Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The Hills Have Eyes (Film Series)

There have been four films in the Hills Have Eyes series:

1977's "The Hills Have Eyes"
1983's "The Hills Have Eyes Part II"
2006's "The Hills Have Eyes"
2007's "The Hills Have Eyes 2"

There was also a 1995 film called "The Outpost", which was also known alternately as "Mind Ripper" and "The Hills Have Eyes Part III: The Hills Still Have Eyes" and "The Hills Have Eyes 3: The Hills Have A Nose, Chin and Beard Now, Too".

Wes Craven

Truly, an overly self-important horror director (I know he used to be university lecturer and all, but for every "Nightmare on Elm Street" there's a "Hills Have Eyes Part II" and "Deadly Friend" either side of it) with some true classics as well. When he's good, he's pretty astonishing, so it's really a shame when he doesn't bother.

1974 - The Last House on the Left
1977 - The Hills Have Eyes
1978 - Summer of Fear
1981 - Deadly Blessing
1982 - Swamp Thing
1983 - The Hills Have Eyes Part II
1984 - A Nightmare on Elm Street
1985 - Chiller
1986 - Deadly Friend
1987 - The Serpent and the Rainbow
1989 - Shocker
1991 - The People Under the Stairs
1994 - Wes Craven's New Nightmare
1995 - Vampire in Brooklyn (ugh)
1996 - Scream
1997 - Scream 2
1999 - Music of the Heart
2000 - Scream 3
2005 - Red Eye

The Hills Have Eyes 2 (1983, Wes Craven)

1985, directed by Wes Craven

Well, if you watch this back to back with the first film, it doesn't come off too bad. It's infinitely more lightweight from the get go and the filming of some early scenes is so fucking slack, you can't believe it. Two or three set ups at most in scenes that establish a significant number of characters, accompanied by many takes (the bit where the black girl first gets off the bus) which make you go "if the director cared, he would have done a second take". Yet, the atmosphere is halfway "Hills Have Eyes" desert spooky and half early eighties, "Friday the 13th" type slasher. "Friday the 13th" is a good reference point, as Harry Manfredini also scored this movie - unlike the first movie's enjoyable music, this one is a typical Harry Manfredini score, meaning it sounds identical to "The Children", "Zombie Island Massacre", Craven's own previous "Swamp Thing" and, of course, every single "Friday the 13th" film. Seriously, the desert flats in this movie are painted out as the west coast "Crystal Lake". And, admittedly, the location (similar, but not the same as the first film) is still a very spooky place, especially now it has it's large mine shaft. Also, Kevin Blair from "Friday the 13th Part Seven: The One With the Telekinetic Girl and the Gay Cast" is in this as well, sucking as hard as everyone else.

Some of the logic is so fucked - the script is just too lax to care. In the first movie, the family broke down for at least a reason. In this one, the bus (yeah schoolbus) springs a leak and they just RUN OUT OF FUEL.

If you look at this movie in the context it was released in (1985, a year after "A Nightmare On Elm Street") it's pitiful. Craven shows barely any of the flair he brought to "Nightmare...", which is strange even if you learn "Nightmare" was filmed the year after "Hills Have Eyes Part II", but released first - it'd be a massive progression, if I didn't think the problem with this was ultimately that Craven didn't give a shit. It was nice seeing Bobby in the opening, flashing back to the first movie - continuity like that is still pretty effective. But the actor playing Bobby (I think Robert Houston is his name), looks stoned out of his mind for his two "scenes" here. The first scene, flashback aside, is just the same thing repeated - discussion between Bobby and the psychiatrist, ending with Bobby pulling a face like "heh, shows what you know...".

The idea here is, of course, to start a franchise. A series like Sean Cunningham's "Friday the 13th" series, or Wes's later "Nightmare" or "Shocker" films were intended to become. This movie wasn't a hit when released and, to be honest, that's not fair. I think it's at least as fun as "Friday the 13th Part 2" (but not "Part 3" or "The Final Chapter") and pretty fun overall. The vast continuity with the first film makes for a nice "back-to-back" feel.

It's not Craven's worst film (ever seen "Vampire in Brooklyn" ? "Music of the Heart"?), but it isn't great. It manages to swing my favour by acknowledging and somewhat recapturing the agoraphobic feel of "Hills Have Eyes", but I have to admit its nowhere near as imaginative, compelling or engaging as "Nightmare on Elm Street", "People Under the Stairs" or even the original "Hills Have Eyes". You could do worse, but a lot better too.

A later release poster with an alternate title ("II" instead of "Part II") and an acknowledgment of 1984's "Nightmare on Elm Street"

The Hills Have Eyes (1977, Wes Craven)


(1977, written & directed
by Wes Craven)

Here it is, the film that actually showed Wes Craven might be capable of directing great horror pictures. I hesitate to call this film "great" because so much of it isn't - but it's definetely got a lot of great things in it and it's miles above the horrendous "Last House on the Left" which preceded it.
The "plot" is essentially a reworking of Tobe Hooper's "Texas Chain Saw Massacre" writ large on 35mm film, as a family find themselves trapped in the desert while deformed mutant cannibals run around picking them off, but it features the added dynamic of family vs family as the straight family find themselves having to resort to nasty violence to fend off and destroy the mutant cannibals. It's got a pretty solid cast for what it is, featuring early appearances for genre favourites Dee Wallace and Michael Berryman and "Shogun Assassin" director Robert Houston as Bobby. It's got baby-eatin' (intended), bird-eatin' and all kinds of cutting, and shooting. But what makes this a truly exceptional low-budget horror film is it's location. Actually shot in the middle of a startling desert environment, the film is incredible to look at even when the lighting seems a bit rough (which can be quite often, I think). The huge rock face surrounding the family is etched into my brain like few movie locations - this is a barren, horrible place, full of rattlesnakes, tarantulas and mutant cannibals.

What I find particularly interesting is that, dissimilar from most horror film, it enschews traditional claustrphobia for a kind of agoraphobia. The family's kinda trapped in a big scooped out valley in the desert - nothing but highway and desert cliff face. They can be seen from all angles, especially in the dark where they themselves can see absolutely nothing.

Pretty cool film. Evocative landscape filmed atmospherically and with passion and confidence plus a compelling story and script. Actually, this is definetely one of Wes Craven's very best scripts, right up there with "Nightmare on Elm Street". Fair play to him.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Dawn of the Dead (1978, George A. Romero)

"Dawn of the Dead" (aka. "Zombi"), 1978, written and directed by George A. Romero.

Version reviewed: The entire Region 1 "Dawn of the Dead: Ultimate Edition" collection from Anchor Bay, featuring the three most common cuts of the film.

