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Featured Post - Mystery Movie Marathon

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

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Mammoth (2006)

I thought that I’d end my October 2023 movie review marathon with my all time favorite Sci-Fi Channel original. I watch this one every year but somehow had never covered it for the site. I’m guess I kept thinking I had already covered Mammoth, but I hadn’t. I also suppose it was a spoiler telling you that it is my all-time favorite from the Sci-Fi channel. Oh well, onto the review.

There is a frozen mammoth carcass being studied by a scientist named Frank. He leaves work late to take his daughter, Jack, for her driving test. We see that he is late when she is watching old movies with her grandpa and Frank’s Dad Simon. This is our primary family unit and main characters along with a man in black type who happens to be a lady named Agent Powers as well as Jack’s boyfriend Squirrelly.

Okay now back to the story. While poking around the frozen mammoth Frank accidentally activates a doohickey that calls to space. We see a spaceship shoot something to Earth in response. It crashes into the museum and turns into some living liquid that then animates the mammoth’s corpse. It goes on a rampage killing folks and doing alien invader type stuff. This includes crashing a high school party filled with thirty year olds. Eventually our heroes figure out that while they can’t destroy it they can refreeze it which leads to an exciting showdown at a factory where they do just that.

This is a simple movie that takes the standard low budget formula that was used not only in these made for television Sci-Fi channel originals but also for the cheapie fifties flicks that I love as well and has some fun with it. Fun is the operative word here as this isn’t the sort of movie that should be taken seriously. The story is filled with all the tropes you would expect including a monster stomping around unnoticed by anyone not top billed, government agents who show up with all sorts of mysterious technology, and some bumbling slapstick from characters who only seem to exist to be incompetent. That last bit is what makes Mammoth such a good time as instead of trying to be serious it leans into the jokes and laughs. Let me give you some examples.

We have the boyfriend, Squirrelly, who stumbles around putting himself in danger along with a couple of sheriff deputies that lean more into silly dialogue that shows them to be less than intelligent. There are also some goofy bits with a one handed medical examiner who along with the sheriff have a huge secret that is only revealed when needed to crack some wise. There is even a funny throwaway gag with what I’d like to call Jurassic dentures. Trust me if you watch Mammoth you will know exactly the scene I’m talking about. I’m thinking that either this was added back in after it was broadcast or if it did air on cable the censors missed what was implied.

Even the actors playing straight man, or I suppose men get to have some fun with goofy dialogue. Vincent Ventresca, who plays Frank, gets to have fun with dialogue talking about having a daughter and worrying about all the wieners as well as the classic “Did you give her the WEED?”. But the one who is clearly having the most fun is Tom Skerritt playing Grandpa Simon. He is the true believer of the family and has all sorts of fun with is conspiracy theories as well as thinking the gorilla suit wearing singing telegram is the lead creature of an invasion of space monkeys!

The special effects aren’t great. As is the case with most Sci-Fi channel originals this is all CGI and hasn’t held up well. Though it probably wasn’t great to begin with. The mammoth stomps around but does very little interaction with the actors. Most of the kills are hidden either behind the mammoth or some other object like a car or building. The best gag in the movie is probably the hand in the morgue. Even that is played for laughs as we see it scurrying around in the background. Truthfully, I appreciated that they knew the limits on what they could do and had fun with it. If they tried to be serious then the bad CGI would have likely been a dealbreaker for me.

I’m telling you guys this is a silly flick and a lot of fun. You just need to turn off your brain and have a good time. If you want a serious or scary creature feature then Mammoth isn’t the movie for you. It is one of those perfect excuses to invite some friends over, crack open a beer, and laugh your ass off.  I highly recommend it.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

Monday, October 30, 2023

Zombie Town (2023)

I’m a bit older than many of you who frequent the site, so I was never a “Goosebumps kid”. Though I totally understand the sense of nostalgia that many of you have for the book series and the Saturday morning show. Anything that introduces the next generation to the spooky stuff gets a big thumbs up from me. That said I actually really dug the first Goosebumps movie with Jack Black and those Fear Street flicks that Netflix did from another R.L. Stine property were pretty good as well. I had hope we were going to have some more fun when I saw this movie based on one of his books show up to stream on Hulu.

Mike hates horror movies and can’t wait to “escape” from his small town life. His friend Amy and most of the folks who live in the small town are huge horror fans. That is mostly because a famous director of zombie flicks, Len Carver, is from there. Since he is the most famous resident folks are all about his movies. Though he is a bit of a recluse and hasn’t made any new movies in many years. That is until he decides to premier a new flick, Zombie Town, at the local theater. Mike works there and decides to show Amy the movie early. When the do though something happens and most of the townsfolk turn into zombies.

Why not Amy and Mike? There is something about an ancient curse and the symbols on the film cans they were inexplicably using as trays for their popcorn and soda. The rest of the story has them running around town trying not to get turned into zombies while at the same time sorting out how to save their friends and families. Along the way we learn the big secret of director Carver and why he has been a recluse for so many years. Not to worry though when we get to the end credits it all works out.

Honestly, I was disappointed. The story is very slow with little happening and what we do see has been done much better elsewhere. That surprised me. Now I’ve never read the book but what few things I’ve read from Stine always struck me as at least entertaining. Sure it might be watered down and tamed for a young audience, but it still had some meat on the bone. Most of what happens here are the main characters running from location to location stopping long enough for a zombie to show up and do something before they flee again. There isn’t a single memorable sequence or scene. This is further complicated by what I have to say is a terrible cast who bring nothing to the screen. This includes Dan Akroyd who seems to be sleepwalking thru his scenes for a paycheck as well as Chevy Chase who is barely in the movie.

While I wasn’t expecting anything too disturbing or horrific being a PG-13 movie based off of a tween book I had hoped for more than I got here. The zombies are all rather tame and don’t bite or even menace folks too much. In fact, some of them, like zombie Landro, are played for laughs. We see zombies doing pratfalls and one acting as a chauffeur. But even some of the Saturday morning shows had a bit of a creepy edge to them and at least one scare. We get none of that here not even a cheap jump scare. The creature design is okay and if there were any real attempts to make them creepy or threating it might have worked. Sadly we got neither so the creature part of Zombie Town falls flat for me as well.

