Archive for the 'Exploitation' Category

May

Comments Off on I Drink Your Blood

I Drink Your Blood
1970 – X – 83 Minutes – Grindhouse Releasing
Starring Bhaskar, Lynn Lowry, Jadin Wong – Directed by David E. Durston

If there are two problems tearing this country apart, it’s definitely rabies and LSD. And satanic hippie cults. Okay, so three things. And hippies, can’t forget them. But, who is going to inform us about these evils and the destruction they cause, leaving people’s lives in shambles? Who? I’ll tell you who! Director David Durston with his film I Drink Your Blood, although there is no blood drinking, except for the chicken’s at the beginning, but nothing that would imply “yours”. The title was actually thought up by the film’s producer in order to sell it as a double feature, as it played alongside I Eat Your Skin. I guess something like “I Accidentally Drank Rabid Dog’s Blood and Now I Have Rabies” isn’t nearly as catchy.

It’s a film that seemingly takes those things seriously during an era when we weren’t quite informed on what they are nor really had any scientific idea what they were, so it comes off as rather… hysterical. This is only reinforced by how absolutely bonkers things get throughout the movie as hippies and construction workers run amok, all because of tainted meat pies. I always knew that those would somehow be responsible for an outbreak resulting in many deaths. Never trusted a meat pie as far as I could throw it and believe me, I can throw one pretty dang far.

idyb_2A satanic hippie cult, led by the almost Cesar Romero-Joker-esque quality Horace Bones, who call themselves “SADOS (short for Sons and Daughters of Satan),” have to hole up in a Podunk little town with a tiny population to avoid any detection from the fuzz, you dig? You see, one night during the group’s little get together for one of their little rituals, which they do totally butt nekkid, local girl Sylvia is spotted watching the festivity. However, locals aren’t allowed on the scene and she is beaten (to which her new-found friend of the group, Andy, seems a little too casual about this). While trying to leave this little town, their van breaks down and they do the next logical thing, which is buy meat pies from the local bakery run by Mildred, who tells them that most of the town is abandoned and awaiting demolition. Ah, good thing they decided to get some food from the Exposition Bakery! The group decides to whole up in a hotel indefinitely.

Let’s talk about the group for a minute. As I mentioned, the group is led by the Native American Horace Bones. Andy is the sensitive one, who isn’t happy with the group. Then you have Rollo, the angry black man. Shelley is the questionable member, never sure what his intentions are. There is also Sue-Lin, the group’s mystical Asian woman, there is also a promiscuous groovy chick (whose name I forget) and then you have Molly, the overweight woman who is pregnant with Horace’s spawn and the cute mute Carrie, played by an uncredited Lynn Lowry in her screen debut! It’s a diverse group and everyone is here to stereo-typically represent everyone!

Sylvia’s brother Pete, who steals the show with his “gee-golly-educational film” performance, is rather unsettled by them and knows they are up to something… probably because Horace is a cackling madman and the group isn’t exactly subtle, even though the townspeople never really catch on to this. Pete’s grandfather, the veterinarian (don’t worry, this will make sense in a moment), decides to take action against Sylvia’s abusers, but his plan is easily foiled by Horace who just simply takes his shotgun away from him. Good going, pops. The old man is beaten and drugged with LSD and trips serious balls in one of the most laughable scenes to follow.

idyb_3So what is LSD? Well, don’t worry. The film seemingly pauses for a moment and switches over to ‘Educational Film Mode’ and lets Pete be the voice of the audience to ask what is that L.S… whatever you call it stuff and Sylvia explains what it is and the dangers it holds. Trust me when I say it’s going to take you out of the movie for a moment, but it’s going to leave you chuckling. And the best part is, the film hasn’t even kicked into high gear!

That night, a rabid dog is strolling around and making noise, so Pete puts the thing down with his granddad’s double barrel and devises genius plan. It’s so genius, I’m sure there are some twisted, evil kid tendencies with Pete that the film unfortunately doesn’t go into, but his family may want to have him checked out: He sneaks out with his granddad’s veterinary kit and uses a syringe to siphon the dog’s infected blood, injecting them into the meat pies the Sons and Daughters of Satan of been buying. Seriously, out of all the evil revenge plans in every movie ever, is that not one of the best? It’s unclear if Pete’s intentions were to kill them, make them sick or maybe he didn’t know what would happen, but you can definitely say he got more than what he bargained for!

The members of SADOS fall ill that night, sweating and gripping their stomachs in pain, until they start foaming out the mouth and becoming violent, even toward each other. Rollo severs the foot off another member with an axe and runs off, chasing the groovy chick after being thwarted by Horace and his sword, Molly and Carrie bolt and Andy heads off to hide at Sylvia’s since he was the only one who didn’t eat the meat pies. He takes shelter there and along with her, and no worries, Pete is there too to get in the way and do whatever it is that Pete does. Whatever is though is sure to make you laugh.

idyb_4Having a group of rabid, Satan worshiping hippies is bad enough to unleash on an unsuspecting town, but the groovy chick offers herself to all of the construction workers (yes… ALL twenty or thirty of them) in order to feel protected, but unbeknownst to her, she infects all of them! Every rabies infected psychopath sets their eyes on Sylvia, Pete, Mildred, Andy and even grandpa and the most bat-sh#t crazy finale ensues, accompanied by some outstanding, hectic psycho music to play along to enhance the chaos. The survivors try to defend themselves and survive as the town runs rabid, quite literally, and all kinds of violence ensues including an epic sword fight, a decapitation and plenty of shotgun blasts… and of course a PSA about rabies in the guise of an exploitation film that’s gone completely bonkers.

