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Chilling Classics Cthursday: THE WAR OF THE ROBOTS (1978)

 

1970s Italian horror (or in this case, sci-fi, I suppose) truly was the best of times and the blurst of times, wasn't it? Maybe you'd get a purely original li'l sumpin' sumpin' like Suspiria, or maybe you'd get a li'l sumpin' sumpin' ripping off whatever smash hit was happening in Hollywood at the moment. No matter whether you've got an original or a rip-off on your hands, though, one thing's for sure: the film's poster is probably bitchin'.


 

So it is with The War of the Robots (La guerra dei robot, 1978), which arrived in the wake of Star Wars and takes a lot of...mmm, let's say "inspiration" therein, but it simultaneously comes off as a relic hailing from an earlier era of sci-fi cinema, where people in jumpsuits have long conversations filled with "technical"-sounding nonsense ("Navigation computer?" "In function. Our objective is at 1.5.") whilst standing in front of a wall of blinking lights...before their plastic model starship slowly glides along in front of a matte painting.



I, for one, find all of this to be a GD delight. I just can't get enough of the aesthetics in The War of the Robots, what, with the sparkly turtlenecks, silver boots, futuristic headwear, pew-pew laser guns that sometimes don't make any noise, women sporting the hairstyles of Ann Jillian or Annie Lennox, and the "light saber" fights that remind you just how cutting-edge and amazing Star Wars really was.


This movie is best enjoyed (if it's within your wheelhouse to enjoy it at all, that is) if you disregard the narrative as much as possible. A "gang of aliens" kidnap a professor and his assistant because their race is going extinct, and the professor has built a machine that can "create artificial life." The good guys, led by Antonio Sabato (Senior!) as Captain John Boyd, set off to rescue the pair not only because it's the nice thing to do, but also because the machine, which is back on Earth, will "explode" if the professor doesn't stop it. And while this is "the future," don't worry, there are still the dubious sexual politics and plot developments of the 70s at play!

That's...kind of it, except there are twists and double-crosses that don't make much sense, but who cares? The group touches down on an asteroid, we get the blaster and saber fights, people spend a lot of time jogging down corridors--sometimes in a cave, sometimes on a ship--and the aliens all look like this:

The best thing about their gold suits-and-terrible bowl cuts look is that in a (not at all) shocking twist, it's revealed that they are not aliens, but robots...and so that means that whomever designed these robots added the gold suits and terrible bowl cuts. This makes me wonder what look I would give my personal robot army, if I had one. I hope we find out some day!

The plot is enjoyably ridiculous and gives way to many a dialogue gem:

  • "So, you've got a plan. Perhaps you're planning to murder everybody!"
  • "How long do you think those two will hold out?" "Not long. Yet those two are amazing."
  • "When I think of all that's happened, it makes life fantastic."
It's the kind of sci-fi movie where they make a big point of everyone putting on their "anti-radiation spacesuits," and then they all walk outside without helmets, you know?


I want to be 1000% in on The War of the Robots, but to call the pace "glacial" is too generous. The soundtrack, which consists of a lot of bleeps and blorps and honestly is the real star of this show, does its best to keep things moving but it's a losing battle. No matter how much you dig the kitschy aesthetics, there will come a point around 45 minutes in where you begin to incessantly wonder when it will be over. This effect is no where more pronounced than the final 20 minutes of the movie, which are taken up by a lethargic spaceship dogfight that wants to be the Death Star run at the end of Star Wars so very badly but is like...I don't know, it's the Death Star run in a coma, and it will likely test whatever remains of your patience. Not that the effects aren't dazzling!



Do I recommend this? Maaaaybe, if you have as much of a soft spot for this kind of thing as I do. I am tickled by the whole endeavor, and anyone like writer/director Alfonso Brescia (working here as "Al Bradly"), who tries to make a sci-fi epic with $1.99 and a dream. The vision may not be realized--not even close--but the imagination is running wild, and I can get on board with that. Really, when I think of all that's happened in The War of the Robots, it makes life fantastic.

Chilling Classics Cthursday: CATHY’S CURSE (1977)

After the disappointment bestowed on me last week, RNGesus did me a real solid this time around, blessing me with an excuse to watch Cathy's Curse (1977) for the gazillionth time. In fact, it was thanks to this very same Mill Creek multi-pack that I saw it for the firstillionth time way back in 2009, and I wrote about it for this very site. The fact that a pull-quote from that review ended up on Severin's Blu-ray release of the film is one of THEE honors of my life, and I am not even kidding!

As always, "film," simultaneously feels like too strong a word for Cathy's Curse and a word that is not nearly strong enough for Cathy's Curse. This is because it transcends not only our mortal concept of what a "film" is, but it transcends our earthly laws entirely. I wrote about this phenomenon a couple of SHOCKtobers past, in the one where I talked about my favorite horror movie characters. 

[...] Cathy's Curse is here to remind you that you know absolutely nothing and you never truly will. Like a member of The Flat Earth Society or a cinematic hardened rogue vigilante cop, Cathy's Curse feels stifled by "the law," be it the law of man or the law of nature. Cathy's Curse operates outside the system, beholden only to the rules of its own world, a world in which the logic of our world simply doesn't apply. Nothing has meaning. Meaning itself has no meaning. It laughs at your struggle as you try to figure it out, as you try to impose order on its chaos--for within this film there is only chaos.

Of course, Cathy's Curse isn't really film, it's more...something you experience. It's something that happens to you. It lingers, clouding your brain, clogging it with thoughts that may not be your own. Time will no longer have meaning. Meaning will no longer have meaning. Your new life will be consumed by Cathy's Curse, as mine was long ago, and your only choices are to adapt or to die. It's the Cathy's Curse curse!

