Archive for March, 2012

Oh, the Calamity!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 31, 2012 by Brain Hammer

Susie…Sarah…I once read that names which begin with the letter ‘S’ are the names of SNAKES! Sssss! Ssssss!

CALAMITY OF SNAKES (1983)

A construction crew working on a brand new luxury apartment building stumbles upon a large nest full of hundreds of poisonous snakes. The ruthless owner of the complex orders the snakes killed, despite the frantic, prophetic warnings of his psychic wife. The crew savagely slaughters the snakes with shovels, rocks, and an earth mover. The camera catches every gruesome moment of this and never once looks away. This scene goes on forever and I found it quite difficult to sit through.

Next up we meet the leader of the construction crew, a good natured chap who claims he isn’t against religion, he just feels one shouldn’t be too involved in it. He kills some of the running time romancing his bosses daughter, and the two kids take in a street vendor who offers to kill and slice apart poisonous snakes so that they can drink the blood, which he promises will make them feel very good and healthy. We are then treated to more snake slaughter and extended, pukeworthy shots of people happily guzzling down snake blood.

The remaining snakes band together and seek revenge (!) by slaying a couple while they screw. The construction crew responds by spraying the snakes with poison. This only angers the snakes and they retaliate by killing off a few more potential renters. The land owner then instructs his crew to kill the snakes with the aide of several bloodthirsty mongooses! This is yet another torturous scene of animal cruelty that goes on forever and punishes the audience with more shots of snakes being ripped apart for real.

But we’re not even close to finished yet! Still more snakes continue to flood into the apartment building, so leader of the construction crew seeks out a martial arts master and snake expert. We are introduced to this freak in a disturbing psychedelic sequence where he is covered with live snakes, pulls snakes out of his mouth, and actually lets a snake bite his tongue. This dude later shows up at the apartment building and has a massive Kung Fu battle to the death with the oversized and magically powered mutant leader of the snake army!

The evil snake and his minions are sent packing and everyone celebrates. We then settle into about three hours of bullshit before things eventually pick up again and the snakes return to kill the land owner’s weasel henchman in his car. The sinister serpents then snuff a few innocent old folks while they knit, and then launch a massive attack inside the apartment’s building’s conveniently located disco! The fire department is called in and the firefighters finally exterminate the snakes once and for all with fire extinguishers, axes, and fire! The final mayhem degenerates into an all out war between the firefighters and the mutant flying snake! Oh, the CALAMITY!

A few years ago I received an e-mail from a bimbo asking if I would be interested in reviewing a “fucked up movie” called CALAMITY OF SNAKES that a friend of a friend was distributing. I was assured that it would be a “really fun movie to watch while drunk or high.” I took the bimbo’s advice and got good and stoned before popping the widescreen anomorphic edition of director Chi “William” Chang’s “Calamity Of Snakes” that the good folks at Apprehensive Films released into my dvd player. To my delight I soon discovered that this is a truly brutal and bizarre 1983 Hong Kong horror film in the nasty tradition of the Mondo and “animals gone wild” subgenres of the 70′s.

What a fucked up movie indeed! It’s hard to me to fully endorse any flick where so many innocent animals are brutally killed on camera, but I have to admit this flick was very entertaining in a cheesy and sleazy sort of way. Despite being released in 1983, this flick has a distinct 70′s vibe, highlighted by the character’s clothing and the aforementioned disco destruction. My favorite part of the movie was the funky soundtrack, which also includes stolen cues from the clas-sick soundtracks to Bill Lustig’s “Maniac” & George Romero’s “Zombi.” If you’re going to steal, you might as well steal from the best! This is pure, take no prisoners exploitation, not for everyone and certainly not for the weak or easily offended. I wouldn’t rank this film with other animal rampage clas-sicks like “Kingdom Of The Spiders” or “Day Of The Animals,” but this is certainly worth a look a for fans of wacked out HK cinema.

Hats off to Apprehensive Films for this very nice dvd release of CALAMITY OF SNAKES that includes the uncut widescreen version of the film. The dvd also includes a crappy short film called “Ghouligula,” and trailers for other Apprehensive Films releases including “Centipede Horror,” Lucio Fulci’s “House By The Cemetery,” and “Naked Massacre.” Sleaze lovers should check out afcinema.net and grindhousedvds.com for more details on their upcoming releases.

