Archive for the Demonic Possession Category


Posted in 2013, Based on a True Story, Cinema Knife Fights, Demonic Possession, Demons, ESP, Evil Spirits, Haunted Houses, LL Soares Reviews, Paranormal with tags , , , , , on July 22, 2013 by knifefighter

By L.L. Soares

246460id1c_Conjuring_INTL_27x40_1Sheet.indd(THE SCENE: A house that has been plagued with paranormal disturbances. The doorbell rings and the family’s FATHER opens the door to see L.L. SOARES standing on the front steps)

L.L. SOARES: You called for a demon specialist?

FATHER: Yes, I did. You sure got here fast.

LS: Yes, I hopped on my broomstick, er, I mean I hurried right over.

FATHER: Don’t you have a partner you do these paranormal investigations with?

LS: Professor Arruda? He’s busy right now on the astral plane. But fear not, I will have the situation under control in no time. What happens to be the problem?

FATHER (pulls out a list): Well, there’s a whole bunch of things. People having their feet grabbed late at night; we’re hearing spooky voices; there are birds slamming themselves into the windows; ugly faces keep popping up in mirrors; mothers are being possessed by demons so that they can kill their children…

LS: Hold up! Not so fast. You sound like you’re reading off a list of haunted house clichés. Are you sure this has all happened to you?

FATHER: I swear it. This is based on a true story.

LS: Very well. Let’s deal with these things one at a time, shall we? But let me move around the house first and see if I feel the presence of any spirits.

(LS stands in the middle of the room and closes his eyes)

LS: I feel it! I feel it!

FATHER: You sense the ghosts?

LS: No, I feel my hay fever coming on (sneezes)

You know, this dilemma of yours sounds an awful lot like a movie I just saw called THE CONJURING. Have you seen it yet, by any chance.

FATHER: Err, no, I’ve never heard of it.

LS: I can tell you’re lying, but no matter. I will pretend as if I believe you and I’ll tell you a little about it.

FATHER (looks around): Okay, I guess.

LS: THE CONJURING is the latest movie about a family that moves into a house that is haunted by ghosts. Except, it’s not ghosts. It’s demons! And if they move somewhere else, the demons will follow them. We saw pretty much the same exact plot in everything from the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies (which began in 2007) to INSIDIOUS (2010) to every other recent haunted house movie.

THE CONJURING begins with an interesting scene where two women talk about a doll in their house that was possessed by a demon. The doll is actually pretty friggin weird looking, and they keep showing its face in close-up. The women’s story is pretty good, too. But then we learn this movie isn’t about them. They’re just part of a film that paranormal investigators Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) and his wife Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) are showing a class full of eager students of the supernatural.

Instead of this cool story about a crazy-looking doll, we have to sit through yet another normal American family moving into a house where things start getting weird. One girl wakes up every night when someone grabs her foot and tries to pull her off her bed. Another girl has an imaginary friend who just might be a spooky demonic creature. The family’s mother is on the verge of being possessed by an evil spirit. This would all be interesting, if we hadn’t seen this exact same thing a hundred times before.

Sure, THE CONJURING has a few nice, original moments. I really liked the part about the clapping game, where the kids, five girls of various ages, run around their spooky new house playing a game of hide and seek, where one of them is blindfolded and can demand that the others clap their hands when she gets near. The fact that a spooky supernatural creature decides to play along is actually pretty effective.

I liked that one of the kids finds a strange music box where, if you wind it up, it plays music and a swirling hypno-wheel mirror spins around. If you stare at it long enough, you’re supposed to be able to see a spirit over your shoulder. It’s a fun prop. There’s also a very cool room in the Warrens’ house where they keep supernatural souvenirs from all of their case studies, including that creepy doll I mentioned earlier that sits on a chair in an air-tight glass case. I wanted to know more about this room, and explore its contents more. But we only get to see it a few times briefly. I was much more interested in that room than I was about what was going on in the Perron family’s house.

I also like a lot of the people in this movie. Like Lili Taylor. Over the years, she’s been in a lot ofgood movies like SAY ANYTHING (1989) and DOGFIGHT (1991) and Abel Ferrara’s THE ADDICTION (1995). She was Valerie Solanas in I SHOT ANDY WARHOL (1996) and was in John Waters’ PECKER (1998). She’s been in tons of good independent movies, and it’s good to see her in this movie, too, in a role that’s more than just another supporting character. Except, despite this one having a little more meat than her usual Hollywood roles, she’s really just…another supporting character. The movie isn’t really about her. It’s about Ed and Lorraine Warren, who are supposedly real-life demonologists. This movie is “Based on a True Story” after all.

FATHER: That always scares me when a movie is “Based on a True Story.” That means it’s real, right?

LS: Actually, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a trick to scare dumb people.

Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson are really good as the Warrens. I’ll give them that. Wilson has been in some good movies like HARD CANDY (2005). LITTLE CHILDREN (2006) and was even Nite Owl in WATCHMEN (2009). As for horror films, he was also in the previously mentioned INSIDIOUS, which a lot of people seemed to like. INSIDIOUS was also another movie about a house haunted by demons that was directed by James Wan, who also directed THE CONJURING. Wilson is also going to be in INSIDIOUS 2 later this year.

Ron Livingston is also here as the family’s father, Roger Perron; I’ve liked Livingston ever since he was in OFFICE SPACE in 1999, even though he’s not given a lot to do in this movie.

As for Farmiga, she first got noticed in dramas like THE DEPARTED (2006) and UP IN THE AIR (2009), but has been doing a lot of horror-related stuff lately as well, like ORPHAN (2009) and she’s been great as Norma Bates, Norman’s mother, in the new TV series BATES MOTEL. Farmiga, as the clairvoyant Lorraine Warren, is the best thing in this movie. Like the kid in THE SIXTH SENSE, Lorraine “sees dead people” and once she gets to the house where the Perron family lives, she starts to see spooky dead kids and witches hanging from trees and lots of other things no one else sees. I really liked her character, and wished the movie was even more about her. Why do we need this family that’s being tormented anyway? Why not have Lorraine Warren go head to head with that spooky doll from the beginning of the movie?

Well, the main reason is because if they don’t introduce the family and the haunted house, then they can’t go through the checklist of haunted house clichés that are recycled yet again in this movie. If you’ve seen any of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies, you’ll know them all by heart. The ugly, ghostly creatures that pop up out of nowhere, the tons of fake scares to keep you hopping until the real ones arrive, the speech about how “it’s not ghosts that are haunting the house, it’s demons that are haunting you!” The thing is, despite the fact that there are some interesting characters here, THE CONJURING really offers nothing new to the latest paranormal troubles trend. We’ve seen it all before.

Vera Farmiga is the best thing in THE CONJURING, but even she can't save this movie from the mountain of cliches.

