Apr

The House by the Cemetery
1981 – Unrated – Blue Underground
Starring Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Giovanni Frezza – Directed by Lucio Fulci

Finding a new home isn’t always easy. Most of the time if it seems to good to be true, it most likely is. Sometimes there is mold damage or the foundation isn’t sturdy… or sometimes there is an evil doctor turned creature living in the basement that murders people for blood and body parts. That’s usually something they keep off the record, so it isn’t until you buy the home that you have to deal with that pest yourself or hire an exterminator, as the Boyle’s find out in Lucio Fulci’s The House by the Cemetery. As the tagline says, “Read the fine print. You may have just mortgaged your life!” which is one of my favorites of all time and sets up the events that you are in store for. Of course other taglines read, “Can anyone survive the demented marauding zombies in…” and “BEWARE THE DEMON FORCES OF THE… BLOOD BEASTS,” misdirecting and implying that there is more than one monster, but I guess it wouldn’t be a Fulci film if something weren’t mildly confusing.

Like most Fulci films, The House by the Cemetery’s plot isn’t the most logical, having a few glaring holes here and there and the ending of the film making little or no sense, but not as incomprehensible as some of his other work, say Manhattan Baby. Apparently in early releases of the VHS, some of the reels are edited out of order, making the story even more confusing. This was made in the early 80’s when Fulci was really serving up some well told, nasty horror flicks, sometimes so nasty the movie would earn a well deserved spot on the Video Nasties list. Alongside City of the Living Dead and The Beyond, The House by the Cemetery is considered to be the third in his unofficial “Gates of Hell Trilogy.” Since I already discussed the film in a Goon Reviews video, (WATCH IT HERE!) why would I be talking about it again? Because it’s that good. Read on.

hbtc_2The House by the Cemetery opens up quite literally in the very definition, as we see a house that is next to a cemetery. It’s a relieving feeling, knowing you can trust the film to be true to the title, unlike some others (I’m looking at you, I Drink Your Blood). A young couple has finished using the uninhabited property as a secluded place to boink. This scene like catching the tail end of a horror movie cliche, as we don’t see the sex act, but the young girl who vomited her guts out (literally) in City of the Living Dead calls out for her boyfriend about a thousand times before finding his mutilated body nailed to a door, then getting a knife driven through the back of her skull and out her mouth. As the unseen murderer that is made up of rotting body parts, as indicated by one of his hands, I can’t help but wonder… did Pieces copy that exact same stabbing scene, or did this film rip off Pieces? With Italian filmmakers, sometimes it’s hard to tell who ripped off who.

Enter the Boyles, who are moving to this Boston home from New York City, where every Italian movie seems to center. The man of the house, Dr. Norman Boyle, is continuing the research of his colleague who was working in the house when he mysteriously murdered his mistress and committed suicide, so obviously this is the dream home to bring your wife Lucy (played by Fulci regular Catroina MacColl), who has previously heard voices and hallucinated on meds and your effeminate son, Bob, who claims a girl in one of the photos of the house has been warning his family not to come. Clearly the ideal Norman Rockwell painted family.

But first, a little disclaimer about Bob.

hbtc_3Bob is going to freak you out, thanks to the magic of dubbing. He may look like a normal child, but just wait til he starts speaking and you hear one of the oddest voice acting choices for dubbing. Bob’s voice is something of a middle aged woman who hasn’t quite reached puberty yet. It will catch you off guard.

Even with all these flashing red warnings, the Boyle’s move in anyway, giving further material for the Wayans that “white people be tripping.” Within moments of moving and establishing that Lucy might be slightly off her rocker, the babysitter, Ann, arrives, played by that creepy staring chick with the thick eyebrows that is strangely attractive from Dario Argento’s Inferno. The actress decided to reach slightly outside of her acting safe zone of staring ominously past the camera and actually have a speaking role… while staring ominously past the camera.