KEEP THE SNAKE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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The Ace Of Spades!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 14, 2012 by Brain Hammer

This edition of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT throws the spotlight on two of the finest teenage revenge flicks from 1985, both starring none other than the Ace of Spades himself – James Spader! Are you kids Tuff enough?!?

LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

THE NEW KIDS (1985)

Loren (strange name for a dude!) and his hot sister Abby (played by a fresh faced Lori Loughlin from FULL HOUSE!) move across the country to live with their crazy aunt and uncle after their parents are killed by a drunk driver. Their uncle owns and lives in an old beat up amusement park that he dreams about one day getting back into shape and open for big business. In the meanwhile he runs a small gas station in front of the park and can barely make ends meet. Loren immediately feels sorry for his uncle and gives him the majority of his inheritance money. In exchange Loren and Abbey give to live together inside an old piece of shit barn and slave away working at repairing the park and pumping gas, for free! Great deal.

Things go from bad from worse when the new kids meet the local gang of psychotic redneck dog fighters who terrorize both the high school and the town, led by a cocaine fueled (probably on and off camera) James Spader! When Abbey decides not to offer up her pussy to the gang, they decide everyone in the family must suffer accordingly! The new kids quickly learn three things about southern hospitality – blood, sweat, and TERROR!

DAMN!!! I owe my pal DeathSacks a million for turning me on to this masterpiece of slick & glossy 80’s styled teenage revenge, which was directed by Sean S. Cunningham of “Friday The13th” fame! This is now officially one of my favorite flicks of all time. In the genre of high school themed revenge, done with a lot of drama and intensity, it’s easily one of the best I’ve ever seen. It ranks right up there with other classics like“Massacre At Central High” and “Class Of 1984.″ Cunningham has said in numerous reviews that making this movie really “bummed him out.” He describes it as “Walking Tall” in high school, and found both the storyline and the filming of numerous scenes of brutal violence and sexual content to be very disturbing. It must have reminded him of his glorious days on the set of “Last House On The Left!”

“The New Kids” has it all, including but limited to: rednecks with thick southern accents, characters named Joe Bob, dog fighting tips, cocaine in abundance, a sadistic albino (well not quite, but Spader’s hair is pretty damn bleached out), inept and unless police with bad moustaches, Lori Loughlin in skin tight blue jeans and blood stained white cotton panties, brutal bathroom beatdowns, urination humilation, bloody bunny rabbit in the shower pranks, shotgun shenanegans, bumper car hilarity, house of mirrors hijinks, decapitation via roller coaster, accidental electrocution, pitbull throat ripping, and fiery face melting! And did I mention the brief yet essential appearence of TOM FUCKING ATKINS as the stern yet lovable father with a heart of gold?!? The opening montage where Tom works out with the kids is pure gold. “Why does it hurt to be tough?” You’ll know the answer to that question after you watch this life affirming motion picture.

Not to mention the fact that the lead actor in the movie  – Shannon Presby is a total badass. He’s not your your normal tormented tender teen with feet of clay. This kid takes no shit whatsoever from the bullies and stops at nothing to defend his sister’s honor. He also bankrolls his crazy Uncle’s wild business schemes, breaks into his enemies house at night for a little homoerotic payback at knife point, and even finds the time to fall in love with the sheriff’s hot piece of ass daughter! Now that’s a hero that we can be proud of! As Tom Atkin’s onscreen son I expected no less from him.

A masterpiece in every sense of the word, this flick has earned many repeat viewings in the Hammer household! They really don’t make them like this anymore. Fans of revenge themed flicks and fans of the gloriously cheesy 80’s should consider this a must see flick. THE NEW KIDS is currently available on dvd, and a dvd collection without a copy is piss worthy.

 

TUFF TURF (1985)

A fresh faced James Spader stars as Morgan Hiller, a leather jacket sporting, bmx riding rebel without a cause. Poor little rich boy Morgan gets kicked out of an exclusive private school in Connecticut for performing rooftop rock concerts during lunch and this inexplicably causes his family to lose most of their money and be forced to move cross country to the mean streets of Los Angeles. Morgan quickly finds out how tuff his new turf can be when he stops a ruthless teenage street gang from mugging an old man while singing “Be Bop A Lu La.” One of the gang members manages to slice up a really gay looking patch on the back of Morgan’s jacket with a samurai sword (?) and the evil leader of the gang, Nick, swears revenge.

