Archive for the Possession Category


Posted in 2012, Enigmatic Films, Horror, Madness, Paul McMahon Columns, Possession, Supernatural, Suspense with tags , , , , , , on November 14, 2012 by knifefighter

Movie Review by Paul McMahon– The Distracted Critic

Eduardo Sanchez, co-director of the THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999) and writer/director of ALTERED (2006), has a new film out called LOVELY MOLLY (2011). It’s an interesting Frankenstein’s monster, incorporating both the hand-held camera work used in BLAIR WITCH and the traditional narrative film style used in ALTERED. The film opens, in fact, with an extreme close-up of Molly, which echoes Heather’s now iconic videotaped confession in BLAIR WITCH.

Molly looks panicked and strung out, or panicked and exhausted, and she says: “Whatever happened, it wasn’t me.” She holds a knife to her own throat for a few tense seconds, before bringing it down and saying “It won’t let me do it.”

Now we’re at Molly and Tim’s wedding, another hand-held shot, and the camera picks up a young boy who looks stuffed into a suit. He walks directly at the camera with a smile completely juxtaposed after the clip we just saw, and as the camera zooms in on the kid’s mouth he whispers “I’m hungry.” We watch snippets of a wedding, picking up little bits here and there. Tim is dissed by one of Molly’s young relatives. One of Molly’s uncles offers a toast to his brother Ben and and his wife Tammy (Molly’s parents): “Who I know are looking down on us right now, and watching their little girl start her new life with her new husband.” You also see the maid of honor giving a tearful apology for any times she let the bride down, while Molly dismisses her apology with a smile and a shake of her head. This last is such a quick exchange you just know it’s going to be important later.

After the credits roll, we put the hand-held away. It’s late at night and shadows are used very well to portray a house in isolation, surrounded by forest without a streetlight to be seen. The security alarm goes off. Molly and Tim jolt out of bed. Tim fiddles with the alarm and it takes him a few tries to get the thing to shut off. There’s a problem at the kitchen door. They creep out to the head of the stairs, hearing something bumping around downstairs. They freak and bolt themselves in their bedroom to await the cops. After a walk through reveals nothing, we rejoin them the next morning, Molly’s birthday. Tim, who drives a truck, is leaving on a job. He’ll be back in a few days. Molly is not at all happy about this. We watch her locking up the house that night, and when she reaches the kitchen door that set the alarm off, it crashes in its frame as if it’s been kicked by a horse. Molly calls the police again and is assured that the house had been vacant long enough that kids must be using the property as a place to hang out. “They’ll stop coming around after a while,” is the most comfort he offers her.

The next night, sounds of a crying child come from inside the house. Molly searches, finally opening the closet in a spare bedroom. She stares. Smiles. Reaches inside.

Next morning, Tim returns. It’s daylight. He calls, and Molly doesn’t answer. He searches the house, and is shocked to find her sitting in the spare room, facing the closet, absolutely naked. He talks to her as he creeps closer and finally sits beside her, and she seems oblivious to his presence, until finally her eyes focus and she turns to him.

“He’s alive,” she says.

Not at all the ‘Welcome home!”Tim was expecting.

LOVELY MOLLY is a horror movie of the “Is she crazy, is she possessed, or is she truly haunted?” trope. There are a lot of possible answers presented here. Molly has a history of mental illness and drug use. She’s spending much of her time alone in the house she grew up in; a house where horrible things happened to her. There are images of horses, and at one point you can hear horse hooves clopping outside the bedroom door late at night. There’s a co-worker of Molly’s who lives with her two small children in a house through the woods, and Molly occasionally sneaks over to film them on her hand-held video camera—that is, when she’s not using the camera to film empty corners as she screams for something, or someone, to show itself. There are hints that she’s possessed by an evil spirit. Through it all, you wonder how all these strands will tie together into a cohesive whole.

Eduardo Sanchez has a firm grasp of what keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. He uses our fears of the dark, of death, of solitude, of other people, to masterful effect here. Most importantly, he capitalizes on what Stephen King calls our natural “fear FOR someone else” because Molly is truly likeable. Newcomer Gretchen Lodge puts forth a tremendous performance here, inhabiting Molly completely in all her permutations of emotion. If the right Hollywood people see this film, we’ll be seeing a lot more of Gretchen in years to come.