As if the company the Boyle’s are keeping isn’t disturbing them enough, it doesn’t take long for the house to being making all kinds of Spencer’s Gifts haunted house CD noises, with the creaking floorboards and childish crying. These sounds drive Norman to pause his research and investigate to find, to his shocking horror, Ann trying to pry open the boarded up basement door. At like, two in the morning. Huh? Why would she be doing that at an ungodly hour? Maybe she got home from the bar and still had some leftover Red Bull and vodka energy.

And the next morning, it’s brushed off like it never happened. Bob meets this ghost girl from the photo, named Mae, who is not only a ghostly figure that warns Bob of the dangers to come, but also plays hide and seek with him! Norman goes about his research, beginning to uncover the odd disappearances of the townsfolk and more about his co-worker’s death, while Lucy finds a tombstone marked Jacob Tess Freudstein in the middle of their living area. Norman assures her that all the homes in the area have them and it’s nothing to worry about. And to prove she has nothing to worry about, he finally pries that damn cellar door open, after about a bajillion false delays and the Fulci trademark “close up on the eyes of people exchanging glances” shot. Upon investigating the basement, they realize there is nothing to be afraid of down there except BAAAAAAAT! The winged rat tangles itself in Lucy’s hair and bites Norman on the hand, which Norman then dispatches by stabbing it with a pair of scissors and the bat bleeds out of several pre-cut holes.

hbtc_4Well, that’s about enough of that! The Boyle’s immediately smash cut to the real estate place demanding to be re-housed, but are unfortunately they are told it would be a few days. A few days later (I think… or later that day?) when the Boyle’s are off doing… something, the real estate lady, Mrs. Gittelson, arrives to tell them about their new crib, but the monster living in the house likes his new tenants and stabs her to death with a fireplace poker and drags her into the basement. By now you’re thinking, “A Fulci film without an eyeball gouging? What the hell!?” Well, you may notice that as Mr. Gittelson is being dragged off, one of her eye’s is torn apart. Apparently, there was a shot of her death scene in which her eye gets ripped out of its socket, but was cut because Fulci felt it didn’t look authentic enough. Man, given the caliber of effects in Italian horror films, your effect must have really sucked if Fulci wanted to pass on an eyeball gouging.

The next morning, Ann is scrubbing away at the giant bloodstain that Lucy barely questions and then shrugs off. Ann stares at Lucy, unblinking and silent, as Lucy’s questions go unanswered and all she can say afterwards is, “that girl Ann is a real weirdo.” Understatement of the year. Norman is all like, “whatevs” and glosses over some background history on their resident in the tomb, Dr. Freudstein. Apparently, he was a mad scientist of sorts. This prompts Norman to get away from his family for awhile and head back to New York City. Norman bails on his family while Lucy goes shopping, leaving Ann with the increasingly annoying Bob, who she thinks she hears crying in the basement. Ah, she fell for an old horror movie cliche! There’s no way she’ll get “a head” that way… wink!

hbtc_5Arming himself with a toy gun and a teddy bear, Bob heads into the basement to save Ann (or what’s left of her), but is saved from a monster hiding in the shadows when his mother comes home. Bob tries to tell her about Ann’s rotting corpse in their basement that’s littered with body parts, but Lucy isn’t having any of that nonsense and sends Bob to bed. But Bob, now being convinced by his mother that Ann isn’t dead, sneaks down into the basement only to be confronted by the monstrous Dr. Freudstein, who looks like a half melted, rotting corpse with fresh new limbs, which turns out that’s what he does with his victims. Norman has just discovered this and rushed home to help Lucy rescue Bob and quickly get out all this exposition, that Freudstein needs new limbs and fresh blood to stay alive (um, don’t regular people need that too?). Norman hacks off Freudstein’s fresh new arm while breaching the door with an axe and freeing Bob from the mad doctor’s clutches, reuniting them all in the basement. But rather than immediately dashing out and escaping to somewhere safe or torching the place, they stay in the basement, listening to the child like cries of the doctor (now that I think of it, why does he cry like that?). Dr. Freudstein slowly approaches the family and getting prison shanked by Norman, which he could argue was in “self defense.” However, Freudstein is a hardcore fan (and probably the only fan) of the MacGruber movie and tears out Norman’s throat, spilling gallons of blood! Lucy and Bob try to run up the stairs under the tomb, attempting to shove the heavy slab of concrete blocking their only exit.

