Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Psycho House by Robert Bloch

Pyscho House
by Robert Bloch

It has been more than thirty years since Norman Bates was institutionalized; nearly a decade since he escaped, was murdered, and promptly replaced as the Psycho by his former psychiatrist; and now an enterprising businessman has decided to rebuild the Bates Motel and Norman's old house to turn them into a tourist attraction, complete with dummy mummies and animatronic killers.

Journalist Amy Haines travels to Fairvale, the town nearest to Norman's old digs, in hopes of collecting information for a book. She arrives just in time to hear the news: a young girl has been found murdered at the Bates house. And more bizarrely, the Mother dummy has been stolen.

Haines immediately launches into her own investigation, although she is met with opposition from nearly the entire town's population. Her only assistance comes from Hank Gibbs, the editor of the local newspaper. Someone new has taken on the unofficial mantle of the Psycho, and the closer they get to the truth, the deeper they place themselves in danger.

Bloch's original Psycho was a psychological horror tale. Psycho 2 had more in common with the slasher genre. This third and final entry in the series is much less of a horror story than it is a detective novel. The murders are few and far between, and it's not until the end that our protagonists seem to be in any real danger. That is to say, the suspense is essentially non-existent.

That being said, I actually enjoyed this book quite a bit, definitely more than its snarky metafictional predecessor. The characterizations were strong, and the notion of a demon possession introduced here (even if it did prove faulty) was an interesting one to wrestle with.

There's no doubt about it: Bloch could tell one hell of a story, and his prose has gotten better with each successive entry. My only qualms lie in the fact that he can get a little "cutsie" with language (phrases like "Shower put off and nightgown put on" abound), and the book ends on a ridiculous preachy note that seems lifted from an after school special.

Well worth the read. Too bad that Bloch has passed on. I would gladly welcome another couple entries in the series, and I wouldn't even be completely averse to them being written by someone else. I know that's bound to be considered blasphemy by some, but hey...they did it to Hitchcock.

Who do you think should take a stab at it?


Monday, August 29, 2011

976-EVIL (1988)


Written by Brian Helgeland & Rhet Topham
Directed by Robert Englund

Hoax...Stephen Geoffreys
Spike...Patrick O'Bryan
Aunt Lucy...Sandy Dennis
Suzie...Lezlie Deane

Simple-minded teenager Hoax is picked on and abused both at home and at school, his only ally being his leather-jacketed greaser cousin Spike who lives in the guest house above his garage like a latter day Fonzie.  But Spike can't be there to protect him all of the time, so Hoax takes matters into his own hands.

Calling a horoscope hotline seems innocuous enough, but the number (976-E-V-I-L) should have tipped Hoax off that dialing in may not have been such a great idea.  Before long, he's been instilled with some pretty dark and impressive forces that allow him to exact a gruesome revenge against his tormentors.

Certainly not a great film, 976-Evil is elevated beyond its mediocre status by a strong sense of nostalgia felt by those of us who grew up religiously watching films like this when they were originally released.  Stephen Geoffreys as Hoax is a particular highlight, as he perfectly embodies the weak and the bullied--probably because he had so much practice with the part during his own high school days.  Many of us horror fans were bullied ourselves during our school years, or at the very least made to feel like social outcasts because of our interests, so it's no wonder that this movie has remained something of a cult favorite as Hoax is acting out the revenge so many of us were unable to act out ourselves.

Geoffreys, by the way, seemed all geared up to be a genre wunderkind in the 1980s with appearances in The Twilight Zone, Amazing Stories, and as Evil Ed in the original Fright Night.  But shortly after this film, he took a sudden and unexpected detour into hardcore gay pornography, appearing in films such as the Transexual Prostitutes series, Leather Virgin, and the less-than-subtle Guys Who Crave Big Cocks under the pseudonyms Sam Ritter and Stephan Bordeaux.  In 2007 he returned to genre fare with Sick Girl, and has been working erratically since.