Vera Farmiga is the best thing in THE CONJURING, but even she can’t save this movie from the mountain of cliches.

I would have loved to see the Warrens in a story that was more original, that wasn’t so damn predictable. There was a woman behind me in the theater who screamed at the top of her lungs every time something “scary” happened in THE CONJURING, even though we all knew it was going to happen before it even did. I felt like asking her “Haven’t you ever seen a PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movie before, lady?” Or, better yet, “Shut the hell up, you big mouth.”

THE CONJURING is directed by James Wan, as I mentioned before. He directed the similarly-plotted INSIDIOUS, but you might also remember him as the guy who directed the first SAW movie back in 2003. Wan also directed DEAD SILENCE about creepy ventriloquist dummies and the vigilante movie DEATH SENTENCE, both in 2007. I like a lot of these movies, and I likeWan. I don’t have a problem with him, really. Except that he seems to be in a rut lately. He keeps trying to cash in with these movies that take the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies and remove the “found footage” aspect and just present things in a straightforward movie way. But it seems like he’s making the same movie over and over. His next one, INSIDIOUS 2, which will be about yet another house haunted by a demonic presence, comes out later this year. Enough! Come up with something new already!

It irritated me that they couldn’t come up with a new spin on this material. Even the scene where Lili Taylor is possessed by the demon witch and has to have an exorcism, is business as usual. She spits up blood, she levitates, she throws people across the room. Ho hum. It’s just the same old thing.

So I didn’t really love this one. I felt like the script was by the numbers, even if it did have some characters that were more interesting than usual. The movie pretty much squanders any chance it has to do something new with this subgenre. Even if there is a mention of another “haunted” house in Long Island toward the end (can you say Amityville?).

THE CONJURING could have been great, but instead it’s just so-so. I give it two and a half knives.

FATHER: Well, that’s all nice. But I thought you were here to get rid my demon!

LS: Yeah, yeah. I’m done with my review, so you can stop badgering me. Just show me where the evil sucker is.

(FATHER takes them through a living room full of kids, all sitting around a TV set watching old reruns of THE BRADY BUNCH and leads LS to a door that leads down to the cellar)

LS: Yet another story where a demon is down in the basement. I bet something really bad happened down there once.

FATHER: Yup. A murder.


(They go down the stairs, where a demonic presence awaits them, rocking back and forth on a rocking chair, with its back toward them)

FATHER: Can’t you help us?

LS: Certainly I can.

Turn and face me, oh demon. Turn and meet your master!

(MICHAEL ARRUDA turns around in the chair, wearing a shawl)

MA: There you are! I’ve been waiting forever for you to show up. And it’s really damp down here!

LS: I thought you said you were going to practice astral projection. Who knew you were the demon haunting this house.

MA: Demon, schmemon. I’m just scaring this family because I was bored.

LS: Fair enough. And they are pretty stupid.

MA: Let’s get out of here and get a pitcher of beer. I’m buying.

LS: Sounds good to me.

FATHER: Hey, where are you going?

LS: I’m done here. Oh, and by the way, I’ll send you my bill in the mail. I guarantee, when you see my fee, it will scare the living hell out of you.

MA: Then maybe you should pay for the pitcher.

LS: Be quiet and get up those stairs!


© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives THE CONJURING  ~two and a half knives.




Posted in 1980s Horror, 2013, Classic Films, Crime Films, Demonic Possession, Demons, Drive-in Movies, Fun Stuff!, Horror, Indie Horror, Marvel Comics, Quick Cuts, Sam Raimi, Superheroes with tags , , , on March 15, 2013 by knifefighter

With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Daniel Keohane, Kelly Laymon, and Paul McMahon

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  With Sam Raimi’s latest movie OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (2013) now in theaters, we’ve decided to celebrate the occasion by asking our panel of Cinema Knife Fighters to name their favorite Sam Raimi film.

Okay Cinema Knife Fighters, What’s your favorite Sam Raimi movie, and why? 


DANIEL KEOHANE:  I’d have to say SPIDER-MAN (2002), being a major web-slinger fan as a kid. Granted, ARMY OF DARKNESS (1992) was a hoot when I saw it at 2:00 am during a 24-hour film festival… but overall, his first SPIDER-MAN is on top of the list.

Spider Man poster

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Yeah, I have to agree with you.  My favorite has to be the first SPIDER-MAN (2002), as well.  True, SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004) might be the better movie, but I remember being so blown away and impressed by the first one, for me, it remains my favorite Raimi picture.

Sure, there are his EVIL DEAD movies, and his thrillers like THE GIFT (2000), and the current OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL is pretty amazing, but personally, I prefer Spidey over the Wizard and a bunch of munchkins any day of the week.

KELLY LAYMON:  I have zero interest in the new OZ flick. Partly because I thought it was released four weeks ago when they had the giant premiere by my old apartment and I had to see James Franco, Mila Kunis, and Michelle Williams in a true giant hot air balloon above my apartment.


But as much as I enjoy the EVIL DEAD films and the SPIDER-MAN flicks, I might have to go A SIMPLE PLAN (1998) on this one. (And I’m overlooking his baseball flick, which people know kills me!) But I just love a good crime movie where money and some dead bodies muddy the entire situation. I love stories about people who are presented with an opportunity and act drastically.

PAUL MCMAHONTHE EVIL DEAD (1981) is my favorite Raimi film. I had a co-worker hand me a VHS tape of it.

“This is the worst-looking movie you’ll ever love,” he said.

I watched it twice in a row that night and ordered my first copy the next morning. The rest of his work is pretty good (with the possible exception of SPIDER-MAN 3 (2007), but I can’t imagine living in a world where THE EVIL DEAD doesn’t exist.


L.L. SOARES: Yeah, I have to agree with Paul. I remember seeing THE EVIL DEAD the first time at a drive-in theater. It was the second feature after George A. Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978), which I had seen about 10 times by then. I’d heard about EVIL DEAD but hadn’t seen it, and it was a real treat. It was just gory and insane and Bruce Campbell was amazing as Ash. While I’ve enjoyed Raimi’s work since then, including his often-overlooked slapstick flick CRIME WAVE (1985) and the underrated DRAG ME TO HELL (2009), nothing comes close to the original EVIL DEAD for me.

MICHAEL ARRUDA: Well that’s it for this edition of QUICK CUTS. See you again next week with reviews of more new movies.



