Archive for August, 2013

The Beyond!

Posted in Uncategorized on August 30, 2013 by Brain Hammer

No one who sees it lives to describe it. And you shall live in darkness for all eternity…

THE BEYOND (1981)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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Contamination!

Posted in Uncategorized on August 9, 2013 by Brain Hammer

They invade your body … Control your mind … Blow you apart!

CONTAMINATION (1980)

In an opening scene eerily reminiscent of Lucio Fulci’s “Zombi II,” this Italian horror/sci-fi hybrid begins with a large cargo boat drifting aimlessly in the New York harbor. The police are sent in to investigate when the crew doesn’t respond to radio communication. The cops board the vessel and find it to be completely deserted. At first all the hapless police turn up is several cases of gourmet coffee marked with a mysterious X shaped logo. Then they discover the crew members’ horribly mutilated bodies. The detectives are baffled as to what the cause of death could be, especially because the bodies appear to have been torn apart from within.

But the real horror has only just begun. A detective opens one of the cases and instead of coffee, finds several large green eggs inside it. The eggs clearly didn’t come from a chicken as they resemble a cross between an oversized avocado and a mutant squash. One of the eggs is found nestled under a hot steam pipe and has grown in size. It also glows and appears to be pulsating. The dimwitted detective decides to pick the glowing green egg up and that’s when the fun starts. The egg immediately explodes and releases a thick green slime that splatters all over the detective and a few of his partners. The slime then causes their abdomens to suddenly swell up until they burst and shower their internal organs all over the ship!

A tough minded, top ranking Government official – Colonel Stella Holmes, is then sent to New York to investigate. Stella teams up with the sole survivor of the original investigation, Lieutenant Tony Arsis of the NYPD and tracks down the shipment of deadly eggs to a secluded warehouse. When the authorities bust into the warehouse looking for answers they instead find a band of smugglers protecting the eggs that are willing to kill themselves to avoid being questioned. The criminals commit suicide by shooting a few of the eggs and allowing the green goo to work it’s gory magic on them.

After watching the men violently explode and later conducting a series of experiments on the lethal contents of the eggs, Colonel Holmes begins to suspect that the origins of this nightmare may in fact not be Earthly. In an ironic twist of fate, she then turns to a disgraced former astronaut turned alcoholic that she had dismissed as an idiot several years before. The former Commander, Ian Hubbard (Ian McCulloch of “Zombi II” & “Zombi Holocaust” legend!) is none too pleased to find the smug and self serving Colonel at his doorstep, now looking for his help. At first Hubbard refuses, but when he realizes that the ghastly horror he witnessed years before on Mars is now present on Earth he hesitatingly agrees to tag along.

Holmes, Arsis, and Hubbard than travel to South America to find the coffee plantation where the eggs had been shipped from. Their investigation is nearly stopped in its tracks as they battle hordes of seemingly possessed men in white haz-mat suits (shades of Romero’s “The Crazies”) and discover an over ripened egg waiting to explode in their hotel bathroom. When they finally reach the bowels of the coffee factory they get a much closer look at the source of the eggs then they ever wanted. The eggs are actually the hell spawn of a monstrous Martian cyclops that intends to take over the world! The Martian uses his powers of mind control to hypnotize Holmes and Arsis, which leaves Hubbard alone to face the ghastly alien monster. Humanity’s survival depends solely on his ability to overcome the fear that he can feel in his blood.

Director Luigi Cozzi (Star Crash, Hercules) was at the helm of this fantastic 1980 effort, which he also co-wrote. Cozzi is a life long science fiction fan, and his love and respect of the genre is unmistakable when watching “Contamination.” Luigi fully admits that he was forced by his producers to hop on the hot and happening  “Alien” bandwagon, and to his credit, he did his best to make the very most of the situation. Cozzi’s script (which was co-written by Erich Tomek) avoids any blatant steals from “Alien” (I don’t consider the bursting abdomens to be a direct copy of Alien’s chest-burster) and is instead full of homages to clas-sick sci-fi flicks like “Enemy From Space” and “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.”

Despite having a very low budget to work with, Cozzi was able to create some very memorable special effects. The centerpiece of the film are the spectacularly splashy scenes where bodies explode. Simplicity was the key to success; the incredible effect (credited to Giovanni Corridori) was created using foam rubber, animal entrails, and compressed air. The gory explosions were indeed nasty enough to have the film be listed as a “Video Nasty” in the UK, where it remained officially unavailable until 2004! The alien cyclops on the other hand is a little bit less convincing looking. Not surprising, considering the mighty intergalactic monster was made entirely of paper mache! It took over 96 cuts and countless shifts in camera position to make the “cyclops” appear to move. Besides the always impressive splatter, another big key to the film’s success is the fantastic score from Goblin! The pulsing techno beats add a sense of morbid, mechanical dread to the film, and also give it an unmistakably Italian flavor.