I've written about Cathy's Curse a lot. And I've talked about it even more. If you've never seen beheld it before, please avail yourself of it ASAP. Then you will see why I write and talk about it so much. In fact, I've written and talked about it so much that I don't know what I can say about it now that I haven't already said. It rules! So you could read my original review, or you could read that SHOCKtober post, or you could listen to episode 127 of Gaylords of Darkness ("Waterside Fisting"), or honestly you could just run into me at the grocery store and I will tell you all about it. 

That's because Cathy's Curse has and continues to enrich my life in countless ways. And I want it to do the same for you, because I care!  



Chilling Classics Cthursday: PANIC (1982)

It's been a while since I've called a movie a "Tiffany" around these parts, but it's so very on point for today's Chilling Classic that I'm busting the term out again. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the musical stylings of the artist Tiffany, a Tiffany movie is one that she could have been singing about/to in her 1987 hit song "Could've Been." To wit:

When I think about

What could've been

It makes me want to cry

--

Could've been so beautiful

Could've been so right

You can't hold what could've been

On a cold and lonely night

No-uh-oh, no-uh-oh, oh-oh

That last line was me weeping as I put Disk 7 back in its cardboard sleeve, then put the cardboard sleeve back in its cardboard box. No-uh-oh, no-uh-oh, oh-oh I cried, because Tonino Ricci's Panic (aka Bakterion) sounded so good on that cardboard sleeve, despite the typo that says "a deadly variety" instead of "a deadly virus." (Never change, Mill Creek.) To wit again:

It's an early 80s Italian movie starring Fulci veterans David Warbeck (The Beyond) and Janet Agren (City of the Living Dead). A scientist is exposed to a deadly variety a deadly virus and then wreaks havoc around a London suburb, killing people and drinking all their blood. To contain the contagion, the government decides to employ "Plan Q" and drop a bomb on said suburb.

It sounds awesome and I was so pumped for it. Things started off pretty great, when a horny young couple were killed right before they were gonna DO IT in a car, as is the fate of all horror movie horny young couples about to DO IT in cars.

My future with Panic only got brighter in early scenes at the chemical company, which was called ChemiCALE. We are told that two living beings were missing from the lab after the accident with the "indestructible virus" -- Professor Adams, who was working on said virus, and a guinea pig. But not just any guinea pig, mind you: this infected guinea pig, the ChemiCALE scientists said, could have grown to the size of a dog, or even a lion.

Now, this was not an explicit promise that I would see a lion-sized guinea pig at some point, but it established the promise of a dog-or-lion-sized guinea being out there somewhere. A fine point to be sure, but one I clung to all throughout Panic. Finally they found the guinea pig, I guess, in a sewer, and I imagine that you can imagine my disappointment:

It brought to mind my 8th grade Algebra teacher, who spent weeks psyching us up for an end-of-year game day, for which one of the prizes would be "a giant Hershey bar." He would really stress the "giant" in "giant Hershey bar," and talked it up as theee incentive for us to try to whip each other's ass in Algebra showdowns. When the day finally arrived and he finally took the "giant Hershey bar" out of his briefcase, it was snack-sized. This was his joke! But as you see, the wounds from that joke and that day never truly healed, and they may never, for Panic's "dog-or-lion-sized guinea pig" tore them open anew. 

Anyway. 

I know I started this off by calling Panic a Tiffany, and I know in my heart that it's true. It has so much going for it, and yet it just...wasn't good. I know that's a basic-ass criticism, but it's true. It's plodding. Despite the countdown-to-bombing conceit, there's no urgency or tension to any of it. Warbeck's Captain Kirk (yes, his name is Captain Kirk) boldly goes into the sewers in search of Professor Adams, but he just sort of strolls even when the deadline is nigh. The whole thing ends with the lamest, most anticlimactic final shot you could possibly imagine, and to keep with the "urgent thing handled in a lackadaisical manner" theme Ricci employs, the half-assed 4th wall-breaking "warning" to the audience comes after the credits have completely rolled.

And yet! I already feel like I'm Eternal Sunshine-ing myself, forgetting and/or ignoring how disappointing Panic was. It's got so much going for it, how could it be a disappointment? 

Like all the dubbed voice acting, which is a cornucopia of every British accent you can imagine, from the stereotypically snooty guy to women who sound like Hyacinth Bucket to random Cockney folk to everyone in between. Or maybe when Janet Agren, Scientist, says "I just have to find out if this is a contagious virus!" and then starts click-clacking on a computer keyboard.

There's a scene in a movie theatre where the mutated Professor Adams rips through the screen to go on the attack; I love a movie theatre scene in my horror! And speaking of Professor Adams, when we finally get a good look at him, we can see that he resembles those raspberry gummy candies.



And then, of course, let's not forget the dog-or-lion-sized guinea pig, which--hey wait, that was the biggest let-down in this movie! I am going to remember Panic for what it was (a disappointment), not what I wanted it to be. I wanted it to be beautiful and so right--and it could've been--but it was not. Not at all. No-uh-oh, no-uh-oh, oh-oh. 

Chilling Classics Cthursday: OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES (1982)

At the risk of being thrown out of both the Real Horror Fans Gang and the Society of Lesbian Vampire Enjoyers, I must speak my truth: I do not enjoy the films of Jess Franco. Female Vampire almost makes the cut, but to be honest I would rather simply partake in the undeniably striking stills of Lina Romay from that movie than watch it again. I wish I could appreciate Franco's work more. If I had the FrancoVision that his fans seem to have, I would see the art they claim is in his oeuvre, you know, the dream-like atmosphere and all that. Sadly, however, I am saddled with FinalGirlVision, and all that allows me to see is NO.

