Archive for May, 2013

The House By The Cemetery!

Posted in Uncategorized on May 25, 2013 by Brain Hammer

Read the fine print. You may have just mortgaged your life!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Posted in Uncategorized on May 16, 2013 by Brain Hammer

You can lock your windows and doors…But you can’t lock the madman out of your mind!

 MANIAC (1980)

The late great Joe Spinell (“Rocky,” “The Godfather”) completely commands the screen as Frank Zito, a deranged serial killer who prowls the streets of the big apple looking for beautiful women to rip the life out of. Frank was the end result of a childhood filled with brutal child abuse. His beautiful mother Carmen tormented his young mind and savaged his body, leaving him with devastating emotional and physical scars. Despite this abuse, Frank loved his dear mother with all of his heart; and when she was taken from Frank when he was very young in an auto accident… he never fully recovered.

His adult mind frequently becomes lost in a sea of voices. He now harbors a deep resentment for women, in particular the fancy ones the ones that sit and smile and say “yes miss, no miss, not now miss, whatever you say miss?” In Frank’s defense – it really is enough to drive a man crazy. Frank defends himself with a shotgun and hunts for tasty game after dark. His male victims are just random joes caught with their pants down and are quickly disposed of with strangulation or a face full of lead. Frank Zito is a ladies man. The women are treated to more torturous ways of slaughter and are routinely strangled, shot, stabbed, and finally scalped.

The scalps are very important to Frank. He brings them home to his fantastically creepy looking apartment and nails them to the heads of mannequins that also uses for sex. A true renaissance man, Frank also dabbles in the arts. He works as a painter, abstracts mostly, some still lifes, landscapes, that sort of thing. As an artist, Frank lives by the unique philosophy that things change, people die, but in a picture or painting they are yours forever. The mannequins are Frank’s supreme creation, and he captures the beautiful young women so that they may be his forever.

That’s why Frank has such a fancy for fancy girls and their fancy dresses and lipstick, laughing and dancing. He has to stop them because they don’t know when to stop. He warned them not to go out tonight. They can lock their windows and doors, but they can’t lock the madman out of their minds. The voices in Frank’s head implore him to be careful and always warn him that he could be taken away for doing the things he’s doing. This doesn’t stop Frank from stalking and slaying as many women as possible. Everyday a woman is born, and another will die. This cycle never ends.

Frank’s already busy life becomes even more complicated when he takes a stroll in the park one day looking at little girls and winds up being photographed by a stunning young fashionista named Anna D’Atoni. (the achingly beautiful Caroline Munro of Hammer Studios & “Slaughter High” fame!) Frank immediately tracks Anna down and incredibly enough, the two of them hit it off in a big way! Despite possessing an appearance that could be politely described as “creepy looking” or perhaps “weird and greasy,” Frank quickly charms the pants off of Anna and takes her out to dinner at a little restaurant over in Jersey called Clams Casino. Great Italian food. Frank later attends one of Anna’s exclusive fashion shoots. This allows Frank the opportunity to tap his toes to the funky sounds of Don Armando and the 2nd Avenue Rhumba Band’s sizzling number “Goin’ To A Showdown.” It also gives Frank to the perfect chance to follow a model named Rita home and stick a large knife in her chest because she knew. Rita knew.

Frank’s third and final date with Anna sadly didn’t go nearly as well. A nighttime visit to the graveyard to pay respects to the beautiful Carmen Zito sounds like a perfect fun-time date, but Frank ultimately loses all control of his emotions at the gravesite. Now overcome with the feelings of emptiness and loss, Frank desperately reaches out at for woman now closest to his heart and attacks Anna. Scared and confused, Anna lashes back with a shovel and gives Frank a terrible cut on his arm. Losing blood and the final shreds of his sanity, Frank lamely retreats to the comforts of his apartment. But the worst for Frank has yet to come. His many female companions now have revenge on their minds and decide to take matters…and Frank’s head… into their own hands.