It’s actually a well paced, tense scene. The monster slowly approaches them, making his way up the stairs and just when you think they are going to make it, Dr. Freudstein grabs Lucy’s ankles and drags her down the stairs as we hear her scream in the darkness and then silence. Bob is now all alone and orphaned as he sees Freudstein make his way back up the stairs. Bob frantically tries to push open what he and a full grown, panicky women couldn’t open and as the doctor inches his way toward Bob, within his grasps. Suddenly, a pair of tiny hands rip open the tomb with Hulk like strength and free Bob, who is revealed to be Mae. Wait, what? Apparently Mae can summon “mother saving a trapped baby” strength and not only rip open a couple hundred pound slab on concrete, but yank Bob out of there so fast that if she let go, he would have shot into the atmosphere. But the confusion only begins there. Throughout the film, Mae is accompanied by an older woman whose face we never see, until now, when it’s revealed to be Freudstein’s wife, making her at least a hundred years old… so, are they ghosts? As the kids and Mrs. Freudstein wonder off, you can’t help but to be puzzled by the ending, but it’s not going sour the experience of the movie for you.

Of all the movies that could have been named Don’t Go in the Basement, this should have been it.The House by the Cemetery, while in traditional Fulci form by not being entirely coherent, is one of his more strongly structured stories. In exchange for that, it’s also not his bloodiest or nastiest… but it is in no way tame. The film is packed with plenty of stomach turning moments of brutality and gore, that is sure to make you toss up your lunch. Something that is often overlooked in these kinds of films is the beauty of the cinematography. While it may not be as artistic as his Italian counterpart Dario Argento, Fulci’s shots in this film are often open when outdoors, sometimes feeling colorless, which leaves with the feeling of dread and becoming more claustrophobic as we go further down into the house and into the basement where the reds start to run. Right from the opening shot of the fog rolling over the graves and over to the empty, dilapidated house, you feel at unease, but there is something gorgeous about what you are looking at.

The House by the Cemetery
This film is a staple for horror fans and a pillar for Italian horror flicks. For all the fun I had nit picking a few things here and there, it’s a without a doubt pretty solid horror film with, for the most part, pretty decent acting, dreary mood and atmosphere, splattered with all kinds of guts and gore making this a must have for fanatics of the macabre cinema.

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • Fornicators be damned.
  • Bob.
  • Exciting and thrilling real estate!
  • Not the goddamn Batman.
  • Ann demonstrates how to lose your head.
  • This doctor makes house calls!
  • Road House-style throat rip!
  • Are they ghosts?
totals

9

blood

BLOOD

Stabbings, decapitations, guttings… it wouldn’t be a Fulci film without the pretty red stuff!

5

blood

BREASTS

Right in your face at the start, but that’s it in the boobies department. Not even cleavage afterwards.

10

beast

BEASTS

Don’t be fooled by his sissy cry, Dr. Freudstein is a beast! Is Bob’s atrociously dubbed voice a match for him? And don’t forget about large, oddly square-shaped bats!

8 OVERALL
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Watch the entire movie!

trailers

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Apr

Camp Dread
2014 – Unrated – Image Entertainment
Starring Danielle Harris, Eric Roberts, Felissa Rose – Directed by B. Harrison Smith

Not to be confused with the 2004 horror comedy Club Dread, Camp Dread is a movie that will give you a different impression of what it’s about based on the box art. The tagline suggest that I pitch my tent, which is irrelevant to the film, since they all stay in cabins. Kinda stretching that one for a tagline, but whatever. Films do it all the time, but sure enough, there is a photo of a tent right on the front there. I know it sounds like I’m nitpicking and perhaps I am, but another thing that will come to bother me is the image of Danielle Harris, front and center, as well as her name in eye sight. Hell, there’s even a photo of her on the back, so she occupies a good chunk of the overall box art (even the spine). Don’t get me wrong either, I’m not complaining because she is in the movie, but I won’t spoil it now. As we talk about the movie, you’ll see why it bothers me.