The notorious Cannon Films were good enough to pick up Contamination for a theatrical release in the States back in 1982. Unfortunately, they chose to shorten the running time by removing a good portion of the film’s mid-act. Then the MPAA got involved and the film had to re-re-edited to remove the graphic gore shots. About 11 minutes worth of running time was removed in total, and this heavily edited version of the film was then given one final insult – it was re-titled “Alien Contamination.” Edited or not, the film was a hit with audiences, became a modest box office success, and eventually went on to earn a well deserved cult following on home video, where it was also given a much cooler sounding alternate title – “Toxic Spawn.”

Bill Lustig’s Blue Underground unleashed a beautiful looking, completely uncut and uncensored CONTAMINATION on dvd. The film can currently be found in their Midnight Movies Vol. 5 Sci-Fi Double Feature along with the Jack Palance epic “Shape Of Things To Come.” The bonus features include an informative interview with Luigi Cozzi entitled “The Alien Arrives on Earth,” a brief 1980 documentary “Luigi Cozzi on the Set of Contamination,” the theatrical trailer, a still gallery, and a nifty Contamination graphic novel based on Cozzi’s original storyboards that you can access on your PC. Fans of over the top Italian horror & sci-fi should greatly appreciate this one. Buy or die!

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

Pieces!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on August 2, 2013 by Brain Hammer

You don’t have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre!

PIECES (1982)

Boston 1942. A blossoming young pervert named Timmy Reston sits alone in his bedroom putting together a jigsaw puzzle featuring a nude pin up girl. His emotionally unstable mother walks in and catches him red handed. Infuriated, she asks him where the filth came from and slaps around the little brat while demanding answers. She warns the boy that he will end up like his father and proceeds to slam a picture of the man into a mirror. This violent act appears to have a profound effect on the boy. Mrs. Reston sends her son off in search of a plastic bag so she can junk all of his toys. Timmy returns with an axe instead and repeatedly slams it into mommy’s skull! Then the pint sized psychopath removes mommy’s head with a saw! After shutting his mother up for good Timmy goes back to work on his blood splattered puzzle.

A friend of the family becomes concerned when she can’t reach Mrs. Reston and shows up with police. When the cops break in they discover a gruesome sight in the bedroom – enough blood on the floor to ensure that something had been butchered. Then they find Mrs. Reston’s severed head in a closet. Little Timmy is found cowering in another closet, covered in blood and whimpering about a big man that hurt his mommy. We are told that Mr. Reston is overseas in the Air Force and that the murderous little bastard Timmy will be sent to live with an Aunt who lives nearby.

After the opening credits we flash forward forty years to find an unseen killer (who is obviously Timmy Reston all grown up) on the prowl at a large New England university. A bizarre skateboarding accident involving a large pane of glass reminds the madman of his mother smashing the mirror with his father’s picture forty years before and inspires him to go on a brutal killing spree. The unseen slasher stalks after the sexy young students so he can remove their limbs with a chainsaw and use the pieces to create a human version of his prized pin up puzzle! His first victim is a tasty young co-ed that he decapitates with a chainsaw in broad daylight.

Hard boiled police detectives Lt. Bracken (Christopher George of “Grizzly” &“Enter The Ninja” fame!) and Sgt. Holden (Leslie Nielson lookalike Frank Bana, who also appeared in “Return Of The Evil Dead”) are sent in to investigate the murder. They start with the Dean, who seems more concerned about bad publicity than the murder itself. The Dean (Edmund“Don’t Open Til Christmas” Purdom) turns the detectives on to the head of the anatomy department and closet campus queen – Professor Brown. (Jack Taylor, who appeared in numerous Spanish horror epics including “Ghost Galleon” & “Night Of The Sorcerors”) Professor Brown seems to think it might be one of the boys, but Sgt. Holden assures him that at this point the investigation consists of buying clothes without labels and trying them on for size.

Shortly afterwards we are introduced to the campus stud Kendall James. (Ian Sera, who also appeared in “Pod People”) A blonde hardbody sends Kendall an invitation to fuck in the campus swimming pool later. Kendall accepts the invitation of course, but the killer beats him to the pool room and proceeds to net the girl like a large fish and then shear away her limbs with his trusty saw. This time the madman takes the girls’ torso as a souvenir. The temperamental and sneering campus gardener WillArd (unforgettably portrayed by Paul “BLUTO” Smith!) stumbles upon the bloody crime scene and has a wild run in with the cops that ends with Sgt. Holden threatening to BLOW his brains out!