EDIT:  For the sake of fairness, it should be stated that Geoffreys' camp is stating that it was not him acting in gay porn for all those years, but was in fact his brother.  There's a lot of debate about this on the internet, as there seems to be no proof that such a brother even exists.  A good publicist could easily dissuade these rumors, simply by supplying a photograph of the two brothers together, but as of yet, no such photograph has surfaced.  Regardless, I don't give a damn if Geoffreys is gay, straight or bi; or if he has appeared in porn of any variety.  The fact of the matter is that he is a great character actor whose heyday never fully materialized for one reason or another, but here's to hoping that he's on his way to changing that.  Better late than never.

Rated R
92 Minutes
United States


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Proper Violence (2011)

A Proper Violence

Written & Directed by Matt Robinson and Chris Faulisi

Morgan...Randy Spence
Rich...Shawn Mahoney
Shep...Justin Morck
Dustin...Will Brunson
Lucy...Beverley Lauchner

Morgan Edwards, just released from prison, is getting a fresh start.  But with no friends, and all ties cut from his family, he's desperate to find some sort of human connection.  After a number of failed attempts, that connection blossoms from an unlikely incident: a masked man breaks into his apartment and shoots him in the gut.  A short time later, he is found by Shep and taken to the hospital, saving his life.

Running into Shep again at a later date, Morgan is invited on a camping trip with Shep and three of his friends.  Things are plenty tense once they get into the woods, and Morgan can't quite figure out why--until he realizes that these three men are connected to the crime that put him behind bars in the first place, and they're looking for more than just male bonding on this trip.

Not really a horror movie, but a strong emotional drama with horrific implications, A Proper Violence starts off a little slow, but quickly reels you in.  It tests your emotions, pulling your sympathies from one side to to another and then back again until you don't know who the good guys are, or even if there are any.  The tension is ridiculous, and the finale a shocker that will once again have you questioning where your allegiances lie.  Revenge is something that we all dream about at some point in our life, but this movie will make you question the logic behind it.

A surprisingly effective film, this could be double-featured with the more-bizarre and more-darkly-humorous Waldo the Dog, for one fucked-up night of movie-going.

Not Rated
102 Minutes
United States

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989)

Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland

Written by Fritz Gordon
Directed by Michael A. Simpson

Angela...Pamela Springsteen
Herman...Michael J. Pollard
Lily...Sandra Dorsey
Barney...Cliff Brand

From the remains of Camp Rolling Hills, the site of a massacre or two in the past, Camp New Horizons has risen like the mythical phoenix to begin the killings anew.  Right off the bat, Angela (the rapidly-aging precocious psychopath from the previous films) kills off Maria on her way to camp and takes her place.  It's such a haphazardly run organization that nobody even notices, and so Angela is free to slice, dice, chop, shoot, smash, and pound her way through the entire New Horizons family at her leisure.

I'm pretty sure that camps like this no longer exist.  In fact, I'd be willing to bet that they never did.  The campers are comprised equally of wealthy, upper-crust snobs and bigots, and violent, inner city kids.  And I use the term 'kids' quite loosely, as these people are far too old to be spending their summers at camp.  I mean, I'm not picketing in favor of child killing here, but these yahoos would have been much better served as counselors rather than the campers, as in Friday the 13th.

Sleepaway Camp III follows the cliched slasher formula to a T, for better or for worse.  There are no surprises of plot here, just exactly what you have come to expect.  Some of the kills are pretty entertaining (I especially enjoyed the flagpole drop), although they tend to be a little too "off-camera" for my tastes.  Tongue was firmly in cheek in this entry, and the whole thing came off as very hokey and very in-jokey.  It was sometimes worthy of a groan and an eye roll, but overall, it was a fun (albeit completely mindless) entry.

Boobies and bloodshed.  That's usually a pretty trustworthy combination.