The next morning is Morgan’s first day at his new school. There’s an interesting moment where the gang gathers in the school parking lot and Nick notices Morgan. This causes Nick to tell his thugs “I think we’re going to school.” Apparently the gang normally hangs out in the parking lot every morning before school and then leaves without going inside. Meanwhile, Morgan quickly finds himself a heterosexual life partner in the form of New Wave Jimmy, played by none other than the infamous Robert Downey Jr! Jimmy gives Morgan a switchblade to protect himself and warns him about the dangers of tangling with Nick and the boys.

Morgan doesn’t listen of course, especially when he sees that Nick has swiped his beloved bmx and is having a joyride in the parking lot. Morgan immediately goes to confront Nick which causes Jimmy to declare that he has a goddamn death wish. Morgan narrowly avoids getting run over by Nick’s minions, and his bike is trashed in the process. Morgan doesn’t bother trying to fight Nick. Instead he stares a hole into Nick’s smoking hot girlfriend Frankie. (Kim Richards!) Morgan’s eyes burn with a fiery intensity, and this steely determination seemingly captures Frankie’s interest.

Later that night Morgan steals a car and goes to the local New Wave club to catch a performance from the human heroin vacuum himself, Jim fucking Carroll! Frankie and her skanky gal pal also go to the show, which gives Morgan another chance to stare at Frankie like a psychopath. Then Morgan grabs Frankie and repeatedly forces her to dance with him. This is one of those moments where the mere words of an intrepid reviewer can do nothing to capture the movie magic. Being the 80′s after all, the entire dance scene is carefully choreographed chaos. I would think that grabbing a girl and forcing her to dance against her will would make her hate you, but this bold move actually seems to impress Frankie and makes her crack a smile or two.

The fun ends when Nick and the boys show up. (Everyone loves the Jim Carroll band in this flick!) The hooligans chase Morgan into the parking lot and rough him up a bit before helping themselves to his car, the same car that he had stolen earlier. The LAPD quickly catches up with the gang and locks them up, which gives Morgan a few days to make his move on Frankie. New Wave Jimmy steals Nick’s car and picks up Morgan for a joyride. Morgan then gets the brilliant idea to trick Frankie and the skankie into hopping into the car for a little cruise around town.

Yet again, Morgan forces Frankie to spend time with him, despite the fact that she repeatedly tells him that she’s not interested and that her boyfriend will kill him. The kids kill some time rolling through Beverly Hills before crashing an upscale country club luncheon. Madcap hilarity ensues as the street wise teens mingle with the culturally elite. Just when the snobby country club manager is about to kick them out, Morgan hops on the piano and belts out an incredibly tender ballad entitled “I Walk The Night.” This sudden display of sensitivity is enough to finally melt Frankie’s heart and make her warm up to Morgan. Then the kids go to yet another club and dance up a storm to the toe tapping sounds of Jack Mack & The Heart Attack. The music causes Frankie to unleash her inner whore and dance like a woman possessed!

No high school revenge flick would be complete with a bathroom beat down, and TUFF TURF is no exception to this rule. Nick and the gang get out of jail and promptly beat the shit out of Morgan in the showers. Nick gives Morgan a final warning to stop playing with fire, and yet again Morgan refuses to take no for an answer. Instead he shows up in Frankie’s bedroom and invites her to dinner with his family. Frankie hesitatingly agrees and spends some quality time in front of the mirror making herself look prim and proper. As Frankie and Morgan enjoy their dinner, Nick plots and schemes to get his revenge. The dinner turns ugly thanks to some offhand remarks from Morgan’s bitch of a mother and Frankie storms off, only to find Nick and the gang waiting for her. Nick smooth talks her and then drives around the city aimlessly for a few hours until he finally finds what he is looking for – Morgan’s father. Morgan’s pop is a cab driver by night, and Nick tries to makes Frankie go up to him looking for money. When Frankie refuses, Nick explodes with jealousy and shoots Morgan’s father in the chest!

Morgan’s father somehow survives the shooting. While the family stews in the hospital waiting room, Morgan’s yuppie older brother shows up and gives mom a lengthy hug. A bit too lengthy, if you catch my drift. There’s an entire subplot about Morgan being jealous of his older brother, but I’m more interested in the distinct possibilities of torrid incest between his brother and mother. The two of them can’t stop groping each other in every scene. Frankie also shows up at the hospital and tearfully apologizes to Morgan for what happened. Morgan accepts her apology, and then takes her home to gently and sweetly fuck her brains out.

Just as things finally seem to be going Morgan’s way, Nick makes his presence known and violently assaults Frankie inside of her dad’s liquor store. He goes completely nuts, trashes the store, and then forces Frankie to call Morgan. Nick gets on the phone with Morgan and tells him that he would rather kill Frankie than see her with another guy. He then tells Morgan to meet him at THE WAREHOUSE in twenty minutes. Despite the fact that there are thousands of warehouses in Los Angeles, Morgan somehow knows exactly what warehouse Nick is referring to and arms himself with his trusty tranquilizer guns for a final showdown. He’s a rebel about to become a hero.

I consider “Tuff Turf” to be a true 80′s masterpiece. This movie is so much fun! I’ve watched this one countless times over the last few years. Most of the plot is shamelessly lifted from “Rebel Without A Cause.” New kid in town, falls in love with the wrong girl, etc. Not exactly groundbreaking material, but why mess with a winning formula? James Spader is pantie peeler. The scene where he pours out his soul to Kim on the piano is a powerful vaginal moisturizer.

Another one of the many highlights of the film for me is watching an old school Robert Downey Jr with the gap in his teeth rocking out on the drums with the Jim Carroll band! I have to wonder if Jim hooked Robert up with some skag on the set and helped send him down the path to glory. The music in this flick is excellent. There’s also a decent amount of violence and tension towards the end of the film to help keep things interesting and prevent this flick from being a cornball comedy.

This flick is notorious for featuring a Kim Richards breast shot, but stunt breasts were used. Sadly, Kim Richards has never gotten naked on film. I can only dream, and trust me when I say that I do. Often. She looks incredible in this movie. Her big dance scene is a real show stopper. “She’s lookin’ good!” Fans of the gloriously cheesy 80′s will eat this up. Sadly, they just don’t make them like this anymore. TUFF TURF is available on dvd from Anchor Bay Entertainment, and is Brain Hammer approved in a BIG way! 

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

Nightmare!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 10, 2012 by Brain Hammer

The dream you can’t escape…alive!

NIGHTMARE (1981)

A very sweaty man in tighty whiteys writhes around in his bed before waking up and finding a bloody severed head at the foot of his bed. The freshly severed head then opens its eyes, which causes the man to begin screaming. It was all just a dream – or a NIGHTMARE, if you will. The sweaty man in question is a criminally insane psychopath named George Tatum (Baird Stafford). George is a homicidal schizophrenic who suffers from mild amnesia, dream fixation, and seizures. After being arrested for the sexual mutilation and murder of a family in Brooklyn, George Tatum is sent to a mental hospital where he is force fed a cocktail of experimental hypnotic drugs.

The doctors hope to cure George of his reoccurring dreams and violent episodes by keeping him doped up and subjecting him to radical behavior modification techniques. The secret experiment is prematurely dubbed a breakthrough success and the doctors believe that they have completely rebuilt his damaged mind. The next logical step is reprogramming George for future government and lucrative private sector use. Before George can be sold to the highest bidder, the doctor in charge of the experiment foolishly decides to release him into the general public on his own recognizances. This proves to be a deadly mistake.

George Tatum is still incurably insane. The drugs can only temporarily suppress his desires to mutilate and kill, they cannot completely erase the twisted memories from his mind. George begins cruising the NYC sex shops and the lurid sight of whores touching themselves behind glass is enough to make him fall to the ground and begin foaming at the mouth like a rabid animal. George then hops into his car and begins the long drive from New York to Florida. George is strangely determined to track down a single mother named Susan Temper and her three children, and he is more than willing to kill anyone who gets in his way. For the Temper family, George’s twisted dreams become a real life nightmare that they can’t escape alive.

Writer and Director Romano Scavolini is the mastermind behind this eternally controversial 1981 slasher flick. His inspiration for the story came from an article in the New York Times, which described how the CIA had been administering experimental drugs to schizophrenics. Scavolini used this disturbing idea as the basis for a horror story, and “Nightmare” was the end result. What makes this film so disturbing is the fact that there has been plenty of real life George Tatums. He is not the boogeyman, or a masked mauler who strikes without any real reason or motive. George Tatum is a psychopath, and one of the most convincing in horror history.

Baird Stafford does a fantastic job in the lead role of George Tatum. He might have been a little too convincing as a psycho, as he only went on to star in one other movie seven years later. The highlight of this flick for me is an incredible sequence where George Tatum suddenly appears behind a unsuspecting victim that is talking on the phone. Baird has just the slightest hint of a smile on his face, and you know the worst is about to come. He slits the woman’s throat and Scavolini treats the audience to a loving close up of her gushing wound. Blood spurts from her throat as she gurgles and struggles to breathe. Then George sits on top of her and begins slowly plunging the knife into her body. What makes this scene really stand out is the way that George appears to be fucking her with the knife. Sweat pours from his hair as he reaches his climax, and the scene is punctuated with a nasty shot of George licking the blood off his hands. Unforgettable.

The rest of the cast is horrible, although it’s hard for me to decide if I dislike the actors or the characters that they are playing. The character of Susan Temper is one of the most thoroughly unlikable and unsympathetic I’ve ever seen. She’s a stressed out single mom who spends the majority of the film sleeping, fucking her bearded boyfriend Bob on his boat, and yelling at her children. There’s a scene where she completely abandons her children and thoughtlessly leaves them locked outside of their house while she frolics with her lover miles away. Of course, with children as wretched and annoying as hers it’s somewhat easy to understand why she acts like she does. Her two daughters are chubby dimwitted little pigs that never stop screeching and squeeling. And then there’s the one and only C.J.

C.J. Temper is a purely evil little bastard with a Dorothy Hamill haircut. He’s also a rotten little schemer that loves to pull elaborate, mean spirited pranks on his family, friends, and babysitter. He smirks as the police are called in to investigate his dirty deeds. He later pours ketchup all over his body and pretends that someone stabbed him, which causes his frantic mother to almost kill herself racing home. Just when you think you can’t hate this little fucker any more, he then has the appalling nerve to mock the brutal death of his best friend! It’s almost impossible not to despise him and root for his violent demise. C.J. manages to be a formidable foe though, and proves to be an expert shot as he arms himself with a handgun and precisely blasts through a small hole in a door with the trained skill of a professional marksman.

No discussion of “Nightmare” would be complete without mentioning the Tom Savini related controversy that surrounds the film. Romano Scavolini claims that Tom Savini was the special effects supervisor for the film. Tom Savini claims that he never worked on the film because he was too busy working on Creepshow at the time. Despite Savini’s dismissal, there are several photos of him on the set that prove he worked on at least one scene in the move – the centerpiece decapitation by hatchet.

This incredible scene is the bloody highlight of the film. It is shown in pieces throughout the film, and then shown in its entirety at the climax. Fans of “Friday The 13th” will find this decapitation to be a very close recreation of the classic Betsy Palmer head slice. Watch the blood flow, watch the twitching hands in front of the body. It’s trademark Tom Savini. There’s really no denying that he created that effect. How much, if any of the rest of the film he worked on the other hand was debatable. The rest of the effects in the film are all effectively gruesome, but they are perhaps not quite up to snuff with Savini’s usual work.

Tom Savini was furious when his name was splashed all over the posters for “Nightmare,” and he successfully sued the production to have his name removed from the ads. His name still appears in the credits of the film though. Savini claims that the producers offered to pay him for his name value only, not for his work. He found this distasteful and dishonest and refused. Romano Scavolini on the other hand is adamant that Savini was the special effects supervisor on the film, and claims that Savini refused to have his name on the film because he wanted the credit to go to his friend and assistant Lester Lorraine (RIP) instead. Regardless of who you choose to believe, the photos prove that Savini worked on the film in a small capacity. It remains one of the great slasher controversies to this day.

