Friday, August 31, 2012

The Headless Eyes (1971)

The Headless Eyes

Written & Directed by Kent Bateman

Arthur Malcolm...Bo Brundin

Struggling artist Arthur Malcolm is forced to commit a little breaking & entering just to make ends meet. Unfortunately, he's not very good at it, and the lady of the house wakes up while he's rifling through the bedroom. She flips her wig, probably mistaking Artist Arthur for Rapist Raphael, and she scoops an eyeball right out of his skull with a tea spoon.

Flash forward two years, and Arthur is now a struggling artist with an eyepatch and a 14-victim body count under his belt. He removes (with a spoon, of course) the eyes of his victims and utilizes them in his artwork. With the city terrified, the police stupefied, and Arthur slipping deeper and deeper into madness, sooner or later, something has got to give.

This low-budget cheapy is light on plot and heavy on lingering, brooding close ups of the murderer's face. The acting is over-the-top, and Arthur's wails of crazed agony really grate on the nerves--as does the screeching, repetitive soundtrack, although I enjoyed the underlying jazz beat. The special effects are as poor as you would expect, and far too much of the grue unfolds just out of frame.

There are some extreme lapses in logic, the foremost of which is how a one-eyed artist whose work revolves around eyeballs and hangs out around crime scenes is not a suspect in the murder cases in which the victim's eyeballs have been removed. The most amusing example, however, regards Arthur's 13th victim, whose corpse is apparently kept in her apartment until the day of her funeral, when she is finally removed in a coffin. If this is how murder is handled in this city, it's no wonder that Arthur is able to get away with his crimes for so long.

There are occasional glimmers of hope in this film, however. The scene in which local citizens are interviewed outside of the aforementioned apartment building is naturalistic and believable. The introduction of Arthur's pretty young protege (far too late in the film) brings with it nice character interactions and (sadly unfulfilled) possibilities. And the low-rent look of the movie actually works in its favor, giving it a slightly-more-believable feel, much as it does for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

I was bored senseless for the first 15 minutes or so and almost turned the flick off, but 30 minutes in I was interested, and at the one hour mark I couldn't wait to see how they wrapped it up in the remaining 17 minutes. In the end, it's really not bad at all (as far as bad movies go), and fans of Driller Killer would probably enjoy it as well. It's a fun and sleazy, albeit not outstanding, entry in the strange Mad Artist subgenre of horror.

I don't think it has ever received a legitimate DVD release, so you'll have to keep your eyes peeled for an inexpensive VHS copy. You do still have a VCR, don't you?

Rated X (supposedly)
78 Minutes
United States

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

976-EVIL 2 (1992)

976-EVIL 2

Written by Eric Anjou
Directed by Jim Wynorski

Spike...Patrick O'Bryan
Robin...Debbie James
Grubeck...Rene Assa

Spike, the second-rate Fonzie from the original installment, rolls into the town of Slate River immediately following the fifth in a string of murders committed by a local serial killer. He quickly hooks up with a beautiful blonde named Robin (who conveniently seems to have clairvoyant visions), and the two must work together to discern what the connection is between Mr. Grubek, the dean of the local college, and the 976 horoscope line; not to mention how he continues to kill even when safely locked behind bars.

The subtitle here is The Astral Factor, so it shouldn't be considered too big of a spoiler if I reveal to you that Grubek is using Astral Projection (a la Marvel Comics' Dr. Strange) to reach his victims.

This strange combination of New Age bullshit and horror isn't especially effective, and at times gets downright ridiculous--such as when one of his victims finds herself zapped into a television to be a character in a public domain mashup of Night of the Living Dead and It's A Wonderful Life.

The resolution at the end is pretty silly, too, and it's only magnified by the poor animation that was the forefather to today's CGI.

This highly unnecessary sequel is sorely missing the actor Stephen Jeffreys, who played Hoax in the original. While it was nice to see the character of Spike return, that wasn't enough to save this stinker from its own mediocrity.

Rated R
93 Minutes
United States


Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Werewolf of Woodstock (1975)

The Werewolf of Woodstock 

Directed by John Moffitt

David...Andrew Stevens
Burt...Tige Andrews
Becky...Belinda Balaski
Moody...Michael Parks

In the wake of the Woodstock music festival, hippie-hating blue collar Burt is struck by lightning, which mysteriously turns him into a werewolf who just wants a little peace and quiet. Ironically, when Were-Burt begins slaughtering people, witness reports of a long-haired unkempt assailant leads to the belief that it's a hippie doing the killing. Talk about becoming the thing you hate.