There are some films that are so groundbreaking in it's genre that they become prerequisite classics. Very much of their time but still impressive today none the less are George A Romero's original zombie films. Both "Night of the Living Dead" and "Day of the Dead" have faults and high points, but the clear masterpiece of Romero's series is Dawn of the Dead - an intimate and atmospheric horror epic with action, stunts and scope. In fact, if it weren't for the fact that Dawn of the Dead just isn't very scary, I could easily consider it comfortably the best horror film ever made for these other respectable merits alone. Today, "Night of the Living Dead" plays like a perfectly sixties shocker with psychedelic musical cues and moody expressionist lighting in the face of the bright colour that was in use in cinema. "Day of the Dead" plays like a very vivid nightmare, but "Dawn of the Dead" is the one that paints a sustained, surreal zombie landscape for all it's length. A quite believable scenario is sketched in the first twenty minutes - society is falling apart, largely due to people's refusal to choose a course - readily abandoning their jobs and no-longer-relevant "responsabilities" or sticking it out together. Our four main characters can hardly be blaimed for running out on it - there was nothing left sticking around for.

For what it's worth, despite the parts that are dated (or, more accurately, of their time) the film paints it's own convincing reality and the four main characters are drawn in a lot of detail. No, the effects are often quite disappointing, but they were groundbreaking for the time and have a fun and surreal feel. George A Romero himself thinks of the film as a live-action comic book and I can definetely see what he means - but it's a long one and worth every minute.

There are three cuts of this film I have seen and all are included in this boxset - Romero's preferred 127 minute US theatrical cut, his 139 minute "Cannes" cut and the 116 minute Dario Argento cut for Europe. All three cuts have their virtues, but my preference is for the Cannes cut - the lengthier pace allows the film more space for atmosphere and this is the cut I grew up watching, anyway. Argento's cut features very little (maybe NO) library music like the Romero cuts, featuring wall to wall Goblins music. Both kinds of music are effective, though I could do without the cheesy music when Ken Foree decides not to shoot himself which appears in both the Romero cuts. The main Goblin piece which appears frequently, especially in the European cut, is a very effective piece for a horror film.
Romero's theatrical cut is the one that features the best music, featuring a mix between Goblin's score and the library cues, sometimes at the same time or seamlessly transforming back and forth. However, this cut just misses too many things I like from the "Cannes cut". Note the transition from Peter and Roger at the slum to Steven at the docks. In the Cannes cut, the transition from Peter's gunshot (right into the camera) to the helecopter in the air, as it lands at the docks. In the theatrical cut, it cuts right to someone who has been shot in the head as Steven investigates him. It misses out the helecopter and most of the material with the policeman leaving for "the islands", which added a lot of scope, giving the feel of one adventure among hundreds.

The Ultimate Edition is truly a great release for this classic. All versions of the film look good (although, the Cannes Cut is definetely the worst looking) and it's really cool to have all the versions together.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Combat Shock (1986, Buddy Giovinazzo)

The rather misleading poster for the 1986 'theatrical' release.

Combat Shock aka. American Nightmares, 1986, directed by Buddy Giovinazzo.

Version reviewed: The excellent Regionless 2009 Tromasterpiece Collection release ("2-Disc Uncut 25th Anniversary Edition") from Troma Retro (Troma Team Video).

"Combat Shock" was the first feature from Buddy Giovinazzo. Shot on 16mm, it's the gritty and downbeat tour of Hell from the point of view of one Frankie Dunlan. Giovinazzo brings an arty flair to his gutter-level film which shows a world where things will always get worse for absolutely everyone and everything in it. There's not too much of a story - it's essentially the final day of the main character, who I can't bring myself to call "hero", but actually none-the-less performs as an essentially noble man throughout everything he is confronted with. He is given plenty of opportunities to escape the responsibility of his life and family and he never takes them. Right up until the last few minutes, he is pretty sympathetic, even after certain things (which I won't spoil) come to light which redefine all seen before.

An hellish and gory Vietnam.

"Combat Shock" was part of a wave of films in the 1980s that were made by dedicated men, lots of friends and very little money. Usually shot on 16mm, films like "The Evil Dead", "Maniac", "Deadbeat at Dawn", "Basket Case", "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" and "Street Trash" are today often regarded as classics and "Combat Shock" is no exception. Lacking the polish of "Street Trash" or even "Maniac", it more closely resembles "Deadbeat..." and "Basket Case", it's hero ankle-deep in grime. This is real thread-bare stuff - scenes in Vietnam were clearly not filmed in Vietnam, but the Staten Island scenes have a lot of impact and Giovinazzo's visual style is really impressive. A few sequences don't work - I'm definitely not sure about all those super intense, Tetsuo-like human-stop-motion scenes, but the cumulative effect of the whole film is undeniable. It's really impressive what Buddy did with basically nothing. It's cumulative effect is memorable. There are few films that can be so depressing and so hypnotic at the same time.

The new "Tromasterpiece Edition" DVD of Combat Shock is one of the best, if not the best DVD Troma has ever put out. It features two whole DVDS and a lot of extras. On the first disc, it ports over from the first DVD the (pretty good) transfer of "Combat Shock" and the audio commentary by Buddy Giovinazzo and Jorg Buttgereit, but adds a brand new transfer - for the first time on home video or even wide release, Buddy Giovinazzo's original cut named "American Nightmares". Running a good few minutes longer, as far as I can tell the most obvious difference is the opening is missing from the director's cut. Troma, for their theatrical "Combat Shock" version release, added a brief opening credits with stock footage from the Vietnam war, cut with footage from the existing movie and scored by some famous composer I can't remember right now. It, admittedly, didn't fit the film perfectly but it got it off to a very exciting and effective start, adding scope and legitimacy to the scenes in Vietnam that follow (and actually "open" the "American Nightmares" cut). So, even though my preference will have to go to the director's full intended vision, I'm very glad Troma would put both cuts on the disc as the "theatrical version" has a bigger budget feel (having both the great looking stock footage and the fact it's a 35mm blow-up transfer) and is a different, more streamlined film. The director's cut has a very nice new transfer from the 16mm materials and is represented well.

Disc two apes a little style from the "Visions of Hell: The Films of Jim Van Bebber" boxset, and includes a large chunk of short films by director Buddy Giovinazzo. The shorts are simple but compelling, especially "Subconscious Realities", the immediate pre-cursor to "Combat Shock". There's also later shorts that were supposedly to springboard into full length features, both of which are great - "Maniac 2: Mr Robbie" is a kinda remake of "The Psychopath" and "Jonathan of the Night" is an interesting, gritty twist on the vampire legend. There's a selection of music videos by Buddy and Rick Giovinazzo's band, Circus AD (I think that's what they're called? I'll check). In short, this is incredibly in-depth and impressive.
The big extra on disc 2 is the documentary "Post-Traumatic: An American Nightmare", which features no contributions from anyone involved with the film directly, but rather other filmmakers praising and analysing the film. Impressive figures making appearances include John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer), Richard Stanley ("Hardware", "Dust Devil"), William Lustig ("Maniac", "Vigilante", "Maniac Cop"), Jim Van Bebber, Scott Spiegel (Evil Dead II) and Roy Frumkes, who pays Buddy back for his appearance in Frumkes' "Meltdown Memoirs" on the "Street Trash" DVD. Even more strange than Buddy's' absence in "Post-Traumatic..." is Lloyd Kaufman. In fact, I don't believe he appears on either DVD at all, even in an intro, which is very strange for a Troma release. That's respect for the film. (Post-script: I remember now, he conducts one of the interviews with Buddy on another section of disc two!) The documentary is a great extra, presumably made by someone outside of Troma, but none the less a fantastic addition with a lot to think about for fans of the film.
There's also three recent interviews with Buddy Giovinazzo (none are the one included on the previous DVD, and one featuring Jorg again and with some really bad sound), one with Rick Giovinazzo, the trailer and also a brief featurette showing you (and me) the filming locations as they are in 2009.