Now the film does end with an open question, one that will be blindingly obvious, so I recommend checking out the deleted ending that not only ties that loose end up, but also ends the film on a very dark and grim, but fitting, note.

I Drink Your Blood
If you were to ask me what an exploitation film is, I would point you to I Drink Your Blood as the prime example. This is without a doubt my favorite movie of all time. Everything about it is honest, meaning that it comes from a place of love for what it is. The filmmakers clearly loved horror films and wanted to tell an amazing story, no matter how wild or seemingly unreal things got it. It has that certain type of genuine feel to it that all of these movies that homage films of the 70’s and 80’s claim to have. Everything about this film works, right down from the comic-book bright red blood, the idea of a new disease and how little they knew about it at the time, making it more frightening, the groovy score mixed with some good old fashioned 70’s Satanic hippie cult fun, it’s not only educational, but it’s a pure bloody good time.

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • SADOS; Sons and Daughters of Dumb.
  • Hippies! Hippies everywhere!
  • Rat hunt.
  • L.S… whatever you call it stuff.
  • Rabies Pie.
  • Need a “hand” making that sandwich?
  • Andy’s only trying to get a-head.
totals

8

blood

BLOOD

Blood and rabies go together like peanut butter and ladies.

6

blood

BREASTS

Plenty of dirty hippie boobs. And Lynn Lowry’s.

10

beast

BEASTS

Satanic Hippies!? Rabid psychopaths?! Rabid Satanic hippie psychopaths!

8 OVERALL
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Jan

Comments Off on The Long Hair of Death

The Long Hair of Death
1964 – NR – 100 Minutes – Raro Video
Starring Barbara Steele, George Ardisson, Halina Zalewska – by Antonio Margheriti

Anytime something bad is happening in the world, it’s probably because of a witch’s curse and to get rid of it, you have to burn her on a cross. If she cries out for her maker and dies, she wasn’t a witch after all, but if she shrieks out hexes and curses those who wronged her, she is a witch, but she is burning, so the curse is gone! Everybody wins. Except the witch. These are all scientific facts.

But you better hope that witch doesn’t curse you and cry out for vengeance upon her execution. It will haunt you for the rest of your life, which will come to an end unexpectedly, just as you think you are on top of the world. The Long Hair of Death is such an example. It’s dark and shadowy trip down a cold, chilling hallway of treachery, murder and revenge from Antonio Margheriti, the director of cult classics like Castle of Blood and Yor, Hunter From the Future. Ok, that last one maybe not so much, but the guy knows how to create mood and tension.

lhd_2And what way better way to open up a movie? Count Humboldt and his rather douchy son Curt are burning a witch at the stake, but this isn’t your regular kind of tie-them-to-a-cross burning. It’s some sort of torcherous haystack maze that is set on fire! As the accused witch is trying to escape the hellfire, her hot daughter (no pun intended) Helen, played by the gorgeous Barbara Steele, is attempting to plead with the Count to save her by any means necessary… any, if you catch my drift. So while the Count is grinding on her, he promises her that her mother will be safe, but then Curt sets a torch to the maze and the old woman catches fire while her youngest daughter watches and she shouts curses on her tormentors. Jeez, the guy couldn’t even wait til morning to break his promise. Helen vows that she will have her revenge, but there may be a change of plans. The Count tosses her off a cliff and into a river, leaving her younger sister Lisabeth as the sole survivor. Helen is buried with the old witch’s ashes, which you know is going to be a combination more deadly than peanut butter and chocolate.

Some years pass and Lisabeth is now a young woman, being stalked by the even creepier Curt, who basically forces her into marriage. Of course, this is back in the day when you could just say you’re going to marry someone and claim them. That’s basically what happens, but even though she’s his wife now, he will never have her heart. He doesn’t truly love her and she hates him and they spend a good amount of time loathing each other and staring daggers as she plots her revenge against Curt while avoiding him. So, it’s your basic run of the mill marriage. Lisabeth begs for vengeance and vengeance she shall have!

lhd_3As the plague is claiming the lives of the villagers, Curt and his father stay safely in their castle until an old, familiar face returns! Could it be Helen? She certainly looks like her, but doesn’t act like her… The woman says her name is Mary and has been separated from her group. Upon seeing her face, the count dies from guilt and Curt greaves in Helen’s magnificent bosom. But don’t think Lisabeth doesn’t notice some other floozy making moves on her man! She soon becomes jealous and suspects Curt of adultery and she should, because he is totally hitting that behind her back. Even as Helen tries to leave, Curt goes as far as to poison a messenger sent out to find her party. Now, if that isn’t the sign of someone who loves you, I don’t know what is.

Deceit, treachery and murder are all part of this marriage (I guess each couple has to keep their relationship “fresh”), as Curt plots Lisabeth’s death and she patiently awaits for revenge, but will she ever get it? And why is it hard to advert my eyes away from Helen’s cleavage? Curt soon brings Helen into the mix, turning her against Lisabeth and soon paranoia sets in and there is nobody they can trust, not even the priest! Well, if you can’t trust the priest, then who can you? It’s a devilish story about getting even that leads up to an ending that will ring of The Wicker Man.

