, July 20, 2020

Underwater (2020)

I’m normally not a fan of big budget Hollywood horror. It really does nothing for me, which is why I ignored Underwater when it was in the theaters. Also, if I’m going to be completely honest, I really am not a fan of actress Kristen Stewart. Partially because of the sparkly vampire nonsense and partially because she hasn’t done anything I liked. That is until now.

After a bit of voiceover, we meet Norah, played by Stewart, and quickly establish that she is on an underwater rig that is drilling on the bottom of the ocean. Before you can even process that a disaster happens, and the environment is breached. Norah and another survivor end up running for their lives as the station collapses underneath the tremendous weight of the ocean. She meets up with some other survivors and realizes that all of the escape pods have been used. Quickly they decide their only hope is to reach another set of pods, but this requires them to walk quite a distance on the oceans floor wearing only their dive suits.

Along the way they find an escape pod that was destroyed with the body inside being fed on by something. Soon after that they notice that they aren’t alone as their drilling has unleashed a mass of creatures from the ocean’s floor. The rest of the movie is a survival horror setup where they are racing to reach the pods before being killed by the creatures. This all ends with a killer reveal that I will talk a bit about later.

I’m shocked at how much I liked this movie. The action kicks in right away and honestly never stops. This is a rare horror movie that is very scary before you know that there are monsters. We don’t start seeing the creatures for thirty-five minutes, but between the setting and disaster there is already enough tension that I was on the edge of my seat. Hell, a guy implodes into gooey bits before we even see a monster! When they do show up, they look great. They come darting in and out of the shadows grabbing at the characters which only ratchets up the tension. I did not expect the movie to have this many scares in it, and they don’t feel forced.

creatures look cool. 
I suppose I should talk creatures here. These all appear to be CGI but considering the setting and that they are only seen in the water that doesn’t bother me at all. This is such an alien environment to begin with that the digital creatures fit right in and look natural, as if they belong in the off-kilter environment that the movie takes place in. There are some decent kills with a couple implosions, another guy being sucked out of his suit, and a body getting munched on. It is decent, though be warned that this is a movie that leans more into scaring you then it does trying to gross you out. That said we do get a disturbing view of a character trying to be swallowed by one of the things that is horrifying.

Pardon me while I nerd out!!!
This next bit has some spoilers so if you want to avoid them just pop down to the final paragraph of my review. If you guys haven’t figured out by reading my reviews here at the site, I’m a huge horror nerd. That includes reading with author H.P. Lovecraft being a favorite of mine. When we get to the end of the movie there is a big reveal that I loved. The man-sized creatures they have been fighting live on a much larger creature… one that looks just like Cthulhu… one that according to the lore of Lovecraft lives at the bottom of the sea. Damn it movie I was already liking you and then you toss this added bit of fun in as well. The identity of the big creature in the finale was confirmed by the director to be the Elder God… I’m so hoping for a sequel!

I like a Kristen Stewart flick. There is a sentence that I never thought that I would utter or write, but it is true. I also have to say that she is excellent in this one and nails her character. Underwater is a gem that I think far too many people slept on, myself included. It is available almost everywhere and is something that I think everyone should track down and check out. I highly recommend it.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Monstrum (2018)

This was getting a ton of buzz when it debuted on Shudder. I’m a big fan of monster movies and have had many great experiences watching South Korean genre flicks so I was in. I expected a typical creature feature, but I got so much more than that. Before I continue it is clear to me that I’m going to have to drop some spoilers to properly explain the story. If you don’t like that sort of thing then let me just tell you know that this is a great movie and you should check it out.

There is a lot of political intrigue in this movie. The King is surrounded by people trying to knock him off the throne and take power for themselves. We know this because the movie starts off in the past where the army kills a bunch of civilians who might have the plague. Not to protect the people, but to undermine their support for the king, whom everyone thinks ordered it. A little girl is left alive, which becomes important later on.

Then the action moves to years later where a monster is terrorizing the mountain where the capital city gets many of its resources. People are being killed and butchered by something in the woods. The king calls upon Yoo Gyeom, a former head of his guards, to come and stop the monster. He has retired with his best friend and daughter to live a simple life of hunting. He returns to the capital city and gets caught up in all of the intrigue. We find out that the reason he left was because of his daughter, whom he adopted and raised. Yep she was the little girl that survived the massacre.