MANIAC is one of my all time favorite flicks, and I consider it to be one of the all time greatest horror flicks ever. I can still recall having nightmares about a guy jumping up on the hood of my parent’s car and shooting us after watching Bill Lustig’s fucking masterpiece of sleazy splatter as a wee, still-impressionable Brain Hammer. Tom Savini’s gore effects in this flick are some of the sickest stuff he’s ever done, and that is really saying something. The graphic scalpings, skewerings, and shotgun shenanigans vividly displayed in this flick caused many stomachs to turn when it was first released. Even Stephen King admitted to have been disgusted by it. In his 1981 book “Danse Macabre” he refers to the clas-sick whore scalping scene as “well-nigh impossible to watch.”

This infamous and controversial flick really set a new standard for all other 80′s flicks to follow in terms of grit and grue. Few slashers or exploitation flicks can come close when it comes to possessing such a suffocatingly disturbing, perverse, and violent atmosphere. “Maniac” is a down right brutal film that is clearly “love it or hate it” material… and more than a few critics hated the film and spoke out against it. Some self righteous cunts in California even took it upon themselves to paint over beautiful billboards with the clas-sick Joe Spinell crotch shot artwork. Some newspapers refused to run ads, or even list the title of the film. Despite, or more likely because of this controversy the film was very successful. Joe Spinell was right all along. It wasn’t just a horror picture, it was a HAPPENING.

I really can’t say enough great things about Joe’s performance in this flick.“Maniac” was clearly Joe’s baby. Joe Spinell co-wrote both the story and screenplay and co-produced the film. His performance is completely over the top, but is also really disturbing because it comes across as real. “Maniac” is a genuinely chilling film because there have been more than a few real life Frank Zitos in the world. Joe Spinell was one of the first people to accurately portray a demented serial killer and really delve deep into the twisted mind state and background of the character. He carries the whole movie. You spend every second with the killer and there’s no attempts whatsoever to make sympathetic characters out of the victims. It’s to Joe’s credit that every scene in “Maniac” is  fascinating and totally riveting. Not to mention the fact that Joe captured some great moments along with his pal Luke Walter by creeping around after hours with an extra camera. The man never slept, and his passion for the project can be felt in every moment of the film. I’m a huge fan of the late great Joe Spinell, and I’m proud have the Tony Gazzo action figure hanging on my wall.

Bill Lustig did a great job here directing his first non-porno flick. “Maniac” was made on a very small budget but still looks and sounds fantastic. The sound is another big part of why this film is so effective. Jay Chattaway’s original music is absolutely incredible and adds layers of depth and suspense to the film. There’s also also fantastic use of low rumbling noises, and later high pitched stings that really unnerve you. Bill Lustig later went on to direct a string of cult clas-sicks, including the almost equally brutal revenge flick “Vigilante,” and the notorious Bruce Campbell/Robert Z’Dar epic “Maniac Cop!” I personally consider “Maniac” to be Bill’s one true masterpiece, and know I’m not alone on that one. This flick has a well deserved, legendary cult following. “Maniac” t-shirts, fan art, posters, and lots more are all easy to find online. Frank Zito himself is even known to prowl around the net, and even has his own facebook page – which only the coolest people like.

Bill Lustig’s equally legendary and lovable Blue Underground has recently re released MANIAC on both blu-ray and dvd. This special edition release is a must own that includes a wealth of bonus features including audio commentary from Bill Lustig and Tom Savini, a fascinating 49 minute documentary on Joe Spinell, a vintage radio interview with Joe Spinell and Caroline Munro, numerous trailers from around the world, poster and still galleries, and best of all – a “Gallery Of Outrage” consisting of the film’s many bad reviews. Needless to say, if you don’t  already have this in your collection you suck.

