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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 che...

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Corporate Animals (2019)

I do love a dark comedy and Corporate Animals is certainly that. Demi Moore plays the CEO of a company that is best known for its beauty products and edible cutlery. Because plastic is bad and it is better if you can eat your fork after eating your lunch! She has taken her employees on a team building exercise to build team spirit. When faced with a choice between choosing the easy trail or the advanced one she chooses the harder of the pair. That means they end up in a cave where an earthquake traps them and squishes their guide Brandon, played by Ed Helms.

While they are trapped some dirty laundry comes out about company, the boss (Moore’s character), and people start to hook up/crack under the pressure. To survive they realize that they have to eat Brandon. This leads to references to James Franco and the Soccer team trapped on the mountain. After a short debate they go at it and the next time we see them he is bones, and they are stuffed. We also get some of them trying a different tunnel that leads them to some trippy salamanders. Basically, shit gets weird until there is a fight and the boss ends up bleeding on the ground. Right about then they hear the rescuers coming but she insists as she is lying on the ground that she is going to rat them out and her attacker is going to jail. What can they do? Well as we have heard several times already, “Teamwork makes the dream work!”.

When I saw this pop up on Shudder, I wasn’t sure what it was. Thought I’m a fan of Ed Helms and Demi Moore is always entertaining so I gave it a shot. This is a very funny movie, though it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Things start off rather predictably with Moore playing her character as a woke and inclusive to the point of being annoying boss. She is pandering to what she thinks everyone wants her to be, but clearly underneath is as mercenary as the next corporate big wig. I’ve seen this kind of thing before, so I was sort of meh. But then she gets a bit racist, which I didn’t see coming. There is also the whole going cannibal early thing and neglecting to tell them she screwed up the paperwork so the rescuers she promised aren't coming. She plays the character wonderfully and reminded me that she has some comedic chops.

The rest of the cast is also great as they realize their world view has been twisted by the environment fostered by the corporate culture they have bought into. Watching them turn against that and find a different path is nifty and of course this being a dark comedy is punctuated by the earlier “Teamwork makes the dream work!” reference. I’m not going to spoil it because it is a great payoff. Oh, and the press conference scene is a blast as well. Given that this movie basically takes place in one location they had to have a clever story with a lot of subtext as well as some actors that have the screen presence to carry things. They nailed it.

Toss in a gnarly looking infected wound singing Britney Spears songs, some full-frontal male nudity, cannibal humor, some trippy animation, and of course lots of blood/gooey bits for a good time. Comedy can be very subjective and what one person thinks is hilarious is dumb to another. But I found Corporate Animals to be a blast and recommend that everyone gives it a chance. It might not be what you expect from Shudder, but I dig that they did something a bit different.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Monday, March 28, 2022

The Elevator (1974)

This made for television movie was one that I had been pursuing for many years. It was strangely hard to locate but eventually it popped up on YouTube, so I jumped on it right away. Why was I so interested in this one? Not only is The Elevator one of the ABC movies of the week, which I’m determined to watch all of them, but it also stars Roddy McDowall. This movie checked a couple boxes for me.

The story happens in a high-rise building where we meet several folks. They are all going about their business when the crowd onto an elevator. One that is also moving a very heavy safe from one office to another. This is important because they really should have used the freight elevator. The extra weight being pushed off causes it to fail trapping the passengers between floors. This is further complicated by the supports failing threatening to plunge the car thirty floors down! Oh and one of the people doing business that gets trapped is a claustrophobic armed robber who starts to lose his mind!

The rest of the movie is them trying to get off the elevator before it is too late. The robber’s partner, who didn’t make it on the elevator creeping around the building trying to get the money and probably save his friend. But he certainly wants the money! During his attempts to spring him he ends up shooting a security guard which brings the cops to the building. Lots of stuff is happening in this one.

You may be asking yourself “John why are you covering an almost fifty-year-old made for television movie that most everyone has forgotten about?”. That is an excellent question and I’ll answer it for you. Here we have a movie that has very few locations and next to no action. Instead it relies on a well written script executed by an amazing cast. This is far harder to do then you think and shows a care that has been lost in our reality television dominated world. The story while simple pushes a lot of buttons. There is the claustrophobic setting of the elevator, the danger as they could all die at any moment, and the wild card of the gun toting partner sneaking around the building. I found myself interesting and engaged for the entire brief seventy minutes it took for things to play out.

Roddy McDowall and Myrna Loy... awesome!
The cast is top notch. James Farentino is excellent as the panicking robber caught on the elevator. He sells the irrational fear with an at times manic performance. He really does seem terrified, which explains his later irrational behavior. Don Stroud is menacing as the other robber who is all about the money and doesn’t care who he has to kill to get it and/or cover his tracks. I mean the dude tries to cut the cable and kill all the other people trapped on the elevator because they saw his partner. Myrna Loy is great and brings her talents to bear in a surprisingly sad story arc that isn’t resolved and sort of is a bummer. Roddy McDowall is his stellar self and is given a nice monologue where he resolves to quit his job if he lives. Again, this has a strange payoff in the end. Carol Lynley (The Night Stalker) and Craig Stevens (The Deadly Mantis) also have roles in this one. Clearly, they didn’t skimp on the talent.

