50 videos I actually rented!W
e are all ritualistic beings. Our lives are ultimately determined by the patterns of our ways, and no matter what culture we live in, at whatever age, we have a certain, inexplicable compulsion to do what it is that we do. Some people double knot their shoe laces, some people make the sign of the cross, and some people feel the overwhelming need to keep blasting those little blue portals in the Metroid games even though that does not make the doors open any faster. Long story short, we do a lot of things that seem to be without reason, and most of the time, we view these acts as ones that are beyond reason, as well.
This is something that we ESPECIALLY did as kids. We all had certain superstitions or manners in which we did stuff. For example, I had a VERY specific way that I ate Egg McMuffins, and even though I had absolutely zero rationale behind why I did so, every time I ate an Egg McMuffin, I simply HAD to eat it in that process. This is something that never truly leaves us, even as (supposed) adults. For example, how many of you STILL push your controller towards the TV screen whenever you play a football game and struggle to make a first down? Basically, as human beings, we are hard wired to instinctually believe in instinctually unreasonable practices, In regards to rationality, the only constant in our lives is a reliance on the irrational.
As a kid (perhaps more accurately, a seventh grader), my week was basically MADE by the Friday trip to the video store. That little five minute stroll down the aisles of the local Mom and Pop tape rental was pretty much the equivalent of going to church for me, and in many ways, I considered it something of a sacred rite. OK, so waltzing past cardboard cutouts of Reese Witherspoon and that one tube of water you were supposed to drop a quarter in was not the same thing is going to confession or taking the Eucharist, but for me, it was every bit as essential and spiritual. This, of course, says A LOT about my personality.
I have always loved movies, for as long as I could remember. That being said, it was not until I got into horror films that my passion for cinema became borderline fanatical. Perhaps inspired by my junior high hero Joe Bob Briggs, I made it one of my middle school goals to rent EVERY single movie in the horror section of the local video store, and while I never truly accomplished that feat, I suppose I DID knock out at least half of it before I entered high school.
But why, you may ask? That, of course, is a pretty simple answer. Number one, there really was not anything else better to do, and number two, it was a pretty cheap hobby. Since I was the only person in town with an interest in movies like Re-Animator and The Evil Dead, I could pick up a two day rental for just 99 cents. Even as a kid in the eighth grade, THAT is a pretty damned affordable form of entertainment. For less than five bucks, I could pick up TWO 80s horror videos AND a 6 pack of knock off Dr. Pepper, which is just about the closest a twelve year old could get to nirvana.
Originally, I ATTEMPTED to do a back to back screening on Friday nights, but my feeble, post-pubescent pupils simply could not stay up that late. Thus, I began a weekly ritual in which I would rent two movies on Thursday night, watch one movie AS soon as I got off the bus on Friday and screen the second flick of the double bill on Saturday morning. This became a system that was sounder than most 401K investments, and this was LITERALLY what I lived for between the ages of 13 and 14. Seriously, as SOON as I dropped the videos back off, the FIRST thing I thought about was picking up two more the NEXT weekend. I had my selections mapped out MONTHS in advance, and only on one or two occasions do I recall my projected rental being checked out before I could pick it up. In other words? I had developed what was damned near the OPTIMAL B-Movie Viewing arrangement.
It was a system that really lent itself to impromptu circumstances. For example, let us say that there was a Playstation game that I wanted get a few hours on. Because there was so much time in between viewings, I was never compressed and in fear of not getting around to screening my flicks. Since I was such an early bird, a lot of Saturdays, I would get up, start a movie and FINISH it before the sun had ever risen. That means I had all the time in the world to down chocolate bars and microwavable pizza, and I still had enough time on the clock to check out all of these crappy edutainment game shows that used to come on the Fox affiliate in Atlanta. Hey, I am not the only person that remembers that one show Ryan Seacrest hosted way back when, am I?