And speaking of SUCK, it was sadly inevitable that “Maniac” would get a shitty remake. Every horror film ever made eventually will. For some reason, I find this one really painful. It’s silly because I’ve already sat through more of these things than I can count, and I’ve already endured the pain of having FOUR of my other favorite horror flicks get the same treatment – The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Dawn Of The Dead, Last House On The Left, and most recently Evil Dead. At this point, it shouldn’t really matter, but at the same time – I can’t wrap my head around this one. Simply put, no one can put themselves in the mindset of Joe Spinell, and I don’t see anyone from the porno industry directing the film. What I am saying, is that no one nowadays has the fucking BALLS to make “Maniac.” It simply can’t be done. If they are trying to “top” it, fuck them, and if this is their “tribute” to it, fuck them. Either way, at the end of the day all they are doing is cashing in on Spinell’s brilliant idea, and the film’s reputation. If they were real fans of the film, they should pay for some theatrical screenings of Bill Lustig’s clas-sick. I don’t see that happening, so once again – fuck the greedy unoriginal bastards and fuck their remake! I won’t spend my hard earned cash on such bullshit, I will not waste my precious time watching it, and I encourage other real fans of MANIAC to do the exact same thing. ACCEPT NO IMITATIONS!


We Are The Future!

Posted in Uncategorized on May 1, 2013 by Brain Hammer

…And Nothing Can Stop Us!

CLASS OF 1984 (1982)

An idealistic pacifist music teacher named Andy Norris (played by the bearded and sensitive looking Perry King)is transferred to Lincoln High, an ultra violent and dangerous inner city high school. Unfortunately for Mr. Norris, the teachers at Lincoln High have a very dangerous problem…their students! After settling into the neighborhood with his pregnant wife (Merrie Lynn Ross) he immediately runs afoul of the local teenage gestapo,led by the brilliant yet twisted student Peter Stegman (played by Timothy Van Patten of “White Shadow” & “Master Ninja” infamy).

Stegman is a sensitive, classically trained pianist AND a ruthless kingpin of crime who controls the booming high school drug and prostitution rackets. His slightly less than impressive gang consists of: Drugstore: the skinny and strung out drug dealer and wisecracker, Fallon: the muscle who beats people up and breaks in the new prostitutes, Barnyard: the token fat slob (played by Keith Knight, who also played the token fat slob in “Meatballs!”) who loves The Clash, and Patsy: the pasty faced punk rock skank. The five of them somehow manage to control the entire school population and staff AND dominate other rival gangs via intimidation and brutal violence.

There’s an awesome racially fueled gang fight between the Swastika sporting punks and a Black gang highlighted by the young Caribbean accented gang leader saying “No one messes around with my man Leroy. I’m gonna cut you white meat!” We’re also treated to an extended sequence where Stegman auditions prospective prostitutes and drug dealers. A fresh faced and non twitchy Michael J Fox appears in an important supporting role as a lovable band geek who takes a shank to the kidneys after narcing on Drugstore for selling his pussy best friend a lethal dose of dust.

Mr. Norris tries his best to do things by the book and keep the kids in line but it ultimately proves useless. He tries to turn the kids in but the police are unable to do anything because the kids are underage and there’s no real evidence. The school’s Principal and security staff are equally worthless. His only ally in the school is the burnt out and booze addled Biology teacher – Terry Corrigan (played very convincingly by the legendary Roddy McDowall). After a sick and disgusting act of retribution where the vicious punks skin every cute little bunny in the bio lab, Terry eventually snaps and decides to teach his class at gunpoint! Mr. Norris barely manages to talk him out of blowing the students away, and he will soon regret that decision.

Terry tries to get the last laugh by running the punks over but winds up crashing and burning. After a bizarre bathroom showdown with Mr. Norris, Stegman violently smashes his own face into a mirror and convincingly blames the teacher for it. Andy finally gets pissed off and destroys Stegman’s beloved automobile in return. Stegman then declares all out war on the teacher. “Life is pain. Pain is everything. You will learn. I will teach you.” The movie reaches a whole new level of nastiness when the punks show up at the Norris household and gang rape his pregnant wife!

This unspeakable act leads to the final showdown at the big band recital. The pasty faced punk rock skank (who looks very fuckable by the way!) shows up and presents Polaroids of the dirty deed to Mr. Norris, which is enough to finally make him ditch his pacifist ways and start spilling blood like a man! Andy Norris: a teacher equipped to deal with students. But they pushed him to the limit that has gone too far. Now he’s about to teach the Class of 1984 the most dangerous lesson they deserve. This teacher will assure that the class of 1984 will earn a higher degree in pain!

I’m a huge fan of this masterpiece of prophetic punk rock perfection, which was written and directed by Mark L. Lester, who also helmed the 80′s clas-sick “Commando.” Few revenge themed films are this satisfying. The sequence where Mr. Norris has to fight his way though the high school and finally gets his revenge on the gang is fantastic. Arms are severed, table saws sever spines, people are set on fire, plummet to their deaths, and are crushed with cars! This flick is also exceptionally well made and acted. It almost plays like an after school special, only with a bad case of herpes.

This flick drips with a genuinely sleazy punk rock atmosphere. There’s a nifty scene where Stegman and his pals go to a punk rock club and skank to the ripping sounds of Teenage Head! The non-violent highlight of the flick for me has to be the incredible scene were Stegman “auditions” for Mr. Norris’s “asshole band” by unexpectedly busting out a stunningly beautiful classical composition on the piano, and then demands to know if he got “the fucking gig!” This scene is especially cool because Timothy Van Patten actually composed and performed the piece! Talented guy. Speaking of music, I almost forget to mention the incredibly cheesy theme song “I Am The Future” which was provided by none other than Alice Cooper. Quite an embarrassment for old Alice, as it sounds like a very lame Broadway tune!

Anchor Bay released a beautiful DVD of CLASS OF 1984 that features goodies like the trailer, a commentary track with writer/director Mark Lester, and interviews with Perry King and his on-screen wife Merrie Lynn Ross. I highly recommend a purchase. This one gets better every time I watch it, and I don’t think I could count how many times I’ve watched this one over the years. A true clas-sick! 

Mark Lester went back to school in 1990 with his campy sci-fi semi-sequel CLASS OF 1999. Leaving the gritty realism of “Class Of 1984” far behind, this one takes a one way trip into Goofytown. Set in the not too distant future, schools across the nation have become the setting for widespread bloodshed and gang violence. Some of the areas surrounding the schools have become so deadly, they are declared “free fire zones” with no police presence. One of the very worst is Kennedy High School, which is understandable because the Principal is Malcolm McDowell. There’s just one subject at Kennedy High…Survival!

Malcolm hires an especially creepy looking albino Stacey Keach to clean up the school with the help of his specially trained robotic “tactical education units.” These robot teachers include none other than Blaxploitation legend Pam Grier, John P. Ryan from “It’s Alive” & “It Lives Again” and the always awesome Patrick Kilpatrick of “Toxic Avenger” infamy. As to be expected, the androids eventually snap and start using their deadly force against innocent students. It’s up to a punk kid named Cody (Bradley Gregg – who also starred in “Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”) to avenge his younger brother Angel (the one and only Joshua John Miller!) and to unite the warring student factions and uprise against the cyborg substitutes. It’s the last lesson they will ever learn!

This one fails as any sort of sequel or follow up to the far, far superior “Class of 1984,” but as a stand alone action flick it’s pretty entertaining. Especially if you have any fondness for familiar faces and the gloriously cheesy early 1990’s. The futuristic fashions in this one are absolutely ridiculous, and the fact that the lead character is named “Cody” doesn’t help me take things any more seriously. It’s interesting to note that this film was actually written by “Cody” himself – Bradley Gregg. It makes the flick seem a bit more of  vanity project, but also adds to the unintentional comedy. It’s hard to say how serious any of this was meant to be taken, but the flick is so silly & stupid that it doesn’t really matter. With lots of laughs and plenty of action, I can easily endorse this one for anyone who wants to kill a few brain cells. CLASS OF 1999 is currently available on a bare bones DVD from Lionsgate.