The care and effort put into The Elevator is a reminder that the networks, cast, writers, and directors used to care about what they were doing. This was admittedly shot to fill a couple of hours on the schedule and then play once or twice in reruns before disappearing into the network vaults. But that didn’t matter, and everyone involved did their best. That alone makes this worth checking out. And of course, we have Roddy McDowall and I’m determined to watch everything he was in! If you can find The Elevator, I’d recommend giving it a chance.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Friday, March 25, 2022

The Haunted Strangler (1958)

Boris Karloff stars in this movie about an author obsessed with solving the mystery of what he considers to be a man wrongly executed for murder. The movie opens with that man being executed while protesting his innocence. Twenty years later writer James Rankin, Karloff’s character, is digging into the details of the crime. This leads him to discovering that the medical assistant who did the autopsy on the executed man disappeared not long afterwards. Eventually he tracks the man to a mental hospital where he had escaped years earlier with the help of a nurse who had fallen in love with him! This leads to a missing knife that may be the key to the entire mystery. One that was probably buried with the executed man!

A bit of grave robbing later and Rankin has the missing knife. Though when he picks it up it appears he is possessed by the killer and goes on his own little killing spree. Is the knife haunted? If it is then why does it make him strangle people? Or is there something else happening? So many questions to answer but fear not because all is explained before the final credits roll.

Be warned that I can’t properly review this movie without some spoilers. If you like Karloff and want to check this out, then please do so. With that being said I’m about to get into the meat and potatoes of The Haunted Strangler. Here we go… This is one of the rare movies from Boris Karloff that I’ve never seen and I’m glad to have rectified that. I was really digging the plot and was totally invested in both the characters and story. The idea that the homicidal rage of a killer could be transferred from person to person thru an inanimate object like a knife was a neat twist. Imagine how disappointing it was when the movie abruptly changes gears in the third act!

Instead of what the audience was led to believe there is nothing supernatural going on here. Rankin is the escaped mental patient and his wife the nurse who fell in love with him. He had been repressing the memories of his former life, but they eventually came to the surface in his need to prove the innocence of the man who was hanged. Why? Well because he was the killer in that case as well! I’m not sure if it was guilt or a need to get credit for the murders but Rankin subconsciously needed to prove they punished the wrong man. When he grabs the knife he wasn’t being possessed but instead just remembered who he was. I guess that is a twist of sorts, but I was liking the other story better and I’m not sure why they felt the need to switch gears and changed lanes.

Karloff is great as he normally is. Other than Targets his might be his best performance from his later career. He is both sympathetic as well as terrifyingly evil at times. The movie was a low budget affair, so Karloff had to fall back on an old trick to make his character look different when he was the killer. He basically popped out his dentures and pulled in his cheeks, which was surprisingly effective. The rest of the cast is solid and do a decent job. But really this is Karloff’s show, and he carries the movie with his performance.

Not to beat a dead horse but I didn’t like the twist to the story. That said I think that Karloff’s performance saves The Haunted Strangler for me. He is so fun to watch that I can see myself popping this one back in for another watch. If you get the chance and want to see something different check it out. 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Throwback Thursday - Gone Squatchin'

note: This was another article that I wrote for Grindhouse Purgatory. I've always been a huge fan of Bigfoot movies and decided to talk about some of my favorites.  


Exploring the Shelves: Gone Squatchin’

by John Shatzer

It is time to dig into the collection again for some hidden gems. Since I’m a child of the ‘70s (yeah I know that I mentioned that last time…) it was a pretty obvious choice that I’d get around to doing some Bigfoot movies sooner or later. Why not make it sooner? It’s time for Exploring the Shelves to go Squatchin’.

One of the first Bigfoot type movies that I ever saw was The Mysterious Monsters from 1975. This one is also known as Bigfoot: The Mysterious Monster.  It is one of those great “documentaries” from Schick Sun and is narrated by the Peter Graves (remember him from my last Exploring the Shelves… Beginning of the End). It is played completely straight, so much so that I always wondered if the people making the movie believed in Bigfoot. We get reenactments of supposed sightings along with various vaguely scientific examinations of the evidence.

This movie has a special place in my heart.  I remember watching it on TV when I was growing up and it is the first time that I remember being really scared. There is a scene where a Bigfoot breaks thru a window and grabs at a woman. I swear to God it was a year before I would turn my back to anything other than a solid wall. I’ll readily admit that I might be a bit biased in my opinion of this movie, but I love it. It has such an awesome cheesy vibe to it that I can’t help but watch it at least once a year. This was one of the first VHS tapes that I tracked down when I started heavily getting back into collecting movies again in the late ‘90s. From the terrible looking costumes to the faulty logic, it is a great time. I mean they attempt to prove Bigfoot is real by using the scientifically accepted fact that the Loch Ness monster has been found… The ‘70s were such an innocent time or maybe I just was. Perhaps my perspective is off on this one, but I’ve always considered The Mysterious Monsters to be the gold standard of the ‘70s Bigfoot craze. 

Time for another classic from the decade of the 1970s. This time I popped in The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972) from director Charles B. Pierce. This movie also is a series of reenactments of supposed sightings of the Boggy Creek monster. This time instead of playing like a documentary there is an offscreen narrator that ties them together and it follows a more traditional story structure. There are some creepy moments, especially towards the end when a family is attacked by the creature over a couple of nights.