Bad story, bad acting, bad creatures, bad movie. I’m not sure much else needs to be said here. If you are wanting to check out something much better Hulu also released a Goosebumps limited series with Justin Long. I’m a couple of episodes in so far and it is way creepier with a better cast. It makes me feel like the filmmakers here didn’t do justice to the original material. When done right Stine’s work translates well to the screen. Check out the show and skip this movie.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Dead Meat (2004)

This isn’t my first time watching this movie as I think I checked it out fourteen or fifteen years ago for my old website. I don’t remember anything about it so that is probably a bad sign. And this is another low budget zombie flick, which of course I said I wasn’t going to do again. But I think we all knew I wasn’t going to stop. What did draw me back to this one is the director, Conor McMahon. This was I think his first feature film and later did some movies that I really dig. Check out Stitches (a clown back from the dead for some murders!) and Let the Wrong One In (silly vampire comedy) if you get the chance. Also, this isn’t just a indie low budget zombie flick but it is an Irish indie low budget zombie flick. Don’t see many of those. Now onto the review. 

The movie opens with a farmer hearing some strange noises outside and going out to check on them. He gets attacked by a zombie cow. Let that process for a second. Movie you have my attention. Then the action moves to a couple driving along while an announcer on the radio talks about a farmer who was illegally feeding dead animals to his herd. They are distracted and hit a man in the road killing him. Or did they? I mean he was already dead and proceeds to tear the man’s, Martin, throat out. This leads to his lady friend, Helena, to head off to the creepy farm nearby for help. After poking around a bit zombie Martin shows up and she has to dispatch him and then flee when more zombies show up. 

Later she runs into local gravedigger and all around good guy Desmond. The pair of them head off to his house but keep getting waylaid by more zombies. Eventually they meet up with a little girl, never ever trust kids in zombie movies, and another couple Cathal and Francie. This group decides to head to a rescue station but again keep running into zombie problems. This includes the return of the zombie cow from earlier! The survivors are eventually cornered in a castle and have to do battle with the horde of undead that surround them. 

Finally it happened I found a filmmaker that is able to make a movie that doesn’t try to exceed the resources available at hand. This movie, both directed and written by McMahon, has a small cast and simple story. Get from point A to point B. Along the way we get a few set pieces with some local undead attacking them. The locations are simple and were what was available to them. They don’t use some terrible CGI to make giant hordes or try and shoot scenes on busy city streets while onlookers watch. The characters crack a few jokes, deliver their lines well, and do a fine job in the action sequences. The story moves along at a brisk pace never slowing down from the opening scene to the final scene. There is always something happening during the entire hour and twenty minute running time. Now what that hard to do? Apparently so since most of the folks in the almost twenty years since this was made have failed to achieve it. 

Being a zombie movie, we should talk about the special effects work. I don’t think that there are any “featured” lead undead that will stand out. But overall the makeup is good enough. I mean these are all supposed to be pretty fresh, so it works. Most of the kills are actually inflicted on the dead folks. We get a smashed head, another is run thru, there is a stick to the eyeball, a jaw is knocked off a face, and we get a zombie head lopped off with a shovel complete with some brains spilling out. Though my favorite is a kill that I’ve never seen before. A zombie is dispatched with a vacuum sucking out an eyeball! I’ve watched a lot of flicks in this shuffling subgenre and I can honestly say I’ve not seen that before. All of the work is practical and occasionally shows the low budget but that is part of the charm here. 

As an added bit of extra fun keep an eye out, pun not intended, for the road zombie that chomps on Martin. He is played by Ned Dennehy who would later go on to appear in much larger roles in flicks like Guns Akimbo and Mandy. He has also appeared in shows like Outlander (a favorite of my lovely wife) as well as The Walking Dead franchise. Just cool to see someone near the beginning of their career or at least notoriety in the genre. 

Dead Meat isn’t perfect, but I had fun with it. This is the sort of good time on a budget that I’m always hoping to get when I dive into the shallow end of low budget zombie flicks. It worked out for me… this time. You can find this one on YouTube as well as a few other spots on the internet. Give it a shot. 

© Copyright 2023 JohnShatzer

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Spasmo (1974)

I thought I mix things up a bit here for the marathon with some Giallo goodness from director Umberto Lenzi. This movie finds a man named Christian walking on the beach with a lady when they see what they think is a body. Turns out the woman was just sleeping. Her name is Barbara and Christian becomes obsessed with her. He tracks her down to a yacht party where the pair hit it off. Just as things are going well and he is about to bed her a man breaks into the place and threatens him with a gun. Well not wanting to be denied there is a fight, and the intruder is shot. Here is where things get weird.

They don’t report this to the police. Instead, they head out to a house that belongs to Barbara’s artistic friend. They don’t know that it has been leased to a weird pair who befriend them. Oh, and the dead guy isn’t dead, at least not right away. We also get a subplot about Christian and his brother, who runs their father’s company. He is the black sheep of the family. If that weren’t enough there is also a killer running around killing women. I can’t say much more without giving away spoilers and I don’t want to do that. 

This is an entertaining movie that had me confused, in a good way. There is clearly something going on and while we don’t know right away how all the characters connect, they eventually do give the audience a satisfying ending. I had several guesses as to what was going on and I have to say that I was very wrong. When we do finally see it, then things become clear. Things that were clearly happening under our noses. This is the kind of movie that is fun to watch a second time to see all the spots where they hinted at the big twist. If found the story engaging and a fun watch. 

The cast is solid with Robert Hoffman, who I remember from Eyes Behind the Stars which I really enjoyed. Ivan Rassimov who was in some other killer Gialli like All the Colors of the Dark has a smaller role as Christian’s brother Ivan. I wish we got more of his creepy self in this flick. But what is the best bit of casting was the lovely Suzy Kendall playing the female lead Barbara. She did a lot of cool flicks with my favorite being either Torso or The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. Both of which I should get around to reviewing for the site. I mention all of this because Lenzi assembled a hell of a cast for Spasmo and that only makes the already solid movie even better. 

