Archive for the 'Cult Film' Category

Mar

Frightmare
1974 – R – Redemption Films
86 Minutes – Starring Rupert Davies, Sheila Keith – Directed by Pete Walker

Let’s be all serious for a moment and think; does censorship really protect us? Throughout the 70’s and 80’s, the UK was severely bringing the hammer down on horror films, believing they made sadists, psychopaths and bullies out of the everyday normal Joe. The solution? To excise all sex and violence out of the film, often leaving the final cut incomprehensible. I recently talked about My Bloody Valentine and how the R rated cut of the film’s finale left you puzzled as you saw Axel running away holding his arm. But what you didn’t see was him sawing his own arm off, thus explaining why he was holding his arm. So maybe it wasn’t always incomprehensible, but you certainly were left with a product that was lackluster and taking away elements as to why you are watching the film. In horror’s case; the aforementioned sex and violence.

The BBFC (now apparently at it again) became so notorious for this, that horror films unjustifiably became targeted and heavily censored or downright banned just because of the fact that it was a horror film! Whether it was advertising (via posters or reviews) or because a filmmaker became notorious for having made controversial horror films, it would seem that the BBFC would demand severe cuts or ban the film without actually having taking a look at the film. Now, we know this doesn’t keep the material out of the wrong hands, like children, but that’s a different topic for a different day.

fm_2After years pass, possibly many years, this controversy can actually work in favor of the film. Take Frightmare, for example. Although never a Video Nasty, I always heard so much controversy about this film and all the graphic content that got it banned, so in my head I built this movie up to be an exploitation film filled with blood, guts, nudity and every other fun filled nightmare that I could think of. However, if you’ve seen the film… Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that content makes a film good, but you can see how controversy can create a different movie in your head.

Frightmare opens in a black and white sequence during 1957 as a straggler happens upon a farmhouse. He’s welcomed inside, all shot in POV and within moments, a good chunk of his face has been removed and the assailant, now revealed to be Dorothy Yates, is institutionalized in the following scene for having butchered and eaten several people along with her husband Edmund, who had been faking his insanity so that he may be locked up with his wife that he loved so much. Ladies, how many of your guys would take that vow?

Cut to present day 1974 where the daughter of Edmund from a previous marriage, Jackie, is having dinner with some friends all while her stepsister Debbie is out causing a ruckus at a bar. She’s what you would call a “wild card” or “hangs out with a rough crowd.” Don’t believe me? She and her rowdy friends, a biker gang with The Monkee’s style haircuts, beat a bartender within inches of his life just for not serving her a drink for being underage. That’ll teach you to obey the law!

fm_3Dorothy and Edmund have also been declared sane and released, living back in their remote farmhouse. Now, I’m no expert, but wouldn’t they be under probation of some kind or under supervision temporarily? Or maybe I’m wrong and convicted cannibals are free to roam willy nilly once they get that stamp of approval. Jackie puts her love life on hold and keeping her family’s secret to the persistent Graham, who looks like a British Peter Parker, to keep an eye on her father and stepmother. Edmund tells Jackie that he fears Dorothy is already lapsing and up to her old deeds and he has every right to be, because she is. It doesn’t take Dorothy long before she is luring in loners without families or loved ones with tea and tarot card readings that result in their (most of the time) off screen deaths. I have no idea how she fooled such clever doctors.

After several visits from the fuzz, Jackie has had it with Debbie and demands she leave, but newly psychiatrist Graham tells Jackie she needs to be more caring to her sister, because if there is one thing that girl needs it’s negative reinforcement for her bad behavior. But Debbie is beyond a simple scolding, as she claims to have “found” the barkeep from the fight dead and has stored him in her trunk. It’s actually pretty sneaky, since you aren’t sure whether or not Debbie is directly involved in his death, but soon all suspicions are laid to rest, as she has a secret of her own…

Coming home from work one day, Edmund discovers Dorothy in the midst of one of her murders and although he’s shocked and terrified, vows to help her cover it up. Because of his loyalty, Dorothy lets him in on her little secret, that she has been having a little help with her murders from her daughter! Hey, you may as well keep it in the family. Edmund comes to the conclusion that Dorothy will never stop, but Jackie will be a thorn in their side. Hmm, what are crazed murderous cannibals to do?

fm_4After learning of Dorothy’s illness, Graham sets out really figure out what is going on, so I’m sure he will be alright. Jackie heads out to the old farmhouse to bring things to a close, but she may already be too late and discovers the shocking and grisly truth that Dorothy is still murdering… with a little help. Now lacking protection from her father, Jackie is walking into a trap and she may not make it out alive!