Love the creature!
The big twist is that while the man trying to bring down the king has been faking the attacks, he doesn’t realize that there is actually a monster on the mountain. One that fed on the bodies of those slaughtered earlier, some of whom did have the plague. Not only is it a giant and deadly creature but it also carries a disease that could wipe anyone out that it doesn’t kill! This all comes to a head in an exciting and explosive conclusion.

I love this movie. It has everything that I could ask for. There is a cool creature, that while brought to the screen with CGI is done so spectacularly. I can’t think of a single scene that made me cringe. The digitally created monster is masterfully added to each sequence without error. It looks great and is scary. This is helped by an excellent cast that had to react fearfully from something that wasn’t on set. That might not sound like a hard thing for an actor to do, but I’ve seen enough monster movies to tell you there are a lot that can’t pull it off.

The story is unlike anything that I’ve ever seen before in a movie like this. They seamlessly weave a complex bit of political intrigue into Monstrum without losing track of the creature mayhem. It is also interesting that the monster is only a monster because of the political maneuvering and arrogance of the humans who plucked him from his home. The creature started out as an earlier king’s pet. The plague and the hunters disturbing it all come from the machinations of devious plotting men trying to seize power. That is pretty deep and a fun twist on the genre.

There are also a lot of fights between our human characters which means some great martial arts and swordplay. The choreography is wonderful, and the scenes are editing in a way that is easy to follow. Arrows fly and blades slash as large groups of soldiers do battle with one another. When they add the creature in it works just as well. That I wasn’t expecting, and it impressed me. Those responsible for Monstrum really knew what the heck they were doing. The last twenty minutes of the movie are filled with so much action that I can’t imagine anyone not liking this flick.

Probably obvious by now that I’m giving this one a huge recommendation. It is in the running for best movie that I’ve seen this year. Like I’ve already mentioned as of the writing of this review it is streaming on Shudder and is a must see.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Monday, July 13, 2020

High Moon (aka. Howlers) (2019)

With the Slasher marathon wrapping up I decided to go back to some random fun. I pick a movie from one of the streaming services and watch it without having any idea what I’m getting into. I’ve been having a lot of success lately finding some gems, so I was due for a mess like High Moon. Spoilers this isn’t a good movie.

The story kicks off in the old west, specifically eighteen sixty-three, with a gunslinger coming into a small Texas town chasing after some outlaws. Of course, things are as simple as they appear because the outlaws are also werewolves. Luckily, our gunslinger is prepared with some silver bullets and guns them all down. He buries them and then a ninja shows up to kill him and bury him as well. Wait… what the hell was that? The action then moves to the present where our hero wakes up and crawls out of his coffin. See there was a flood that unearthed where he was planted in the ground. The werewolves also were washed up and woke up as well… because that is a thing that dead people do? I only ask because the movie never explains why. More stuff happens and the werewolves are re-killed, hopefully for good this time.

Time to sound like a broken record. The one thing that isn’t hampered by a low budget is your script. Write something that makes sense and that you can afford to shoot. The story here is bad. There is a gem of coolness with the concept of werewolf cowboys, especially after they steal some motorcycles. Werewolf cowboys on choppers! How do you screw that up? Well I guess it was easy. We spend a lot of time with the hero, Colt, as he wanders around town meeting the locals. Luckily, the lady who finds him takes him home and nurses him back to health. He is doubly lucky that she has a guns and most importantly silver bullets. Why? Who keeps a bunch of silver bullets around? This makes no sense.

Werewolf cowboys on motorcycles... it could have been cool
There is also a subplot that takes a chunk of time that involves the local sheriff and his wife, who is having an affair with the local big wig Bob. This sucks because Bob and the sheriff used to be partners in Houston when they were both on the police force there. Something bad happened that caused them to no longer be friends. What you might ask? Yeah because they are going to explain that to us in this well written script. That was sarcasm in case it didn’t come across as we never find out what the big deal is. We get all that drama instead of you know… werewolf cowboys.