And so it is with this week's Tale from the Mill Creek 50-Pack Oasis of the Zombies, a film I liked better during that minute or two at the start when I misremembered it as a Bruno Mattei joint. And I'm not even wild about Bruno Mattei joints!

A group of French college students head to an oasis in the African desert (just "African" will do, natch) in search of Nazi gold that was lost when the Nazis were killed in a battle in 1943. But for some reason the oasis is cursed, I guess, and the dead Nazis return as the living dead to eat anyone who gets too close. 

les students

l'oasis

This exceedingly simple tale is told in exceedingly tedious fashion, as we are treated to interminable flashbacks and shots that are repeated ad nauseam, such as this skull and this spider (yes, that golden blob is a spider). 



Franco's style in Oasis of the Zombies seems to be "point the camera at stuff and maybe the stuff you're pointing the camera at will actually be in the frame...oh and doin't forget to do all those zooms, you're Jess Franco!" The overall effect is one somehow completely devoid of atmosphere, and frankly (Francoly?) the entire affair feels inept.

The zombies themselves are typical of the European zombie flicks of the era, although they fall a little more on the papier-mâché side of things as opposed to the more oatmeal-faced undead found in a Fulci film. Most of them have a worm or two wriggling around on 'em, which is a nice touch. There's a regular roster of shambling corpses here, and each gets their moment to shine in a rotating series of repeated close-ups.



This guy was my favorite, for obvious reasons:


These close-ups and the few group shots are reminiscent of Fulci's Zombie (1979); as I am an unabashed freak for that movie, I couldn't help but wonder why Oasis of the Zombies boasted several of the same techniques but left me so cold.

Leaving aside the...mmm, let's call the--the repeated still lifes, the unnecessary zooms--"stylistic choices," Oasis of the Zombies is just a fucking drag. It's poorly paced and plodding, and when it's time for zombie action, it's bereft of any action. The victims go "aahhh" and lie down, maybe they get bitten once or twice while they go "noooo" and pathetically slap at the zombies, and then they are dead. 


If these sad scenes were (un)livened up with some gore, at least there'd be some spectacle. However, we get one gore shot which is almost complete obscured. I get that it was likely a budget issue, but hey, I never said the gore had to be good. But if you're making a sleazy European gut-muncher, I think you should add some gut-munching. And some sleaze. Oasis of the Zombies has neither. But it does have a lot of shots of camels and sand dunes, and as a fan of both they pleased me. Also those shots reminded me of the time The Real Housewives of New York went to Morocco and Countess Luann almost got bucked off an ornery camel; the scene is more Oscar-worthy than Oasis is, that's for sure.  

I will give major props to the climax of the film, wherein night begins to fall and zombies slowly trudge over the dunes towards the students' camp. I'm not sure why the zombies are suddenly so far away from the oasis, but it looks cool and gives us the best shots in the movie, so who cares.



There's a little pizzazz during this final showdown as the students surround themselves with a burning ring of fire and chuck molotovs at the undead. But much of the pizzazz is indiscernible as Franco's camera often centers, like, someone's knee instead of anything worthwhile. Then the sun comes up and any remaining zombies fade into nothingness, which is weird because we've seen them out and about in the daylight before this. Oh well.

While watching Oasis of the Zombies, I felt like that famous time-lapse sequence in The Haunting (1963, duh), where we see Abigail Crane morph from a young lass to a withered crone. Like I could feel that happening to me as the movie played out over the longest 82 minutes of my life. The only difference was that I of course started out as a withered crone and simply became crone-ier.

I would say that there's something good in the story, some potential, if one wants to imagine the adventure-horror-zombie flick that could have been. But that's a bit like saying that a house has "good bones" when everything except the bathroom wallpaper needs to be trashed.

It's always a bummer when a horror movie is a bummer, and so it's a bummer that this week's offering from Mill Creek was a bummer indeed. But hey, you know what they say: We make plans, and the 50-pack laughs. Better luck next time!

Chilling Classics Cthursday: WEREWOLF IN A GIRLS’ DORMITORY (1961)

It used to be that when I would sit around fantasizing over what I'd teach were I a film professor, I would picture a syllabus with Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes written over and over and over, as if it was a document that Wendy Torrance found in her husband's typewriter. Now that I've seen Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory, however, I think I would shift, like, two of the Amityville 4 credit hours to covering it. I was not anticipating this outcome when its number came up and I pulled it from the 50-pack, that's for sure. But then, I didn't know it'd be a little treat with some feminist ideas sprinkled in here and there, and it'd be a...well, maybe not a prime example, but an example nonetheless of the ways in which localized film distribution can really do a movie wrong.

Its schlocky title alone recalls other sock hop screamers and drive-in fare from the era, à la 1959's Attack of the Giant Leeches or The Blob (1958); Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory even features its own catchy Blob-esque title tune, "The Ghoul in School," which would go on to be released on 45rpm. 

Side note: the Chilling Classics version of this movie omits both the song and the kooky/monstrous opening title card featuring a Dr Seuss sleep paralysis demon. Mill Creek does it again!

While all those goofy gewgaws serve to set up expectations in the viewer's mind, the movie very quickly undoes all of them by revealing its true nature. Why, this isn't a Gene or Roger Corman joint! Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory was released in the US in 1963, but it's--gasp--an Italian-Austrian film from 1961, née Lycanthropus! This wasn't directed by some "Richard Benson," it was Paolo Heusch at the helm. Meanwhile, writer Ernesto Gastaldi wasn't credited at all, English pseudonym or otherwise. But he's maybe best known as the co-writer of Bava's The Whip and the Body and Sergio Martino's Torso. Oh, and of course Ruggero Deodato's rip-off of The Concorde...Airport '79, appropriately titled Concorde Affaire '79.