So where do we start? Well, there’s a diner scene with Julian (played by Eric Roberts, turning in the only convincing acting), who plays the director of a fictional slasher movie series called Summer Camp and is now producing a reality TV show based on his horror series and Danielle Harris, is the Sheriff of the small town… and that’s it. I was excited to see her in the role of a sheriff, since it seemed to be something different for her, but this is where the disappointment starts, seeing as after this scene, you won’t see her again for a very long time.

cd_2So a reality TV show themed horror movie, sure you’ve seen this before, but there’s a spin. Seeing as these are all troubled “kids” (clearly in their thirties, but this is even pointed out by Eric Roberts that they aren’t kids, but in their early twenties…), mixed up with drugs, violence or what have you, they have two choices; be a contestant on the show and possibly win a million bucks or face time in jail or rehab. To be honest, what would you go with? On a side note, it is pretty cool that this was filmed at an actual camp in the Poconos. Within moments of exceeding frat boy levels of obnoxious, you come to the realization that these are the characters you are supposed to be identifying with and there’s the underlining problem. NONE of them are identifiable. From the insipid prankster, loudmouth idiot who whenever he spoke, I was screaming “SHUT UP!” at my television to the girl whose dialogue pretty much consist of hate filled, vile homo bashing. Now, I know this can be used to set up a loathsome character, but it becomes so redundant to the point where it’s ineffective and comes off as ignorant. To be fair, there are two other kids that are given some back story and would have been likable if the film had given them a little more development. The only other character that is given a sliver of sympathy is a girl who murdered her brother after he was raping her, but by the end of the film, they manage to strip that away from her.

cd_3It takes serious talent to set up a character with that kind of back story and still make them unlikable by your film’s finale. Wait, is talent the right word?

Julian invites his old producer, John, out to be a part of the show and to bury the hatchet. You see, Julian was notorious for disregarding his actor’s safety and John blew the whistle on him, which in consequence got him black listed from ever directing again. Of course John flies first class to tell Julian off and doesn’t partake in this project. Also joining Julian is Summer Camp actress turned counselor (yeah… quite a coincidence), Rachel, played by Felissa Rose. I was happy to see her come back, but disappointed with how little she is used in the movie and by that I don’t mean she isn’t in it enough, I mean they don’t use her character for much. Come to think of it, they don’t do that with any of the characters in the movie. Like I said, some of them are given a back story or a skill that could be intricate to the plot, but it’s never utilized, because the film makers would rather raise the body count. Hoo-f***ing-ray.

That’s all it is from here… just watching characters die, one by one. The film even drops the ball in this department, often shying away from gore, never really showing much or paying off with its kills. Although some of the kills are creative, such as a prosthetic leg being used to bash someone’s head in and killing another character with a decapitated head. So there is that, but even then it hardly feels worth it. While people are getting picked off, you see Julian has an ulterior motive, a secret plan, but it doesn’t come as a surprise, since you see it coming from the beginning of the film. The killer is exactly who you think it is, certain characters turn on each other the way you thought they would and Eric Roberts is more sleazy than he leads on to be, just as you expected. Speaking of not coming as a surprise, we have a predictable twist ending to get to…

cd_4And just when you were thinking, “Hey, wasn’t Danielle Harris in this movie?” She pops up at the end to unconvincingly tie up the predictable, tired and cliched ending you were really hoping the film wasn’t going for, although it was evident it would, as the movie falls apart in the final act. Well, thanks anyway, Ms. Harris. Your check is in the mail.