The werewolf makeup
Let’s talk werewolf makeup. Have you ever seen those kits that they sell at Halloween that allows you to slap a hair piece on and some brown makeup to darken your skin? There you go. We do get a couple bits of gore, but it is limited and mostly happens off screen. Some of the action sequences are choreographed nicely, but then ruined by some terrible editing. Things just feel choppy and awkward. Toss in some terrible CGI bullet hits and the dreaded blood spraying on the screen gag for an overall miserable experience.

I’m not recommending High Moon. This is an absolute waste of time as it is not even bad enough to be fun to goof on with friends. This is one of those painfully mediocre movies that I run into more often than I’d like to admit. Let me take the bullet for you guys on this one and skip it.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Slasher Marathon

For those new to the site I spend part of each summer doing a deep dive on some slasher movies. I cover some familiar franchises as well as some one off movies you might not have heard of before. Some are good and many are bad... far too many. Why do I keep doing this to myself? That might be a question I worry about next year. With this Coronavirus shit going down what the hell else to I have to do? Might as well watch a bunch of teenagers get picked off at a summer camp... or where ever.

I'll keep a running list and links on this page to what I've covered this year so bookmark it! You don't want to miss anything do ya? Also if you are interested in my previous marathons I'll dump some links below. 

Now onto the Summer of 2020. The first movie of the marathon is...

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985) - Thought I might as well kick this off with a bang. This is a fun entry into the Friday franchise. It does a decent job rebooting the series after the death of Jason in part IV.

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988) - Effectively Jason vs. Carrie this is my least favorite of the Friday the 13th movies. Considering what was eventually to come that is saying a lot. The highlight is that this is the first Kane Hodder as Jason performance and he is really good. Other than that... meh.

Everyone Must Die (2012) - I thought that I'd check out this independent flick from filmmaker Steve Rudinski. This one is played more for laughs than it is for the kills. This movie delivers some fun lines and is one of the best low budget movies I've seen in awhile.

Madhouse (1981) - This is a slasher that has eluded me until recently. Though to be fair I never spent too much time trying to track it down. But after three summers of marathons I'm starting to run out of stuff to cover. That said I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this one.

Iced (1988) - Sooner or later in these marathons I end up watching a couple of stinkers. In the '80s there were so many slasher movies being made that everyone wanted to try their luck. That means we got a lot that are not only forgettable but also downright bad. Iced is one of those. In fact it's only real claim to fame is the creepy chance to see a former child star naked. You can click on the link above but let me clue you in on my recommendation... pass on this one.

Blood Lake (1987) - This shot on video slasher flick had been on my radar for many years. The VHS tape was really expensive and for the longest time it never had a DVD release. When I saw the new DVD sitting on a table at a show I was at I impulse purchased a copy, specifically for the next marathon. I can now understand why it took so long to get a release. Want to watch a slasher flick? This might not be for you. But if you want to learn how to water ski I can highly recommend it.

Student Bodies (1981) - Time to tap into one of the oddities of the first wave of slasher movies. I think that this one is the first attempt at a slasher comedy, but it wouldn't be the last. There are some funny jokes here, but it fails to be much of a horror flick. Check out my full review for details.

Cutting Class (1989) - The only reason that this movie might stand out from any of the other mediocre slashers that dominated the end of the '80s is because it starred a very young Brad Pitt. I also dig the fact that we get Roddy McDowall. Other than that this is a very tame and by the numbers affair.

Chopping Mall (1986) - I debated if I should cover this for the slasher movie marathon since many fans don't consider it to belong in the genre. The more that I thought about it the more convinced that I was that it does belong. If you switch out the killbots with a mask wearing machete wielding maniac it would unquestionably fit right in. Kids get locked in a mall, do naughty things, and get killed off. Check this one out as it is a blast.

Fatal Games (1984) - This is an interesting movie. A killer is picking off Olympic hopefuls with a javelin while they train for nationals. I enjoy the setting and the story is engaging. This one is a bit light on the gore, but still fun. Check out my full review for more details.

The House on Sorority Row (1982) - Here we have a gem that not a lot of fans talk about. There is a cool setup, some nifty kills, and the requisite dumb characters that sort of deserve what they get. There is a decent twist at the end with the identity of the killer and they keep you guessing as to their identity from start to finish. This is a highlight of this years marathon.