“Nightmare” was also a source of much controversy in the UK. The film was banned by BBFC as a Video Nasty, and the head of UK video distributor Oppidan served six months in jail for selling an uncut version of the film! This is the only time in history that someone went to jail for distributing a horror film. Angry critics and bad reviews savaged the film in every country it was released in. The New York Daily News wrote three separate articles attacking the film. Despite, or more likely because of this controversy, the film quickly became a box office success during the glory days of the 80’s slasher craze. Variety reported that the film earned over 4 million in 28 cities throughout America and Canada, which is quite respectable for such a vile, low budget slasher flick.

I consider NIGHTMARE to be one of the very best 80′s slasher flicks. It works in a big way because of how brutal and realistic it feels. There are a lot of other slasher flicks that are faster paced and have better acting and higher production value, but very few can compare in terms of sleaze, splatter, and an overall sense of shock and disgust. If you want to go inside the mind of a schizophrenic killer, this is a must see flick. This is also essential viewing for all fans of slasher flicks. After many years of delays and seemingly endless bouts of online mudslinging, Code Red has finally released their 30th Anniversary Edition 2-disc special edition. The package includes an incredible THREE different versions of the film, as well as a number of bonus features. I was excited to finally have a chance to see what all the fuss had been about…and sadly, I was let down as usual by Code Red.

Code Red has a long and ugly history of shitty business practices that should already be well known to hardcore fans of slasher and exploitation flicks who spend quality time on the internet. My personal issues with the company (?) have always been the fact that they promote “upcoming” dvd releases of films they either do not own the rights to, or do not possess the proper materials to produce a release. For example, years ago Code Red prematurely promoted a dvd release of THE MUTILATOR, only to eventually turn around and blame the film’s director for not providing them with a pristine, dvd worthy print of the film. Even worse, Code Red has a nasty reputation for petty, message board bullshit. The owner of the company loves to go online and talk shit to the random horror geeks who would DARE ask him where those special edition dvd releases he’s been promoting for years are. He also loves to complain bitterly about the fact that no one buys his releases when they finally come out, as if he has been generating good will or a good name for his company in general.

Regardless, I was excited to finally possess a special edition NIGHTMARE dvd, and I still am. However, this release is incredibly flawed, rushed (which is incredible, considering how long it took), and unsatisfying. For some bizarre reason, Code Red decided to include THREE different prints of the film, split onto two discs. Both of the prints featured on the first disc are very poor looking. This is another fun example of Code Red hyping up their upcoming special edition dvd release, and then stumbling around afterwards for years looking for acceptable prints to release. Both of the versions of the film on disc one feature  scratches, dirt, jumps, and sound issues. The 2005 (?) restoration of the film looks marginally better, but is poorly color corrected and features pink title credits. To add to your viewing displeasure, the commentary track with actor Baird Stafford is incorrectly timed and does not match the action on the screen. Frustratingly enough (and this release is pretty goddamned frustrating), the 2011 Telecine restoration of the film featured on disc two is the best looking of the bunch – by far. To the point where the entire first disc is rendered worthless. Disc two looks better, and features the longest running time of the bunch, including two extended scenes that were cut from the vhs releases. Frankly, this is ALL Code Red had to release. The other two versions of the film are overkill.

That strange sensation of ineptitude carries over to the special features, including the miss-timed commentary track I mentioned earlier. The biggest disappointment of the entire release is a 95 minute interview with Romano Scavolini, done in Italian…WITHOUT English subtitles!  Where are the subtitles you ask? Don’t ask Code Red! They just went ahead and filmed it in Italian without knowing the logistics and costs of getting it translated and subtitled in English! Then they spent an entire year online citing that interview as the sole reason the dvd wasn’t being released. Hilariously enough, according to Baird Stafford and others, Romano Scavolini has a perfect command of the English language, and the interview easily could have been done in English in the first place! It would be funny if it wasn’t so fucking sad. All I could think when slogging through this overstuffed and half baked “special” edition release was how much better it would have been if ANYONE ELSE in the world had put it out instead of Code Red. Imagine this film in the hands of Blue Underground, or Synapse. You would likely get a proper looking dvd release, with quality, well produced special features. Released in mass quantities with total love for the film and the fans, and not out of spite against the same fans you desperately want to fill your pockets. The final verdict on this one? Download the 2nd disc. Fuck Code Red. Don’t support bad horror business.

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!