The kills in this movie aren’t all that explicit or honestly that great. This is tame compared to many other Gialli. We also only get five deaths in the movie. But each of them is impactful and move the story along. So, they serve their purpose. Spasmo isn’t about shocking you with violence but instead sucking you in to the plot and getting you to care about the characters. That it does very well. If you are looking for a bloody Giallo to watch then maybe Bay of Blood or one of Argento’s flicks are more up your alley. 

I really liked this movie. If what I’ve mentioned above hasn’t convinced you to watch Spasmo then how about an original score from the master Ennio Morricone! Seriously this movie had one hell of a creative crew both in front of as well as behind the camera. I highly recommend it and think that this is a great place for someone new to the genre to start. 

© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

Friday, October 27, 2023

Night of the Hunted (2023)

I’m always on the lookout for the next creepy horror flick to get under my skin. When this popped up on Shudder and I saw that it was about a random sniper killing folks while taunting a woman I thought it sounded interested. I always cringe when someone says they are going to “update” an old trope, but this sounded like a creative take on it. So, I fired up my Shudder app and plopped myself down for a watch.

Alice is woken up in her hotel room by her phone going off. She has been at a convention with her work colleague John and is now headed back home. There is also talk from a friend on the phone about her seeing a fertility doctor as she and her husband are trying for a baby. As she and John are driving out of the Hotel parking lot we see that someone has poked a hole in the gas tank. This leads to them stopping at an isolated station in the early hours of the morning. Here is where things really get rolling.

Alice goes in for a cup of coffee while John fills the tank. She can’t find the clerk but does eventually notice a blood spray on the wall. This freaks her out and when she goes to leave takes a bullet to the arm. Freaked out she crawls back into the store. She hears someone on a walkie talkie and picks it up asking for help. After John comes in and is gunned down we find out that the guy on the other end is the sniper. Not only that he knows a lot about Alice, so you get the idea that this was all a setup. I mean someone punctured their gas tank and knew her secrets so… yeah there must be something else to this. The rest of the movie is him taunting her, shooting anyone else who stops by, and basically torturing her. Why? Is this a random wacko? Is someone targeting her? Is it because she was having an affair with John? I’m not asking these questions the sniper is as he taunts her.

Some slight spoilers are in the review so if you don’t like that sort of thing head to the last paragraph for my final thoughts on Night of the Hunted as well to see if I recommend it or not. Now onto the review. This is an interesting movie. First of all, I can assure you that we never really get the answers to the questions posed above which I’m okay with. I like the idea of a killer without identity and motivation. Sadly the movie sort of spoils that itself.

The first forty minutes are brutal and terrifying. The killer speaks only enough to get under Alice’s skin and make her terrified. The unexpected and undeserved violence is what drives the fear which the first half of the story uses to get and hold the audience’s attention. The setting of the isolated gas station by the highway in the middle of the night is one that I think we can all relate to which makes the story even scarier. When a horror flick puts the audience into a situation where they could legitimately find themselves it already has a leg up and the filmmakers us that brilliantly here.

Here is where the movie goes off the rails and sort of spoils things for me. The sniper keeps talking to her and eventually goes on an extended political rant about mandatory vaccinations, microchips, cancel culture and wokeness. It gets way too political as we go from scary horror movie to the filmmaker’s going on some personal rant. It really isn’t so much what his politics are but the fact that somehow the script is trying to explain to the audience his motivation for the killings. Sure, there seems to be something more to it and is sure as hell seems Alice is being targeted but we don’t need to know for sure. Think John Carpenter’s Halloween. The shape killed without motivation and was basically just evil walking the earth. That is way scarier. The more they tried to explain him the worse the sequels got. Same thing here.

I also felt that the killer talking about actual mass shootings was in poor taste. Using real world tragedies in dialogue or as fodder for your story makes me very uncomfortable and one should tread carefully when doing so. They weren’t disrespectful or anything like that but for what is effectively just a low budget horror movie it felt inappropriate. If you wanted to invoke that shared fear of mass shootings coming from someone you didn’t know then stick to what sniper saying just enough to taunt Alice and stop trying to explain things.

Alice really is having a rough night
The kills are long distance and lean more into us knowing what is coming before it actually happens rather than being overly gory. There is a gnarly bullet wound on Alice’s arm that she has to dump hand sanitizer on and then glue shut. That is right in your face and well done. Near the end of the movie, we also get a head squished which is again right in your face as the camera doesn’t pull away. Other than that, we see bullet hits and an occasional after the fact gnarly head wound. This isn’t the sort of movie that I would anticipate elaborate kills or gore so I was happy with what I got onscreen. It is just enough to add to the tension and overall horror of Alice and her situation. It works perfectly with the story.

The director of Night of the Hunted, Franck Khalfoun, has done some other movies that I personally think are way better than this one. P2, the Maniac remake, and even Amityville: The Awakening are all solid efforts. Here the script lets him down with the uneven pacing which occurs when it starts to focus on the killer talking. But I can’t let him off the hook since he cowrote the script.

In the end there are a lot to like here. My only issues are the pacing and oversharing by the killer that causes them. I can’t wholeheartedly recommend Night of the Hunted but think it is probably still worth a watch.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Blood Beast from Outer Space (1965)

The movie opens with some scientists tracking what they initially think is a meteor about to crash into the countryside near London. But then it starts to slow down, and they quickly figure out that it is being controlled by something. Then we get a groovy sixties theme song over the opening credits before rejoining the scientists at an army roadblock. Dr. Morley and Dr. Costain go to see the man in charge as they have the clearance to work on top secret stuff. Instead of a ship they find a small sphere that is brought back to the lab for study. Weird stuff starts to happen and poor Dr. Morley is killed when something materializes and kills him before taking off with the object making good it’s escape in a stolen car.

Then the action moves to later. How much later? I don’t have a clue. But the army guys are gone and Dr. Costain is now in the offices of Scotland Yard talking to an inspector about missing women. Somehow, it isn’t ever explained, he has figured out that whatever came out of the sphere is now posting ads in Bikini Girl Magazine and kidnapping or killing the ladies that respond to it. Why? It is only hinted at but basically the alien is planning on bringing them back home to one of the moons of Jupiter so they can breed. I guess Jupiter’s moon needs women! Some murders happen, shenanigans ensue, and the alien gets away with his hostages. I mean he insists they won’t be hurt. Though being forced to bear the children of an alien race doesn’t seem pleasant. But hey it was the sixties so what do I know?