For the majority of its run time, Camp Dread walks that fine line of a good bad movie or just bad… and during the final act, it leaps way past that line. This is a film that plays it safe, never taking any risks by sticking to the same predictable cliches you’ve seen done to death and are bored to tears with. It’s almost frustrating at moments when you realize the alternate route they could go in terms of the story and you so badly want it to, but it never does. It tries to push itself at times, trying to be “in your face,” with homophobic bashing and shocking you with potential rape, but it all comes off as annoyingly mean spirited. There is a huge difference between shockingly offensive, controversial and seeming ignorant. This is something the movie can’t seem to figure out, most likely due to the one dimensional, meat headed, bigoted characters, that all seem to be those stereotyped Jersey Shore jock types (because that’s exactly who the majority of any audience wants to spend a 90 minute movie with…). You can’t just have several characters spew out dense, childish homo-bashing lines and expect it to flesh out a character, especially when all of your characters are despicable to begin with. And that’s where one of the major flaws of the movie is; there are too many characters and all but a few are sympathetic, not that they do anything with them anyway. Which brings up another issue… there are WAY too many characters. Camp Dread opts for more characters to increase a body count, rather than a few well developed, solid characters to focus on. It’s a story with too many unlikable, selfish characters with absolutely no character or anything to round them out as a human being. They are just slasher fodder. I can’t tell you how sick and tired I am, or a good population of the horror community for that matter, of horror films that set up horrible, unlikable characters for the sake of getting killed off in the name of a body count. This is a movie will fall into the void of forgettable dime-a-dozen slashers.

Camp Dread
It’s frustrating because although this plot is so generic and uninspiring, there are moments where if the filmmakers had taken a risk, it could have been something unexpected and possibly good. It often teases something scandalous, like a lesbian sex scene, but never goes that route. It’s a film that really wants to shock you with sex, violence and imagery, but it comes off as annoying instead. Like those vegetarians that have to constantly remind you they are a vegetarian and scoff and get upset when there aren’t more vegetarian options at places to eat. It really pains me to experience what I felt while watching this film, because it sounded interesting, but alas, just a diarrhea wolf in sheep clothing. Overall, there isn’t much to be offered here in terms of story, gore, nudity… nothing to really give fans anything they want, unless you are looking for a shameless body count. Perhaps you should go to space camp instead.

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • Eric Roberts, professional sleaze.
  • Hello, Danielle Harris…
  • Angela returns to camp.
  • He has a ‘leg up.’
  • Hanging meat.
  • Head catapulting!
  • …goodbye, Danielle Harris.
totals

6

blood

BLOOD

Arrow through the eye and a decapitation, but mostly tame.

4

blood

BREASTS

A peak here and there.

3

beast

BEASTS

When it comes down to it, just about everyone is a monster and it is stale.

4.3 OVERALL
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Watch the trailer for “Camp Dread!

trailers

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Apr

posted by Barry Goodall | April 8, 2014 | Feature

Poker scenes in movies

The movies love poker – but poker fans don’t always love the way it is portrayed on the silver screen. Writers and directors have often taken what can generously be described as ‘artistic license’ in order to rack the tension up. These scenes all work brilliantly on cinema terms, even if they sometimes have poker fans wanting to attack the filmmakers with a red-hot one.

Casino Royale

This is a prime example of that, as Bond and Le Chiffre trade a serious of absurd poker hands while facing off at Texas Hold’em at a swanky casino. It is the sort of scene that will have any dedicated poker player shaking his or head, while the rest of use are too glued to the OTT drama of it all to notice.

Goodfellas

To be fair, a lot of people don’t remember the poker scene from this 1990 Martin Scorsese epic, which is not because it is not memorable – it’s just that it’s hard to get the scenes of bodies being hacked up and stuffed in car trunks out of your mind. If you can see past such lovely mental images, the poker scene is not notable so much for the actual gaming, as the stream of foulmouthed comments from Joe Pesci during the course of the game. Of course, for Spider (played by Michael Imperioli) the game ends up being memorable in very bad ways – no spoilers here.

Tombstone

One of many fine western movie poker scenes, again the sequence featuring Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) in a 36-hour marathon game, is remembered as much for his behaviour as the game itself. Doc knows he is dying, gets progressively drunker throughout the game (thanks to his scheming lady friend), but still comes out on top in game and wit. It proves to be something of a last hurrah, but it’s surely the way this particular character would have wanted to go out.