Legend of Boggy Creek is another fun bit of ‘70s drive-in cinema. We never get a good look at the creature, but it certainly seems like Bigfoot. I’ve always been fascinated by how the movie is put together. Pierce took a series of supposed encounters with the creature and using a manufactured wraparound actually tied them together into a cohesive storyline. Most of the time when a movie tries to do this it fails miserably, but it works here. That said there are a few spots where they are obviously padding the runtime with some shots of nature including some close ups of trees with wildlife sounds loudly playing. If you are going to watch some “classic” Bigfoot movies, then this is a must see.  I don’t like it as much as Mysterious Monsters because it of the padding, but it is still pretty good. 

Speaking of padding a movie out with some nature footage I think the time has come to talk about Ivan Marx’s The Legend of Bigfoot (1976). Many fans consider this movie to be a big tease. It is presented in the form of a documentary but the majority of the movie is really nothing more than footage of the wilderness and the creatures that live there. Marx cleverly repackaged shots of squirrels, rabbits, and such as a Bigfoot documentary. The narration loosely ties the footage you are watching in with possible habitats and migration of an unknown ape like creature aka. Bigfoot. 

The Legend of Bigfoot is admittedly slow and doesn’t deliver any real Bigfoot “action”, but I’ve always had a soft spot for it. The footage that Marx captured of the Pacific Northwest is beautiful. The narration over the animals he caught on camera is very well done and entertaining in its own way. The fact that they managed to exploit the Bigfoot craze and trick audiences into maybe learning something only makes me like this more. I get it when fans get angry about being fooled, but then again isn’t that the heart of a good exploitation movie? 

Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot (1977) is an interesting movie.  While The Legend of Bigfoot is treated like a documentary, The Mysterious Monsters is sort of a documentary with reenactments, and The Legend of Boggy Creek is nothing but reenactments Sasquatch tries to be all this and more.

It starts off with some nature footage, tosses in some news clippings to prove Bigfoot is real, and then gives us a voice over from a science guy. He is leading an expedition to a part of the Pacific Northwest that a fancy computer has predicted to be the home of the Sasquatch. We are introduced to his motley collection of companions in yet another voice over and off they head into the woods. The rest of the movie is part nature footage, part staged drama (including flashbacks!), and finally part documentary complete with philosophical musings played over the same song in a loop.

I had to include Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot. The movie is slow at times but is packed with so many tropes of the genre that it is a must see if you are going to check out Bigfoot movies. Frolicking racoons, goofy looking furry suited extras, and that groovy ‘70s tunes come together to make something that isn’t good but is fun. Yeah I know it doesn’t make much sense but it is worth checking out if you like this sort of thing… 

The Snowbeast!
Obviously, Bigfoot was big business in the ‘70s so of course TV had to get in on the fun. Hell, Bigfoot showed up on the Six Million Dollar Man! Of these many appearances I chose my personal favorite from 1977 Snowbeast. Here you have the hairy protagonist terrorizing a Ski Lodge by killing off a few of the guests. It is up to a former Gold Medal winning skier and his friends to kill the creature so that once again everyone can enjoy the slopes without fear of being murdered.

Since this was made for TV, there is no nudity or gore, though until the next decade that wasn’t a big component of Bigfoot movies so not a big deal. All the deaths are more implied, and it works well. This is further solidified by some killer dialogue and great performances from the cast. You get to see some familiar genre actors like Bo Svenson and Clint Walker who get to have fun chewing up the scenery.  The creature itself isn’t seen much and when you do see it is clearly a guy in a suit. But they handle that well enough that it isn’t a distraction from the fun. Snowbeast is a public domain movie and easy enough to find if you want to watch it, and really you should.

The ‘80s might have been dominated with Slasher movies but there were also Bigfoot movies. There are a couple that I need to talk about. First up from 1980 is Night of the Demon. Here again we have a familiar story about an investigator who hauls a group of people into the woods to explore rumors about the Bigfoot. Though since we first meet him in the hospital all torn up and the movie is explained in flashbacks we know this isn’t going to end well.

Bigfoot on VHS!
In many ways this movie took Bigfoot and shoehorned the big fella into a slasher style plot. Here Bigfoot isn’t portrayed as some mysterious creature roaming the woods. Nope this time he is a bloodthirsty killer that prowls around adding to a growing body count. Tied in with that is a subplot involved how he came to exist, which of course has that typical ‘80s sleazy feel to it that we all love. There are lots of kills, some bloody and some implied. This includes the one kill that convinced me I had to see the movie when it was at my local Mom and Pop rental store. I mean when you stroll in on a Friday night and ask the clerk what is cool and he responds, “have you ever seen a Bigfoot rip a guy’s dick off” it gets added to the must watch list. Or at least it did for me. Sadly, other than that one kill the rest of the movies has that mediocre made for VHS rental feel to it.

Next up is a sequel to the earlier drive-in movie The Legend of Boggy Creek.  Time to talk about Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues (1985). This time around director Charles B. Pierce casts himself as a professor of anthropology that takes some students into the swamp to search for the creature. They not only come face to face with it, but also have to deal with a rabid dog and a crazy local that has one of the creatures locked up in a closet! To lighten up the mood the professor tells the students some stories, which gives them an excuse to do some re-enactments like the original. 

While I love the original Boggy Creek this one fails to live up to the original. Instead of a series of encounters that are short and tend to hide the deficiencies of the movie here we get a main story and a couple of re-enactments. That means we spend way too much time focused on the professor and his students. The acting is weak, and the scripting/dialogue is bad as well. Also, the creature is shown way too much and is clearly just a guy in an ape costume. I don’t know how Pierce missed so badly with this one, but he must not really of understood what made the first movie work. There are a couple interesting bits, mostly in the re-enactments of previous encounters, but if this weren’t a sequel to a movie that I enjoyed so much I don’t know that it would have made the cut and been included on my list. It is certainly not worth a second look, once is enough. 