After viewing the film, you may have noticed that there is quite a lack of gore. Most of the bloody effects are an aftermath, someone’s face sliced halfway off, but there are a few scenes of Dorothy stabbing someone to death. This is what I meant earlier about a film’s censorship unrealistically boosting your expectations, as I went in expecting murder and mayhem, but what I got was actually a mild, violent filled, shocking and suspenseful tale of a cannibalistic woman that is very well paced. In a way, it reminds me of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It doesn’t need to show you graphic details, but lets your mind make it up for you. Even though most of the butchering is never seen and we never actually see her eat anyone (the implication is more scary, but clearly not as grotesque), Dorothy is a well developed and truly frightening antagonist. Every moment on screen, you are never sure which way her personality is going to take her, so much so, that I was expecting her to kill Edmund at any moment.

As usual, Redemption did a stellar job restoring the film from its original 35mm prints. Although slight discoloration and grain is present, the overall image quality is clean and sharp, revealing beautiful detail to the visceral imagery. As for the audio, there isn’t a whole lot you can do with something that’s 2.0, but it’s never muffled and the dialogue is clear and understandable and really, you can’t ask for more. It’s almost impossible to restore a forty year old film without some remaining damage, but Redemption manages to make it the best it will ever be. On a special features note, there is an interview with director Pete Walker as he recalls the film and talks about how the censorship was a help to the publicity, a look at the work of Sheila Keith, the actress who played Dorothy, a trailer and a commentary track.

Frightmare
If the sight of pulling out intestines, eating splines and feasting upon the organs of people, as blood spews like a faucet isn’t your thing… then you’ll probably enjoy Frightmare, as I’ve said, it doesn’t show much gore, but rather pulls the punches in the suspense. Although not quite living up to its famous controversy, Frightmare is still a bloody good time that’s good for a scare with plenty of secrets.

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • My Step Mother is a Cannibal next on Maury.
  • Not the WB Sister/Sister that you remember.
  • Some death with your tea?
  • For England, they have some nice teeth.
  • Husband of the year.
  • Driller killer.
totals

5

blood

BLOOD

Some squirts, some sprays and some eyeball removal.

5

blood

BREASTS

Jackie sports some cleavage making you want to see more.

8

beast

BEASTS

Debbie will break your heart and Dorothy will eat it!

6 OVERALL
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Watch the trailer for “Frightmare!”

trailers

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Nov

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
1986 – X – Arrow Video

Texas Chainsaw Massacre really the set the bar with horror back in 1974. It goes without saying that it is one of the greatest horror films of all time, so when Cannon Films acquired the rights to the franchise in the 80’s, a sequel was inevitable. Giving the original creator Tobe Hooper full creative control, it must have been a lot of pressure. How can a sequel live up to all this hype and deliver the same level of atrocity and macabre as depicted in the original? Tobe Hooper simply found the answer in not following the same formula as the first. Instead he took the film in a different direction, focusing more on gore and comedy, making it completely a slapstick for the criminally insane. Certainly an audacious and risky move, but would it actually work?

tcm2_2And he does this right from the start. Immediately following a text scrolling narrative echoing the events of the first film, it’s thirteen years later as two cackling college jug heads on their way to Dallas are popping shots at signs with a revolver from a car and calling K-OKLA radio station, badgering the leggy DJ appropriately nicknamed Stretch (Caroline Williams, meow!). Since these douchebags are refusing to hang up, Stretch has to keep them on the line and on the air (did radio stations actually use this lamebrain phone system?) as a large pickup truck, proud of its state’s stereotype by displaying some buck antlers and a confederate flag, chases them on what seems like the world’s longest bridge, until a familiar chainsaw wielding, masked maniac saws the top off one guy’s head and consequently crashing the car. Apparently city folk aren’t welcome ’round these parts.

Time to call in the cavalry! Former Texas Ranger (looking at it now, I’m not sure if they mean baseball player or an actual Texas Ranger) “Lefty” Enright, played by a manic Dennis Hopper, is at the scene of the crime. Although he’s ridiculed by his peers, Lefty knows exactly who did this… the same scumbags that tormented his niece and nephew, Sally and Franklin Hardesty. And no, this isn’t a string of typos. In a Soap Opera type of twist, Lefty is the uncle to the protagonists of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and he’s been hunting down the Sawyer clan ever since. Desperate, and most likely lonely, Lefty prints a want ad regarding any information on this brutal slaying (and for that special someone). Stretch brings him a tape with the slaying recorded on to it to which he shortly requests her to play it on the radio, which I’m sure the FCC will have no problems with. Still, it’s better than anything that Lady Gaga dude puts out.

tcm2_3But first, a little comical scene of Dennis Hopper arriving at a workshop, throwing phat stacks of cash on the table, like he just won some games of dice (these two things are funny to visualize in slow-motion along with any rap song), arming up with several chainsaws of varying size and madly hacking a log up outside, testing the chainsaws. He does this entire scene without a single line of dialogue, deadpan face, as the owner of the shop laughs to himself like he’s a mad scientist. This scene is the horror movie equivalent to Willem Defoe’s death scene in Platoon. It’s that over the top, but it’s that damn good.