Posted in 2013, Demonic Possession, Devil Movies, Exorcism Movies, Indie Horror, LL Soares Reviews, Occult, Sequels with tags , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2013 by knifefighter

Movie Review by L.L. Soares


Before sitting down to review this one, I went back and read my Cinema Knife Fight review (with Nick Cato) of the first LAST EXORCISM movie from 2010, and it refreshed a lot of the back story for me. Back then, I gave the first movie three knives, and it was based mostly on the performance of Patrick Fabian as Reverend Cotton Marcus. The movie started out like a documentary of Marcus and his vocation as a preacher and exorcist. The way Fabian played him was likeable and charismatic, and I really enjoyed the movie until the final scene. The funny thing is, looking back at it now, I really don’t mind the ending at all, and it’s grown on me.

Which brings us to this new movie, THE LAST EXORCISM PART II. Based on the trailer, I thought this was just another cynical attempt to cash in on a movie that did pretty well at the box office (and cost a small amount to make) by producing a quickie sequel. But I have to admit, it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.

In the second film, Cotton Marcus is nowhere to be seen, since he pretty much met his doom at the end of the first movie. This time around, the focus is on Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell), who was also a standout in the first film. She was the girl Marcus went to exorcize, and she was convincing as a poor, lost innocent undergoing a terrifying ordeal at the “hands” of a demon.

Things begin not long after the events of the first film. As PART II opens, a couple find Nell (again played by Bell) in their house late at night (she gets into bed with the husband and even scratches him, when the wife gets up to go to the bathroom). The scene where they track her down to the kitchen, huddled up on a counter and looking deranged, is actually quite effective. She ends up in a mental hospital, and it’s explained that her family died during the night that ended the first film, when her father’s house caught on fire. She is scared, confused and clearly traumatized by what she has gone through. We also see that everyone is treating her as the victim of a cult, which makes sense, but it doesn’t address the fact that she was truly possessed by a demon in the first film. Something the medical community would avoid.

Not long after being admitted to the hospital, Nell is determined to be pretty harmless to herself and to others, and is released to a halfway house in New Orleans. The place is overseen by Frank Merle (Muse Watson), and Nell makes some new friends, including her roommate Gwen (Julia Garner), who at times seems to have a cruel streak, along with Daphne (Erica Michelle) and Mo (Sharice Angelle Williams). Nell gets a job as a maid at a motel, and even finds herself attracted to a boy who works at the motel, named Chris (Spencer Treat Clark). She’s a little strange, but the others seem to accept her, and Nell starts to slowly adapt to a fairly normal life, which is amazing, considering the events of the first film.

But, as we know going into the theater, a normal life is not really in the cards for Nell. The demon that possessed her in the first film, Abalom, soon makes its presence known, and makes it clear it wants her back. The weirdness happens slowly, with the odd passerby on the street saying something cryptic to her. A street performer (who pretends to be a statue in the park) following her during some festivities. When she goes into a church for refuge, even there a preacher seems to have a link to Abalom and tells her it is useless to resist, as strange figures appear in the church’s windows. Nell flees in a panic.

There are also times when her father, Louis (Louis Herthum, who also played the role in the first film) appears to speak to her. Once, late at night, she sees him sitting in the chair across from her bed, and he tells her he is trying to protect her. Is he real or just a figment of her tortured imagination? Other strange things happen when she’s asleep, like the fact that one of her hands often caresses her when she’s unconscious, as if it no longer belongs to her, and she levitates and twists into painful-looking shapes, without ever being aware of it.

One particularly uncomfortable moment involves the other girls finding a video on Youtube of her being exorcized by Reverend Marcus in the first film. She is twisting violently into unnatural shapes, and speaking in voices, and the other girls are both fascinated and scared by what they see. Nell comes into the room, and when she finds out what they’re watching, she screams at them to shut it off.

Some of the people around her aren’t what they seem to be, but not all of them are in league with the devil. A woman named Cecile (Tarra Riggs) has made it her mission to save Nell from the forces that want her, and she sets up a meeting with some like-minded friends. Can they save her from the forces of darkness? Well, you’ll have to see THE LAST EXORCISM PART II to find out.


Right off the bat, I want to make it clear that not everyone is going to like this movie. First off, there are long stretches where nothing seems to happen. It’s almost more of a character study than a horror movie, as we watch Nell slowly adapt to her new life and become a part of normal society, something she was never allowed to do when she lived on her father’s farm. We want her to find happiness with her new friends and with Chris. But we know it’s only a matter of time before the satanic being that once shared her skin comes back. The movie is not fast-paced. It takes its time, and there are long gaps between scares. And anyone looking for a roller coaster ride isn’t going to find it here.

Strangely, I didn’t mind the pacing or the lack of scares at all. Nell is so interesting that I really wanted to see more of her life. I found her struggle for normalcy to be touching, and believable. And even if it comes off more as a drama at times, I didn’t see that as a bad thing. Ashley Bell gives a terrific performance here as a girl who has endured great horrors and struggles to transcend them. It’s really a showcase for her as an actress (just like the first LAST EXORCISM film was a showcase for actor Patrick Fabian) and in that sense, I enjoyed it. I also thought her looks worked very well in defining her character. She has an odd face that sometimes looks almost like an old woman’s and other times seems rather pretty. This odd quality gives physical presence to the confusion and turmoil going on inside her. I was really impressed with Bell, and thought she did a great job as the lead in this film. In fact, watching PART II, I actually found myself wanting to spend more time with this character, and I would actually look forward to a PART III if the same filmmakers were involved.

One thing I didn’t like was that, in trying to present things almost as a drama, the filmmakers felt the need to pop in some “false scares” to keep the audience awake. Stuff like dogs suddenly barking loudly in the dark, or images in Nell’s mind (visions or dreams) suddenly popping up on screen and screaming. I thought these things were unnecessary, but I’m sure that the people involved thought it was a legitimate choice, since the movie is pretty quiet for the most part, and it was their way of reminding us this is a horror movie, even if it is an unusual one. And not all audience members would be as patient without a few jolts added here and there. For the most part, LAST EXORCISM PART II is actually a good example of “quiet horror,” which means it’s not  really inhibited by its normally dreadful PG-13 rating.

Also, the ending this time around was a little predictable, and almost had a CARRIE feel to it, but it still worked for me. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I see similarities between Nell’s story and Carrie White’s.

I also thought it was interesting that PART II is filmed in a much different way than the first one. The first film was presented as a fake documentary, focused mostly on Reverend Marcus, and it worked very well in that way. You would think PART II would adopt the same gimmick, but it doesn’t. I thought it would hurt this movie to be filmed in a more traditional, straightforward way, but it actually works pretty well here. To film it as another “found footage” film would defy logic (who would be filming this fragile girl struggling to stay sane?) and the gimmick would get in the way of the storytelling in this one. So it was a good decision to leave the gimmicks behind in PART II.