It's possible that I am the only person who didn't know all of the truth behind Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory, especially as a super-deluxe, 2-disc uncut version of the film was released by Severin a couple of years ago. Yes, another film in the Mill Creek Chilling Classics to fancy pants edition pipeline! So sure, everyone else may have been on the Lycanthropus train long ago, but the shock of this information gave me a white streak in my hair, like Nancy Thompson at the end of A Nightmare on Elm Street.

The titular dormitory, as it were, is a sprawling, gothic "institute" set deep in the woods that serves as a kind of reform school, one that hopes to set the wayward girls on the right path without the punishing nature of the judicial system. "They've found out about the bitterness of life much too early," one character explains, to which I responded (in my head...I'm not a weirdo) "Was this movie formative at all for The House That Screamed, which I fucking loved?" Three more white streaks immediately manifested in my locks. Should anyone ask why I look like a zebra from the neck up, I will happily tell them it's because I found out all at once that Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory is lit.

A student named Mary sneaks out one night to meet the much-older Sir Alfred in the woods. They have a sexual relationship, but Mary is only in it in the hopes that Alfred can get her out of the institute, as he sits on the school's board. He has no reason to make this happen quickly, obviously, and Mary is fed up and threatening blackmail. On her way home, she's chased through the dark by a man-shaped monster before being attacked and killed in a way that certainly makes this all seem like a sexual assault. "Is this movie...an allegory?" I said (again, in my head). Cue another coif streak.


While I love little more than seeing subtext and meaning in any ol' film in front of my eyeballs, Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory indeed makes the subtext text. "You're a beast, not a man," says Alfred's wife Sheena as they discuss his propensity for taking advantage of the girls. 

Or take this exchange between the new science professor (who studies wolves on the side) and Priscilla, the student who takes it upon herself to find out who--or what--really killed Mary:

"I'm fixing traps to save the forest from wolves," the professor boasts.
"In a certain sense, we're doing the same thing," Priscilla replies.

Mary and Priscilla were friends before they came to the institute as well; Priscilla garnered a charge of attempted murder and landed in the reform school when she nearly beat to death a sailor who was attacking Mary. Priscilla, the Protector and Avenger of Women! Priscilla is a hero for the ages, we could all use a Priscilla, I would die for Priscilla, etc etc. 

Polish actress Barbara Lass was married to Roman Polanski around the time this movie was filmed

So who is the werewolf? Is it the hunky new science professor, who has a shady past as a doctor and as I mentioned, studies wolves? 


Is it the sleazy Sir Andrew, or the school's sleazy caretaker, who sets up all of Sir Andrew's "dalliances" and reminds me of Peter Lorre?


Is it Sir Andrew's wife, who, as seen in this stylish shot, is cool?


Maybe it's any of the other teachers, or possibly even a student?

Well, I won't spoil it for you even though this movie is literally over 60 years old. But you'll know who it is the first time you see the werewolf's face, because despite the prosthetics you can tell which actor it is.

But that's okay! Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory is a whodunnit mystery with some gothic and giallo touches more than it is your typical werewolf-flavored horror flick. In fact, a more apt title for this than Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory or Lycanthropus might be Love and the Ethics of Lycanthropy. Or maybe Priscilla Rules.

Man, what a total surprise and a treat this was. Hokey drive-in monster movies are fun, and if that's all this film ended up being it would likely have been a fine time. But ultimately Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory Priscilla Rules is something meatier than that, deserving of a spot...well, surely somewhere in the annals of Italian horror. 

Chilling Classics Cthursday: DRIVE-IN MASSACRE (1976)

I know what you're thinking! "Am I living in a cuckoo clock? Why is this post titled Chilling Classics Cthursday when today is clearly Cfriday? What kind of nonsense is this? Who does she think she's fooling? Or is it only Cthursday and I have somehow gained a day? Or lost a day? I don't even know what's happening anymore. Am I really me? Are any of us really any of us? Am I dead? If so, wow, I can't believe I'm reading Final Girl in heaven. It really seems more like a hell thing."

Well, I am sorry for triggering an existential time crisis. You are still alive (I assume), as am I (I'm pretty sure). It is indeed Cfriday. But reader, I was unable to post on Cthursday because the GD hamster wheel that powers my internet exploded a few days ago, stranding me in a ditch alongside the Information Superhighway for far too long. Not only did this cause me to fall behind on my stories (aka Real Housewives), it also meant that the world had to wait for my positively scintillating thoughts on Drive-In Massacre (1976).

But as of today I'm jacked back into the system, baby! So here we are, another week, another massacre. But did I dig this week's massacre-flavored flick as much as I did Memorial Valley Massacre? Read on to find out!

No, I didn't.

Mind, that is not to say that the cinematography in the film's opening moments weren't breathtaking to behold. 

While my earliest thoughts were "oh dear, this is truly going to be a slog," things (sort of) quickly heated up with the shockingly graphic murders of a young couple at the drive-in. The dude gets his head cut right off with a sword, and then the gal gets poked through the neck. The effects, while unsurprisingly amateurish, were likely made better-looking by the dogshit picture quality. Regardless, it was bloody and explicit and unexpected and I gasped, clutching my pearls as if I'd just seen someone's bare ankle.

I sat up straighter, feeling chastened that perhaps I'd underestimated Drive-In Massacre. But sadly, it wasn't long before I was slumped again as the movie shifted from grindhouse-y slasher to something that wanted to be more of a police procedural but was ultimately an exercise in tedium. 

Two cops show up at the scene of the crime and start interviewing people in great detail. In fact, interview scenes take up so much of the film's scant 73-minute runtime that 1) 73 minutes feels like 73 hours, and 2) it should maybe have been called Drive-In Interviews. First we meet the misanthropic manager, who hates his co-workers, his life, his paying customers, and probably you and me as well. "A couple-a horny kids got themselves chopped up by some kook. So what?" he says. I'll say this much for the bastard, his ice-cold black heart lurks beneath some baller looks. His impeccable fashion sense even came through on this Mill Creek transfer.