I know that someone is going to call me out on skipping the ‘90s. In general horror was in a rut and I honestly can’t think of a single Bigfoot movie that I’d want to mention from that decade. Though I’m sure someone will point out one that I missed, but that is part of the fun of doing an article like this.  So I’ll skip right to the ‘2000s.

Scream Queen Tiffany Shepis meets a bad end
in Abominable
In a decade that thanks to The Blair Witch Project was dominated by found footage movies we did get a nice batch of Bigfoot flicks. Most of them were made for the Sci-Fi channel or at least with it as a potential outlet. This lead to many poorly done CGI crap fests that kept Lance Henriksen working for a few years. There were so many movies to choose from but the only one that I really have a lot of affection for is 2006’s Abominable.

A man named Preston returns, with his nurse, to his home on a remote mountain for the first time since a terrible accident. An accident that left his wife dead and him in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. The only thing around for miles is his cabin and the one next door. The peace and quiet is shattered by a group of young women that show up at the neighbor’s cabin. Thru a strange series of twists only Preston sees one of the young women get taken into the woods by someone or something. With the phone lines down and his nurse thinking he is just stressed-out Preston watches helpless as Bigfoot mercilessly stalks the women next door.

This is Bigfoot meets Hitchcock’s Rear Window. You have a character that is stuck in a wheelchair watching a houseful of young pretty girls getting picked off by a Sasquatch. Of course, no one believes him and try as he might to convince them the body count rises. You get good kills, some tension, and a wicked ending. Toss in a few cameos from genre vets and you have a solid, entertaining movie. 

As I mentioned earlier found footage movies were and to some extent still are the rage. Let me be clear that I’m not a huge fan of found footage movies. They always come off cheap and are a crutch for filmmakers that don’t have the resources or talent to shoot a traditional movie. It also doesn’t help that they all follow the same exact formula. You take a group of characters, isolate them, have odd things happen, and eventually everyone dies. I mean that must happen otherwise the footage wouldn’t be just found, and we would have a voice over or something. So right from the start there are no surprises. In fact, the only thing that surprised me is that it took so long for this kind of movie to take advantage of the subgenre of Bigfoot flicks. Welcome to the new millennium where everyone had a camera and is wandering around the woods getting into trouble with the Bigfoot.

First up let's talk about Willow Creek (2013). This movie follows a young man named Jim. He has decided to make his own documentary about Bigfoot and drags his girlfriend Kelly along with him for the trip. They decide to head out to Willow Creek where some famous footage of a sighting had been shot decades before. Along the way to the woods we see them visit and joke around with some locals. It is clear that they aren’t taking things seriously at all. They eventually wander into the woods armed with some vague directions. What do they find? Well, what do you think they find?

Like I said I’m not a big fan of found footage flicks, but Willow Creek I was excited about. It is directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. The man has made some good dark comedies like Shakes the Clown. I was interested in checking out what he could do with a movie like this, and I wasn’t disappointed. It has some pacing issues in the beginning as the characters and situation is setup. I didn’t really care for the characters of Jim and Kelly as they keep doing stupid things like wandering in the woods without having a clue as to what they are doing. The fact that it sticks so closely to the formula was also sort of boring. But the second half of the movie more than makes up for this. 

There is an extended sequence of them sitting in a tent at night with something prowling the woods around them that is nerve wracking.  We hear all sorts of noises that are clearly getting closer to them as time passes. Eventually things start getting tossed on the tent and maybe something is pushing or grabbing on it. If you have ever been in the woods at night you already know how creepy it is and this nightmarish situation just keeps going and going. It was genuinely scary. I appreciated how the sequence created tension with just sound and the idea that something was out there with them. I found myself along with the characters straining to hear what was going on, which set me up for some great jump scares. 

After morning comes the characters try to leave, but of course are lost. Night comes again and things end how you would expect them to. Is Willow Creek a great movie? No but I’d say that it is solid. I bought a copy from iTunes and feel like I got my money’s worth which in my experience with found footage movies is the exception to the rule. 

The Lost Coast Tapes (2012) is more of a mixed bag. It too is a found footage movie. Here we have a host/journalist that used to do one of those ghost shows (or something similar I suppose). He is involved in some sort of hoax that discredits him and heads off into the woods to get his reputation back by doing a legitimate investigation. Only this time he heads out as a skeptic to disprove a hunter’s claim that he has a dead Bigfoot in his possession. After much walking and creepy sounds at night the characters find out that there might be something to the claims after all.

Like Willow Creek these characters seem intent on dying. They keep wandering deeper into the forest and towards the danger. I also wasn’t terribly fond of the characters in this movie, especially the main character Sean. Then again that might have been on purpose. There are a few scary moments in this one, but for the most part I found most of the movie to be slow. We don’t get a great deal of tension created which sort of killed the atmosphere for me. I have a rule that when I start a movie I always stick around to the end and with The Lost Coast Tapes I’m glad that I did. The ending is a unique twist on the Bigfoot mythology and is hinted at throughout the story. So, there is a bit of a payoff that might make it worth watching if you are really into these kinds of movies (Bigfoot and found footage).

