Monday, October 31, 2011

The Halloween remake is a horror

Halloween (2007)
Starring: Scout Taylor-Compton, Malcom McDowell, Tyler Mane, Daeg Faerch, and Brad Dourif
Director: Rob Zombie
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

Michael Myers comes home for a "re-imagining" of his classic beginnings. Fans of the original film are going to wish he stayed away.


This sorry prequel/remake goes wrong almost immediately. It spends a great deal of time "humanizing" Michael Myers, showing us his awful childhood with an awfully cliched bad family with members who spout awfully bad dialogue. (In fact, there's barely a decent line of dialogue in the film, except perhaps those uttered by good old Dr. Loomis (played here by Malcolm McDowell, in the only performance that measures up to the original cast).

Why the filmmakers thought that Michael Myers needed to be given a reason to kill other than "he's an evil homicidal maniac" I'll never know. The first quarter of the movie is dedicated to undermining the otherworldly monstrousness that Michael Myers embodied in the original "Halloween" flicks, presenting him as a character that we should feel sympathy for. What's more, once the killing starts, we the viewers are put in the awkward position of feeling obligated to root for the bad guy because he's lashing out at those who made his life hell.

The filmmakers even decided they had to give a lame tie-in to Michael Myers childhood for his signature mask instead of the accidental origin that was presented in the original.

If you do rent this film, don't make the mistake I did: It does NOT get better once the "he was just a poor widdle boy who lost his way" crap is behind us. There are a few "boo" scares, the splatter is well done, and the cinematography is impressive, but the awful dialogue gets even worse and several of the murders are so drawn out that they become boring. In balance, the last hour-and-a-half or so of the movie is even WORSE than the beginning.

I should have trusted my instincts. I KNEW this was going to be another crappy remake of a great John Carpenter film, and I was absolutely right.

I never imagined in my worst nightmares that it would make me wish I was watching "House of 1,000 Corpses", however.

I should have saved my time and money, and I strongly encourage you to not make the same mistake I did. The ONLY good thing about it is Malcolm McDowell... and he is simply not enough to make this a worthwhile movie.

Countdown to Halloween with Vampirella

There's No Time Left...


By Michael Kaluta

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday Scream Queen: Eliza Dushku


Born in 1980, Eliza Dushku made her film debut at age 12, and she has been busy ever since. As the world was panicking over Y2K, Dushku successfully made the transition from child actress to simply actress with leading and supporting roles in a variety of television series and films, with an emphasis on dark thrillers and horror.

Aside from playing then popular bad-girl vampire hunter Faith on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel," and starring roles in the short-lived series series "Tru Calling" and "Doll House," Dushku has been featured in hakf a dozannumehorror films, such as "Soul Survivor", "Wrong Turn", "Locked In", and "Open Graves". Dushku has also leant her distinctive voice to numerous computer games and animated features, most recently voicing Catwoman in the "Batman: Year One" animated feature.

Dushku has several projects in various stages of development, with the most prominent of these being slated part in "Ghostbusters III".

Friday, October 28, 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

'Goregoyles 2' has something for all horror fans

Goregoyles 2 (2007)
Starring: Marco Calliari, Sebastien Croteau, Martin Dubriell, Eric Therrien, and Chantrel Petrin ("Clean" segment); John Muggleton, Tara MacKenzie, Ryan Greenacre, Brett Kelly, and Mark Singleton ("The Walkers" segment); Eric Therrien, Isabelle Stephen, and Sylvain Dinelle (Host segments)
Directors: Alexandre Michaud and Nigel Finlayson
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

"Goregoyles 2" is Canadian director/producer Alexandre Michaud's follow-up to "Goregoyles: First Cut", and, like its predecessor, it's an anthology film.

While there's nothing that quite reaches the high-points of the best parts of the original "Goregoyles", there's also nothing here that's as mind-crushingly awful as the original's low-points. The quality level is consistent across all the parts that make up this package.

Another noteworthy thing here is that the directors responsible for the content here obviously have a sense of how to make a low-budget film. In the case of Michaud, he knows that when making a splatter-fest (which is the best way to describe his contribution here), the budget needs to be spent on making the blood and guts look good.. but he also knows that he doesn't have the money (or maybe even access to the technical know-how) to make truly complicated gore effects look good, so he knows to not let the camera dwell upon them. Even better, neither film overreaches the limitations of the modest budgets they were made within. That alone makes the efforts praiseworthy, and it shows that Michaud and Miles Finlayson understand how to work with limited budgets. That puts them in a class that 90 percent of horror filmmakers out should aspire to being in... and that 90 percent would be well-served to use the work here as a model for their own.

"Goregoyles 2" consists of two short features and introductory host segments. The DVD I screened also contained an interview with directors Michaud and Finlayson. I'll address each part in turn, assign a rating to each, which in the end averages out to the Seven-star rating I've given the entire package.

First, the host segments. Like in Michaud's first anthology film, each part of "Goregoyles" is introduced by a Crypt Keeper-like host. Here it's Uncle Vicious (Therrien), and he offers general comments on each upcoming film while showing off his sadistic sexual tendencies. These are servicable, if tacky, bits of film, although I liked the wittier, more informative introductions from the original "Goregoyles". The best part here was the "Farewell from Uncle Vicious" segment where Therrien (joined by Michaud and the boom-mike operator) demolish the set while Isabelle Stephen go-go dances topless in the background to blaring hard rock. I only wish the other segments had been so amusing. Still, they were okay, so the host segments get a rating of Six Stars.

The first film in the package is "Clean". It's a strange, gory picture that stars Marco Calliari as Crane, a brutal murderer who has hooked up with other sexual psychopaths through an Internet chat room, and has been invited to their once-a-year, face-to-face gathering. Like the rest of them, he's there for the beer and brutal slayings... but he has a different sort of victims in mind than his fellow "hobbyists." The hunters become the hunted as Crane sets out to wipe the slate clean.