His outfits bowled me over even more when I got a load of the screencaps from the Severin Blu-ray. You know, when I could actually see stuff. 


I can't believe this is on Blu-ray! I don't know who out there is buying Drive-In Massacre at boutique Blu-ray prices, but more power to 'em I guess. Of course, I do wonder how much of a disservice it is (to the movies, to myself) to watch the awful CHILLLING CLASSICS versions...? But isn't that the whole point of this exercise? Hmm I'd better get on with things, I feel another existential crisis coming on.

The cops also talk to the drive-in's resident "half-wit" employee who knows most of the comings and the goings of the place and fills us in on some history: The drive-in was built on the former site of an Indian burial ground a carnival. The half-wit was a sword-swallower at said carnival. The owner of the carnival, who now owns the drive-in, is not in the movie but we're told he has an extensive sword collection. And the nattily-dressed manager? He used to be a knife-thrower at the carnival. So you see, anyone could be the sword-wielding killer.

Despite the double homicide by a maniac who is still on the loose, business at the drive-in continues apace. Sure enough, the next night another couple is killed as they make out. They're impaled together on a sword. That's right, dually-impaled lovers: A Bay of Blood, Friday the 13th Part 2, and Drive-In Massacre. Three of a kind!


The half-wit tells the cops that he saw the drive-in's resident peeping tom lurking about the couple's car before they were shish kebabbed. They manage to track him down and I love that this man has truly made "peeping tom" his lifestyle, what with his nudie mag decor. "I just wanted to beat my meat," he says, denying he was at the scene with murder on his mind.

The public is still not deterred by all of the killing, and yes, there is another killing, but this time it's off-screen. I have to say, there are seriously diminishing returns after that first dazzling head chop. Any steam this thing had--which wasn't much to being with--has long since dissipated by this point. We're treated to a scene of the recently-fired half-wit wandering around another carnival as we hear earlier lines repeated.

Then there's a long non-sequitur sequence in a warehouse, involving some random dude with a machete who's holding a young girl hostage. It all just kept getting messier and more convoluted, to the point that I doubt anyone in the movie had any idea what was going on. 

When the cops learn that the machete-wielding man isn't the killer, they assume it's actually the nattily-dressed manager for some reason. So they head to the drive-in to nab him, but the half-wit got there first and killed the manager in anger over his firing. At least that's what I think happened. The picture quality was so cruddy, I couldn't make out whatever it is they were shocked to find in the projection booth.

They open a door and find the half-wit's body (I think?), and a text wrap-up.


But as Drive-In Massacre began with a shock, so it ends as the fourth wall shatters in our faces: There's the sound of the film flapping as the end of the reel hits, and a voiceover tells us that there is a killer in the theater...

It was actually kind of a cool (or fun at least) way to end the movie, one that was likely a bit of fun if you actually saw this dreck at the drive-in. There's other stuff, too, lurking under the film's dullness that could have made it a weirdo...well, not a classic, certainly, but perhaps something approaching the Great Value found in massacres à la Nail Gun or Class Reunion. Lines of dialogue are flubbed and started over. One of the detectives goes undercover in full drag as the other detective's "wife" as they hope to catch the killer during a movie. I'm all about the aesthetics of the theater concession stand and carnival settings. And again, the drive-in manager's wardrobe, which exclusively comprises blazers over turtlenecks, is *chefs kiss* perfection.

An additional curio about Drive-In Massacre: it was co-written by George "Buck" Flower, who also appears uncredited as the warehouse machete dude. Flower, of course, was in seemingly every single movie and TV show ever made, including the John Carpenter films Escape from New York and They Live. Some of his notable characters include Bum, Vagrant, Tramp, Beggar, Drunk, and Gambler Drunk.

It's all those elements and undeniable charms that I will undoubtedly remember fondly a few years from now, prompting the desire to give Drive-In Massacre another go. Let's hope that the desire triggers yet another time crisis, wherein I skip it altogether.

Chilling Classics Cthursday: MEMORIAL VALLEY MASSACRE (1988)

Hot dog, there's just somethin' about video store slasher trash that sets my heart (and my pants-heart) ablaze! I don't mean the familiar franchise fare, nor do I mean the familiar franchiseless fare. I'm talking about the D-tier stuff, the movies that you rent when you've rented everything else already. You pick up a copy of Terror at Tenkiller (1987) or Fatal Games (1984) or, oh I don't know, say, Memorial Valley Massacre (1988), give its sun-faded box the once-over, and present it to your partner-in-browsing with a shrug that says "This?" They respond with a shrug that says "I guess," and you go on your merry way to have what is a grand ol' time. Your results, of course, may vary. But my time with Memorial Valley Massacre? While I did not have the pleasure of nabbing it from the bottom shelf at a video store, I can say that my time with it was grand ol' indeed. 

If the horror movie 50-pack has a king, that king is undoubtedly Cameron Mitchell (last seen 'round stately Final Girl Manor during the most recent SHOCKtober, in Silent Scream). In a career that spanned a half-century, he appeared in...well, pretty much everything. This includes A+ mega-watt starpower epics that you can't believe never won any Academy Awards (The Swarm, obviously), episodes of television shows that could rightly be called the pinnacle of the medium (Mrs Columbo, obviously), to countless horror messterpieces that occupy much of the real estate in a collection like Chilling Classics. I wonder how many more times we will get to bask in the work of Mr Mitchell over the course of 2024 as I make my way through all 50 movies?