Blood Song (1982) - This is a fun little flick. Not terribly gory but Frankie Avalon gets a chance to play against type as the killer and is clearly having a blast. More of an oddity than a great movie I think that it is worth a look. Check out my full review for more.

Silent Madness (1984) - I've dug up yet another flick that I guess is sort of okay. It has a lot of pacing issues and seems to wander too far from the formula to build up any momentum. It does have a lady doctor in pursuit of the killer, which is different. Still I think this is an easy pass for most fans. Check out my review for more details.

Intruder (1989) - I felt like it was time to treat myself with an old favorite and one of the best slashers when it comes to gore that has ever been made. Plus there is an Evil Dead connection or two. What isn't to like about this movie? Check out my review for more or better yet go watch Intruder!

Offerings (1989) - Well damn I suppose I'm going to end this year's marathon with a stinker. Offerings is a derivative and poorly executed slasher coming at the tail end of the first wave of these things. It is the exact opposite of Intruder and totally misses the point. Check out my review for more.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Offerings (1989)

The Slasher marathon continues here at crappy movie reviews. This time I found one that was new to me. Offerings is a regional effort made in Oklahoma City. It doesn’t break any new ground and in some ways is very familiar to another more famous slasher flick.

Things start off ten years ago with some kids playing. One of them is a boy who never talks. He is friends with a little girl named Gretchen who plays checkers with him and is basically the only person who treats him nice. We see earlier that the boy’s mother is a real piece of work. Some other kids show up and bully him into “walking the well”. This is a balancing act where you walk the circumference of the well. He falls in and then the movie flashes forward to the present ten years later.

Gretchen and the other kids are now teenagers and doing what these movies think high school kids do. Eating pizza, having sleepovers, and making out. The boy has spent much of this time locked up in a mental hospital. The fall resulted in him having a serious brain injury and that made him into a psychopath that ate his mother! A nurse is late giving him his sedative and he breaks out of the hospital heading back to town killing as he goes. Okay so actually just one person and a duck as he walks the forty miles to town. After he arrives, he starts killing off the kids who caused his accident. Because she was nice to him, he decides to leave body parts on Gretchen’s porch, which the movie cleverly keeps from her for a while. This all leads to a big finale where he gets shot six times with a revolver and gets up.

Like OH MY GOD the '80s...
There was very little effort put into the script. It basically follows much of the plot of Halloween with the guy breaking out of a mental hospital and coming back to town to kill teenagers off as they canoodle. The fact that it isn’t random and that he has some motivation behind his actions is nice. The idea that he likes the one girl and leaves “offerings” to her as some sort of twisted courting thing (I think…) is also unique. But everything else just reminds me of Carpenter’s Halloween. He kills a dog, the attack from the back seat of a car, he digs up a grave and smashes a headstone (okay not exact but close enough). If you think it is just me there is only one musical stinger in the movie, and it is so damn close to Halloween that I am surprised someone didn’t get sued. If you are making a genre flick don’t constantly remind me of a better one that I could be watching.

The movie also has some serious pacing issues. After he breaks out it takes a long time for the killings to start. Instead we are treated to some terrible acting and awkward dialogue. For example, when a girl asks for some class notes the guy grabs his wang and yells “They can note this…” What the hell does that even mean? This is the sort of writing that we get all the way thru and it is terrible. This is also a movie that has weird attempts at humor at entirely the wrong time. It constantly kills any momentum and mood that it has built. I almost feel like this was supposed to be a comedy at some point. There are gags with a toolshed full of broken tools, a weird mortician’s intern, and a goofy deputy named Buddy that don’t seem to fit.

Gotta love those wacky Mortician's interns!
How do they do on the slasher formula? There are a respectable nine kills in the movie, but most are off screen with the results only seen afterwards or in profile as shadows on the wall. We get a head smashed in a vice, a neck snapped, pen to the forehead, a flashlight beatdown, and some other stuff. We get to see none of this happen and because of that Offerings lacks that signature kill that is so important to the slasher genre. As far as nudity goes, yeah I’m being creepy again. In my defense it is part of the expectations with these flicks. If that offends you don’t worry because there is none. We even have the sheriff find a kid in the creepy boarded up house that the killer grew up in. Hey there is another example of them copying Halloween. Anyways the kid has a box of skin magazines. They don’t even show anything then. Other than a poster on a wall we get nothing.