By the end of the film, it is quite clear that this is a horror movie. But leading up to there, it could almost be the story of a girl dealing with mental illness, trying to get better after painful events. As I watched it, it made me think of how very different the original THE EXORCIST (1973) is from its first sequel, the quieter and more thoughtful EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC (1977). Both THE HERETIC and LAST EXORCISM PART II took risks by not being rehashes of the films that came before them, and I find that much more refreshing than seeing the same thing all over again.

LastExorcism_1Sht_Wall_FM1Aside from Bell and Herthum, this new movie has a completely different team involved. Daniel Stamm, who directed the first film, has now been now replaced by Ed Gass-Donnelly, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Damien Chazelle. Gass-Donnelly’s previous work consists of several short films and two other features, THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY (2007) and SMALL TOWN MURDER SONGS (2010), which also sound like small, quirky films, and I might just seek them out.

Eli Roth is one of the producers of this film (he also produced the first one), and I still think his name is associated with product that is a little more interesting than the standard fare.

Most fans of horror films probably won’t like this film, and will wonder what I see in it. But the truth is, the fact that this movie is so different from the first one, and takes risks that would alienate some theater-goers, endears itself to me all the more. I’m a fan of movies that take chances and confound expectations. And in that sense, THE LAST EXORICSM PART II is a success. I give it three knives.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives THE LAST EXORCISM PART II ~three knives.

Transmissions to Earth: MAUSOLEUM (1983)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1980s Horror, 2012, Demonic Possession, Demons, Family Secrets, Possession, Supernatural with tags , , , , , on November 1, 2012 by knifefighter

Transmissions to Earth Presents:
By L.L. Soares

I’m not really sure how I missed this one the first time around, but I’ve definitely seen the posters the video boxes for MAUSOLEUM in the past. Of course, other movies around the same time included MORTUARY (also 1983) and FUNERAL HOME (1980), so I guess it’s easy for a movie to get lost in the shuffle of similarly named flicks.

I popped MAUSOLEUM into the DVD player, expecting just another mediocre B-movie, and found myself really digging this one.

You know what you’re in for right from the start. It begins at a woman’s funeral. The dead woman’s sister, Cora (Laura Hippe) is huddled with the woman’s daughter, Susan (Julie Christy Murray). Susan is crying, and when Cora tells her she’ll be living with her now, Susan runs away from her, through the cemetery, until she reaches a strange mausoleum which seems to beckon her. As she climbs the steps, the locked door cracks and opens. The girl goes inside.

And something very strange happens to her in there.

The next time we see Susan, she’s all grown up and is now a sexy blonde (Bobbie Bresee, who was also in GHOULIES, 1985, SURF NAZIS MUST DIE, 1987 and EVIL SPAWN, also 1987), and she’s married to Oliver Farrell (Marjoe Gortner, who, back when he was four years old, was the “World’s Youngest Ordained Minister” and faith healer in real life, but as an adult was an actor in such films as this one, as well as EARTHQUAKE, 1974, FOOD OF THE GODS, 1976 and HELLHOLE, 1985).

Now, about to turn 30, Susan is starting to finally show signs of what happened to her in that mausoleum so many years before. She was possessed by a demon. Of course, we never find out why it took so long for the demon to finally take control of her. Maybe it was sleeping.

It turns out that mausoleum belonged to one of Susan’s ancestors, and the family had a curse on it. It doesn’t help that the family name was Nomed (yes that’s “demon” spelled backwards for all you TROLL 2 fans!).

So now, whenever she gets angry or aroused, Susan’s eyes turn bright green and her teeth get all freaky, as we get to see her demon side. It first pops up when Oliver and Susan go dancing and some big hulking drunk who looks like Grizzly Adams (Gene Edwards) grabs her when her husband leaves for a moment. It almost looks like he’s going to assault her right there on the dance floor, but she gets away. Outside, while waiting for the valet to bring their car, Oliver and Susan are again accosted by the brute who staggers into them. Susan has enough, and her eyes glow green when the drunk gets into his car. Suddenly, there’s a raging fire inside the car, and the man is burned to death. Oliver tries to save him, but can’t open the door in time. As the car explodes, we see Susan’s face looking evil and otherworldly.  The demon is loose!

Don’t go in the MAUSOLEUM!

Later, when their sleazy gardener, Ben (Maurice Sherbanee) comes on to her when Oliver is away, Susan actually takes the guy up to her bed, but she later disposes of him in the garage. This time, we see her with huge claws and a monster face. The demon has taken over even more!

Oliver starts to get suspicious when he wakes up in the middle of the night to see the monster version of Susan sitting in a rocking chair. He immediately calls Susan’s long-time psychiatrist, Dr. Simon Andrews (Norman Burton). When Susan goes to see Dr. Andrews for a “check-up” he puts her under hypnosis and finds out the truth when the demon pops up to introduce itself, green eyes and all. It speaks in the usual demonic voice and says “You know I exist!”

Dr. Andrews knows he’s out of his depth, so he turns to his friend Dr. Roni Logan (Sheri Mann) for help. Roni diagnoses Susan as having a severe case of demonic possession and tells Dr. Andrews how to cure it.

Obviously, MAUSOLEUM was one of the many movies inspired by the success of THE EXORCIST (1973), ten years earlier.Directed by Michael Dugan, this one is pretty entertaining throughout, with some creepy scenes, unintentional humor, and lots of nudity from Ms. Bresee.  There’s also an appearance by LaWanda Page (“Aunt Esther” from the TV show SANFORD AND SON)  as a maid. She’s actually pretty funny in her brief scenes.

I found myself really enjoying this one, despite the fact that it’s pretty cheesy. I wish I’d seen it years ago when I first saw the VHS box in a mom and pop video store in the 80s. But it’s never too late to enjoy a cheesy gem like this one.

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

Don’t make Susan angry. You wouldn’t like her when she’s angry!


Posted in 2012, Cinema Knife Fights, Demonic Possession, Demons, Possessed By Demons with tags , , , , , , , on September 3, 2012 by knifefighter

By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: A flea market spread out on a front lawn. L.L. SOARES and MICHAEL ARRUDA are among the many customers)

LS: Wow! Look at that. A velvet painting of Bela Lugosi.

MA: There’s a lot of neat stuff here.

LS (lifts up a large, rounded, green object): I wonder what this is.

FLEA MARKET MAN: That there is a toenail clipping from Godzilla himself.

MA: Wow. A jar that says “Abnormal Brain!”

LS: You better buy that before someone else does.

FLEA MARKET MAN: Pssst, you two look like knowledgeable gents. How about taking a look at this little beauty (takes out a large wooden box with ancient writing on it)

LS: That’s pretty fancy.

MA: How much is it?

FLEA MARKET GUY: For you guys, I’ll give it to you for ten bucks. You won’t find another one like it. It’s called a Dybbuk box and it’s home for an ancient Hebrew demon.

LS: That would make a great addition to my “demons of the world” collection.