I have to praise Troma here - no one else in 1986 would have released such a transgressive "horror" film, but Troma had the vision to do so. They supported Buddy's vision so much this new release was really birthed at his own dissatisfaction with how the previous DVD treated the film - it was, apparently, cut by a Troma employee for no good reason. Secondly, in 2009, Troma has done Buddy and the film right with the greatest-yet addition to their Tromasterpiece line, a thorough and whole hearted representation of the film on dvd. It's a pretty thorough and astounding DVD release and stands resolutely with the releases of other, comparable films mentioned in this review by companies such as Blue Underground, Synapse, Dark Sky and Anchor Bay.

If you have never seen this film but like low-budget but compelling exploitation films, give "Combat Shock" a try. There's never been a better time and the film is timeless in it's ability to revolt.

The original artwork for the Tromasterpiece Edition. Am I the only one who liked this cover better?

Redneck Zombies (1986, Pericles Lewnes)

"Redneck Zombies" (1986, directed by Pericles Lewnes)

Version reviewed: The excellent 2009 no-region-coding 'Tromasterpiece Edition' from Troma Team Video.

Nuclear waste falls into the hands of rednecks who use the drum holding the waste to make a still and brew up some moonshine. After they turn into insanely violent zombies, they attack a group of dysfunctional campers from the city. Interspersed with the film are a series of either comedic or mind-fuck vignettes which consist of at least half the craziness.

The 'plot' is a deliberate (but not ironic) attempt at making a bad horror movie. What makes it different is the fact that, in practice, the film is a flat-out comedy. This gives the movie the feel of something custom built to covertly sit between "Troll 2" and "Zombi 3" on the bottom-shelf of your local video store, while in fact celebrating it's own crassness in a way those unintentional bad movie classics never would.

But, in fact, I am of the opinion the film is a much more worthwhile zombie excursion than the vast majority of "Dawn of the Dead" knock-offs produced in this time. There's definitely a touch of "The Return of the Living Dead" here, not just in it's toxic-chemical induced zombies, but in the zeal of the filmmakers making their own rules up as they go. With this movie, the filmmakers decided to show you things no other zombie movie would! They show you the point of view of a terrified man on acid attempting to perform an autopsy on a zombie by lantern-light and you'll see a corpulant redneck seriously contemplate having sex with the (seriously mutilated) remains of a lady camper. It's easy to forget in this post-"Shaun of the Dead"/"Zombieland" world that they were actually no zombie movies where people attempted to 'act' like zombies to move around the world until Redneck Zombies came around. Why George Romero overlooked this, I do not know.

It would be so easy for me to dismiss this movie for one reason or another - it's inherent trashiness or the fact it was shot on video (note: here I am not talking about 'digital' video)- but the fact is I've seen enough films shot on video I can tell you the difference. Most of them are dull and depressing like "Robot Ninja", some of them are atrocious like the "Zombie Bloodbath" trilogy and some of them are just amateur beyond all fucking belief such as "Splatter Farm", which is made as if the filmmakers have only seen two films before, and I only bought the fucking thing 'cause Frank Henenlotter endorsed it on the box! "Redneck Zombies" manages to, rather quietly really, subvert whatever expectations the audience expects. If the audience expects "Dawn of the Dead 2", they're bound to be disappointed and put off with all the weirdness, comedy and the fact it's cheaply shot on video. If someone expects shot on video trash, they get a film that is pretty well shot for what it is, edited tightly with some really neat, trippy effects and all done with a good sense of humour. Intercut with the gory, comedy of the film are genuinely arresting sequences like the Tobacco Man scene (a kind of revolting, redneck twist on the "Ice Cream Man" ) or the "Texas Chain Saw Massacre" influenced scene where one of the rednecks delivering moonshine finds himself in a house where one man, dressed as a butcher and covered in blood, makes an order of 'shine while a bug-eyed redneck holds a rope around a crying woman, tied to a chair. Seemingly, this doesn't really bother our redneck 'hero'. The scene gets weirder - as the girl cries, begs with her eyes in slow motion, close ups on the redneck get more intense, and pretty soon, it's intercut with the slaughter house (actually, beak marking) footage on the TV, featuring a bunch of chirping chicks.
Very strange. "Texas Chain Saw" gets a more direct parody earlier on, when a twitchy barber hitchhiker recreates a similar scene from the Tobe Hooper classic. It's nice to see the filmmakers acknowledge what is, probably, the best 16mm low-budget horror film ever made. There's also some really cool gore and violence here - it's never realistic, but it is frequently disgusting and over the top. One special effect is a clear stand out- one of the best headshots I've ever seen, putting the ones in both "Dawn of the Dead" and "Scanners" to shame, skillfully (and surely patiently) making sure the audience sees for a few seconds the real actor before immediately cutting to the dummy's head exploding apart. The effect is simple but very effective - there's no seam.

I have to give thanks to Troma twiceover - first of all, no one else would release this film. If Pericles Lewnes and co. had made a straight-forward zombie film, maybe they would release it - but ironically, the humour preventing any other company taking the film on is what makes the film so much more worthwhile than it's other shot-on-video ilk. Troma had the good sense (and sense of humour) to release a film that is committed to entertaining it's purely hypothetical audience. Second of all, Troma re-released the film on DVD in this year of our lord, 2009. An earlier DVD from 1998 (I believe) featured a few glitches in the print both visible and, if you scroll down and go to my interview with Ed Bishop, you'll learn parts of the film that seem like cuts are actually glitches too. The only extras were two interviews, one with Pericles Lewnes and one with Ed Bishop. They were okay, but only lasted a few minutes a piece.

The 2009 Tromasterpiece (second in the series, following "Cannibal! The Musical") release is a spiffy two-disc affair that buries any previous versions of the film. The freshly painted cover is a nice touch (though I do miss the original poster, seen up top) and it houses inside two discs - a jam-packed DVD and a CD soundtrack (!). On the DVD, a new transfer has been done that looks a clear three or four times better than the previous DVD edition. There are no glitches in the film so darker scenes (where the problem surfaced before) look a lot better. The whole thing has been colour-corrected, which means it looks much more consistant than the first version did. Perhaps controversial among some small quarters of this film's small fanbase, some of the special visual effects have been redone for this edition. RELAX, this is not a big deal, the two scenes as they stood before were both very funny - the protracted mutation of the rednecks into zombies and the "acid autopsy" scene - but a little dark. This new version preserves the hokey joke of the cheesy effects, but they're more appropriate and less obstructive to the footage underneath. Instead of merely having hundreds of multicoloured squares overlapping themselves to simulate the effects of LSD, this time there are swirls and warping effects, far more appropriate to a "cheesy low-budget approximation of LSD". In fact, I think I saw a kaleidoscope effect in there...?