Side note: Did you know that The Swarm actually was nominated for a single Oscar? No, the dead child with oversized novelty lollipop did not earn a nom, sadly. But somehow the costume design did? How is this possible? No one even dressed up as a bee!

Anyway. On another sad note, Cameron Mitchell is only in, like, the first 90 seconds of Memorial Valley Massacre. It's a real bummer. On a happy note, however, he comes off like the love child of a wild night of passion between Ted Knight and Bert Remsen, which means he is the man of my dreams! Now you see why 90 seconds is not nearly enough time with him.

Mitchell is Allen Sangster, a developer who has big ideas about Memorial Valley. With plans for shopping areas, a ski resort, and more, the area will eventually become "the Poconos of the west" according to me. But for now, those are merely plans and wishes. On this day--on this Memorial Day--Sangster is opening the Memorial Valley Campground. There's still no running water, there have been workplace accidents, and a dead dog was found stuffed down a well, but no matter! The campground must open! The parade festival must go on! Yes, when there was one set of footprints, the Mayor of Amity Island was carrying him.

As Sangster drives away from the film and our hearts, the campers flood in to Memorial Valley. This kind of slasher movie--that is to say, one with tame violence, shitty gore, zero tension, and under-zero scares--is made or broken on the watchability of characters that are not likely to survive until the end credits roll. Blood Lake had Li'l Tony. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning had...well, everyone in it. I can tell you now that Memorial Valley Massacre is one of the most delightful terrible slasher flicks thanks to the folks who pull up an RV or a hatchback or whatever to the campground in the hopes of partying, doing it, or simply getting away from it all. If I may, allow me to introduce some of them, including...

The chubby, fey man-child Byron and his weird, doting parents. Byron gives big Francis from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure vibes. He loves to steal and all he wants to do is tear around the campground on his ATV. All of this is illegal, but Byron doesn't care about the laws of man. He makes his own rules, living life as it was meant to be lived, fast and reckless.



Next up, the least intimidating bike gang of all time. They are so vanilla that they make Fox, Loco, and Ali of Friday the 13th: Part III look like actual Hell's Angels. That said, they don't care if there's no water at the campground because they will wash their hair with beer instead, which is cool.


Here we have the patented slasher movie horny teens, who can never manage to figure out a partner-combination and actually have sex, to which I say: just be a throuple already. They are also the best examples showing why the Converse Outlet Store was thanked in Memorial Valley Massacre's credits. 

And finally my favorite, one Gloria "Pepper" Mintz (get it?), who looks like Diane Ladd in Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore but sounds less like Flo and more like Rogue from X-Men: The Animated Series, liberally sprinkling "sugah" throughout her dialogue.

The killer is quickly revealed to be a full ooka-ooka backwoods caveman (complete with jacked-up Spirit Halloween teeth) who backflips off a tree branch to take his place amongst the other ooka-ooka backwoods caveman killers from slashers like Rituals, The Final Terror, and Don't Go in the Woods...Alone.

We see Ooka Ooka being gentle with other creatures of the forest; He's not a savage, he was merely pushed to savagery by all the encroaching and the like, you see. 

There's a complicated backstory to how Ooka Ooka got there in the first place, involving a kidnapping gone awry. His father, it turns out, is Head Ranger at the campground. In fact, he only took the job at the campground so he could put his "expert tracking skills" to use and find his son. He searched the area for 17 years with no luck until opening weekend, when two separate groups of people found Ooka Ooka's cave within, like, a half hour. To Memorial Valley Massacre's credit, characters in the film also wonder at this.


Like most of us, Memorial Valley Massacre suffers from a saggy middle. People walk back and forth between the woods and the campground, carrying shotguns and rifles as they search for the bear they're sure is responsible for the deaths. But we know the truth! And soon enough they do, too, as Ooka Ooka goes HAM in the last fifteen minutes or so. It's not explicit or convincing in any way, but it's super enjoyable.

The film's early running is also enjoyable as we meet characters like the ones I've pictured above as well as some I didn't, such as "Wife With Snakes." The tone, from the weird music to the weird dialogue will have you wondering if this is actually a comedy so much that if you are like me, you will write "is this a comedy?" in your notes. It's just, to bring it back to a movie I mentioned earlier, the New Beginning effect. It's not a comedy per se, but it's also not a serious affair, at least where the characters are concerned. 

Again, your results may vary, but me? I loved this. Needed more Cameron Mitchell, obviously, but I am willing to overlook that and its many other faults. I only have stars in my eyes and rubber teeth in my mouth for Memorial Valley Massacre.

Note! All of these screencaps were yoinked from YouTube, where you can watch when I presume is the print from the recent Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray, the film's first on-disc release. (Yes, apparently Vinegar Syndrome is doing the lawd's work and bringing many a Chilling Classic to the hi-def age.) But rest assured, I watched it on my cruddy 50-pack DVD, which is certainly a transfer of the VHS. I just thought...why should faithful Final Girl readers suffer though terrible image quality if they don't have to? See? I care!

Chilling Classics Cthursday: CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1973)

Not too long ago, I found myself digging around some nooks and crannies (hot, but not a euphemism) and unearthed myself a treasure from the naughty aughties: my Chilling Classics 50-movie pack, straight from theee esteemèd Mill Creek Entertainment.

Is she not a thing of beauty? She sure is. So many movies! So many fonts! 

So many Ls in the typo on the DVD sleeves!

Then again, is it a typo? Was it intentional? Does the extra L mean it's extra chilling? I guess we'll find out.