Gretchen Lodge as LOVELY MOLLY.

In fact, all the performers have come with their A-games. Alexandra Holden (Maggie in 2006’s SPECIAL) plays Molly’s sister, Hannah. From her tearful confession in the wedding video at the start of the film, you can see Hannah’s concern grow even as she becomes more and more concerned for her own safety. Field Blauvelt (THE INVASION,  2007) plays Pastor Bobby perfectly, nailing that character with every move, every smile, every downcast eye.

The late Johnny Lewis (“Half Sack” in SONS OF ANARCHY) shines as Tim, deeply in love with Molly but without a clue as to how to help her. It’s mentioned that they don’t have the health insurance to get her the attention she really needs. I wish I was comfortable saying this is the reason he and Hannah make such piss-poor decisions, but honestly it felt like the decisions they made were the ones the writers needed them to make to have the story move the way they wanted.

The late Johnny Lewis (“Half Sack” on SONS OF ANARCHY) plays Tim in LOVELY MOLLY.

There are simply too many questions brought up during the course of the movie to answer all of them in a way that feels satisfying. It felt like Eduardo Sanchez and Jamie Nash wrote the screenplay while keeping their shooting budget in the forefront of their minds. It seemed like any aspect that threatened to exceed what they could pay for was dropped without another glance. The movie could’ve used a far less restrictive writing process. I think it would’ve been better for them to just cut loose and write whatever the story dictated, and then edit it down to meet the budget later. There are a couple of instances where the plot felt out-of-control, as if even the director didn’t understand why things were happening.

These drawbacks were relatively small, though. In all, LOVELY MOLLY is a very tense film that keeps you guessing throughout. It’s the kind of movie you don’t finish and forget about. This one will keep you thinking long after your media center powers down. It may even draw you back to watch it again.

I give it three stars with two time-outs.

© Copyright 2012 by Paul McMahon


Cinema Knife Fight/New Filmmakers Edition – CURSE OF THE REVENANT (2011)

Posted in 2012, Cinema Knife Fights, Indie Horror, Low Budget Movies, New Filmmmakers, Possession, Supernatural with tags , , , , , , , on November 9, 2012 by knifefighter

Cinema Knife Fight: New Filmmakers Edition
CURSE OF THE REVENANT by Jess Solis (2011)
Review by L.L. Soares and Michael Arruda

(THE SCENE: A pathway in the middle of the woods. L.L. SOARES is waiting there, wearing a hoodie.)

LS: Hello everyone. Welcome to a new series we’re doing here at Cinema Knife Fight, where Michael and I review films by new filmmakers. We won’t be doing this a lot – maybe once a month at the most – so if you’re a filmmaker and want to send us something, please query us first. We don’t have time to review a lot of films from new filmmakers, so spots are limited. But we wanted to start this new feature to give attention to movies that much otherwise fall between the cracks.

The first person to send us his movie was Jess Solis, who directed, co-wrote (and stars in) the film CURSE OF THE REVENANT (2011).

(MICHAEL ARRUDA suddenly appears from behind a tree)

MA: There you are. I was wondering why you told me to meet you here, in the middle of the woods.

LS: I thought we’d go on a little hike and review CURSE OF THE REVENANT.

MA: Okay.  Why don’t you start the review?

LS: Sure.

CURSE OF THE REVENANT begins with a bearded guy with long hair walking around. We’re told in narration cards (like a silent movie) that the man’s name is Ivan (played by Jess Solis)  and he has lost his wife and child in an unexplained tragedy. Feeling abandoned by God, “Ivan the Sorrowful” is forced to wander the earth. And that’s just what he does! Ivan walks and walks, and we gets lots of shots of trees and paths in the woods. At one point, Ivan pulls up the hood on his hoodie and looks an awful lot like your typical horror movie Satanist.