Although "Clean" is the sort of movie I usually give low marks to (if I bother reviewing it at all)--it's full of horrible violence and gore, hateful characters, and utterly humorless--I actually like this one. Unlike the ever-growing wave of movies that feature violence and brutality for no reason other than to feature violence and brutality (all the various "Saw" imitators), "Clean" doesn't attempt to make the violence look sexy, nor does it attempt to entertain the viewer with it. Here, the violence is presented as horrible and ugly, and anyone but people like the characters who have gathered to watch a female captive (Petrin) to be tortured to death will almost certainly have to avert their eyes as it unfolds on screen. (I certainly couldn't watch as Joe--played with perfect hideouslness by Sebastien Croteau--sliced the poor girl with a razorblade and then poured salt and Tabasco sauce into her open wounds.)

The people who commit the heinous acts aren't at all glamorous or witty... they are utterly repulsive, reprehensible and boorish, including our "hero", Crane. I thought "Clean" is an excellent response to the wave of "torture porn" films that will, hopefully, soon crest, crash on the shore, and retreat; it's well past the time for another fad to take hold in the horror genre. Well-paced and well-acted, I give this film a Six Star rating.

The second film presented is "The Walkers". It tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. Walker (Greenacre and MacKenzie), a sociopathic married couple and would-be "Bonnie and Clyde" who get lost in a trackless Canadian forest along with two police officers (Muggleton and Kelly) who are pursuing them. The four of them spend a week in the wilderness, struggling to survive, until stress and fear drives all of them mad.

"The Walkers" is the best part of "Goregoyles 2". It's a smart horror movie that's imbued with a sense of oppression, dispair and growing anxiety throughout, and which is driven by a well-written script and some good acting on the part of the featured players. John Muggleton is particularly good as the jaded cop who finds himself stripped of a very important last hope while attempting to find his way out of the forest.

The violence in this film is sparse, so gorehounds who grooved on the level of splatter and guts that was featured in "Clean" may be dissapointed in "The Walkers". However, what violence that we do get is shocking and impactful, so those who like their horror movies with more substance than gore will appreciate this second feature far more than the first. In fact, "Goregoyles 2" covers both ends of the horror movie spectrum under one banner, ranging from a nearly pure blood-and-guts splatter-fest to an almost violence-free psychological horror film. "The Walkers" gets Seven Stars, and I hope to come across other work by Miles Finlayson in the future.

Finally, the DVD contains a discussion between directors Miles Finlayson and Alexandre Michaud as they kill a few beers. Like the interviews on the original "Goregoyles" DVD, this is an interesting bit of film that gives the viewer insight into the process of not only making the film at hand, but also revisits "Goregoyle: First Cut" and Michaud's notorious underground film "Urban Flesh". It's something that aspiring filmmakers in particular would do well to watch. This "DVD Extra" gets a Six Star rating as well.

With the range that is covered genre-wise in "Goregoyles 2", I think any horror fan will find something to like here. And I particuarly recommend this anthology film for those horror fans out there who think they can make their own movie. Goregoyles 2 Directors: Alexandre Michaud and Miles Finlayson.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Countdown to Halloween with Vampirella

There are Nine Days Left....

By Enrique Torres

Saturday Scream Queen: Brooke Adams

Born and raised in New York City, Brooke Adams started acting professionally in theatre productions while still a child and graduated from New York's High School for the Performing Arts and the School of the American Ballet. As an adult, she broke into film, and has appeared in film and TV programs of just about every genre, although horror and thrillers, mostly low-budget, have been the mainstay of her career.

Among her notable horror films are starring turns in "Song of the Succubs", "Shock Waves" and the first remake of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" during the 1970s; "The Dead Zone" and "Haunted" during the 1980s; and "The Unbord", "Sometimes They Come Back" and "Probably Cause" during the 1990s.

Noteworthy small horror parts include a role in of the best of the Black Dahlia movies "Who Was the Black Dahlia" and a tiny but fun appearance in "The Stuff".

Adams married actor Tony Shaloub in 1992, and after the birth of the second child in 1993, she increasingly shifted her attention to the stage, although she has continued to appear in small film and television roles. She appeared as three different characters during the seven year run of the television series "Monk", which starred her husband, and she will next be seen in 2012 in the big-screen docu-drama "Hemingway & Gellhorn", which will star Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman as the title characters.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Adventures of Kharis the Mummy

While the 1932 film "The Mummy remains the best mummy picture ever made, it was the Universal low-budget quickies of the 1940s that actually solidified the idea of the shambling, bandage-wrapped mummy that dominates pop culture and Halloween spook houses today. This post covers those four genere-shaping films.

The Mummy's Hand (1940)
Starring: Dick Foran, Wallace Ford, Peggy Moran, George Zucco, and Tim Tyler
Director: Christy Cabanne
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

A pair of hard-luck Egyptologists (Foran and Ford) discover the location of the long lost tomb of Princess Ananka. Unfortunately for them, an evil cult leader (Zucco) controls the immortal, tomb-guarding, tanna leaf-tea slurping mummy Kharis, and he's hot afraid to use him to keep the secret of the tomb.


More of an adventure flick with a heavy dose of lowbrow comedy than a horror film, "The Mummy's Hand" isn't even a proper sequel to the classy 1932 "The Mummy."

This movie (and the three sequels that follow) are completely unrelated to the original film, despite the copious use of stock footage from it. The most obvious differences are that the mummy here is named Kharis, as opposed to Imhotep, and has a different backstory. Then, there's the fact he's a mindless creature who goes around strangling people at the bidding of a pagan priest where Imhotep was very much his own man and did his killing with dark magics without ever laying a hand on his victims.

If one recognizes that this film shares nothing in common with the Boris Karloff film (except that they were both released by the same studio), "The Mummy's Hand" is a rather nice bit of fluff. It's also the first film to feature the real Universal Studios mummy, as Imhotep was an intelligent, scheming, and more-or-less natural looking man, not a mute, mind-addled, bandaged-wrapped, cripple like Kharis.


The Mummy's Tomb (1942)
Starring: Wallace Ford, Turhan Bey, John Hubbard, George Zucco, Dick Foran, Isobel Evans and Lon Chaney Jr.
Director: Harold Young
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

Thirty years after the events of "The Mummy's Hand, the High Priest of Karnak from the last film (Zucco), who, despite being shot four times and pointblank range and tumbling down a very long flight of stairs, survived to be an old man. He passes the mantle onto a younger man (Bey) and dispatches him to America with Kharis the Mummy (Chaney), who survived getting burned to a crisp at the end of the last movie, to slay those who dared loot the tomb of Princess Anankha. (Better late than never, eh?)


Take the plot of "The Mummy's Hand" (complete with a villain who has the exact same foibles as the one from the first movie), remove any sense of humor and adventure, toss in about ten minutes of recap to pad it up to about 70 minutes in length, add a climax complete with torch-weilding villagers and a mummy who is just too damn dumb to continue his undead existence, and you've got "The Mummy's Tomb."

Made with no concern for consistency (Ford's character changes names from Jenson to Hanson, the fashions worn in "The Mummy's Hand" implid it took place in the late 30s, or even in the year it was filmed, and yet "thirty years later" is clearly during World War II... and let's not even talk about how the mummy and Zucco's character survived) or orginality (why write a whole new script when we can just have the bad guys do the exact same things they did last movie?), this film made with less care than the majority of B-movies.

Turhan Bey and Wallace Ford have a couple of good moments in this film, but they are surrounded by canned hash and complete junk.


The Mummy's Ghost (1944)
Starring: John Carradine, Ramsey Ames, Robert Lowery, George Zucco, and Lon Chaney Jr
Director: Reginald Le Borg
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

Modern day priests of ancient Egyptian gods (Zucco and Carradine) undertake a mission to retrieve the cursed mummy of Princess Ananka from the American museum where she's been kept for the past 30 years. Unfortunately, they discover that the archeologists who stole her away from Egypt broke the spell that kept her soul trapped in the mummy and that she has been reincarnated in America as the beautiful Amina (Ames).


"The Mummy's Ghost" starts out strong. In fact, it starts so strong that, despite the fact that the priests who must be laughing stock of evil cult set were back with pretty much the exact same scheme for the third time (go to America and send Kharis the Mummy stumbling around to do stuff, that it looked like the filmmakers may have found their way back to the qualities that made "The Mummy" such a cool picture.

Despite a really obnoxious love interest for Amina (played with nails-on-a-chalkboard-level of obnoxiousness by Robert Lowery) and a complete ressurection of Kharis (boiling tannith leaves now apparently reconstitutes AND summons a mummy that was burned to ashes in a house-fire during "The Mummy's Tomb"), and a number of glaring continuity errors with the preceeding films (the cult devoted to Ananka and Kharis has changed their name... perhaps because they HAD become the laughing stock among the other evil cults), the film is actually pretty good for about half its running time. The plight of and growing threat toward Amina lays a great foundation.

And then it takes a sharp nosedive into crappiness where it keeps burrowing downward in search of the bottom.

The cool idea that the film started with (Ananka's cursed soul has escaped into the body of a living person... and that person must now be destroyed to maintain the curse of the gods) withers away with yet another replay of the evil priest deciding he wants to do the horizontal mambo for all enternity with the lovely female lead. The idea is further demolished by a nonsensical ending where the curses of Egypt's ancient gods lash out in the modern world, at a very badly chosen target. I can't go into details without spoiling that ending, but it left such a bad taste in my mouth, and it's such a complete destruction of the cool set-up that started the film, that the final minute costs "The Mummy's Ghost" a full Star all by itself.



The Mummy's Curse (1944)
Starring: Peter Coe, Lon Chaney Jr, Kay Harding, Dennis Moore, Virginia Christine and Kurt Katch
Director: Leslie Goodwins
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

A contruction project in Louisiana's bayou uncovers not only the mummy Kharis (Chaney), but also the cursed princess Ananka (Christine). Pagan priests from Egypt arrive to take control of both. Mummy-induced violence and mayhem in Cajun Country follow.



What happens when you make a direct sequel where no one involved cares one whit about keeping continuity with previous films? You get "The Mummy's Curse"!

For the previous entries in this series, Kharis was shambling around a New England college town, yet he's dug up in Lousiana. (He DID sink into a swamp at the end of "The Mummy's Ghost", but that swamp was hundreds of miles north of where he's found in this film.)

He also supposedly has been in the swamp for 25 years. For those keeping score, that would make this a futuristic sci-fi film with a setting of 1967, because the two previous films took place in 1942. (And that's being generous. I'm assuming "The Mummy's Hand" took place in 1912, despite the fact that all clothing and other signifiers imply late 30s early 40s.) Yet, there's nothing in the film to indicate that the filmmakers intended to make a sci-fi movie.

And then there's Ananka. Why is she back, given her fate in "The Mummy's Ghost"? There's absolutely no logical reason for it. Her ressurection scene is very creepy, as is the whole "solar battery" aspect of the character here, but it is completely inconsistant with anything that's gone before. And she's being played by a different actress--but I suppose 25 years buried in a swamp will change anyone.

There's little doubt that if anyone even bothered to glance at previous films for the series, no one cared.

Some things the film does right: It doesn't have the Egyptian priests replay exactly the same stuff they've done in previous films for the fourth time (although they are still utter idiots about how they execute their mission), it manages for the first time to actually bring some real horror to the table--Kharis manages to be scary in this film, and I've already mentioned Ananka's creep-factor--and they bring back the "mummy shuffling" music from "The Mummy's Ghost" which is actually a pretty good little theme. But the utter disregard for everything that's happened in other installments of the series overwhelm and cancel out the good parts.

"The Mummy's Curse" should not have been slapped into the "Kharis" series. If it had been made as a stand-alone horror film, it could have been a Six-Star movie. As it is, this just comes across as a shoddy bit of movie making where I can only assume that anything decent is more by accident than design.



Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Saturday Scream Queen: Suzanne Kaaren


Born in New York in 1912, Suzanne Kaaren was an accomplished high school athlete whose beauty so blossomed at a young age that she was offered the opportunity to join the Zeigfeld Follies at the age of 15. Her parents forbade her from pursuing the opportunity, just as they blocked her from an opportunity to compete in the 1930 Olympic Games.

Despite what seems to be the best efforts of her parents, Kareen turned to professional modeling, dancing and acting. Starting with local theater companies, she quickly rose through the theatrical ranks, and she was one of the original Rockettes and performed on stage when when Radio City Music Hall opened in 1932.

By the end of 1933, Kaaren had left New York City for Hollywood, and worked under contract for Fox and MGM, and also appeared in films from RKO, and famed low-budget movie factories Monogram Pictures and PRC.

Kaaren's film career never quite took off, and she was cast in mostly in small roles and more for exotic looks and shapely legs than for her skills as an actress. She appeared in numerous comedies and westerns, but is best remembered today for appearing in two Three Stooges films--"Disorder in the Court" and "What Matador?", and for her leading role in one of Bela Lugosi's best pictures--"The Devil Bat" from PRC. That one role, in that very fun movie, is remarkable enough to give her a place in this series.

Kaaren retired from film acting in 1944 and moved back to New York to focus on her family and raising her two children. She passed away in 2004.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Countdown to Halloween with Vampirella

There are 17 Days Left....
By J. Scott Campbell

(Yes... that IS Vampirella, as she appeared in the "Vampi" series from the late 1990s (Or early 2000s? I rightly don't recall anymore). In it, publisher Harris Comics and the writers/artists of Anarchy Studios transported her to a dark future where she was a manga character rock star who wielded dual machine guns and the big-ass swords she's posing with above. It wasn't bad for the first six or so issues, but it quickly got boring as a thin story was stretched waaaaaaaaaaay too long. Rather like just about any comic book you care to mention these days. What happened? Did people forget how to make good comics, are they fixated on graphic novel collections, or are they just too lazy to write and draw exciting, content-rich stories?)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Complete Devil Bat

During the 1930s and 1940s, PRC specialized in cranking out low-budget quickie genre pictures. Among the best of their efforts was the Bela Lugosi vehicle "The Devil Bat." It was followed by a misguided sequel, and I cover them both in this article. They might make a nice pair of movies to show at a Halloween party.


The Devil Bat (aka "Killer Bats") (1942)
Starring: Bela Lugosi, Dave O'Brien, Suzanne Kaaren, and Donald Kerr
Director: Jean Yarborough
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

Everyone loves the ever-smiling chemist Dr. Paul Carruthers (Lugosi), especially the investors in the cosmetics company he's been creating best-selling colognes and perfumes for. When the company owners make what they feel is a nice gesture to reward Carruthers' many years of service, he feels like he's been insulted and he decides to kill his bosses and their entire family. Revealing that he's as talented a mad scientist as he is a chemist, Carruthers transforms otherwise harmless bats into giant hunter-killers that hone in on a special cologne that he's given to his victims for "testing." Will Carruthers get away with his bloody schemes, or will a lazy tabloid reporter (O'Brien) and his photographer (Kerr) manage to stumble their way to the truth?

Bela Lugosi in The Killer Bats
That's a long summary, but "The Devil Bat" is pretty convoluted. In fact, it's so convoluted that it's one of those films that you need to just watch without thinking too hard, particularly when it comes to Paul Carruthers, his killer bats, and his rambler house with its secret Mad Scientiest Lab and tower for convenient bat launches.

The film's got a decent cast (with Lugosi being particularly fun to watch) a story with plenty of humor (both intentional and unintentional), and a pace that is just fast enough to keep the viewers interested. It's by no means a masterpiece, and its low, low budget is painfully visible in some of the sets (although the bat effects are better than I expected), but it's a fun bit of viewing if you enjoy Bela Lugosi and the nonsense breed of plup fiction-style sci-fi/horror flicks that filled the B-feature slots at movie houses in the 30s and 40s.

By the way, I highly recommend getting the DVD version of the film that I've linked to below. Not because I recommend watching colorized classics, but because I think it's fascinating to compare a colorized version with the black-and-white version. Invariably, you will discover that colorizing saps a film of life rather than enhances it. (I used to think that it was only dramas that were ruined by colorization. Then I picked up the disc containing both the colorized version and original version of "My Man Godfrey." Actually, watching both versions close together changed my mind completely.)



Devil Bat's Daughter (1946)
Starring: Rosemary La Planche, Michael Hale, Nolan Leary, Monica Mars, Molly Lamont, and John James
Director: Frank Wisbar
Rating: Four of Five Stars

Nina (La Planche) driven to a mental breakdown when she learns her dead father was not only a murderer but may have also been a vampire, is placed in the care of manipulative psychiatrist Dr. Morris (Hale). When his wife (Lamont) is murdered, everyone--including Nina herself--believes she did it in a fit of madness... everyone except handsome Ted Masters, the dead woman's son who has fallen in love with Nina. He sets out to prove Nina's innocence and that his step-father is the killer.


Taken on its own, "Devil Bat's Daughter" is an okay little horror flick that suffers from stiff acting, clunky dialogue, and strange story continuity lapses (such as a continuing back-and-forth about whether the "Devil Bat" of the title--a local mad scientist who either came to a bad end at the fangs of his own monstrous creations but only after they killed half a dozen others, or who was put on trial for murder and presumably executed). The majority of the story elements are familiar elements of horror movies and thrillers of this vintage--a woman shocked into amnesia, a corrupt psychiatrist who may or may not be abusing his patients, and a bland hero whose only defining quality is that he is in love-at-first-sight with the imperiled heroine--there are a number of other factors that make this an unusual film and worth checking out.

The primary of these is the sympathetic portrayal of the "other woman" with whom the slimy psychiatrist is two-timing the wife he obviously only married for money. Rather than being a coldhearted and scheming bitch who is every bit the villain that he is, she is another victim of his manipulations, and she ultimately comes across as remorseful. Almost as important is the titular character, who, although little more than a conduit for melodrama, is also the pivot-point for enough plot substance that there are genuine questions in the minds of viewers that she might indeed be an unhinged, murdering somnambulist. This is all too rare in pictures of this production level and period, where plot misdirection and obfuscation usually feel halfhearted and are often painfully transparent. Screenwriter Griffin Jay and director Frank Wisbar truly rose above the standard for this kind of movie in this case.


Unfortunately, the film is less successful as a sequel to the original "Devil Bat" picture. While I admittedly might be a bit more of a stickler for continuity than many movie viewers, I still think anyone who saw "The Devil Bat" would wonder how/why the small town that was home to Paul Carruthers moved from the American Midwest to the East Coast, or why everyone from the town gossipers to the courts seem to have forgotten that Carruthers confessed to committing several premeditated murders using a trained bat before being killed by said bat in front of witnesses, or how Carruthers somehow transformed in everyone's mind from a well-respected local chemist and pillar of the community who secretly dabbling in bizarre experiments with growth acceleration through electrical glandular manipulation to a researcher who relocated to the town to work in peace and quiet on his mad science projects. The only details about Carruthers and his "devil bat" that remains consistent from the original film to this one is that he was the final victim of his own monster.

Why the creators of "Devil Bat's Daughter" chose to virtually ignore the story of the original film in favor of making Paul Carruthers the center of vampire legends and recasting him as a misunderstood genius instead of a raving madman is a mystery to me. Perhaps they were trying to convey that the entire town was shocked into a state of amnesia and dissasociation like Nina was over the revelations surrounding Paul Carruthers: Everyone in the small town of Heathville forgot who they were, where their town was located, and everything that really happened, and they filled in the blanks with details that seemed more logical to them than what had actually happened.

The film would have been much stronger if they'd remained consistent with the original, as Nina's madness and apparent homicidal mania could have been inherited from her crazy father; the writers could even have kept their goofy "ah-yup, dem townies shurly do believe that ole Doc Carruthers wuz a vampire, yup dey sure do" stuff as the trigger for her mental breakdown. Instead, they created a film that is undermined every time it invokes the original movie with distortions and revisions of that films most basic plot points and background elements.

And that's a shame, because their sloppy and arbitrary story telling manages to ruin what might otherwise have been a decent film.




Monday, October 10, 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The MonaLisa Twins at Hotel California

In this post at Shades of Gray, I lamented the fact that I'd not see a good video for "Hotel California." It's a spooky song that BEGS for a great video treatment, yet no one has done one.

That said, teenaged Austrian sister-act the MonaLisa Twins has covered the Eagles classic AND been featured in a good video for it. It's still not the spooky mini-horror flick this song needs, but it's a good clip for a good cover of a great song.



Saturday, October 8, 2011

Countdown to Halloween with Vampirella

There are 23 Days Left....


By Mike Mayhew 

(Be nice... you don't want Vampirella gunning for you!)

Saturday Scream Queen: Denice Duff


Denice Duff started her acting career in 1990 after winning a contest held by talent agent Jay Bernstein, a contest she hadn't even considered entering until the judges encouraged her to do so.

After minor roles on television series like "Matlock" and "Northern Exposure", Duff was cast as the reluctant vampire Michelle in "Subspecies II" after the actress who originated the role did not come back for the sequels. She would play the part in two additional films, and she became so thoroughly associated with the part that few even remember that she was a replacement, and everyone agrees that she was a key element in one of the best series of vampire films ever produced.

Aside from "Subspecies", Duff is best known for a recurring role on soap opera "The Young and the Restless" during the years 2001 - 2002, and as a talented and sought-after celebrity photographer.

Although acting is no longer her main vocation, and she stepped away from the horror genre for a time after the "Subspecies 4", Duff came back to chillers starting with "Dr. Rage" in 2005. Earlier this year, she completed the soon-to-be-released thriller "Codex" and will also be appearing "Night of the Living Dead 3D: Re-Animation" along with a cast that is a vertible who's who if 1990s horror luminaries.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fear-filled Phantasms: Monsters Need Maidens!

Pin-up style paintings of cuties and creatures
by Fastner & Larson.




Thursday, October 6, 2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Low-budget but impressive,
'Bio-Slime' delivers goopy scares

Bio-Slime (aka "Contagion") (2010)
Starring: Vinnie Bilancio, Ronnie Lewis, Victoria De Mare, Kelli Kaye, Micol Bartolucci, Magic Ellingson, Gia Paloma, and Ron Fitzgerald
Director: John Lechago
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

Troy (Bilanco), a down-and-out artist whose talent has been drained away by alcoholism finds himself stalked by a mysterious slime-monster that is absorbing into its mass the occupants of the ramshackle building housing his small studio. Trapped with his agent (Lewis), a few friends (Ellingson, Kaye, and Paloma) and a porn actress from the film studio next door (De Mare), Troy has to find a way to defeat the creature before they all literally become one body and mind.


With a little nip and a tiny tuck here and there to get rid of some bare breasts, "Bio-Slime" is the sort of movie you might find on the SyFy Channel with a "SyFy Channel Original" logo slapped before the opening credits. I'm not saying that to insult the film, but to praise it, because I suspect that John Lachago made this self-funded, self-produced film for a fraction of what those movies are made for... and his end product was as good as most of them, and even better in the effects department.

And those creature effects are the real star in this film. Most of the characters really serve no purpose other than to be monster chow, each suffering a dire, disgusting, and wholly unique fate at the pseudo-pods and tentacles of the slime-monster. All the creature effects, with the exception of a few of the tentacles, were practical effects--make-up, puppetry, and cinematography tricks. And they look great, far better than even some of the computer-generated effects in recent films with budgets 100 or 1,000 times what "Bio-Slime" was made on.

This is a movie that shows that the old methods of making movies are still perfectly adequate--and even superior--to hi-tech wizardry when those time-tested tools are being wielded by talented and skilled artisans like Lechago and his special effects make-up artist Tom Devlin. Devlin and Lechago also worked together on "Killjoy 3", so they obviously make a good team. Here's hoping I see more from them in the future.

I should probably mention that while very little character development takes place in "Bio-Slime", that's not to say there isn't a fully fleshed-out story here. Not only do we get hints of what sort of life the main characters have led beyond the dingy walls they have been trapped within, but there is a sense of history surrounding the monster as well. It emerges from a hi-tech containment device that is opened by the characters through a mixture of curiosity and outright stupidity, it talks about having a life so long that it can't recall where it came from, and the "prologue" and "epilogue" scenes hint and a story far larger and a threat of a possibly global scale that might visit the terror of the few trapped in Troy's studio to the entire world.

But these hints of a larger story are not presented in the hamfisted "Oooo we're setting up a sequel, kids? See? See?! We're not really giving you a complete story here, because we want you back for Part Two and Part Three!" that has become so annoyingly common over the past 15-20 years since everyone thinks their horror or sci-fi film is the next big trilogy or franchise. No... Lechago has written them into the film in an organic way, so we become curious about what might have happened before the film stars and what comes after the end credits finish their crawl. Any dreams he may harbor of sequels is up to him to discuss, but whether he had them or not, he managed to make the events of "Bio-Slime" feel connected to a much larger world, a world that viewers can't but help be curious about; he has planted his "sequel seed" the right way.

(In fact, Lechago did it SO right that I found myself imaging what could be going on... and the players in my on-again, off-again near-future sci-fi role-playing campaign will be dealing with something "borrowed" from this movie. And I can safely say this here, because none of them bother reading my film reviews, because they get enough of my rants in person.)

In addition to well-done story, the film also benefits tremendously from a nice, very traditional-flavored music score. I didn't really notice the music until the film was building to its climax and Troy was getting ready for his final showdown with the slime-creature, but it had been there previously as well. Michael Sean Colin's score is perfect in every respect, deployed at just the right moments and providing just the right intensity needed, mostly blending perfectly with the events unfolding on screen, but stepping to the fore when appropriate as during the film's climax.

Last, but far from least, the film features a great cast of actors. As I mentioned above, the characters in film are mostly here just to get killed, and there isn't much development that takes place with them. However, we get just enough to let us know the type of character each one of them is... and that type is then brought to seemingly full life through the talent and charisma of the actors playing them. While there might not be a whole lot for each actor to work with, what there is, they handle expertly, and they make us care about relatively shallow characters and to feel horrified as each one of them dies. Lachago matched the right actor with the exact right character, and the results are quite impressive. While I can nitpick some of the dialogue and some of the character interaction, I don't feel so inclined, because the actors gave such enjoyable performances, with Victoria De Mare as the bitchy porn actress and Vinnie Bilancio as the reluctant hero who was hoping to turn over a new leaf and make today the first day in the rest of his life, are particularly good in their parts.



(For a sample of what Lechago is capable of, you can check out "Killjoy 3" from Full Moon Features. Click on the link to read my review at the Charles Band Collection.)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Complete Subspecies

Producer/writer/director Charles Band has put his stamp on nearly 300 horror and sci-fi movies since the late 1970s, but he has yet to top the quality of the "Subspecies" series. These four vampire films were helmed by his frequent 1990s collaborator Ted Nicolaou, and they are not only among the best movies to ever bear Band's famous Full Moon logo, but they are among some of the best vampire movies ever made.


You can read more about Full Moon movies at my other blog "The Charles Band Collection", but I am posting reviews of the Subspecies series here as well, because they are movies that any fan or student of the vampire genre needs to check out. Those of you who enjoy vampire movies with more of a gothic flavor to them than we've seen in recent years will be especially appreciative of the tone and nature of these films. It's a shame it's not been as popular as some of their other creations, such as the Puppet Master films.



Subspecies (1991)
Starring: Laura Mae Tate, Irina Movila, Michelle McBride, Anders Hove, Ivan J. Rado and Michael Watson
Director: Ted Nicolaou
Producer: Ion Ionescu and Charles Band
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Three pretty grad students (McBride, Movila and Tate) working on disertations are in Transylvania to study the local legends and folk customs, only to find themselves in the middle of a vampiric family feud that's been brewing for centuries and that is now reaching it's brutal, bloody finale.


"Subspecies" is one of the better vampire movies to come out of the 1990s, despite the obvious budget constraints it was made under. It's an interesting merging of the hideous monstrosity vampires from the real legends and early movies and the sexy vampire that grew increasingly popular during the second half of the 20th century, reaching the pinnacle of pop culture success by the mid-1990s.

The story feels a tad slow-moving, partly because the film telegraphs where it's going by leading with the vampires and their blood-feud and then cutting to our three soon-to-be damsels in distress--two very cute blonds and an androgynous brunette--for extended sequences as they wander around old castles and a beautiful countryside, broken only by scenes of the very creepy and disgusting vampire Radu (played by Anders Hove, in a fashion that makes Max Schreck's Count Orlock in "Nosferatu" look like a GQ cover model) rising from his coffin. Radu is so vile that you know he's going to be chewing his way through the cast, so you're going to be feeling a bit impatient with the film as it works its way toward the expected carnage.

However, the film is never dull, nor will you likely be tempted to turn it off. The cast are all good actors and they all play their parts well. The camerawork is excellent and the true Romanian settings lends an atmosphere of realism to the film that few modern-day vampire films can muster.