Apr

posted by Barry Goodall | April 5, 2014 | B-movie Reviews, B-movies, Review by Die-Anne Takillya

I’ve never been too good at pranks, never have needed to be. After all, there are many ways of being clever! Our flick for tonight, in case you hadn’t guessed is April Fool’s Day!

Muffy St. John has invited her closest friends to her island mansion for a weekend getaway on Spring Break. We get introduced to Nikki right off the bat, she’s the sassy, sexy one; then Chaz, the cute artistic womanizer; Arch, the hunky jock who’ll sleep with anything that has a pulse; Kit, the good girl; Nan, the nerdy prude; Hal, the gold-digger; Rob, the sensitive guy; and Skip, Muffy’s distant cousin.

Skip and Arch are playing mumbledy-peg when it all goes wrong. Don’t throw knives, kids! Rob and Buck dive in to the rescue, but oh! It turns out to be a prank! Skip and Arch cooked up a fake knife and a blood bag without anyone noticing! Buck the deckhand decides to stay in the water to tie the ferry to the dock, but Captain Cal drives it right into him, and Buck’s face meets the propeller. A lot of screaming and blood, but luckily, Sherriff Sam is right there on the scene, whisking Cal and Buck off to the hospital, and making sure the yuppies know to stay put on the island. (The island that has no way off of it, aside from the ferry that now has no captain, but we’ll overlook that)

Basically, what we have here is the flower of over-privileged 80’s college students out to take over the world, and who have no idea what they want to do with their lives, trapped in a mansion that’s been rigged to annoy and upset them. They have special party favors hidden in their rooms and the one in Nan’s sends her into a pure-d tizzy; a tape of a crying baby hidden in her closet, hinting at some dark past.  Nikki has a drawer full of S&M gear, and everyone else is confused and mildly put out by theirs. Arch goes on a great nookie hunt, and stumbles in on Chaz and Nikki in a position that the doctor from Human Centipede would be proud of. I’ve never seen anyone make the sign of the triple-gilled anteater like that before or since that trip to vegas and all the casino games. Heck, you can try some yourself at www.888casino.com/casino-games.

Then things take a turn; Skip meets with misfortune in the boathouse during the night. Muffy has made a vicious personality change, and nobody much seems to care that Skip is missing until Rob and Kat attempt to make the sign of the electrocuted mud weasel and his dead body floats past. Then in classic style, they all split up.

I have to admit, this movie isn’t much on thrilling action so much as it is all about the psychological. Red herrings abound as they blame the ferry captain and Buck for the mayhem. People are getting picked off one by one; the water goes out and Nikki ends up in the well with Nan’s body and the decapitated heads of Skip and Arch. Then Hal, Chaz, and Nikki eat it in imaginary ways; we even have a pruning of the wangdoodle.

Soon, none but Rob, Kit, and Muffy are left. We get thrilling chases, during which there are pictures found of Muffy and…Buffy? Who’s Buffy? Oh, only Muffy’s psycho twin sister, who has decided that she and all her friends all have to go…permanently. It all ends with Rob locked in the pantry, and a showdown between Kit and Buffy, and in her final moments Kit stumbles into the den where she finds…

Everyone. They’re all alive and well, and laughing it up. Rob is released from the pantry by Buck, who is scaring him half crazy, when he takes off the prosthetic makeup and slaps it on Rob’s face and gives him a big ol’ smacker before chasing him to the Den. Everyone yells “April Fool’s,” and Muffy lets the cat out of the bag. There is no Buffy, but her twin is Skip. She’s going to lose her inheritance unless she can

maintain the upkeep on the mansion, so she’s decided to turn the mansion into a murder mystery house, and her friends are the guinea pigs. Aww, what a wholesome activity.

There’s one final prank, but I’ll let you see it for yourselves.