Talk about an exciting, little murder mystery! There are plenty of moments in the film where anything seems possible and you aren’t sure what’s going to happen, but you’re certainly there, wide eyed in anticipation waiting for it. Sure, you’ve seen this plot probably about a dozen times and maybe it’s the way it’s presented here, but it doesn’t feel old. Those Italians sure do know how to create some genuine suspense. It does take some time getting to the revenge, but everything is a slow build, so you have enough time to get to know these characters and despise them enough so that any type of revenge is justified, no matter how cruel and unusual it may be. And boy, does it get cruel and unusual.

lhd_4But that’s just the start. There is a lot of sexualization in the film and dealing into darker matters with rape and abuse, which may seem unheard of for films from the 60’s, but this is when European Gothic horror films were really starting to become just what they were meant to be; dark. Yes, there was a time when goth was more than whatever was trending down at the Hot Topic and The Long Hair of Death represents that. Presenting the spousal abuse, adultery, death and plague is some beautifully lit set pieces, highly contrasting the lights and shadows within the castle, something Italian filmmakers seem to have a knack for. The film has some seriously beautiful images.

And I have to give praise to the performances in the film. Curt is that villain you love to hate. He’s always up to something that will only further his desires while hurting someone else. Everything he says seems to be there to shine light on his greed, selfishness and his treacherous scheming. Even against his own father, who starts off as the most detestable person in the film, but later accepts his own fate. I did find it odd that Curt would later come to mourn his passing, especially after Curt admits to the reason behind the Count’s brother’s disappearance. Countering that is Lisabeth, the sympathetic female unwillingly caught in the middle of all of this. At times she seems a little weak, because you want her to extract the revenge, but that is lent a more supernatural hand. I also felt that her jealousy was a bit unwarranted, since adultery was met with execution back in the day and that could have solved her problem right there, but I guess she wanted to do it herself. And of course we have to mention the gothic bombshell Barbara Steele in a dual role. This woman does the unimaginable in an attempt to save her mother’s life as Helen and as Mary, she flaunts was she was born with and expresses what a sexual beast she can be.

For those of you always looking for the greatest quality out there, Raro really came through for you. The picture is sharp and smooth, although sometimes too smooth, delivering a pretty crisp picture with little leftover scratches. The same can be said about the audio, which seems to be flawless here. That score will get stuck in your head for days and both Italian and English dialogue tracks are here. I recommend the Italian track with the English subs, since the English dub seems to be a bit sillier and some of the dialogue is omitted, like an inner voice speaking to Lisabeth.

The Long Hair of Death
Sure, you could choose from one of the many Hammer Horror films if the mood strikes you for something gothic, but I say reach a little further for The Long Hair of Death. Something about it feels more natural than something in the Hammer series (not saying anything bad about Hammer), especially within the scenery. It’s a dreary good time that is remarkable to look at and will keep you in suspense as wave after wave of tension keep slamming into you.

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • Barbara Steele will steal your heart.
  • Curt, lord douche.
  • Murder, deception and betrayal! Oh my!
  • Gothic interior decorating.
  • Man, The Wicker.
totals

3

blood

BLOOD

Nuttin’ but a rotten corpse.

6

blood

BREASTS

Two words. Barbara and Steele.

7

beast

BEASTS

Curt needs a mustache to twirl while lightening strikes behind him.

5.3 OVERALL
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Jan

Comments Off on Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker

Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker
“He’s Home… But He’s Not Alone.”

1991 – R – 90 Minutes – Lionsgate
Starring William Thorne, Mickey Rooney, Jane Higginson – Directed by Martin Kitrosser

Let’s take a moment to consider what Christmas is really about; toys. The newest and coolest toys. If you don’t have the latest and greatest toys, then you suck, you’re dead to me. Get better toys. Much like video stores, the mom and pop toy stores were run out of business for not carrying the ‘Tickle Me Elmo’ or the latest Pokeman’s. It’s all big business now and they lack any heart. It’s the little guy who knows your kid’s name and will leave him killer toys anonymously at your doorstep, then head back to his filthy apartment to beat his kid. At least this is the case in Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker.

Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker stars Mickey Rooney, a well known actor who wrote a letter of disgust in protest against the original film stating that the “scum” who made the movie should be “run out of town.” That is until he needed a paycheck. Change of heart suddenly, Mickey? It also stars a bunch of other people that aren’t worth noting, so does this make it a bad film? Nah, it’s alright.

Like EVERY Christmas-horror movie, some kid named Derek is watching their mom going at it like a pony out to stud, but for a change of pace, it’s not with Santa Claus this time. His peeping tom time is interrupted by the doorbell, which to his surprise when he answers, is a gift for him. Before he can open it, his dad, a very shirtless and hairy man, sends him off to bed for opening the door so late by himself! After all, what if it were a killer Santa? Feeling greedy, he opens the gift to find a musical orb painted up like Santa. It’s charming, until he literally flips the kill switch on the thing, which proceeds to strangle the gangly, hairy man as he falls on a fireplace poker. Double kill!

sndn5_2Two weeks pass and Derek hasn’t spoken a word. His mother, Sarah, on the other hand, is annoyed that Derek hasn’t moved on. She is on vacation mode while this kid does odd things like squish his eggs at breakfast, for which she smacks him around a bit. Geez kid, your father was brutally murdered in front of you by a Christmas toy, get over it! But if there is one thing to get a child’s mind off a witnessed homicide, it’s a brand new toy. Sarah takes him down to Petto’s Toy Store run by Joe Petto (played by the aforementioned Mickey Rooney) and the odd Pino. Pino is the type of odd that makes you feel uncomfortable in daylight… in public. Pino offers Derek the hottest toy they have to offer, Larry the Larvae! That’s right, all the kids are clamoring for the latest, hideous looking and sounding insect toy. All this time, some guy named Noah disguised as Kyle Reese has been following Sarah and creeping around Petto’s store. Who on Earth could he possibly be? For one thing, he’s the world’s biggest (and most likely only) Larry the Larvae enthusiast, cause he scoops that hunk of plastic up after Derek and Sarah leave and he seems to be in a rush. I can tell ya, he’s not in any rush to pay his rent at the local seedy motel he’s staying at, wherein his room is littered with toys from Joe’s shop. The landlord (or whoever runs motels) shows up demanding money or Noah will be evicted and manages to talk the landlord into taking the Larry the Larvae toy until he can get him his money. Wow, this thing must’ve been a hot commodity! It’s worth more than a handful of them Beanie Babies!

Such a hot commodity that the landlord needs to play with it and take it out of the packaging while driving at unsafe speeds. First of all, who takes their child’s toy out of the package to give to them and secondly, why in the car? The guy is barely paying attention to the road that his death is unavoidable at this point. Larry the Larvae acts in natural selection’s place and crawl into his mouth, sucking in his eyes as he inevitably crashes his car and being early 90’s movie law, the car explodes! All this guy wants for Christmas is his two front eyes!

sndn4_3Maybe taking Derek to see Santa will help him out (with another anonymous present to be found on their way out), even if Santa turns out to be a creep, since it’s Noah in disguise. What are the odds he happens to be a mall Santa, spotted them in line and talked Ricky (Clint Howard reprising his role, but not the same role) into giving him his shift? The stars must be aligning.

While all of that was going on, Pino is breaking into Sarah’s home with a key he keeps hidden under a brick with the writing, “Pino ’75”. Wow, it’s a good thing those locks haven’t been changed nearly twenty years. Wait, why is his name dated from that long ago? I’m getting ahead of myself and that question will be answered, but Derek and Sarah arrive home early thanks to Santa Creep and Pino bolts from there, scaring Sarah half to death. She immediately storms down to Petto’s Toy Store and demands answers and that answer is… they use to live there. That’s it. Still, it feels like there is something more to it…

That night, Sarah decides to let Derek open the mystery gift, thinking it’s from her friend Kim and to answer your question, yes the same Kim from Silent Night, Deadly Night 4! She has apparently adopted Lonnie and they both seem to have forgotten all about the crazy bug cult, kidnapping and spontaneous combustion and now live in a town with killer toys. As Kim is distracting Sarah, Derek takes the present out to the trash since the last time he had a gift left on his doorstep, it didn’t turn out so well. Lonnie happens upon this discarded present and opens it up to find himself a brand new pair of rollerblades! But these rollerblades were secretly rocket powered, enabling Lonnie to go at uncontrollable speeds of about 5 miles per hour! He smacks right into a car, which I’m sure he could have done faster by going down a slight incline, and ends up mummy wrapped in the hospital.

Back at Petto’s place, he does his typical dad stuff, like gets drunk and starts wailing on Pino, who it turns out is much stronger than he looks and accidentally tosses Joe right down the stairs.

Sarah heads off to visit Kim and Lonnie in the hospital, leaving Derek to a pair of promiscuous baby sitters. Just this kid’s luck. You remember what happened the last time this kid heard people going at it? As odds would have it, it happens again. Joe appears dressed as Santa and drops off a sack full of deadly toys for a (what seems to be) heavily cut gore buffet! He uses this opportunity to snatch up Derek and flee the scene, cause nobody would be able to connect who left all these toys from a specific store in the middle of a bloodbath.

sndn5_4Meanwhile, the connection between Noah and Sarah is revealed; he left for the military, they were dating and that he is actually Derek’s real father. Wow, that’s a lot of unnecessary and predictable exposition. But we can’t move on the the finale yet, there is more. Noah explains what he was doing with all the toys; making sure they weren’t boobytrapped! That’s right and there’s more. Turns out, Joe was arrested for boobytrapping some toys in the past after his pregnant wife died in an accident. That explains that, but then who is Pino?

And we do find out in an eye popping moment when Pino reveals he is actually a robot built by his father! He strips his costume right off and resembles a Ken doll, full size and come to life… and just as smooth, if you catch my drift. Turns out he grew quite an affection for Sarah and wants to kill her son to replace him. He expresses this by lifting up her legs and dry humping her, making for a very merry Christmas, I’m sure.

Silent Night, Deadly Night 5 not only (kinda) brings back the killer Santa gig, but also goes back to the series more exploitation roots, opting more for bizarre and disturbing sci-fi that was popular during the early 90’s rather than the then not so popular slasher elements. As you may have noticed, the plot for a type of film like this seems needlessly complicated, but I assure you, it’s not. Everything is explained in a couple lines of dialogue and they move on. Earlier I stated that this film stars nobody at the expense of a joke, but that is underselling it. Everyone actually puts in a fine performance, especially the actor playing Derek, who barely has any dialogue throughout the film and even Noah resembles somewhat of an almost as talented Stephen Dorff. Pino is downright creepy and when his true nature is revealed, you look back and realize he was kind of robotic in hindsight. Come to think of the casting, you have to assume casting Mickey Rooney and putting him in a Santa costume as a killer was intentional. Also, the Pinocchio nod with Joe Petto and Pino and Pino being a toy created by Joe was a very cool, dark twist on a fairy tale.

I can’t help but shake the feeling the MPAA wanted this one cut down, as there seems to be quick cuts away from gore, which is a shame since it’s done quite well. Yeah, this film has more blood than the previous two, but less ickiness than Initiation. The onslaught scene of the toys massacring the babysitters is outstandingly bloody and perhaps a bit comical.

Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker
The film certainly captures the holiday spirit (you know, decorations, Santa and murder) much better than Initiation and doesn’t feel like the title was a last minute inclusion, but rather it’s part of an anthology series with the same theme. I found it to be a lot of fun from the concept, right down to the performances, you will have a jolly ol’ time. It made me wanting for a sixth installment, but what we got instead was a less than mediocre, copy and paste modern day slasher. Maybe we will take a look at that next year.