Can’t talk about Bigfoot movies without mentioning at least one of the odd entries into the subgenre. There are all sorts of strange Bigfoot movies out there. They range from family friendly fare like Harry and the Hendersons all the way to Bigfoot porn. I’m not going to talk about either of those, but instead chose The Beauties and the Beast from 1974. It wasn’t until researching this article that I realized this came out before The Mysterious Monsters. The action opens with a scientist sort of guy standing in the shadows talking about Bigfoot and how he might be real and what he might be up to. Well as it turns out he is sneaking around the woods watching girls get naked and grabbing them… sometimes anyway. I mean he kind of leaves others alone for no reason.

This is the worst of the movies that I decided to watch and mention here. The story is all over the place with Bigfoot, Hippies, softcore simulated sex (think Cinemax), criminals, and probably a few things that I missed. There are plot holes like some of the characters talking about a hermit that implies some part of the movie is missing. Really, I checked the runtime on IMDB to see if my copy had been cut up! Oh, and there is a bit with coins and recently released criminals coming to claim them that is confusing. I mean one throwaway line of dialogue doesn’t really cut it. The best part is that Bigfoot is kind of a hero at the end of the movie and wanders away with the hermit. Only what the hell happened to the women he kidnapped and sealed in a cave? 

The Beauties and the Beast isn’t for everyone. In fact, the only reason I even mention it is because it is such an odd exploitation movie with a Bigfoot connection that I would feel remiss in not talking about it. This one is a mess and is only for the hardcore movie nerd.

This was both the easiest and hardest article that I’ve had to write for Grindhouse Purgatory. The reason for both was the volume of Bigfoot movies that I could cover. I love these kinds of movies and have stacks of them in my collection. It was easy to find what I wanted to watch and write about, or so I thought. I quickly realized that I had far too many on the list to make it feasible for an article. So, I had to start cutting them down. First to go were the ‘90s movies including Search for the Beast which I only like because David Friedman had a small part in it. 1970s “classic” Bigfoot starring John Carradine also didn’t make the cut. I even pulled out my favorite regional filmmaker Bill Rebane’s The Capture of Bigfoot! Hard choices had to be made. If you think that I’ve overlooked something, feel free to email me a gutmunchers@gmail.com.  I’d love to hear from you and talk Bigfoot movies. 

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The Bermuda Triangle (1979)

Time for another of these awesome documentaries from the seventies. Last time I checked out Mysterious Monsters, this time it is The Bermuda Triangle. The movie is another production from Sunn Classics and is produced by Chuck Sellier, best known as director of Silent Night Deadly Night. I’ve already covered The Mysterious Monsters here if you are interested in more cheesy goodness. Now onto the review.

First let me get something out of the way. This documentary was based on the best-selling book from Charles Berlitz. In the years since they first came out much of what he cited as evidence of paranormal activity has been debunked. He also has been criticized for ignoring the most obvious and scientific explanation for phenomenon and substituting crazy supernatural stuff as the most “likely” cause. Spoilers I love stuff like this, but don’t take it seriously. When I was a kid, I was obsessed but I know that this is mostly all nonsense that has been disproven. I watch this for entertainment purposes only.

Things kick off with a narrator who looks knowledgeable and trustworthy. He explains about the triangle and its long history of strange phenomenon and disappearances. He beings telling stories, which play out on screen with reenactments. First up is Columbus encountering UFOs and a spinning compass. Never read that in the history books. We then see a derelict ship with skeletal bodies appear and disappear in a storm. There is even a flying dutchman story, complete with a future king of England seeing it!

You think that is spooky. Wait until they get to Flight Nineteen. I’m sure if you know anything about the Triangle this story is familiar to you. It has been gone over again and again in much more detail by other documentaries since this one. Shortly after World War II a training flight out of Miami disappeared into the Triangle. This reenactment takes up a bit of the movie and feels a bit padded. They also claim that the flight was fully manned which is something that I’ve only ever seen Berlitz claim.

The narrator seems trustworthy!
Here is where things get fun. We are hit rapid fire with some theories to explain boats and ships disappearing without a trace. One is unexploded mines and bombs from a couple world wars. Another has to do with blue holes and whirlpools. We also get underwater earthquakes, tidal waves, and waterspouts. These are all verifiable natural occurrences that have been seen in the Triangle before. But since they don’t explain every disappearance, we get another more “plausible” theory. Atlantis! Maybe there is ancient Atlantean technology that either has a death beam or maybe causes time vortexes. And if that doesn’t work for you the only other logical explanation is ALIENS!

Seriously I love how cheesy this one is. If Atlantis and Aliens aren’t enough fun we also get some conspiracies too. Charles Wakely who experienced a weird encounter in the triangle and spent the rest of his life digging into it, until he was shot! We also get the story of M.K. Jessup who called a friend and fellow researcher to arrange an impromptu meeting due to a big break in the case of the Philadelphia Experiment. Berlitz ties this to the Triangle because Aliens clearly use the same technology… Anyway, Jessup is found dead in his car of an apparent suicide. The documentary leaves you hanging as to who killed him since it was clearly a setup. They neglect to mention that his books had stopped selling, his latest was rejected by the publisher, and his wife left him. These little omissions are why people question Berlitz’s work.

I will freely admit that much of my enjoyment of this documentary comes from nostalgia. I saw it as a kid, was fascinated by all sorts of spooky stuff like this and remember it fondly. While not as good or nearly as fun as Mysterious Monsters (Peter Graves rules!) I can still recommend The Bermuda Triangle if you are willing and able to turn off the critical thinking part of your brain and watch it for entertainment value.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The Werewolf of Woodstock (1975)

Damn I found another batch of made for television movies that I’ve not seen before. The first on to jump off the page at me was The Werewolf of Woodstock. Set days after Woodstock left the surrounding countryside wrecked and full of garbage an angry farmer runs outside in a storm. Running onto a stage he grabs a live wire and is electrocuted. He survives and is next seen laying in his bed covered in bandages. Then we get to see a group of hippies headed to Woodstock to record their demo tape. Mostly just as a gimmick to say that it was recorded at Woodstock.

Here is where things get weird… or maybe even weirder! The farmer turns into a werewolf because he was electrocuted and because he hates hippies. I’m not kidding here folks; this is the story. He runs around, kills a cop, attacks a hippy, kidnaps a girl, steals a dune buggy, and is chased down by an L. A. cop who was visiting. How do you kill a werewolf that was created with hatred and electricity? With of silver bullet of course.

I loved this movie. From the farmer raging out and yelling, “You miserable freaks!” to the dune buggy carjacking The Werewolf of Woodstock gave me stuff I’ve never seen before. The story, while absurd, is fascinating to watch unfold. Leaps of logic come from nowhere, like the fancy lady psychiatrist going immediately to werewolf. What rational person would jump to that conclusion without any evidence? The answer is a character in this movie! The dialogue is very seventies with lots of “lay it on you mans” and “enough bad karmas” to make any of you groovy cats happy. There is a lot going on here which is why the time flies right by. Before you know it the silver bullet brings down our hairy hippie hating predator!

The cast of this movie is insane. Two of the hippies are played by Belinda Belaski (Food of the Gods, Piranha) and Andrew Stevens (Day of the Animals, Vigilante Force). These are early roles for both but the talent is obvious. We also get the amazing Michael Parks (The Savage Bees, Planet Terror) as the visiting L.A. cop. If that isn’t enough Robert Dix (Satan’s Sadists, Five Bloody Graves) has a small part. Basically, this is the last role he would have, though he did something right before he passed away forty three years later.

There is an odd look to Werewolf of Woodstock. It was shot on tape like the soap operas of the day, so the image quality is not great. It feels very much like a Dark Shadows episode. I know that some people are turned off by things like this, but it doesn’t bother me as much. Still, I thought you should be warned. The werewolf is basically a guy in a mask and furry gloves. Cheesy as hell it works for this movie and is fun to see on the small screen.

Do I recommend this movie? The werewolf carjacks a dune buggy so hell yes! I miss goofy and weird seventies television movies like this. They don’t make them like Werewolf of Woodstock anymore and that is a damn shame. Track this one down and check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Friday, March 18, 2022

Leprechaun Returns (2018)

After many less than stellar sequels and an abomination of a movie attempting to retell the origins Syfy channel decided to take another bite at the Leprechaun apple with a direct sequel to the original flick as an attempt to ignore all the other sequels and prequels. It worked for Halloween so I suppose it could work here.

We are introduced to our main character, Lila, as she waits for her ride to pick her up. She has just transferred to a new school and joined a sorority that is fixing up an old house and trying to live off the grid. This has something to do with being green or that sort of thing. It is mentioned but isn’t important to the story other than to place the characters at the isolated house. What is important is that the house is the same one that Lila’s mother used to own. Yeah, she is the daughter of Jennifer Aniston’s character from the original movie.

As you would expect the girls end up disturbing the resting place of the Leprechaun and he returns in a most explosive way. The only recurring character is that of the handyman Ozzie, played again by Mark Holton, who unfortunately gets a bit of Leprechaun goo on him and ends up becoming his portal. The Leprechaun basically bursts from his stomach bringing that gold coin that I suppose has been in his colon for twenty-five years. From that point on it is a series of kills as the college kids are picked off by the angry little bastard who just wants his gold back. Though I suspect he would kill them even if he did get it.

Ozzie is back!
Honestly, I had very low expectations when I sat down to watch this one, but it is a Leprechaun flick so I’m going to soldier on regardless. This is pleasantly and surprisingly decent movie and one of the best I’ve seen from the franchise in years. The story is well constructed and wastes little time establishing the characters before unleashing the mayhem on them. I liked how they tied this into the first movie without making it feel forced or awkward. Clearly Jennifer Aniston wasn’t going to return for another low budget horror movie but choosing Ozzie as the bridge was inspired. In many ways he was the best character if not the actor with the best career afterwards.

The new characters/cast are all really good. There is some talent here in front of the camera and it is clear they are all giving it their best effort. That doesn’t always happen with a flick like this, so I appreciate it when I see it. The biggest concern that I had is the recasting of the titular Leprechaun as Warwick Davis wasn’t returning to the role. This wasn’t the filmmaker’s fault as Davis just didn’t want to do this movie. Still his performance was the reason that the sequels kept getting made so those were some big shoes to fill, pun not intended. Linden Porco does a wonderful job in the role and is every bit as snarky and funny as Davis was in his many times playing the character. This is clear early on and once I saw that I relaxed and kicked back to enjoy the craziness.

Love the creature design
Leprechaun Returns really is a crazy movie, especially considering it was made for T.V. The kills are cleverly staged and executed with practical effects work. In addition to Ozzie’s demise, which is fantastic and all onscreen. We get some gems like death by water sprinkler, a mail truck head smashing, death by drone, and another character is “awarded” their demise. Though my favorite kill in both execution and creativity is the death by solar panel gag. There is a lot to like here and I’ve not even mentioned the creature redesign of the titular character. Spoilers they do a fantastic job with that as well.