Well, who else should hear this new hit but a welcoming and familiar face, Drayton Sawyer (for those of you who may not know the name, he ran the gas station in the first film), who just won a local chili cook-off contest! Turns out the Sawyer’s have been running a traveling food truck business since the first movie and I have to say, this is a very clever idea. After a probable manhunt took place following the events of the first film, a ‘meals on wheels’ service would allow these killers to move freely without getting caught and disposing of bodies. It’s genius (and I’m sure copyrighted… shucks). Hysterically cursing at the wheel, he turns it around to send the boys on a little search and destroy mission.

tcm2_4Nobody does search and destroy missions quite like the Vietnam veteran hippie with an exposed metal plate in his head, Chop Top, who it turns out is the twin brother of the Hitchhiker character in the first film… another soap opera twist, played amazingly by the characteristic Bill Moseley (and most likely one of his best roles). Seriously, this guy is all over the place. One minute he’s making a joke about one thing, then another, then he goes into a psychotic rage. He truly defines a psychopath. Chop Top arrives at the radio station shortly after LG, who does… something at K-OKLA, leaves for some grub, he asks Stretch to play the “special Lefty request”. Suddenly out of the darkness, the man in the mask, Leatherface bursts out with his chainsaw, waving it ferociously into the air, dinging Chop Top’s exposed metal plate (oh, that’s why they call him that!). With Stretch having locked herself in a room, LG returns to find Chop Top digging through old records, all while spouting some of the best one-liners ever. Chop Top belts his head continuously with a hammer, while Leatherface is falling in love… yeah, it’s strange to see and even more strange to describe. You see, since Stretch isn’t showing him fear, he falls for her and begins thrusting with his chainsaw, making for one of the most sexually awkward scenes ever. It’s so awkward, high schools should show them for abstinence videos. Leaving her to live (unbeknownst to Chop Top), the two bail with LG’s body.

Stretch follows them to an abandoned amusement park, rather fitting given the tenants. She falls into a trap, placing her inside the Christmas colored, bone scattered death trap just in time for Lefty to arrive, fully loaded with chainsaws and spewing the word of god, which is a bit cliche. Both Stretch and Lefty are left to their own devices if they want to get out alive. Stretch uses her charm on the wits of Leatherface (who even puts the skin of a face over hers) to try and escape and Lefty… well, he just starts tearing this place to shreds, howling like hobo on a meth bender with nothing to lose, “BRING IT DOWN! BRING IT ALL DOWN!” He finds Stretch, reminiscent of the dinner scene from the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with the Sawyer family, as he claims to be The Lord of the Harvest (not to be confused with The Lord of the Flies). And then, in a more battle more epic than Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader’s final duel, Lefty has it out with Leatherface, chainsaw to chainsaw! Madness on an unmeasurable scale unfolds from here.

tcm2_6Believe it or not, but this film initially received an X rating. The filmmakers decided to release it as Unrated so it would be allowed to play in more theaters. Even during its home video release, it still was Unrated. It wasn’t until the lousy, bare (no extras!) release in 2000 by MGM it was finally given an R rating. But we’re not talking about the MGM releases. We’re talking about this crisp, clean transfer from Arrow Video (with a few noticeable scenes of noise, but it’s not too bad), which looks amazing on a big screen in Blu. For you surround sound fans… sorry, they stuck with stereo for this release, but that’s how we like it.

And how about those extras? Arrow filled this release with so many extras, you’ll be stuffed. A good portion is carried over from the MGM “Gruesome Edition”, but that didn’t stop Arrow from adding plenty more, one of the coolest being Tobe Hooper’s previously unreleased short, The Heisters and another film Eggshells. On top of that are a few retrospectives on Mr. Hooper and possibly the most amusing feature on here, a fifteen or so minute rant from the man who played Leatherface, but it’s followed by about a half hour rebuttal by Stephen Thrower. Slap that in a sweet package with some astounding artwork and a hundred page book and there are enough extras on here to make this release thick and meaty. After all, it’s all about the meat… don’t skip on the meat.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
If you want to see Dennis Hopper screaming at the top of his lungs while waving chainsaws wildly in the air and going bats#*t crazy, then this is the movie for you. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 would literally be like looking into the mind of a madman. This is one of the most outrageous and insane films out there and still somehow remains comprehensible. I’m not sure it’s even possible to compare this to its original counterpart since they really aren’t in the same league. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is a parody of the original, making a goofball, splatstick comedy out of a serious toned serial killer movie, but that is in no way a bad thing. All the characters are completely ridiculous and over the top, but they are playing along with the hyper-violent, daffy tone of the movie (especially Bill Moseley’s Chop Top) that it all somehow makes sense and dammit all, if it’s not entertaining in a psychotically hypnotizing way. It like being on a hallucinogenic and seeing all the ravings of a lunatic come to life, with the colors to make it really ‘pop’. The buzz isn’t back… it never went away.