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • Don’t open till Christmas… or else.
  • Killer toys.
  • Keep your eye on that toy!
  • Drunk Mickey Rooney dressed as Santa and smacking people around.
  • Battle of the bedroom.
  • Robo-Pino.
totals

6

blood

BLOOD

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a whole lotta red.

4

blood

BREASTS

Two pair are better than one.

7

beast

BEASTS

Drunken Mickey Rooney with an army of killer toys and a creepy, perverted robot kid!

5.6 OVERALL
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Dec

Comments Off on Christmas Evil (aka You Better Watch Out)

Christmas Evil
“Better Watch Out… Better Not Cry… Or You May DIE!”

1980 – R – 100 Minutes – Vinegar Syndrome
Starring Brandon Maggart, Jeffrey Demunn, Dianne Hull – Directed by Lewis Jackson

The idea of Santa Claus is pretty creepy once you start to think about it. I mean, a man who wears the same suit every day of his life and shakes like a bowl full of jelly watches kids and everything they do every single day of the year, then if they are “good”, he breaks into their home to leave them gifts. And we actually let children believe this! That’s pretty horrific, but perhaps something more horrific than that would be a man driven so insane by the cheerfulness of jolly ol’ Saint Nick that he starts to believe his is Santa Claus!

Oh yeah, there’s a movie for that. Christmas Evil or as the title card would suggest, You Better Watch Out. Actually, that’s the title of the film. It was later changed before release to Christmas Evil to seem more appealing to the slasher crowds that were booming at the time. This debately only hurt the film over time, but luckily due to Synapse putting the DVD out a few years ago and now Vinegar Syndrome just recently releasing it on Blu-ray, it seems to be finding a bigger audience every year. It’s what John Waters calls “the greatest Christmas movie ever,” so let’s check it out.

On a totally unrelated note, star of the film, Brandon Maggart, is the father of Fiona Apple. Remember her?

ce_2Late Christmas Eve in 1947, young Harry sneaks from his room to see Santa, which is really his father dressed up, licking his mom’s leg like a lollipop. This sight is so traumatic that he smashes a snow globe open and gouges his hand with a shard of the broken glass. Cut to (non pun intended) present day 1980 and Harry is obsessed with Santa. You know those older guys that still collect toys (guilty) or are so obsessed with Spider-Man or something and they still wear the pajamas, watch the cartoons all day and hum the little jingles? That’s Harry. Thankfully, the guy doesn’t go around in public wearing his Santa jammies. He does, however, wear them inside his all year around Christmas decorated home. It’s kinda like the Cracker Barrel if they decorated for Christmas every single day of the year.

Harry also happened to land himself a supervisor position at the toy factory he works at, Jolly Dreams. It’s a non-union job, so nobody listens to him, treat him like crap and look down at him for taking the position, like he betrayed the other workers. But he’s still a good guy that he even takes crummy worker Frank’s shift for him that evening. Luckily, he has his hobbies to take his mind off things, like spying on the neighborhood kids from the rooftop with binoculars, jotting down who’s being a good or bad boy or girl in his naughty or nice books, of which he has several. Oh yeah, he’s been doing this for a long time. You may want to take a break from the film to scrub yourself clean right now.

Heading home from a long day at work, he spots Frank, the co-worker who shift he covered, getting nice and drunk and calling Harry a shmuck. Harry heads home in a hurry for some therapeutic squeezing a toy soldier until it breaks while humming a Christmas tune as he increasingly becomes more anxious doing so. Ah, doesn’t that feel better?

ce_3Thanksgiving passes, Harry blows off his brother Phil (played by Jeffrey DeMunn) and his wife and two kids, and his company’s Christmas party is in full swing. And brother, is it swinging! White people be getting drunk up in there! Through a televised announcement, Harry learns that Jolly Dreams will be donating toys to less fortunate kids, but only if profits increase. Harry asks his supervisors about how many toys are being donated and if all of the kids will receive something, but they don’t seem to care. But what of the little children and their toys? Harry decides to step in and take action! While the party is still in full effect, he marches right on down to the assembly and steals toys to give to the good boys and girls. Call the guy a shmuck all you want, but he has a good heart.

But if you are gonna play the part of Santa, you may as well become Santa. Harry finally melts down, making toys down in his basement, gluing a beard to his face and dressing in full Santa garb. He packs the toys in his van and does what would be considered the most charitable thing a man could do, if you didn’t know he was totally bonkers, and drops off toys to Willowy Springs State Hospital. It’s actually a very heartwarming moment to think those kids were just given a Christmas by a total stranger who cares about their well being, but then you start to dial that thought back once the night further unfolds.

Stopping by at a nearby church after mass where a few of his supervisors are attending, Harry waits outside for the place to empty with a glare Jack Torrence would shudder at. As the crowd exits, Harry starts to make a move toward his bosses, but is stopped by some yuppies, none of which are Patrick Bateman. They taunt and tease Harry, but he has more than toys in his sack! Jabbing one of their eyes out with a toy soldier, he then proceeds to hack them to death with a rather festive looking Hatchet and darts off into the night, taking cover in a Christmas party and giving the most chilling Santa speech to some children. Good thing Billy from Silent Night, Deadly Night was someplace else.

ce_4The night is still young and Santa’s work isn’t over. Harry stops by Frank’s house, first by trying to squeeze through the chimney, further validating his insanity and giving a claustrophobic like me anxiety. Realizing that won’t work, he breaks into Frank’s home like a normal person, through the door, dropping off some toys for his children under the tree… then paying a visit to Frank himself, who is tucked in bed, fast asleep next to his wife. Harry gives another dark speech, then tries to smother him to death with a pillow, but ultimately slashing Frank’s neck with a Christmas ornament, which is more fitting. Tis the season afterall.

Phil knows something is wrong when Harry (who is busting up toys at Jolly Dreams) is absent on Christmas day and comes to the realization that his brother is the psycho-Santa he heard about on the news. Later in the evening, Harry’s van breaks down on the wrong side of town… the kind where apparently they have frequent Frankenstein’s monster problems as he finds himself being chased by a torch carrying mob after his cover is blown. He manages to escape and seeks help from Phil, who greets him by strangling Harry over what he’s done and drags him back into his van. However, Harry isn’t dead and knocks his brother down with a punch and speeds off just as the lynch mob is catching up. Phil chases on foot only to witness what is debateably among fans either a miracle or a tragedy; Harry swerves to dodge the mob, only to have his van crash off a bridge as it soars into the sky as he recites the final lines ‘To All a Goodnight’. Did his van crash off the bridge, killing Harry or did he actually become Santa and soar into the sky? The sound certainly sounds like a crash, but the look on Phil’s face says otherwise… that is left up to the viewer, which ultimately makes for a better ending.

Christmas Evil is kinda like the Taxi Driver of Christmas. You watch as a man being bullied by coworkers, surrounded by greedy people who don’t care about the less fortunate, basically completely overwhelmed by the scum of the Earth as the needy are laughed at, loses his mind. He goes so far over the edge to actually believe he is Santa, much like Travis saw the same atrocities and believed himself to be some sort of equalizer or cleanser. Brandon Maggart’s performance as Harry is downright unnerving, as you watch a normal man who isn’t all there, be pushed over the edge to the point of no return. You feel sad for him, but your feelings are put to question once you begin to realize how sick he is and what he is doing is wrong. You want to help him, then he murders a few people and you aren’t sure how to feel. But that’s what the filmmaker was going for. This is more of a character piece than it is a slasher. And that’s a common misconception most people have with this film and as I stated earlier, it could be due to the way the movie was marketed, is that it’s viewed as a slasher, when it really isn’t. Sure it has slasher like elements and he slashes a few people, but the overall arch is about Harry’s fall into madness.

Christmas Evil
It’s a great film, swimming with two kinds of mood; the kind that gets you geared up and excited for the holidays and the other kind that sends shivers down your spine and cautious of anyone that is dressed like Santa Claus. The festive Christmas lights against the dark sky as Harry stands in the cold night, breath visibly exhaling from his body, in a dirty Santa suit is one of the scariest images I can think of. Although the pacing itself is slow and there isn’t much gore, there is still a chilling and shocking story to find here. Give yourself a gift this year and watch what is probably the best Christmas movie of all time. Eat it, A Christmas Story!

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • A Travis Bickle Christmas.
  • Fiona Apple’s dad.
  • Crazy-Claus
  • Eye see toy soldiers.
  • Hatchet induced migraines.
  • Christmas star throat slashing.
  • Full size van sleigh.
totals

6

blood

BLOOD

The eye gouge and hatcheting are heavily cut, but there is still some there to be enjoyed. Someone’s on the MPAA’s naughty list.

2

blood

BREASTS

No bewbs this Christmas, but a little leg.

10

beast

BEASTS

You better be good or else Santa will come for you.

6 OVERALL
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Nov

Comments Off on Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror

Burial Ground
“The earth shall tremble…. graves shall open…. they shall come among the living as messengers of death and there shall be the nights of terror…. “Profecy of the Black Spider”

1981 – Unrated – 86 Minutes – Shriek Show
Starring Karin Well, Gianluigi Chirizzi, Peter Bark – Directed by Andrea Bianchi

If there is one thing I love about Italiansploitation films (that’s Italian made exploitation films, which I’m sure you were able to figure out), it’s that they would take a preposterous idea seriously while having fun with it. Sometimes without even knowing that’s what they are doing. The producers tell them that the Dawn of the Dead movie is popular, so crank out a zombie flick as fast as you can. Someone writes a script over a lonely, drunken weekend, turns it in and the first director that says they can make it on the lowest budget wins. The gore is ramped up, a few quirky and disturbing character traits are added and the film is cast. Everything is turned up to ten. The actors take their roles very seriously and put their heart and soul into it. Of course, sometimes it’s hard to notice once these films are atrociously dubbed. The film is then haphazardly cut together in a short amount of time and released to your local grindhouse theater the next day for your viewing pleasure. Nethertheless, once those credits start rolling, you aren’t sure what the hell you just experienced, but you loved it.

I have no evidence to back this up, mind you. It’s something I’ve gathered from watching bonus features, reading stories and the overall impression I’m left with once the film is over.

Burial Ground comes to mind as a perfect example of this. Everything about this film is poorly executed, so why do I love it so much? I should hate this film by all accounts, but I don’t. It’s a film that you can’t really talk about or review without putting it under a microscope and fully analyzing it. So hunker down, this is gonna be a long review. I know what you are thinking, “Didn’t you already review a movie called Nights of Terror?” Well, no. That movie was Rats: Night of Terror. This movie’s subtitle is Nights, with an ‘s’, plural, which is actually quite stupid since the film only takes place during one night. But seeing as how Night was already taken… or maybe they are being extremely technical since the opening of the film does take place on the evening before, but I don’t think they took that into consideration.

bg_2Mall Santa by day, back up ZZ Top member by night, Professor… ? (they just call him Professor or “the” Professor if they are being polite or perhaps in some cruel ironic ploy, his name actually was Professor) has just discovered the secret! A secret so secretive that it will be never be revealed what it is or even brought up by anyone again. He then wanders out to some tomb not to far from his mansion where zombies begin to rise and immediately eat him and by eat him I mean they rub identifiable lumps of gore all over their faces to mimic eating, even after his pleas that he is their friend.