Anyway, like I said, I saw a good chunk of the video store s horror section in my developing years. Realistically, I may have seen over 300 before I was old enough to apply for a learners license, and by and large, I have a pretty good recollection of most of the movies I saw. Hell, I even kept the receipts as a tally of my video exploits, and who knows? Maybe back at the old homestead, those little yellow slips of paper are STILL amassed somewhere. Regardless, I spent an INORDINATE amount of time watching oddball, cheesy horror movies, and as such, it should come as no surprise that those movies have had an INORDINATE influence on my life and personality.
In honor of Samhain, I present unto you a humble recollection of FIFTY, count them FIFTY horror films on VHS I actually rented as a wee one. This list is reserved for the most obscure of the obscure, the most extreme of the extreme, and the most weird ass of the weird ass. If you're looking for mainstream horror, buddy, this is not the list for you. Also, in keeping with the spirit of the season, I have decided to FOREGO using the Internet for research purposes in this article, so as to not compromise the integrity of my nostalgic remembrances. You may have seen some of these movies. Most of them, you probably have not. Hell, some of you may have even passed by them back in the day, wondering who in their right mind would even CONSIDER renting something with box art so cheesy, horrific or absurd.
Well, it's time to find out what you missed. Break out the membership card and enough money for Gummi Worms, because its time to revel in some VHS HORROR!
Beware! Children at Play
Hey, a TROMA movie is as good a place to start as any. At first glance, Beware! Children at Play seems to be nothing more than a rip off of Children of the Corn, and a good hour into the movie, it REALLY feels like a rip off of Children of the Corn (which itself, is kind of a rip off of an old movie called How Could I Kill A Child?, but that is a point of digression if there ever was one). What makes Beware! Such a noteworthy title is just how extreme it is. In movies, you do not really see a lot of explicit violence involving children, but the finale of this movie takes that unwritten movie law and chews it up like a milk bone. Have you ever wanted to see an eight year old get cut in half by a dude brandishing a sickle? Well, if that is your thing, then Beware! Children at Play is something you might want to give a look at. Not a great movie by any stretch, but a fairly memorable one, if only for its atypical gruesomeness.
Hey, remember The Legend of Boggy Creek? Well, this is a low budget rip off of a movie that originally cost like a buck twenty to make, so this one is painful even by MY standards. I really do not recall too much about this movie, other than the fact that the titular monster was spawned by, of all things, redneck fishers throwing dynamite into a lake. Yeah, that is a new one to me, too. There is also a scene in which a fat cop with a mustache makes out with this fifty year old chick wearing more makeup than Pennywise the Clown, so if your gag reflexes need a good testing, this is one you might want to try to find on Amazon. A really, really, REALLY bad monster movie right here.
What do you know, ANOTHER TROMA release? The weird thing here is that this is one of the few PG-13 TROMA flicks out there, which means this is about as close as TROMA gets to making family friendly entertainment. That being said, it also contains a scene in which a dude gets splattered against a wall and a lengthy scene in which a woman talks about getting her hammock stuffed, so yeah, that s what constitutes family friendly in the TROMAVERSE. Basically, this movie is about a bunch of bumbling pest exterminators that are trying to rid a house of overgrown cockroaches, and. . . Yeah, it really is not all that memorable a movie. You could certainly do worse, but you could do a lot better, as well.
Oh boy, the Alzheimers is kicking in early here. I remember renting this movie, and I remember putting it in my VCR and I remember dropping it in the overnight box, but for the life of me, I cannot recall a SINGLE damn thing about this movie other than the title and the fact that it was about this weird supernatural force that lived in a kids bedroom. Also, I think there was a scene in which a dude exploded Scanners style, but I am not positive. Let us just say that this movie exists and withhold passing judgment for the time being, OK?
Of course, what list of 90s straight to video horror would be complete without an offering from Full Moon Pictures? Castle Freak was a movie that had a pretty heavy promotion on the Preview Channel. Hey, it was good enough to make it on PPV, so it must be halfway decent, right? RIGHT? Sadly, my recollections of this movie are almost non existent. The monster itself was kind of generic looking (even so, I do remember seeing an action figure of it in a comic store back in 97), and even though some of the cinematography was OK, it was a largely forgettable affair. Do you want to see Jeffery Combs (he of Re-Animator fame) running around a Spanish castle while same hairy dude in a dungeon periodically eats visitors? Short answer: No, not really.