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • Splitting headache.
  • Dennis Hopper… acting or actually that crazy?
  • Incoming mail!
  • Leatherface in love.
  • The Last Round Up, makers of the meatiest chilli!
  • Nam Land!
  • Saw vs. saw!
  • Crazy Caroline Williams Dance.
totals

9

blood

BLOOD

We start with some punk getting half of his head sawed off, then another person pelted in the head repeatedly with a hammer, throw some guts in here for the perfect gore-met!

6

blood

BREASTS

One scene in particular, where Caroline Williams has soda and ice sprayed all over her legs and chest will have the young ones getting funny feelings for the first time.

10

beast

BEASTS

The psychopathic Chop Top and Leatherface square off with Dennis Hopper, armed head to toe in chainsaws. This is what Michelangelo would have painted in the Sistine Chapel had he seen this movie.

8.3 OVERALL
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Watch the trailer of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2!”

trailers

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Oct

Maniac
1980 – Unrated – Blue Underground

If there is one thing that the 80’s did for us (besides give us cocaine and Alf), it was install a paranoia in us through movies. Horror movies were evolving, becoming more horrifying and grotesquely more realistic. We were looking over our shoulders constantly and assuming any sound in the middle of the night was a murderer that broke into our homes. These movies also outraged sensitive cinema goers, claiming this type of movie breeds wackos. One such film would be simply be called Maniac and with a title like that, you should know what you’re walking into. Yet for audiences back then, they were disturbed by what they saw. Could it have really been that sadistic?

When the special effects are done by Tom Savini, the man who did Dawn of the Dead and was fresh off the gruesomely reviewed Friday the 13th, combine that with William Lustig, a guy whose earlier works were porn, you should know what you are walking in to. Actor Joe Spinell brought such a twisted and yet realistic spin on the psychotic main character Frank Zito, that you would think with this flick, the premise was so alarming and the effects were disturbingly visceral, that anybody watching the film didn’t think a murder could be depicted with such ferocity and carnage and shame on them for being so naive. The combination of these three men bring this film to deranged new levels and showcase a level of mayhem to be unmatched. It angered feminists, critics hated it, so let’s degrade ourselves and plunge into the filthy world of a psychopath!

maniac_2As a couple snuggles up on the beach, a prowler watches from one of those… binocular things… I forget what they are called, but you use to find them in large cities and you put a quarter in them and you can see the city. Anyway, after rolling around on each other like pale leather bags in a mildewy blanket, the man leaves to gather firewood… on the beach. It doesn’t take long for him to be garroted by the prowler, who then sneaks up on the sleeping girlfriend and slices her neck. Her screams fade into overweight, sweaty killer known as Frank, as he shoots up out of bed in a cold sweat, screaming like a lunatic and crying and judging how the interior of this small apartment is decorated, I’d wake up screaming and crying every day too.

Later that evening, two prostitutes (one of which is very eager for that one last trick to pay rent, son) see Frank, who is probably the shadiest looking person in an already shady area, takes one of the streetwalkers upstairs where he has her model like in them fancy magazines. Within moments, he charms the lady of the night by showing the size of his… money clip and starts making out with her pretty intensely, rolling on top of her and for that, believe me, I think she earned that cash. Have you ever put a warm, doughy dinner roll on top of a green bean? Well anyway, Frank starts to become frustrated and chokes this hooker to death and crying immediately afterwards. I’ve heard of crymaxing, but killmaxing? Is that a thing? As he mutters to her, “Why did you make me do it?” he scalps her using a box cutter, which I have to say, watching this will make you flinch in pain. That’s your grotesque Savini special effects at work for you there.