Overall, the version of the film here is clearly the best there ever was. But wait, there's more! Now there's a commentary from Pericles and Ed, which is a lot of fun and informative too. There's in-depth interviews with just about everybody involved with the production (notably, Anthony Burlington-Smith who was very funny in the film is nowhere to be found here). There is also deleted scenes (including the original mutation and 'acid autopsy' effects), behind the scenes footage, outtakes, trailers, promo-videos and more.

The soundtrack CD, probably the biggest and most unconventional extra here, is a definete boon to fans of the film. Consisting of both Adrian Bond's sometimes hilarious sometimes very effective early synth score and also the songs littered throughout the film, this is an incredible extra to drop on fans (why don't Troma do this with Toxie or "Class of Nuke 'Em High" ? Surely these artists are more obscure!) and a very fun listen for fans of the film.

Overall, in this new DVD I have to say "Redneck Zombies" is one of the best horror or exploitation releases of the year. The extras are really all out, something I never dared hope for in Troma pickup movies, where the cast and crew have usually long given up their filmmaking dreams. I laughed, if you think you will, splash out and join me.

Don't miss out on my great interview with actor/writer/producer Ed Bishop here!

Ghoulies II (1987, Albert Band)

If you're anything like me, you sat through all of "Ghoulies" hoping for that toilet scene. This time out, we get one. Unfortunately, the poster lies once more, promising us yet again precisely one Ghoulie too many in a toilet attack. Don't say I'm nitpicking.

This is it, the "Gremlins" rip-off I'd been waiting for. If one day I make my own hand-puppet vehicle, "Gremlins" will be the large-print Bible and this will be the creased-to-shit Mad Magazine I slip inside during church.

Here are some simple things Ghoulies II has going for it:
  • Actual Ghoulies action - this time out, the featured characters are given as much screentime as the heroes, they are the main antagonists and the films a lot more fun as a result.
  • A much wittier script, by Re-Animator writer Dennis Paoli.
  • A great carnival/funhouse setting.
  • Featured midget performer - unlike the two faceless midget/dwarves last time out, this one is a guy you'll recognise from everything from "Bordello of Blood" to "Sabrina the Teenage Witch". You know you will. Here, he speaks in Shakespearian verse a lot.
  • There's some dreadful eighties cockrock, courtesy of the band W.A.S.P. , which stands for "What A Stupid Acronym" (they weren't very good at spelling).
  • The old alcoholic magician, played by Royal Dano, who I also loved in "Killer Klowns From Outer Space", who says things like "The master [of magic] ? That's great, he can do anything, he can even make this bottle disappear!", then drinks the entire bottle of whiskey and smashes it on the floor. Bare in mind, he was a fairly gentile and senile old man in all the previous scenes.
What results is an immensely superior film that's a lot more fun than the first outing. There's some criticism of this film on sites around the web that it's a poor follow up, and it is - but that's good, the first one was boring and this time out, the filmmakers wisely decided to just make a fun, low-budget version of what the audience wants and expects.

I loved the part where the evil corperate guy who's daddy owns the carnival and is here to fire some faces tells a team of cops "ten thousand dollars if anyone brings me one alive". This has absolutely no bearing on the plot at all - as far as I can tell, it's only there so it can be cut into a trailer and give the impression that the film has much more of a plot than there really is.

Overall, very recommended to hand-puppet horror enthusiasts.

Ghoulies (1985, Luca Bercovici)

Somehow the theatrical poster for "Ghoulies" beats out even Porky's II for promising far more toilet action that actually occurs in this motion picture.

"Ghoulies", 1985, directed by Luca Bercovici.

Version reviewed: Region 2 MGM DVD with Part 2.

This movie sucks balls. Much like the case with "Critters", the makers of "Ghoulies" denied in their publicity materials copying "Gremlins" in an attempt to emulate their success, citing as proof the fact their script had been in development before Gremlins. Of course, when you see this film you will believe that - the poster (and presumably titular) creatures barely appear in this thing, and only as an afterthought. Little hand puppets swearing and eating people. That's what I want, that's what I paid for. What is all this shit about magic rituals and Henry from "Eraserhead" running around? Why would anyone care?

Fuck, X-Entertainment's review of this film is so much better than mine can ever be so I won't even bother. Go read that and skip this film. Make sure to watch Part 2, if deranged and retarded hand-puppets are your thing.

Ghoulies (film series)


The "Ghoulies" series 'concerns itself' with ripping off the superior "Gremlins" series, but in a really downmarket way. For my money, you can't go wrong with "Ghoulies II" for low-budget puppet misadventure and the third film had it's charms. Skip part 1 and burn part 4 if you see it.

1985 - Ghoulies
1987 - Ghoulies II
1990 - Ghoulies Go To College
1994 - Ghoulies IV

Interview - Ed Bishop

Ed Bishop has credits for writing, editing, operating the camera on and doing visual effects for the classic Troma movie "Redneck Zombies". Today he works for UFC and was kind enough to take time out and answer some questions for me. He's a funny guy, just as you hope one of the lunatics who made "Redneck Zombies" would be and it's clear how much fun it was to make and how much work, too. This is my first ever interview and I'm lucky Mr Bishop gave such in-depth and interesting answers. I'm in italic, his answers are in bold.

First of all, I was anticipating the Redneck Zombies Anniversary Edition eagerly and I wasn't disappointed. You guys did a great job with the DVD.

Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it. Makes all the intense work worthwhile.

I noticed that the cut on the DVD is a little different from the one on the previous DVD, most notably the "Now where's a good place to take a shit?" line cut short on the old release. One of the reasons Buddy Giovinazzio's "Combat Shock" had it's own Tromasterpiece Collection release was that Buddy G felt that the Troma cut of his film had been tampered with, in between it's VHS and DVD releases by some intern at Troma, unbeknownst to Lloyd and Michael. Is this what happened with Redneck Zombies?

As far as we know it wasn’t intentional. There was a glitch in the DVD production that caused it to skip from the middle of “shit” to the hitch-hiker scene, skipping Andy and Wilbur’s reactions and Ellie May’s famous snippet of the song “Ain’t Got No Shoes” (which btw is the hidden bonus track on the cd). No one at Troma noticed and we were in the middle of frantic production on our first video for MTV (Jimmies Chicken Shack “High”) so we didn’t have a chance to watch until several weeks after it came out. By then it was too late to fix. So the new release corrects that. The very very observant will also notice a new shot early in the zombie mob attack of a zombie in red longjohns falling on his face. This shot was accidentally cut from the original edit when we deleted a sequence for pacing, and was always one of our favorite moments, so I found a place to work it back in. Troma was actually very supportive and true to our vision, which is why the “Director’s Cut” originally released on DVD is virtually identical to the Unrated VHS that snuck out a few copies after the disastrous R-rated Transworld debacle.

What is the "disasterous R-rated Transworld debacle." ? I'm assuming there was an attempt to cut the film for an R, and possibly a further attempt by Lloyd to pass the uncut version off as the R?