MA:  I love silent movies, and so I was excited when this one opened up in the style of a silent movie.  However, as you just said, “Ivan the Sorrowful” walks and walks and walks.  For the first ten minutes of this movie, that’s all good old Ivan does.  Literally.

Not the way to hook your audience, sorry to say!

LS:  The camera work is fuzzy in a way that tries to look otherworldly, but I didn’t care for it.

MA:  Neither did I.  It was actually quite irritating.

LS:  The lack of dialogue in this early section was also a minus. In something like THE CALL OF CTHULHU (2005), which tries to emulate classic silent films, this kind of stuff works with ease, partly because director Andrew Leman had such a damn good story to work with. Unfortunately, at first, CURSE OF THE REVENANT doesn’t seem to have much of a story.

MA: How right you are!  The story seems to be hidden among those trees.

LS: As Ivan walks around, we are told several times that “Evil Lurks.” Something is stalking him in the woods. Ivan finds a house (“a place to sleep”) but it’s too dark to see very well. He goes inside and huddles in a corner, trying to sleep. The next day, he wakes up and goes to the beach to and stares at the water in the glare of the sunlight.

Then he goes walking in the woods again, until he comes upon a cave, and we can tell from Ivan’s body language that some unseen force (the aforementioned “lurking evil,” no doubt)  takes possession of him there. He now sees everything in negative (whenever we are looking from his point of view) and there are finally voices on the soundtrack—mostly strange voices—but one clearly says “I am your master now.”

Ivan’s wandering takes him to a clearing where he watches a group of four men gather together. It looks like a rest stop. It is here, about the 24-minute mark, that things finally become somewhat normal. There’s dialogue on the soundtrack now, and the characters talk to each other (no more narration cards). Two guys, Peter (Andy Solis) and Mark (Matt Caster), are waiting for someone. Two other guys show up, one of them says he is “Mr. Ramirez, but you can call me Richard,” (an allusion to the real-life Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker killer? I don’t think so…). Richard (Frank Torres) and his “disciple” Isaiah (T.J. Gaeta) explain that they are about to go on a “Christian hike” through the woods. Peter and Mark aren’t very enthusiastic, and seem like they were forced to go along with this.

At one point, Richard separates from the others to go to the bathroom in the woods.  As the guys talk, we notice that Ivan is behind a tree, watching them.

When Richard returns, the screen turns black and we hear him talk about how the others strangely disappeared. We don’t see what happens to them. There’s a dream sequence where Peter walks into an ornate, but empty, church, while Richard wanders around the woods, looking for the others. There are a few more times where the screen goes black and Richard wakes up after sleeping on the ground. He is covered in blood and disoriented. He stumbles through the woods, and at one point sees Ivan in the distance, moving toward him.

Something awful happens off-screen. Richard screams. The screen is black.

Three years later, we see Peter in his house, locking all the doors and looking nervous. He’s waiting for someone or something. Has this all been a dream? Did Peter somehow escape the horror in the woods? Is he still being stalked by Ivan? The answers might surprise you. The operative word being “might.”

MA:  Then again, they might not.

LS:  While I can appreciate the filmmakers’ ambition to try something different, the camera effects didn’t work for me for the most part. The fuzzy film work in the beginning, the occasional use of negative, the way the screen goes black sometimes, none of it really added much to the proceedings to me. If anything, I felt disappointed when something major was about to happen, and the screen would go black instead of showing us what was going on. This might have saved the filmmakers money, but it leaves the viewer dissatisfied.

MA:  Very dissatisfied.

LS:  At around 75 minutes, I thought a lot of the film could have been edited down. Scenes of people walking around in the woods go on way too long, for example.

MA:  I’ll say.  I thought I was watching someone’s home movies, and I have to be honest here, I kept thinking, what is the filmmaker thinking here?  What’s the point of so much screen time spent simply walking?  Where’s the story?

LS:  Not everything in the story is coherent, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Having a dream-like quality to your film can be a good thing, but it doesn’t really work here.

The script doesn’t amount to a lot, and the soundtrack is made up of mostly public domain music, including some annoying organ music in some scenes.