MA: The other Knife Fighters will be so envious!

(LS hands over the money and the man gladly gives them the box)

FLEA MARKET GUY: Just remember, I don’t give refunds.

(LS and MA walk away with their load of loot)

LS: I can’t believe we got this cool demon box.

MA: It’s a Dybbuk box.

LS: Whatever.

MA: Now that we’ve got these goodies, how about we review the new movie for this weekend, THE POSSESSION?

LS: Sure. You want me to start this one?

MA: Be my guest.

LS: In some ways, THE POSSESSION is yet another bland August horror movie. It seems like a lot of these mediocre movies are locked away until the later weeks of summer. Last week, we saw the amazingly flavorless THE APPARITION, featuring a PARANORMAL ACTIVITY rip-off with no scares. This week, we get an EXORCIST rip-off with no scares. Lucky us!

However, to be honest, THE POSSESSION is slightly above average for these kinds of films.

MA:  And appropriately enough, we just talked about August turkeys in last week’s “Quick Cuts” column.

But I wouldn’t say this one had no scares.  It had some.  They just weren’t as intense as they needed to be, which is more that can be said for last week’s turkey, THE APPARITION.

LS: I’ll agree with you that THE POSSESSION is definitely better than THE APPARITION. At least THE POSSESSION tries to be a heartfelt take on the sadness of divorce…

MA:  Which I found detrimental to the story, since I’ve seen several horror movies in recent years with similar plots, the divorced family in a haunted house setting, where the children, vulnerable because of their parents’ separation, make easy targets for the ghosties, while the now separated parent, usually the dad, has to handle this all on his own, or at least mostly on his own.  Last year’s DON”T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK had a similar plot.

LS: Yep, nothing all that new here. But it’s well-done for the most part.

Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a high school basketball coach, is trying to deal with life after his divorce with Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick). Not only does he have to deal with only seeing his two daughters, Em (Natasha Calis) and Hannah (Madison Davenport), on the weekends, but he has to reconcile himself with the fact that his ex-wife has a new boyfriend, Brett (Grant Show – anyone remember him from the original Melrose Place?). During their visits, there’s a sadness that hovers over Clyde and the kids, who have clearly been affected by the split. Clyde’s life, meanwhile, is in flux, as he just bought a new house of his own, and is seriously considering a new job in North Carolina, which would involve moving yet again.

MA:  I have to admit, I did like these scenes.  They were well acted, and so the movie definitely drew me into liking its characters.

LS: Yes, the movie starts out pretty good.

One weekend, he brings the girls to a flea market, where Em finds a strange wooden box with Hebrew lettering engraved on it. Em asks if she can have it, and her father buys it for her. From then on, Em’s behavior gets stranger and stranger as her relationship with the box threatens to engulf her life. Turns out it’s a box holding a Jewish demon called a Dybbuk. The entity is slowly possessing Em, but it’s a long process that involves the girl going through continual changes, including her ingesting lots of living moths (!) and talking to a mysterious “woman” who no one can see.

When things start to get downright disturbing, Clyde goes to see a a Jewish mystic named Tzadok (the rapper Matisyahu) whose father is a revered rabbi in a Hasidic community. The rabbis won’t touch the box, but Tzadok agrees to go back with Clyde to see Em and try to remove the curse of the demon from her.

What follows are scenes in a hospital where an exorcism is attempted, involving Tzadok, Clyde, the two girls, and even Clyde’s ex-wife Stephanie. Will Em be saved from this evil being? You’ll have to see the movie to find out.

MA: And of course if you’ve seen your share of exorcism movies, you already know what happens.

(A priest runs in holding a Bible)

PRIEST:  The power of Christ compels you!

LS: Oh no, not that old chestnut again!

MA:  Actually, this is a Jewish demon, and so it’s rabbis doing the exorcising.

PRIEST:  Damn!— I mean, darn.  Sorry about that.  (Exits)

(Rabbi enters and begins lifting weights.)

MA:  Excuse me.  I said rabbis exorcising, not exercising!

RABBI:  What?  I can’t exercise just because I’m a rabbi?

MA:  No, it’s not that at all.  You can exercise all you want.  Just not here.

LS:  Yeah, we’re trying to review a movie here.

RABBI:  Well, I’m trying to exercise here.  (goes back to lifting weights)

MA:  Let’s just ignore him.

LS: Sure.  The idea of a Jewish demon is very interesting, but this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a movie about a Dybbuk. The last time we saw one of these critters was in 2009’s THE UNBORN, and this time around, I had the same problem as I had with that movie. The idea of a Dybbuk is interesting. But the movie, unfortunately, isn’t very good.

RABBI:  Dybbuk?  (runs away screaming).

LS:  I should have said that earlier!

MA:  But I did think that the story of the Dybbuk was a plus for this movie.  Sure, it’s not original, and you’re right, we saw it in THE UNBORN, but it’s still rather refreshing and a nice departure from the more traditional Catholic exorcism plots.

LS:  I didn’t mean to imply there were tons of movies about Dybbuks. It’s just interesting that there have been two in the past five years. It’s an interesting concept. It’s just too bad the movies about them aren’t better.

First off, the pacing in THE POSSESSION is just too slow. Things happen at a snail’s pace, and things don’t really get out of control until the very end, where it becomes a fairly standard exorcism film, which is a letdown.

MA: I didn’t mind the pacing.  As I said, I bought into the early scenes with Clyde trying to make things work with his daughters, and the scares, while subtle, were enough to satisfy me early on.

LS:  Scares?  What scares?  There are hardly any scares! A scene at the very beginning, where a woman is beaten by the invisible Dybbuk when she tries to nail the box shut (it’s her belongings that end up in that flea market) is scarier than most of what comes after it (and it’s not that scary).

MA:  True, but it’s better than anything we saw in last week’s THE APPARITION!  I also liked the scene where young Em is looking into her mouth in the mirror and sees the tiny fingers jut out of her throat.  It was quick, but it was cool.

LS: Too bad they gave that image away in the trailer. It would have been better if it had been a surprise.

MA: It also helped that I saw this one with a very wimpy audience.  They were screaming at everything!

LS: I had one of those audiences, too. The loud, outspoken kind, like when I go see a PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movie. Sometimes, these can be fun, but this time around, the audience didn’t really add much to the movie; they were just annoying.

MA:  My audience seemed to be made up of lots of high school and college age students on dates.  I guess it’s a good date movie.

LS:  Because THE POSSESSION isn’t that scary, the audience eventually just started laughing at “horror” scenes and making dumb jokes, which I could have done without.

But the slow pacing isn’t all bad. It actually gives the movie time to flesh out the characters. You do grow to know and care about this family, and Clyde is easy to sympathize with.

MA:  I agree.