Although the festival is over, a quartet of long-haired latecomers have just arrived to record a record demo "Live At Woodstock", giving Were-Burt not only prey, but scapegoats as well.

This made-for-TV movie--although it runs for just over an hour sans commercials, so maybe I should call it a moviella--was originally brought to us by Dick Clark's production company as part of ABC's Wide World Mystery series, sort of a genre take on the movie of the week. As far as I have been able to ascertain, it has never received a legitimate home video release, which has lead to its status as something of a lost cult classic.

It's not completely lost, and it's not completely a classic, but it lies somewhere in between. It's certainly a novelty item, and probably was at the time of it's release, too, since it was released seven years after Woodstock had ended and the hippie culture it represented was already all but gone. Plus, it was produced by Dick Clark the so-called Eternal Teenager, so the counterculture was actually treated with a little respect.

A lot has been made about how bad this movie is, but it's not so much bad as it is silly. The acting is typically pretty good, and the pacing works out well for the abbreviated running time. The special effects are shoddy, but what can you expect from mid-seventies TV?

It is a rather poor representation of a werewolf--he seems less like a wolf man than a hairy cross between an angry toddler and Quasimodo--but maybe that's because he's not a supernatural creature but one of pseudo-science. There's even a tender moment between victim and werewolf reminiscent of Fay Wray and her big ape boyfriend.

Further cementing the silliness of this feature is the fact that nobody seems all that surprised when they learn a werewolf is on the loose, and that the hippie girl is psychically attuned to her dog. In what is not only the greatest scene ever captured in video but is also a hell of an analogy for the entire decade, at one point the werewolf speeds off in a stolen dunebuggy. It is truly a beautiful thing.

Quick, cheap and cheesy. The Werewolf of Woodstock is the 7-11 nachos of horror film.

74 minutes
United States

"Oh here we go. Trial by hair length."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Something Evil (1972)

Something Evil

Written by Robert Clouse
Directed by Stephen Spielberg

Paul Worden...Darren McGavin
Marge Worden...Sandy Dennis
Stevie Worden...Johnny Whitaker

An over-worked ad executive moves into a country farm house with his artist wife and two young children. They are told that a pentacle painted on the barn is meant to ward off evil spirits. They don't believe it, but the wife appreciates the design, and she incorporates it into her art projects.

It apparently doesn't work as well as it's supposed to. In no time at all, strange things begin to happen at the ol' homestead: weird wind whips up from out of nowhere, a visitor is killed in a car wreck leaving the house, and a baby can be heard crying in the accompanying barn at all hours of the night.

The house has a dark back story, of course, that may explain the odd occurrences. We're just not privy to all that much of it.

The acting is fine but nothing outstanding; the special effects are nil; the story plods along slowly and seemingly without direction. It's not a horrible film, but it's pretty damn mediocre. You'll be ready for it to end halfway through, and when it does, it ends rather suddenly and without suspense.

The only real reason to watch is the novelty factor. It was a low-budget made-for-TV production directed Stephen Spielberg, a year after his far-superior TV flick Duel, and a full decade before he directed Poltergeist, with which this shares a passing resemblance. Darren McGavin, who stars as the husband, also appeared as his signature character Kolchak the same year.

73 Minutes
United States

"Get the baby out, Paul! The baby out!"

Friday, August 17, 2012

Killdozer (1974)


Written by Theodore Sturgeon & Ed MacKillop
Directed by Jerry London

Lloyd Kelly...Clint Walker
Mack...Robert Urich
Dutch...James Wainright
Chub...Neville Brand
Dennis...Carl Betz

After coming into contact with a fallen meteorite, a bulldozer seemingly develops a mind of its own and begins killing off the employees of an oil company who are stranded at their worksite some 200 miles off the coast of Africa. It's sort of like a blue collar Christine, without the rock 'n' roll music. Or the interesting parts.

Yes, sad to say that I found Killdozer to be a real yawner. With a name as corny as that, I wasn't expecting cinematic greatness but I was hoping for a little delicious cheese. Instead, it was a lot of blathering and bickering between mostly unlikable fellows, with only the occasional action scene thrown in.

Speaking of which, it really shouldn't be that difficult for a grown man to outrun or out-maneuver a freaking bulldozer. If you're that slow, that clumsy, or stupid enough to hide inside a drainage pipe directly in the path of the possessed bulldozer, well, don't expect too much sympathy from me when you're mowed down and end up in that big construction site in the sky.

