Sleepaway Camp!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on July 16, 2014 by Brain Hammer

A nice place for summer vacation – a perfect place to die!

SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983)

This legendary film begins with some especially eerie shots of a deserted summer camp accompanied by the distant sounds of children playing. This immediately puts the viewer off balance, which is where they will firmly remain for the next 88 minutes. The madness begins with a seemingly harmless afternoon on a sailboat. A man named John and his two children Angela and Peter are enjoying some fun in the sun when they suddenly cross paths with some careless teenagers in a motorboat.

Tragedy strikes when a girl takes the wheel (doesn’t it always?) and the motorboat smashes into the family as they happily bob in the water. The boat kills the father and one of the children, although it isn’t clear who survived. This mystery is solved eight years later when we see that the survivor was Angela (Felissa Rose), and that she now lives with her tough but tender cousin Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten) and her batshit insane Aunt Martha.

Aunt Martha is one of scariest characters in all of horror history. She gives the kids a goodie bag full of snacks and ties a string around her finger to remember the kid’s permission slips for camp. The nutjob then implores the children not to tell anyone at camp that she had performed the physical needed for the kid’s admission. No one would understand…even if she is a doctor.

The kids are then shipped off to Camp Arawak. Upon arrival Angela is shy and withdrawn and talks to no one. Ricky runs into his old pal Paul, who excitedly tells him about the massive jugs his ex-girlfriend Judy is sporting. Ricky tries to turn on the charm with Judy but she quickly proves to be a heartless cocktease. She also despises Angela and proceeds to make her life miserable. Angela also refuses to eat, which causes the musclebound main counselor Ronnie to thoughtfully send her along to meet her doom with the perverted head cook Artie. Artie’s mouth waters when he sees the fresh young chicken and he wastes no time attempting to force feed Angela his tubesteak. Ricky catches him in the act and the scared kids run away before anything worse can happen.

Later that day Artie is still steaming from having his cock blocked. He’s also pissed off because his comically oversized pot of water won’t come to a boil. As he fumes over his shortcomings he adds about three pounds of salt into the 200 gallons of water. As the tubby chickenhawk precariously dangles on a tiny footstool a silent assailant makes their deadly presence known. The small person is obviously a child, but manages to push Artie off balance and leave him hanging onto a filmy shelf above the olympic swimming pool of salty molten lava. Artie tries to bribe his attacker with an ice cream sunday, which confirms that the would be killer is a child. The stool is yanked away, causing Artie to tumble and drop the the barrel of toxic waste on top of himself. Artie somehow survives the attack but is very badly burned. The paramedic even remarks that the pain must be incredible. This angers the hideously old and misshapen camp owner Mel and causes him to snap that it must have been an accident. The greedy grandpa decides to cover up the incident to avoid bad press.

Meanwhile, Ricky has his hands full with a pack of meathead jocks that continually torment him and knock his sweet cowboy hat off his head. The goons also have Angela in their sights, and for a couple of laughs they decide to invite her along for a midnight skinny dip. Angela of course says nothing, and stares holes into them. Later that night the boys take the plunge and an idiot named Kenny manages to convince a girl named Leslie to go on a moonlight canoe ride with him. Kenny starts acting like a jackass and both of them wind up in the water. Leslie swims back to shore and for some odd inexplicable reason Kenny decides to swim underneath the tipped over canoe and begin singing a song called “Hey Hey Baba-Re-Bop.” The unseen slayer suddenly strikes again and Kenny is mercifully put out of his misery by drowning.

The next morning a profane lifeguard discovers Kenny’s waterlogged and snake ridden corpse. Police and paramedics are suspicious, especially considering Kenny’s reputation for being “a pretty damned good swimma.”Mel once again interrupts the conversation and swears that the whole thing is an unfortunate accident. The next day Angela is humiliated by Judy in their cabin and then pelted by water balloons by the mean boys. Ricky rushes to Angela’s defense and tells the cocksuckers to stop messing with his cousin. Mel steps in, and the wrinked old dick punishes the boys. He also punishes Ricky for his rotten mouth. The leader of the gang is a blonde doofus named Billy who proudly tells his fellow campers that he has to take a wicked dump and trots off to the shitter to meet his demise. The unseen slasher strikes again, this time armed with a well placed broom and an beehive full of angry bees.

After finding another dead body Mel begins worrying more about the reputation of his camp than the safety of the remaining children. He also begins to suspect that Ricky is the culprit. Things get even more complicated when love enters the picture and Ricky’s good pal Paul falls for Angela in a big way. Paul even manages to almost get to second base with Angela before she freaks out and runs away. The next afternoon Judy gets involved and begins mocking the new couple and coming on to Paul. A bitchy counselor named Meg gets fed up with Angela refusing to swim or shower with the other girls and decides to throw her in the water. Everyone laughs as Angela almost drowns before Ricky can finally break away from the increasingly unstable Mel and once again come to her rescue.

This is where an already off the wall flick goes even further off the rails into crazy town. The bitch counselor Meg has the hots for the rather decrepit and disgusting looking Mel and throws herself at him. The old man then invites the sexy young thing back to his place for a late night meal. Meg then goes off to wash her cootch and get it clean for the elderly man she is planning on having sex with. As Meg showers and hums a catchy little tune that will drive you bananas, the killer shows up to spoil the fun and stick a knife in Meg’s back.

Mel eventually gets a bad case of old man blue balls while waiting for Meg to show up for their hot date and goes looking for her. He discovers her sliced up body in the shower and once and for all goes bananas. He shakes his feeble and brittle fists and rows revenge against Ricky for Meg’s murder. As all this is happening Angela arranges a late night rendezvous with Paul. These combustible elements combine to create one the most thrilling third acts in horror history. Judy gets what is coming to her in a big way, Mel finds out that looking for Ricky will be a pain in the neck, a cop shows up with a mustache that is clearly made out of black masking tape, and just when you think you’ve seen it all, arguably the greatest shock in the history of horror is revealed at the waterfront…after the social. You won’t be coming home!

Growing up as a wee Brain Hammer, I had a wacky lesbian aunt named Aunt Martha (RIP). As you can imagine, the “Sleepaway Camp” films have a very special place in my blackened heart. My cousin beat me to the video store back in the day and snared a used copy of “Sleepaway Camp.” We watched that movie dozens of times in high school. I’ve watched it so many times over the years, with so many different people, I’ve lost count. “Sleepaway Camp” is one of the most entertaining horror movies ever made. A bad time can never be had during a viewing! But don’t mistake this for a “so bad it’s good” sort of experience, “Sleepaway Camp” is a amazingly creepy and disturbing horror film that also happens to be hilarious.

Robert Hiltzig is a genius for making a summer camp movie that shows kids being kids: playing pranks on each other and swearing like drunken sailors. The film is ruthlessly padded with softball, but the non stop vulgarities spewing from the mouths of the players during the game makes the scenes hilarious. Who didn’t tell someone to “eat shit and live” after watching this one? Jonathan Tiersten is a riot in this movie. No one call yell out “COCKSUCKERS! PRICKS!” like he can! Even more obscene is the vomit inducing wholesale hatchet slaughter of a gaggle of little kiddies all tucked into their sleeping bags. You don’t see that in most summer camp slasher flicks. The over the top violence in this movie has a mean spirited edge that I really enjoy. Not only is “Sleepaway Camp” of one the very best slasher flicks, it is also one of the most brutal revenge movies ever made. The intimate and sexual nature of some the killings, particularly the vulgar deaths on the toilet or featuring curling iron violation are far more lurid than your usual horror and exploitation fare.

“Sleepaway Camp” has it all. The perfect summer camp setting. The spectacular death scenes and make up effects needed to make a gruesome slasher flick. The quirky characters and offbeat performances that make it so unique. An unbelievable performance from Felissa Rose. A chilling theme song. I think there is no other slasher flick that compares when it comes to sheer unnerving perversion and horror. The film is full of scenes featuring the violent death of children and young adults and it is laced with a lascivious dosage of homoerotic imagery. Sure, there may have been a lot of other horror flicks in the 80′s that took place in summer camps, but only “Sleepaway Camp” had the balls to feature a leering pedophile who expresses his mouth watering love for “baldies!” The ending packs a wallop that never fails to make jaws drop when seeing it for the first time. The ending of the film is iconic. It has to be considered nothing less than the greatest of all time.