So what exactly is Frank doing with these scalps? If he were Apache, they would be trophies of some sort, but we actually aren’t too far off. Frank nails the scalps to the heads of mannequins that he’s dressed in the clothes of his recent victim, thus in his mind, honoring the person and allowing them to live on forever. It seems Frank feels what seems to be a motherly attachment to them, talking to them and scolding them, which makes sense seeing as it’s often hinted throughout the film that he had mother issues.

maniac_4Leaving his apartment once again with a disassembled 12 gauge shotgun in a trumpet case, he follows a couple out of a disco (yeah, those existed at one point) to what kids would call ‘make-out point.’ The stud in this scene, by the way, is played by Tom Savini, who is desperately trying to get ’some’. The floozy is resistant at first, but who can resist a mustache as powerful as that? Tom Savini’s mustache has rivaled other great ’staches in history, like Tom Selleck’s. After some serious necking in the backseat, the woman sees Frank peeping through the window like a little kid at the zoo and talks Savini into leaving. Flicking on the headlights, they see Frank standing in the night. He pounces on the windshield, armed with his shotgun and blows Tom Savini’s head off. And I meant right the freak off, spraying gallons of blood and whatever foods happened to be on the Kraft services table that evening. This scene is so graphic, it could give the head explosion scene from Scanners a run for its money.

After proving to those two that disco is dead, Frank cries himself to sleep after a healthy internal monologue about “stopping the fancy women” and handcuffing himself to a mannequin. He wakes up for a midday stroll through the park, where a photographer, Anna (played by ex-Bond girl Caroline Munroe), snaps a shot of him. Frank notices and casually strolls up to her belongings, snagging her address and goes about his day (cue non-conspicuous whistling).

Since they had to bore you with that scene of exposition, they throw you a bone and kill another woman. This time, a young nurse decides to reject a ride home from a friend and tread home solo in the middle of the night, while reading a newspaper with the headline, “MANIAC KILLS TWO MORE!” She soon notices she is being stalked and tries running through the subway station, hiding in a bathroom. This scene is heavily borrowed in other movies, including Alexander Aja’s High Tension (he would later go on to produce the remake of Maniac!) and it’s probably due to not only its pacing, but the idea of a stranger tracking you through a vacant space and having to hide with no escape. After a few moments, she believes the killer has fled, losing interest and as she washes her face in the sink, Frank stabs her through the back with a bayonet.

maniac_5Eventually the filmmakers realize that even a movie called Maniac can’t be composed completely of scenes that depict brutal murders of women, so Frank pays a visit to Anna, but in a very friendly and possibly romantic manner. Dressed nicely, he invites her to dinner to which she accepts and believe it or not, but the two seem to be hitting it off and it comes across as very authentic. Wanting to see him again, Anna invites Frank to one of her photo shoots, where Frank humbly arrives and everything seems innocent enough, until he meets Rita. Frank steals a necklace of hers and leaves the set, only to pay a visit to Rita’s home late a night with the necklace, posing as just a friend returning it. But would a friend kidnap you and tie you up? Maybe, but certainly not in a hostile, psychotic manner. With Rita kidnapped, Frank paces and spouts off about being abused and being left all alone, which implies he is most likely talking about his mother. Frank tells her that she will never leave him again, as he plunges a switchblade right into her chest and adding her scalp to a growing collection of mannequins.

Well this is becoming downright depressing! Maybe a visit from Anna will perk him right up. Frank picks her up to take her to a show, but a quick detour at his mother’s grave in the cemetery before hand. No sign of this night going sour, especially as the sky turns black and the fog rolls in. At the grave, Frank begins to blubber like a baby and as Anna tries to console him, he tries to choke her. I’m sure he likes to think of it as ‘hugging her neck’, but Anna fights him off and even slices his arm open with a shovel. Wounded, Frank chases after Anna, but slows down and seems to become lost… especially mentally as he hears his mother’s voice calling out for him, bringing him to his knees. And then like true Savini fashion, the rotten corpse of his mother bursts from the ground and terrorizes him! If he hasn’t lost his mind already, he certainly is now. Back at his home after fleeing the cemetery, he cries to himself as he notices that the mannequins are slowly becoming alive and they are very unhappy.

Maniac is a film that makes you feel filthy and unclean for watching it, but that’s what I love about it. It’s a character study of a truly, deeply disturbed human being. You’re audience to his personal torment and are forced to watch his violent actions. But there is a sympathetic side, as he weeps and talks nonsense to himself, you can feel the misguidance he had growing up and can’t help but feel sorry for him. It’s at the moment you begin to question why you are on his side. He’s done such vile things, are you supposed to feel that way? But that’s another thing that makes this movie great; you root for the bad guy without even knowing it.

Maniac
With an anathema you love to hate or hate to love, a dark and seedy look into his sick, perplexed world, overflowing with gore and other gross stuff, it’s enough to make you question your own sanity. At the dawn of the slasher flick era, Maniac stood above them as the indisputable champ of shocking horror, visually and methodically. It is perhaps the darkest serial killer pic since Psycho and would pave way for others, such as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. If there is anything positive to take away from the film, it’s that Frank was able to score a babe like Anna. So that means maybe there is hope for some of us.