This is an odd movie. Other than the obvious logical loopholes like how did Dr. Costain make the connection to the missing girls and the visitor from outer space, which is the most blatant but not the only head scratcher, Blood Beast from Outer Space is sort of boring. It kicks off with the mystery and some action but then abruptly jumps to some time later. It feels like something is missing from the story. This was based on a book so I’m thinking maybe there was more to it but that the movie couldn’t squeeze it into the standard ninety minute runtime. It was at that jump where the movie lost me. It also doesn’t help that we go from science, monsters, and creepy spheres to the police interviewing quirky characters while trying to solve the mystery of Medra. Which is the name that the alien uses on Earth. There are also thrilling phone calls, people typing, and ladies going to bed. Meh.

Doing science stuff!
I hadn’t heard of this movie before so it must not have played on my local horror hosted shows. What caught my attention was the fact that the late great John Saxon stars as Dr. Costain. I’m always down to watch him. He is good but sadly there is absolutely nothing here for him to work with. There is also a twenty minute stretch where he completely disappears from the story which is also where Blood Beast is at it’s slowest. No surprise there.

The lack of creature is also a disappointment. Medra is mostly in the shadows and except for the very end where we see one tiny bit of rubber on his face the only creature effect we see is his one messed up hand. I get the feeling that this was a super low budget affair, but couldn’t they have spent a bit more on the monster?

With a story that is hard to follow, a creature that never pays off, and the wasting of John Saxon I can’t recommend Blood Beast from Outer Space. It is an uneven and at times annoying watch which I simply can’t recommend.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey (2023)

Look boys and girls a beloved children’s classic has entered the public domain. I sure how someone does something clever to turn the characters and story on their head. Maybe a gleefully fucked up horror flick! I’m actually being serious about this. I had a blast with The Banana Splits Movie from a few years ago and I think we all know that the equally goofy Willy’s Wonderland was a riff on Chuck E Cheese. I really had hope for this movie which only makes what I got feel even worse.

The story is simple. Christopher Robin, the boy who was friends with all the inhabitants of the 100 Acre Wood, left them to go off to college. Apparently, he was their only source of food so without him they all starved. That is until they murdered Eeyore and ate him. This turned Pooh, Piglet, and the others (who we never see in this movie) into angry forest dwelling carnivores in coveralls. We find this all out in a voiceover done storybook style before we meet the characters. When we do it is Christopher and his wife returning home so he can show her his old friends. Pooh murders the shit out of his lady and chains Christopher up in a barn for some torture porn action! Really, he whips him with Eeyore’s tail.

The main part of the story is about a woman suffering from a traumatic stalking incident. We know this because when we first see her she is in therapy and later fills in the gaps when she confesses what happened to her friends. She and four of her pals, five if you count the one who dies on the way and is fed to a woodchipper (not as cool as it sounds), go to an isolated yet fancy cabin for some girl time. Somehow no one has noticed that this beautiful well maintained house is next door to homicidal critters and has been for the last five years! Pooh and Piglet hear some loud music and decide to kill the girls. The rest of the movie is them chasing, leaving them alone with a running car only for them to not leave, and then killing a bunch of locals who pick the survivors up on the road. All of this is wrapped up in a neat little nihilistic bow that leaves room for a sequel that I pray never happens.

But a sequel that will likely get made. This flick was made on a low budget of around one hundred thousand so the roughly five million it made is a huge return on investment. This isn’t because this is a good movie though but rather because idiots like me rented or purchased a copy because we had to see it. Remember when I said I had hoped they would do something interesting and twisted with the concept? Okay I actually said gleefully fucked up, but that is basically the same thing. Right?

Flannel and overalls... I shit you not!
Anyway, that isn’t what we got. Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey plays more like a terrible rip off of a Wrong Turn movie. Pull the masks off and make them inbred hillbillies and you have every other generic shitty city folk getting massacred flick that dominated the horror genre for a few years there. They are literally wearing overalls and Pooh is decked out in a flannel shirt! Now had they pulled this off it would have been disappointing but still sort of okay. But they can’t even do a shitty knockoff right. The pacing is terrible with a bit of action, then lots of talking about feelings, then an okay kill followed by a boring flashback.

If that weren’t bad enough our protagonists, the five ladies who make it to the cabin, are so utterly devoid of depth that I had a hard time keeping track of their names much less give a rat’s ass about them getting brutally murdered. Just to be clear I’m in no way blaming the actresses here as the story gives them nothing to work with. It is also important to point out that whenever a movie like this adds random characters into the story solely to up the body count that should tell you that they had an incomplete script or that the idea/gimmick didn’t have enough legs to fill out a feature length movie. This happens not once, nor twice, but three times as we have the friend who never shares a scene with anyone else, a random lady whose face is torn up, and four locals who come to the girl’s rescue.

If this isn’t proof enough the ladies set Christopher Robin free who promptly disappears only to reappear at the end to save the day. Which also brings me to an ending that is both depressing as well as pointless. Does Pooh kill him? Probably not since this smacks of “we are awesome and have a new horror franchise” delusions. Though the director has already announced a sequel as well as an expanded universe that I guess is going to give Bambi the same treatment. What the hell guys?

I suppose I should talk about the kills and makeup. We get a respectable eleven deaths. Many are offscreen but we do see a neck snap, a topless women fed to a woodchipper (again not as cool as it sounds), a woman’s head run over by a BMW, heads gets smashed, a face gets eaten offscreen, a decapitation also offscreen, and a sledgehammer to the noggin’. This all sounds decent, but it is executed with terrible CGI that even the Asylum would be ashamed of. Well, if they were ever ashamed of anything. The creature design fairs a bit better with just Pooh and Piglet making an appearance. The actors are basically just wearing masks and they aren’t very articulated. Remember these are supposed to be actual creatures and not random killers in masks so this makes a difference. Overall, the special effects work isn’t very special.