The next time you see a reboot or re-imagining of an old favorite of yours think about what could be. With a little bit of creativity, you can make a sequel and if things are too muddied you can ignore it by making it a direct sequel and sort of resetting things that way. If you make a good movie like we have here, then the fans will embrace it. If you haven’t seen Leprechaun Returns, then I highly recommend you correct that right away.

 

Ó Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Leprechaun 4: In Space (1996)

It is about to get weird up in Crappy Movie Reviews. I knew when I decided to tackle the Leprechaun series that I would do them completely out of order. But Leprechaun in Space couldn’t wait. Yeah, the little green bastard ends up doing his thing in the stars and battles with some space marines “Aliens” style! Might as well get right to the good stuff…

A ship is dispatched to a planet to deal with a monster that has been terrorizing the galaxy. That monster is the Leprechaun who is up to his old tricks. Not only is his planet full of gold, but he has also kidnapped a princess so that he might convince her to marry him. I guess the green fella wants to be a king as well as rich! The military types transport down and do battle with him which ends up with the princess injured and the Leprechaun in pieces. Well, I guess the movie is over after ten minutes. Of course it isn’t!

One of the marines decides to pee on the bits of the Leprechaun. That allows him to hitch a ride back in the man’s… well you can probably figure it out. Once he “escapes” in a very uncomfortable scene the rest of the movie is the Leprechaun fighting it out with the marines on the ship. Though he tells them that if they would only give the princess back he promises to leave them alive. But then after watching four of these movies I can see why the characters might have trust issues. Crazy stuff happens, lots of characters die, we get some mutations, and a giant Leprechaun! Good times are had by all.

This is one of those movies that I sit down to watch with limited expectations. It is very low budget, has a completely goofy plot, and is filled with questionable special effects. While I think that the first couple of entries into the franchise are decent flicks, this one is where the franchise starts to get silly. I know that annoys some fans, but me not so much. While I agree that Leprechaun 4 has issues the core of why I watch and enjoy these flicks is still there. Let me explain.

George Lucas is gonna sue somebody's ass!
Warwick Davis is great again in his role. His wisecracks are spot on and pretty much every attempt at humor hits the mark. The movie spends a lot of time focused on him, which is great. Regardless of budget as long as they give him screen time these movies work for me. The guy can act, has the charisma to carry a scene, and knows exactly how to play the character for laughs while still being scary. Though honestly, he really isn’t that scary here. I thought that casting genre regular Miguel A. Nunez was another fantastic choice. He also is fun to watch and helps to carry the scenes with the marines when the Leprechaun isn’t killing them. He also handles the silliness of the material well delivering his one-liners with skill and timing.

We get a lot of bad CGI when it comes to the spacecraft and when they land on the planet. But I’m okay with that as long as they get the creature right. The makeup effect work on the creature is again handled by Gabe Bartalos and it looks great. The one thing that would have made me hate Leprechaun 4 is if they had screwed up on the creature effects. Davis looks as cool in this movie as he has in any of the earlier entries so good job guys.

Be warned that I like cheesy flicks and Leprechaun 4: in Space falls squarely into that category. If you are looking to watch a serious horror movie this isn’t for you. With that in mind I recommend it.

 

Ó Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Leprechaun (1993)

Time to take a closer look at another horror franchise. I thought it was about time that I poked around the franchise that gave Warwick Davis his horror cred by casting him as a leprechaun trying to protect his gold from greedy people. And of course, getting a bit homicidal along the way.

The first installment opens with a man returning home from Ireland with a bag full of gold. While in the old country for his mother’s funeral he captured a Leprechaun, forcing him to hand over his loot. Those are apparently the rules. I guess it isn’t against the rules for that same Leprechaun to track him down and retrieve the gold by any means necessary. Though the man manages to trap him in a crate, he has a heart attack before finishing the job.

Years later a new family moves into the house. The daughter, played by a very young pre-Friends Jennifer Aniston, and her dad hire some local housepainters to help clean up the place, which has fell into disrepair in the ten years since the little green guy was trapped. During this process they free the Leprechaun and he goes looking for his gold. Gold which a pair of them found earlier! A couple of people die before they cough up the loot to get the homicidal wee folk off their back. But they are short one coin which happens to be residing in the stomach of the man child Ozzie. Uh oh…

I’ve always liked Leprechaun. Warwick Davis has a lot of charisma and is having a blast playing the character. He manages to have some very funny dialogue all while being a gleeful maniac. Personally, I take his performance here over any of the Robert Englund Freddy movies, but to be fair I’m not a big Nightmare on Elm Street guy. Still that is how much I like Davis’ performance here. I do want to give credit to the script and direction which allows him to flourish in the role. Dialogue is clever and a bit cheeky at times, while never straying too far from the horror. And the way the movie is shot and edited makes it a fast-paced blast from start to finish.

The special effects work is stellar. While the movie is a bit light on kills, we still get some fun stuff. You have a nasty looking bite on the hand, a bear trap to the leg, claws to the face, and death by pogo stick. Now it isn’t an explicit gore fest, but there is something here to enjoy. The creature design for the Leprechaun is amazing. It is both creepy and functional allowing Davis to give a performance underneath the latex. While doing my research I discovered that Gabe Bartolos (Darkman, Friday VI) worked on them so the fact that I enjoyed this part of the movie doesn’t surprise me. Bartolos always does great work.