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • Sleeping and peeping.
  • Nightmare apartment.
  • Is Frank Zito gonna have to choke a broad?
  • Scalping sicko.
  • Sweaty and crying… or hungry?
  • Buck shot cranium massage!
  • Bond babe!
  • Zombie mom issues.
  • Torn to pieces!
totals

9

blood

BLOOD

The scalping looked good for the time, but the shotgun scene will make your head explode…

7

blood

BREASTS

Bubble bath included.

10

beast

BEASTS

Joe Spinell doesn’t play Frank Zito… he seemingly IS Frank Zito and it’s downright terrifying.

8.6 OVERALL
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News report on the controversy it caused.

trailers

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Watch the trailer of “Maniac!”

trailers

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Oct

Pieces
1983 – Unrated – Grindhouse Releasing

Grindhouse Releasing is responsible for distributing the most sadistic, trashiest, violent and perverted films known to man and that’s why we love them. There’s something about films filled with unnecessary gore and nudity that really captivate you. It’s like it fills an arcane void, satisfying your darkest needs so you won’t lash out at the public. Take the film Pieces, for example. It’s permeate with buckets of gore, murder, nudity and hokiness any everyday Samaritan who is about to detonate with rage could need.

It’s 1942 in Boston and although the Patriots pennant on the wall won’t exist until the 60’s, a young lad sits deliberating, solving where the next piece to his nudie puzzle should go. His mother enters and instantly starts slapping him like she’s Chris Brown and grabs a garbage bag (from the future apparently, since those weren’t invented until the 50’s) and tosses the puzzle in there. Like any rational young boy, he axes her to death, out of nowhere, severs the body with a saw, grinning away the whole time. This is just in time for the cleaning lady and the police to show up and find him, and his mother’s head, and call his aunt with a push button phone from the 70’s. Wow, you could call this a period piece… Period Pieces… ahem.

pieces_2Forty years later, a pair of black rubber gloved hands, presumably the young boy all grown up, starts to piece the puzzle back together. After a moment of that, the movie decides to show you a college girl on a skateboard crash into a giant mirror being carried across the sidewalk by two movers, which I thought they only did in cartoons. This scene is irrelevant to the movie, but it’s warming you up for what’s in store. Next, we see another young college girl studying on the grass, played by the same actress oddly enough (and no, I don’t know if it’s supposed to be the same girl) as someone covered head to toe in a long coat, scarf and fedora is doing some light gardening with a chainsaw. What other attire would be proper to garden in? Rather than cut down some branches, he decapitates her, spewing gallons of blood! Hope you aren’t squeamish, because it only gets better from here.

Have no fear, Lt. Bracken (played by the favorable Christopher George) is on the case, usually chewing on what looks like a Slim Jim. On campus, he meets with the dean, played by Edmund Perdom, who seems to be overly pointing the finger at the groundskeeper, Willard, a large oafish man, reminding you of Bluto from Popeye. He seems innocent enough, even if he is chuckling to himself while passionately cleaning a chainsaw. Overcompensating for something, Willard?

pieces_3This is when we are introduced to campus stud (the movie’s words, not mine), Kendall. He’s like if you crossed Steve Guttenberg with Richie Cunningham. The babes are on him so thick, he has to peel them off like wet bologna stuck to aluminum siding on a hot summer day. He’s about to secure himself a dip in the pool with some hot bitty, but someone dressed like The Shadow hacks her up. But as fate would have it, Kendall’s paths cross with Lt. Bracken, who recruits Kendall to be his “inside guy,” because it’s not like he has a whole station of cops who are paid to investigate and track down the murder suspect. Endangering the welfare of a college student for free is a better suited idea.

After much Slim Jim chewing, Lt. Bracken decides maybe he does actually need some type of law enforcement personal working undercover. He pairs Kendall up with Mary Riggs, played by his real life wife (say that five times fast), Lynda Day. Her resume boasts, Pro Tennis star/Cop, which I’m sure are two skills that are often used simultaneously.

On a side note, that would make an awesome show, Pro Tennis star turned Detective. It could be called Justice Served!

Anyway, it feels like several minutes since a woman has been brutally butchered, so while doing some solo aerobics one evening, random girl #3 gets the feeling she is being watched and dashes for the elevator. She hops on, along with a man shrouded completely in black clothes and hat, thinking nothing about that could be suspicious, until her arm is lopped off by his chainsaw. First a head, then a torso and now arms… what could the killer possibly be doing with body parts in a movie called Pieces?