This is just a poorly made generic cash in on a well-known property hitting public domain. It was sold with controversy and some perverse “I need to see this” need from horror fans, myself included. If I could speak directly to the filmmakers I’d have to say, “My dude you fooled horror nerds once, you won’t get us again. Don’t be surprised when your next opus faceplants now that we know the quality of your work.” I know that sounds harsh but if you had sat thru what I just did, which I wholeheartedly don’t recommend, you would understand and I think agree with me.  Skip this mess and go watch The Banana Splits Movie.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

My Best Friend is a Vampire (1987)

Every October I hit up my local big box retailer to see what manner of impulse purchase I can make to add to the annual movie marathon. Most of the time I regret my decisions. This year I made two purchases, one that I regret and this one. I suppose that is a spoiler of sorts but honestly, I’m always down for some cheesy eighties’ horror comedy mashups.

Our main character is Jeremy who we first meet while he is having a wet dream. Hey man it was the eighties! He is crushing on one of his classmates, Darla, but everything in his dream goes sideways when a mysterious lady shows up. After seeing some high school shenanigans, we follow Jeremy as he delivers groceries, yes that was a legitimate after school job back in the day, where he meets the woman of his dreams. No seriously her name is Nora, and she is the woman who interrupted his teenage fantasy. She invites him back at midnight for… well things that I guess we thought were funny and acceptable in the eighties but would now probably get her on an “offender” list.

With the encouragement of his horndog friend (another staple of the eighties) Ralph he goes back. Before things get too naughty she bites him and a vampire hunter, played by David Warner, busts in. Jeremy makes his escape, but it seems that his lady friend is dispatched and now they are on his trail. The rest of the movie is him dealing with his new powers and learning the rules with the help of his new vampire mentor Modoc. All of this is happens while he tries to date Darla and with the hunters on his trail. Silly things happen and we find out that inexplicably no one died and being a vampire isn’t so bad.

I haven’t watched this movie since the last time I rented it in the early nineties. I remember it being a harmless bit of cheese and I’ve got to say my opinion hasn’t changed. Both the humor and horror are tame with this being a PG rated flick. That means no over the top scary effects and no nudity. The pacing is solid with the characters being introduced quickly before the movie then jams them into the predictable storyline. Not once was I bored. Though the flipside to this is that I didn’t remember much about the movie before rewatching it and will probably forget it quickly again. My Best Friend is a Vampire follows the formula and checks all the boxes but does so in a strangely forgettable way that just isn’t going to stick with the viewer.

I assure you this was how the cool kids dressed
If there is one outstanding thing about the movie it has to be the cast. Our lead is a very young Robert Sean Leonard who has gone onto do movies like Dead Poets Society and television like House. There is also a weird Star Trek connection with the previously mentioned David Warner as the vampire hunter as well as Rene Auberjonois as Modoc. Both of these men have had amazing careers before and after this movie. Kathy Bates of Misery fame has a small role as Darla’s mother. Speaking of mothers Jeremy’s is played by the amazing Fannie Flag. Not only was she an excellent actress and author but was also a semiregular on my favorite gameshow of all time The Match Game! Finally, we have the actress who plays Darla. Her name is Cheryl Pollak and had a brief but memorable career starring in movies like Pump up the Volume (a personal favorite of mine) as well as the recently review Night Life. It seems weird that with all this acting talent that the movie is so generic.

I can’t imagine needing to watch this again for another few years so I’m not sure I can recommend purchasing the new Blu-Ray. But if it pops up streaming somewhere or better yet if you can find an old VHS on the cheap then it is worth a look.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

Monday, October 23, 2023

Ready or Not (2018)

I have to be honest I was shocked when I realized I hadn’t covered Ready or Not for the site yet. I discovered this fact when I popped it in to watch for the marathon. I suppose this is a spoiler, but I have loved this one since it was on first release. As an added bonus the first time I saw it was in the drive-in, which was a perfect setting. I guess I’ve already let the cat out of the bag that I’m going to recommend the movie, so I’ll just explain why. But first the plot synopsis. 

Grace, played by Samra Weaving who was on quite a roll with genre flicks at this point, is marrying into a rich family. Her future husband, Alex, is heir to a family fortune made from selling various board and card games. So when Grace is told it is family tradition for her to play a game with the family at midnight the day of her wedding it seems weird but understandable. Plus being an orphan, she really wants a family to belong to. Unfortunately, instead of pulling one of the mundane cards like Old Maid or Chess she gets Hide and Seek. Why is that a bad thing? Here is where the story gets interesting. 

The family has a secret benefactor named Mr. LeBail. Years earlier an ancestor met the mysterious man while traveling on a sea voyage. A deal was struck that he would fund any venture that the family wanted to try. It is also hinted at that they were also guaranteed success which is why they are so damn wealthy. Since this is a horror flick you probably figured out that the family basically sold their souls to the devil or at least some sort of demon. When you marry into the family you have to play a game. It is insinuated that if you are corruptible, you get something silly to seal the deal. On the other hand, if you aren’t then Hide and Seek it is. That means that the family has to hunt you down and murder you before sunrise or something bad happens to them. 

The rest of the movie is the twisted members of the family trying to find and murder Grace. Along the way we see her go from not understanding, to panicking, to pissed off and fighting back as all final girls do. We also see that not everyone is good at the hunting or at least identifying their prey as several household staff find out. Much mayhem (another good movie from Samara Weaving that I need to review eventually) ensues before the dawn comes. 

This is such a great movie. The story is set up quickly with just enough time given to establish that Grace is a good person and the family she married into isn’t. Then we get to the action with the first murder being used as the turning point where our lead realizes she is in trouble. There is a bit of dialogue showing her freaked out but then jumps right back into the violence. Ready or Not is at it’s best when the blood is flowing, and it flows a lot. This is a flick that will grab your attention and never let it go. From the first death… well technically the second as we start off with a flashback, until Grace is smoking on the stairs outside the house something interesting is always happening. The big payoff is teased as maybe being nothing before things get explosive. Heh… trust me if you watch the movie that is a funny turn of phrase. 