I’ve seen worse movies than Offerings. That said this has got nothing going for it. Bad dialogue, derivative story, bad acting, lack of gore, and slow spots make for a lousy way to kill ninety minutes. I can’t recommend this one.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Intruder (1989)

I’ve been digging up some less than stellar examples of slasher movies, so I think it is about time to reward myself with an old favorite that I’ve not covered here at the site. That movie is Intruder, a little gem of a flick set in a grocery store and directed by Scott Spiegel with some appearances from his friends. I’ll have more on that later.

The night crew has been called into the Walnut Lake Market to start marking down everything in preparation for the store closing. The owners have sold it to the town and are pulling the plug on the business as well as the jobs of their employees. One of those employees, Jennifer, has a crazy ex-boyfriend who shows up and starts some trouble. Excellent we have a suspect for what is to come! After kicking him out they lock the doors and get to work. But someone isn’t about to let them have a peaceful night. One by one the employees are stalked and killed in brutal ways. But who is the killer and why are they picking on this one store? No spoilers here other than to say that they are “Just Crazy about this store”.

Here we have a movie that hits just about every requirement that the slasher subgenre requires. You have an isolated location, victims setup for the slaughter, some mystery as to who the killer is, and of course excellent gore. The one thing that fans might notice is the lack of nudity. Honestly with the setting and the fact that things take place over what seems like a couple of hours that doesn’t bother me with Intruder. In fact, it might have felt a bit forced and spoiled some of the fun if it was shoehorned in. The quick pace and constant action also helps since so much is being thrown at you as a viewer you probably wouldn’t notice. This is an excellent script that leans heavily into creative kills.

Anyone else remember those generic beer cans? Good times.
This movie was made on a lower budget, around one hundred and thirty thousand, which isn’t as much as it sounds. They put every penny on the screen by minimizing costs. The entire movie takes place in one location, which really helps with cost. Spiegel also managed to find some effects guys named Kurtzman, Nicotero, and Berger who were starting a new company and trying to get their feet in the door. Of course, this was the beginning of the legendary KNB. He was also able to get some of his friends to help out and play characters. It is fortunate that Sam and Ted Rami as well as Bruce Campbell are your pals! It all comes together and makes for a decent slasher flick. Probably one of if not the best of the latter ones to be released.

The special effects work is stellar. We get a solid eight kills, all on screen and all very bloody. There are a couple stabbings, a knife thru a chest that punctures some beer cans, a meat hook thru the chin, a cringe-worthy gag with a desk spindle thru an eye, and the gooey head smashing in the pneumatic cardboard crusher. Anyone who has ever worked at a grocery store has had that nightmare. But the signature kill and the one that everyone remembers is the band saw thru the head complete with teeth being dislodged as it cuts is merry way along! Be warned there are some cut versions of Intruder floating around and I’d recommend the Blu-Ray release put out a few years ago. It is restored in its bloody glory.

With the recent passing of Danny Hicks, who plays assistant manager Bill Roberts, I thought it was time to dust this Blu-Ray off and give it another look. I love Intruder and normally watch it every October, but somehow missed it last year. I’m so very pleased to cover this one for the slasher marathon as it is a movie that everyone needs to check out. If what I’ve stated above doesn’t convince you, we even get a Three Stooges connection as their longtime straight man Emil Sitka shows up and drops his famous line “Hold hands you lovebirds.”

What isn’t to love about Intruder? It is an excellent low budget horror movie with great kills and many familiar faces. Plus no one could tell a severed head story like Danny Hicks! I highly recommend that you give this one a chance if you haven’t already.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Monday, July 6, 2020

Silent Madness (1984)

The slasher marathon keeps trucking along with this flick from eighty-four. It isn’t as well-known as some others and it copies a lot of stuff from earlier movies, which gets a little frustrating at times. Before I go much further let’s take a look at the story.

Dr. Joan Gilmore is a new doctor working at a mental hospital. She is a bit of a do-gooder and rubs the senior staff the wrong way. Though one particular doctor, Kruger, is up to something bad in the basement. This only tangentially plays into the plot, so I won’t spend a bunch of time on it. Let’s just say he is pretty sketchy. The hospital staff releases a bunch of patients to save money but makes a huge mistake when they cut loose a homicidal maniac that was responsible for some murders at a girl’s college twenty years earlier. They try to cover their tracks by faking his death, but Gilmore doesn’t buy it and takes off in pursuit.

Of course, the killer returns to the scene of his crimes, the college, and gets back to his old tricks. The bodies begin to pile up as the killer works his way thru the girls and anyone else unlucky enough to cross his path. It takes a while for Gilmore to find him and even longer to realize that he has been killing people. We are also given a bit of a twist at the end where her colleagues back at the hospital go full on evil and send some sadistic orderlies after the patient and her. They really need to cover their mistake up so a little bit of kidnapping and murder for the greater good is justified… right?

Our soon to be victims.
So, we have a lady Dr. Loomis which is okay. Belinda Montgomery does a decent enough job in the role and is able to carry her part of the movie nicely. That said Silent Madness isn’t an easy movie to get thru. There are some pacing issues as it spends much of the early runtime at the hospital setting up that plotline that basically goes nowhere. We don’t nearly get enough of the killer and him stalking his victims because of this other storyline. If that weren’t bad enough, we get some out of place love story between Gilmore and the local newspaper guy that feels forced. There is even a date on screen that again takes us away from what this movie is supposed to be and wipes out any momentum it might have been building.

There are a couple more things about the plot that I wanted to mention. There is an inexplicable twist at the end that seriously messes with the killer’s motivations. I guess the stuff they sort of hinted at about the experiments at the hospital might explain things. But they never develop it, nor does a single character even drop a line of dialogue trying to connect the dots. That was annoying. We also get this flashback tossed in to try and give the killer some backstory, but it comes off sort of lame. I mean he uses a nail gun so no inspiration there.

The best kill of the movie.
That brings me to the kills. We get a respectable thirteen, though four are rushed thru in the flashback. The highlights are a gag with a drill press and a bit with a hatchet. This is one of those movies that cuts away right as we are about to see some blood. We also get more than one kill happen offscreen where you aren’t even sure if they died. That sucks and isn’t what I would expect or want from a movie like this. One more thing to mention is that this movie was shot in 3D and while I’ve never seen it presented that way it does affect what gore we do get as they try and take advantage of the novelty of it. Overall, I was very disappointed.

Just a quick note. While I was researching this review, I discovered that there was a DVD release that restored some gore that was cut from the movie. I watched an old VHS copy of this so it might deal with some of my complaints. But even if the movie is suddenly gory as hell it still won’t deal with the myriad of other issues I have with it. The plot is muddled, and the killer is generic. There is no tension and the stalking scenes are abbreviated so we can see scheming doctors and date night instead. While it might make the movie a bit more fun added gore isn’t going to suddenly make it a good movie. I just can’t recommend this one as there are so many better options.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Friday, July 3, 2020

Blood Song (1982)

This is yet another of those slashers that kick off their story in the past. Here it is nineteen fifty-five and we see a man returning home from the airport. He walks into his house and kills his wife as well as her lover before turning the gun on himself. All of this happens in front of his young son. Well there is a slasher trope for you! Years later the grown-up child breaks out of the mental hospital by murdering an orderly for trying to take his wooden flute away. It was made for him by his father who had only taught him to play one song before the incident. That is important since he kills anyone that he thinks might take it away from him or gets annoyed that he only plays the one song.

Our other character is a high school girl named Marion. When we meet her, she is wearing a leg brace, which is also important to the plot. She was hurt in a car accident, caused by her drunken father, and had to have a blood transfusion. Guess from whom the blood came? Yep the killer. Somehow that allows her to see his crimes as he commits them. This leads to them meeting and a big showdown at a processing plant. I think that about sums this one up.

First thing I need to mention the biggest reason people, not many but we exist, are aware of this movie. The killer is played by Frankie Avalon the wholesome surfer from all those beach movies in the sixties. That is an odd, but as it turns out inspired choice. I had expected him to chew the scenery and play it over the top, but he doesn’t. Instead we get an excellent performance as he shines in the role. He is genuinely scary, even when he is delivering what could have been cheesy dialogue. There are times that the character feels genuinely unhinged, which is great. I thought this was a bit of stunt casting where they would pick a well-known actor playing against type to cover for inadequacies in the rest of the production. But that isn’t the case.