LS:  You also care about the girls, especially Em, who starts out very sweet and clearly has no idea what’s happening to her. But this doesn’t make the movie any scarier.

MA:  I disagree.

LS: You disagree that you start to care about the kids?

MA: No, I disagree that caring about the characters makes the movie less scary.

First off, I have to say since we’re talking about Em, that hands down, I thought the best thing about THE POSSESSION was the performance by young Natasha Calis as Em.  This kid is amazing!  The expressions she made, the emotions she conveyed, it was like watching an adult.  I was really impressed by her.

LS: Yes, I agree with that, but…

MA: Getting back to the scary part, you’re right, Em starts out so sweet, but when things start happening to her, that’s when Calis’s performance really takes off, and I found her, this sweet little girl, creepy!  And I’m not talking about later on in the movie when she obviously is wearing scary make-up, but earlier, when she’s upset or angry, she’s got the best evil expressions.  I thought she was terrific.

LS: I agree with that, too, but…

MA: There’s also a scene early on where she’s talking to her older sister, and her sister notices she’s looking strange and asks if she’s all right, and she answers that she just doesn’t feel like herself.  The way she says that line, it’s simple, subtle, but very genuine, and just enough to get under your skin.

LS: Yeah, that scene worked. But then you have the scene where Em “attacks” Stephanie’s boyfriend, Brett, and there’s this sudden wind and she has weird make-up on, and she’s standing there with a strange expression. That’s one of the scenes the audience I was with starting laughing out loud at. It was just so cliché. So for everything good in this movie, there’s something else that ruins the mood.

MA: Yeah, that was a lousy scene.  No argument from me there.

For the most part, though, I thought THE POSESSION did “subtle” very well, which is a good thing, because it’s certainly not an in-your-face intense horror movie.  I read that it was originally going to be Rated R but was edited down to a PG-13 rating, no doubt because someone must have thought it would make the movie more profitable.  I’m not necessarily arguing for an R rating, but this movie would have benefited from some more intensity.

LS:  I actually would have preferred to see the uncut, R version.

The acting, overall, is pretty good. You might remember Jeffrey Dean Morgan as “The Comedian” from the exceptional superhero movie, WATCHMEN (2009). He was great in that movie, and he shows here that he can play the lead in a film, something Ashley Greene showed us in last week’s THE APPARITION—which got me thinking, maybe these movies are just glorified screen tests for potential lead actors.

MA:  Yep.  I enjoyed Morgan a lot here.

LS:  Kyra Sedgwick is a pro and is probably best known these days for her role as Deputy Chief of Police Brenda Leigh Johnson on the TNT channel series THE CLOSER. The kids are also very good, especially Natasha Calis as Em, as we mentioned, who makes the transformation her character is going through fairly believable.

MA:  I already said my piece about Calis.  She’s the best part of this movie, but I also enjoyed Madison Davenport as her older sister Hannah, and like you said, Sedgwick was also very good as the mom, Stephanie.  I did find her character annoying at first, but she grew on me as the movie went along.

LS:  I was also impressed with Matisyahu in his first role in a feature film.

MA:  I liked him, too. I thought he added some humor which the film needed.

LS:  Danish director Ole Bornedal does a decent job, but the script by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White just doesn’t generate much in the way of scares. These are interesting characters, and the concept of the Dybbuk is interesting. So why is the movie so mediocre? I’d have to point to the weak script for that one. It simply takes a good idea and drops the ball. I wanted to like this one more, but I just can’t muster up much in the way of enthusiasm for the overall film.

MA:  I liked it a tad more than you, and I also liked the script more than you did.

While hardly original, THE POSSESSION has enough going for it to make it work.  While it doesn’t have a “name” cast, it does have an excellent cast.  The four main leads in this movie, the parents and the two kids, are really good, and their performances help lift this movie to a level that at least makes it decent.  In other words, I wouldn’t include THE POSSESSION on a list of August turkeys, and the cast is a major reason why.

LS: Which is why I said this was better than the usual August release.

MA: On the other hand, I thought the movie faltered during its last act, as things seemed rushed near the end,  which unfortunately, is just another traditional exorcism sequence, albeit from a Jewish perspective, and even rips off a line “Take me!’ from THE EXORCIST.  It’s a lackluster conclusion that is several notches below what comes before it.

LS: I agree. If it had maintained the same level of quality throughout, and given the horror aspects as much care and development as the dramatic ones, this would have been a much better movie.

MA: Director Ole Bornedal does an okay job.  There are some neat scary images, like the aforementioned hand inside Em’s throat, and the CAT scan image of the demon inside Em’s body, but as you’ve been saying, he drops the ball when it comes to delivering the heavy hitting scares.

I thought the scenes where the teacher is murdered and where the boyfriend is attacked were both lame, and the scene where Clyde has to rescue Em from a room full of moths unconvincing.  The moths looked fake.

But I actually liked the script by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White, up to a point anyway.  These are the same two writers who wrote the horrible movie BOOGEYMAN (2005), and THE POSESSION is a much better movie than BOOGEYMAN.

LS: It certainly is a step up.

MA: I liked the characters they created, and I thought they did a good job writing a story about characters I cared about.  I really felt for Clyde, and I felt his frustration about not being able to make things work with his daughters, even before the ghostly stuff started happening, and once it did, I thought the story got that much better.

But I agree with you that this movie would have been much better had it been scarier.  And that’s certainly one reason why I didn’t love this one.

Another reason is that there are a lot of loose ends in this story.  After Stephanie’s boyfriend is attacked, he drives away and then just disappears.  What happened to him?  Did he die?  And why doesn’t Stephanie seem to care?  She doesn’t mention him again.  Granted, all the exorcism stuff is happening at this point, but that’s what I mean by things being rushed near the end.  We don’t even hear one line about how Stephanie feels about this.

LS: Yeah, his disappearance after that scene is just sloppy. It’s like “We don’t need this character anymore, let’s just forget about him now.”

MA: And the scene in the hospital, where do all the doctors go?  After we see the shocking test results, the image of the demon inside Em, we see her family’s reaction, but what about the doctors?  Did they see it?  How do they explain it?  We don’t know because they just sort of disappear.

LS: Well, the family sneaks Em down to the basement where the physical therapy room is. So I guess they’d be undisturbed down there. But no one hears Em’s screaming at all? I wasn’t sure if I bought that. And yeah, we don’t get to see the doctors react to that crazy X-ray image of the demon inside Em, and we don’t find out what they think is going on.

MA: And no one notices them stealing Em away.  She’s obviously a patient there, and yet there’s no one around to even say “Hey, where are you taking that girl?”

LS: Well, they are purposely sneaking around to avoid detection…

MA: This sloppiness all happens towards the end, which is a major reason why I thought the ending wasn’t as good as the earlier bits.  Plus the exorcism scenes were nothing we haven’t seen before.  Too bad, because a stronger ending would have really helped this movie.