First thing you are gonna notice about these zombies is that there seems to be a mix of pretty decent zombie makeup and some of the worst looking zombies you’ve seen. The makeup job can get so bad, that you can see the actors eyes and lips through the masks, even on a low quality VHS. The second thing you’ll notice is how slow they are are. And when I say slow, I mean S-L-O-O-O-O-W. Crawling doesn’t even define it. These zombies move so slow, you’ll think you’re watching a scene in slow motion. You have to wonder how they ever catch their victims to eat, but luckily we have a smorgasbord of daft idiots for them to feast on and I’m not sure where any of these people are in relation to the Professor, since it’s never really addressed (maybe as colleagues in passing, but I can’t recall). The stand out character from this group is Michael, played by Peter Bark, for a reason that will become glaringly obvious the split second he is on screen; he’s a dwarf in his mid 20’s with a bad toupee playing a ten year old. And if that isn’t creepy enough for you, he also has sexual feelings toward his mother.

Anyway, this evenly matched man to woman crew has returned after six months and what’s the first thing they do? Sex! Yeah, the film certainly knows how to maintain your attention, as you watch each of the three couples foreplay, until Michael interrupts his mother, Evelyn’s. She stands there totally nude, inquisiting the young lad about what he is doing, which I’m sure is in no way sexually confusing to the already sexually confused deviant. Without getting to far ahead of myself or psychoanalyzing the character, Evelyn seems to be sexually confused about her son as well, but it’s (surprisingly) more subtle.

The useless blonde archetype of the group, Janet, can’t help but feel that they are all in danger and wants to warn the others, but is discouraged by her lover Mark. The good ol’ ‘Prophet of Doom’. Most of these Italian films had them, even if they don’t fit into the story, like why is she suddenly getting these feelings? It’s never explained, so let’s move on to the next morning, where after some finely placed J&B Scotch product placement, we are finally giving a brief, but not open ended explanation as to why the zombies have risen.

bg_3The Professor was studying ‘the black arts’. There ya go.

And this is why all of the characters are here. This is what the Professor wanted to tell them. A simple phone call or letter would not do. Well, we needed a reason to group a bunch of dimwits together for a zombie, gut munching gore fest, so now we have one.

Now that all (and I do mean all) of the exposition is out of the way, we can move on to more exploitation! Each of the couples separate to do their own hobbies, like sketching, photography or George teaching Evelyn to fire a handgun (which, again, never comes back in the film, so take that, Chekhov’s gun!) Ultimately, all of these activities lead to heavy petting, leaving these fools to be distracted as the zombies emerge from the tomb and attack the profusely stupid and conveniently distracted couples. Janet and Mark are the first two to be attacked and although they aren’t sure what to make of the creatures, Mark intelligently states that, “Whatever they are, they aren’t human!” Thanks Mark, I wasn’t able to figure that out. As they escape, Janet runs around screaming and flailing, making Olive Oil look dignified, manages to get herself caught in a bear trap. Wait, why the hell is there a bear trap randomly placed there. Did I say bear? I mean’t nimrod trap.

Meanwhile, George is trying to seduce Evelyn, even while Michael is in the room (which I’m sure seeing random dudes grind on his mom is in no way adding to those sexual feelings toward her…). In a disturbing turn of the scene, Michael manages to gain his mother’s attention by finding a cloth, commenting that it smells like death, then showing George how to really seduce a woman as he kisses his mom’s hand all over while staring right into George’s eyes as if saying, “Yeah punk, let me show you how it’s done. I know what my mom likes!” I can’t believe I had to write that. This movie is making me feel ill.

Luckily before things go any further and turns into some weird fetish films, the zombies attack, killing George leaving Evelyn and Michael to defend themselves by throwing paint on the zombies and setting them on fire. James and Leslie, the other couple (sorry, that’s the best description I have for them) manage to save them in time, as they also previously saved Mark and Janet. They group takes shelter inside the house, with what looks like very helpful stage direction from a zombie who points for them to run in a certain direction. Finally inside with the butler and maid, Nicholas and Kathleen, they decide it’s best to check out the rest of the house to make sure it’s safe. Mark heroically volunteers defenseless Kathleen to go search the entire house by herself. Sorry lady, but we can’t spare any of these several people sitting around. After searching the house for a bit, Kathleen finds an open window to close on the second floor, but that doesn’t stop these zombies. These zombies are ninja like experts with their precise accuracy as one throws a tent spike right into her hand, pinning her in her spot and leaving them time to slowly cut off her head with a scythe, making this what could be the best zombie kill in a movie.

bg_4These zombies may look laughably stupid, but they know how to organize. Arming themselves with weapons from a nearby and conveniently placed tool shed, they march to the front door and begin smashing on it with tools. However James, who inexplicably now has a shotgun, starts blowing their heads off from an open window. Even these zombies aren’t that stupid, as after about a dozen of them have their brains reduced to mush, they begin to retreat. The group feels they are now safe for the night and Leslie heads off to find some bandages for Janet’s wounded leg, only to be jumped from a zombie outside as she passes a window, who uses a broken shard of glass to push through her brain. This calls for all the other zombies to infiltrate like a SWAT team and attack helpless Janet in a scene that feels like it goes on forever, until the others reappear and fight back.