Because of the sequels, which to be clear I do love, I think this movie gets a bad rap as being all cheese with little substance. That isn’t fair because this is a great horror flick. You get some scares, some laughs, and a pretty girl. What the heck else could you want? I recommend it.

 

Ó Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Monday, March 14, 2022

Bingo Hell (2021)

It must have been a couple of years ago when I watched a short film on Shudder called El Gigante about a man who wakes up with a Luchador mask on his head who is forced to fight for his life in a wrestling match. I enjoyed the heck out of it and it wasn’t until I started poking around Bingo Hell that I discovered that the same director, Gigi Saul Guerrero was responsible for this one as well. Needless to say I was excited to check it out.

The Oak Springs neighborhood has seen better days. The local economy is starting to pick up with hipsters moving in and starting microbreweries and coffee shops. But this leaves locals like Lupita wondering what is to become of their neighborhood. When a new Bingo Hall opens up or rather a new owner takes over an existing one things get odd. The prizes are way larger then they should be and the winners all end up dead not long afterwards. Soon the entire neighborhood is marked and playing the game in a catatonic like state. That is of course except Lupita, who grabs a shotgun and goes after Mr. Big, the creepy dude who runs the game. People die, the place is burned down, and Lupita learns a valuable lesson about community.

This is a very well made and entertaining movie. The story is filled with characters the audience can relate too and root for. Lupita is holding onto her memories and friends for dear life in the face of change. Things aren’t what they used to be and that makes her uncomfortable. I’ve gotten to that point in my own life where I can relate. I love it when horror movies take the time to have a story that connects beyond the monster is going to get us trope. Don’t get me wrong I dig that as well, I just appreciate good writing. The fact that Guerrero is able to tell this story on a lower budget is impressive. I can’t wait to see what she makes next.

Mr. Big
The cast is great especially Adriana Barraza as Lupita. Here you have an older woman who legitimately feels like a bad ass. When she grabs the shotgun and goes off to save her friends and neighborhood it doesn’t feel forced or silly. This is partly due again to the great writing and establishing of the character but is also a credit to her performance as well. Lupita kicks much ass! Though for many fans the scenery chewing Mr. Big, played by genre favorite Richard Brake, is going to be the highlight. He is very good in the role, which is basically playing the same character he is in every genre movie I’ve seen him appear in. He does it very well, but it is also predictable. Not sure if that is a limitation with his acting or if that is all anyone offers him.

Lupita Kicks Ass!
The movie has a bit of gore. We get a woman tearing at her skin pealing it off, and a mechanic sticking his hands into a fan blade. That one is a bit gooey as the blood sprays everywhere. Though we only see the aftermath very briefly. The most explicit kill has a recovering addict getting his head stomped by Mr. Big. Again, this is a lower budget movie so I managed my expectations and enjoyed what they did give us.

I really enjoyed Bingo Hell and recommend that everyone give it a chance. This is the kind of quirky horror movie that can launch careers and become something to revisit every couple of years. As of the writing of this review it is streaming on Amazon Prime. Check it out.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

 

 

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Frankenstein meets the Spacemonster (1965)

Colonel Frank is about to be shot into space on a dangerous mission. What the public doesn’t know is that he is a machine made up with body parts and an electronic brain. While he is being launched into space some Martians arrive and think that the ship is a rocket being shot at them! They in turn cause it to crash but realize that it wasn’t a weapon and contained a passenger, so they land near where it crashed. They want to capture the astronaut so he can’t let anyone know there are in orbit. They are on a secret mission to capture human women to repopulate their planet after “winning” a nuclear war killed all the females but their princess. 

Dr. Steel, played by James Karen in what I think is his first movie role, and his assistant head off to the crash site as well hoping to find and repair Frank who was damaged in the crash. This brings them into conflict with the Martians, but lucky for them the damaged Frank is able to fight them as well as the monster they brought along in a cage. Makes sense, right? Of course it doesn’t… this is an awful movie!

I hope you like stock footage because according to IMDB this movie is about sixty five percent stock footage. We see rockets launch, fighters flying, army troops deploying, and lots of jeeps. Frankenstein meets the Spacemonster is one of the craziest examples of a movie that is padded out with this kind of footage to cover their lack of budget as well as the lack of plot. Characters enter and exit the story without explanation. We do see a couple of recognizable actors in the previously mentioned James Karen and veteran character actor Bruce Glove, but neither of them is going to put this on their resume. They are clearly struggling with the material if you can even call it that. The remainder of the cast is utterly forgettable and at times annoying. 

Based on the sets and makeup that is original it seems that they had very little money. The Martians, who by the way in the movie are never called that but are in the promotional material, are brought to screen with a series of terrible skull caps with visible lines where the makeup isn’t blended in. Those are the ones you get to see without their space helmets. The rest of the crew is clearly just actors in jumpsuits and generic space helmets. The creatures are okay. Frank is decent and the full rubber spacemonster put a smile on my face. Sadly, the interior and exterior of the spaceship is terrible. Also, unless this son of a bitch is a Tardis the scale doesn’t match at all! Damn did I just get too nerdy? 

What else do I want to mention? We have overly dramatic musical cues combined with a generic soundtrack to make Frankenstein meets the Spacemonster as boring audibly as it is visually. There are phone calls made with rotary phones that clearly aren’t attached to anything. With the previously mentioned massive amounts of stock footage this movie manages to be bad without any of the charm that can come from being so awful. I recommend skipping this turkey. 


© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer