Entries Tagged 'Reviews' ↓

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!

Day 31 – "It’s Halloween. Everyone’s entitled to one good scare."


Here we are, at the end of all things SHOCKtober 2023! My, how time flies when you're having horror movies. It's been a terrific time for me, giving a few films a second chance, revisiting some old faves, and watching many more that were entirely new to me--a couple of which have become new faves. But what to choose for the last movie of the month? After much consideration and poring over the list of your favorites until my eyes fell out (it's 951 movies, after all), I said you know what, let me put on some Uggs™, take a sip of my pumpkin spice coffee (my supply is dwindling, by the way), and be a basic bitch: It's time for la raison de la saison. It's time for Halloween (1978).


I actually don't make it mandatory viewing every year, opting instead for anything that feels atmospherically-appropriate because I've seen Halloween so many goddamn times that I could probably do a 99% accurate one-woman show of the entire thing, music cues included. But something about this year, it just felt right. It felt...not fresh, exactly, because that's impossible. It's not as if it would hold any surprises for me, but I was excited all the same. It's like I was the third kid trailing behind Laurie in the pumpkin parade, going "ooooOOOOoooooo."


In the 2010 and 2017 lists of readers' favorite horror films, Halloween ranked #1. In 2020, it dropped to #4, with Suspiria (2018) taking the top spot. I'd be surprised if Suspiria held the top spot next time around--yes, I think that's a perfect film and it certainly ranks as one of my favorites, but it's possible there was some recency bias (or perhaps Gaylords of Darkness listener bias) happening. I could be wrong! We shall see. But I'd be equally surprised to see Halloween regain the top spot. Do the kids jive with it anymore? It feels like no.

Of course, I am generalizing, and there are always going to be those who like to put the stab-stab to horror's sacred cows, calling them "boring" or "not scary" or "not actually that good" or whatever. Scream, it seems, has taken over as the slasher top dog. It's got a healthy, vocal contingent that came of horror age with it, and the newer installations bring back legacy characters while still centering a young demographic. Essentially, Scream keeps on Screamin' in a way that brings together multiple generations of horror fans. It works in a way that Halloween does not and never has, with its offshoots, multiple reboots, explanations, and timelines. 

Even though I take a year off from it here and there, though, I'll always love this movie with my whole heart. It's too ingrained. It terrified me too much during the entirety of my youth: That shot of Michael sitting up and turning to look at Laurie was (and honestly, still sort of is) the stuff of nightmares. For a long time of my horror-loving life, I could not envision anything scarier than Michael Myers. Except maybe Pazuzu. 



As for Laurie Strode, I think I've been too hard on her in recent years and the fact that it's ultimately Dr Loomis who saves the day, even if the respite is only temporary. I can't help but be dazzled by more proactive gals like your Chris Higgins, or the gals who really fucking went through it like Sally Hardesty. But really, every Final Girl really fucking went through it, yeah? Why am I making this some kind of Final Girl Oppression and Going Through It Olympics? 

Girl Scout Laurie goes from watching a monster movies with the two kids in her charge to finding the dead bodies of literally all of her friends in the blink of an eye. She's relentlessly pursued by a maniac--a smooth-walking maniac, but a maniac nonetheless. She runs, she fends him off and fights back on more than one occasion, and she still has the wherewithal to take care of those kids. She's fucking great, and I take back every single moment I cared that Loomis SHOT HIM SIX TIMES.


Speaking of Loomis, I know--I KNOW!--that he's essential for making Michael Myers something more than a mere weirdo. Without Loomis, there is no Shape. But my gawd, Loomis. His diagnosis of Michael, which is that the man is an "it" who is "evil," is based on ~*~vibes~*~. Yes, Michael stabbed his sister to death. There's clearly something going on! But otherwise, we are told that he simply stares at walls. He doesn't hurt anyone in the hospital. He doesn't say a word or make a threatening gensture. But Doctor (DOCTOR!!!) Loomis looks in his eyes and knows he is evil. What fucking Sally Struthers correspondence course did he take to earn his degree certificate? 


That said, of course he was right, so thank goodness he didn't opt for Air Conditioner Repair or TV/VCR Repair, amirite?

I had such a great time revisiting this movie. The music still hits. Nick Castle's physicality is oddly underrated when we're talking about great horror performances. I still adore the girls (Annie is forever my sarcastic queen). It's still crazy how quick the sex is between Judith Myers and her boyfriend. I still wonder who was going to look at the Myers house? Like, who was the prospective buyer for whom Laurie Strode had to drop off keys?

So I don't know, if you're anything like me in that you've seen Halloween so many times that you love it but you also you've wrung every last possible drop of in-the-moment enjoyment from it...maybe you haven't. Maybe you'll find yourself wishing you had it all alone...just the two of you. What I'm really talking about here is FATE.


I guess that's a wrap on it! Thanks to everyone who's been reading and commenting and the such, it's been a hoot indeed. If you want to keep up with Final Girl updates (I'VE GOT PLANS), you can sign up over at Avenue X (it's free!) and get Final Girl posts and whatever other writing I do over there right in the ol' email inbox. Or you can keep checking here, that's your business. I've also been guesting a lot recently on the Evolution of Horror podcast--many of my episodes are on the Patreon, but there are free ones, too. I also still have my column in every issue of Rue Morgue magazine--I've usually got a few reviews in there as well, and the occasional feature. Just throwing that all out there.

So I'll be around a few places and back here soon. Until then, as always, make every tober a SHOCKtober

Day 30 – "Sometimes you can get very weird. And you’re getting worse lately."


The movie I'm writing about here today is not the movie I'd originally intended to write about her today. I had the other movie all picked out, the DVD in my hand. But as I was about to open the case, it was like something came over me. I entered a weird fugue state, or maybe I was momentarily possessed, I don't know. Whatever happened to me physically or metaphysically compelled me to watch Girls Nite Out (1982), a slasher movie that I absolutely hated the first (and only!) time I saw it, way back in 2005, during the very first SHOCKtober here at Final Girl.

At the time, I found it to be not only dull and plodding, but also insanely misogynist. It's strange to me that I would willingly revisit it at all, but I think that subconsciously the spirit of SHOCKtober (her name is SHOCKtobra, obviously) was speaking to me...or maybe through me?...and saying "It was called a favorite film by one reader in 2020. Why not revisit it? What's the harm?"

There was a part of me that was vehemently against the idea. Why waste time on garbage, especially on garbage I'd already seen, hated, and called misogynist?

But another part of me, the cool mom part, said "Lighten up, narc, you can burn your bras some other time! This is SHOCKtober, baby! Get it while you can"


Let me say it right up front: I guess all sides of me are now cool mom because I actually...loved it this time. What a world!

I look for and respond to most horror movies much differently than I did in 2005, and Girls Nite Out is a great example. I appreciate random elements that either breezed right by me or didn't fit within the parameters of what constituted "a good slasher" to me. Maybe I've just seen a lot of movies that are more extreme or more hateful since then--movies that both predate this one, and movies that were produced long after. Maybe I'm just tuckered out by outrage, as public discourse about every single thing has become an endless series of Two Minutes Hates. We had a pandemic! That I guess is over? I just kind of feel like...I got that worked up because the killer in Girls Nite Out calls the victims "whore" or "slut" before they're killed? I get it, I suppose, but nevertheless, I don't feel like persisting. This movie is pretty fucking harmless in the scheme of things and of all the words I'd use to describe it, at this point "misogynist" is pretty far down the list. I'm going to turn in the Susan B Anthony award (for baby feminism) I won in 6th grade the next time I pass by my elementary school.

Now then, if you're still here, what exactly do I like so much about a shitty slasher movie that I am willing to surrender prestigious (AND WELL-EARNED OKAY) awards over it? 

I love the story we can infer by the casting of Hal Holbrook and his son David. By 1982, the elder Holbrook was already a revered actor, beloved for his Tony-winning one-man show about Mark Twain and his Emmy-nominated performance in ABC Movie of the Week That Certain Summer. His star was still on the rise, really, and he had no business being in a low-budget horror movie about a wackadoo who dons a mascot costume and goes around killing college girls during a midnight scavenger hunt. But when you see "Introducing David Holbrook" in the opening credits, you know what's up: Hal is here so his son would be cast in the movie. And every time Hal Holbrook appears on the screen in Girls Nite Out, you can see another little chunk of his soul leave his body and flutter away, never to return.


Was it worth it? Well, David Holbrook has maybe five minutes of screen time total. Girls Nite Out has a fairly large cast, and he's the worst actor of the bunch by an Antonio Bay mile. But my goodness, he acts so hard. He is doing a lot of acting. He gets to work with Lauren Marie-Taylor of Friday the 13th Part 2, and he gets to deliver the best speech in the film, which I did not acknowledge as such in 2005:
You little bitch! You just take what you can get. All of you--you're nothing but a bunch of whores! I won't forget this.

So again, I ask: was it worth it?

Fuck yeah it was! Thank you for your service and sacrifice, Pater Holbrook. 

I love all the characters in this movie. While there is one that is clearly designated "the nerd," every single character in Girls Nite Out is a nerd. The "cool" college radio station DJ who plays nothing but the Lovin' Spoonful? Nerd.

The two star jocks of the team and who share a nice bromance? Nerds.

NO COMMENT, NOPE, I WILL NOT MAKE A SINGLE COMMENT ABOUT THIS

They're all nerds. Many of them are charming as hell, and I was even a titch bummed when a few girls (who reminded me of the queens in Killer Party) got killed. 


What else do I love? Hmm. Well, I love that it emerged during the slasher heyday and plays with tropes juuuust enough to not have your typical "Final Girl vs the Killer" ending. I'm not even sure if the final girl would qualify as a "Final Girl" here. But she is played by Julia Montgomery, who looks like a 1982 Mena Suvari in this and would go on to star in all the Revenge of the Nerd movies, so who cares about narrowly-defined archetypes! 

I love Detective Nikola Tesla.

Once upon a time, I did not at all appreciate the killer's signature weapon, which was a "bear claw" fashioned out of steak knives. Now upon a time, I say "Freddy Krueger WHO?"


With visions of misogynistplums dancing in my head all these years, I was surprised to see on this revisit that the body count, while nearly all women, is shockingly low, and the violence is not at all brutal or sadistic or explicit. Though these are a bunch of ostensibly horny college students, there's no sex and no nudity. It's really tame as far as these things go, and much of the runtime is spent (deep breath) getting to know the characters. They are even afforded opportunities to react to and grieve for their friends' deaths. That's such a rare thing in slasher movies, where bodies are usually only there to add to the count.

Of course, it's not trying to be anything other than a slasher flick. The killer's costume is goofy as all hell. The ending is completely silly and bonkers and I was so into it. 

If rewatching Girls Nite Out at all was shocking to me, well, enjoying it as much as I did makes me question every opinion I've ever had about anything. What would happen if I, say, ate a circus peanut? Would I love that, too? Who even am I anymore? What other changed opinions about horror movies are waiting in the wings of my brain manor? Can I trust myself? Should I have ever trusted myself? Sigh. I feel untethered! There's only one thing I can still be sure of:

You're nothing but a bunch of whores! ?

Day 29 – "There’s nothing unnatural here! Or supernatural!"


If you've been hanging around these parts for more than...oh, let's say three minutes, then you know I've always got a hankerin' for some made-for-TV horror. It's great that it seems like no matter how many I've seen, there's another ol' new-to-me flick waiting in the wings, such as today's one vote wonder, A Cold Night's Death (1973). I tells ya, I hope I never run out of made-for-TV horror!


A Cold Night's Death originally aired on Tuesday, January 30, 1973 as ABC's Tuesday Movie of the Week. Movie of the Week ran from 1969 to 1975, each year comprising "seasons" that featured low budget films produced exclusively for ABC. All genres were dabbled in, and hot topic issues like feminism, racism, and homosexuality were often center focus. After a couple seasons, horror had proven to be one of the most popular genres; Some of ABC's titles would go on to become classics both mainstream and cult: Bad Ronald, Scream Pretty Peggy, Home for the Holidays, The Night StalkerDon't Be Afraid of the Dark, Trilogy of Terror, and Duel are but a few. Blumhouse fucking wishes.

No star was too big for the small screen, either. Milton Berle, Barbara Stanwyck, Olivia de Havilland, Bing Crosby, Bette Davis, Charles Nelson Reilly...a whole Hollywood Boulevard's worth of names appeared in one or more productions over the years. A Cold Night's Death is no different, giving us Robert Culp and Eli Wallach as two scientists stuck at a remote research station where they battle the elements, each other, and maybe...something else! oooOOOOOOoooooooooooo


Robert Jones and Frank Enari (Culp and Wallach) are helicoptered to Tower Mountain Research Station after base camp loses contact with the station's lone resident, Vogel, whose last radio messages had been increasingly delusional and erratic. After some searching through the trashed station, they find Vogel sitting at the radio, frozen solid. A nearby window was open. The door was unlocked. The station's primate test subjects are freezing and starving. 


This is all ominous to be sure, but after Vogel's body is helicoptered back down the mountain, Jones and Enari stay on to continue the research. Enari is excited about this venture and doesn't mind the isolation, as he's looking forward to digging into the facts and the data. He also has a nice rapport with control chimp Geronimo, and with all these monkeys and chimps and the such in this movie--and this movie being from 1973--well, I can't be the only one who's braced for the possibilities of animal abuse, right? My Food of the Gods PTSD is still fresh!


Jones, on the other hand, is immediately bored and depressed. He loves the exploration and mystery aspects of research, and there's not much fun for him noting temperature readings or whatever in a remote mountaintop lab buried in snow. Space travel is cool, but recording the effects of altitude in primates to aid space travel is uncool. Jones is bummed because he clearly subscribes to the ethos of Countess Luann de Lesseps of The Real Housewives of New York.


It's interesting to me that the men divide up the tasks at the station in a way that's...mmm, let's say it's along the lines of 1970s traditional gender roles: While Jones is to take care of all the mechanics and maintenance of the station, including shoveling vast amounts of snow to melt for water, Enari takes on the domestic chores. He ties on aprons, makes the beds, cooks, cleans, and at one point, he even worries about his figure. Now I'm not saying there's any notes of romance happening between these two men, because I don't think there is. I'm just saying that the coding is a thing that makes me go hmmm (CCMusicFactoryVEVO™).


It doesn't take long for things to start getting weird around the station. The monkeys start flipping the fuck out at night. Noises are heard. The window in the radio room is found open. The generator is turned off. Food is ruined. What's going on here?

Mystery-loving Jones thinks that Vogel's strange death is tied into it somehow. The men begin to accuse and distrust each other, turning into to The Thing Blairs in a pod. 


The big reveal is maybe some silly kind of EC Comics stuff, but it really doesn't matter. The real fun is in the getting there, the span of time where we know something is up with this place. The men know something is up with this place, even if they're sometimes reluctant to admit it. Heck, even the monkeys know. A Cold Night's Death is a suspenseful little yarn indeed. It all hinges on Culp and Wallach, who bicker their way through growing paranoia and mistrust whilst trapped in horrendous conditions. The scenes outside of the station look convincingly freezing: the snow is piled high, the wind and storms are relentless, and even in the heat of summer it'll likely have you reaching for your Snuggie. An effectively eerie, sci-fi tinged score from Gil Mellé keeps things moody and the atmosphere creepy. 

Yes, I was genuinely creeped out at times, despite the fact that I watched this on YouTube, where you can tell by the screencaps that the resolution is approximately 50p. It's well worth "suffering" through, though, as A Cold Night's Death is a terrific way to spend 75 or so minutes. I'm thankful that good folks have uploaded some titles already, but that shitty picture quality (and slightly out-of-sync sound) has me hoping that someone like Kino Lorber, who's done a wonderful job cleaning up several other ABC Movies of the Week (The VictimThe Screaming Woman, etc), will give it a proper release at some point. We deserve this. The legacies of Culp and Wallach deserve this. The legacy of my man Bert Remsen, who starred in Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo and acted as casting supervisor on this film, deserves this. Film history deserves this. Most of all, Geronimo and all the other monkeys and chimps deserve this. Can I get a (monkey voice) ooh ooh ooh AHH AHH (GeronimoVEVO™)?

Day 28 – "I do not like that thing, and I do not like your attitude in completely ignoring that fact."


Reader, I suggest you strap yourself in with like five seatbelts because I am about to tell you the very exciting saga of how I chose today's chosen.

So there I was, perusing the list of your favorite horror movies when my eyes fell upon something called Tales That Witness Madness, which earned a single vote in 2020. "That sounds like some Lovecraft something or other, I will pass," I thought. Then my eyes literally screeched to a halt (and I do mean literally--there was the noise and the blue smoke and everything) when I saw that it was directed by Freddie Francis. You mean Freddie Francis, director of Dr Terror's House of Horrors, Tales from the Crypt, and Torture Garden Freddie Francis? Freddie Francis, Amicus anthology king Freddie Francis? 

"That sounds like it's probably not some Lovecraft something or other, I shall not pass," I thought. That last bit was thought in a Gandalf voice, obviously.

So then I watched it!

See, aren't you glad you had all those seatbelts on?


This is indeed an anthology film, and given the Freddie Francis of it all and the 1973 of it all, you would not be remiss to think that this is an Amicus production. But trust me, you will be availed of that idea fairly quickly. You'll see some blood splatter and think "That's surprising!" Then you'll see some bare breasts and you'll think "WOWZEE WOW! HONK HONK AWOOOGA! WHOA MAMA HUMINA HUMINA BOIYOIYOING!" Finally, you put your eyes back in your head and you remember that you didn't see the word "Amicus" over the delightfully groovy opening credits. You put all three things together and at last get it through your thick skull that this is not an Amicus anthology film!

I always have a good time with anthology horror flicks, and this was no exception, although it's decidedly on the "Huh?" end of the spectrum as far as these things go. But that's something I admire in bite-sized storytelling: the ability to answer "But...how does this make sense...?" with "It doesn't, who cares?"

Even the framing narrative had me scratching my chin: Donald Pleasence is a doctor at a futuristic insane asylum (I say "futuristic" because doors open with buttons, Pleasence uses a chemistry set to make drinks, and the whole place looks like Upson Pratt's apartment in Creepshow) that houses four very special cases. Why they are famous or what the point is, I'm not really sure. He says he's "solved" the cases but they're all still patients...? Eh, who cares! The cases provide the stories, what else do you need to know?

In the first, "Mr Tiger," a young boy has a tiger for an imaginary friend. Only it's not really imaginary, I guess, because it shows up and kills the boy's asshole parents who do nothing but scream at each other. Then the tiger leaves. That's it!


I liked the close-ups of the tiger attack, because you could see that its "paws" were clearly just big gloves on a human.

The second story, "Penny Farthing," is about a young man who inherits some stuff from his dead aunt, including a penny farthing and a photo portrait of a man that's labeled "Uncle Albert." The portrait changes expression and can do some light telekinesis. It compels the young man to start pedaling the penny farthing, which takes him back in time. The young man is then a young Uncle Albert, but a gross zombie-looking old Uncle Albert is also there. The young man's girlfriend, who looks just like Uncle Albert's girlfriend in the past, ends up dead. That's it! 

The third story, "Mel," was the best, and I'm not just saying that because it's the one that starred Joan Collins (who famously worked with Francis in the Tales from the Crypt story "And All Through the House", though that's certainly a big part it. A man brings home a giant chunk of tree and plops it in his living room, perhaps as some sort of art. His wife doesn't like it. The tree, which is vaguely woman-shaped and has the initials MEL carved in it, doesn't like the wife. Things escalate!


"Mel" was so fucking weird and funny--how could anyone not love a story that has Joan Collins and a sequence wherein we get to watch a tree's murder fantasy? If Tales That Witness Madness was only this fifteen minutes, I would have been fine with it. "Mel" rules, and the rest of the movie is just an enjoyable bonus.

The last segment, "Luau," features a young man whose mother's dying wish is for her son to complete an elaborate ritual sacrifice so that she will go to Heaven (or some other nice afterlife place) and he will be granted supernatural powers. The young man stays at his agent's house and has designs--sacrificial designs--on the agent's daughter. It all comes to a head at a luau. It ends abruptly an it's never made clear if the man gains his supernatural powers...? Oh well. 

I'm sure the whole ceremony and all that is rather yikes, but it's 1973, so some yikes is not entirely unexpected in a story centered around a luau. What's more surprising is that Kim Novak came out of retirement for this shit! What's even more MORE surprising is that she replaced Rita Hayworth! Madness, indeed.


Tales That Witness Madness was written by actress Jennifer Jayne (under the pseudonym "Jay Fairbank"), who previously worked with Francis in Dr Terror's House of Horrors. In my mind, when she wrapped up her segment in that film ("Vampire"), she said to herself "Ooh, you know what, lemme write one of those" and then she did. She also penned another Freddie Francis film, the reportedly nutso (I have not seen it to attest!) Son of Dracula, a musical starring the likes of Harry Nilsson, Ringo Starr, and Peter Frampton. Clearly she just wrote whatever she wanted without a care in the world, and to this I say thank you, Jennifer Jayne. Does any of her work make sense? It doesn't, who cares?

Day 27 – "Death does not have the power to separate us."


Having emerged from The New York Ripper earlier this month with my faculties intact, I decided to play with fire and watch another movie from my "do not watch this, it will ruin you" list. That's right, I took Marbles Harsgrove's "Don't live your life by fear. Don't do that" advice to heart and planted myself in front of the one vote wonder that is...


Yes, I have now seen Joe D'Amato's infamous spaghetti splatter flick Beyond the Darkness (1979), aka Buio Omega despite my worries that it would have me puking up my innards like that lady in Fulci's City of the Living Dead.

Hmm. Well, maybe I puked up my innards a long time ago and never noticed. Or perhaps I never had any innards to begin with? Whatever the reason is, I came out the other side of this one with my gorge decidedly unrisen, which is perhaps the most shocking thing about this shocker.

Don't get me wrong, Beyond the Darkness is truly, truly, truly gross. TRULY. But with the exception of one gnarly scene (that did have me looking away, I admit), the grossness isn't tied to the violence, which made all the difference for me. I think I was expecting, I don't know, tongues ripped out and eyeballs stabbed and the like, so when it wasn't that--when it's just "oh, you're hacking up a dead body?"--it was more palatable...though not at all palatable, if you know what I mean. It definitely deserves to have caution tape wrapped around it to ward off the innocent, but I think that for me, the context of the gore put it in the "really gross" category when I thought it'd be in the "really gross and hateful" category. Never thought I'd be here all "oh it's not that bad, I think I might have even enjoyed it" about a movie chock full of splatter, cannibalism, and necrophilia. But then I also never thought I'd live in a world where I stopped buying Sleater-Kinney albums, but here I am! (#Justice4Janet)

Frank (Kieran Canter) is a very pretty (he really is) young taxidermist whose girlfriend Anna (Cinzia Monreale) is in the hospital for some reason. Frank's housekeeper Iris (Franca Stoppi) is jealous of Anna, and so she enlists the help of a Strega Nona-type to do some voodoo on Anna. The voodoo do work, and Anna dies. Frank is sad. Back home, Iris offers him some titty. I mean that literally. She breastfeeds Frank, and you say to yourself, "Oh, what have I done to myself by watching this movie?"

Anyway, Frank ain't a taxidermist for no reason! He absconds with Anna's body, then proceeds to preserve her--you know, taking out all of her insides, giving her glass eyes, taking a bite out of her heart, etc. As you do. It's gross!


Unfortunately for...well, all of us, in a way...a hitchhiker forced herself into Frank's van when he was on his way home with Anna's body. When she catches wind of what's going on, Frank kills her, but not before ripping out all of her fingernails with pliers. Please note, that was the scene where I had to look away. It's gross!

The ever-helpful Iris is right there to assist Frank with disposing of the hitchhiker's body. By "assist" I mean "do most of the work" as Iris chops up the dead young lass with a cleaver while Frank fills the tub with acid. I love that the acid was in green glass wrapped in a basket, like a giant bottle of the finest Ernest & Julio Gallo.


Several nauseating hacks later, the hitchhiker's body parts are chucked into the tub where they dissolve into a curdled froth. Iris scoops up wayward guts with a dustpan. It's gross!


In the next scene, D'Amato intercuts Iris really disgustingly eating stew (seriously, who eats like that?) with shots of hitchhiker stew, and Frank barfs. It's gross!

Frank meets a couple of other lovely young women--a jogger, a disco dancer--and they may or may not end up dead if they find out about the dead body in his bed. Frank almost maybe could be into these lovely young women, but he really only loves Anna still and he's sad. Iris offers him a handjob. Aww (?)


Iris grows increasingly jealous of Anna and insists that Frank dispose of her. To placate her, Frank agrees to marry her on the condition that Anna stays. But when Iris invites her family over to celebrate the engagement, Frank gets a gander at them and bolts. Yeah, they're kind of weird, but they seem nice, and Iris is heartbroken. I was surprised to find myself feeling bad for the psychotic housekeeper! (#Justice4Iris)


Eventually Anna's twin sister Elena (also Monreale) shows up, throwing several wrenches into all the works. Frank is like "Oh dip! She's just like Anna but she moves and blinks, what do I do?" Iris is like "Oh dip! She's just like Anna but she moves and blinks and Frank is going to love her, what do I do?"

Frank flees to dispose of Anna, and Iris cuts the lights in the house. As Elena wanders around wondering what the fuck is going on (much like we, the viewers), a ghostly voice calls to her, warning her to leave the house because it's cursed. Now look, I couldn't really tell if it was supposed to really be Anna speaking from beyond the grave or whether it was Iris pulling some Scooby-Doo kind of shit, but obviously I choose to believe the latter. That's too good! And it's a great way to get rid of unwanted company, so I'm filing it away for reference.

Elena wandering in the dark and Iris coming after her with a knife is the closest thing Beyond the Darkness has to an effectively tense scene, and thus it was my favorite. 


Iris and Frank end up duking it out. Cheeks are eaten, eyeballs are ripped out, groins are stabbed. It's gross! But honestly, it's far far from the grossest thing in the movie and at this point you're just like "okay, Buio Omega, what else you got for me?"

In a case of mixed-up corpses, Elena almost ends up buried alive. But then she doesn't! And actually, that might be the most shocking thing about this film. After all of the nastiness and nihilism, Beyond the Darkness ends on a silly, light note. 

I really do think I enjoyed this dumb movie. I say I "think" I enjoyed it because its only goal is to gross you out, and that's not usually my bag. The story is a simple one, and yet so many questions remain.