A trio of (almost) equally excellent sequels followed and another is (apparently) in the works. The horrors of Angela and Camp Arawak will never die. The legions of “Sleepaway Camp” fans have kept the series alive for decades and are always thirsty for more. This flick perhaps more than any other I can think of truly defines the term “cult classic.” I think I speak for all Happy Campers when I demand the return of Aunt Martha! Robert, seriously bring her back for the sequel!

SLEEPAWAY CAMP is available on dvd from Anchor Bay Entertainment. It’s a nice looking dvd that includes the trailer and a wild commentary track with Robert Hiltzig and Felissa Rose. The only drawback to this release is the fact that the print is missing some footage, including some gory shots that extend the death scenes. Lovers of hot boy ass will mourn the missing shots of the lads going skinny dipping. Hardcore fans that want a totally uncut version of the film should seek out the Legacy Entertainment release instead. Both are still easy to find online.

SLEEPAWAY CAMP is also available in a collector’s edition Blu Ray/DVD combo pack from Shout! Factory. This 2014 release features two brand new commentary tracks: one with stars Felissa Rose (Angela) And Jonathan Tiersten (Ricky), and another with director Robert Hiltzig. The highlight of the package is the 45 minute featurette “At The Waterfront After The Social: The Legacy Of Sleepaway Camp” which includes interviews with assorted cast and crew…including Aunt Martha herself Desiree Gould! There’s also a short fan-film titled “Judy,” a music video from Jonathan Tiersten, and a Camp Arawak Scrapbook still gallery. All in all, a fantasic release, and an essential purchase for diehard fans (is there any other kind?) of this clas-sick. 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!! 

Massacre At Central High!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on June 3, 2014 by Brain Hammer

You better get those kids the hell out of there!

MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH (1976)

In what can only be described as a “what the fuck?” moment, “Massacre At Central High” actually begins with the final shot of the movie, and then works its way through an opening credits montage consisting of the film’s many brutal and explosive highlights set to a sensitive sounding Seventies soft rock song called “The Crossroads Of Your Life.” Once that insanity winds down we are introduced to David (Derrel Murray) – the new kid at Central High, a large high school located near the California coastline. David immediately runs afoul of the little league gestapo that dominates the school.

The terrible trio of Bruce (a snobby and domineering hang gliding enthusiast), Craig (an ill tempered diver with an impressive mane of chest hair), and Paul (a big blonde doofus surfer) have turned the students of Central High into scared mice. On David’s first day the thugs decide to punish a geek named Spoony (Robert “Revenge Of The Nerds” Carradine!) for painting a swastika on a locker as a form of social protest. David interveins, asking Spoony where to find the student lounge. Bruce informs David that he is looking for trouble, and that he will quickly find it unless he minds his own business.

David walks away and has a much more pleasant encounter with a pretty gal named Theresa. (Kimberly Beck of “Friday The 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter” fame!) Theresa points David in the direction of the student lounge, where his old pal Mark (Andrew “10 To Midnight” Stevens!) is waiting for him. David is shocked when he discovers that Mark is the fourth member of Bruce’s gang. Mark assures David that he’s riding pretty high around the campus with Bruce and the boys. He tries to convince David to drop his loner shit and just lay back and enjoy the place. Then Mark introduces David to his girlfriend – Theresa. The same Theresa that David met and fell in love with earlier. Bummer.

An afternoon with the gang spent showing David around degenerates into destruction when the boys decide to trash the beloved old jalopy belonging to Rodney (Rex Sikes), one of their less fortunate classmates. David comes along for the ride and hates it. He later apologizes to Rodney and agrees to help him fix his car. Soon afterward David is again appalled when he sees Bruce and company threaten a fat slob named Oscar with a switchblade. Then the bullies turn their attention toward the obnoxious handicapped volunteer assistant librarian Arthur and trash the library. When David goes to help Arthur clean up the mess Mark asks him what in the hell he’s doing and tells him that he’s going “to blow it.” David responds by telling his old friend Mark that he’s “already blown it for thinking you’re more than that poor guy.”

Things get really nasty when Bruce decides that a couple of his “bull dyke”classmates named Mary & Jane (Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith & Lani O’ Grady – both RIP) need a good fuck. Mark won’t have anything to do with the proceedings, but does nothing to stop it before leaving. Paul on the other hand thinks that rape “might be a new kick!” The three bastards drag the girls kicking and screaming into an empty classroom and attempt to have their way with them. Theresa shows up to interrupt the gang rape but Bruce quickly sends her packing. Then David shows up and hands all three of the punks their asses! David’s right hook is more than enough to rattle their brains. Incredibly, Theresa gets angry at David for fighting and runs off.

This leads to a tender sequence on the beach where David apologizes to Theresa. He admits that if he keeps jumping in without thinking and starts swinging he could “really blow it.” He then explains to Theresa that running is the only thing that keeps his anger under control. David and Theresa then frolic on the beach in the proud “Rocky III” tradition and then go for a night time swim in the nude. Mark and the gang find David’s jeep on the side of the road and Mark convinces them to give David one last chance. Bruce agrees, and sends Mark off to talk to him. Mark stumbles down to the beach and finds his best friend and his best gal too close for comfort. Devastated, Mark goes back to Bruce and tells him that he couldn’t talk any sense into David. He then begs his friends to settle the score with David later, when he’s not around to see it.

Later that night, Bruce, Paul, and Craig go to David’s house and confront him inside the garage – where David is working on Rodney’s car. David refuses to come out from under the car so Bruce gives him a shove which accidentally causes the heavy car frame to crash down onto David’s leg! David is crippled for life, but tells authorities that it was simply an accident and that he was alone at the time. After a few weeks in the hospital David returns to Central High with a limp and a thirst for revenge. He decides to liberate the students of Central High by eliminating the brutal bullies that oppress them. First on the hit list is Bruce, who is electrocuted after some hang glider sabotage. Then Craig is snuffed after diving headfirst into a drained pool. Finally big dumb Paul gets his in a fiery auto wreck.

The students of Central High are happy to finally be free, but it doesn’t take long for the formerly abused to become abusive themselves. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Fat slob Oscar begins throwing his weight around. Rodney becomes a snob who can’t stop fawning over his new car. Arthur becomes even more obnoxious and uses his superior intellect to insult the library patrons. Worst of all, Spoony, Mary, and Jane turn into self righteous hippies that decide who could use a “good fuck!”

One by one, the students all go up to David, looking to “join up” with him and rule the school together. Disgusted with the hypocrisy, and how quickly it takes place, David decides the only fair thing to do is to kill them too. David is no mercy killer. He decides how and when they will die. Arthur dies from lethal hearing-aid sabotage, Oscar and Rodney both get blown up real good, and Spoony, Mary, and Jane have their torrid three way fuck fest interrupted with dynamite and falling rocks! Then David goes to the student/alumni prom with a bomb. Can Mark and Theresa stop him in time? It’s a horror showdown in the hallowed halls! Thank God you’ve graduated!

Writer and director Rene Daalder was the mastermind behind this one, which I consider to be hands down the greatest teenage revenge flick of all time. Really, no other flick comes close when it comes to exploring high school fascism. I love the fact the the parents and teachers are completely absent from the proceedings, and the kids are left on their own to form cliques and savage each other, which is completely true to real life. One of the greatest lines in the movie is “There’s definitely a message in all these accidents – the higher you feel, the deeper you fall.” It’s much more thought provoking than the usual Seventies exploitation fare, and it works because the characters and the storyline are realistic and the actors and actresses all do a great job.

This flick is literally a BLAST from start to finish. There’s no shortage of mayhem throughout, so while not a straight up slasher flick by any means, horror fans should still be entertained by the bloody violence. The hang gliding and diving board deaths in particular are both fantastic. It doesn’t hurt that the trio of bullies are all throughly unlikable, and it’s easy enough to start rooting for their demise, especially after the attempted rape scene. Another fantastic, and again completely realistic touch is how quickly the formerly tormented students turn into bullying pieces of shit themselves. I really do have to give writer Rene Daalder a lot of credit for his script, which rings a lot truer to real life than a lot of other high school flicks I can think of. It’s also worth mentioning that the film’s explosive ending was later lifted and recycled in the comedy cult clas-sick “Heathers.” It’s good to know someone else in the film biz watched this flick and actually payed attention.

My first encounter with MASSACRE was a 49 cent rental at my local Showtime Video. I’ve been a huge fan of this one ever since, and have enjoyed more repeat viewings over the years than I can count. Sadly, this flick has never been released on dvd, and I still make due with a dvd-r copy of my old Electric Video Inc vhs. Cult Epics and Rene Daalder have wrestled around with the idea of dvd release for YEARS and nothing has ever come of it. I would very much like to see a special edition dvd release of MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH. This one deserves a much larger audience, if only for being one of the few horror films that could never be remade.

A while ago, I conducted an extensive interview with Massacre At Central High star REX SIKES. (which you can read here: http://brain-hammer.com/2011/10/27/rex-sikes-interview/) Here are a few of the highlights:

Brain Hammer: Where and when was MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH filmed? How old were you at the time?

Rex Sikes: MASSACRE as I recall was shot in the early part of 1976, seems like late winter early spring, it’s always hard to tell in Los Angeles where the weather is perfect year round. I would have been approaching 21 or 22 at the time, we all were in our twenties as I recall.

BH: How long was the shoot?

RS: 3 or 4 weeks. I believe I worked at least 3 weeks nearly consecutively. We worked a few national holidays so union wages were good for those days as I mentioned before. Although, as is often he case, I believe we were asked to waive certain bumps to our salary due to budget constraints.

BH: What was the atmosphere like on the set?

RS: We all met at production offices on Sunset on a Saturday while they were casting the last role of Oscar – Jeffrey Winner, another nice man. He won the role. How long after that shooting began I don’t recall. But we all became friends quickly and spent nearly every evening going to dinner together. Andrew Stevens bought me my first shot of Courvoisier and as I recall I shot it down to his dismay. “You have to sip it!” he told me. I do believe he bought another. So we were all pretty relaxed together and the atmosphere was happy. There are always production tensions, delays, and issues that surround film making but it was good to be with everyone. I don’t recall any fights, any incompatibility issues, perhaps minor artistic squabbles. I don’t recall ever feeling rushed.

BH: It was a genre flick shot in the Seventies so I have to ask: any coke-fueled orgies on the set to report?

RS: None that I can recall. HAHAHAHAHHA! Actually, I recall getting really drunk on Southern Comfort at a party Rainbeaux Smith had at her house once, but I know of no drugs on the set to report. And yes the 70′s were quite the era of drugs and free sex. Wow, to be able to relive those days would be great – not the drugs but the freedom from fear of disease and death. Lot’s of partying for sure but what a different time. I would never again do that to my body or brain, ever. But ohhhh the freedoms!

BH: What are your memories of Rene Daalder? Was he an easy director to work with?

RS: Rene was fun to work with. I can’t say I understood his vision for this movie, maybe none of us did but we did what we had to get it done.

 

BH: Tell me about the scene where the bullies wreck your beloved jalopy. Do you remember shooting that scene? Were any stunt people used, or did Steve Bond really drive the car?

RS: We shot some of it at Griffith Park, the drives and the stop. After they get in the car we shot at another location, a condemned school in Burbank. When they stop me I obviously was driving as was Steve I believe. After a few takes I hear someone yell “Sikes hit the van!” and I got blamed for crashing into the van. It never happened and eventually I was exonerated. But at first I was blamed.

The guys get into the car and we drive off, cut to driving at the condemned school. We all were in it for much of it except the final car jump. I believe some of us were replaced with stunt people. Danny Rogers was the stunt co-coordinator and another really good guy. I don’t remember if we were all in the car going over or not. Funny, it seems like I remember being in the front seat with stunt men in wigs in the back. That way those in the front would be seen through the windshield – but it would have to have been Danny the stunt driver. I honestly don’t recall it for certain.

BH: At the end of that tragic scene you unleash quite the raw display of emotion. After the bullies walk away you slam your car door and then kick the car while spinning around in frustration! Was that method acting?

RS: Yes pretty much. Although I did use a grass reed to tickle my nostrils to tear up. I think the bullies found that most enjoyable. So I am teary eyed and in the “moment” when action starts. And then the anger and the spin!

BH: Were you present for the shooting of any of the death scenes? If so, please share your memories!

RS: I was present for the pool death. And upon discovery of Steve Bond’s body Andrew Stevens broke my nose for real! I utter something, Harvey (Tom Logan, good guy and we are still in touch) says something like “and to think he was so full of life” then Andrew rushes to take him out and he accidentally koko-butted me in the nose.

I bled immediately. They grabbed me, threw me in a make up chair and grabbed my nose. The producer Howard Sobel comes by and asks “Do you have a history of bloody noses?” I angrily say no and tell him to get lost, to which he replies “Oh I do, that’s why I wondered.” Geeeesss! Anyway, I recovered moments later and we shot the scene. Turns out my nose was crushed. I have a broken nose throughout many scenes in the movie and a puffy face because it was shot out of sequence. In 1999 I finally got it fixed so I could again breath properly. There should have been a workers compensation claim but I never reported it.

I was there for Oscar’s death. During rehearsals the explosion knocked out Danny the stuntman briefly and the lights and set went dark. Tom and I were supposed to be in the scene next to Oscar but wardrobe put us in the wrong day’s clothes so they just went ahead without us. It was scary although no one was ultimately hurt.

I also was there for Arthur’s death at Hollywood High Library. We all thought the blood looked cool running down the page.

BH: Your character has a fiery demise! Any memories of that car explosion?

RS: It was filmed at Griffith Park which we used for the parking lot. It was a little spooky watching a dummy – with MY blue jean jacket on it get blown sky high. I was holding a girl’s hand I was dating and watching me and part of my clothing go bye bye. The production crew asked if they could use my jacket because they forgot to get one and promised that they would replace it – well not to my satisfaction did they replace it. Instead I got some crummy old blue jean jacket. Not cool at all.

BH: Was there ever a premiere for MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH? If so, where was it, and did you attend? What was the audience reaction to the film?

RS: I think it opened on Hollywood Blvd at the Pacific theater on a Wednesday night and the cast all went. I don’t recall if it was a special screening of it or not. We sat together in two rows. As the credits rolled Lani yells out “Hey, how did I end up after Sikes?” since the original film credits somehow moved my name further down the list of costars.

It was bitter sweet for me. It is difficult to watch oneself and then I see my broken nose throughout. The audience that was there seemed to like it. Tom Logan and I hung out quite a bit and there were times in Hollywood when people would spot us and ask for autographs because we were kids from CENTRAL HIGH. I later took a director friend of mine to see it at another Hollywood theater so she could see my work in the film. She was positive. I am glad it has been well received through the years, surprised and glad.

 

BH: What were/are your thoughts on the finished product?

RS: I like it and I cringe, as I mentioned it is always difficult to watch yourself. What you could have done differently-and “gd math problems”and such. I thought it should be longer. Things happened too quickly. I don’t know what if anything was left out of the filming. But the market at the time was dictating and it was more of an exploitation flick. Fast deaths, no grief, revenge, and then end. That sort of formula. Embedded in it however are the subtle messages of class rivalry, power corrupting, and the dialog of children attempting to act like adults or movie tough guys. It made for an intriguing blend with the sappy music. It was bound for cult fame – I just didn’t see it at the time.

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!! 

Mother’s Day!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on May 11, 2014 by Brain Hammer

I’m so proud of my boys. They never forget their momma.

MOTHER’S DAY (1980)

This holiday favorite begins inside a rather tatty looking self help meeting. After the groovy graduation ceremony, a young couple bums a ride home from a sweet looking old lady. The shady acting couple seem to have sinister intentions, and when the old woman’s car suddenly breaks down on a lonely stretch of road in the woods her imminent demise seems inevitable. Suddenly a pair of masked psychopaths show up and attack the couple. They swiftly decapitate the dude sitting in the backseat and then violently assault the girl on the roof of the car. Then things take a turn for the bizarre when the old woman joins in. She kisses and strangles the girl and then congratulates the killers for a job well done. The masked psychos are the demented old woman’s sons – Ike & Addley, and they have made their mother VERY proud!

As the opening credits roll we take a trip down memory lane with a tasty trio of wacky prank pulling college roommates that call themselves the rat pack. We then get to spend a little quality time with each of the girls, now all grown up after college. Trina is a pool party throwing high roller enjoying the fast life in Beverly Hills, Abbey is a mousy loser suffering under her sick and dying mother’s oppression in a tiny apartment in Chicago, and Jackie is a spineless slut constantly being taken advantage of by sleazy men in the Big Apple. The girls had made a vow to stay friends forever and reunite once a year for a mystery weekend where they meet at a different place chosen by that year’s leader.

This year it’s Jackie’s turn to pick the destination and she chooses an out of the way stretch of woods in upstate New York called Deep Barrons. A toothless prophet of doom in a country store warns the “Lez-Beans” not to go messin’ up in Deep Barrons, but being your typical know-it-all city slickers they choose to ignore him. The gals set up camp and have a few laughs stepping in bear shit, fishing, and splashing around topless in the river. We’re then treated to an unbearably wacky 70′s flashback of the rat pack in action, humiliating a dipshit former lover of Jackie’s named Dobber to the tune of Tommy James & The Shontelle’s classic “I Think We’re Alone Now!” The fun is short lived however. Unfortunately for the girls, Deep Barrons also happens to the home of Ike, Addley, and Momma!

Soon enough, the girls are abducted by Ike & Addley and are dragged kicking screaming inside their sleeping bags back to their isolated house deep in the woods. It turns out that Mother is training her sons to be the very best murderers and rapists that they can be. She also needs her sons for protection, as she is convinced that her supposedly dead, feral sister Queenie is actually still alive and stalking the woods at night. As expected, her beloved boys Ike & Addley are a real pair of winners. They have a Sesame Street alarm clock in their bedroom, brush their teeth with beer, eat EZ Cheese out of the can, and debate endlessly as to whether “Punk Sucks” or “Disco’s Stupid” (reminds me of some of my former house mates!). They are also consummate media junkies, with a television constantly blaring in the living room. Being called a sadistic motherfucker simply makes Ike smirk but the accusation of being “backwoods” is enough to make him snap and exclaim “Don’t you ever say backwoods again! We’re CITY-FIED! You look around!”

The two dim witted savages have a blast humiliating, beating, and raping Jackie, as Mother happily watches and barks out orders. The next morning during the brothers’ daily workout the girls manage to escape, but Jackie is badly injured and Abbey suffers a nasty hand wound in the process. Trina tries to make a break for their car but discovers that the brothers have already sabotaged it and that there is no way to escape. Jackie dies soon afterwards from her wounds and her tragic death inspires Trina & Abbey to swear revenge. The girls pool their resources and begin an unbelievable final assault on the sadistic family, which includes hatchets to the groin, electric knife chest carving, Drano down the throat, television set head bashing, and suffocation via inflatable breasts! And just when you think you’ve seen it all, the always annoying post- “Carrie” shock epilogue is unleashed to further assault the audience. If you go down to the woods today…

This infamous 1980 revenge epic from writer/director Charles Kaufman is easily my favorite of Troma’s original productions (I almost always prefer the films that they only distribute). This one is a lot less silly than the usual Troma fare and plays out more in the depraved and violent vein of clas-sick flicks like “Last House On The Left.” Your brain will be battered by the constant switching of tones, which vary from light hearted comedy to gut punching misery. The special effects are also hit and miss. The opening decapitation is laughably fake, while the hand wound later suffered by Abbey is hideously realistic looking. Either way, there is plenty of nasty splatter throughout to keep the gorehounds happy. I have to say that the “Shirley Temple” rape scene, which includes forced role play, photography of the outrage, and a particularly savage beating is one of the most disturbing that I’ve seen. This especially brutal scene makes the final turning of the tables against the rapists even more satisfying.

Another big positive is the surprising amount of characterization on display. The opening scenes of the girl’s day-to-day lives give us considerable insight into their characters and add a lot of impact to the film’s climax as well. There’s a lot of irony and a considerable amount of satire too. I’d say more, but I don’t want to ruin any of the surprises. Speaking of surprises, the tacked on shock-ending is pretty weak in my opinion. It doesn’t ruin the film by any means, but it’s a bit of a groaner. Bonus points if you see it coming, as a lot of fans seem to miss the obvious set up on their first viewing. I’ve been a big fan of this one since my days as a wee, impressionable Brain Hammer. Unbelievably, my parents let me watch this one more than once, which is another big reason why I am insane. When I first started collecting horror flicks on VHS, the Media Home Video release of MOTHER’S DAY was one of the first tapes I tracked down. I actually wore out my first copy from repeat viewings and had to replace it, which is a testament to just how entertaining this clas-sick flick really is.

As to be expected, the wacky bastards at Troma released a beautiful digitally mastered director’s cut dvd of MOTHER’S DAY. The bonus features include a very informative and funny commentary track by Charles Kaufman, interviews with, and a special introduction by the Kaufman family, and all of the other cheesy crap you’ve come to love and expect from a Troma dvd, including tons of trailers and the always touching Power Of The Radiation March. This all time, independent horror clas-sick demands a spot in any respectable collection. Never forget your momma!

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!! 

 

Tenement!

Posted in Uncategorized on May 3, 2014 by Brain Hammer

Slaughter In The South Bronx!

TENEMENT (1985)

TENEMENT is the tender tale of a rat infested slum in the South Bronx taken hostage by a crazed gang of junkie street punks. The tenement’s greasy and loathsome superintendent Hector finally gets fed up with the gang using the basement as their personal shooting gallery (in more ways than one) and calls the cops on them. The police show up and remove the gang from the tenement, and Hector and the rest of the tenants throw themselves a little party to celebrate.

Sadly, the good times doesn’t last long, as the gang is released only a few hours after being arrested. The leader of the gang, Chaco, swears bloody revenge on the apartment dwellers and vows to take “his building”  back. His plan of attack is simple: cut the phone lines, take over the building one floor at a time, and rape, torture, and terrorize every single tenant before violently killing them. The hapless and helpless tenants have no choice but to band together against the maniacs and fight for their lives. The building becomes a battlefield of madness and the game of survival begins. The game is played with knives, guns, drugs & sex… there can only be one winner!

TENEMENT (aka Game Of Survival) has the unique claim to fame of being the very first genre flick in the 80′s to repeatedly receive an X rating from the MPAA for excessive violence. The film was also denied a UK video release. The clas-sick tag line “Too violent to be rated!” was more than just hype, it was a fact! The film had to be released unrated, and I honestly can’t imagine watching it any other way and enjoying it. This has to be considered one of the most spectacularly gruesome exploitation flicks of all time. Chaco’s army arm themselves with machetes, knives, and guns, and the death scenes are always excessive and gory. The most notorious moment of the film has to be the incredibly vicious scene where a woman is raped to death with a broomstick. This nasty scene is especially disturbing because of how much the gang beats the woman before, during, and after the rape, and because the victim’s young daughter witnesses the bloody aftermath. For sheer brutality, this scene rivals anything else I can think of.

But there’s more! A seeing eye dog is gutted, a fat chick has her throat slit, a old Jewish lady runs around gingerly hitting punks with a baseball bat, a horny and insistent John gets impaled with a crowbar, a tubby Puerto Rican woman in purple pants falls out of a window, a gutter skank has blood lovingly smeared on her tits and later has a refrigerator dropped on her head, and the bug eyed guy who played “Cigar Face” in “The Toxic Avenger” overdoses on rat poison! WOW! This insanity all leads up to a spectacular thundershower showdown on the roof of the building between a pregnant woman and the leader of the gang that should make fans of sleazy and violent revenge flicks finally stand up and cheer.

This flick is a real crowd pleaser…if you can stomach the graphic violence and then endure the long stretches of the film where nothing really happens. I’m a big fan of this flick, and have enjoyed numerous viewings over the years, but I have to admit that it’s far from perfect. The biggest problem with the film is the fact that the pacing sucks. The scenes where the building is being taken over by the punks should always be riveting, but they often wind up feeling tedious. You’ll have a great death scene or two, and then a long meandering stretch of the gang trashing up empty apartments or worthless scenes with the tenants bickering with each other.