Actually, I've already found out what the extra L means, as I've seen many, many of these movies since the day this multi-pack descended from the heavens and landed in my lap. It stands for LOUSY QUALITY. Mind you, I'm not talking about the films themselves, necessarily. Some of my very favorite horror movies are in this 50-pack, and this 50-pack was the way I was introduced to them. I'm referring to the prints within this cardboard vault because boy, they are indeed lousy. It's shocking, I know. The idea of 50 movies plopped onto a mere 12 discs screams high-quality! But no. Mill Creek is the self-proclaimed "leader in value entertainment," making no claim to providing anything beyond dogshit transfers and the worst edits of films in existence. Ya pays yuh money, ya takes yuh chances. That's how we did it in the multi-pack days, kids. We were reckless. Some might say foolish. Mill creek would call us RECKLLLESS and FOOLLLISH. I don't know where I'm going with this.

Anyway. Finding this box o' gems (I use that term loosely, mostly) was a rather fortuitous event with which to kick off another new year. Having recently finished re-reading Into the Wild, I'd been thinking to myself "Hmm, mayhaps I should strive to undergo more adventures in 2024." Not long after that thought, I saw the "50" on the cover it triggered a memory wherein I remembered that there are roughly 50 weeks in a year. You see where I'm going with this? That's right. I gave it away in the post title: Chilling Classics Cthursdays. 

Every week throughout the year I'll tackle another of these movies as ordained by RNGesus. That is to say, I've numbered each of them and a random number generator will choose the fare each week. Kicking it off is a little something I'd never seen before, Hannah, Queen of Vampires...but as, again, Mill Creek only provides the finest cuts of film with the best, most original titles, herein it's called Crypt of the Living Dead. It's from 1973! It's got Andrew Prine! Not a bad way to kick off Chilling Classics Cthursdays if you ask me, and by reading this you kind of did.


Let me just say right up front that while that poster is cool, it's pretty misleading. Anyone looking for a scantily-clad babe caught right in the middle of some kind of Animorph situation is going to be disappointed. 

Also let me say right up front that this print is pure Mill Creek FOOLLLERY. The picture quality is atrocious, the audio is so bad and garbled that most scenes sound like two Charlie Brown teachers conversing with each other, and there's what seems to be a wayward pube trapped in the corner of the frame for longer than I personally feel comfortable with. But hey: Ya pays yuh money, ya takes yuh chances!


Lady, that pube is making fools of us both

Crypt of the Living Dead starts out with some Black Sunday vibes as a fellow walks through a crypt on a dark and stormy night--there are slow pans over a cobweb-covered cover a sarcophagus and everything. There's some type of be-robed, Satanic-esque priest lurking about, as well as a scruffy-looking weirdo, and before you know it, the fellow is strangled and then smushed under the sarcophagus.

Enter one Andrew Prine, majestically, in a suit and on a boat, to retrieve and bury the body of his father.


Yes, his father was the smushed fellow in the crypt. He was an archaeologist studying...stuff...on the island, which is home to a bunch of legends and superstitious folk. It seems that the sarcophagus contains the body of a woman purported to be a vampire queen, sealed away 700 years ago. Her name was (is?) Hannah, which...doesn't strike me as a particularly intimidating vampire name. This is not a slight on any Hannahs who may be reading this! It's just...I don't know. "Ahh! It's the Vampire Queen Hannah!" doesn't really work for me, that's all. Again, no offense; "Ahh! It's the Vampire Queen Stacie!" would be even worse. You can't just have Vampire Queen Regular Name, you know? You need a Carmilla. Or a Bludmilla. Maybe a Lady Mortadella. Hmm, maybe the -lla is the key to it sounding cool? ("Don't you mean the -llla?" -- Mill Creek) Vampire queen Hannalla--now see, that would work.

At any rate, in order to get to his father's smushed body, Andrew Prine needs to move the sarcophagus. To move the sarcophagus, the lid needs to come off. The hardy, seafaring locals that give me Dagon vibes warn against this, as it will release (sigh) Hannah. Andrew Prine, a Scully on an island full of Mulders, goes ahead with the plan anyway, telling them all that there will be naught in that stony tomb but a pile of bones and dust. It's been 700 years, after all. But guess what, fools! Hannah is intact and hot, looking like she just settled down for a nap minutes ago.


As she's not fully awake yet, she only has the power to transform into a fart cloud and a wolf. When she's a wolf, she can only attack other animals. Which she does! The blood helps her wake. It's pretty bog standard stuff, really.

Besides Andrew Prine, there are two other foreign interlopers here on what the locals call Vampire Island. (No, they're not a particularly creative bunch.) There's Peter, who is writing an historical fiction novel and, in what is not at all a twist because we saw his face as plain as day at the start of the movie, is the priest/monk dude who was there when the smush-ening happened. And there's Peter's sister Mary, who is the island's teacher because she feels like it. No, Peter and Mary do not have a brother Paul, so don't get excited, hippies!


Peter, No Paul, and Mary

The scruffy weirdo, who was responsible for the smush-ening, is a bit like Hannah's Renfield, I suppose. It's not really explained. But he absconds with Mary one night for some reason, but he's thwarted by Andrew Prine, who pulls off a scarf that was covering half of scruffy weirdo's face. Mary goes "Eww," and the scruffy weirdo screams and runs away, his feelings presumably hurt real bad. After this, Mary and Andrew Prine fall in love.


Crypt of the Living Dead runs into a bit of a pacing problem as Hannah's tomb is opened early on and then she just sort of lies there for a long time as Andrew Prine tells everyone they're wrong about the vampires and an old blind man, the island's Crazy Ralph, plays his accordion and foists garlic on people.

Once Hannah is finally up and about, she wreaks mild, slow-motion havoc. She walks around slowly (the girl could really learn a thing or two from Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees about walking with purpose) and stares at people.