Chiller is an early, early Wes Craven movie, and while I really did not like it as a kid, now that I am a little bit older and a tad more interested in philosophy, I might want to give this one a glance in the future. I think this movie was originally released as a TV movie, and I think he made it right after he did Last House on the Left, but do not hold me to it. Basically, this movie is about a dude that is cryogenically frozen, and he s brought back after a couple of years in deep freeze. The problem is, he comes back without a soul, so now he is a no good, murdering, raping dissident. There is a really great scene in which the villain of the film kills a priest by telling him that heaven does not exist and giving him a heart attack, which I suppose makes the film worth seeing all by itself. If you are a huge Craven fan (or a guy with WAY too much free time on your hands), you might want to give this one a gander.
Yes, ANOTHER Full Moon release. Say what you will about Richard Band, the guy had a hell of a work ethic. Who cares if his features are usually unwatchable cheese like Robo Jox, the guy gets some gosh darned RESULTS with his movies. Ultimately, Demonic Toys is a film in the vein of Full Moon pictures number one franchise, Puppet Master. If you have seen one killer doll movie, you have pretty much seen them all, and there really is not much new in this one. One of the killer dolls is a foul mouthed baby doll, and I think one of the heroes is a pizza boy. Yeah, it is about time those unsung heroes were given their just dues in filmdom. Also, there is some nonsense involving a female cop tracking down a criminal in a warehouse, and the usual hi-jinks ensue. I am not saying that this movie is wholly unremarkable, but I have more recollection of the ad that encourages WEEKDAY video store consumption that ran before the film than the actual movie itself. Followed by the sequel Demonic Toys vs. Doll Man, and no, I am NOT MAKING that up.
After decades in exile, the one and only Roger Corman came out of retirement to helm Frankenstein Unbound, which is a pretty weird little hybrid between B-Movie and respectable (if somewhat misaimed) independent filmmaking. There actually are a couple of moments of intrigue in this one, starting with the casting. You know who plays the Frankenstein monster in this film? Why, none other than that dude from INXS. Why, I really cannot say. Why he has hair like Blanka and ears like a a Klingon, once again, is beyond my expertise. The film does a lot of tinkering with the Frankenstein formula, as it involves a scientist from the future traveling back in time to the days of Mary Shelly. As in, he meets the REAL Mary Shelly, and as it turns out, Frankenstein is actually a work of historical non fiction. Just for kicks and giggles, you might want to trek this one down, because there are some pretty clever scenes in it, including a scene in which the main character accesses an online Encyclopedia in his car a good TWENTY FIVE years before the advent of Wikipedia. Not a bad way to spend a rainy afternoon, pending you have a lot of Mexican food in stock.
From the same guy that made Re-Animator and starring pretty much the same cast, From Beyond is basically an underrated companion piece to the far more renowned HP Lovecraft re-imagining of the same timeframe. Alike Re-Animator, From Beyond is loosely based on a Lovecraft yarn, and like Re-Animator, Jeffery Combs plays a kooky scientist fiddling around with the dark side of medicinal science. Once again, researchers meddling with inter-dimensional travel (using what appears to be a FAX machine with a tuning fork duct taped to it) end up getting more than they bargained for, as Combs ends up growing a third eyeball in his forehead, a chick runs around in S and M getup, and Ken Foree (of Dawn of the Dead fame) does what he does best, which is being awesome. All in all, this is a movie that is more miss than hit, but for fans of gooey 80s horror, this is one you really ought to put on your Netflix queue.