So, at the end of the day, I found THE POSSESSION to be an enjoyable little horror movie that does the subtle things well, but forgets to finish the job with the real scares.  I expected worse, would have liked better, but eventually found myself liking this one.  At the very least, I wouldn’t throw this one into the scrap heap with other August turkeys.

I give it two and a half knives.

LS: I give it two and a half knives as well. There were some good things in this movie, but not enough of them.

MA: So, let’s open the box and see what kind of a Dybbuk we got.

(LS & MA both eagerly begin the challenging work of opening the box, which does not appear to have any seams)

LS:  I hope it’s not one of those silly old lady Dybbuks!

MA:  Maybe it’ll be a Hammer Film Dybbuk!

LS:  What the hell is a Hammer Film Dybbuk?

MA:  Dunno, but I bet it would be cool!

LS:  It’s almost opened— I’m hoping for a bustin boob babe Dybbuk!

MA:  Or better, yet, a $100,000-buck!

(They open box, and they both groan.  LS lifts out a pair of 3D glasses.)

LS:  Give me a break!  Of all the haunted boxes in the world, we have to find a 3D Dybbuk!

MA (lifts note out of box):  What’s this say?  (reads)  Please deposit an additional $5.00, and don’t forget to recycle your 3D glasses when you’re done.”  (groans).

LS:  Rip-off!  (slams box shut) That damn Flear Market Guy!

Oh well, let’s grab some beers.

MA:  Now you’re talking.

(LS & MA exit, leaving box behind.)

VOICE FROM BOX: Hey, someone bring me back a cold one!…or else!!


© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives THE POSSESSION ~ two and a half knives!

LL Soares gives THE POSSESSION ~ two and a half knives!

Transmissions to Earth: DEMON WIND (1990)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1990s Horror, 2012, Animated Corpses, Campy Movies, Demonic Possession, Demons, Devil Movies, Evil Spirits, LL Soares Reviews, Magic, Possessed By Demons, Trasmissions to Earth with tags , , , , , , on August 23, 2012 by knifefighter

DVD Review by L.L. Soares

A house in the middle of nowhere with a horrifying past. A book of spells that maybe shouldn’t be read aloud. People who become possessed by demons. Sure, it’s been done before. Most famously in Sam Raimi’s classic EVIL DEAD (1981), as well as the cult classic, EQUINOX (1970). We even saw a new variation on the idea in this year’s THE CABIN IN THE WOODS.  But there have been a lot of other movies with similar plots, and with varying degrees of success. 1990’s DEMON WIND is one of them.

The story begins in 1931. Outside of a farmhouse, there’ s a body burning on a cross and another dead body on the  ground. Inside the house, a woman uses a spell to keep the demonically possessed dead out (they’re banging on the door to get in). We can tell they’re possessed because they talk in a weird, demonic voice that is hard to understand. The woman turns to her husband, George, for help, but he suddenly starts puking up oatmeal. Oops, looks like he’s possessed, too! The woman raises a snow globe and says “If the crystal breaks, it’s the end of both of us.” By now, George has huge warts all over his face, tumors have grown on his body, and he has sharp teeth. I guess he’s a full-blown demon! He attacks her, she shatters the globe, and the house blows up.

DEMON WIND then fast forwards to the Present, where Cory (Eric Larson, who, when he was younger, was also in the original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA TV series from 1979 – 1980) and his girlfriend Elaine (Francine Lapensee) are arguing as they drive along a road that looks like it’s in the middle of a desert. Since his dad died recently, Cory has been hearing voices telling him to go to his grandparents’ farm.

When they reach a gas station (the sign reads “Harcourt’s Café”), Cory feels like he’s been there before, and we get a look into one of his dreams, where he’s standing naked among the gas pumps and is greeted by his grandmother, covered in blood with her throat torn out.

Shaken up, Cory drives to the gas station, where the old guy who runs the place, Harcourt (Rufus Norris), seems nice until Cory asks how to get to the “Old Carter Place.” Then the guy gets angry (what, ANOTHER spooky gas station attendant? Are they required in every movie like this?!!). He threatens them, then later pleads with them not to go there.

But Cory and Elaine aren’t going alone. It turns out they invited a bunch of friends to tag along. First there’s Dell (Bobby Johnston) and his girlfriend, Terri (Lynn Clark). They’ve also brought along another couple, Jack and Bonnie (Mark David Fritsche and Sherry Bendorf). Dell is the brawny, blond frat boy of the group, and Jack is the brainy guy with glasses. Just when you think this is enough people for a house-warming party, along come Chuck (Stephen Quadros) who shows up in full magician  regalia, and his buddy Stacy (Jack Vogel). To complicate matters, Chuck used to date Terri and secretly wants her back, and Dell isn’t too happy about this.

The gang’s all here for DEMON WIND (Facing the camera, from l to r: Francine Lapensee, Sherry Bendorf, Eric Larson, Mark David Fritsche)

As they all drive away from the gas station/cafe, Harcourt says “Damn fools!”

When they get to the farmhouse — or rather, what’s left of it—the first thing they see is the skeleton on the cross in front of the ruins. Then, when Cory touches a skull half-buried in the ground, he gets some kind of a shock and sees visions of his uncle as a kid, running from demons back in 1931.

The ruins of his grandparents’ farm house look like just a façade and a bunch of pieces of wood, but if you go through the front door, you enter a house that is suddenly intact!!

The first time they enter the house, there’s writing on the walls and Bonnie reads something aloud. The house goes crazy, shaking like an earthquake hit it, and bottles and dishes explode. Even a big cooked turkey (without a trace of decay after all these years!) on the dining table explodes! They run out.

A skeleton is there to greet you, in DEMON WIND!

Their cars won’t start, so Cory and the gang leave the house and walk down the only road, intent on finding help. They walk and walk, and when they reach a certain point, they see a fog that blows over them (is this the demon wind of the title?) Suddenly, they’re back at the ruins of Cory’s grandparents’ house! The house won’t let them get away.

Little girls appear talking in demon voices and dressed in vintage dresses. They say “You can’t leave.” One grabs Bonnie and turns her into a porcelain doll. No one seems to be very upset when the doll explodes in flames (doesn’t anyone miss Bonnie??).

It’s getting dark, so Cory tells the others that it will be safe in the house. When they argue with him he says “It was just trying to warn us before. Don’t ask me how, I just know it.”

They explore the house, which has several rooms. Cory and Elaine find Cory’s grandmother’s old diary, which tells of weird, demonic goings-on and offers some helpful spells on how to deal with devils. There are also a couple of magical daggers, which seem to get wasted on minor demons as the movie goes on.