When Redneck Zombies was first released most newspapers and magazines wouldn’t run advertising for unrated movies and a lot of stores wouldn’t carry them, so TransWorld Entertainment, the distributor that licensed the movie from Troma, cut an R rated version supposedly for limited release, which was common at the time. Not cut so much as “butchered” – they cut out every bit of blood and hence all the zombies. Every time they saw blood they would just cut out until there was no more blood. As you can imagine, the movie as such made no sense whatsoever, and had none of the action or gore that the trailers and early reviews promised. So somehow THAT was the version that they released, with no mention of the unrated at all. Of course there was a huge backlash, lots of negative reviews and disappointed viewers. We launched a massive campaign to get Transworld to release the original unrated edition and under pressure from Lloyd and Michael they finally did make it available, but most stores already had the R piece of shit. My Mom actually called video stores all over the country asking them to trade their R version for the unrated, and a few did. But unless you were one of the lucky few to see the unrated edition, or in one of the international markets that got it unrated (like Australia or Germany, which ironically has since banned it) you would have been screwed. At least we had enough of an underground out there that when Troma released the first DVD, word of mouth from those who knew the truth spread and it became one of Troma’s best selling DVDs.

In hindsight I think it was best that the R rated version was so completely fucked up. If they had just trimmed the gore some it might have become just another mediocre B movie and faded away.

You also updated the graphics in the "mutation" scene and the "autopsy on acid" scenes for the Tromasterpiece Anniversary Edition. For the most part this was clearly an improvement, though I did miss that surreal multicoloured squares leaving trails when Bob closes his eyes. Do you think you came close to crossing the line George Lucas crossed when he rereleased Star Wars?

Wow, that’s a tough question because it’s such a fine line and such a painful dilemma for a filmmaker with any kind of lasting career. While I don’t agree with most of Lucas’s choices, it is tough when you know you made so many compromises in your vision because of budget or limits in the technology, to see the technology catch up so many years later and to have the opportunity and the means to put on the screen what you originally intended. We were never really totally happy with the Bob hallucinations but we did our best with the free Quantel time we had, and it did look cool. I think we improved it now, taking it closer to our vision of what it should look like without taking away the inherent “cheesiness” of the effect. Some people have even questioned our improved color, whether Redneck Zombies SHOULD look better. But we would have done this color correction originally if it were within our reach, and face it, it still looks pretty shitty by today’s standards.
That being said, I think Spielberg replacing the guns with walkie talkies in ET is just being an asshole. (would have to agree!)

The premise for Redneck Zombies is kinda similar to The Return of the Living Dead, with it's noxious chemicals reviving the dead. Was this intentional, and are you aware Return of the Living Dead Part II stole your opening sequence, with military personnel smoking a joint while driving the necromancing chemical?

Yes the military chemical cause for zombies was a nod to Return of the Living Dead, with the extreme carelessness of its transport and over-the-top combination of chemical warfare AND nuclear waste as the joke. In fact one of our favorite negative reviews chastises us for the fact that these two things would NEVER be combined in one barrel! (I think this is the review!) And without even a bungee cord to hold it in place! We can only hope that the opening sequence in 2 was an homage, not a theft. We’ve seen many of these through the years, in fact just recently saw Dead Snow and they have an identical POV shot to ours where the victim wakes up long enough to see the zombies pulling out her intestines. As the saying goes “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. [I didn't think to mention it at the time, but "Redneck Zombies" also did the 'human pretends to be a zombie' thing before "Shaun of the Dead"!]

I know that part of your distribution deal with Troma was that Pericles would work as an indentured servant to Troma, but I saw your name (and I believe William Decker's too) listed in the credits of "The Toxic Avenger Part II" and, I believe, "Troma's War" too. Can you tell me about this?

Because of Lloyd’s appreciation for our Redneck Zombies gore effects he hired me and Bill Decker to create the effect in TA3 where Toxie shoves a goon’s hand into a vcr and you see his hand get ground to bits on the TV screen. Bill also went up to New York to work with Peri as an effects assistant on Toxie 2 and 3. I would have gone up too but I had just started a new job and bought a house so I was stuck in Maryland for a while. BTW Peri originally went to Troma as an indentured servant but quickly became the Special Effects Supervisor and 2nd Unit Director on several Troma movies once Lloyd saw the depth of his talents.

On the IMDB, it says an alternate/working title for "Redneck Zombies" was "Redneck County Rape". Was this a title used to sound more "legitimate" during pre-production/production, or is it some deranged fan's imagined submission?

Actually imdb was the first place we ever heard about that as well. We think it was the title they originally used or were going to use in the first UK release but have no idea if any copies made it out under that name. For the record, we HATE it, so if you see any please send us one for the archive and then destroy the rest with extreme prejudice.
We have always called it Redneck Zombies, and fought hard to retain that as our release title. Anyone looking at us during production would know immediately that there was nothing legitimate about us whatsoever.

The soundtrack CD was a very nice touch. How did the songs come about in the first place, and was it easy to get them to agree to an isolated release after all this time?

Most every song has a story so this could be a long answer. I’ll keep it brief as possible but feel free to ask if you want to know more.

The Love Theme actually burst forth spontaneously one morning shortly after we had started writing the script. We knew it would need a country-ass theme song but hadn’t thought much beyond that. So I was thinking about it one morning in the shower (where I do my best pondering) and the lyrics and melody just started flowing. By the time I dried off I had the first two verses and the bridge complete in my head. So I grabbed my guitar, worked out the chords and called Peri, who immediately loved it. I can’t explain how it happened, keeping in mind I had never written a country song before and in fact detested country music at the time. FYI yes I sang it on the soundtrack but the guitar was played by Rob Martin and the banjo by Jeff Vreeland. I can’t play nearly that well.

I had told everyone at work that I was writing the movie, and they were all excited about it. One morning my boss Kathy came in and handed me a page of lyrics that her husband Don Mayeski had written just for the movie! Of course my first thought was “Oh shit what excuse am I going to use for why I can’t put her husband’s terrible song in the movie?.” But then I read it and it was awesome. I came up with the basic melody and gave it to Rob Martin who had arranged the title song, and he did the kickass blues arrangement you hear. So I had to call it Redneck Zombies Blues.

Once we started production the rest of the songs began to fall into place. The guy who played the Sergeant (Allen Hogg) gave Pericles a tape of his brother’s band, Token Protein. We loved them and asked to use several of their songs (like “My Sweet Cadaver”) as background and incidental music. Not only did they agree, but after seeing a rough cut the lead singer Dana Simson surprised us by writing and recording a hilarious original song that became the end credits music.

Ain't Got No Shoes (aka Ellie's Lament) was improvised by Peri in the hitch-hiker scene, and I later expanded and recorded it for the soundtrack but we never found a place to use it.

For the electronic score the first and only person considered was Adrian Bond. Adrian is the son of Dick Bond, an accomplished photographic artist and good friend of Peri’s. Dick had mentioned that his son, still in High school at the time, was getting into electronic music and suggested we check it out. Not expecting much we dropped by one evening, and were completely blown away! We ended up using his music for a couple commercials, and a couple years later when Peri mentioned him for the Redneck Zombies score I knew there was no better choice. Adrian also plays a wicked guitar when you can talk him into it. Look for his music online (Adrian Bond’s music can be found at

As for the rest of the songs, we got permission to use a couple from Rob Martin’s band Edge City, and another band Mermin that we had done a music video for.
We’ve had a lot of requests for a soundtrack over the years so when we mentioned it to Lloyd and Michael they were ecstatic. Michael suggested packaging it as a bonus disk with the DVD and we loved the idea. However, since we’re giving it away we had to leave off the songs that we don’t own rights to free and clear. We’re planning to eventually release the cd by itself and hope to include several additional tracks by Token Protein and Edge City.

