Dead By Dawn!!!

Gory greetings Deadites! This special edition of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT highlights a terrible trio of often overlooked 80’s horror flicks that all prominently feature “Evil Dead” alumni. Don’t touch the sacrificial fluids…and LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

THOU SHALT NOT KILL…EXCEPT (1985)

Sgt. Jack Stryker comes back home from Vietnam with a wounded leg and a lot of painful memories. He moves back into his small secluded cabin in the woods with his trusty pup Whiskey and tries to put his life back together. Sadly, the peace and quiet is short lived for Stryker. His ex-girlfriend and her well meaning grandpa keep trying in vein to reunite the former lovebirds. Then three of his rowdy Marine pals show up for an unannounced visit. The guys have a blast getting shit faced and blowing the shit out of Stryker’s outhouse. Then the shit REALLY hits the fan when an insane religious cult comes to town, takes Stryker’s ex-girlfriend hostage, uses her well meaning grandpa for target practice, and starts sacrificing the local yokels.

Stryker and his fellow vets take up arms and declare all out war on the psychotic hippy scum. A bloody body count, just slightly less than that of the actual Vietnam conflict quickly ensues. What could have been the heart warming tale of a Vet who reunites with both his girlfriend and his unit after the war quickly becomes a stateside massacre of Kent State proportions! Remember: thou shalt not kill…except when violence demands revenge!

“Thou Shalt Not Kill…Except” was written and directed by Josh Becker, who also worked cameras and sound for “The Evil Dead.” He also appeared as a “Fake Shemp” stand-in in “Evil Dead 2″ and “Army Of Darkness.” It was co-written and produced by Bruce “Don’t call me Ash!” Campbell and Scott Spiegel (more about him later!). This backyard head basher was mostly shot in the garage and front lawn of Bruce Campbell’s parent’s house! Sharp eyed “Evil Dead” fanatics will also notice a number of familiar props that were originally used in that film, including haunted clocks and lamps and the infamous tape recorder.

“Evil Dead” director Sam Raimi, his brother – the one and only Ted Raimi, and Scott Spiegel all star in the film. Sam steals the whole fucking show by wildly overacting as the goofy looking hippy with bad teeth who promises “to do nasty things” to the “dirty little sons of bitches.” All of Sam’s scenes and lines in this flick are hilarious. In some ways, it’s too bad that Sam focused on directing, because he is clearly a gifted comedic actor. He also makes a very convincing psychopath. His brilliant turn as the Manson-esque cult leader is often overlooked when Manson inspired genre flicks are discussed, and it shouldn’t be. “Don’t touch the sacrificial fluids. Okey Dokey?”

This flick is also criminally underrated in the 80’s action department. “Thou Shalt Not Kill…” is a homemade micro-budget action epic with a lot of firepower and kick ass attitude. This flick is packed with fist fights, hand to hand combat, and shootouts. There’s lots of blood and splashy violence for gorehounds to enjoy, especially towards the climax. Special mention also must be given to the kick ass score provided by “Evil Dead” composer Joseph LoDuca, which adds greatly to intensity of the film and makes it feel more like a big budget action flick. The odd and wordy title makes no sense and has nothing to do with the film, but it sounds cool, which is all that matters! I can’t recommend this highly one enough to fans of low budget action and homemade horror.

Synapse Films recently released a fantastic blu-ray/dvd combo pack of THOU SHALT NOT KILL…EXCEPT. As to be expected, the film looks amazing, and there will be a wealth of bonus materials, including the original Super 8mm “Stryker’s War” short film, “Made in Michigan: The Making of THOU SHALT NOT KILL… EXCEPT,” two audio commentaries featuring director Josh Becker, Bruce Campbell and star Brian Schulz, deleted scenes, and the theatrical trailer! This will be an essential purchase for fans of the film, and a great chance for the rest the world to finally get to see this semi-obscure little ass kicker.

 

MANIAC COP (1988)

A pretty young waitress leaves work one night and is assaulted by street thugs who want her purse. The girl manages to fight her way to freedom, and runs away to a nearby park, where she sees a police officer standing in the shadows. When the girl frantically begs the cop for help, she receives a swiftly broken neck for her troubles. She didn’t know that the most terrifying man in the city carries a badge, and she now has the right to remain silent…forever.

Criminals and innocent citizens alike in NYC alike are being snuffed by a large and freakishly powerful psychopath wearing a police uniform. When the killer is a cop, there is danger in every badge and suspicion in every uniform. As the maniac cop quickly racks up an impressive body count, citizens start freaking out and shooting innocent cops in fear of their lives. TOM FUCKING ATKINS plays the grizzled booze pounding police veteran who investigates and eventually gets too close to the killer for comfort. A fresh faced cop played by Bruce “Are you staring at my chin?” Campbell is mysteriously framed for the maniac cop murders, along with the murder of his estranged wife and quickly winds up in jail. Bruce teams up with his bimbo female police officer girlfriend and tries to clear his name before the killer strikes again. But just who is this maniac cop, and how can he be stopped? And did you see the size of those hematomas?!?

“Maniac Cop” is a highly entertaining horror/action hybrid that was marketed to exploitative perfection during the peak of the 80’s home video movement. The immortal tagline: “You have the right to remain silent – forever” is truly one of the all time greats. The film was written by Larry Cohen (“God Told me To,” “It’s Alive”) and was directed by Bill Lustig (“Maniac”). Lustig brings the same intensity that he displayed in his clas-sick “Maniac” to “Maniac Cop.” The opening scene where the maniac claims his first victim after she runs to him for help is chilling. The stalk and slash sequences are very effective, and this film should have more than enough slasher influence to keep horror fans interested.