Has Frank always been a wackadoo, or did Anna's death break his brain and drive him insane? We know nothing of his personality before her death, so it's impossible to say. And as his one facial expression throughout the film is "being pretty" (he really is), we never really understand what his torment is all about. Is it just frustration that he and Anna never consummated their relationship? 

What's Iris's deal? Is she really in love with Frank, or does she just want his money? Has she always offered up some titty here, a handjob there? She is curious! She is a real weirdo and I am intrigued by her prison matron charms.

I suppose you could make some case for Beyond the Darkness as a film about grief and learning to let go of our loved ones when they're gone. But again, D'Amato's only aim is to induce nausea, so any greater meaning is likely happenstance. However, much as I choose to believe in Iris's Scooby-Doo antics, I also choose to believe that D'Amato was making a larger point. I'm putting that thesis out in the world if only to see Beyond the Darkness listed alongside Hereditary and The Babadook and Don't Look Now in listicles about horror movies that deal with grief.

Or maybe D'Amato is just saying "Hey, if your girlfriend looked like Cinzia Monreale and she died, you, too would consider keeping her around regardless," amirite? It's not like these kinds of things don't happen in real life.

As Anna, Monreale doesn't have much to do beyond, you know, playing dead, sometimes fully nude, sometimes clothed. She's great! When I was in college I had to play a dead body in a stage production; I was under a sheet and it was a struggle not to breathe in an obvious way. Meanwhile Monreale's out here not breathing, not moving, and not blinking, amazing. Between this and those chunky-ass contacts she wore in The Beyond, she has certainly suffered enough onscreen in some of horror's more insane outings.

While it took me forever to get to Beyond the Darkness--and I wasn't sure I'd ever get to it--I've had the Goblin (billed as "The Goblins" in the film) soundtrack forever because it's fuckin' wicked. While it could simply be a side effect of listening to an unmoored soundtrack for years, I was a bit surprised to come out of hearing it in situ feeling like it didn't really work. It doesn't organically mesh with what's happening onscreen. It's more sort of plonked in there with no real function. But hey, it's still fuckin' wicked, and I'm not entirely sure what an effective, integrated score would be for a gross out flick anyway. I am just saying.

It's a wonder I never saw Beyond the Darkness back in The Day™when my best friend and I would come home from the video store loaded down with every movie that promised to be the scariest and/or the grossest. Many horror-loving yoots go through that phase, yeah? Where mainlining Faces of Death I, II, and III seems like a great way to spend an evening. This film would have fit right in. Maybe that's why I find myself coming away from it bewildered by the fact that I may have enjoyed it: it took me right back to those kind of horror movie parties, where you (gasp) have fun and, when you're not gagging from the grue, you squeal and squirm with delight. I also spent much of the film marveling at D'Amato's cleverness with editing and camera angles; He makes such effective use of animal parts that audiences have often wondered if real human corpses were used. 

Beyond the Darkness is definitely not for the fait of heart, nor is it for the queasy of stomach. It's vile and repellant, I suppose, but ultimately it's a sad and silly film, not a mean one. So if, like me, you've been curious about it but hesitant to indulge, I say let go, let gore.

Day 25 – "It’s you! But…you’re dead!"


While you are certainly welcome to partake in it any time you please, I tells ya: If there was ever a movie made for afternoon couch watchin', it's Theatre of Blood (1973). Perhaps the five people who voted for it in 2020 already knew that.


Vincent Price is Edward Lionheart, a Shakespearean actor who, with the help of his daughter Edwina (Diana Rigg), takes Shakespearean-flavored revenge on the critics who derided his abilities and gave him countless bad reviews.


Price remarked that out of his lengthy filmography, this was his favorite. It's easy to see why: As each murder is modeled after a death in the work of Shakespeare, Price gets to deliver some of the Bard's most famous lines--and he gets to wear all manner of wigs, makeup, and putty. What's not to love?


It's a trip to watch something like Theatre of Blood and see Lionheart rail against the critics who were so powerful, they could ruin lives with their influence and think about the state of popular criticism today. There is still thoughtful writing out there to be sure, but in the mainstream it's a single sentence on social media, a number on Rotten Tomatoes, drivel on a BLOG...so dire. 

I actually have a lot of thoughts about all of that, but that's all for another time. Or maybe for never, because who cares! 

Edward Lionheart is a fascinating character in that perhaps those critics were almost right about him. It's not that he's a "bad" actor per se. It's more that he was a man trapped in another era, given to over-the-top, melodramatic performances that had fallen out of favor decades before his time. He's a silent movie actor in the world of Talkies, you know? An Actor, a man who is nothing without the theatre, a man with enough ego to name his daughter after himself and mark the significant moments in his life (someone's death, his own...uh, suicide attempt) with Shakespearean monologues. He is the quintessential ham, and it's wonderful watching Price go full flourish, but also find small moments to imbue this character, for whom all the world is a stage, with some kind of real humanity.