The next night, or that same night, or it really doesn’t matter, Kendall, just having finished bumping uglies with some random skank, hangs one out for the ladies and spots Mary walking in the dark from his window. Mary can’t help but hear someone is creeping up on her. Just then, the assailant jumps out of the bushes and does Karate kicks at her! Terrified, she slowly backs up, just as the intruder doubles over with indigestion. This is when Kendall rolls up on his hog (wimpy dirt bike) and introduces Mary to his “Kung-Fu Professor.” He apologizes for his random lashing out of sporadic martial arts, blames it on some bad chop suey and goes about his night. Kendall gives Mary a ride home, hoping to get lucky. Nobody speaks of this scene again.

pieces_4By now, you may have caught yourself asking, “What the hell does that scene have to do with anything?” The answer is nothing. It doesn’t have anything to do with anything, but that’s a part of Pieces‘ charm. This scene was thrown in because apparently producer Dick Randall was working on a martial arts film with Bruce Lee imitator, Bruce Le and added that scene because… he couldn’t wait to show you his movie? There are a few other scenes that feel out of place, like the girl crashing through the mirror, but you already know you’re in for a wild ride.

To be fair that last scene did serve as a transition to another scene, as a reporter from earlier is knifed to death on a waterbed. I could have mentioned her earlier, but she goes by so fast, you barely notice. This is leading into the final piece of the puzzle, so to speak, as the chainsaw wielding maniac carves a young girl in half after a tennis match… which leads to one of the greatest reactions from Lynda Day, as she shrieks into the air and curses the villain with a clenched fist, like she’s auditioning for Super Friends. Interesting little tidbit, they actually used a pig carcass for the grisly scene! Well, that’s enough victims and this film’s been going on long enough.

Kendall works at digging through personal files with the police as Mary heads to the dean’s house. Everyone seems to be zeroing in on the killer, who has all the body parts he needs, but what for? Just wait until you see, as they reveal the killer to be… exactly who you think it is! Especially if you know your film history, this seems to be a bit of typecasting. Oh and I’m sure the ending will still surprise you.

Pieces
To reiterate what I said earlier, Pieces is the crowning example of what people generally think of when they think of Grindhouse or Drive-In Classic. The premise is basic, yet with its twists and filled with oddball characters making daffy choices, packing enough macabre imagery soaked in blood and exhibiting some fine 80’s T & A. You’ll chuckle at the dialogue and line delivery, as characters seem to be taking it perhaps a bit too seriously or not enough. And let’s not forget scenes that seem to come completely out of left field. It may leave you scratching your head at parts, but for the most part, you’ll be jumping back in your seat with disgust or laughter. In every definition of the word, it’s a riot. It’s exactly what an exploitation film is defined as. It’s worth every penny to see.

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • Extreme gardening!
  • Piecing the puzzle together.
  • Skinny dip massacre.
  • Give her a hand… or arm!
  • Half-off tennis players.
  • Campus Stumped.
  • Franken-woman.
totals

10

blood

BLOOD

Color this campus red!

8

blood

BREASTS

Topless option college. And a little something for the ladies.

7

beast

BEASTS

As if The Shadow with a chainsaw isn’t bad enough, you have to look our for Kung-Fu Professors and Willard.

8.3 OVERALL
dripper

Watch the trailer for Pieces!”

trailers

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Sep

The Nest
1988 – R – MGM

Bugs, cockroaches specifically, are often considered to be “gross” or “icky” by the laymen. Yes, they’re creepy, they’re crawly and feared by the population. People will crush them with a book or whatever blunt instrument they have nearby. And yet, we idolize them. Countless numbers of toys are molded in their image, constructed like statues to honor our insect gods and Halloween is their day, as their image is molded into tasty treats for the little kiddies to eat. Thousands of movies feature them as the star, but always as the villain. Seems like those pesky cockroaches can’t catch a break. Fear and loved simultaneously, can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em. They always seem to be causing problems, like in the not-so-smash-hit-feature, The Nest.

nest_3Take the small island of North Port, for example. Talk a about a big bug problem! Sheriff Richard Tarbell not only has this issue to deal with, but also the fact that he’s a stereotyped small town, 80’s sheriff. His mop haircut blankets a good portion of his head and apparently they only had the budget for half a uniform, since he’s always wearing jeans. A lot of movies in the 80’s dressed their local police up like they found a handful of Sheriff’s tops at a thrift store, but couldn’t find the pants. Oh and what would our cliched Sheriff be if he weren’t in cahoots with Mayor Elias’ daughter, who just came back and the reason they broke up was because she left? Oh and his current girlfriend works at the diner, because that’s the only other occupation in a small town. Haven’t you ever seen Squirm or the remake of The Blob? Luckily, he has his oddball exterminator friend, Homer, who I swear belongs in a video game. Seriously, the guy bops around on a busted moped, wearing glasses, a Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts. Tell me you don’t see this character somewhere in Grand Theft Auto. Anyway, Homer has been noticing that his gas isn’t killing these roaches. Something different about these ones.