The cast is solid with familiar faces like Andie MacDowell (Groundhog’s Day), Henry Czerny (Mission: Impossible) and Melanie Scrofano (Letterkenny) all chewing up scenery as various members of the murderous clan. Though the real highlight is Samara Weaving who has to carry the proceedings in her role as Grace. She is able sell the initial fear and then anger thru her performance. She also has some of the best dialogue in recent horror history as she reacts with some profanity heavy lines. Though it doesn’t feel over the top because if your in-laws that you just met were trying to sacrifice you to a demon being pissed off seems like a legit reaction. 

The filmmakers also did a good job with the kills. We get some creative setups with a crossbow bolt to the face, a crushing by dumbwaiter, a bullet to the noggin, a head lopped off, and a plain old shooting. My favorite kill is also where we finally see Grace’s anger come out. When the family matriarch, MacDowell’s character, pushes her luck Grace “introduces” her to the wooden box at the center of the family curse. That is a fancy way of saying she beats her to death with it. While we don’t see the actual kill on screen there is a gag with hair and blood on the box that is pretty good. Speaking of gags, the nail thru the hand bit that is genuinely gnarly and memorable. I challenge anyone to not squirm when they see it. 

I could go on, but I don’t need to. If you haven’t checked out Ready or Not, then you should. This is an excellent bit of recent horror starring an actress that for a few years was making some amazing genre films. Plenty of gore and laughs makes for a great way to kill ninety minutes this Halloween season. 

© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Plaga Zombies: American Invasion (2021)

Why do I keep watching these independent zombie flicks? Well, okay it is totally for content here at the website. Don’t get me wrong I do keep hoping to watch something decent and find that hidden gem in the pile of cinematic doo doo. This flick is a sequel to a movie that I’ve never heard of, which itself isn’t a good sign. Then again with a second bite at the apple maybe they got it right? Hell, maybe the first movie was itself a good flick! I suppose the big question is was Plaga Zombies: American Invasion that diamond in the doo that I’ve been looking for? 

Time for the plot synopsis. Be warned if this makes no sense you can’t blame me. The movie opens with a dude getting abducted by aliens who proceed to drop a worm in his ear Wrath of Khan style. This turns him into a zombie. But don’t worry about this too much since we never see the guy again and worms are never mentioned again. Got it? Cool! Then we see a guy named Nash give his lady friend a fancy necklace. Before things get too sexy the aliens show up to cock block him with some zombies. They also steal his girl away. Nash swears to get her back. But don’t worry about this because she is never seen again. Got it? Cool!

You know what this movie needs more of? Right, we need more characters. Now we meet “professional” wrestler Sammy. Well, he has been trying to live his dream of being a professional wrestler, but it isn’t working out. We see him get booted from a big show, buy a bottle of Busch beer, and then get home in time for his lady to dump him. So he sits down to watch television. Just to be clear we watch him watch… so exciting… Eventually Sammy looks out his window and sees a zombie apocalypse. How did that happen? Don’t know. Must not be important. But this does lead to him and his only fan, Manny, to suiting up to do battle with the walking dead. Here we find out that Nash is his neighbor when they meet up with him. 

The now trio head off to escape the island. Oh crap I forgot to mention that the government blew their small down off of the North American continent setting it adrift in the ocean. Yeah, the science checks out. I mean you can find flat Earther websites so really anything is on the internet if you look hard enough! The rest of the movie is them getting split up, annoying adventures happening, we meet an assassin and a terminator style robot. And then nothing! More on that later. 

Why is this movie an hour and forty five minutes long? That isn’t a rhetorical question. Even I realize that I’m sounding like a broken record, but what I’m saying isn’t wrong. Here we have a story that jumps from scene to scene seemingly at random. It very much feels like a project where folks were sitting around a table saying things like “you know a zombie wrestling match with a zombie audience would be funny” or “we should totally put a terminator style robot in the movie”. Someone also seemingly though aliens with laser guns would be a good idea. When we do see our main characters trying to get to the objective (looking for a boat to escape the island) it comes down to them, a location, some extras in zombie makeup, and poorly done fight choreography. 

This entire movie is nothing but a series of disconnected bits loosely tied together with far too many characters. Sammy and his sidekick are one group, Nash by himself and then with the bounty hunter are another. Even Sammy and Manny separate for a bit. This feels like a project that was shot on the weekends with whomever was available. It is choppy and there isn’t a cohesive narrative. There seems to have been a plot outline rather than an actual script. Almost everything they shot feels like padding rather than a story. This brings me right back to my initial question. Why the hell is this movie an hour and forty five minutes long? There is no reason for it. Nothing is critical, there is no story. I’m being generous in saying that there is maybe sixty minutes worth of material here. If that isn’t enough for you and as yet another example of them not having a script the movie has no ending. Seriously a spaceship hovers, zombies come out of the ocean and the damn thing just stops. They didn’t have an ending!

Time to talk about the filmmaking and special effects work. The big zombie fights are staged awkwardly, and the choreography is terrible. That is when we can actually see anything since most of the fights are shot with the shakiest camerawork you will see. Probably someone realized how bad the action was looking and thought they would cover that defect up by making it completely unwatchable. The zombie special effects work is them painting faces blue (a standard low budget approach) as well as red and other even brighter colors. We even get some cheap ass looking wigs as well as other zombies dressed in obvious Halloween costumes. I guess someone hit the Spirit Halloween on November first. The kills and gore are mostly CGI… and badly done. The only nice thing I can say is we get an occasional rubber limb probably also purchase on clearance when they were picking up wardrobe. 

Now I can already hear what sort of reaction my review is going to generate from a certain demographic of reader. Let me head off those angry emails right now. I get that they weren’t trying to make a serious movie. I in fact not only love indie horror but indie horror comedy is my jam as well. I love the work from guys like Kevin Strange and Chris Seaver. A lot of their stuff is really funny. I have also covered the work from Steve Rudzinski (CarousHell rules). So I’m not some no fun having stick in the mud. The difference is those movies are funny and this one isn’t. If you want to make a comedy, then it had better have some laughs. If it doesn’t then it is just bad. Plaga Zombie: American Invasion is incompetently made (bad zombies, worse camera work), lazy (no script), and generally just a miserable waste of time. 

© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

Saturday, October 21, 2023

13 Eerie (2013)

Some college students are headed out into the middle of nowhere. By middle of nowhere I mean an old prison where their professor has setup scenarios involving dead bodies. They are in an advanced forensics class or maybe trying to get into a program. Not quite sure about that but they all seemed to be stressed out. We see cameras being setup so that they can be watched on the staged crime scenes and then they get to work. 

After some gooey gross stuff with the dead bodies one of the students notices that there are more than were expected. Not only that but some of them get up and move around! Seems like the prison was used for experiments in the past, which is briefly explained in some throw away dialogue, and the black goo that is all over the place has turned some of the dead prisoners into zombies. They bite some of the students, who then also become zombies. There is a siege with the survivors, actors appear and disappear at random (more on that later), until we get to an ending that isn’t really an ending but a freeze frame without resolution. 

I don’t hate 13 Eerie, but it is also not a good movie. The story is weak with the whole unexplained prisoner experimentation explanation of the black goo and zombies feeling tacked on at the end. Sort of like the filmmakers decided “damn we need to let the audience know why this all happened”. Combined with the first half hour being spent getting to know the characters, who honestly aren’t that interesting, it gets really slow. After the zombies show up we still get some people walking thru the woods unaware what is happening scenes to continue padding things out. This is one of those flicks that feels like they didn’t have a finished script rather just an idea and maybe a location or two. That is not a formula for success. 

I was especially bummed by the weak writing due to them having a solid cast. Brendon Fletcher (Violent Night), Brendan Fehr (Bones), Michael Shanks (Stargate SG1), and Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps) all appear. This is a solid cast of “B” movie and television actors that are good at their jobs. Sadly, they are completely wasted. It also seems that they only had certain actors for briefly as there are just a few scenes where they appear together. Especially Shanks seems to come and go seemingly at random. Not sure if that is the case of if the editing was just that bad. 

Where the movie does a good job is in the creature design. The zombie makeup is decent looking though I did notice that while we get several different zombies running around, they do tend to look the same. There are a few kills on screen with the highlights being the first one where a girl gets caught up in brambles and not only gets some fingers chewed off but ends up with a thorn to the eyeball! There is also a bit of gut munching, but it is poorly executed. I give them props for including it but wish they had done a better job. The rest of the kills are sort of meh. Some of the violence done to the zombies is cool. We get a nifty sawing thru a neck and an awesome gag with a cheek. 

Again, I don’t hate this movie. The story is a mess, but there is a bit of gore, and the zombies look decent. At best 13 Eerie is a mediocre by the numbers effort that is forgettable. While not as horrible as some of the recent zombie movies I’ve watched there are much better ways to kill ninety minutes of your time. I can’t recommend it. 

© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

Friday, October 20, 2023

Totally Killer (2023)

It has been thirty five years since the small town of Vernon was terrorized by the Sweet Sixteen killer. Three sixteen year old girls were killed by being brutally stabbed sixteen times by a murderer that was never caught. Jamie, the daughter of the surviving forth girl Pam, is annoyed by how overprotective her mother is. This is especially so since nothing has happened for so many years. But then the killer returns for her mother, who puts up a good fight but dies. We also meet Jamie’s bester friend Amelia who is building a time machine for the science fair. Weird but I’m down with it.

The killer comes after Jamie, there is an accident, and the time machine works sending her back to nineteen eighty seven where she meets her mom and the soon to be dead friends. After the initial shock of finding out that her mom was a mean girl in high school she figures if she stops the killer in the past, they won’t be around to murder her mom in the future. Enlisting the aid of a teenage Lauren (Amelia’s mom whose plans she used to make the time machine) she goes about trying to change history. She does but it only results in changing the location and order of the murders. Can she stop the killer? Will she figure out who the killer is? Will she be trapped in the past? No spoilers from me.

Initially this sounded a lot like The Final Girls or Happy Death Day to me. I liked both of those movies so that was fine. That said I have to say that while the story is somewhat similar Totally Killer takes it in a different direction. There is some fish out of water humor, but it is tempered with some nasty kills. I’m not political but Jamie being triggered by “inappropriate” stuff from the eighties like the FBI (Federal Boobies Inspector) t-shirt or the problematic school mascot isn’t funny to me. But then we get to the dodgeball game, and I’ll admit it made me laugh. Plus, they don’t linger on this stuff but use it to show the character having to adjust to the past. In the end it was a lot cleverer and more nuanced than I thought it was going to be.

About the writing the story is great. It feels familiar but has some unexpected twists and turns. I can’t get too specific since I don’t want to spoil anything but the identity of the killer I didn’t see coming. Or well I sort of did, but there is an added layer that got me. The characters feel like those from an eighties slasher flick and are one dimensional existing only to up the body count, but that seems appropriate. The movie also leans into it making them as annoying or dumb as possible. They double down on the horror tropes and again that just feels right.

The kills aren’t overly complicated. Instead they lean in on the brutality. From the first kill of Jamie’s mother in the present to the deaths of the girls in the past the camera doesn’t pull away from them being stabbed sixteen times on screen while screaming. It was sort of disturbing in how the kills are staged. They also do a very clever bit with the first kill. The older Pam (Jamie’s mother) is played by a very recognizable face. Julie Bowen from Modern Family and Hubie Halloween (a personal favorite) dies very messily setting the tone for the rest of the violence in Totally Killer. That has a bit of a Psycho sort of surprise no one is safe vibe to it. This again goes back to how well thought out and written the script is.

Between this and Killer Book Club I’ve had some excellent luck recently with these new takes on the slasher genre. Should I press my luck? Probably not. Regardless this movie is well worth your time.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Killer Book Club (2023)

Every October I dig into the streaming services as well as my to watch pile looking for new or new to me horror flicks to watch. As you can see from my earlier reviews that means I end up watching a lot of… well for a lack of a better word… crap. But I keep diving headfirst into the shallow end of the cinematic pool on the hopes that I find a gem. To that end I found Killer Book Club on Netflix and decided to give it a shot.

Our main characters are college students as well as members of a book club that is currently reading something called Killer Clowns, sadly not from outer space! We meet the characters, including Angela who is a published author suffering from writer’s block. This is important because she looks to her professor, Cruzado, for help and he offers to meet with her. Though when she arrives at his office his intentions are of a more personal nature Things get creepy with lots of grabbing and groping before she gets away.

This makes the club angry and they decide to get some payback. Inspired by the book they are reading they buy a bunch of clown masks and decide to terrorize him one night. Apparently scaring the crap out of him is a much better solution than reporting his unwanted advances. Well things go horribly wrong as he accidentally falls to his death and the book club members swear each other to secrecy. That lasts until someone in a clown mask starts to kill them off while taunting them over social media. Damn a lot of new horror movies use social media… though I suppose that relates well to the audience they are going for. The bodies pile up, secrets are reveled, and we get a happy ending. Or do we? Dum Dum Dum!

I liked this one. While not breaking any new ground it does take the formula and run with it efficiently. We get the unintentional death leading to an unknown person coming for revenge while the shrinking group of survivors try to figure out who is after them. The characters fall into the traditional tropes of final girl, annoying friend, bad boy, forlorn crush, and the guy who dismisses everything. There is even the big twist ending that isn’t that much of a twist if you watch slasher movies. But all of this is packaged together in an entertaining and well-paced ninety minutes that keeps the action moving to a satisfying conclusion. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel if you execute the old familiar formula well enough. Here I think the filmmakers do that.

The kills are also fun starting off with the professor getting skewed on the sword of a Don Quixote statue, he is a literature professor after all. There is a lot of stabbing and slashing of book club members with much mayhem to chests and throats. We get so see some folks burn alive and old Don Quixote gets another victim before things are all done. My favorite gag is one that doesn’t result in a death but is just gnarly. It involves a knife to the chin. I’ve seen it before but for some reason these sorts of onscreen injuries always get me. Be warned that much of the gore is digital or at least has a digital assist. But beggars can’t be choosers and they don’t linger on them, so it isn’t obvious if you aren’t paying close attention.

This isn’t going to go on my list of flicks that I need to watch every October but overall, its pretty good. If you have Netflix and are looking for something new to watch, I think that Killer Book Club is worth an hour and a half of your time.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Slotherhouse (2023)

When I saw the trailer for Slotherhouse show up online I was sold. Sure, the concept of a killer sloth was absurd, and the movie looked like it was going to be completely silly, but sometimes absurd and silly is what I want. So, is that what I got?

The movie opens in the rainforest where we see a sloth above the water when a crocodile jumps from the water and snatches it off the low hanging tree branch. Blood flows to the surface and the sloth crawls out of the river. Soon after it is tranquilized and taken away. Then we see a college girl who we later find out is named Emily, saving a puppy from getting squished. A nearby man introduces himself and finding that she is an animal lover gives her his card. He is an exotic pet dealer. When Emily decides to run for president of her sorority, she needs a hook to get everyone’s attention. She decides to buy a sloth from the dealer… uh oh.

Of course it is the killer sloth who is medicated so not as homicidal as earlier with the crocodile. Though not well enough as we see it murder the pet guy before Emily arrives. Initially the sloth, that they name Alpha, is chill. Though that changes when it sees a selfie that Emily took with the dealer. From that point on the sloth goes full on murder machine. It begins picking off the girls and then uses their phones to take selfies and create cover stories as to where they have gone. Yeah, the sloth is using their phones! But that makes total sense since later it steals Emily’s car to finish off a girl who made it to the hospital! I did say this movie was absurd. Eventually there is a final battle between our heroine and the murderous sloth.

Catching some rays!
I love this movie. It is a perfect blend of horror tropes and comedy. It is basically a slasher flick with the mostly unkillable murderer being a sloth rather than a guy in a mask. We see it stalk it’s victims only to seemingly pop up for the final jump scare and kill. Remember how it always seems that the killer is slowly moving towards the soon to be victims and you wonder how they always catch them? Slotherhouse doubles down on that by having that slow moving killer be an actual sloth! The characters even mention how fast the sloth is despite us never seeing it move at anything other than a glacial pace. When I saw the trailer I wondered if it was just going to be a gimmick, but the writers put a lot of effort into being clever. It makes for a very funny watch.

There are a lot of kills in Slotherhouse, though many of them are offscreen. If you are looking for a lot of creative kills and gore this likely isn’t the movie for you. Many of the kills are played for laughs, but that fits with this movie much better than over the top kills and gore would have. We get a girl getting roofied by the sloth and slashed to death. There is also death by loofa, a mass killing during a hazing ritual in the shower, and a stabbing of the house mother who has enough time to express her regrets at a wasted life. The movie also has a murder montage that covers the couple of weeks where the sloth was killing and hiding his victims. Death by gravity, curiling iron, stuffed animals, and scissors to the face. The best part is when Alpha decides to send all the selfies she took to Emily to terrorize her at the end of the movie. #LastSelfie… Normally I don’t dig the social media crap in my horror movies as I’m an old fart. But I’ll be damned is this shit isn’t funny as hell.

Death by loofa
The sloth is brought to the screen without CGI but with puppetry. Does this limit them being able to show the sloth walking around a bit? Yes it does and for me that only adds to the charm. Despite being a puppet, the sloth has a lot of personality and I give credit to the director as well as the performer in making that happen. If you have spent much time here on the site you know that I’m all about monsters in suits, rubber or otherwise. The effort put into making this a practical effect already was in my wheelhouse, but doing it so well made me love this movie even more!

The filmmakers also decided to toss in some references for movie nerds. You have the Psycho music playing during a shower attack, the sloth ends up out the window and splayed on the ground only to be gone the next time Emily looks down at the grass ala Halloween. We even get an Empire Strikes Back “I know” gag! Seriously man if I haven’t convinced you to check out Slotherhouse yet I don’t know what else I can do. This is one of the best movies I’ve watched this year and will definitely make my top ten list in January. It is streaming on Hulu and is available for purchase from most of the big retailers. Buy a copy and get yourself ready for some laughs.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer