Archive for March, 2011

Meat is meat and a man’s gotta eat!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 26, 2011 by Brain Hammer

This latest batch of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT  is a fearsome feast of old school horror flicks that all feature heaping helpings of cannibal gluttony. I hope you’re hungry!

LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

 ANTROPOPHAGUS (1980)

A chance meeting inside a cable car in Greece brings together a young tourist named Julie (Tisa “Zombi II” Farrow) and a small group of travelers (including the lovely Zora Kerova of “Cannibal Ferox” infamy) about to take a boat trip along the Archipelago. Julie hitches a ride so she can be dropped off along the way on a remote island where a babysitting job awaits her. When the group finally arrive at the island they are shocked to find it completely deserted. Julie is especially worried when she finds the large house where her employers were supposed to be waiting for her to be empty, with the sole exception of the family’s young blind daughter – who was cowering inside a wine barrel in the cellar!

The traumatized girl babbles a mad tale of a foul smelling savage beast that devoured everyone on the island, including her parents. The gang is skeptical and wind up paying for it with their lives. The “beast” in question is actually a man – a man who was long ago driven insane by a shipwreck and the tragic death and forced consumption of his wife and child. The now completely deranged cannibal killer mutilates and devours anyone who dares set foot on the island he now calls home.

The hideous looking madman (played very convincingly by co-writer Luigi Montefiori aka George Eastman of “Porno Holocaust” legend) immediately kidnaps the groups’ token whiny pregnant chick and stashes her away for late night snacking. Then the angry antropophagus sets his sights on Julie and her friends and slowly stalks after them in the night. It’s not the fear that will tear them apart…IT’S HIM!

ANTROPOPHAGUS is an especially nasty effort from the legendary director Joe D’Amato. (aka Aristide Massacessi – RIP) It plays out much like an 80’s slasher flick, punctuated with graphic moments of explicit violence that are more in the vein of some of D’Amato’s previous efforts like “Beyond The Darkness” & “Emmanuelle And The Last Cannibals.” It wouldn’t be a stretch to call this a slasher flick with a zombie killer. Although the antropophagus isn’t an undead ghoul, he is very much alive and consumed with bloodlust. The most infamous moment has to be the scene where George chows down on a freshly removed fetus! A skinned rabbit was used for this effect and it is convincingly pukeworthy.

The gory gut munching climax is also memorable, and is usually splashed all over the cover artwork just to spoil everyone’s fun. Although the film suffers from a coffin’s pace it never skimps on the splatter when the man eater gets down to business. The minimal plot (most of the film consists of people walking around in the dark looking for other people) and maximum carnage make this one an acquired taste, but gorehounds should certainly consider this a must see.

This film was “nasty” enough to have been banned on video in the UK for over 18 years. Several different versions have been released on vhs and dvd over the years, with alternate titles including “Antropophagus: The Beast” (the UK video title), “Savage Island,” “Man Eater,” and “The Grim Reaper” (the original US video title). These releases were all butchered to suit the timid tastes of censors. The folks at Shriek Show were good enough to release a completely UNCUT version of ANTROPOPHAGUS which was made from the original Italian negative. Shriek Show’s two disc release includes a wealth of bonus features including a 67 minute documentary entitled “Joe D’Amato: Totally Uncut 2,” an interview with stars George Eastman and Zora Kerova, a photo gallery, and more trailers than you can shake a severed limb at.

 

 

RAW MEAT (1972)

At the turn of the century a cave-in traps a group of miners deep within the caverns that will eventually house the London subway system. The unfortunate miners are forced to resort to cannibalism to stay alive, eating the flesh of the sick and dying. Incredibly, this horror somehow goes on for decades as the group continuously breed among themselves and consume their dead. After a century of this miserable existence only two disgusting descendants of the original group survive – a man and a woman. The man (Hugh Armstrong) knows better than to eat his diseased “wife” and wanders out of the catacombs into the subway system looking for fresh meat.

He stumbles upon a sleazy lawyer on the prowl for prostitutes, attacks him, and then drags him back into his lair. This is almost interrupted by an annoying pair of young lovers (David Ladd & Sharon Gurney) named Alex and Patricia who find the lawyer passed out (shortly after being attacked) on the bottom of the subway station stairs. When the sick woman finally dies the inbred cannibal killer becomes even more unhinged and goes out looking for a new female companion. The conveniently located Patricia seems as good a candidate as any and is quickly kidnapped. It’s up to hippy college student Alex and wacky police inspector Donald Pleasence (Halloween) to save the day and finally put an end to the tribe of once humans…the raw meat of the human race!

This one boasts an outrageous storyline, and an unbelievably creepy and claustrophobic setting. Director Gary Sherman did a fantastic job here (he also wrote the story) and later went on to direct two of my favorite genre flicks – “Dead And Buried” (1981) and “Vice Squad” (1982). The beautiful cinematography was done by Alex Thomson. Thomson and art director Dennis Gordon-Orr did an excellent job creating a superior rotting atmosphere. The highlight of the movie for me is the sequence where we first get a look at the cannibal’s lair with a lengthy tracking shot that slowly reveals several decaying corpses hung like cattle in loving close up.

The killer is also the victim of tragedy – a drooling, hopelessly inbred savage covered in sores. He manages to be sympathetic, despite the multiple violent murders and abductions he commits. He repeatedly yells his catchphrase “MIND THE DOORS!” and attacks his victims with great ferocity out of necessity. He’s hungry and horny, and far more interesting than the two young leads – who are both rather bland and unappealing. Donald Pleasence steals the show as you might expect with his blustery performance as the tea loving inspector in charge of the subway disappearance investigations. Christopher “Dracula” Lee makes a brief appearance in one scene and trades witty insults with Donald.

RAW MEAT was originally released in the UK in 1973 as “Deathline” and never had a US release. This film was for many years only available in an uncut form via pricey and poor looking bootleg vhs copies. MGM did horror fans a big favor by releasing an excellent looking remastered widescreen dvd with all the bloody mayhem intact. The original AIP trailer is also included. This is a cool flick that doesn’t get mentioned nearly enough and one of the most unique 70’s cannibal flicks for sure.

 

 

MOTEL HELL (1980)

The late, great Rory Calhoun (Hell Comes To Frogtown) chews up the scenery as “Farmer” Vincent Smith, a successful rural motel owner and cured meat salesman. It’s well known throughout the county that “it takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent’s fritters,” but no one suspects that Vincent’s trademark smoked ham is actually human flesh! Vincent and his dimwitted and tubby sister Ida (the late Nancy Parsons of “Porky’s” legend) long ago discovered the wonders of murder and cannibalism for profit and have made a comfortable living doing it for over 30 years.

We get to see the dynamic duo in action when a punk rock group called “Ivan & The Terribles” travel through town and suffer a little roadside sabotage thanks to Farmer Vincent. After a spectacular van accident the punks are buried up to their freshly slit necks in the Smith’s secret backyard garden. The unfortunate victims thus become “homegrown” cattle that Vincent & Ida will later happily slaughter, smoke, and then sell to their bumpkin kinfolk and eager tourists. Vincent & Ida are not your typical dimwitted backwoods savages though. They ponder the karmic implications of their actions and attempt to justify them as a means of ending overpopulation and famine at the same time.

A pretty young girl named Terry (Nina Axelrod) survives one of Vincent’s accidents and winds up falling in love with the silver fox (a bit of a stretch to say the least!). Vincent romances the girl for a long meandering chunk of the picture that involves extended scenes of picnics and water tubing. Vincent’s (much) younger brother Bruce – who happens to be the town sheriff also falls for Terry resulting in a deadly love triangle. At the film’s incredible conclusion the now completely deranged Vincent dons a giant pig mask for a bloody chainsaw duel to the death with his estranged brother.

Director Kevin Connor’s “Motel Hell” is a “meat” movie in the proud tradition of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Deranged.” It plays more for laughs than your typical cannibal effort and is also quite satiric. Not exactly thought provoking material, but it’s certainly fun stuff. My only real complaints are that it feels overlong and it’s never really as funny or as scary as it could have been. It’s still fairly creepy though, especially the whacked out scenes in the garden. The kick ass chainsaw duel at the end of the flick is the easily the highlight of the movie and rivals even the legendary battle between Leatherface and Dennis Hopper in TCM2.

MGM released MOTEL HELL on dvd as one half of a Midnite Movies double feature with the 1974 Jeff Gillen/Alan Ormsby classic “Deranged.” Both films were nicely remastered and the double sided disc includes the original theatrical trailers. Sadly, MGM used the heavily edited R rated version of “Deranged” for this release – which unfortunately makes this a good, but not great purchase. I would love to see special edition dvds of both of these clas-sicks.

 

CANNIBAL GIRLS (1973)

A pre-SCTV Eugene Levy & Andrea Martin star as Clifford & Gloria, a groovy young couple who plan a romantic winter getaway in a small town in the middle of nowhere called Farmhamville. Their trip quickly takes a detour into disaster when Clifford’s beat up old car breaks down. The young lovers try to make the best of the situation and check into the local motel. The elderly manager of the motel welcomes them with open arms, and then proceeds to tell them about a horrifying local legend.

According to the legend, a terrible trio of incredibly sexy and homicidal young girls once lived in a nearby farmhouse. The sirens once lured a trio of incredibly horny and stupid young men to a violent demise, and then feasted upon their flesh. Then the girls mysteriously disappeared and were never seen or heard from again. Clifford & Gloria are understandably freaked out by the story, but are stuck in town until their car can be repaired. Clifford then attempts to seduce Gloria with the power of his folk rock balladry in a scene that made me wish I had a pair of scissors handy to shove into my ears and perhaps some bleach to splash into my eyes.

Later that evening, Clifford & Gloria are escorted by the motel owner to a cozy little bed & breakfast isolated deep within the surrounding woods. The proprietor of the b&b is a bizarre and bearded hippie type who calls himself Reverend Alex (Ronald Ulrich). The rev wastes no time before leering at Gloria, and then inviting himself to join them for dinner. The entertainment for the evening is also provided by the Reverend, who regales his guests with tales of his family’s proud history of of executions and venereal disease. The meal is then served by the Reverend’s three lovely female companions, and because this is a horror film, no one makes the obvious connection to the local legend. Clifford & Gloria ultimately decide to spend the night with the gang, which is a rather foolish decision for characters in a film titled “Cannibal Girls” to make. These girls do exactly what you think they do!

Eugene Levy is an ugly, ugly man. That thought kept running through my mind over and over again while I was watching this flick. I’ve always found him to be a bit creepy looking, but to see him back in the early 70’s sporting a huge afro, mutton chops, and mustache is something else altogether. He looks like the mutant offspring of Gene Shalit & Tony Iommi. Now that I got that verbal abuse out of my system, I can comment on his performance in the film – it’s actually really good. Eugene’s talent for improvisation is obvious, even at such an early stage in his career. Andrea Martin & Ronald Ulrich also do a great job fleshing out the threadbare script with a lot of witty, off the cuff dialog.

But what about the cannibal girls, you ask?!? Simply stated, they are fucking amazing. The lovely ladies are played by Randall Carpenter, Bonnie Nielson, and Mira Pawluk, and all three are incredibly gorgeous. The highlight of the movie for me was seeing the girls parading around in their sexy, matching outfits. These girls also know how to deliver the bloody goods. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this film has more than it’s fair share of splatter. I also enjoyed the fact that the comedy never completely overshadows the horror. This is a very self-aware & campy horror film, bordering on parody, but it also never feels like it is entirely trying to take the piss out of the genre. It comes across as more of an amusingly satirical tribute to the trashy low budget drive-in flicks of it’s era. It would be nice if the horror filmmakers of today could learn how to do that sort of thing properly. Sadly, they just don’t make them like this anymore!

The good folks at Shout! Factory have quickly become a horror & exploitation fan’s best friend with their top notch dvd and blu-ray releases. CANNIBAL GIRLS is no exception. This special edition release marks the long overdue debut of the film on home video in the States. Even a bare bones dvd release would have been cause for celebration, and this special edition release – which is loaded with bonus features gets the party started in a BIG way. The “scrumptious” bonus material includes brand new interviews with director Ivan Reitman, producer Daniel Goldberg, and none other than Eugene Levy himself! There’s also radio spots, the original theatrical trailer (which rules), and an alternate audio track that features the infamous William Castle styled “WARNING BELL,” which supposedly warns tender-tummied viewers of any upcoming carnage. Best of all, the warning bell doesn’t really work. It usually starts a bit after the blood, or stops short before the gore is gone. They don’t call them exploitation flicks for nothing!

CANNIBAL GIRLS is currently available on dvd from Shout! Factory. Consider this one Brain Hammer approved and highly recommended!

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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Campus Carve ‘Em Ups!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 18, 2011 by Brain Hammer

It’s back to school time! Today’s lesson in violence is a terrible trio of clas-sick 80’s slasher flicks that feature college campus carnage.

LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!! 

 

THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1982)

With a title like THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, you know you are in for a treat. The dorm the title refers to is 75 year old Morgan Meadows Hall, a former college dormitory that is now condemned and slated for massive renovations. Within the first minute of the movie we see a sweaty, out of sorts fellow running away from something or someone near the dorm. As he cowers in the bushes, an unseen assailant makes their deadly presence known and begins strangling him and hacking away at his hand with a knife. Cue opening credits and some impressively violent sounding violin shrieks.

Once the credits wind down we are introduced to a rather annoying chick named Joanne who is in charge of the dorm’s massive Christmas break shutdown project. Joanne is quickly established as a no-nonsense type of gal as she refuses an offer to go on a skiing vacation with her estranged pseudo-love interest and begins bossing around the small group of students that have offered to help out with the inventory and cleaning. The group gets even smaller when a girl named Debbie (Daphne Zuniga, making her screen debut) announces she has to leave the campus because her grandmother is ill.

The fun begins when Debbie’s parents arrive on campus to pick her up. Dad goes looking for Debbie and gets a couple blows to the head from a spiked bat (!) for his efforts. Then the deranged killer sneaks into Debbie’s parents’ car and strangles her mother with a piece of wire. When Debbie discovers her parents’ freshly dead bodies she faints from the shock. That gives the killer the perfect opportunity to drag her limp body underneath the car and then drive over her several times, crunching her bones to dust. Then the maniac piles all three corpses into the car and drives away into the night.

The next morning the four remaining students – Joanne, Craig, Patty, and Kirst Noveselic lookalike Brian begin cleaning out the dorm and are bothered by a filthy looking hobo named John Hemmit who apparently lives in one of the dorm rooms. The potential body count is fleshed out with a crabby maintenance man named Bill who complains about his missing power drill, and a horny dude named Bobby Lee who shows up to buy some old desks and ogle Joanne. Predictably, Bill is eventually snuffed by the killer with his beloved power drill as the murder weapon.

The kids prepare a large family styled dinner one evening and the maniac shows up to smash the table and food with a baseball bat while the kids are in the kitchen. The rest of the film is then padded out with numerous scenes of the kids splitting up and wandering around the dorm looking for the ever-elusive John Hemmit. The tedium is punctuated with Brian’s eventual dismemberment and Patty getting dumped into a large vat of boiling water. This leaves Craig and Joanne alone as they hatch a desperate scheme to escape the dorm that dripped blood with their lives.

As the kids attempt to leave they have a violent encounter with John Hemmit, and horny old Bobby Lee makes another appearance that gives the real killer a perfect chance to frame someone else for the murders. The bloody mayhem reaches its climax as the madman reveals his true identity and motivations, and unleashes a final outrage that ends the film on a major down note. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I will say this is one slasher flick where you shouldn’t bother getting too attached to the “final girl.”

“The Dorm That Dripped Blood” is exactly the type of horror flick I had in mind when I originally decided to do these PICKS FROM THE CRYPT reviews. For some reason, this flick is almost always ignored when 80’s slasher flicks are discussed, and if it is mentioned or reviewed it always gets slammed for being boring, too gruesome, and for having a “depressing” ending. That is exactly why I love this flick so much. I think the grim, sickly humorous ending gives this flick a big boost. Not every horror flick needs a happy ending, or a cutesy shot of the killer opening his eyes or walking away to neatly set up a sequel. This is one of the brave few horror flicks that doesn’t give the audience what they might want or expect.

“The Dorm That Dripped Blood” was the end result of three writers and two directors coming together to make a tense and atmospheric slasher. Co-directors and writers Stephen Carpenter & Jeffery Obrow were at the helm when this film was originally shot under the title “Pranks.” I’m glad they decided to change the title, not only because “The Dorm That Dripped Blood” is infinitely cooler sounding, but also because there is exactly ONE prank on display in the entire film. These are some very straight laced college kids. Hell, they even sleep in separate beds! Sadly, there is no nudity or gratuitous sex scenes in this one. Some titties would have gone a long way to making this one more of a slasher classic, but the violent deaths, superior score, and morbid climax all add up to make this one stand out from the pack in a big way.

In an age where seemingly every slasher flick ever made gets a big budget Hollywood remake, I’m shocked that this one hasn’t been given the same treatment yet. The title alone makes this flick a perfect candidate for a lame ass “re-imagining.” For years I have been saying I would love to see a remake of THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD hit theaters, only so I could finally get a proper dvd release of the original! So far there has only been one unauthorized dvd release in the States, and it featured the shabby looking and edited Vipco print of the film. Like any horror flick, this needs to be seen UNCUT to be fully appreciated. The good folks at Synapse Films are currently working on an incredible looking blu-ray/dvd combo that will feature a never before seen director’s cut. I’m going to be all over that one like flies on a rib roast.

 

THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW (1983)

This one starts out on a dark and stormy night in 1963. A pregnant woman named Dorothy Slater goes into birth and suffers complications that threaten her life and the life of her baby. A doctor is called in to perform an emergency cesarean, but the operation is a failure. When Dorothy wakes up and asks to see her baby, it appears to be lifeless.

We then flash forward several years. Dorothy Slater is now the cranky house mother of Theta Pi sorority. The girls of Theta Pi have just graduated and are planning a final blow out beer bash to celebrate. Mrs. Slater of course won’t allow such festivities in her house and goes about her business of being a castrating hag that spoils all of the girls fun. We then get to spend some quality time with Mrs. Slater as she goes to a doctor’s appointment. It appears that Mrs. Slater has never fully recovered from the loss of her child and her mind is deteriorating and progressing towards madness. Her doctor fears that a traumatic episode could cause her to snap, and he urges her to check into the hospital for an extended stay. She refuses and returns home where she violently rips up the photos of past graduating classes. She also lurks about in the sorority house attic, which is oddly filled with children’s toys.

Meanwhile, a sorority skank named Vicki meets her boyfriend Rick for a romp on her waterbed. The fun is short lived, as Mrs. Slater shows up and promptly punctures the bed with her cane. She calls the girl “trash” and tells her that she doesn’t belong in her house. This angers Vicki, and she wakes up the whole house while loudly arguing with Mrs. Slater and vowing revenge. Vicki then decides to pull a little prank on Mrs. Slater that will temporarily put her out of action and leave the girls free to party down.

The prank involves the sorority swimming pool and a gun, which Vicki assures the other girls will be unloaded. Good girl Katey is immediately aware that this is a bad idea, but the other girls are convinced the prank will be a “blast” (get it?). The girls go ahead and set up the house for the party. Mrs. Slater is furious when she sees this and begins one of her patented tirades. She then notices that her trusty cane is missing. Vicki smiles and tells her to look for it by the pool. Mrs. Slater does this and discovers that her cane is on top of an inner tube that is floating in the middle of the pool. Vicki then pulls out the gun and tells Mrs. Slater to take a swim. When she refuses, Vicki fires off a few shots and scares her into jumping into the pool. The harmless fun then turns deadly when Mrs. Slater swings her cane at Vicki and Vicki shoots her in retaliation.

The girls fish Mrs. Slater out of the pool, but the old woman is dead. Good girl Katey freaks out and wants to call an ambulance, but Vicki and the others talk her out of it. Vicki decides that since Mrs. Slater had no living relatives no one will ever miss her. Unbelievably, the girls then decide to sink the corpse to the bottom of the pool and go on with the party as planned! This is one of those hilarious moments where you have to swallow your disbelief and accept that fact that if they did the “right thing” you wouldn’t have a slasher flick on your hands.

The party rages. A shitty band called “Four Out Of Five Doctors” wails away in the background, and a fat fuck in his tighty whiteys jumps into the pool and utters the incredible line “I’m a sea pig!” The girls are horrified because they think Mrs. Slater’s corpse will be discovered, but when the pool lights are turned on her body is missing. The girls huddle in the kitchen and begin freaking out. Katey assumes that Mrs. Slater must still be alive, but Vicki believes that if she was alive she would have called the cops. The girls then split up and begin looking for the body. One of the girls named Morgan begins cleaning out a closet and discovers the secret hatch that leads to the attic. The hatch unexpectedly opens and Mrs. Slater’s dead body comes tumbling down on top of Morgan.

The girls try to figure out how her body wound up in the attic, and then decide to hide her again. Morgan storms off to have a drink and settle her nerves and finds a music box on the patio outside of her room. As the music plays and the clown on the music box dances, a killer in a clown suit sneaks up from behind and impales her with Mrs. Slater’s cane. As the party continues to rage, good girl Katey goes looking for Morgan and decides to check the attic. She discovers the toys and a birthday card addressed “to Eric, love Mother.” The other girls hide Mrs. Slater’s corpse in a dumpster and have a wacky run in with campus security.

While all this hilarity is taking place, the clown killer takes out several of the girls by poking them in the face with Mrs. Slater’s cane and stabbing them in the neck. Meanwhile, Katey gets in touch with Mrs. Slater’s doctor. Dr. Beck races to the sorority house and discovers the girls’ corpses, and also Mrs. Slater’s dead body. Dr. Beck quickly determines that Mrs. Slater is indeed dead, and then reveals to Katey the twisted truth about Mrs. Slater’s child. He also thoughtfully injects her with a mild sedative, which is a logical thing to do when a mad killer in a clown suit is on a rampage.

As the dope takes effect, Katey begins tripping out and seeing the bodies of her dead friends. Then the killer shows up to take out the doctor and the other remaining party goers. This leaves good girl Katey alone and helpless in the sorority of nightmares. But when the nightmare ends, the terror begins. Nothing is off limits and nothing can prepare you for what happens when she strikes back! The killer will learn the hard way that sorority sisters are sisters in life, and sisters in death.

This is about as much of a “textbook” slasher flick as I’ve ever seen, and I mean that in a good way. From the blue-tinted prologue to that always annoying shot where the killer opens his eyes to reveal that he’s not really dead, this flick is full of the cliches that slasher fans have come to know and love. This flick hits all the right notes, and does it with considerable talent and skill. Writer and director Mark Rosman had previously worked with Brian DePalma and he obviously learned a thing or two about helming an effective thriller.

The kills are the best part of the flick and the bloody head in the toilet is an obvious highlight. This flick has quite a few comic relief moments (SEA PIG!) but mostly plays it straight which I appreciated. Richard Band’s (“Re-Animator,” “From Beyond”) haunting score is especially excellent and really adds to the atmosphere of the film. Incredibly, the score for this film was recorded by the renowned London Philharmonic Orchestra. Not every 80’s slasher flick can boast that! I also really liked the killer’s clown outfit. I just wish we could have seen more of him. The rarely seen killer that lurks in the attic was lifted from Bob Clark’s clas-sick “Black Christmas,” but if you’re going to steal you might as well steal from the best.

Just in time to cash in on the film’s remake (which was passable, yet totally fogettable) Liberation Entertainment released a fantastic 25th Anniversary special edition dvd release of THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW. The bonus features include a photo gallery, commentary by Mark Rosman, Eileen Davidson and Kathryn McNeil, storyboard comparisons, and footage from the never before seen alternate ending. This is a dvd release no slasher collection should be missing.

 

SPLATTER UNIVERSITY (1984)

SPLATTER UNIVERSITY starts off with a bang inside an insane asylum where a dangerous paranoid schizophrenic named William Grayham is discovered missing. An orderly goes looking for him and gets stabbed in the dick for his efforts. The maniac (we never see his face) then slips into the orderly’s bloodstained uniform and escapes. We then flash forward three years later to the campus of St. Trinians College. A pretty young sociology teacher is grading papers in her classroom and a killer whom we assume is William Grayham shows up to stab her in the tits.

A new teacher named Julie Parker (Francine Forbes) soon arrives on campus as a replacement. The head of the university – Father Jansen (Dick Biel), welcomes Julie to the faculty, but also warns her about the supposed “curse” on her classroom and the murder that recently occurred there. He then assures her that the murder was an isolated incident. Julie is shocked to discover that a violent death had taken place in her new classroom, but she is strapped for cash and decides to accept the job anyway. As Julie struggles to make a connection with her brain dead students she eventually develops a relationship with a handsome teacher named Mark Hammond.

It doesn’t take long before the killer strikes again. Various dimwitted students and teachers are slashed in the forehead, stabbed in the back, disemboweled on the toilet, and have their throats slit. When her best friend is found mutilated in a stationary cupboard, Julie finally decides that it’s time to pack up and leave town. As she attempts to break off her relationship with Mark and give her notice to Father Jansen she gets closer to the psycho killer than ever before. As the madman’s secret identity is finally revealed, the teacher becomes the student and earns a higher degree in terror!

Incredibly, four different writers are responsible for creating this flick. Co-writer and director Robert W. Haines was apparently warming up for his more well known slice of school savagery – “The Class Of Nuke ‘Em High.” “Splatter University” was originally a Troma production, and Lloyd Kaufman gets a credit as a “creative consultant.” As you might expect, this is a very cheesy horror flick with a lot of dumb humor. Some folks will bust a gut laughing at the wacky hijinks including booger eating mental patients and beer swilling college cretins and others will simply find this to be stupid as hell. I fall somewhere in the middle. I think this flick is actually a lot better than most people give it credit for, but it is still not meant to be taken too seriously. It’s obvious that this flick was intended to be a joke, so the key to enjoying it is to have a drink or seven and just go along for the ride.

Slasher fans should certainly enjoy the classroom carnage. The uncut version of this flick features some nice bloody stabbings and sliced up corpses. One of the film’s clas-sick taglines was “Where the school colors are blood red!” and the film more than makes good on that promise. There is no shortage of blood and violence. There’s also quite a few tense moments leading up to the climax of the film. While a lot of fans and critics seem to dismiss this one as being pure schlock, I think the serious horror elements are there and that they are convincingly effective. The mystery of the killer’s identity is sort of a joke, but perhaps I find wheelchair bound priests that spy on people and tremble uncontrollably to be overly suspicious. I blame my Catholic upbringing.

Special attention must be given to actress Denise Texeira, who plays a smoking hot freckle faced ginger chick cleverly named Denise. Denise sports a thick “New Joisey” accent, fifteen pounds of poofed up red hair, and rocks a pair of tiger print panties OVER her black tights! I fucking love her! Speaking of smoking hot ginger chicks, lead actress Francine Forbes is also pretty damn easy on the eyes. She has a great smile and a likable quality about her. It’s not surprising she later went on to become a staple of annoying infomercials. She now goes by the name Forbes Riley, and you can currently catch her hawking Jack Lalane juicers and comfort shoe inserts. I wish she had done more horror flicks over the years, but I was happy to see she once made an appearance on “Boy Meets World” as a reporter.

This flick also has a really cool punk rock connection. George Seminara appears in the film as a character named Tony. George went on to appear in a couple other flicks, but is better known as a producer and director. He directed The Ramones home videos “Lifestyles Of The Ramones” and “It’s Alive 1974 – 1996,” as well as an excellent documentary/concert called “Live In New York” featuring Agnostic Front, Sick Of It All, and Gorilla Biscuits. It’s too bad The Ramones or Agnostic Front didn’t contribute to the “Splatter University” soundtrack. The crap music in this flick is credited to Chris Burke, and I’m not entirely sure that he isn’t the same Chris “Corky” Burke who stole America’s heart as a lovable teenage retard on “Life Goes On.”

Elite Entertainment released SPLATTER UNIVERSITY on dvd. The only bonus feature is a pair of theatrical trailers, but at least the film is presented uncut and uncensored. I would love to see a special edition dvd release with a Francine Forbes commentary track and a “where is she now” piece on Denise Texeira, but I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for that one!

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

More Brutal Backwoods Butchery!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 14, 2011 by Brain Hammer

Here’s another terrible trio of criminally underrated backwoods bloodbaths from the early days of the 80’s horror craze!

 

MOTHER’S DAY (1980)

This holiday favorite begins inside a rather tatty looking self help meeting. After the 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 strangles the girl and then congratulates the killers for a job well done. The 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 time with each of the girls 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 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 kidnapped by Ike & Addley and brought 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. 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 Trina & Abbey 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 and confuse the proceedings.

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 vein of 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 suffered by Abbey is hideously realistic looking. There is plenty of splatter along the way to keep gorehounds happy. I have to say that the 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 even more satisfying.

Another big positive is the surprising amount of characterization on display. The brief 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 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.

Troma released a beautiful digitally mastered director’s cut dvd of MOTHER’S DAY that includes commentary by Charles Kaufman, interviews, and all of the other cheesy crap you’ve come to love and expect from a Troma dvd.

 

NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1980)

This one opens in the hospital room of the esteemed Professor Nugent. The Nuge was found in the woods horribly mutilated and incoherent from the shock and pain. An inspector arrives at the hospital to question the professor about the whereabouts of his five missing students. Fighting back the pain, Professor Nugent tells the inspector that all of the horror stories about the forest are true.

In the first of MANY flashbacks, the Nuge then tells the tale of a fisherman who was found brutally murdered in the same woods. Even more horrifying, the killer wasn’t man – it was Bigfoot! The bloodthirsty Bigfoot demon rips the fisherman’s arm off and the stump bleeds behind the opening titles. The credits arrive via sensitive sounding soft rock and footage of a couple walking on a college campus than resembles a 70’s tampon ad.

This good looking young couple are a pair of Professor Nugent’s prized students. Nuge shows his class disturbing footage that was recovered from the site of yet another suspected Bigfoot murder. Then the daughter of one of the victims shows up to talk about the time Bigfoot killed a couple that were fucking in a van. Bigfoot rudely interrupted the proceedings by grabbing the dude and smashing his face into the roof of the van. The redhead bimbo reacted by doing her best fake orgasms for a few minutes before the final freeze frame.

The professor prepares an expedition into the woods with five of his students. His wife thinks it is a terrible idea, and so does the college, who remove their funding. Regardless, the Nuge presses on and leads everyone to their doom. After setting up camp the Professor tells a campfire tale about a dude on a motorcycle who stopped on the side of a nearby road to smoke a joint and take a leak, only to have his dick ripped off by the infernal beast! Later that night things take a turn for the bizarre when the Nuge and one his students stumble upon a backwoods rape ritual being performed in Bigfoot’s honor!

The next morning a totally unrelated man sleeping in the woods is killed by the demon. Bigfoot violently swings the dude around in his sleeping bag (Jason Vorhees stole everything from this guy!) before impaling him on a branch! Who this person is, I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter because it beefs up the body count. The students go to town and question the locals about the legends of Bigfoot and a deranged woman named Crazy Wanda. After hearing morbid tales of a religious cult led by Wanda’s father and Wanda’s rape and miscarriage, the group pushes farther into the woods looking for Crazy Wanda’s secluded cabin.

As darkness falls Professor Nugent tells the incredible tale of a woodsman that Bigfoot chopped to death with an axe. Then he spins an epic yarn about a pair of unfortunate Girl Scouts that Bigfoot stalks before capturing them and forcing them to stab each other to death! This scene had me standing up and cheering. These stories apparently turn on a pair of frisky students who wander off to shag in a sleeping bag. The eternally cockblocking creature shows up to spoil the fun and give the Nuge’s student a bad case of the back scratch fever.

The group eventually force their way into Crazy Wanda’s cabin and immediately impose their will upon the deranged and disturbed young women. It’s hard to feel sympathetic for the professor or his students when they rifle through Crazy Wanda’s meager possessions and break into a bedroom that she had locked shut. As if this isn’t enough, the Nuge then takes it upon himself to hypnotize Crazy Wanda and force her to relive her past traumas. Under hypnosis, Wanda reveals the twisted secrets about the time that Bigfoot boned her and she burned her daddy for killing her Bigfoot baby.

Just when it seems like things can’t get any more disturbing, the monster invades the cabin and unleashes a devastating final attack on the Nuge and his students! This unholy rampage is highlighted with strangulation, throat slashing, pitchfork impalement, and dismemberment capped off with Bigfoot gleefully swinging bloody intestines through the air! Professor Nugent makes a final desperate attempt to stop the beast and winds up deeply regretting it. But will he survive, and what will be left of his face?

Wow! I wish I could have seen this one sooner. What a fantastic flick. NIGHT OF THE DEMON is unrated and full of grisly footage that could easily earn it an X rating. It didn’t surprise me when I read that this film had been banned in the UK as a Video Nasty. The scenes of castration and dismemberment are about as gory as they come. Much credit must be given to director James C Wasson and writer Mike Williams for having the guts to create such a gruesome picture.

The acting is abysmal, the structure is muddled by the annoying flashback within a flashback set up, and when we finally get a good look at the monster the makeup is ridiculous. You’ll be wishing for Charles B. Pierce to come along and show them how make a convincing looking creature. Not that any of that really matters. This is pure entertainment from start to finish. What it lacks in competence or talent it more than makes up for with carnage and cheap laughs. Sadly, this is not available on dvd. It is fairly easy to find online though and well worth the effort.

 

DON’T GO IN THE WOODS…ALONE! (1981)

This 1981 slasher epic from co-writer/producer/director James Bryan is a backwoods bloodbath from start to finish. It starts out with alternating shots of the beautiful Utah wilderness and a chick running for her life. Shortly after the credits roll, a geeky photographer is dismembered by an unseen maniac. We then get to spend a little quality time with our four leads: Craig: the know it all in a cowboy hat, Peter: the wise ass, Joanie: the whiner, and Ingrid: the mildly attractive redhead.

As the kids enjoy their vacation and frolic under a waterfall, the feral madman killer throws a professor in a tacky pick shirt to his death. Then the maniac introduces the professor’s annoying wife to his trusty machete. The morbidly obese sheriff and his dimwitted deputy slowly and ineptly investigate. Tubby eats up some precious screen time flying in a small aircraft looking for the missing professor.

When night falls we meet a pair of pukeworthy lovers named Dick & Cherry about to bump uglies (and I mean UGLIES!) in Dick’s van. Dick tries to set the perfect mood but Cherry gets spooked when she spots the killer. Dick grabs his trusty rod and goes looking for the peeping tom pencil neck geek. The savage killer makes short work of Dick and leaves Cherry alone to yell “DICK?!?” over and over before finally pushing the van over a cliff, causing a massive explosion!

The carnage continues the next day as the savage slayer snuffs a female painter in front of her baby daughter, and reaches a peak later that night when a black couple in a sleeping bag are hung from a tree and stabbed to death. When day breaks, Peter gets an eyeful of the killer throwing a bear trap at a fisherman’s face! The madman then snuffs Craig and forces the others to split up and run for their lives. Peter & Ingrid manage to escape the woods alive and make their way to a hospital. Joanie is not so lucky and is left alone to fend for herself.

It isn’t long before Peter snaps and decides to head back into the woods to look for Joanie and get revenge on the backwoods bastard that killed his best friend. The Sheriff assembles a posse and also enters the woods looking for the killer. Despite all of this activity, the killer still finds time to decapitate a gimp in a wheelchair. The final battle between the madman and the team of Peter & Ingrid is a machete massacre. When pushed to the point of no return, these so-called civilized young people unleash a onslaught of savage butchery.

I’m a big fan of this crude and exploitive cult classic. This flick more than lives up to it’s immortal tag line, and is sure to cause nightmares about the ugliest ways to die. DON’T GO IN THE WOODS…ALONE pretty much defines the term cheesy slasher. This by the numbers tale of campers being stalked and slain by a hulking, silent Neanderthal would be instantly forgettable if it weren’t for the sheer incompetence of the filmmakers, the inappropriate hideousness of the music, and the almost inhuman ugliness of everyone who graces the screen. It’s a toss up for me to pick who is more disgusting: the morbidly obese sheriff (he puts the MORBID in morbidly obese) or the haggard Olive Oyl lookalike who plays Cherry.

This flick doesn’t skimp on the splatter, and should satisfy slasher fans with a thrist for brutal backwoods butchery. “Don’t Go In The Woods…Alone” was gruesome enough to earn a spot on the Video Nasties list and be banned in the UK for decades. It has earned a well deserved reputation as one of the most notorious 80’s slashers. It doesn’t win any points for originality or sophistication but that didn’t stop the film from becoming a modest box office success. In the proud grindhouse tradition of winning at any cost, this film was marketed inside a haunted house and once shared a double feature with “E.T.” in Los Angeles.

Code Red released an excellent special edition dvd of DON’T GO IN THE WOODS…ALONE . The bonus features include an extensive behind the scenes featurette, old school talk show appearances to promote the film, poster & still gallery, and the theatrical trailer.

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!! 

Brutal Backwoods Butchery!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 10, 2011 by Brain Hammer

Gory greetings! Your old pal Brain Hammer is back from the grave with another batch of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT! This time around I’m heading back to nature and throwing the spotlight on a terrible trio of criminally underrated backwoods bloodbaths.

LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

RITUALS (1977)

Five middle aged doctors in matching yellow hats plan a backwoods getaway for a little much needed r&r. This vacation will also test the limits of the crabby & flabby doctor’s endurance. They are dropped off by seaplane in the middle of nowhere and left to their own devices for the following seven days. The week will be highlighted with an eighty mile hike to the isolated spot where the plane will be waiting.

On the first evening in the woods the doctors (Harry, Mitzi, DJ, Abel, and Martin) stay up all night getting drunk and having arguments about their professional ethics. Harry (Hal Holbrook) and Mitzi (Lawrence Dane) bicker over how long Harry lets his patients suffer on the operating table before finally pulling the plug on them. Then they begin drunkenly bragging and chanting about being doctors and do their best Frankenstein impressions to mock dying patients. Unfortunately for everyone involved, someone is watching and listening in the woods and doesn’t find the doctor’s antics amusing.

The next morning the doctors wake up and discover their boots are missing. The immediately know something is very wrong and blame roaming theives or “boot freaks.” DJ was the only one who brought an extra pair of boots, and he goes wondering off to find a hydroelectric dam they had spotted on the map earlier. The remaining doctors stay put and spend the night. They awaken to find a macabre work of art in front of their tents. The same creep who stole their boots returned in the night and left behind a dead deer covered with snakes. The men are horrified, even more so when they see that the macabre work of art bears resemblance to the international cross and snake symbol for doctors.

Boots or no boots, the shaken doctors then decide to head towards the dam looking for DJ. Before they can make much progress somone throws an angry beehive at them and sends them running for lives into the water. Fatty doctor Abel makes the fatal mistake of diving in headfirst and smashes his head on a rock. The gentle boob then drowns before the others can save him. Martin finds DJ’s rope stung up across the river and tries to make the trek across, but steps on a waiting beartrap for his efforts. Once again, the creeper is one step ahead of them.

Harry and Mitzi then have to carry Martin around on a homemade stetcher as they try to make their way to safety. The creeper starts leaving clues to his identity, including a brutal set of Army x-rays dating back to 1945. The doctors now understand that whoever is after them obviously has a burning hatred for doctors and a thirst for revenge. They struggle to keep their heads together but the stress of carrying around their fallen comrade begins wearing them down. Mitzi is left in charge of keeping watch the following night but falls asleep. The next morning they discover the severed head of their buddy Abel on a stick. (Fuck “Wolf Creek!” This was the ORIGINAL “head on a stick” flick!) Harry at that point goes completely insane and chucks the head on a stick off a cliff like a lollipop javelin!

Mitzi is reduced to a blubbering imbecile who can’t stop crying and screaming. Harry on the other hand begins a transformation into a hardened warrior. He also carries most of load hauling around Martin. When they finally make it to the dam they discover it had abandoned years before. Their friend DJ is waiting for them, but he’s tied to a chair and almost dead from bloodloss. This time around Harry is quick to pull the plug on a suffering friend and puts DJ out of his misery. Mitzi is completely disgusted by this and runs off screaming like a woman. Harry then makes another tough decision and decides to leave Martin behind to die instead trying to carry him by himself.

Harry takes shelter in the first cabin he can find. Unfortunately, that cabin belongs to the creeper and his older brother. Harry puts the blast on the old man and then has a wild run in with the creeper that leaves him with a gushing femoral artery. Harry is forced to cauterize the wound by pouring gunpowder into it and lighting it on fire. (“Rambo III” ripped that off big time!) The final excruciating scenes feature a fiery showdown between the Harry and the creeper highlighted with Mitzi being roasted alive! Can Harry finally pull the plug on the creeper? If you go down to the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise!

RITUALS (a.k.a. “The Creeper”) was shot in 1976 but didn’t see an American release until 1978. The film got mixed reviews (the acting was always praised) but was often dismissed as a Canadian knock of “Deliverance.” The film has gone on to earn a cult following over the years and uncut copies of the film are coveted by collectors. The reason this one is considered such a classic is because it combines some incredibly beautiful wilderness locations and genuinely gruesome and unsettling violence. The film ramps up the tension until the final scenes, which are especially brutal. The highlight of the film is undoubtedly the head on a stick shot, but the cauterization and burning scenes are also jaw droppers. For a 70’s horror flick this is some truly gruesome, realistic violence.

The other reasons this film is a superior backwoods bloodbath are the acting and the story. As you would expect from a film with Hal Holbrook in the lead, the acting in this movie is excellent. Hilariously, there’s a shot of Hal in this flick that was actually used for the cover of his 1979 soft rock album “On The Road To Soft Gold.” You can’t make stuff like that up folks! The rest of the cast are also top notch. There is a lot of genuine tension between Hal & Lawrence Dane in this one. The way they bicker towards the end of the film feels very real. The story stands out for being exceptionally brutal, but also orignal. The killer’s hatred of doctors and macabre motivation for rural revenge is unique, and it also comes across as real. I also like the fact that a lot of the story isn’t spelled out for you right away, and that you get to experience the film on deeper levels when you watch it again knowing the killer’s motivations.

RITUALS is a great flick, and it really needs a proper dvd release. You can currently find the edited tv version of the film (under the title “The Creeper”) in one of those cheap-o “horror collections” from Mill Creek. The uncut version of the film is making the rounds on the internet. You can usually find it for cheap on ebay or ioffer. It’s well worth seeking out a copy. This a fantastic flick that deserves a larger audience!

 

JUST BEFORE DAWN (1981)

Two drunks named Ty & Vechel take a break from deer hunting deep in the woods to check out an abandoned church. Ty (the same dude who played that wrinkled old dick Mel in “Sleepaway Camp!”) begins preaching the gospel of drunken excess before turning his eyes towards the heavens and catching a glimpse a of large man staring back down at him through a hole in the roof. Ty stumbles outside to see who this guy is and watches in horror as his pickup truck rolls downhill and crashes in flames. Vechel turns around and comes face to face with a grotesque looking mountain man who gives him an impromptu circumcision with a saw. Run for your life. The nightmare has begun.

It will find you in the hour when dream and reality merge. The last desperate moment of darkness. Just before dawn. That’s when a group of five young people traveling in a Winnebago make their way towards a mountain vacation. The isolated mountain location promises nothing but 4000 feet of granite, water, and wood, and the kids hope to become a part of the mountain and find its soul. A chubby forest ranger played by George Kennedy stops the group before they reach the mountain and gives them the standard “you kids have been warned” prophet of doom speech.

They were warned. But they did not understand the warning. Then the kids have a wild run in with Ty, who is still on the run from the beginning of the film. Ty tries in vain to convince the kids to turn around and leave while they still can but they dismiss him as a drunken retard. The drunken retard has the last laugh though when he sees his nephew’s killer jump on top of the Winnebago as it pulls away. They came to the mountain for adventure and escape. What they found was a trial which only the strongest could survive.

How could they know that beneath the awesome beauty of nature lay violence, danger, and death? How could they know the heat of their bodies was the magnet that would draw the terror to them? When darkness falls the girls let their hair down and boogie down in the moonlight. The fun is short lived when a local yokel named Pa Logan shows up and blasts the kids’ boom box with his shotgun. Pa brings along his haggard looking wife Ma and their batshit insane daughter Merry Cat. The family again tries to warn the kids that they are all doomed, and Pa tells them if they don’t leave they will “raise the devil.” For the THIRD time in as many days, they were warned… but again they did not understand the warning. They stubbornly decide to stay put and finish their vacation. The days of leisure turn into nights of terror when the killer returns. Just before dawn… they will cry out. Just before dawn… they will struggle to escape. Just before dawn… the demon lives! If only they could die in their sleep!

I am a huge fan of this flick. I think JUST BEFORE DAWN is one of the most underrated 80’s slasher flicks. It’s also one of the very best “hicks in the sticks flicks” ever made. The film was shot on location at Silver Falls State Park in Oregon and it features some of the most impressive outdoor scenery in horror history. It’s amazing how director Jeff Lieberman can create such a raw claustrophobic atmosphere inside such a lush and vast natural setting. What’s unique about this one is the way it combines the beauty of nature and the ugliness of violence. It’s also better acted than your average backwoods slasher flick. The two lead actresses are fantastic. Deborah Benson in particular really stands out with an amazing transformation into an ass kicking horror heroine.

I really dig the killer in this one. There’s a bit of a twist of course which I don’t want to spoil, but for the most part the killer is just a big fat ugly redneck. I like that there is no real explanation for who the killer is and why the murders are happening. If you choose to dig deeper into the film you might find some subtext about religion and find a connection between the abandoned church and the “demon” killer. The kids could also represent the “evil” of the big city which threatens to invade the god fearing mountain community. The real focus here is civilization versus barbarism. Our heroine has to become as savage as the killers in order to survive. It’s all a bit more interesting than a guy in a hockey mask randomly killing people, but for some reason flicks like “Just Before Dawn” are often dismissed as inferior imitations. The 80’s slasher market was overcrowded, and even in 1981 a superior flick like this could get overlooked.

Shriek Show released a two disc special edition dvd of JUST BEFORE DAWN that was hit & miss. There was only one real negative, but it was a big one! The opening death scene was trimmed and missing some gore footage. Other than that, the print was intact. It’s a little soft looking, but it was watchable. The positives outweigh the negatives of course. The two disc release includes a fantastic hour plus featurette titled “Just Before Dawn: Lions, Tigers, And Inbred Twins” that includes interviews with the cast and crew. Other bonus features include director’s commentary, photo gallery, and the kick ass theatrical trailers. (which I extensively ripped off for this review!) Fans of 80’s slasher flicks need to have this in their collections.

 

HUMONGOUS (1982)

It all began with a brutal rape after a drunken bash in Ontario; doesn’t it always? A young woman named Irma is raped by a sweaty fellow who promises to give the “old maid” what she has been missing. This evil act is promptly avenged with violent bestial death when a wild pack of security dogs rip the rapist to pieces, but the seeds of evil were planted deep and a hideous birth is the end result. Irma then hides her deformed monster son on a deserted island protected by the same wild dogs. The island stays deserted over the years because the little monster’s toys were once girls and boys.

Flash forward thirty years: Momma is long since dead, and baby Humongous is now all grown up and free to play. Also playing in the water nearby are a gaggle of teenage imbeciles, including good looking blonde leader Eric and his good natured love interest Sandy. Also along for the boat ride are a geeky chick with glasses named Carla, a hothead with a mullet named Nick, and a chick with huge tits named Donna. The party rages until Nick gets shitfaced and grabs a shotgun. Then a violent power struggle ensues, and a child’s toy boat is lit on fire… at least I think that’s what I just saw. That was a seriously cheap looking effect!

The kids and Bob the boat captain wind up washed up on the island of the Humongous. Nick goes looking for the old lady who supposedly lives on the island and gets chased around by the last remaining wild dog for his efforts. Things then go from bad to worse when Nick lands in a bear trap and then meets Junior. Eric and Sandy eventually wonder off looking for clues. Donna in the meantime makes great use of her massive tits by using them both as a blueberry basket and a blanket. Eric and Sandy discover the always conveniently located photo book full of back story, and then the monster’s basement shrine to momma filled with rotting corpses. When they try to warn the others it’s already too late. Massive malformed hands crush skulls like grapes. Necks are swiftly snapped and fresh bodies are stashed away for later consumption. A fiery deathtrap proves useless. It’s loose…it’s angry…and it’s getting hungry!

HUMONGOUS is one of those rare horror flicks that manages to kick ass despite the fact that the print is pitch black and most likely edited. Most of the death scenes occur in murky darkness and what little you can make out seems trimmed. Despite these fatal flaws, the film is still a kick ass slasher flick with unbeatable atmosphere and violence. Director Paul Lynch had previously struck slasher gold with “Prom Night,” and once again he proves himself very capable of helming a superior slasher. The story is nasty from start to finish, and there is pretty much zero chance any of the kids will survive.

The monster is a rather unique slasher killer. His closest living relatives would probably be the deformed freaks in “Hell Night.” “Humongous” is somewhat tame in the blood and guts department, but it’s questionable how much footage was scissored for release. You never get a really good look at the monster: only a few select shots of his deformed face, hands, and body. The monster is not the star of the show here. The focus instead goes to the kids and trying to make them sympathetic body count fodder. It’s something of a suspense thriller occasionally punctuated with slasher violence, but unlike “Prom Night” and the majority of other 80’s slasher flicks, in “Humongous” there is no element of revenge motivating the killings. This is man versus beast in a struggle for survival.

Sadly, this flick has not had a proper dvd release yet. It’s making the rounds on the internet, but beware of edited prints beings sold as “uncut.” You can tell right away if you have an edited print by watching the opening rape scene. If the scene seems a bit short, it’s edited. If you get several sweaty closeups of the rapist’s face while he pumps away you actually have the UNCUT version. All versions I’ve seen, uncut or otherwise are pitch black. Some are dark to the point of being almost unwatchable. The night scenes become old time radio serials. HUMONGOUS is yet another clas-sick horror flick that needs a special edition dvd release. I’d love to “see” this one for the first time!

 

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

War On The Streets!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 7, 2011 by Brain Hammer

This latest batch of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT features three of my all time favorite flicks that prominently feature the ghastly horrors of poverty and urban squalor. It’s WAR ON THE STREETS!!!

 

LET THE BRUTALITY AND BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

TENEMENT (1985)

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.

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 tenant before killing them. The hapless tenants have no choice but to band together and fight for their lives. The building becomes a battlefield of madness and the game of survival begins.

TENEMENT has the unique claim to fame of being the first film in the 80’s to repeatedly receive an X rating for excessive violence. The classic 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. This has to be considered one of the most spectacularly violent exploitation flicks of all time. The gang 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 scene where a woman is raped to death with a broomstick. This 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 aftermath.

But there’s more! A seeing eye dog is gutted, a fat chick has her throat slit, a old Jewish lady runs around hitting punks with a baseball bat, a horny John gets impaled with a crowbar, a Puerto Rican woman in purple pants falls out of a window, a skank has a refrigerator dropped on her head, and the guy who plays “Cigar Face” in “The Toxic Avenger” overdoses on rat poison! WOW! It all leads to a spectacular thundershower showdown on the roof of the building between a pregnant woman and the leader of the gang, and you’d better believe someone gets struck by lightning!

This flick is a real crowd pleaser…if you can stomach the violence and endure the long stretches of the film where nothing happens. I’m a big fan of this flick, but I have to admit 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 should be riveting, but they often wind up feeling tedious. You’ll have a great death scene or two, and then a long stretch of the gang trashing an empty apartment or the tenants bickering with each other.

The tenants are the other problem with the film. It’s almost impossible to feel sorry for them or cheer them on. It doesn’t help that the tenants are an odd assortment of feeble old ladies, drunks, prostitutes and their strung out boyfriends, and a gaggle of welfare moms and their bastard offspring. They spend the majority of the film arguing with each other and begging “Mr. Washington” to help them. Mr. Washington is our angry, loner hero who plays the saxophone. He’s a big black bad ass in the classic Fred Williamson tradition. Mr. Washington saves the day, despite the fact he really doesn’t want to, and I really can’t blame him. I found myself rooting for Chaco, but only because he slightly resembles Steve Perry from Journey.

The fine fiends at Shriek Show were good enough to release TENEMENT on dvd. The special features include a very entertaining interview and director’s commentary with Roberta Findlay. Roberta is a blast to listen to as she claims the script reminded her of her childhood, and she tells an incredible story about discovering a dead bear and assorted human remains while shooting the film in the Bronx! Good gritty, gory fun!

 

COMBAT SHOCK (1986)

A nightmarish, nihilistic look at a combat-shocked Vietnam vet’s last miserable day on Earth. Frankie lives in a shithole apartment in NYC with his horribly rancid and nagging wife and his hideously deformed and shrieking baby. Little Frankie junior is a rather revolting side effect of Frankie’s exposure to Agent Orange while fighting, maiming, and killing in the fields of Vietnam. Frankie had a run of bad luck in Nam that included being falsely accused of slaughtering the denizens of a sleeping village and being captured and tortured by the V.C.

Agent Orange and torture cages were the easy part. Frankie’s real struggle for survival begins when he escapes and the nightmare follows him back home. Frankie is haunted by grisly flashbacks of the many atrocities he witnessed in Vietnam. He’s also unable to find work, and his family slowly begins starving to death. To add insult to injury, Frankie spends most of what ultimately becomes his final day wasting away in an unemployment line. As he slowly makes his way to and from the unemployment office, he rubs elbows with a haggard assortment of humanity that includes jive talkin’ pimps, starving child prostitutes, motorcycle riding skanks, strung out former friends willing to do anything to feed their habits, and the neighborhood drug dealer and his murderous thugs.

The battlefield may have changed, but the war was still on. When finally pushed beyond his breaking point, Frankie decides that only death can bring salvation from the horror of reality. Frankie’s enemies and loved ones alike find that salvation at the end of a gun. Street trash are shot to pieces, a pregnant woman takes lead in her stomach, and a screeching infant is blasted and then put in an oven. After a busy and productive day spent saving lives, the soldier of misfortune settles down at his kitchen table with a tall glass of rotten milk and contemplates his future.

There are few films that are as totally hopeless as COMBAT SHOCK. This movie is absolutely vicious in its desire to shock and horrify. It’s incredibly effective because it’s totally based in grim, uncompromising reality. The events and characters of this film are all sketches of the real life victims of poverty, drug addiction, violence, and warfare. Writer, producer, and director Buddy Giovinazzo has my highest respect for making such a brutal and shocking film. It almost defies criticism in my eyes because it feels so fucking real. I consider this one to be one of the very best combat films ever made because it delves much deeper into the horrible aftermath than any other film I’ve seen. There were untold numbers of Vietnam vets that came home from the war and faced the same sort of problems adjusting back into society. It’s a problem that persists to this day. The headlines of today frequently feature stories of battle scared soldiers that return home from the Gulf or Afghanistan and wind up going on a killing spree, often slaying their own families. “Combat Shock” was, and will always be a film that speaks the truth about the brutality of warfare and poverty.

There are other genre flicks that can easily top “Combat Shock” in terms of splatter, but few can come close to matching the sheer overwhelming gut-punch that this one delivers. “Combat Shock” could accurately be called the bastard stepchild of “Eraserhead” & “Taxi Driver.” The film plays out very slowly, much like a nightmare, and the films’ alternate title “American Nightmares” is more than appropriate. Any complaints about the slack, dream-like pacing of the beginning of the film should be erased the minute a junkie attempts to shoot up with a coat hanger. The Vietnam footage is also especially gruesome and features plenty of blasted-off limbs, severed heads, and gutted corpses. The sheer amount of bone crunching action that is packed into such a low budget, homemade horror flick is amazing. The majority of the ultra-violent Vietnam footage was shot in Buddy’s backyard, which must have led to some very interesting conversations with the neighbors

Giovinazzo makes good use of rapid fire editing and cheap but interesting looking visual effects that put viewers inside the damaged mind of our hero. “Combat Shock” is highly effective as a character study, and it obviously works big time as an exploitation flick. Rick Giovinazzo (Buddy’s brother) also deserves special praise for his captivating, low-key starring performance. He carries the entire film from start to finish, and his final scenes are chilling. The ending of this flick never fails to turn my stomach, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. This isn’t exactly what you would call a “feel good” sort of film, but I consider it a must see flick for sick fucks with a taste for truly shocking sleaze.

COMBAT SHOCK has a well deserved reputation for being one of the most notorious independent films of the clas-sick VHS era. The good folks at Troma have been spreading the misery of “Combat Shock” on home video for years. Their latest urban assault was an incredible 2-disc uncut 25th anniversary edition that includes an arsenal of bonus features. The goodies include two versions of the film, a director’s commentary, an all-new documentary exploring the impact and legacy of the film, never before released short films and early music videos, and a slew of exclusive interviews. A dvd collection without a copy of this one is shit to me.

 

DEADBEAT AT DAWN (1988)

Goose (Jim VanBebber) is the crank snortin’ and kung fu fightin’ leader of the notorious street gang the Ravens. Goose and the Ravens got beef with a rival gang called the Spiders and their punk ass leader Danny in particular. Goose warns the scumfucks to stay off his turf, but they refuse to listen. The gangs have a showdown in a graveyard and Goose and Danny both end up badly wounded in a knife fight and swearing bloody revenge. Goose takes shelter in the arms of his occultist girlfriend Christy, who stitches up his wounds and offers him a prophetic warning that death will be coming if he stays in the gang. Goose tries to ignore her warning, and Christy threatens to leave him if he doesn’t leave the gang.

Goose ultimately decides to quit the Ravens and start a new life with Christy somewhere outside of the city. He plans one last drug deal before leaving that will finance their happy future. Danny and the Spiders have other plans. Danny sends along his demented henchmen Stubbs and Bonecrusher to pay Christy a special visit. When Goose returns home from his dope deal he discovers Christy’s horribly mutilated corpse waiting for him. Overcome with grief, Goose tosses Christy’s disfigured dead body into an incinerator. He then spends some downtime making an ass out of himself in a local dive, and pays an extended visit to his incredibly loud and annoying junkie father.

Goose eventually winds up back on the streets and at the mercy of his old pals in the Ravens. His old gang has a new leader named Keith, and Keith is planning on teaming up with Danny and the Spiders for a big time armored car robbery. The gangs both force Goose to participate, and he vows to rip out Danny’s throat in return. The robbery predictably turns into a double cross and then degenerates into a total bloodbath. Goose barely survives a shootout and winds up on the run from the law while seeking his final revenge on Danny. He quit the gangs. They killed his girl. He became DEADBEAT AT DAWN.

DEADBEAT AT DAWN has the sad distinction of being an almost perfect low budget drive-in film that came out at the exact moment when the drive-in era was dying. In 1988, the days of grimy, independent action and horror flicks and the type of grimy, independent theaters and drive-ins that showcased them were quickly becoming a thing of the past. It didn’t help that Hollywood had a hard on for the sort of good looking, morally upright crusaders that would bust gangs of drug dealers instead of doing crank and planning robberies with them. Jim VanBebber is the type of filmmaker who follows his own path, regardless if that path is an easy one to follow, or if it eventually leads to mass appeal and fame and fortune. Much like “The Evil Dead,” and the other clas-sick independent films that inspired it, “Deadbeat At Dawn” took a long time to be finished. It’s to Jim’s credit that he had the guts to keep the dream alive for three years while the perfect market for his film was disappearing.

DEADBEAT AT DAWN is an unbelievably tough little film. It looks like it came from the decade before it was actually released and it feels like it would be been absolutely brutal to make. Jim not only wrote, directed, and edited the film, he also served as fight choreographer, special effects coordinator, and stunt man! The stunts in this film are nothing less than insane. There are at least two or three moments along the way that clearly defy death. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite moment, but the scene where Jim throws himself (no budget for stunt doubles) off a bridge certainly deserves a mention. The numerous fight scenes are also top notch. Jim VanBebber displays some really impressive fighting skills, and the epic final showdown between Goose and Danny is a highly choreographed display of power violence.

The storyline is the definition of highly effective action flick simplicity. It’s a classic 70’s kung fu tale of revenge and redemption. He quits the gangs, they kill his girl, the film gets padded a bit with a visit to Dad, and then Goose gets his bloody revenge and is ultimately redeemed by his final selfless act. My only minor complaint about the film would be the rather pointless scenes that feature Goose and his deranged and drug addicted father, but it’s obvious why they are there. The film clearly needed a boost in running time and it’s the only part of the film that stands out and drags. The rest of the film is a blast of action packed, good gory fun. This is one of my all time favorite action flicks and I have been singing it’s praises for years. It amazes me that this flick isn’t more well known. Everyone needs to get hip to this one immediately. Independent filmmakers of today should really do themselves a favor and repeatedly watch this one while taking notes.

Dark Sky Films released an incredible box set in 2005 titled Visions Of Hell: The Films Of Jim VanBebber. This 4-disc collection includes Jim’s two feature length films “Deadbeat At Dawn” and “The Manson Family,” along with the short films “My Sweet Satan,” “Roadkill: The Last Days Of John Martin,” “Doper,” “Kata,” and “Into The Black.” I can’t recommend this collection highly enough. I think all of Jim’s films should be considered must-sees for fans of take no prisoners independent films. Take a quick look at your dvd collection. I’m willing to bet you own at least a couple mainstream flicks that are total shit and you should be ashamed of yourself for not having “Visions Of Hell” instead.

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!