There were some positives, however. The scene where the four hikers first meet is pretty good; it’s the first time you feel like you’re watching real people, and I wish we could have gotten more of their time together. In fact, I wish most of the movie had been about them. There’s also a sequence toward the end called “Exorcism at the Sea” where Ivan confronts his demons, which has a couple of good images, including momentary use of color that is much too fleeting (the film is completely in black and white otherwise).

I think CURSE OF THE REVENANT would have been much more effective as a short film, maybe 20 minutes or so. It doesn’t really succeed as a feature, and there’s just too much unnecessary footage, and scenes that don’t really move the story forward. I would have been curious to see it trimmed down, to see if it worked better. In its current form, I wasn’t very excited about CURSE by the time the end credits rolled.

MA:  I’ve largely held my tongue here.  Look, I know this is a new film in search of promotion, and so I don’t want to badmouth it.  I’d almost prefer a private email between me and the filmmaker to say these things, but then again, the film was submitted to us to review.  When I review a movie, I approach it from the standpoint of a critical viewer, not a fellow fiction writer giving mentoring advice.  And so, from that standpoint, I have to say the things that come to my mind as a critical viewer.  In other words, if the film is out there for people to see, and they have to spend money to see it, then our job as critics is to tell people the truth about the film as we see it.

So, here’s the deal for me.  The first ten minutes of this movie featured— literally—nothing more than a guy walking in the woods.  It goes without saying, that the film didn’t hook me, which means I checked out long before anything else happened.  As a result, I just couldn’t get into this movie.

And I found the rest of the film confusing and not very satisfying.

I’d completely re-work the beginning.  One minute tops for that guy walking in the woods, and then get on with the story, and flesh it out a helluva lot more.

That’s my two cents.  As it stands, I can’t recommend this movie.

LS:  Not exactly the most promising start for this new column. But I sincerely hope that Jess impresses us more with his next film.

And I’m curious to see what film we review next time.


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

Produced and Directed by Jess Solis
Script by Jess Solis, Frank Torres and Andy Solis (Story by Jess Solis)
Cast: Jess Solis, Frank Torres, Matt Caster, Andy Solis, T.J. Gaeta
Running time: approximately one hour and 15 minutes

You can see CURSE OF THE REVENANT for yourself,  now available on “Amazon Instant Video.”



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!

CInema Knife Fight – Coming Attractions for AUGUST 2012

Posted in 2012, Action Movies, Based on a True Story, Cinema Knife Fights, Coming Attractions, David Cronenberg, Ghosts!, Haunted Houses, Horror, Possession, Science Fiction with tags , , , , , , on August 3, 2012 by knifefighter

by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: A room filled with futuristic contraptions.  L.L. SOARES sits in a chair wearing a weird space-age apparatus on his head.  MICHAEL ARRUDA enters.)

MA:  What’s that on your head?  Are you doing the Recall thing?

LS:  Recall?  Nah.  I was just listening to music.

MA:  I’ve never seen headphones like that before.

LS:  It’s the latest thing:  3-D music.

MA:  What’s 3-D music?

LS:  Where the music jumps out at you, like this.  (Lifts a guitar and smashes it over MA’s head.)

MA:  Wow!  I’ve never had music touch me so directly.  It really resonates!  Let me try.  (puts on futuristic headphones and starts nodding his head to a beat.  Picks up a tuba and conks LS on the head with it.  The tuba breaks in half.)

LS:  3-D is overrated.

MA:  Anyway, welcome everybody to our Coming Attractions column for August!  We’re here in this hi-tech playroom because first up on our list of movies to review this month is TOTAL RECALL (2012), the remake of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.

I remember liking the Schwarzenegger movie a lot, but I can’t say that I’m looking forward to this remake.  You know, in general, I don’t have problems with remakes.  I like to see different takes on the same story, but these days, there’s just too many of them!  It’s ruining all the fun.  I really don’t see the need for a remake of TOTAL RECALL, a movie that came out in 1990, just twenty-two years ago.  I guess that’s a long time, but I don’t know, it doesn’t seem long enough.