It's also fitting that his daughter and cohort Edwina, who learned everything in life from her dear father, dons terrible drag throughout most of the movie. These two live in a fantasy world, fully dedicated to their dubious crafts. 


The murders are often exceedingly bloody and brutal, but completely fantastical, much like the grand guignol theatre of yesteryear. Lionheart must have spent a pretty penny on some of these elaborate set-ups, and I can only imagine what it was like trying to wrangle his troupe of vagrants, vagabonds, and vveirdos. It's Shakespeare by Jigsaw and it's quite a bit of fun, even if Theatre of Blood is a bit overlong at almost two hours. But there are far worse things you could do for that much time than watch Vincent Price in what is essentially a variety of roles, each one more outré than the last.

As Lionheart and his Shakespearean performances were holdovers from a bygone era, so too were Price and Theatre of Blood. By 1973, horror was truly entering a new phase: out were the likes of Vincent Price in his Corman-produced Edgar Allan Poe films, and in were the pea-soup antics of The Exorcist. The exceedingly white and demure houses of Hammer and Amicus were barely holding on, while Blaxploitation horror was thriving. Leatherface was just around the corner, revving up his chainsaw. Price would go on to focus more on his other interests, such as cooking and art, making occasional appearances in things like The Muppet Show or Michael Jackson's "Thriller," where he could bank on his well-earned legacy and simply be himself. Edward Lionheart wishes!

Day 24 – "Mother of God…they’ll kill all of us!"


As someone who is vehemently opposed to humor in all forms, I tend to avoid horror-comedies. Sure, a little of one in the other is fine, but I like to keep the funny and the scary separate like a cinematic McDLT. That's my excuse, anyway, for being an animals run amok aficionado who had never seen Piranha (1978) before last night.


I can think of no other reason why I wouldn't have chomped this one down ages ago. Everything else point to it being made just for me. A 70s animal attack movie from Joe Dante, with a cast one only dares to dream of:  Bradford Dillman, who famously fought the fire-farting cockroachs of Bug! Keenan Wynn of television's Dallas! Barbara Steele, star of this year's SHOCKtober! Dick Miller! Kevin McCarthy! Paul Bartel! Melody Thomas Scott of The Young and the Restless! It goes on and on. And just went you sit up on your fainting couch, you find out that John Sayles wrote this shit and you say "WHAT!" and you immediately come down with another case of the vapors.

All this to say, the three people who called Piranha a favorite horror movie in 2020 were really on to something, because it's a lot of fun. Yes, I say this even though it has some comedy in it!

A couple of horny young folk break into a disused military testing facility and decide that a giant murky pool is a great place for some skinny dipping. After something (spoiler: it's piranhas) in the water noms them a shitton of times, the horny young folk are dead.


Feisty skip tracer Maggie (Heather Menzies) searches for the horny young folk with the help of local reclusive drunkard me Paul (Dillman); they make their way to the testing facility and drain the murky pool, only to be scolded by local weirdo scientist Dr. Hoak (McCarthy). Hoak explains that the murky pool was not only full of the leftovers of the military's biowarfare experiments, dubbed Operation: Razorteeth...it drained right into a nearby river. 

Two points of note: one, I never thought I'd get the chance to describe a character as a "feisty skip tracer," so Piranha has already proven to be a gift. Second, I loved the little stop-motion dude in Hoak's lab and was really hoping to see more of him!


Maggie, Paul, and Hoak set off down the river on a raft to warn as many folks as they can about the incoming piranha threat, making stops at the summer camp where Paul's daughter is staying and a new resort run by Dick Miller. The military is called in to help clean up the mess, and Barbara Steele is one of the military scientists. Yes, Piranha keeps giving and giving.


There is a lot of carnage in this movie: women, children, Paul Bartel...those piranha don't care who you are, they will swim in, make a gurgly woobwoobwoob noise (not to be confused with a Three Stooges woobwoobwoob noise), and nibble you to death, turning the river red with your blood. It's so great. 

The characters were charming and weird (thank you, John Sayles), there was no skimping on the attack scenes (thank you, Joe Dante), and abrupt-as-hell ending aside, I enjoyed the heck out of this (thank you, three voters). Except, of course, for all the times something funny happened. Those parts were the worst. If anyone says I so much as cracked a smile during this movie, I'll say I was hacked!