Sometimes she cross-fades into a wolf. Other times, when cornered by townsfolk, she just


It's hard to see her as a real threat or a real...well, anything really, because she never speaks a word. Not a word! I don't need a whole blah blah villain monologue or anything, but this 700-year old, freshly-reanimated vampire queen is just sort of there, and that just sort of stinks.

There is one shot that would probably be cool if I could actually see it, which is Hannah walking down a hallway in her vampire gown. I'm a sucker for a long shot of diaphanous gown or, in a pinch, a robe down a hallway! Messiah of Evil, Dominique, One Dark Night...I don't care what movie it's in, it's one of my favorite gothic-ish stock horror movie  set-ups.


If you squint really hard, you can almost see what I'm talking about

Okay yes, at the eleventh hour she does finally show off her fangs when she bites Peter, who is into it because he wants to be immortal and serve her. I get it!


Eventually Andrew Prine and Hannah face off in the cemetery in the pre-dawn hours and boy oh boy, it's majestic! 

I assume, because you can't see shit!


Again, squint and maybe you'll see something

Hannah catches on fire, goes over a cliff, and...well, let's just say that that whole five minutes was the best part of the movie. I legitimately loved it, it was wild! Even the rest of Crypt of the Living Dead: this is not a beloved film or a hidden gem, I don't think, but despite my tone in this post I enjoyed this. It's super formulaic and often glacially slow. I'd say the characters were paper-thin, but I'm not entirely sure they even count as characters, exactly. The whole "old-ass evil lady returns to life" has been done to much better effect elsewhere plenty of times over. 

But I'll watch any Andrew Prine movie any time. A cobweb-covered sarcophagus you say? Sign me up. Seaside horror? Yes please. That Hannah-on-fire climax? Fuck yeah! Count me in, Crypt of the Living Dead

Still, the film leaves one with many unanswered questions. As Andrew Prine and Mary leave Vampire Island, who will teach the children? To that end, what the fuck is the deal with Vampire Island? Before Hannah was awakened, Mary was literally the only woman there. Given these "one woman and a shit ton of men" demographics, perhaps Vampire Island should be renamed Smurf Island?

The biggest question I had, however, was why the cardboard sleeve for this said that Crypt of the Living Dead was in color. When the film began, I wondered if my eyesight was failing, or if Mill Creek lied. After all, the cardboard sleeve also said that Peter and Andrew Prine were vying for Mary's affection, which is not true. Well! When the movie was over, I did some computer hacking and found out that what the fuck YES, this movie is supposed to be in color! Imagine, if you will, when I saw the screencaps from the recent Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray release. Yes, imagine my face, as I will imagine your face when you see the screencaps now!




Can you believe it? Look at this shit side by side!



Sakes alive. Lush colors! The correct aspect ratio! Edges! Contrast! Nary a wayward pube in sight!

Oh well. That's Mill Creek, baby! Ya pays yuh money, ya takes yuh chances.

While I was jacked into the system, I also discovered that there isn't much info about this movie out there, not even on that Vinegar Syndrome release, probably because no one cares. It was a joint American-Spanish production, filmed on a Turkish island--beyond the cast and crew lists, that's all we've got. Do I care enough to watch it again, all cleaned up and in color, as it was meant to be seen? Probably not. But was my time with it the perfect way to kick off Chilling Classics Cthursday? Probably yes!

Tales Of Horror-The Wedding

Tales Of Horror-The Wedding

Tales Of Horror-The Waiting Wall

Tales Of Horror-The Waiting Wall

Arise, fair Esther

2023 is winding down and I say good riddance! Sure sure, there were plenty of creamy middles and even some delicious highs. But we cannot ignore low lows from the past year either, including but not limited to The Exorcist: Believer existing, a Blu-ray release of Stay Alive still not existing, and Screaming Females existing and then not existing any longer, which means that the February show--where they were to play with Team fucking Dresch!!--I had tickets for was cancelled. With Persephone firmly tucked away in the underworld for the next li'l bit (stay strong, girl) and the sun setting at, like, 3:30 in the afternoon, the dark vibes seem perfectly fitting as 2023 withers to its end at last. 

But, soft! What choker through yonder window breaks? It is Esther's, and she is the goddamned sun! She has come to save us all with the news that Orphan 3 is in active development.


Perhaps you already know this, but regardless let me state it plain: I am such an Orphan fan. It is the goodest of good times. I never dared to wish for more, particularly as star Isabelle Fuhrman aged out of the role. But somehow, against all odds and the laws of nature alike, that not-wish was answered last year with Orphan: First Kill, yet another goodest of good times, which made me feel like a dope for thinking that Isabelle Fuhrman would ever age out of this role. Mind you, more than a decade had passed since the first film, and Fuhrman looks like a 23-year-old playing a 31-year-old playing a 9-year-old. Go figure! There are camera tricks and apple boxes galore, and we are never fooled for an instant into thinking anyone would assume she's a regular ol' child! The filmmakers also know this. None of us care. Orphan:First Kill is glorious. It's a film that probably shouldn't be at all but there it is and we as a species are better for it. 

"But no, that has to be the last? Unless...no. No, right?" Again, I daren't dream for more. But madlad William Brent Bell saw the love that lurks in my heart, and will deliver unto us more-phan. When will we see it? Who knows. It doesn't matter. Just knowing that Esther is out there in the ether is enough for me. I'm already writing letters to the Oscars, telling them to get ready to hand out all of their trophies to Orphan 3.  

Okay, in this one that choker is gonna be removed and her head will fall off at last, I just knows it!

Tales Of Horror-The Shimmering

Tales Of Horror-The Shimmering

Tales Of Horror-The Riding Crop

Tales Of Horror-The Riding Crop

Tales Of Horror-The Linen Mill

Tales Of Horror-The Linen Mill

Tales Of Horror-The Silken

Tales Of Horror-The Silken