This one stars Colin Farrell in the Arnold Schwarzenegger role.  Farrell, if you remember, starred in the FRIGHT NIGHT remake which came out this time last year, and he more than held his own in that movie, which wasn’t half bad, and so perhaps there’s hope for this one after all.

Of course, it also stars Kate Beckinsale from the UNDERWORLD movies, Jessica Biel, and Bryan Cranston, so it’s got a decent cast.  And the guy who directed it, Len Wiseman, directed some of the UNDERWORLD movies and also wrote them.

LS:  I like Kate Beckinsdale a lot, but I’m not a fan of the UNDERWORLD series, so I don’t have high hopes for this one. The trailers look very bland. I have no clue why TOTAL RECALL needed a remake, either. Especially since there are other Philip K. Dick stories that have not been adapted for film yet, that they could have chosen instead.

I remember that the original RECALL was a lot of fun. I hope this one surprises us. Otherwise, it will be a long night at the movies.

(ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER enters, dressed as the Terminator.)

ARNOLD:  I’m back.

MA:  Good to see you, but you’re dressed for the wrong movie.  TOTAL RECALL is being remade, not THE TERMINATOR.  Not to worry though.  You’re on the screen for real in THE EXPENDABLES 2, which we’re reviewing later this month.

ARNOLD:  Oh goodie.  I’m in a new movie.  Perhaps I’ll have some new lines to say other than retreads of famous past ones.

LS:  I wouldn’t bet on it.

MA:  Ten to one you’ll say something like “I’ll be back” again.

ARNOLD:  Damn!  I need to start writing my own lines.  I’ll go off and do that now.  I’ll be back.  Damn!  I just said it again!  (Exits in the midst of a conversation with himself).

MA: The following weekend, August 10, John Harvey will be filling in for us as he reviews THE BOURNE LEGACY (2012) as we shift from remakes to sequels.

I like the BOURNE movies and at first was disappointed that Matt Damon wouldn’t be appearing in this one, but I do like lead actor Jeremy Renner, seen recently in THE AVENGERS (2012) as Hawkeye.  Edward Norton (the former Hulk) is also in the cast.

I’m looking forward to reading John Harvey’s review.

LS:  Yeah, I like Jeremy Renner, too, and I’ve been following his career since he wowed us in THE HURT LOCKER (2008). I bet this one is okay, but I haven’t seen the previous BOURNE movies and I’m not really all that eager to. Besides, it will be nice to have a weekend off from going to the movies.

On August 17, we’ll be reviewing two movies   I’ll be reviewing COSMOPOLIS (2012) – the new David Cronenberg movie starring Robert Pattinson – Edward himself from the TWILIGHT movies. This one should be interesting. I’m not sure how much of a genre film it is – it’s about a billionaire taking a drive across Manhattan to get a haircut, and the bizarre things that happen to him – but Cronenberg is an iconic director, and his teaming up with Pattinson might be fun. The two of them have already started work on their next movie together, so I guess they got along pretty well. COSMOPOLIS also stars Juliette Binoche and Paul Giamatti, so that’s promising…..

MA:  ….And I’ll be reviewing THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012) the star-studded testosterone-filled sequel to Sylvester Stallone’s action flick THE EXPENDABLES (2010).  I enjoyed the first film but didn’t love it, as it fell short of the lofty expectations set by its exciting cast.

The sequel boasts an equally impressive ensemble of action stars, and includes Stallone, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Jet Li, and Dolph Lundgren, among others.

(ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER re-enters the room, reading from piece of paper held closely in front of his face.)

ARNOLD (reading his freshly penned lines):  I’m— here.  I’m walking by in front of the camera, looking forward to shooting some bad guys.  Have you seen any bad guys?  (glares at MA & LS.)

MA:  Don’t look at us.  We’re just critics.

ARNOLD:  Even worse!  (turns towards exit)  I’ll be—leaving now.  Hasta la vista, boobies! (Exits)

MA:  I don’t think he has a career in screenwriting.

LS:  The boobies line worked for me.

MA:  Back to THE EXPENDABLES 2, the first movie was a lot of fun and contained plenty of action, but it was done in by a very weak story that didn’t do its cast justice.  A new set of writers are on board for the sequel, so that’s a good thing.  Stallone also passed the directing duties (he directed the first one) on to Simon West.

LS: Sounds like I got the better movie to review, at least!

MA: On August 24, we’ll be reviewing THE APPARITION (2012) a new horror movie (finally!) about ghosts and paranormal research. The gimmick in this one is that the paranormal baddies are created by fear.  If you believe in them and are afraid, they come to life, or as the tag line says, “Once you believe, you die.”  It reminds me of the old William Castle/Vincent Price movie THE TINGLER (1959) which used a similar concept.  In that one, people had to scream to kill the monster which had come to life through people’s fear.

This PG-13 thriller features a mostly young cast led by Ashley Greene, who plays Alice Cullen in the TWILIGHT movies.  I can’t say that I’m impressed.

LS:  Another TWILIGHT alumnus, oh boy! Seriously, it will be nice to finally see a new horror movie again. It’s been awhile. I just hope it’s not too awful. And we finish off August with another horror movie, on August 31, when we review THE POSSESSION (2012).

MA:  Even though this one is “based on a true story,” I enjoyed its trailer, and as a result, I’m looking forward to it a bit more than THE APPARITION.  On the other hand, I can’t say that I’m too excited about it.  It looks like another standard ghost/possessed by an evil spirit story.  Worse yet, its two screenwriters, Juliet Snowden and Stiles White, also wrote the screenplay for the god-awful BOOGEYMAN (2005).  Ugh!

However, THE POSSESSION does feature Jeffrey Dean Morgan in the lead.  Morgan as you might recall was excellent as the Comedian in WATCHMEN (2009).

Well, that wraps up August.  It looks to be a less than stellar month, as it’s full of remakes, sequels, and potential bottom-of-the-barrel horror movies.

LS:  Let’s get back to our 3-D music.

MA:  Good idea.  Okay folks, we’ll see you Monday with our review of TOTAL RECALL.

LS:  Thanks for joining us for our August Coming Attractions column!  See ya!

(LS & MA put on their futuristic head-sets.  A heavy metal band jumps out from behind LS and begins to pummel MA with their guitars.  MA rolls away, gets to his feet, and motions to a large marching band which stomps towards LS, attempting to knock him over and trample him.  Marching band members and heavy metallers begin brawling in the street as the camera fades to black.)


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!

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: BEYOND EVIL (1980)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2012, 80s Horror, Bad Acting, Grindhouse, Haunted Houses, Nick Cato Reviews, Possession, Suburban Grindhouse Memories, Witches with tags , , , , on May 31, 2012 by knifefighter

This Finger Possessed!
By Nick Cato

While it’s a routine, by-the-numbers haunted house/possession film, 1980’s BEYOND EVIL holds a special place in my film-going life as it was the FIRST R-rated film I managed to get into on my own!   Thanks to my Sicilian genes, I actually had a moustache in the 6th grade that (I like to believe) helped me get into many films I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.  The fine folks at the (now defunct) Amboy Twin didn’t even blink as I handed them my ticket fee and waltzed to the concession stand for some Saturday afternoon snacks.  I can recall about twenty people in attendance, not bad for an early show, and a few of them had no problem letting their opinions be heard as the film unreeled.

BEYOND EVIL opens on an isolated island, where a native couple has just been hitched.  They run off into the woods and prepare to do the nasty, when the woman discovers a mansion in the middle of nowhere.  Before you can say BOO! a woman’s face appears in one of the windows, just as one of the mansion’s support columns happens to detach itself from the place and crush the poor bride’s arm.  The scene is darkly-shot and in the theater was hard to see (I have no idea if the VHS or DVD editions cleared this up), but either way, the film quickly had everyone’s attention.