That brings me to the script. The story is solid and different from what I had seen that was made before this point in time. Blood Song was pretty early on in the slasher craze so to see such a unique take on the connection between the characters was sort of fun. Yeah, the idea that a blood transfusion could let you see into someone else’s mind is silly, but I dug it. Most importantly it was different. There are some slow spots in the movie, like the fact that it takes almost half an hour for the killer to get to town and a couple of extended stalking scenes that drag somewhat. Keeping me interested in the other parts of the story helped smooth over what could have been deal breakers.

My biggest complain about the movie are the kills. First up the yare really tame. Other than a single axe to the face there isn’t much in the way of blood. We see the killer strangle a woman and get into a fight with Marion’s Dad, played by the great Richard Jaeckel, and that is about it for the violence. Hell, there are only five kills in the entire flick! If you are looking for a body count/bloodbath then Blood Song isn’t for you. I will say there is a great gag with a severed head that I appreciated, but again manage your expectations when it comes to the gore.

In the end we have an interesting story with a great cast. In addition to the previously mentioned Frankie Avalon and Richard Jaeckel we also get a decent performance from Donna Wilkes as Marion. There was some talent here. But the lack of quality and quantity when it comes to the kills makes this a solid but not great entry into the slasher genre. Worth a watch and then I think most fans will never want or need to revisit it.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The House on Sorority Row (1982)

If I have learned anything from watching slasher movies it is that pranks never ever go right! Your shenanigans might just come back to bite you and possibly even have a body account. The House on Sorority Row is yet another of those life lessons that I think viewers should take to heart. Now that I’m done being silly let’s talk about the movie.

Things kick off in the past as we see a woman giving birth. It is a difficult delivery and there is something wrong with the baby that is only hinted at with some dialogue. Then things fast forward twenty or so years in the future. The graduating seniors of a sorority decide to stay late for one last party before heading off to their adult lives. This is frowned upon by their severe housemother, Mrs. Slater, who wants them out of the house. This leads to some conflict that results in a shredded water bet and a revenge prank involving a gun and some blanks.

You can probably figure out that the girl’s revenge on Mrs. Slater goes awry and she is accidentally shot and killed. Instead of owning up to it… this is a slasher movie… they weigh her body down and toss it in the scummy pool outback and continue with the party that night! That is a mistake as someone decides to start picking the girls and at least one party guest off. But who could it be? Is it Mrs. Slater? Could she have lived? Does it have to do with the opening scene? I’ll never tell so I guess you will just have to watch the movie to find out or go look for spoilers on the web.

This won't end well!
Don’t do the latter as this is a cool flick that deserves to be seen. The story has all the hallmarks of the slasher subgenre with the prank, mysterious killer, insanely irresponsible characters, and plenty of suspects to keep the audience guessing. The House on Sorority Row is pretty early on in the first wave of these movies so while the formula had been established it hadn’t been run into the ground yet. This one also stands out because they really do keep you guessing until the end as to who the killer is. When you do find out it is a bit of a surprise, but one that is both satisfying and plausible. The script has a lot of subtle hints as to what is going on that you won’t notice the first time thru but will catch on repeated viewings. I’ve watched this flick many times and it holds up well. To me that is the sign that it is a great script and story.

Speaking of the formula I need to note that fans looking for some good kills should be satisfied. I mean this isn’t a Friday the 13th or The Burning gorefest but there are some good gags. We get a cane to the throat, a clawhammer kill, a bashed in forehead, a mangled hand, and some butcher knife mayhem. Total kills add up to a respectable nine, with most happening onscreen. For an early eighties flick not involving Savini I was satisfied with what I got.

A few other observations. We get the required nudity if that sort of thing is important to you. I also noticed some scenes and setup that reminded me a bit of Black Christmas, but I don’t feel like they were lifting anything so that was fine. It is just a nice nod to what came before and is very creepy. There is also a bitching van with a bad ass interior, which as a child of the seventies I very much appreciated.

Overall, I’d say that while not a classic The House on Sorority Row is a solid flick that doesn’t get talked about enough. Track yourself down a copy and check it out. I’d also love to hear what you think about it.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer