7.23.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 24: "Getting hosed down with WIP cream"


The Summer SEXtravaganza rages on. Join Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark, and myself as we review BAD GIRLS DORMITORY (1986) and REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS (1986). Plus a discussion Women In Prison films and their importance to pubescent boys.











 


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7.17.2014

ITALIAN HORROR WEEK 2014: Tenebre (1982)

DIRECTED BY
Dario Argento

STARRING
Anthony Franciosa - Peter Neal
John Saxon - Bullmer
Daria Nicolodi - Anne
Veronica Lario - Jane Neal
Giuliano Gemma - Detective Giermani
John Steiner - Christiano Berti
Christiano Borromeo - Gianni


Genre - Horror/Thriller/Mystery/Giallo

Running Time
- 100 Minutes



**Part of Doc Terror's ITALIAN HORROR WEEK 2014**


When it comes to Italian Horror, Dario Argento is the first filmmaker that comes to mind. It was through Argento that I learned what a giallo was, which led me to other films of his - as well as films made by other Italian directors such as Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci. While Argento's most recent fare haven't been so well received - I personally think 1987's OPERA was his last great work - Argento's filmography still manages to make him one of the premier artists in the genre.

Dario Argento really made his mark on audiences through his giallos. Films like THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET, and DEEP RED really captured audiences, as well as help inspire the American version of the giallo, the slasher film. For a while though, Argento was more focused on supernatural stories, such as SUSPIRIA and its sister-film, INFERNO. But 1982's TENEBRE was Argento's return to the giallo sub-genre, proving to many why he was the master of these certain types of films. Personally, it's not as good as DEEP RED or SUSPIRIA. But it's definitely top 5 material for sure.


PLOT
Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) is an American novelist who is known for his controversially sensationalistic stories that have been criticized for their misogyny and violence towards women. He arrives in Rome for a press tour, but his arrival sparks murders within the city that seem to be copying scenes from Peter's latest book, "Tenebre". Peter becomes involved when he starts receiving notes from the killer, taunting him and using his own words against him. Who can the killer be? Is it someone Peter knows? Is it an obsessed fan?


 
REVIEW

TENEBRE is an interesting film in Dario Argento's filmography. For one, TENEBRE was inspired by a stalker who had harassed Argento once he found fame in Italy. Also, it also seems to express criticisms towards Argento's previous works, especially where it concerns supposed misogyny towards women. The Peter Neal character seems to be TENEBRE's representation of its director - a man who just simply wants to entertain, but seems to be blamed for things he didn't intentionally do. These themes drive the story forward, showing that works of art are there to entertain most, but possibly inspire others to do bad things due to their minds not being able to wrap around reality.




Also, TENEBRE seems different from Argento's other gialli in the sense that the narrative is much more coherent than anything that has come before it. The murder mystery is pretty straight forward, leading to a logical conclusion that makes sense once you realize what's going on. I like how Argento attempts to make any character in TENEBRE seem like the killer. They all have something pretty shady about them - some more than others - making you wonder who's a red herring and who is the copycat killer. The story just builds and builds until you're aching to see where it'll end up, and it does not disappoint. I liked how the main characters seemed intelligent when it came to the situation, with some of them acting pretty suspicious about the whole murder deal. With ex-wives, cheating scandals, and other shady stuff going on, you're never sure where the narrative is going to take you, which makes TENEBRE a lot of fun to watch while you're putting the jigsaw puzzle together.



The puzzle is more interesting due to random scenes involving a flashback of a young, beautiful woman in a white dress wearing red pumps. It's obviously from the viewpoint of the killer, but we don't know what this means until the final act. The scenes just come across as surreal and pretty creepy, as you're just left wondering what the hell is going on. Who is this woman and how does she figure into things? And why is she shoving a red heel into a dude's mouth? Pretty strange stuff.



I do feel that the mystery aspect did hinder some of the characterization. Sometimes it's hard to like any of these people because Argento attempts to make each one of them seem suspicious. Also, I felt there were too many characters in the film, taking away the focus from the more major players. It's as if Argento attempted the body count aspect of the slasher film [which was major during this time], while attempting to maintain the aspects of a true giallo. I get what Argento was going for, but I do think it brings TENEBRE down a bit.



The death sequences in TENEBRE are quite memorable, and pretty bloody. The killer either likes to slice people with a blade, axe them to death, or even strangle them in a car from behind. There are a lot of cool death scenes, including one where an axe amputates a character's arm, gushing blood all over the nearby white walls, as the axe impales into her torso for added effect. We also get a great scene involving a dog attacking a character, leading her towards the home of the killer, who decides to make her night quite horrific as she struggles for help. Probably none of the sequences match up to anything from DEEP RED, SUSPIRIA, or even OPERA. But they're very effective and well done.

The direction by Argento is just fantastic. He injects a lot of style into the film. One scene, probably my favorite, involves this really elaborate crane shot that pans and tilts an entire apartment building in one continuous shot, just to set up a classic murder sequence. Apparently doing this caused a lot of headaches during production, but the final result is so worth it. We get some great POV shots from the killer's perspective. There's a lot of attention to detail thanks for cinematographer, Luciano Tovoli, making us pay close mind to any hints that may linger for us to solve the mystery. The tension and suspense is top notch. I do miss the colorful look that Argento is mainly known for, but it probably wouldn't have fit in well with the film's story and tone. TENEBRE is one of Argento's finest achievements as a filmmaker - one I'm sure he's definitely proud of.

The acting is hard to rate since I watched the English dubbed version of the film. Some actors, like Anthony Franciosa and Daria Nicolodi, come across as hammy due to the voice actors. But that's part of the charm, and they both are good actors, so I can't say anything bad about their performances. I really liked Giuliano Gemma as Detective Germani. He just came across as one cool customer, and pretty intelligent as well. We also get a bunch of hot women who are there to be murder victims, and they all run and scream quite well. And John "The Man" Saxon is awesome as the sleazy book agent. Any film he's in is worth watching, in my opinion. 




And I can't end this review without talking about TENEBRE's score. Argento is well known for collaborating with electronic rock group, Goblin, on many of his features during the 1970s. Unfortunately by the time TENEBRE was being produced, Goblin had disbanded. But Argento still managed to get three of the members - Massimo Morante, Claudio Simonetti, and Fabio Pignatelli - to contribute a synth score that would drive the narrative forward towards its tense conclusion. I personally love Goblin, and even parts of the group still manage to make great music. It's not as good as SUSPIRIA or DEEP RED, but the score does fit within the tone of TENEBRE.


 
THE FINAL HOWL

While DEEP RED and SUSPIRIA are still my favorite Dario Argento films, TENEBRE is definitely up there for me as well. It's not a perfect film, but it's still manages to be an entertaining thriller that will keep you invested from beginning to end. I think technical wise, TENEBRE is one of Argento's best, although I do miss the more colorful look of his previous works. If you care about perfect storytelling, then TENEBRE will probably disappoint you. But if you prefer more of a visual experience with good amounts of gore and stylish filmmaking, then TENEBRE is right up your alley. 


SCORE
3.5 Howls Outta 4 
 
 

7.16.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 23: "A Buxom Trilogy of Boob-tastic Proportions"





Our Summer Sextravaganza begins! Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark, and I start the festivities off with a bang with a Russ Meyer triple feature: VIXEN! (1968), SUPERVIXENS (1975), and BENEATH THE VALLEY OF THE ULTRA-VIXENS (1979). Plus the Top 5 Best Boob-tastic Moments in Film.











 


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7.09.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 22: "When good animals attack bad people"


New co-host, Moronic Mark, joins Reverend Phantom and I as we review WILD BEASTS (1984) and LONG WEEKEND (1978). Plus a look at the Top 5 Killer Animal Movies. So grab an eagle egg and your favorite ba-ba-ba-ba and enjoy.










 


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The B-Movie Bungalow Presents: Day of the Animals (1977)

DIRECTED BY
William Girdler

STARRING
Christopher George - Steve Buckner
Leslie Nielsen - Paul Jenson
Lynda Day George - Terry Marsh
Richard Jaeckel - Prof. Taylor MacGregor
Michael Ansara - Daniel Santee
Ruth Roman - Mrs. Shirley Goodwyn
Jon Cedar - Frank Young
Walter Barnes - Ranger Tucker
Andrew Stevens - Bob Denning


Running Time - 97 Minutes

Genre - Horror/Thriller/B-Movie/Bad Animals


So it's finally Summer, and as usual, I decided to focus much of the season on those "animal run amok" films we all love so much, whether they're good or truly shitastic. However unlike previous years, I'll save the shark film stuff probably within Shark Week itself this August [unless it's like SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE, which arrives late July]. This time around, I plan on focusing on all sorts of animals and insects to give the theme a bit of variety.

And there's no better film to start with than 1977's DAY OF THE ANIMALS, which features a bunch of human characters getting outsmarted and terrorized by bears, lions, birds, snakes, wolves, and even dogs! They're probably not as scary as a shirtless Leslie Nielsen attempting to rape women, but I'll get to that shortly. Still, DAY OF THE ANIMALS isn't as classic by any means, but it's sure a fun way to spend 90 minutes.

PLOT
Due to us environmentally conscious folks, the ozone layer has been destroyed and ultraviolet rays are effecting animals in strange, deadly ways. This doesn't seem to bother a mountain tour guide named Steve Buckner (Christopher George), who enjoys showing people the beauty of the wilderness without the use of technology and material things. This tour, however, may be more troublesome than most since it includes a racist advertising executive (Leslie Neilsen), an annoying socialite (Ruth Roman) and her son, couples trying to keep their relationships alive, and more. Besides a hawk following them around everywhere, things go well until wolves and lions start attacking them. The dangerous tour and lack of food is creating strife within the group, which is making this DAY OF THE ANIMALS a very memorable, and cheesy, one.

REVIEW

Ever since JAWS made killer animals popular to moviegoers in 1975, a bunch of these films were made and released ad nauseum. DAY OF THE ANIMALS is one of the better "animal run amok" features to have come out during this era, attempting to create campy entertainment through a serious message about the depleting ozone layer and how it could effect the Earth if it continues. Unlike a film like THE FOOD OF THE GODS or FROGS, you gotta give credit to DAY OF THE ANIMALS for taking itself pretty seriously while unintentionally making us chuckle and laugh through its storytelling and direction.

Let's get this out of the way: the environmental message of the film is just there to give us a reason to watch DAY OF THE ANIMALS. It doesn't tell us how to stop damaging the ozone layer. It doesn't show us how it's damaging the planet. It's just there to give these animals a reason to go crazy and kill humans. And it's not really a bad thing, as it gives an excuse for why things are happening without bogging the story down with expository dialogue or a long winded prologue that's just there to pad time. I have to applaud the film for taking a topic that's still relevant today to base its story on, rather than just using the typical toxic waste, or nuclear bomb deal that would have these animals become more aggressive than usual.

So instead of a film trying to send us an important message, DAY OF THE ANIMALS is nothing more than your standard "animals run amok" flick. We have a group of characters on a mountain tour, many who have trouble getting along for whatever reason. One dude is an angry racist who seems to want to be the leader. We have an annoying Beverly Hills socialite who complains about being a single mom, as she constantly nags at her rebellious teenage son. We have a couple in love and a couple who can't really get along. We have the hero, who doesn't seem to understand why the tour isn't going as smoothly as it usually does. There's also a lost little girl, who is caught in the madness as well. As the humans deal with their own issues, animals stalk them and attack when necessary. Nothing more, nothing less. And some of these characters are so annoying, you'll want the animals to get their way. It's like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD - just with animals instead of zombies, while it takes place outdoors rather than indoors. It's a B-movie survival film, with cheesy moments that will keep audiences entertained for the most part.


The animal attacks in the film are pretty tense, surprisingly enough. The initial wolf attack while the characters are sleeping is pretty creepy. The lion attack is tense. We get a scene where a man is attacked by a group of rattlesnakes, following by a vicious dog. There's the infamous jumping rat scene, where a group of rats hop on the local police officer, attacking his face. That scene is more funny than anything, but it's surely memorable. And we get the classic Leslie Nielsen fights a grizzly bear in a Death Battle, with no stunt double used amazingly. A lot of these "animal run amok" films have fake looking animal attacks, but DAY OF THE ANIMALS does them convincingly. I was digging it.

The direction by William Girdler, who had also directed 1976's GRIZZLY and unfortunately passed away in 1978 after directing THE MANITOU, does a pretty good job in capturing the film's premise visually. Girdler obviously uses stock footage of the animals roaming and flying through beautiful landscapes, edited quite convincingly with scenes with the actors dealing with nature getting revenge on them. The animal attacks are shot well, and quite amusing to watch. I do wish there was more variety in terms of the attacks, as they do get repetitive after a while, but Girdler gives you what many would expect from a film like this visually. And the one use of green screen is hilarious terrible in every way. What an eye sore. There are some nice moments of tension, and the flow of the film is well done as the movie flies by. Girdler makes sure the audience is never bored, which is why I got some fun out of DAY OF THE ANIMALS. I'm sure many prefer GRIZZLY, but I think this film is slightly better.

The acting is a mixed bag. Christopher George is good as the hero, Steve Buckner. There's nothing really special in terms of his performance, but he's just a likeable presence on film and brings a certain charm. His wife, Lynda Day George, is alright as the stereotypical love interest. Surprisingly, husband-and-wife don't share many scenes together, which is strange. A young Andrew Stevens is okay, probably distracted by the thought of having softcore porn sex with Shannon Tweed down the road. Ruth Roman is really annoying as Shirley Goodwyn, playing the whiny socialite who complains about being a single mom and nagging at her son constantly.


The highlight of the film, without a doubt, is Leslie Nielsen's performance as Paul Jenson. For those expecting comedic Nielsen, ala AIRPLANE! and THE NAKED GUN, will be completely shocked by Nielsen's villainous performance. Nielsen is great as a racist, sexist douche who becomes power hungry once the animals start attacking the group, feeling he knows how to survive the ordeal. Watching him slap women around, choke out children, and even attempt rape on a female character at one point while shirtless just boggles the mind. And the classic Nielsen vs. Grizzly Bear fight scene has to be seen by anyone who has one perception of the actor. I wish Nielsen had done more roles against type before his passing. While he made a lot of money being really funny, he also had great dramatic acting chops that I feel were underused. Nielsen is a great antagonist in DAY OF THE ANIMALS.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE STAYING GREEN SO ANIMALS DON'T GET MEAN

- Due to fluorocarbon gases seriously damaging the Ozone Layer, this film depicts what could happen in the future if this continues. That explains the popularity of the Jersey Shore, the Kardashians, and those Real Housewives shows. Damn UV rays...

- A curious hawk eavesdropped on a conversation, pinpointing the destination of the trip. With his animal partner, oh what a rush it will be when this Legion of Doom puts these humans in the Doomsday Device.

- Mrs. Shirley Goodwyn complained about being both a mom and dad to her son. If this was South Park, this wouldn't be an issue.

- A sleeping character was attacked by a wolf. Doesn't anyone listen when they're warned, "Keep Clear of the Moors"?

- Paul Jenson is racist towards Native Americans. With that kind of ignorance, it's no wonder he didn't know how to speak Jive up in that plane.

- A bunch of hawks attacked and murdered someone. She must have been on the production team for that BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR film and they wanted revenge. Totally justified.

- Rats jumped and scratched Ranger Tucker's face. Like everyone else, rats do like the taste of bacon.

- The characters were attacked by lions. Man, can you feel the love tonight?

- Paul Jenson is a real bastard - hitting women, threatening children, trying to rape women, and even fighting bears. Judging by his behavior, maybe OJ Simpson wasn't the killer...

THE FINAL HOWL
DAY OF THE ANIMALS is a pretty entertaining "Animals Run Amok" flick that uses a message on the destruction of our environment by having random animals attack and kill people due to the Ozone Layer. It's nothing but fluff, with decent use of stock footage and a bad use of green screen. But it's paced really well and the actors are game for whatever, especially a great villainous performance by Leslie Nielsen - which includes him trying to molest women and fight bears. That alone is worthy of a recommendation. Not the best "Animals Run Amok" out there, but it's a harmless 90 minutes that I had more fun with than it probably deserves.



SCORE
3 Howls Outta 4




7.02.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 21: "3 Happy Campers"





Rev. Phantom and I review SUMMER CAMP NIGHTMARE (1987) and [in my case, re-review] SLEEPAWAY CAMP II: UNHAPPY CAMPERS (1988) and we are joined by Moronic Mark, B-movie reviewer extraordinaire. Plus a look at the Top 5 Psychotic Women of Film.










 


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6.25.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 20: "The bastard children of Jaws are here to entertain you...or not"





Rev. Phantom and I review BLOOD BEACH and HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP - two fishy flicks from 1980. Plus a look at the good, bad and the ugly of Aquatic Monster movies.









 


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6.18.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 19: "The House that Ted Built"





A very special episode this week. Rev. Phantom interviews Al Carlisle, the author of the book I'M NOT GUILTY: The Case of Ted Bundy. Plus the Rev and I review Ruggero Deodato's classic, HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK.








 


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6.15.2014

Indie Horror Spotlight: Beyond the Grave (2010/12)


DIRECTED BY
Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro

STARRING
Rafael Tombini - Officer
Alvaro Rosa Costa - Franco
Ricardo Seffner - Shooter
Amanda Lerias - Nina
Luciana Verch - Adriene
Leandro Lefa - Ashley
Adriano Basegio - The Dark Rider
Tatiana Paganella - The Dark Rider I


Genre - Action/Horror/Western/Zombies

Running Time - 89 Minutes


PLOT
During a zombie apocalypse, an unnamed Officer (Rafael Tombini) is fighting off random zombies, as well as a body-hopping entity known as The Dark Rider. The Dark Rider is hard to kill, with humankind's only chance for survival is by sending this demon entity back through some portal. Officer's mission is to get rid of The Dark Rider, even if it means using his own body as a vessel, killing himself in the process. As Officer hooks up with random strangers to keep them safe, as well as build a crew to confront The Dark Rider, this evil has been stalking Officer, having demonic plans for our hero.