That was pretty tense! I think everyone needs a break. As they all sit around and rest up, Michael uses this time to make a move on his mom by kissing her and groping, adding a whole new definition to breastfeeding, which she sickly seems to be going with, but snaps out of it and slaps him across the face and immediately apologizes. Yeah this kid is gonna be messed up for the rest of his life, which coincidentally isn’t too much longer. He darts off only to have his arm devoured by a zombie Leslie, who I thought had glass stabbed through her brain (but, how did she turn if she wasn’t bit?). Evelyn finds the now dead Michael and bashes zombie Leslie’s head up against a bathtub, leaking all kinds of grossly colored juices.

No time for mourning your weirdo son, lady. The zombies have made a homemade battering ram (holy moly, they are resourceful) and have broken down the door! If only they were really slow moving and weak, then maybe they would have a chance of escaping… instead the remaining survivors hide until morning when Janet spots what looks like a monk heading inside the tomb. Monks? Sure why not! I’m sure they are down right neighborly and will offer shelter and help or, as it turns out, they are zombies and kill James upon seeing him, who almost immediately rises from the dead.

So what are the qualifications for becoming a zombie in this movie? Do you or don’t you have to get bit? How long does it take? Who cares! Zombies, right?

The final three realize they are locked in the tomb’s… workshed? Yeah, why does this place have a workshed? I guess when monks and the Professor aren’t studying the black arts, they are heavy into home repair. I’m sure a workshed is in no way a setup for the final act and our remaining victim’s fate (wow, I am using a lot of sarcasm in this review). Michael returns as a zombie, with a whole new arm somehow and a nipple bite later, Janet and Mark are being surrounded and being pushed headfirst into saw blades. The movie closes on a freeze frame, telling of a “profecy” of a “nigths” and that’s not a typo on my part.

So the movie ends about as well as you thought it would. With obviously glaring typos over the survivors’ demise.

bg_5If it weren’t for the time that this movie was made, I would have sworn this is a spoof, otherwise there would be no explanation as to how bad things are in this movie. Complaints about some of the terrible and revealing makeup aside (at least during the close ups), these zombies are incredibly slow moving and weak. In order to make them a menace, the characters in this film are written to a point of stupidity so insane, that it is fiction. Nothing anyone does is something anything with a pulse would do. They stand around looking puzzled as zombies slowly shuffle toward them, then while escaping, they run head first into the undead, even though they have plenty of space to run around them. Of course, most zombie films are guilty of this, but here it’s overplayed. Thankfully, it plays for laughs and sheer entertainment. With the exception of Michael, I can’t say anything positive about the other characters. There is simply nothing to them, except to be a meal for the zombies. I’m not expecting deep character development, but literally all of these characters are the same. The guys are all faux masculine and the women just cry. In some sort of sick ironic sense, if it weren’t for Michael, there wouldn’t be any reason to watch these buffoons.

Playful jabs aside, the film isn’t horribly directed. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t consider it to be beautiful like a Mario Bava film or something like Fulci’s The Beyond, but mood is well established and the shots frame everything well to capture what is going on. The soundtrack is… interesting to say the least. It’s no Harry Manfredini score, but it’s odd keyboard ‘pokes’ and tense violin strings do accompany the film extremely well. And the gore. Oh yes, the gore. There is more than enough here to satisfy any like minded horror fan as these poor chumps are ripped apart and have their guts devoured, body parts torn or cut off and even the zombies themselves get their head smashed to bits. Also, I know I joked about some of the makeup looking pretty bad and it can be, but there are some good looking zombies thrown in, complete with maggot covered faces and all. And I do have to say, it’s refreshing to see zombies use some tools for a change and instead of mindlessly lumbering around, these zombies actually had something of a plan and did what they could to do it. I was often reminded of the first zombie encountered in Night of the Living Dead who uses a brick. There are very few breaks in between the carnage for you to sit back and relax, as something is always out to get you. Even the dubbing is fitting for the film. It’s as atrocious as you would expect (especially Peter Bark’s voice over) from an Italiansploitation film, yet it somehow fits into all of this.

Ever hear the phrase ‘so bad it’s good?’ Well, this is what the are referring to when they say that. This is a movie that by all accounts (the special effects, acting, directing, etc.) should be a bad film, but it isn’t. Everything that is bad is what makes this film good. Laying beneath its serious demeanor is a smirk of devilish charm, a film that is (or at least it must be) self aware and having some fun with you. Underneath all the layers of cheese is a delicious blend of fun and hokiness. Burial Ground is what I consider to be the definitive example of the Italian zombie genre of the 80’s. It’s not revered as a classic in the way that George Romero’s earlier zombie flicks are, but the film is looked as a classic in terms of what to expect from an exploitation film of this genre.

Burial Ground
I really could go on forever about Burial Ground, but I think it’s easiest, and probably the best, to say you need to see it. I don’t think you can consider yourself to be a zombie fan or Italian film fan until you do.

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • ZZ Top devoured.
  • Michael.
  • Sexy sexiness sex.
  • Bear trap troubles.
  • Maid decap attack.
  • Better Home and Garden, zombie edition.
  • Mother lover.
  • Home improvement, monk edition.
totals

10

blood

BLOOD

Guts are eaten, heads are cut off, limbs are devoured, flesh is rotten… has the world gone mad!?

7

blood

BREASTS

Lots of nudity and sex… and the most uncomfortable breastfeeding.

5

beast

BEASTS

Slow moving, but not entirely braindead.

7.3 OVERALL
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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 >>



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