This is where the evil corporation, INTEC comes in, who are in cahoots with Mayor Elias. All we know for now is that INTEC is doing “stuff” and the mayor is getting money. Hey, good enough for me. Actually it turns out they have been experimenting with breeding mutant cockroaches! And why? Um… science? Huh, usually you only get either an evil corporation or mutants of some kind. Most movies can’t contain both an evil corporation and mutant bugs, but this movie grabs them both by the horns, throws them in a blender and shouts, “Suck it, society! I’m man enough for both!”

I digress.

Anyway, why exactly is INTEC making super mutant cockroaches that are impervious to gases and chemicals? Well, at first it sounds clever, but then when you think about it, it’s actually kind of stupid. You see, they bio-engineered a hybrid of cockroaches that would eat other cockroaches and then die off. See what you did there? As you read that, you went, “Oh…” which quickly turned to, “ehhh, huh?” INTEC sends in the foxy and diabolical Dr. Hubbard to keep an eye on the Mayor to make sure he doesn’t pull any fast ones. But, like every evil corporation that decides to play God, their experiment goes wrong and these cockroaches get the desire to eat meat! Whether it’s animal or human, it’s on the menu. Not to mention, these cockroaches seem to take form of whatever they devour, much like The Thing in… um, The Thing. This actually results in some pretty spectacular effects, for the most part.

nest_2Aside from a few chewed up animal carcasses, we get to witness the birth of a cockroach and cat hybrid. Now, nevermind the logistics of how an animal would be reanimated back to life after being eaten by bugs or if it’s the cockroaches working as a group to form this new species (think of the Constructicons from Transformers), just marvel at mother nature’s abortion as it gets squished by a bookshelf. And that’s not all! The mayor himself gets gobbled up to save his daughter. Although in retrospect, his sacrifice was pointless, since they both could have escaped to the same room, so I don’t see why he needed to lock himself in the bathroom. Well, if he didn’t do that, how else would we be able to show you a man turn into a giant cockroach? Remember Jeff Goldblum’s transformation scene in The Fly? If you don’t, consider this a refresher course.

Before the mayor “bugged out,” he managed to call in some sort of airstrike using gas, which would most likely kill everyone on the island. Homer and the Sheriff rush to fix the town’s lighthouse to signal the planes, but they are running out of time, as the roaches seem to be coming from everywhere. Like in Aliens, Hudson said it best when he said, “It’s a bug hunt!” So our heroes go to find a queen and destroy it. Upon searching the cave, they found what they are looking for and what they find is, again, similar to the Blair Monster from The Thing. Only this queen cockroach/human/skeleton/gloppy thing is… kinda silly. Gotta say. Well, let me back up a bit. It’s actually pretty cool, until it starts moving. The thing hovers around like someone is pushing a really fat person around in a wheel barrel and for being something that is supposed to have more than a few legs, it doesn’t move very organically. Luckily, the film’s saving grace for this monster is when it bites the top of Dr. Hubbard’s head off. Girl, she was all cray cray anyway.

This was done in the days when everything was done practically, before the lifeless CGI. Sure it’s easier, but just seeing thousands of live cockroaches, scurrying on the floor and up peoples legs. You can imagine hundreds of tiny, cold little legs tickling your skin and that horror you feel as you look to see dozens of cockroaches. It’s that feeling you know those bugs are real that send the shiver down your back and question the tickling feeling it’s getting. The film has plenty of those gross out moments, filled with plenty of blood and organs (especially the eyeball popping scene) and the monsters are actually pretty grotesque.

The Nest

A worthy contender to other bug movies, like Slugs, it’s also interesting to note that the film’s producer was Julie Corman, wife of Roger Corman! Making sanguinary, low budget gross out flicks must be a Corman tradition that I hope continues. Check out The Nest, now on Bluray from Scream! Factory and don’t let the bed bugs bite!

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • Sheriff spit take.
  • Bug-O-Cam.
  • Cockroach Cafe.
  • Take a shot every time there is a subtle rip off of The Thing, The Fly or another Sci-Fi bug movie.
  • Mayor Roach!
  • Cat-roach!
  • Homer…
totals

8

blood

BLOOD

Critters get eaten, eyes go popping, guts go splatting, gore goes everywhere!

3

blood

BREASTS

There’s a few busty ladies in this one.

10

beast

BEASTS

Evil corporation mutant-genetically engineered super cockroaches and their devil hybrid! Sign me up!

7 OVERALL
dripper

Watch the entire movie!”

trailers

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ZombieWorks
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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 >>