But when it gets going, it delivers vampire material running the gamut. We've got a disgusting, drooling taloned vampire that's a late 20th century take on the "Nosferatu"-style vampire, we've got sexy vampire babes in nightgowns who might have just flitted over from one of Hammer's Dracula movies, and we've got the male model modern vampire hunk love interest of one of the girls (played by Michael Watson, who was a soap-opera star when the "Subspecies" movie were made).

With all of the good things I'm saying about the film, why am I only giving it a Six Rating, you ask? Well, it's because of the inconsistencies and strange logic surrounding the pint-sized monters that are a mainstay of Charles Band-produced films whether they belong or not. Here, the tiny creatures are nasty demons that are created from severed tips of Radu's fingers, but they fail to seem real because of the truly crappy effects used to bring them to life. For example, in all but one scene, no one bothered to trick in shadows under the creatures, so they appear to be floating over the floor instead of walking on it. They look exactly like what they are: Puppets that have been placed in the scenes via special effects, and they ruin almost every scene they're in because of it.

Despite its flaws, "Subspecies" is a vampire movie that has a little something for everyone, including bare breasts. It's a good start for a series that only gets better.



Subspecies II: Bloodstone (1993)
Starring: Denise Duff, Anders Hove, Melanie Shatner, Kevin Spirtas, Michael Denish, Ion Haiduc and Pamela Gordon
Director: Ted Nicolaou
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

Young Michelle (Duff) has recently been turned into a vampire and is on the run from the evil vampire prince Radu (Hove) and his twisted, immortal mother (Gordon). Her sister (Shatner) arrives in Romania hoping to help her, but what can a mere mortal do against an ancient vampire who is not only chasing Michelle because he want to possess her, but also because she has stolen the magical Bloodstone?

"Subspecies II: Bloodstone" is a direct continuation of the original "Subspecies"--it picks up just one single night after the final scene of the first movie--and it's one of those very rare sequels that manages to turn out better than the movie it follows. This is an especially remarkable feat because a near-total cast change has taken place and the film takes some very unexpected directions as far as story goes.


The only actor to return in the sequel is Anders Hove, who repeats his performance as the extremely vile, supremely creepy Radu. Although Radu doesn't actually kill anyone in this film--or even sink his vampiric fangs into a single neck!--he's an even more menacing presense than he was in the first film. He developes a maniacal need to possess Michelle, the mortal woman who was made a vampire by Radu's brother Stefan and he seems to start deluding himself into thinking that she will care for him, partly because he murdered Stefan to gain her as a possession. This insanity makes him even spookier than he was in the first movie.

Radu also seems more creepy because of superior camerawork and lighting present in this film. From beginning to end, there is a consistant mood of dread and darkness in every frame of the film, most of it created with simple lighting techniques and camera angles. (The same is true of a number of low-cost effects that seem to make the vampires beings of living shadows--something that is created through well-considered placement of spotlights and cameras and the result is far more effective than more costly special effects could ever have been. (The one time where there is an animated shadow, it looks cheesy, but every time Radu's arrival or departure is demonstrated with shifting, giant shadows it's very dramatic and cool.)

Aside from the competent camera work and lighting, the film also sports a great soundtrack that is fresh yet still reminicent of the one present in the first film. The featured actors also do an excellent job in their various parts, with Denise Duff being particularly noteworthy for stepping into the role of Michelle quite nicely (even if one has to wonder why they chose to go with her as Michelle when Melanie Shatner, the actress who plays Michelle's sister, bears closer physical resemblence to the actress who played Michelle in the first movie) and Michael Denish for serving as the film's comic relief as a scatter-brained Van Helsing-type scholar.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the film when one considers it was produced by Charles Band's Full Moon Entertainnment is the fact that the film follows continuity from the first film very closely. Even with a near-total cast change and the film shifting in tone from Hammer-style gothic horror to a more modern sensibility, the storyline and all the characters remain consistent. Other Full Moon series, like "Puppet Master" and "Trancers" seem to almost go out of their way to screw up story continuity between the various movies, but writer/director Ted Nicolaou chose to actually pay attention to what he'd done before and remain consistent with it even though he took the story in a very different direction than the ending of "Subspecies" seemed to be leading toward.





Subspecies III: Bloodlust (1993)
Starring: Anders Hove, Denice Duff, Melanie Shatner, Kevin Spirtas, Ion Haiduc and Pamela Gordon
Director: Ted Nicolaou
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

After failing to rescue her sister from the clutches of the evil vampire prince Radu (Hove), Becky (Shatner) enlists the help of a young American diplomat (Spirtas) and a frustrated Romanian police detective (Haiduc) to stage a raid on Castle Vladislav. Meanwhile, Radu is educating the fledgling vampire Michelle (Duff) in how to use her new supernatural powers while attempting to corrupt her soul in order to make her is vampire bride in body as well as spirit.

"Subspecies III: Bloodlust" picks up at the ending of the previous film, seamlessly continuing the storyline of Michella, Radu, and the fearless (but hapless) vampire hunters led by Michelle's sister Becky. Characters who had minor roles in the previous film take the spotlight in this one and they launch a concerted and believable (once one buys into the idea that vampires and witches exist) effort to bring down the vampires.


Once again, the cast all give admirable performances, with Anders Hove making Radu even more disgusting in this installment than he had been in the previous ones. At the same time, however, he manages to evoke some degree of sympathy in the viewer as well. (He's a hideous, murdering monster who has more than just a few screws loose, but the love he has developed for Michelle--however twisted--and the pain it is causing him that she doesn't love him back gives the character a dimension that both makes him increasingly creepy but also gives the viewer something to relate to.)

In some areas, this film continues the trajectory started with the first "Subspecies" sequel, increasing the quality of the film instead of decreasing it as is the usual pattern when it comes to sequels. In other areas, the film holds its own quite nicely, and the end result is a film that will provide a satisfying viewing experience for lovers fo vampire movies of all stripes.