The tenants are the other big problem with the film. It’s almost impossible to feel sorry for them or cheer them on. It doesn’t help matters that the super is a vile, racist alcoholic, and that his tenants are an odd assortment of feeble old ladies, drunks, cheap prostitutes and their strung out boyfriends, and a gaggle of welfare moms and their bastard offspring. They spend the majority of the film incessantly arguing with each other or pathetically begging “Mr. Washington” to help them. Mr. Washington (actor Joe Lynn) is our angry, loner hero who also happens to live in the tenement and plays a mean saxophone. He’s a big Black bad ass in the proud Fred Williamson tradition. Mr. Washington eventually rallies the troops and saves the day, despite the fact he really doesn’t want to…and I really can’t blame him. I actually find myself rooting for Chaco, but only because he slightly resembles Steve Perry from Journey. Speaking of music, the theme song for this one is a rap number by the Kool Krew that is pretty much the dopest thing ever recorded! Any complaints about this flick are instantly made irrelevant by that kick ass theme song. It’s also worth mentioning that the film’s one-sheet poster was drawn by none other than John Fasano of “Rock ‘n’Roll Nightmare” legend! That little factoid alone makes this flick Brain Hammer approved.

The fine fiends at Shriek Show were sick enough to release TENEMENT uncut on dvd. The special features include a very entertaining interview and director’s commentary with Roberta Findlay. Roberta is a fucking blast to listen to here as she claims the script reminded her of her childhood! She tells incredible stories about discovering a dead bear and assorted human remains while shooting the film in the South Bronx! Good gritty, gory fun! I can’t recommend this one highly enough. You can also find TENEMENT included in Shriek Show’s “Grindhouse Psychos!” triple feature set along with “Cop Killers” and another personal favorite of mine – “Don’t Go In The House.” Essential exploitation and a must have in any respectable scumbag’s collection.

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

The Slayer!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on April 19, 2014 by Brain Hammer

She searched through the dark corridors of the unknown only to find…

THE SLAYER (1982)

Kay is a struggling surrealist painter with recurring bad dreams. When she sleeps she has horrifying visions of agonizing death and is chased by a hideous looking murderous monster. Is it a nightmare, or…

Kay’s husband David, who also happens to be her doctor, wakes her from the madness and offers to take her to the next best place to paradise – an island in the middle of nowhere. Kay’s successful director brother Eric, and his actress wife Brooke also come along for the trip. Brooke isn’t excited about spending a week with the always emotionally distraught Kay, but Eric assures her it will be a vacation she will never forget. Once the gang loads onto a small plane and leaves for the isolated island, there’s no turning back. Kay is now on vacation weather she likes it or not.

After arriving at the cold and barren beachfront, Kay remarks that feels like she’s been there before. The plane’s creepy pilot (and part time prophet of doom) Mr. Marsh tells her she ain’t the first he’s heard say that, and that she won’t be the last. “This island is the kind of place folks dream about.” As the group begins making the mile long trek to the vacation house where they are staying, Brooke gets the creeps and feels like she’s being watched. Eric again assures her that there’s nobody on the island but the four of them…nobody living, that is. They then pass the remains of what appears to have been a large theater. Kay is mysteriously drawn to the abandoned building, and is eerily convinced she had already painted it. David tries to convince her that it’s a coincidence and Eric tells everybody to hurry and leave before they get eaten alive.

The couples finally make their way to the large house, which appears run down on the outside but is nicely furnished and fully stocked with food and booze. As they begin to settle in, Mr. Marsh returns with a warning. A violent storm is brewing, and despite the calm outside… things ain’t always what they seem to be. Eric dismisses Mr.Marsh as “one weird dude” and ignores his warning. We then get to meet a good hearted old salt named Wally who is fishing on the beach. Just as Wally starts to crack jokes, the unseen slayer shows up and cracks his skull with an oar. BUT IT WAS ALL JUST A DREAM! Kay wakes up on the beach with a sudden fright, as the rest of the gang is having fun in the sun. Later that night, the couples have dinner and drinks on the beach, but the night is ruined as Eric begins harassing Kay about her unsuccessful career and her shitty surrealist paintings. Kay later tells David that the island is giving her the creeps, which angers him. He tells her that she’s building a wall of depression around herself because of those damned dreams of hers and he fears she might be slipping over the edge.

David later apologizes to Kay in bed, where Kay agains explains how scared she is. As Kay drifts off to sleep sometimes she feels like when she wakes up her real life will be gone, and her dreams will haven taken their place. David assures her it’s all her mind and not real. “It’s just one of those demons that surface every once in while. We all have them.” They then make love and go to sleep together. David wakes up in the night hearing a strange thumping sound. He wanders into the basement, investigates the empty elevator shaft, and incredibly enough winds up being graphically decapitated by the elevator doors! The next morning, Kay wakes up in bed next to David. She rolls over and proceeds to give her lover a tender kiss on the lips to wake him. To her horror, David’s eyes slowly open and blood begins to pour from his mouth. Kay then pulls back the covers to discover his body is missing and that she was kissing his now decapitated, but still apparently still alive head! BUT IT WAS ALL JUST A DREAM, AGAIN!! Kay wakes up with terror, now alone in bed with no sign of her husband.

Kay screams for help, and Eric & Brooke come to investigate. Kay tells them about her dream, and the trio then unsuccessfully look all over the house for David. Kay is sadly convinced that David is dead, but Eric assures her that it was just a nightmare and that David is probably off on the coast somewhere taking photos. Eric and Brooke then proceed to spend the next two days searching the surrounding areas for David while Kay sits around on the porch in a daze working on, and then tearing up a drawing in her sketchbook. Kay finally gets off her ass and slowly investigates the abandoned theater, and eventually stumbles upon David’s headless corpse, which has been hung up from the rafters like a trophy!

Kay tells the others about her grisly discovery. She also tells Brooke that she has seen his slayer in her dreams, and if she goes to sleep they will all be killed. “Have you ever had nightmare that was so real, that you thought it was actually happening?” Brooke tells Eric about Kay’s warning, which leads Eric to tell her a little story about his sister. When they were kids Eric & Kay’s parents gave Kay a kitten for Christmas and two days later they found the animal frozen to death in a meat freezer. Kay said something in her dreams did it. Kay then spent years in therapy because of her nightmares. Later that night, Brooke slips Kay some sleeping pill laced coffee, which is perfectly logical thing to do to a manic depressive person with years of nightmare fixation.

Kay breaks down and again tells Eric about the dream, the same dream over and over again. When poppa gave her the kitten. She woke up screaming, something far away coming at her. It did terrible things, and the more she dreamed it the more real it became. She created the slayer with the dream, and it will keep happening until it no longer needs her to give it life. She then drifts off to sleep against her will. Brooke begins to believe Kay’s story, but Eric remains convinced that something alive -not a dream, dragged David out of bed and killed him. He starts to suspect that the “weird dude” himself Mr. Marsh might be the culprit. In desperation, Eric leaves to go fire off a few emergency flares on the beach. He promises Brooke he won’t be long, and sure enough, he is promptly dispatched by the monster – who drags him away while still screaming for a midnight snack. Brooke makes the mistake of looking for David and takes a pitchfork in the tits for her efforts.

This leaves Kay all alone in her world of dreams. She wakes up the next morning and wanders the beach in horror as she discovers the rotting remains of her brother and step-sister. She then locks her doors and windows and tries in vain to prepare herself for a final battle against her unholy creation. She searched through the dark corridors of the unknown only to find terror that strikes again and again. She could not anticipate a web of diabolical horror. This time the nightmare is real. Tonight she will face the slayer!

THE SLAYER has to be one of the most underrated and overlooked low budget horror flicks ever. I am a huge fan of this one and think it gets better every time I watch it. From start to finish, this flick has an unmistakable, eerie, dream like quality. It’s also punctuated with some really nice gory moments like the aforementioned decapitation and pitchfork impalement, and it features one of the coolest looking monsters in horror history. Most horror flicks with triple the budget can’t manage to be this convincing. There’s something about these low budget early 80’s horror flicks that just scream absolute perfection to me, and THE SLAYER is a prime example of that. It’s all about the little moments. My favorite scene in this one is the incredible “head in bed” gag, which I find be truly disturbing. There’s something about the way that the head opens it’s eyes and seems to be alive that really gives me the chills.

Much credit must be given to director and writer J.S. Cardone and co-writer Bill Ewing for writing such a fantastic little horror story. The script is fantastic, full of fun lines that are later ironic or prophetic like “hurry up before we get eaten alive.” Some people over the years have complained about the wrap around story and the film’s ending, but I have no complaints whatsoever. I think the ending of the flick is a real pisser, and wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone. The special effects by Robert Babb and the special effects makeup by Robert Short are also worth a mention. This flick has some very memorable death scenes, and we finally get to take a good look at the monster he is one ugly, ugly bastard. It was all enough to have the film branded a “Video Nasty” in the UK, where it was unavailable for years.

It’s worth noting that this was the very first horror flick to feature a nasty looking large clawed dream monster, and it first introduced the “don’t let me fall asleep or we will all die” gag. This all proceeds “A Nightmare On Elm Street” by a few years, and it does seem a bit unfair that THE SLAYER remains so widely unknown and unseen by horror fans. I would personally take this one over the Elm Street flicks any day.

THE SLAYER is probably best known and remembered by horror fans today for it’s very cool Continental VHS release, which was a double feature along with the 1983 Fred Olen Ray epic SCALPS. This double feature came packaged inside a huge canary yellow box that was ugly as shit but must have been hard to miss on video store shelves. Continental Video also used the violent scenes from THE SLAYER in their incredible VHS clip-collection TERROR ON TAPE, which was “hosted” by the one and only Cameron Mitchell. Sadly, both THE SLAYER and TERROR ON TAPE have never received a proper DVD release. TERROR ON TAPE is a bit more understandable to me, considering the legal logistics of releasing such a compilation film, but the lack of THE SLAYER on DVD is a crime against friggin’ humanity. This is a flick that is screaming for a remastered, special edition release. At the moment, the cleanest version of the film I’ve seen was on youtube, of all places. Hopefully someday this flick will get the love that it deserves. Consider THE SLAYER Brain Hammer approved in a BIG way!

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

I Drink Your Blood!

Posted in Uncategorized on April 4, 2014 by Brain Hammer

Rabid, drug-infested Hippies on a blood-crazed KILLING RAMPAGE!

I DRINK YOUR BLOOD (1970)

A wandering hippy devil cult’s van breaks down, so they set up shop in a small backwater town which is nearly deserted thanks to the recent construction of a nearby dam. When night falls after a busy day of catching rats to barbecue, the hippies take acid, pledge themselves to master Satan, and proceed to freak the fuck out. One of their mock Satanic rituals degenerates into the gang rape of a pretty young girl from town who was caught sneaking a peek from the woods. The poor girl later wanders home dazed and drugged, unable to speak.

When her Grandpa, the town veterinarian, finally figures out what happened he decides to confront the drug infested hippies. They quickly dose Gramps up with LSD and send him packing. Gramps is reduced to an incoherent imbecile who uses salt & pepper shakers for rabbit ears. This infuriates his chubby and feisty Grandson – Pete, who in turn shoots a rabid dog, expertly extracts a blood sample (!) and then injects the rabid dog blood into the hippies’ meat pies! Yes – meat pies! Did I mention that Petey also works in the town bakery?

The hippies are duped by Pete into buying the tainted pies and quickly suffer the brutal effects of hydrophobia after eating them. The rabies combined with the hallucinatory drugs coursing through their veins makes them homicidal and they quickly turn on each other before wandering around the town, infecting others. One of the female hippies with a particularly roaring sex drive winds up getting gang fucked by several of the local construction workers, and they all become infected with rabies as well. The small town quickly becomes overrun with rabid lunatics on a blood crazed killing rampage, and the two young kids and the owner of the bakery have to fight for their lives. Let it be known, sons and daughters, that Satan was an acid head. Drink from his cup; pledge yourselves. And together, we’ll all freak out!” 

I am a HUGE fan of this bloodthirsty 1970 effort from director David Durston. As a Satanist, I get a lot of enjoyment out of dialog like “Let it be known brothers and sisters that Satan was an acidhead!” There are lots of highly memorable performances from the hippies to enjoy including the one and only Bhaskar as “Horace Bones,” the charismatic cult leader, Jadine Wong as the deadly Asian beauty “Sue Lin,” and George Patterson as the wild eyed “Rolo.” George does his best to steal the movie and is very convincing as a slobbering, axe wielding lunatic. I also have to mention Riley Mills, who plays the pugnacious “Pete.” This kid is absolutely hilarious. Something about the supreme confidence in the way he delivers his dialog, and the way he carries himself really cracks me up. No one could say “Gran-Paw” better than Riley.

The breathtaking Lynn Lowry (The Crazies, Shivers) made her second uncredited on screen appearance (she had previously appeared in a small role in Lloyd Kaufman’s“The Battle Of Love’s Return”) here as the mute hippie who pledges herself to Satan and wields a mean electric knife. Lynn gets naked and looks absolutely beautiful here. She says more with her eyes than some actresses could say with a lengthy monologue. It’s a crime that she wasn’t credited here because her role is arguably the most memorable of the film and her image was frequently used in the ads…and much later, the dvd covers.

This clas-sick Jerry Gross production was a perennial grindhouse and drive-in favorite, almost always paired with “I Eat Your Skin,” which was a rather lame 1964 black & white jungle/zombie effort from director Del “Horror Of Party Beach” Tenney. The one-two punch of I DRINK YOUR BLOOD and I EAT YOUR SKIN looked unbelievably cool on movie posters and was too much for audiences to resist. Fans looking for a bloody good time might have been disappointed however, depending on where and when they saw the film, as the film was originally rated “X” for violence (the first film in horror history to earn this dubious distinction!) and the prints were often butchered by local theater owners in a lame effort to tone it down. When you see this flick uncut it is chock full of bloodshed. The primitive splatter is applied by the bucket full in the proud H.G. Lewis gross out tradition and is sure to satisfy gorehounds.

The fine fiends at GRINDHOUSE RELEASING put out a fantastic special edition dvd of I DRINK YOUR BLOOD which is completely uncut, and beautifully remastered. The bonus features include a very entertaining commentary track with director David Durston and star Bhaskar, four never before seen deleted scenes (which include a more downbeat alternate ending), interviews with David Durston, Lynn Lowry, Tyde Kierney, and Jack Damon, the incredibly cool theatrical trailer and radio spots, and an extensive gallery of stills and poster art! There’s also “rare and shocking film” of Bhaskar performing “THE EVIL KING COBRA DANCE” and nifty day-glo cover art that glows in the dark. Trippy!!! This dvd also has some of the very coolest animated, interactive menus that I have ever seen. The whole package is good gory fun! I can’t recommend this one highly enough. Buy or die!

KEEP THE BLOOD AND ACID FLOWING!!! 

 

The Godfather Of Gore!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 1, 2014 by Brain Hammer

Gory greetings! This is a special tribute to the legendary Lucio Fulci! I proudly present my deranged ramblings about “The Godfather Of Gore” and his unholy trinity of undead horror clas-sicks. The dead shall rise and walk the Earth!” 

CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980)

A gifted psychic named Mary Woodhouse (Catriona MacColl) dies from sheer fright during a séance after receiving a morbid vision of a priest named Father Thomas hanging himself in the cemetery of a cursed town called Dunwhich. Dunwhich is built upon “the ruins of the original Salem” which also hide one of the seven gates of Hell. As foretold in the book of Enoch, the suicidal preacher hanging himself causes the unfaithful servant to go straight to Hell and for the next three days the moon will turn red and the cities’ dead will walk the earth. Horrendous, awful things begin happening in Dunwhich that will shatter your imagination.

For starters, Mary isn’t really dead and was buried alive. Luckily for Mary, the pathologist played by none other than Lucio Fulci himself didn’t bother giving her an autopsy! Mary is saved from an agonizing death inside her partially buried coffin after a hard boiled reporter named Peter Bell (Christopher George – RIP) slowly realizes that Mary is screaming at the top of her lungs inside the casket and does the only logical thing – he grabs a fucking pick axe and slams it right into the part of the coffin where Mary’s face would be! After saving Mary’s life Peter hesitatingly agrees to join her on the quest to find the mysterious town of Dunwhich. According to the prophecies of Enoch, if the portals of Hell aren’t closed by All Saints Day no dead body will ever be able to rest in peace again and the dead will rise up all over the earth and take over the world. Peter and Mary have to destroy Father Thomas’ body to close the gates of hell and save humanity.