Rated R
80 Minutes
United States

"You both shut up.  I'm goin' to camp, and I might never come back."

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Minty the Assassin (2009)

Minty the Assassin

Written & Directed by Eugene Baldovino

Minty...Elena Madison
Double Delicious...Tabitha Taylor
Big Boss...Anthony Ray Parker
Dr. Brain Bender...Chip Joslin

Minty is a chocolate-chomping "unstoppable sexual martial artist" and an assassin...but apparently still one of the good guys, as her hideout is labeled Good Guys Headquarters. When her sensei Big Boss is kidnapped and held prisoner by Dr. Brain Bender (a douchey dude with really strange facial hair) at the top of the Cock (not clock) Tower, it's up to Minty to rescue him.

The next sixty minutes or so consist solely of Minty meeting up with other super-characters, and battling them between verbal quips and scientific diatribes. Each of these fight scenes serve two purposes: to waste time, and to strip the sexy Minty of one more piece of clothing.

This is meant to be something of a sexy spoof of the superhero genre, but, for the most part, it fails on both fronts. The superheroes and villains are one-dimensional generics in ridiculous garb, the acting is generally piss poor, and the action sequences are poorly conceived. Beyond that, the special effects consist primarily of sub-par flash animation, and there seems to be absolutely no sort of interior logic that this movie revolves around.

Strangely, the dialogue tries to impress us with its depth and theoretical know-how. It may have actually succeeded, if it weren't counteracted by the fact that Minty was having this conversation with, say, a rat man. Not that it would have mattered much. Lesbian vampires, cartoon mice and philosophical ramblings have no business cavorting hand-in-hand.

Regarding the "erotic" aspects of the movie, there is a lot of cleavage and nearly-nipples, talk about sexuality, and chick fights, but for the most part, this is one big cock tease of a motion picture. There is a lesbian sex scene for those willing to stick around until the end, interspersed with a pornographic cartoon. There's no doubt that the ladies are attractive, but there's not much else to reccomend.

Ridiculous, tedious, and completely plotless? Sure. But Minty does have a few things going for it...

Not Rated
80 Minutes
United States

"You are not an animal. You are a lesbian vampire, and that is hot as hell."

Friday, August 5, 2011

Hobo With A Shotgun (2011)

Hobo With A Shotgun
Written by John Davies
Directed by Jason Eisener
Hobo...Rutger Hauer
Drake...Brian Downey
Abby...Molly Dunsworth

Rutger Hauer is the titular hobo who jumps off the train at the end of the line, hoping to earn enough scratch to start his own lawn care business.  But he finds his new hometown overrun with crime, ruled by Drake, a sadistic mobster, and his two doofy sons in matching letterman jackets.

Our homeless hero mostly observes from a safe distance until he befriends Abby, a not-so-happy hooker who ends up on the wrong side of the Drake crime family. Next thing you know, he's giving up his lawnmower money in favor of a shotgun. And he's determined to clean up the streets, one shell at a time.

The interactions between Abby and the hobo are surprisingly intimate and heart warming, which is in direct contrast to the over-the-top violence and characterizations that populate the rest of the film. And I do mean over-the-top. Hobo With A Shotgun is essentially a Troma movie with better production values.  That's going to be a good thing for some people, and a bad thing for others.

This is another branch on the family tree that began with the Grindhouse double-feature. And while the original fake trailer which this feature was based on better captured that sleazy 'seventies feel than movie that it eventually became, Hobo With A Shotgun was always entertaining...even if it was usually ridiculous.

The introduction of The Plague (an armored pair of hooligans--possibly demonic in nature) kind of ruined the final third if the film for me, as it steered it into out-of-character dimensions.  But if you're in the mood for mindless and bizarre hyper-violence, but aren't willing to read Japanese subtitles, then this may be just the movie you're looking for.

Rated R
86 Minutes
United States

"You're making my dick thirsty."


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