I also want to mention a band called The Redneck Zombies. I have no idea where they’re from – somewhere in Europe I think – and they never asked for permission to use the name, but I found them on itunes recently and they ROCK.

In the run up to the DVD release, there was a viral campaign on YouTube that appears to have stopped prematurely. Will there be more installments?

I’m hoping there will be more. The campaign stopped partly because Peri became too busy with other projects to do more and I was too busy with other projects to take over as I had planned, and also because I have to admit that even tho DVD sales and interest have been great, the number of hits that the viral videos got was a bit disappointing, which kind of deflated our motivation. If enough people watch the existing ones I’m sure we’ll do more.

Why was some of this material (from the viral videos) not included on the dvd? Some of it, particularly a skit, from (as I recall) a public access sketch show you guys did, was very funny and seemed to be the birthing ground of "Redneck Zombies".

Thanks I’m glad you enjoyed the sketch. It’s true that Crabtown was the birthing ground – Peri was the director and I was the head writer and editor, and many of the other key perpetrators of Redneck Zombies were involved, including Bill Decker, Tyrone Taylor and Henry Dicker (aka Bucky Santini). We had all known each other in high school but it was on Crabtown that we learned to work together as a well-oiled comedy machine (LOL)

Originally were going to include the sketch and a wealth of other material on the DVD. We actually have several hours of outtakes and interviews, plus a 15 minute behind-the scenes short that was put together back while we were still editing the movie. We thought we would have space for about 3 hours of bonus materials, but learned just before the deadline that we were limited to about an hour, so we had to either cut a lot of things out or substitute a second DVD instead of the soundtrack cd. We did an informal poll and the cd won. The plan was to release the best of what hadn't made the DVD in the viral videos, and eventually we may put out a documentary that would include all the interviews and lots more behind the scenes. There could also be a blueray that would include about 5 hours of bonus materials. Send those emails to

On the DVD, you tell us you've been working for UFC. Any favourite fighters?

Randy Couture is the Best of the best! Pericles and I made a documentary on MMA a few years ago called FIGHTER that followed Randy’s start in the UFC through his winning the title for the second time, and he is an amazing fighter and a great person all around. I’m also a fan of Forrest Griffin because he’s hilarious. He`has that same Redneck Zombies combination of slapstick and brute force. I’d love to put him in a horror movie. Plus I'm way into WEC, which is UFC's little brother, featuring the lighter weight classes. Some fast, furious, sick fights!

Is Rampage Jackson that funny in real life?

He's going to play B A Barrachus. Need I say more?

You've made a gruesome horror film, and horror films are often villified as endorsing or supporting violence. Now, you work for UFC which is often compared to a kind of barbaric, human cock-fighting. (I don't hold either of these views). Do you have to explain sometimes to family, friends etc. that your professional interest is merely in entertainment?

Horror movies are an interesting issue in my family because as a whole we’re liberal peace-mongers and my own views are very Buddhist. But I have been raised on horror – my Mom was a huge fan of the classics – Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man – growing up in the 1940’s, so it seemed natural to my parents that I got into horror almost as soon as I could change the channel on my own. We’ve always seen it as pure entertainment and somewhat of a cathartic release. I have had to explain this to a few friends and family along the way, and have certainly had my share of discussions about the negative influence of violent media on society and the children, but for the most part people understand that it’s just in fun and always trying to shock and thrill those who have “seen everything”.
The UFC on the other hand I seem to have to explain to about 90% of the people I talk to about it. It still has the lingering reputation of the old UFC and early Brazilian Shooto that it’s kind of a no rules fight to the death. But once I tell people what the sport is really about (and this is something that our FIGHTER documentary does very well) most people are interested in checking it out.

Finally, do you have any advice for young filmmakers with ideas possibly even more alienating and deranged than "Redneck Zombies" ?

To quote the shoe guys, Just Do It. If you have a great idea and you want to make a movie, make it. Don’t wait around for someone to give you “financing”. If you’re passionate about it find a way. Cameras and tape are so cheap now, and you can edit a film on your laptop so there are no excuses! We made Redneck Zombies with credit cards, made the payments by producing local cable commercials for $400, and we were fortunate enough to get that back plus enough to pay the actors and crew afterward (almost $10. a day!!!) BUT be smart about it. Make your script as tight as possible, and incorporate the locations and actors you know you have access to. Learn as much as you can about HOW to make a movie before you start. Don’t worry, you’ll still find out plenty of things you didn’t know once you’re doing it. Lloyd Kaufman’s books are INVALUABLE tools. I really wish he had written them 20 years ago.

A couple practical tips –

  1. Always expect everything to take longer than you think.
  2. If you’re not paying real rates, put close friends and family in key roles and crew positions. They’re the only ones likely to stick with you by day 6 of a 3 day shoot.
  3. Make a film because you want to make a film. Don’t expect to ever make any money. But do your best and be grateful when you do.
  4. If half your audience loves it and the other half hates it you’ve done something special. If everyone hates it, learn from your mistakes and move on to the next one.
  5. Have fun and don’t ever let anyone tell you it can’t be done.
  6. Please send me a copy. I’m dying to see it.

Thank you Ed Bishop for answering these questions! The last answer is pretty encouraging, eh?

If you're a "Redneck Zombies" fan, you need to get the new DVD - it's quite simply one of the best DVDs Troma has ever put out and every fan will love it (in fact, all of the "Tromasterpiece" series have been exemplery, especially the new "Combat Shock" DVD).

If you've never experienced the joys of "Redneck Zombies" and yet somehow read all the way through this interview, I wonder what the Hell you're doing.

If you like zombie films or Troma films and have a sense of humour, you should definetely buy "Redneck Zombies". Where else can you see the point of view of a terrified man on acid attempting to perform an autopsy by lantern-light, or a corpulant redneck seriously contemplate having sex with the (seriously mutilated) remains of a lady camper?

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Rawhead Rex (1986, George Pavlou)

Rawhead Rex, 1986, directed by George Pavlou)

Version reviewed: Region 2 Prism Leisure DVD.

A year later, the team behind the (not a) hit Clive Barker adaptation "Underworld" (aka. Transmutations) reunited for another bash at low-budget British nonsense. At one point in "Rawhead Rex", footage from "Underworld" is playing on a TV (much like when Tobe Hooper had a TV playing his previous movie in "Invaders from Mars"). Actually this scene is really funny - a guy asks his younger brother "Why aren't you watching the film?" (actually, he said "fillum") and I was laughing already, hoping against hope, he would say "Because it's shite!". Unfortunately he says "I've seen it before", which isn't nearly as funny (or accurate...who's seen "Transmutations"?). Also, you will notice thankfully that the music in "Rawhead Rex" is a much better (and orchestral) score than the horrible 'Duran Duran-go-gothic" synth thing on "Underworld".