The next thing I know John Saxon and his wife (played by Lynda Day George) arrive on the island, and I was as happy as a Sasquatch in the woods.  Why?  Because Saxon had co-starred on a couple of episodes of the 70s TV series, THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, a few years earlier during the classic “bigfoot” episodes, so I was a fan.  (Of course Saxon and George would sort-of RULE early-80s horror and exploitation cinema, starring in such classics as CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE (1980), BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980), PIECES (1982), TENEBRE (1982), and MORTUARY (1983), to name just a few).  Saxon has arrived on the island to oversee some construction job (I believe he was an architect) and one of his wife’s ex-boyfriends was supposed to get them an apartment.  BUT guess where they wind up?  Yep–at the aforementioned mansion, which we eventually learn was once the home of a crazed witch.  The audience howled in laughter when George said she wanted to know who any ghosts living in her house were!

(PAUSE: I usually write this column STRICTLY from memory, but this time I simply had to peek at a few reviews to spark my brain into action: one thing most reviews raved over was how good the acting was.  I’m sorry, folks, but the acting and dialogue is what most people made fun of at the screening I attended.  I believe a DVD viewing is in order here.  NOW BACK TO OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED COLUMN…)

In a flashback sequence, we learn the woman who had lived in the mansion began to practice witchcraft to get back at her abusive husband.  When he discovered what she was up to, he poisoned her.  NOT bothered by the mansion’s history, Saxon and George settle in and it doesn’t take long for typical haunted house happiness to begin.

More laughable than some of the acting here are the low-grade special FX.  In one sequence, Saxon is startled by a dopey-looking green light and topples down a spiral staircase, then is almost killed by a falling devil statue.  I remember someone yelling “Take the hint!” when Saxon basically brushed himself off and went back to his regular routine.  I don’t know about you, but if I heard my new home was once owned by a murdered witch, then saw a devil statue at the top of the staircase, I’d either change the décor or high-tail it back to the city.

The insanity clicks into high gear when Saxon meets his neighbors out front; it’s at this same time the ghost-witch decides to strike, causing George to stab herself, leaving an occultism mark that looks like the one the witch had.  While I found the scene a tad disturbing (remember I was a sixth grader at the time), most of the crowd laughed at George’s facial expressions as she jabbed away.  I bet I would have, too, had I been a bit older and more experienced with bad acting…

My favorite scene features Saxon kicking ass at the hospital when an orderly or nurse admits to losing his wife’s test results.  I was hoping bigfoot would make an appearance at this point, but no such luck.  Saxon’s doctor/neighbor soon advises them to leave the house (DUH!) but, of course, they don’t, and more terribly choreographed attacks go down and the FX get worse.  One ridiculous scene has George’s ring finger all puffed up.  Saxon’s neighbor claims this is a sign she is becoming possessed so he attempts to heal her.  Of course he takes her to the hospital to do this and when he removes her wedding ring, things get chaotic, although not in an exciting way.

For some reason that’s never explained, those possessed by the ghost-witch gain the ability to shoot green laser beams from their eyes in embarrassingly bad FX.  Each time this happened people screamed X-MEN! or some other dumb comment that really didn’t enhance the viewing experience.  Not all grindhouse commentary is witty!

Saxon and George eventually blow up the crypt that holds the ghost-witch’s body, but it only causes her spirit to become more powerful (WHYYOU tell me!).  Realizing they can’t fight her anymore, Saxon shoves his wife’s ring back on her inflamed finger, which somehow slows the witch down, then they jump in their car and floor it, leaving the mansion and the witch to wait for the next couple of suckers.

My biggest problem with BEYOND EVIL isn’t the shady script, the constant haunted house clichés, the bad FX or the lame acting.  It’s the fact it received an R-rating.  There’s almost no blood, no sex or nudity, and nothing really scary about it.  Thinking back, perhaps my moustache had less to do with me getting in than I like to believe.  This is EASILY a PG-13 film, although at the time a simple PG would’ve sufficed.  It’s a real turkey, but one I at least had fun getting into without adult supervision.

For John Saxon and Lynda Day George completists only.  (Also of note here is director Herb Freed, who went on to make the vastly superior slasher film, GRADUATION DAY, just a year later).

© Copyright 2012 by Nick Cato

Lynda Day George’s wedding-ring finger becomes possessed in BEYOND EVIL. Yeah, this flick goes there!