Meanwhile, the horror in Dunwhich reaches a fevered pitch as the dead priest wanders the town looking for victims. Staring into the eyes of the evil priest is enough to cause one unfortunate girl (Daniela Dora) to cry tears of blood and then puke up her internal organs, much to shock and disgust of her soon to be brain dead boyfriend (future director Michelle Soavi!). The plague of the dead also manifests itself in the form of sudden earthquakes that cause massive property damage to the local watering hole, angry cat scratching that rips the flesh of a neurotic woman named Sandra (Janet Agren) with incest issues, and undead grandmothers that chomp off a mortician’s fingers.

The town’s madness begins to infect its dimwitted citizens as well. A jealous father takes out his rage and confusion on the town pervert – Bob (the one and only Giovanni Lombardo Radice!) and puts a power drill through his brain. Once Peter and Mary finally make their way to the cursed city they are welcomed by maggots that fall like rain. Peter and Mary brush off the maggots and then team up with Sandra and her shrink Gerry (Carlo De Mejo) before heading into the decrepit catacombs underneath the priest’s grave site for a fiery final showdown with the possessed priest.

This is my favorite Lucio Fulci film, and one of my all time favorite films too. I’ve been a big fan since witnessing the film’s ability to shock and horrify firsthand. I was introduced to this one via a 1990 rental of the Paragon “Gates Of Hell” vhs that caused several of my friends (and their little sisters) to leave the room disgusted. Since then, I’ve watched this one more times than I can count. I think “City Of The Living Dead” is a perfect film, and Fulci’s true masterpiece. This is also my favorite of the many genius works that Lucio Fulci and writer Dardano Sacchetti worked on together. A lot of people prefer “The Beyond,” but I think “City Of The Living Dead” has a much more blasphemous and hallucinogenic vibe. It’s also a considerably more stylish film than “The Beyond” and possesses a truly morbid atmosphere that few other horror flicks can come close to matching.

The late great Christopher George turns in another one of his trademark winning performances. Chris was on a fucking tear in the early 80′s, appearing in one classic genre flick after another before his untimely death in 1983. He also starred in the classic 1980 vigilante flick “The Exterminator” and the following year appeared in both “Enter The Ninja”and “Graduation Day.” Who knows how many more amazing films Christopher would have starred in if only given the chance? The mind boggles. It’s great that Christopher and Lucio were able to work together, even if they didn’t get along and Christopher supposedly filled Fulci’s pipe full of maggots!

Fulci’s favorite leading lady, Catriona MacColl (“The Beyond,” “House By The Cemetery”) and his favorite female victim – Daniela Dora (“The New York Ripper,” “House By The Cemetery”) both star here and both contribute greatly to the film’s success. Catriona does a remarkable job in the role of Mary. Her scene inside the coffin when she wakes up buried alive is fantastic. Daniela steals the entire movie and instantly ensured a place in the annals of horror history for participating in what has to be one of the most insanely sickening death scenes ever captured on film. Daniela proved her “guts” by having the nerve to swallow actual sheep entrails and regurgitate them on camera at Fulci’s command! This is only one of the memorable moments of “City Of The Living Dead,” but the iconic image of Daniela crying tears of blood and then slowly puking up her innards is what immediately comes to a horror fan’s mind when you hear the title.

The living dead mostly take a back seat to the buckets of blood and maggots, but there should be more than enough gut barfing and brain ripping to keep gorehounds happy. The splatter effects from Gino De Rossi (“Zombi II,” “Cannibal Ferox”) are about as top notch as they come. But for some random and completely hysterical reason, whenever the frequently repeated closeup shot of the brain ripping is shown the hand doing the ripping clearly belongs to a black man with hairy knuckles! This makes the climax to the aforementioned gut barfing scene unintentionally hilarious as clearly it’s not Daniela’s hand ripping out Michelle Soavi’s brain. The zombies we do get to see look fantastic, as they were created by the legendary Rosario Prestopino (“Zombi II,” “Burial Ground)”. “City Of The Living Dead” is a horror film with GUTS, and a lot of them.

CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD should be considered mandatory viewing for all horror fans. Sharp eyed Italian horror buffs will get a kick out of seeing so many familiar faces. (Watch out for Perry Pirkanen of “Cannibal Ferox/Holocaust” legend in a small yet pivotal role as a perverted gravedigger!) I really can’t say enough good things about this one. “City Of The Living Dead” is an all time horror clas-sick. Anchor Bay and Blue Underground have both released “City Of The Living Dead” on dvd. The dvd features the theatrical trailer and radio spots. BUY IT!!!

THE BEYOND (1981)

The madness begins in Louisiana, 1927 as a young girl named Emily recites passages from the dreaded book of Eibon and is blinded by hellfire for her blasphemy. Meanwhile, an ungodly warlock by the name of Sweik sits alone in his hotel room, conjuring graven images from the beyond and giving them immortality on his canvas. An angry, torch wielding mob descends upon the hotel and make their way to Sweik’s room – number 36. The townspeople blame Sweik for cursing both the hotel, and the town forever. Sweik warns them that the hotel was built over one of the seven doors of evil, and then cautions that only he can save them. Sweik is then violently beaten with chains, crucifed with nails, and his flesh is melted away. “The seven dreaded gateways to Hell are concealed in seven cursed places. Woe be unto him who ventures near without knowledge.”

The story then moves forward to Louisiana, 1981. Liza (Catriona MacColl) was a New York City gal who had done just about everything a girl could do without losing her good English breeding and reputation before a rare turn of luck found her inheriting the old hotel. “But behind this doorway lie the terrifying and unspeakable secrets of hell. No one who sees it lives to describe it.” The first to die is a painter working on the side of the hotel who catches a glimpse at THE EYES of horror and falls to his eventual death off a scaffold. Dr. John McCabe (David Warbeck) is then summoned to take the badly injured man to the hospital. The next victim is an old sewer rat named Joe the Plumber who kindly shows up to do some work on the hotel’s flooded basement and has his eyes violently gouged out by undead hands for his efforts!

Liza has an unusual series of encounters with a mysterious blind girl named Emily who claims she had been “looking” for Liza. Emily repeatedly warns Liza to go back where she came from, and to hurry. “We blind see things more clearly.” After fishing Joe the Plumber’s body out of the hotel cellar and performing an autopsy on it, John also tries in vain to convince Liza to give up on her mission to reopen the hotel. Meanwhile, the town continues to be cursed with morbid death as a little girl in a morgue watches her mother’s face be eaten away by acid, and is then stricken blind with fear after stumbling into a room full of cadavers. The evil curse also claims the life of a contractor named Martin who was helping Liza renovate the hotel. Martin stumbles off to the Town Hall looking for the hotel’s building plans, has a brief encounter with director Lucio Fulci (which is never a good thing in one of these flicks!), and then falls off a ladder and has his face devoured by spiders! “Woe be unto him who opens one of the seven gateways to Hell, because through that gateway, evil will invade the world.”

Poor Emily is made once more to suffer for her actions, as Sweik returns from the beyond and brings forth the legions of the undead. “And from the day the gates of hell are opened, the dead will walk the earth.” Emily tries in vain to use her trusty seeing eye dog Dickie as a weapon against Sweik, only to find the animal now under Sweik’s control as the jaws of death violently tear apart her throat. When Liza later tells John about her encounters with Emily, she is shocked to hear that he had never heard of her, and that the little house the blind girl had lived in had in reality been abandoned for over fifty years. Liza & John then have to race to escape the cursed hotel, as the gateway to hell begins to loudly howl. They make their way to the nearby hospital, only to find it completely infested with zombies. The girl who didn’t believe in ghosts and the doctor who wouldn’t accept irrational explanations are then forced to “face the sea of darkness...and all therein that may be explored.”

THE BEYOND was legendary director Lucio Fulci’s follow up effort to his diabolical masterpiece “City Of The Living Dead.” In my opinion, and in the opinion of many other horror fans, this is Fulci’s true horror masterpiece. “The Beyond” is one of the most atmospheric, beautiful, and gruesome horror films of all time. From the ultra creepy sepia-toned opening to the incredible, haunting ending, this film commands the attention of viewer and captures their senses. This is another true example of a horror film with GUTS. It features some of Fulci’s most memorable gore sequences, including graphic face melting, eyeball gouging, throat ripping, flesh eating spider attacks, and one of the all time great zombie “head shots.” The fantastic special effects and makeup were created by Giannetto De Rossi (Zombi II) and Germano Natali (Suspiria), and stand out as some of the finest work in their esteemed careers.