Yes, this one is a lot better than "Underworld", even if the cast isn't nearly as good. Here, some numbskull farmer in Ireland upsets a huge rock in his land that's keeping a secret buried. No longer so, the monster named "Rawhead Rex" is now free to murder.

Rawhead Rex in the flesh, with some other flesh.

As per Clive Barker's (England-based) original story, which appears (I believe) in his third "Book of Blood", Rex is the last of his kind, a pre-human species that raped, murdered and did what ever it liked. Actually, Clive Barker imagined it was a giant DICK (even resembling such) which did whatever it wanted with disregard for anyone else. In the film, however, it's this kind of hokey monster that looks a lot like Goro from the "Mortal Kombat" film, but crappier.

The actings all really hokey and the 'plot' unfolds in a totally inexplicable manner, but the film is just plain entertaining. While in "Underworld", Pavlou used his music video background just to light everything in a supremely cheesy manner, here it is definetely a great atmospheric tool - this is a very good looking b-movie for either a British or an Irish production. The music adds to the film this time out and you will enjoy seeing the locals scream and cry at this silly monster.

I recommend it to b-movies fans, especially British ones, and the curious Barker fans with a sense of humour may well enjoy it too.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982, Steve Miner)

"Friday the 13th Part 3", 1983, directed by Steve Miner.

Version reviewed: the Region 1 "From Crystal Lake to Manhattan" boxset.

The one where Jason first wears a hockey mask and is suddenly ten times larger than he was in the last film. Also this is the one in 3D, but not anywhere but it's first theatrical release and the newest DVD, so all that means is that lots of things are thrown towards the camera in an (inevitably unsuccessful) attempt to make you jump.

"Friday the 13th Part 3" is one of the very first horror films I saw. You'd think that I'd have some kind of special attachment to it as a result, but I barely remember what happens in it. When I think of it's violent climax in the hay-covered barn, I only remember the iconic axe hit to the face, and everything else blurs indefinetely with the ending of "Friday the 13th Part V: Let's pretend we weren't lying with Part 4 and make another one without Jason".

An Anamorphic Friday the 13th

Despite this, "Part 3" has a lot going for it, if you're in the market for this type of thing. It was the first 'Friday' to be filmed in California as opposed to the woods of New Jersey. Being a more "Hollywood" production, the film is more polished and well put together than the first two entries. However, the woods are no longer as dusty and dark as they were in the 'grittier' first two films in the series, so it's not all good. However, the film is also the first 'Friday' to be shot 2:35:1 Cinemascope and as a result it looks better than the vast majority of films in this series. In fact, unless you count "Freddy VS Jason", it's the only Friday film in anamorphic widescreen.

Dana Kimmell as Chris

'Final girl' Chris (Dana Kimmell) is, for my money, a lot more attractive than the previous women in this series (Alice, Ginnie) and pretty much all of the ones afterwards too ('cept Jensen Dagget, in part 8, and the heroine of Jason X). She's pretty good, especially in terms of Friday the 13th actors, which just makes it a shame her screentime wasn't in more interesting scenes and not just wrestling with an artificial romance with that guy she wants so bad. Catherine Parks was also pretty sexy back in 1982 and her character, who has to politely tell the fat guy Shelley she's not interested after all signs in the movie seemed to indicate she was going to pair off with him, is actually interesting. As for Kimmell, she never did any more acting for cinema and told

"I'm not a big fan of R-rated movies," she says. "I believe movies should be doing a better job of standing up for good values and morals. I'm also not too fond of onscreen sex."

Good job taking a role in Friday the 13th Part 3.

"I was being mercenary," admits Kimmell as to why she took the plunge in Friday the 13th's second sequel. 'It was a matter of paycheck."

Ahhh that explains it.

Friday the 13th Part 3: in eye-popping 3D

"Friday the 13th Part 3" presented the earliest true incarnation of Jason Voorhees - for the first time, he is a hulking mongaloid in a hockey mask. Also, unlike the weird hillbilly in part 2, this Jason looks a little more like Sloth from "The Goonies". In a weird, wraparound way, this movie having the first real Jason makes "Friday the 13th Part 3" almost as influential as part 1 - the image of Jason Voorhees with machete and hockey mask has been parodied and imitated so many times, it's become one of the most recognisable and satirised images of the 1980s. And all it took was to rip off Halloween a little closer than the first two did.

Overall, "Friday the 13th Part 3" is an impressive first-wave slasher film with some of the series most memorable characters (for what that's worth). If you're only going to see one in this series, this is probably the one you should see - it typifies the series while providing a superior example of it, it has a great look and it's very, very eighties.

It's just a shame everything is in not-3D, with everything being thrown your way. Even the poster is 3D - look, the logo is flyin' at ya in wooden shrapnel, like the log cabins in the movie fucking exploded.

Friday the 13th

The Friday the 13th series ran from 1980 to 2003 and chronicled 11 (count 'em, 11!) different murder sprees committed by the Voorhees family. The fact that they were all minor variations on the same film (eg. "with a telekinetic girl like Carrie", "in New York", "with a body-jumping hell-worm that likes to kill", "in space") didn't matter to fans - all that mattered is the films were creepy, the cast was young and there'd be a series of gory death scenes. Truth is, these films weren't very good - or gory, on the whole - but they were tremendously influential and anyone with any serious interest in horror should watch a few, preferably early, films in this series.

I won't make any attempt to be a definitive text or knowledge on the series - most of them were made by unenthusiastic cast and crew people against their 'better' knowledge and taste. As such, production stories are largely uninteresting or irrelevant. If you do want to know more - for example how to make your own independant horror hit and sell it to Paramount - I recommend getting a copy of the Region 2 (UK) Warner Brothers release of the first "Friday the 13th" with it's excellent feature documentary and a copy of "Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th" by Peter M. Bracke , a very well-researched hardback detailing the productions of all the Friday the 13th films, in depth and with interviews. There's a great online resource here at Camp Blood too.

1980 - Friday the 13th
1981 - Friday the 13th Part 2
1982 - Friday the 13th Part 3
1984 - Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
1985 - Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning
1986 - Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
1988 - Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
1989 - Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
1993 - Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
2002 - Jason X
2003 - Freddy VS Jason
2009 - Friday the 13th (remake)

Friday, 23 October 2009

David Lynch

David Lynch is a batshit and occassionally brilliant filmmaker, seen here gnawing on a girl's underwear:

1977 - Eraserhead
1980 - The Elephant Man
1984 - Dune
1986 - Blue Velvet
1990 - Wild at Heart
1992 - Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
1997 - Lost Highway
1999 - The Straight Story
2001 - Mulholland Drive
2006 - Inland Empire

Big Trouble in Little China (1986, John Carpenter)


Big Trouble in Little China was the fourth collaberation between Kurt Russell and John Carpenter.

this guys a cunt:

John Carpenter


John Carpenter, much like George A. Romero, is a genre director influenced by the generation that claimed him - the peace generation. These two hippies, however, decided to make nasty, effective films that were as well-crafted as they were easy to like.
There are two things that mark John Carpenter out as an essential figure in later 20th Century cinema in general: one is his huge influence on his own films, often writing, co-producing, directing, editing and scoring his own films and the other is his apparently effortless movement from one genre to another. Both "Assault on Precinct 13" and "Escape from New York" are action movies influenced by westerns, but "Escape..." managed to throw sci-fi and a little horror in the the mix, for the audiences' huge benefit. "The Thing" was a dark, sci-fi nightmare that remains powerful to this day."Halloween" was a simplistic and purely horrific film, stripping the genre down to it's barest minimum. "They Live" was a cinematic party, with it's fun, sci-fi action adventure making it's satirical message all the more entertaining.With "Christine", Carpenter managed to make a film about a sentient and evil car that liked to kill into something that was at least emotionally effecting, which is a pretty astounding feat. With "Big Trouble in Little China" he made his most bizarre film - a very funny cross-genre masterpiece.