The script for this installment of the series is the best so far. I've already touched upon the great performances given by Anders Hove and Denice Duff, performances that wouldn't have been possible if they hadn't been provided with a great script as their starting point. The scripts quality is also manifested in the comic relief character of Lt. Marin (portrayed by Ion Haiduc), who has scenes that manage to inspire laughter on the heels of, or even during, some of the film's most intense and scary moments. The only complaint I have with the script is that I would have liked to have been given a bit more of a solid ending, but what we have isn't decent enough so that's a minor complaint.

The film isn't as impressive in the photography and lighting area as its predecessor was, with many of the shadow and transformation effects being acheived with animation or composite shots instead of simple lighting and camera tricks. The overall look of the film also isn't quite as dramatic as "Subspecies II", but it's still far beyond the average low-budget horror film and it is still good enough to place this film among the best movies to ever emerge from the Full Moon film factory. It is without a doubt evidence that the Golden Age for Charles Band and his Full Moon label was in the early 1990s. (Band may yet rediscover how to mount productions as impressive as this one, but nothing he has produced in recent years even comes close.)

"Subspecies III: Bloodlust" is one of the very best vampire films ever made. It should be on the "must-see" list of any serious fan or student of genre.



Subspecies 4: Bloodstorm (1998)
Starring: Denice Duff, Anders Hove, Floriela Grappini, Jonathon Morris, Mihai Dinvale, Ion Haiduc, and Ioana Abur
Director: Ted Nicolaou
Producers: Charles Band, Kirk Edward Hansen, and Vlad Paunescu
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Free of her master Radu (Hove), fledgeling vampire Michelle (Duff) enters the care of a doctor who claims he has discovered a method to reverse her undead condition. But Radu is not ready to let her go yet, and he launches an effort to retrieve her, with the reluctant help of Bucharest's most powerful vampire, Ash (Morris).


In the annals of unnecessary sequels, few are more unnecessary than "Subspecies 4". The 1993 third movie in the series provided a satisfying conclusion to the core story of the series--Michelle resisting Radu's attempts to turn her to evil--and the heroes driving off into the sunrise as Radu was burned to ashy oblivion was a nice period at the end.

But, Charles Band being Charles Band, a successful film WILL have a sequel no matter what, so four years later, Nicolaou was back in the director's chair at the helm of this film, which is an unnecessary sequel not just to the first three "Subspecies" films, but to the tangentially related "Vampire Journals", which was also written and directed by Nicolau. (Or maybe it's a prequel to "Vampire Journals"? With Full Moon's trademark disregard for continuity, I never can be 100 percent sure what they're intending....)

All that said, despite being a wholly unnecessary add-on to the other vampire films, it stands with the original "Subspecies" films and "Vampire Journals" as one of the most visually striking films to ever come from the Band direct-to-home-video assembly lines. Nicolaou really knew how to get the most out of the grand Romanian locations, especially at night. He also continues his flair for stretching his minimal budget to the point where he creates an end-product that looks better than films that cost ten times as much to make.

And while the film is not as good as "Subspecies 3"--the best film from Nicolau I've seen so far--it is an improvement on the overly slow "Vampire Journals".


As for the story, it's a tangle plots and counter-plots that rival the storylines envisioned by the creators of the 1990s roleplaying game "Vampire: The Masquerade" which these movies have always seemed like the perfect adaptation of. Radu plotting to conquer
Michelle, Ash plotting to destroy Radu, Dr. Niculescu's hidden agenda and dark secret... all of these intrigues swirl around Michelle who continues to resist the call of evil and dream of reclaiming her humanity. If you like the Anne Rice-style vampire genre and/or the 1990s White Wolf-style roleplaying games, you'll enjoy this movie.

You'll also enjoy the film if you liked Anders Hove performances in the previous "Subspecies" films. Hove's Radu is every bit as disgusting as he's always been, although he is also even more pathetic in this film that ever before, with his desire for Michelle now fully transformed from its initial need to possess into unrequited love. The rest of the cast do a good job as well, with Jonathon Morris actually being better as Ash in this film than he was in "Vampire Journals" and Ion Haiduc providing gallows-humor comic relief as a police detective turned bumbling vampire (making him the only returning character from the previous two films aside from Michelle and Radu).



Sunday, October 2, 2011

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Halloween Scream Queens

Here's a little something to kick off the October of 2011, possibly the LAST October ever if they Mayans were right and the world is going to end sometime in 2012: A post featuring all the primary actresses from the Halloween movies. Including those who appeared in the "Halloween" films I like to pretend don't exist... although as I was putting together this post, it appears to me that the worse the movie, the more breasts the producers and directors try to add to make up for it.

Jamie Lee Curtis: Laurie Strode
Halloween (1978), Halloween II (1979), Halloween H20, and Halloween: Ressurection
Click here to read Curtis' Saturday Scream Queen profile.

Danielle Harris: Jamie Lloyd &Annie Brackett
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers &
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers;
Halloween (2007) & Halloween II (2009)
Click here to read Harris' Saturday Scream Queen profile.

Ellie Cornell: Rachel Carruthers
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers &
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
Click here to read Cornell's Saturday Scream Queen profile.


Marianne Hagan: Kara Strode
Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers
(Second Worst of the Original Series.)
Saturday Scream Queen  profile coming soon.

J.C.Brandy: Jamie Lloyd
Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers
Saturday Scream Queen profile coming soon.

Tyra Banks: Nora
Halloween: Resurrection
(Worst of the Original Series)

Katee Sackhoff: Jen
Halloween: Resurrection
Click here to read Sackhoff's Saturday Scream Queen profile.

Bianca Kajlich: Sara Moyer
Halloween: Resurrection

Scout Taylor-Compton: Laurie Strode
Halloween (2007) and Halloween II (2009)
Saturday Scream Queen profile coming soon.

Stacey Nelkin: Ellie Grimbridge
Halloween III: Season of the Witch
(The non-slasher one.)