The detectives question Kendall and his nerdy best friend “Goggles” and wind up believing that Kendall had nothing to do with the murder. Lt. Brown even decides to turn to Kendall for help with the investigation. He also arranges for an undercover police officer named Mary Riggs (played by Christopher George’s wife – Lynda Day George, who also starred in “Mortuary” and “Day Of The Animals”) to join the campus faculty as the new female tennis coach.

Meanwhile, the killer decides he needs a pair of arms and decides to relieve a pretty young dance major of hers inside an elevator. Kendall hears her screams of torment and barks out orders to the police officers on the scene. The sight of the limbless girl in the elevator is enough to make a seasoned police officer puke his guts up, but Kendall immediately seizes control of the situation and tells the guy to go call an ambulance! The girl initially survives the attack but dies in the hospital from the massive shock and loss of blood before she can identify the killer. Mary searches for clues and stumbles upon the fucking Kung Fu Professor (Bruce Li!) who attacks her because of something he ate. Bad chop suey maybe.

The mad butcher then sets his sights on the legs of Susie Billings, a sexy young tennis player. The ever resourceful killer sabotages the campus P.A. System so it continuously plays canned intermission music. This makes a perfect cover up for the sound of his chainsaw. While Mary, Kendall, and WillArd are fumbling around with the music the lousy bastard kills her. It’s all enough to make Mary unleash a devastating display of sheer frustration! BASTARD!!!

Lt. Brown turns to Kendall yet again for help and sends him to the record vault with Sgt. Holden to pour over files looking for any reference to the campus staff. Mary goes to a suspect’s house that evening for a cup of coffee and a few questions and winds up getting a lot closer to the killer than she bargained for. Just as Mary is drugged and her lovely feet are about to become the final addition to the murderer’s supreme creation, Kendall unearths a clue that reveals the killer’s true identity. Kendall and the cops have to race to stop the killer before he can finish his human jigsaw puzzle. This all culminates with an unbelievable mind blowing genital crushing grand finale that must be seen to be believed!

I have seen this flick more times over the years than I could possibly count. I make everyone I know watch this movie. Whenever I talk to people about horror flicks I always have to mention PIECES. This flick is absolutely hilarious, and manages to get a little funnier every time I watch it. It plays out like a really gory and outrageous version of an Italian Giallo. The unseen, black gloved killer is pure Dario Argento. The soundtrack from Carlo Maria Cordio (aka CAM) is atmospheric and excellent, even if it borrows heavily from Goblin’s score for “Zombi.” ”Pieces” was written by the terrible trio of director Juan Piquer Simon, producer Dick Randall (“Slaughter High”), and the infamous Joe D’Amato. (“Antropophagus”) No wonder this slasher flick is so full of brutal violence and perverse sexual overtones. There’s some tasty nudity to enjoy and even a little something for the ladies when Simon slips in a full frontal shot of Ian Sera. IT STINKS!

There’s more sidesplitting dialog in this howler than any other I can think of. From the cross eyed girl with the HUGE tits that dreamily coos how“the most beautiful thing in the world is smoking pot and fucking on a waterbed at the same time,” to WillArd proudly proclaiming  he “ain’t getting’ paid by the hour,” to Christopher George imploring his partner to“take some uppers, anything, just get me a lead!” The dubbing and dialog definitely make this work an unintentional comedy.

“Pieces” also works as a slasher flick. Big time. The graphic violence is very nasty and convincing. In the gruesome scene where the killer chainsaws into the abdomen of a girl in the shower a real pig carcass was used which makes the scene very effectively disgusting. From start to finish this flick takes no prisoners. This gory little gem definitely lives up to its’ immortal tag line: “You don’t have to go to Texas to have a chainsaw massacre!”

The fine folks at GRINDHOUSE RELEASING released an amazing 2-disc deluxe edition dvd release of PIECES, which should be considered a must-have for hardcore fans of the film. The special features include an optional Spanish soundtrack with original score by Librado Pastor, in-depth interviews with director Juan Piquer and genre superstar Paul L. Smith, an extensive gallery of stills and poster art, and liner notes from splatter guru Chas. Balun. There is no excuse for not owning this clas-sick 80’s splatterpiece. This is a fucking must see!

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!