Then even more friends show up! This time it’s Willy (Richard Gabai, who went on to star in tons of movies in 90s like VIRGIN HIGH – 1991, DINOSAUR ISLAND – 1994, and VIRTUAL GIRL – 1998, and continues to work steadily today ) and his girlfriend Reena (Mia M. Ruiz).

They all board up the doors and windows,  and, when night falls,  angry dead people (no doubt possessed by demons) rise from their graves. One by one, the friends begin to get killed off. Of course, none of them stays dead, as their bodies get possessed and their evil corpses try to kill off more of them. We never do find out who the little girls are. And the house itself becomes more and more menacing, as does a formerly destroyed barn in back that is also suddenly rejuvenated.

The monsters eventually break into the house, but before they can kill Cory and Elaine, they’re called away by a preacher (who looks sort of like Harcourt with grease in his hair), who absorbs them and then turns into a Big Daddy Demon.

The big daddy of demons from DEMON WIND.

When the big demon comes for them, Cory and Elaine read a spell asking for the “Spirits of Goodness and Peace” to help them, and Cory turns into a big-headed monster who fights for the forces of good! He kind of looks like a dome-headed alien from the old OUTER LIMITS TV series. Super Cory goes up against the ugly, pustulant, evil demon. Some weird monster wrestling ensues.

Cory turns into a “good monster” to fight the king demon in DEMON WIND.

Will Cory and at least some of his friends survive and go home? You’ll have to see DEMON WIND to find out for yourself.

The effects are pretty cheesy for the most part, although some of the monsters look pretty good. The look and feel of this movie reminded me of late 80s/early 90s “scream queen” movies like SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA and NIGHTMARE SISTERS (both directed by David DeCouteau and both from 1988), but this one is played completely straight and even though not much in this movie makes logical sense, it still works at times, in some bizarre way. It was directed by Charles Philip Moore, who also gave us ANGEL OF DESTRUCTION (1994) and the 1995 remake of NOT OF THIS EARTH.

Eric Larson does a good job as the hero, Cory, but Francine Lapansee as Elaine is the best actor here. The rest of the cast is likable enough, considering they’re just so much demon fodder.

DEMON WIND is not a great movie by any stretch, but if you like this sort of thing, you might just enjoy yourself. I don’t think it was scary at all, but there were several scenes that made me chuckle, and a few that were almost effective.

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

(Special thanks to Henry Snider for suggesting this one)

Suburban Grindhouse Memories collects some SCALPS (1983)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1980s Horror, 2012, Bad Acting, Demonic Possession, Drive-in Movies, Gore!, Grave Robbing, Just Plain Bad, Nick Cato Reviews, Possession, Suburban Grindhouse Memories with tags , , , , , on June 14, 2012 by knifefighter

You’ll Wish it Was Just Dandruff!
By Nick Cato

While most people saw it as part of a double feature VHS release, 1983’s SCALPS had a brief theatrical run in late December of that year.  Directed by future schlock-kingpin Fred Olen Ray, this slasher/possession film is a mixed bag that doesn’t quite live up to its eye-catching poster ad.

Six archeology students head out to the desert to the site of an old Indian burial ground (thank you, POLTERGEIST, 1982, for helping this to become one of the most clichéd horror plots of all time) and despite hearing a word of warning (if they disturb the site, the spirit of an Indian warrior will seek revenge), our generic slasher-film throw-a-ways decide to get busy with their shovels, anyway.  It doesn’t take long for weird things to start happening around their campsite, including the team eventually being disposed of in gory ways.  The tension (attempts) to grow as we learn the culprit may be one of their own, possessed by the spirit they’ve unleashed by tampering with ancient artifacts.

SCALPS is one of those films that rewards ONLY those patient enough to get through its first hour.  Most of the action goes down during the third act, and gorehounds who may have heard about this one need only to fast-forward their DVD to the final half hour (although there IS a decapitation during the opening moments, perhaps placed as a slight teaser).  A couple of people walked out during one of the endless digging-scenes, one guy yelling, “Keep digging, a$$holes!”, causing me to both crack a smile then wonder what someone had expected, paying to see a film titled SCALPS.

The spirit that possesses one of the campers pops up from behind rocks a few times, once actually scaring the audience (see picture below).  Known as Black Claw, this Indian spirit is TRULY annoyed his stuff has been discovered (and, of course, WHY we’re never told) and thankfully there’s a bunch of freshly-dug-up weapons at his disposal.

Call me crazy, but if people found stuff I created a long time ago and wanted to put them in a museum, I’d be thrilled.  Black Claw, however, only wants people to die.  Horribly!

What drove the (now defunct) Fox Twin Cinema audience crazy were the seemingly ENDLESS scenes of our archeologists gabbing on and on about their work, both how important it was (another thing never fully explained why) and also how risky it was in light of the post-dig events.  If there’s one film I wish I had a tape recorder playing through, it’d be SCALPS, where more profanity was offered to the on-screen cast than any other film I could recall attending.  One full-figured guy two rows in front of me (complete with a backwards STP baseball hat—perhaps he drove in from New Jersey?) must’ve tossed half his tub of popcorn at the screen whenever one of the more annoying female students opened her mouth (which seemed like every four seconds).  I have to tell you, folks—if not for the entertainment provided my fellow suburban grindhouse maniacs, I doubt I could’ve made it to the end of this thing.

BUT alas, when Black Claw finally gets his minion to go ballistic, the blood beings to spurt like soda from a shaken can: one poor guy has an arrow shot right through his eyeball from about 10 feet away, while another poor sucker becomes a human pin cushion from a hail of them.  Living up to its title, SCALPS contains a couple of graphic scalping scenes, one comparable to Tom Savini’s work on the classic MANIAC (1980).  Sadly, that was the only believable effect: one scene (that had the audience audibly gagging) features another poor victim having her throat slashed in a tight close up, then she gets scalped, causing one of the goriest kills of the early 80s (although it doesn’t look as convincing as the FX team had hoped for).  So in retrospect, yeah, the last third of this one is a gorehound’s delight … although those gorehounds best be prepared to deal with some terrible acting, sloppy effects, and an ending that still has me scratching my head.

As mentioned, SCALPS was released on VHS in a double feature with a film titled THE SLAYER (while I didn’t see that one theatrically, I did watch the video and am beyond thankful I missed its cinematic release—if it even had one).  For the curious, SCALPS is available on DVD, a format that mercifully allows viewers to scan directly to the good stuff.

Sometimes, being a pre-DVD child of the 80s wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

For generic, bad acting, sloppy effects, plotless slasher film completists only!  (OH YEAH—there’s also a cameo by FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND icon Forrest J. Ackerman.  Go figure).

© Copyright 2012 by Nick Cato

The Spirit of BLACK CLAW compels you!