Roadside Totals:2 breasts, no dead bodies, no quarts blood, 3 quarts fake blood, 3 mannequin heads,  1 simulated wangdoodle removal, prank-fu, feathered hair-fu, exploding cigars, jack-in-the-box scares.

I think it’s what inspired M. Knight to make every movie have a twist.

Apr

Thou Shall Not Kill... Except
1985 – Unrated – Synapse Films
Starring Robert Rickman, Sam Raimi – Directed by Josh Becker

Very few films can take two completely opposing ideas, put them together and make them work. Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except (also called Stryker’s War) is one of those films. It’s one part Vietnam War, one part Manson Family, all bottled up in one great revenge flick left on the shelf to ferment over time and it aged marvelously, fine enough for you to sip on or share with your friends. It’s wild and perhaps a bit unruly, but it never gets completely out of control. This is an interesting concept, to say the least. It’s one that easily could not have worked, but when you have the crew responsible for The Evil Dead behind it, rest assured you’re in capable hands to mix the mad and the macabre with outrageous, zany antics.

Deep in the jungles of Michigan, I mean… Vietnam, Sgt. Stryker leads his mean, the brute Sgt. Walker, the green 2nd Lt. Dave Miller and the wisecracking Lt. Cpt. Tyler and a bunch of other guys without names through hazardous enemy territory. Without warning, the soldiers are ambushed (I guess that’s why it’s called an ambush)! Most of the men are killed, except our aforementioned cast, and Stryker is shot in the leg, forever disabling him with a bum leg. He returns home to make walking with a cane look cool way before Dr. House did and to start his life over again in his secluded creep cabin, where he spends most of his time drinking whiskey with his dog… Whiskey. That is, until his high school sweetie Sally is asking her grandfather, who visits Stryker often, about him. He wants her, she wants him, but he’s too stubborn because of his injury and thinks she’s only taking pity on him. You know the story. Eventually, he gives in and goes out on a date with her and it’s like old times and the two reconnect, like they were never distant. However, Sally cuts the date short because of work (always seems like that’s the case, right fellas?) and they plan a second date. But before she can meet Stryker for that rendezvous, she and grandpa has some uninvited guests over for dinner…

tsnk_2Shortly, his rowdy friends arrive from Vietnam (who are most certainly ready for some football) and visit Stryker at his cabin. The old unit catches up by drinking some beers at a local bar and defending the bar maiden from a biker gang in what looks like a well choreographed fight scene, but not the most graceful, as the actors almost fall over their own kicks and punches that sounds like someone is smacking an empty plastic jug against a side of meat… in a can (if any of that makes sense). Then again, they just finished drinking Nick Nolte levels of alcohol and knowing this crew’s filming methods, it’s very possible that the actors were actually drunk. Once that’s done, they drink some more and pass out, then drink some more and shoot at an old shed with guns. So, basically drinking. They drink. A lot.

Stryker believes Sally is standing him up once it’s evident (unbeknownst to Stryker) that she won’t be showing up, but once his dog Whiskey goes missing, the gang splits up and searches for him and stumbling upon Sally’s uninvited dinner guests… a blood thirsty cult led by Sam Raimi in a Manson wig and carrying a pirate sword! But these folks are no laughing matter, regardless of Sam Raimi’s scenery chewing. Having taken the entire town hostage (or at least a good chunk of them), killed off the police force (the whole one guy), barbecuing poor ol’ Whiskey (insert cooking with whiskey joke here) and having kidnapped and torturing Sally, things are serious or as Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys would say, “S**t just got real!” They rally back at Stryker’s love shack and arm themselves, starting yet another militia in the state of Michigan.

tsnk_3Confronting the cult and freeing the townspeople, Stryker and his old unit go to war with the b-movie equivalent of the Manson family. Battle ensues with guns, knives, sharp sticks… literally. All sorts of things are used for weapons in the final twenty minutes, which serves as one large fight. Luckily, it never feels like it’s dragging out, mostly due to some satisfying, over the top style kills, as the cult is impaled by tree limbs, multiple garden instruments, swords or blown to bits in a satisfying manner as Stryker and his men blast these scumbags down with shotguns. Although never reaching extreme moments in gross out gore, quite a lot of blood is spilled as the unnamed cult leader played by Sam Raimi impales one of his own followers for his motorcycle to flee and quickly becoming lost in the forest maze of trees. But these are Stryker’s woods… he knows them like the back of his hand. Hell, this is his backyard and he’s going to get revenge for Sally and Whiskey!