Perhaps the biggest problem for me was that the Killdozer had no personality. I know that's an odd thing to say, considering it is a cold piece of machinery, but to return to my Christine comparison, that car had personality, she was a character in the film rather than a mere prop. No matter how many times they showed the 'dozer's headlights, I never saw them as eyes. I just saw them as headlights.


Not nearly as much fun as I was expecting.

74 Minutes

"It's too heavy to hang and it's too big to put in the gas chamber."

Monday, August 13, 2012

Abby (1974)


Written by G. Cornell Layne
Directed by William Girdler

Dr Williams...William Marshall
Abby...Carol Speed
Emmet...Terry Carter

This is, certainly, a rip-off of the Exorcist, and not merely because it's a story of demonic possession that results in an exorcism--there are plenty of those that can stand on their own. Abby, though, follows the formula that the Exorcist laid out very nearly step-by-step: a man of the cloth on an archeological expedition accidentally unleashes a demon in a foreign country, and that demon inexplicably travels to America and takes possession of a female, who undergoes a rapid and almost puberty-like transformation. Her voice drops a few octaves, she grows very moody, and she is ruled by sexual impulses. After being inspected for physical and mental health issues, it is determined that she has been possessed, and an exorcism (by the very man who released the demon in the first place) must be performed.

So it's no surprise that Warner Brother filed a lawsuit against Abby's distributor, AIP--although it is slightly surprising that Warner Brothers won. It resulted in this movie being pulled from theaters, but by that time it had already raked in four million dollars, making it a financial success even if the filmmakers didn't get their hands on the earnings.

Often called a blaxploitation horror movie, that's only partially correct. For the vast majority of the film, I was impressed by the fact that the characters onscreen are good people who are treated with respect. They do not speak in jive, and they are not overly-colorful, flamboyant or larger than life. Their race is not an issue or plot point, it is merely a fact that is not dwelled upon or even mentioned.

And then, about three-quarters through the movie, Abby descends upon a bar (which I like to think of as the Whole Different Movie Tavern), the soundtrack swells with groovy funk, and THIS happens:

Oh, well. Can't win 'em all.

Still, between Abby and the Exorcist, the Exorcist is much more exploitative. Abby is a full grown woman who throws herself at full grown men, while Regan was an underage child who threw herself at old men and defiled herself bloody with religious artifacts. There's not much competition there.

Abby is not nearly as shocking or terrifying or thought provoking as the film that it is aping. However, it is a hell of a lot more fun. You can watch it, have a beer and a few chuckles, and then forget about it when it is done. And how fucking great is it to see Blacula himself performing the exorcism--beneath a disco ball, no less!

Quality-wise, Abby is completely eclipsed by the Exorcist. But sometimes you need a little lighter fare, something that satisfies your genre cravings without requiring a shower afterwards. Abby fills that role quite nicely.

Rated R
89 Minutes
United States

"What ever possessed you to do a thing like that!?"

Monday, August 6, 2012

Elevator (2011)


Written by Marc Rosenberg
Directed by Stig Svendson

Martin Gossling...Devin Ratray
Don Handley...Christopher Backus
Henry Barton...John Getz
George Axelrod...Joey Slotnick

It's like a low rent Real World when 9 people are picked to live in an elevator to find out what happens when people stop being polite, and start getting real. On their way to a penthouse party, a ragtag group of investors, stock marketers, and assorted other professionals find themselves trapped between the 48th and 49th floors. Bad enough, but the real kicker is that one of them is strapped with a ticking time bomb. Uh-oh.

Which one and why? That would appear to be the question that the movie is all about, like a less supernatural version of Devil. However, the answers to those two questions are given approximately 35 minutes in, and the new question becomes "What are eight people willing to do to survive?"

The Real World joke at the beginning of this review was admittedly pretty stupid, but that doesn't make it any less apt. As they stare death in the face and start fighting back, everyone drops their everyday facades and their true character shines through. Big surprise, what they hide isn't always pleasant.

Despite the limited set, there's a good deal of tension and even some action. The acting was solid on all fronts, and the pacing wavered only slightly (there was a "reveal" scene that was drawn out into absurdity about a third of the way through). There are scenes that will have you gasping, grimacing, and squirming in your seats.  My only qualm is that there was no follow-up regarding the interconnecting relationships of these characters at the end of the story.  I suppose we have to hope for the best, expect the worst.

A genuinely claustrophobic and entertaining thriller with a great payoff. Give it a watch.

Special thanks to INCEPTION MEDIA GROUP for the screener.

Not Rated
81 Minutes
United States

"Liars go straight to hell!"


Related Posts with Thumbnails