Much credit must also be given to the ever prolific and diabolical Dardano Sacchetti, who wrote the story and co-wrote the screenplay with Fulci and Giorgio Mariuzzo. The concept of the seven gates of hell, sealed in seven cursed places is hands down one of the coolest in horror history. The Satanic storylines that could spring forth from these gates are seemingly endless. I really wish Sacchetti & Fulci had decided to explore more of them together. The other big key to the film’s success is the beautiful original music by Fabio Frizzi. It’s impossible for me to imagine this film working the way it does without that haunting piano theme, or the pulse pounding theatrics that accompany the climax. The combination of the surreal story from Sacchetti and the exceptional score from Frizzi give this film an unmistakable, dream like quality. The stuff nightmares are made of.

Speaking of nightmares, the notorious Aquarius Releasing (the same folks who brought us such clas-sicks as “Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave,” “Faces Of Death,” “Cannibal Ferox,” etc.) were the first to bring Fulci’s film to the States in 1983. The U.S. print was re-titled “7 Doors of Death” and given a different opening credit sequence and musical score. Sadly, most of the graphic gore scenes were removed and Fulci was credited as Louis Fuller! “The Beyond” was never seen in America in its true uncut form until 1998, when Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder Pictures, in association with the maniacs at Grindhouse Releasing, tracked down the original master and restored the film, and then began playing it at midnight shows. Anchor Bay then worked with Grindhouse Releasing to finally make the film available uncensored on home video, where it has since gone on to earn a well deserved cult following.

Out of all of the assorted DVD releases of THE BEYOND that are currently available, I’d have to give the Brain Hammer seal of approval to the Grindhouse Releasing disc that was originally unleashed in stores back in 2008. The unrated and uncensored director’s cut of the film was presented in a spectacular hi-definition digital anamorphic widescreen transfer. The bonus features include a brand new 2008 intro by Catriona MacColl, a rare on-set interview with director Lucio Fulci, commentary by stars Catriona MacColl and the late genre superstar David Warbeck, the lost German pre-credit sequence in full color, Necrophagia music video directed by Jim VanBebber (“Gator Green”), theatrical trailers, an extensive gallery of stills and poster art, and liner notes by legendary horror journalist Chas. Balun. I can’t recommend this clas-sick highly enough. Buy or die, you ungodly warlock!

THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (1981)

Legendary director Lucio Fulci wastes no time getting down to business in this one and quickly dispatches his favorite female victim Daniela Doria before the opening credits roll! Daniela gets a gory gander at her boyfriend’s bloody hacked up corpse and doesn’t even have time to regurgitate her innards before receiving the business end of a butcher’s knife through the back of her skull. Welcome to Doctor Jacob Freudstein’s house by the cemetery. In this house, what you don’t know will hurt you.

The next to wander innocently into the waiting spider web are the Boyle family: Doctor Norman Boyle (Paolo Malco – The New York Ripper), his emotionally unbalanced wife Lucy (Catriona MacColl – The Beyond), and their incredibly shrill, annoying, and apparently clairvoyant young son Bob (Giovanni Frezza – Demons). Norman jumps at the lucrative chance to move to Boston and resume the suicide research project that his former colleague Dr. Peterson had abruptly abandoned after killing his mistress and then himself. Lucio Fulci himself briefly appears as a Professor, and in a recurring gag that also appeared in other Fulci flicks, he sends the innocent off to slaughter – this time by arranging to have Norman finish Peterson’s project and clear up his suicide.

Bob receives mysterious messages from a dead little girl named Mae, who lives inside a photograph of an old house. She warns him to stay far away from the Freudstein house. Mae’s ghost wanders the streets of Boston and receives prophetic morbid visions of mannequins being decapitated. Mae once again tells Bob to stay away, but his mommy wouldn’t listen. Parents only do what they want to do. Lucy changes her mind ten times about the trip, which causes a last minute change in housing. The helpful local real estate agent Laura Gittleson (Dagmar Lassander – Hatchet For The Honeymoon) arranges an extended stay inside Oak Mansion, better known as Freudstein’s House. She also hooks the Boyles up with a creepy, silent & short lived babysitter named Ann (played memorably by the always striking Ania Pieroni – Tenebrae).

Past and present collide in a vortex of fear! The house by the cemetery is haunted with the anguished cries of dead children. Lost souls that were used as gruesome, illegal medical experiments by the mad Doctor Freudstein. The bastard’s unholy grave lies hidden within the hallway of the house, much to the shock and disgust of Lucy. Norman tries to dismiss this as a common burial practice in New England, and then thoughtfully offers to finally unlock the rusty cellar door, if only to prove that nothing scary is lurking down there. Norman is rewarded for his bravery with a vicious attack from a bloodthirsty bat that refuses to remove it’s fangs from his hand! A few well placed pokes from a large pair of scissors finally manages to get the job done, after some bat blood is sprayed into Bob’s face.

The helpful local real estate agent Laura Gittleson shows up later that night to calm things down and winds up breaking her ankle in Freudstein’s tomb. She then receives a house call from the good Doctor that is punctuated with a violent, agonizing death by impalement. Meanwhile, Norman comes to the brilliant conclusion that Peterson’s research into the Freudstein house somehow lead to his suicide and decides to dig a little deeper. Norman travels back to New York and plays a cassette recording from his unhinged former colleague that reveals the terrifying secrets of the house by the cemetery. The house that draws you in like an infernal magnet. The smell of the rooms, the blood, and the children… not the children! Now that Bob is staying with us, be sure to treat him like a Freudstein. For other guests are surely destined to drop in.

THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY marked the memorable conclusion of Lucio Fulci’s beloved “supernatural” trilogy of terror, that began with CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD and was rounded out by THE BEYOND. All three films featured actress Catriona MacColl in the center role, surrounded by the surreal and deadly forces of darkness that threaten to overcome humanity. Of the three films in this semi-related series, “House By The Cemetery” is arguably the most beautiful and confusing. The story, which is credited to Elisa Briganti with uncredited “inspiration” from H.P. Lovecraft, borders on incoherent, and the odd, inappropriate dubbing (BOB!) only adds to the comedic confusion. It’s also the most visceral and violent film of the trilogy. “House” might not be quite as pukeworthy as “City” or have the sinister atmosphere that “The Beyond” possesses, but it’s undoubtedly the most mean spirited and morbid entry in the series. Much like Freudstein’s body, the film is crudely stitched together with elements of the supernatural, slasher, and zombie sub-genres.

This flick is sometimes mistaken for a simple zombie film, primarily because of the title and the obvious associations with Fulci’s The Beyond and City Of The Living Dead, but the distinction is the fact that Dr. Freudstein is not an undead ghoul. In an interesting twist, the mad doctor is actually still alive and needs living victims to regenerate his rotting cells. It also appears that Dr. Freudstein transplants limbs whenever necessary. His abdomen is still chock full of maggots though, as Paolo Malco gruesomely discovers towards the film’s climax. The other highlights of the film for gore lovers are the nasty death scenes, in particular the spectacular impalements and juicy throat slitting. Dagmar Lassander’s death scene borders on pornographic, as her gushing arteries drain themselves in clas-sick money shot fashion. But graphic gore aside, this film is also beautifully shot, has a magnificent score, and is one of Fulci’s most atmospheric and mysterious horror films.

Fortunately, THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY is also one of the easier Lucio Fulci flicks to get a hold of. There are numerous dvd releases to choose from, but I would have to give the Brain Hammer seal of approval to the Blue Underground special edition release. This release was freshly transferred in blood-soaked high definition from its original uncut and uncensored negative and is loaded with exclusive new extras! The brand new bonus features include “Meet the Boyles” - interviews with stars Catriona MacColl and Paolo Malco, “Children of the Night” – interviews with stars Giovanni Frezza and Silvia Collatina, “Tales of Laura Gittleson” – interview with star Dagmar Lassander, and ”My Time With Terror” – interview with star Carlo De Mejo.Deleted scenes, theatrical trailers, TV spots, and still galleries round out the package. This is the type of special edition release Doctor Freudstein would give (or take) an arm or a leg for!

FULCI LIVES!!! KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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