Finally, we get to the showdown between Stryker (who I have to say that Brian Schulz plays this roll in a charming smug kind of way) and the Charles Manson/Sam Raimi amalgamation after he wrecks his hog. Like all classic hero vs. villain fights, the odds juggle back and forth with the baddie seemingly having the upper hand and tossing out a great stinger, followed by the hero’s retort and execution…

“I am Jesus Christ!”
“No you’re not… you’re dead.”

tsnk_4Several shotgun blasts to the abdomen and an impalement on a busted dirt bike later, Stryker and crew find Sally and they all drive off triumphantly into the sunrise, accompanied by a well deserved and welcoming victory fanfare.

Don’t be fooled by Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except’s low budget. This movie packs quite a fun punch. As I said earlier in the review, this is an interesting concept, a blend of two different ideas that could have easily not worked if it weren’t in the right hands, but luckily this was a brain child of Bruce Campbell and Josh Becker. Speaking of the Big Chin, he originally played Sgt. Stryker in the 40 minutes short (called Stryker’s War, included on the Synapse Blu-ray) and was cast to return to the role for the full length feature, but due to Bruce having recently joined the Screen Actor’s Guild, he was unable to participate in a non SAG movie. He did however provide help as an assistant sound editor, as well as allowed the crew to shoot on his own property. You can see how the role was originally written for Bruce, but Brian Schulz makes this his own without shadowing Bruce Campbell’s portrayal of the character. The man is just as charismatic as he is cocky. Sam Raimi easily steals the show with his cult leader character, chewing the scenery like Big League Chew in such a memorable way. And of course, Ted Raimi makes an appearance as a cult member in a mask and chains, cackling like a mad man in typical Ted-like fashion that you know and love.

Although the film was a low budget 16mm, Synapse has painfully restored it from the original prints, so everything looks crisp and clean. Sure, there are flaws here and there (mostly with the old stock footage), but what do you expect from a nearly thirty year old film shot on 16mm? I know I may be repeating myself here, but this film seriously looks beautiful. It’s amazing how well restored it is, with dirt and scratches cleaned up, lines sharpened, very few grainy scenes… it’s stunning and remarkable. One of the best looking older releases I have ever seen. And of course, the audio, also for being what it was, sounds terrific. Dialogue is well heard (which is a good thing, since there are no subtitles), but some of the sound effects, like the kicks and punches I mentioned earlier, sound a bit muffled, but it’s nothing to turn you off from the movie. In fact, the movie offers multiple viewings with two different, well informed and interesting commentaries. These are my favorite kind of commentaries too; small, low budget films with a cast and crew that reflect on it fondly. Just listening to them, you can tell they love it and had a blast doing it.

Thou Shall Not Kill... Except
So, fall in line, maggot! Grab your rifle and a copy of Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except and be ready, for The Blood Bath is coming!

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • War is hell.
  • Dr. Stryker, MD.
  • Drink, fight, repeat.
  • Blood Bath, the cult movie Mansons.
  • Whiskey BBQ!
  • Lawn Dart Cop.
  • Hippie hunting!
totals

7

blood

BLOOD

Shotguns rip apart hippie’s stomachs and plenty of ‘em get impaled by various instruments.

4

blood

BREASTS

Sam squeezes Sally’s bazooms, leaving bloody handprints.

8

beast

BEASTS

I would totally join this cult, as long as they had a good 401k and benefits.

6.3 OVERALL
dripper

Watch the trailer for “Though Shalt Not Kill… Except!

trailers

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About the Highway

Lost Highway is your satirical detour down the twisted back roads of b-movies and cult films reviews. learn more >>