John Carpenter with his trademark lung-cancer.

or seems to have given Carpenter a bit of a kick in the ass. Over the last few years what I heard about Carpenter was that he was happy to sit at home, smoke dope, watch basketball and play video games. Maybe getting back behind the camera for a project that actually got seen and was received well put the salt back in his shaker.



  • Dark Star
  • Assault on Precinct 13
  • Someone's Watching Me
  • Halloween
  • The Fog
  • Elvis
  • Escape from New York
  • The Thing
  • Christine
  • Starman
  • Big Trouble in Little China
  • Prince of Darkness
  • They Live!
  • Memoirs of an Invisible Man
  • Body Bags
  • In the Mouth of Madness
  • Village of the Damned
  • Vampires
  • Ghosts of Mars
  • Cigarette Burns
  • Pro-Life

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Porky's Revenge (1985, James Komack)

While remaining somewhat more accurate than the "Porky's II: The Next Day" poster, this poster still has some false promises...It is my sad duty to inform you that, at no point in "Porky's Revenge", does Chuck "Porky" Mitchell swell up to Godzilla size and seize "the gang" in his hand.

"Porky's Revenge", 1985, directed by James Komack.

The foreign exchange student who's country's customs conveniently dictate she has to reveal her ample bosom to everyone.

Porky's II: The Next Day (1983, Bob Clark)

At no point in "Porky's II: The Next Day" does Ms Ballbricker climb from over the top of what is apparently a toilet cubicle suspended in an infinite white void as "the gang" look on like a bunch of smug shits.

What the fuck were they thinking?! Doing a sequel to Porky's without any sex! The idiocy! Look at my equation:

Porky's - Sex = 0

There! That proves there is nothing left after Porky's is robbed of it's smutty, racy humour. But what you will find out watching Porky's II: The Next Day is that without sex, Porky's II is just all the preachy "tolerance" we learned with the Jewish kid in the first movie stretched out to (very unfunny) full-length. You will also learn it doesn't matter if it takes place "the next day" or the next year - the whole thing is totally incongruous with the first film. Kids from the previous day (film) are nowhere to be seen, the kid who got the shit kicked out of him and ended Porky's on crutches, is totally fine here. And, oh yeah, all the kids are gearing up for a big Shakespeare adaptation on stage at school that they are so into, they are willing to actually fight the radical racists who try to stop the performance. Christ, remember that in the first film? When they were all spying on the girls' showers, then Tommy Turner stuck his penis through a hole in the wall, and Ms Balbricker pulled it from the other side? Remember them talking about the big play they're doing in a few nights?

I mean what the fuck, I don't think they even play basketball in this one. What were they thinking? I don't want to see "the gang" working together as a tolerant bunch and toppling oppressive figures in society. The fundamental principle of their revenge in Porky's, was derived from not getting laid at his nightclub.

I will probably, in time, think of something nice to put here. Some deeper analysis. But I just hate this thing so much.

Watch "Porky's Revenge" for a more fun sequel.

Here's the UK video cover, complete with a "toilet" backdrop

Porky's (1982, Bob Clark)


The perspective's a little fucked, but this is more or less an accurate representation of the shower scene. Of course, the poster should have had his cock and not his eye in the hole.

1982, directed by Bob Clark.

Version reviewed: Special edition in the region 1 "Ultimate collection".

It also contains a very young Kim Cattral from "Sex and the City" and, of course, "Big Trouble in Little China".

Porky's (Film series)

The Porky's films are pretty legendary smut films.

Porky's is probably still the best "teen titty" (as Kevin Smith would say) film ever made, so there.

The "Howling" Series


There are seven "Howling" films and three novels. Not all of them are connected. Some of them are pretty good, some of them are just awful. In the film series, the first is one of the best werewolf films ever made and parts V and VI would both have benefited from severing ties with the series and standing apart as well done low-budget horror films. In contrast, "Howling II" is a wildly-entertaining so bad it's good "new-wave" horror comedy, with a plot that makes no sense and occurs both in America and Transylvania, "Howling III" (by the same director) was really boring but probably better made, "Howling IV" is one of the worst films I've ever seen and part VII "New Moon Rising" is quite possibly the worst film I've ever seen, ever. And I sat through "Actium Maximus", "The Dark Side of Midnight" and the likes.

So, if you like werewolf movies, the first film is a must and parts V and VI are definetely worth a look - they're available on DVD together at a good price. Both are "direct to video" features, but they're also from the late eighties/early nineties when that meant direct to video films were still made on location, on film and professionally. If you enjoy "The Howling" and found much to laugh at in "Troll 2", then you'll love "Howling II", a sequel so ridiculous and incongruous with the first outing, it becomes automatically classic batshit movie-making. It's more fun, actually, than "Troll 2" because, unlike that film, it's competantly made and acted, with some great set design - it's just the script is so fucking awful. The others are not worth your time.

  • "The Howling"
  • "Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf" (aka. Howling II: Stirba - Werewolf Bitch)
  • "Howling III"
  • "Howling IV: The 'Original' Nightmare"
  • "Howling V: The Rebirth"
  • "Howling VI: The Freaks"
  • "Howling VII: New Moon Rising" (aka. Howling - New Moon Rising)


Gary Brandner's novels are my first exposure to "so-bad-it's-good" novels. The first two, written in quick succession, are straight-forward and nasty horror novels, with sexism, a rape and lots of bad descriptions and prose altogether. They're actually funny how outdated some of this is. The werewolves in the first two books are quadropeds who are very wolflike. In the movies, the werewolves are always a hybrid of human and wolf (with parts 1 and V having the most wolf-like characteristics) and bipedal.
The third book retconned much of the first two books and seemingly took after the films more (Michael Crichton style). The werewolves now walked etc. Brandner also wrote the baffling screenplay for "Howling II" after he took disdain to the first film's treatment of his book (all he seemingly brought was werewolf sex, the gypsie stuff from the book and a complete rewrite of the first film's ending). "Howling III" and, to an extent, "Howling VI: The Freaks" took after "Howling III: Echoes" sympathetic view of the werewolf.

  • "The Howling"
  • "The Howling II" aka "Return of the Howling"
  • "Howling III: Echoes"