“Maniac Cop” is also full of gritty b-movie attitude. Dialogue like “Fuckin’ a, I’m a cop! What the fuck are you?” and “Do you always take a leak with a gun in your hand? That’s a good way to blow your balls off!” assaults the ears and delights the viewer. Richard “Shaft” Roundtree makes a brief appearance as a crabby police chief who wants to know why Tom Atkins doesn’t assume the killer is just some “lunatic son of a bitch dressed up like a cop.” The one and only William Smith also makes a noteworthy appearance as the gravelly voiced and freakish looking Captain who accuses Bruce Campbell of murdering his wife and offers to show him “pretty pictures” of her corpse. William looks and sounds much scarier than the actual Maniac Cop, but that should go without saying.

Speaking of Bruce Campbell, he takes a savage beating of almost “Evil Dead” proportions from the legendary Robert Z’Dar (“Samurai Cop,” “Tango & Cash”) in this one! When Campbell and Z’Dar go chin to mutant chin the sparks really start to fly! The final showdown between cop and maniac cop does not disappoint. “Evil Dead” fans should avoid blinking or they might miss an uncredited appearance from Sam Raimi as a news reporter in the big Saint Paddy’s Day parade scene. This flick is easily the most well known of this batch of PICKS, but I’m still shocked by how many people I talk to that have never seen it. I think it’s a very cool, underrated flick that more people should check out. The two sequels are also worth a look.

Synapse Films released a special edition dvd release of MANIAC COP that features an amusing commentary track with writer/producer Larry Cohen, director William Lustig, and actor Bruce Campbell, an interview with the Maniac Cop himself, the legendary Robert Z’Dar, additional scenes that were filmed for Japanese television (?), the theatrical trailer, and TV spots. Highly recommended.

 

INTRUDER (1989)

The night crew at a small supermarket is having a rather shitty night at work. First, head cashier Jennifer’s creepy and violent ex-boyfriend Craig shows up fresh from the joint to confront her at closing time. After she refuses to discuss their past relationship at work, Craig manhandles her and then trades punches with a few of the employees before finally being chased away. After the dimwitted, inept, and elderly local police make a brief and useless appearance, the owners of the store tell the crew that the store is closing for good, and that they will all lose their jobs in a few weeks!

After much bellyaching the night crew eventually gets back to the evening’s work. Immediately afterward, their young lives are quickly cashed in, express lane style by an unseen intruder who has somehow made his way into the store. One by one, the night crew are brutally slaughtered until only Jennifer is left standing. Jennifer then has to band together with the last person she wants to see in order to stay alive and survive the wraith of a deranged lunatic who is just crazy about the store. Can Jennifer survive the final check out?

“Intruder” has to be considered one of the most brutal slasher flicks ever made! The special effects in this flick by KNB are the stuff of legend for gorehounds. I’m talking really nasty splatter, with completely over the top death scenes involving meat hooks, ban saws, and cardboard bailers! I have worked at a grocery store for years and find these work hazard related death scenes to be very satisfying! These hardcore gore effects are clearly the film’s biggest asset. The first 40 minutes or so of this flick are sort of boring, but as soon as the blood starts flowing the fun doesn’t stop until the end credits roll.

There’s also an abundance of wacky characters (the guy who plays Bub is fucking hilarious) and inventive and sometimes goofy camera work. This especially fun little slasher flick was written and directed by Scott Spiegel, who also co-wrote “Evil Dead 2.” Scott did a great job here in his directorial debut. One of my favorite parts of the entire movie is a hilariously cheap looking shot that gives us the point of view of a telephone. The film takes a while before unpacking the gory groceries, but the oddball cast and camerawork keeps things interesting. Ted Raimi provides most of the film’s laughs as the idiot produce clerk who never removes his walkman.

Interestingly enough, “Intruder” was co-written by Lawrence Bender, who later went on to produce “Pulp Fiction” as well as numerous other Hollywood blockbusters. Fans of the “Evil Dead” series should love this flick as it features both Sam & Ted Raimi as wisecracking body count fodder (Sam also has one of the film’s coolest death scenes), and a special guest appearance from Lawrence Bender and Bruce “groovy” Campbell! Hardcore 80′s slasher fans will no doubt enjoy seeing the one and only Renee Estevez (“Sleepaway Camp II”) in a short lived supporting role.

“Intruder” is a very well made and original low budget horror flick, and a must see for all fans of gory slashers. It amazes me that this flick is not more well known. The micro-budget (only about $1000!) and lack of distribution quickly ushered this one into obscurity. When originally released on home video during the dying days of the 80′s slasher craze, the film was severely edited to earn an R rating. I think that may have something to do with why the film was overlooked. The few horror fans that bothered to rent this one were probably sorely disappointed by the lack of gore and told their friends to avoid it.

Like any clas-sick horror flick, this needs to be seen UNCUT to be fully appreciated. Synapse Films released a blu-ray/dvd combo pack of INTRUDER that finally does the film justice. For the first time ever, fans of this clas-sick can finally have a pristine quality, totally uncut copy of the film. That alone would make this an essential purchase for gorehounds and slasher fanatics, but the bonus materials seal the deal. There’s a hilarious commentary track with director Scott Spiegel (the undisputed heavyweight champion of hilarious commentary tracks!), extended scenes, outtakes, rare audition footage, a behind the scenes featurette, photo gallery, and the theatrical trailer. Own this now or suck forever.

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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3 Responses to “Dead By Dawn!!!”

  1. Yes! There are all great.

  2. I still need to see Intruder uncut and Thou Shalt Not Kill !!!

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