REVIEW
I received a request by Facebook friend/producer Isidoro B. Guggiana to spread some info on a movie he worked on called BEYOND THE GRAVE, which can easily be found on Netflix Instant in the United States. I went one step further and offered to review it, so readers like yourselves could have a better sense of what the film is, in case you may be interested. He was gracious and allowed me to do my thing.

I wasn't sure what to expect with BEYOND THE GRAVE. The only horror film from Brazil I had seen prior to this one was AT MIDNIGHT, I'LL TAKE YOUR SOUL from 1964. And with a title like BEYOND THE GRAVE, I was definitely expecting a zombie film of some sort. Instead, I got an arthouse horror film that's more focused on its characters and main narrative rather than any sort of zombie influence. And I definitely appreciated it, since the zombie deal is so played out at this point - although I'll still watch zombie films without hesitation. But BEYOND THE GRAVE offers its audience something different within the sub-genre, which may be a good or bad thing depending on who you are.

BEYOND THE GRAVE is a mish-mash of many things. It feels like a Spaghetti Western of sorts. It sort of borrows some elements from THE STAND, The Dark Tower, and demon possession films. It has a serial killer film vibe to it as well. And the film never feels like it's ripping off its inspirations, just using them to build something new. While the film takes place during a zombie apocalypse, and it does have zombies walking around and attacking people, the zombies are never the focus. It's mainly on Officer, who is on this dangerous mission to send a parasitic demon back to whence it came. People fight each other over this. People also die because they're never sure who this Dark Rider is at that particular moment in time. It's a really interesting narrative that sounds complicated, but never really is. You care about Officer and his motivations, making you care about the story. That's a great thing in an independent film, especially one as low budgeted as this one is.

I think the problems arise in terms of how the narrative is presented. For one, most of the film is extremely slow in terms of setting things up and providing action. The film starts out pretty strong with some great action involving guns and a Samurai sword. But once that's over, there's a slow burn as we meet other characters and learn about Officer's goal. It's a bit of a challenge at times to sit through, but it's worth it at the end if you manage to be a trooper and stick with BEYOND THE GRAVE. Also, the narrative can be a bit confusing as well. Certain situations happen, making you wonder if what we're watching are happening, or it's just some sort of dream. There's one point in the film where I started questioning the reality within the film. So if you're into linear narratives, this film may not be for you. And if you have ADD, then this film definitely isn't for you. Otherwise, the storytellling is pretty solid.

The direction by Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro is also pretty damn solid. The cinematography is really good, and the editing is great. The pacing is a struggle at times, but at least it's consistent. The action scenes are handled very well, with some pretty violent scenes that look convincing. The special effects were a mixed bag, especially the zombie make-up. But the film is very colorful and feels like an older film instead of one made in 2010.

The acting is also great as well. The real standout is Rafael Tombini, who carries the film as Officer. His voiceovers and monologues are great, and he comes across as a bad ass hero who won't give up on his mission. The supporting actors all bring something to the table, especially Alvaro Rosa Costa as Franco. No real complaints about the actors at all.

THE FINAL HOWL
BEYOND THE GRAVE isn't really a horror film about zombies. It's more like an ambitious action-western about a man trying to get rid of a parasitic demon he can't really kill. And while it's really slow pace and somewhat confusing narrative may turn a lot of audiences away from giving it a chance, I do think it's worth checking out if you want to watch something different and non-Hollywood [this was made in Brazil]. It's not for everyone, but I liked it more than I thought I would. If you want something foreign and artsy to sink your teeth into, then it may be worth spending 89 minutes with BEYOND THE GRAVE. Just know that patience is a virtue with this one.



SCORE
3 Howls Outta 4



6.11.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 18: "Next stop...Tromaville!"


Rev. Phantom and I visit Tromaville, NJ! This week, this chemically toxified movie-reviewing duo take a look at RETURN TO NUKE 'EM HIGH VOL. 1 (2013) and FATHER'S DAY (2011). Also a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of Troma's back catalog. Excelsior!







 


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