Frostbiter: Wrath of the Wendigo
ANOTHER TROMA movie, folks! Amazingly, I nailed about a dozen or so TROMA flicks in my video store exploits, but I did not end up renting a single good one. Some luck, huh? For all intents and purposes, this is a HORRIBLE movie, and a comedy horror flick that just does not click at all. The movie is supposedly based on some indie comic book, but I have never heard of it. Basically, this movie is a very, very bad imitation of Evil Dead 2, only without the humor, or imagination, or fun, or value. A bunch of hunters go into the woods, and evil spirits cause some shenanigans. A really poor offering from the house Toxie built, even if there are some good tunes here and there. Really not worth your time at all.
What the? A GOOD MOVIE? What s going on around here! Needless to say, Hardware is a LEGITMATELY awesome movie, and one of the better sci-fi horror hybrids out there. In a post apocalyptic world in which people eat reindeer and Iggy Pop reads the morning news, the post-atomic wasteland is HAUNTED by Mark 13, a human-hating, mass-killing robot painted with red, white and blue water colors by a bored housewife. Mark 13 (named after a particularly gristly bible verse, by the way), is a machine that has no qualms about turning the living into compost, and there are two scenes in particular that you will ALWAYS remember after watching this film. The first involves a fat pervert getting knocked off by the titular murderous unit, and the second involves one of the NASTIEST suicides in movie history. If you ever wondered what it would be like if Michael Myers stalked the world of Fallout 3, then Hardware is a movie you HAVE to witness.
Highway to Hell
No, this movie has nothing at all to do with Bon Scott, but it does have the original Buffy Kristy Swanson in it, so that automatically makes it worth watching. The movie also stars Chad Lowe (aka, Mr. Hilary Swank), and features Gilbert Godfrey in a cameo role as Adolf Hitler. Now, I know what you are thinking: this must be the most awesome straight to video release ever, and while it has some good lines here and there, it is a largely forgettable film, and probably the most boring depiction of Hades in the history of the motion picture. A couple is hanging out in the desert, and the female is kidnapped by a demonic cop, and the boyfriend has to travel across the inter-dimensional portal to save his gal. Not a horrible movie by any stretch, but a ultimately, a pretty bland one.
The Ice Cream Man
If anybody deserves an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement, it should be Clint Howard. Who cares if his older brother Ronnie went on to direct a couple of movies, his younger sibling (and his ridiculously bushy eyebrows) have starred in a number of legendary B-movies, including such all time classics as The Wraith and Evil Speak. In The Ice Cream Man, Clint Howard plays, well, an ice cream man, and guess what the special ingredient in his frozen dessert topping is? This movie is so beyond cheesy that it should be rated F for fondue: in one scene, Clint DECAPITATES a person with an ice cream cone. As in, a normal waffle cone. And no, Clint s character DOES NOT have super human strength. At all. So. . . Yeah. Also, there is a very well done chase scene in a grocery store that shows way more talent than the movie as a whole presents. This is a goofy, corny piece of crap, and you know you will love it just as much as I did.
In The Shadow of Kilimanjaro
Uhh. . . This movie has something to do about wild baboons attacking African explorers. Also, I think it is (supposedly) based on a true story, so. . .that is about all I recollect. What I DO remember about this movie is that I rented it the same day I got my first failing score in Algebra II, so needless to say, I really was not in the highest spirits to watch a bunch of British over actors get eaten by monkeys. The box art was cool, at least.
Jack Frost 2
Until my dying day, I will contest that the original Jack Frost was a GREAT movie. I mean, who in the hell can hate a movie in which Shannon Elizabeth gets attacked by a snowman? While the 1997 original was downright awesome (not to mention title holder of quite possibly the gnarliest lenticular video cover ever), the 2001 follow-up is just a disgrace. For starters, this movie was filmed on NON-video stock, which means it looks like something somebody filmed with a home video camera. I absolutely HATE watching movies that are shot on non-film, and this movie is just horrendous on the eyes. Also, the special effects in this movie are WAY worse than the original. In that one, they at least TRIED with the make up, and in this one, it is all a bunch of half hearted CGI. Oh, and do not get me started on the inclusion of those little snowball monsters. Come on man, get f n real here! This is just a bad movie, and not even bad in an entertaining manner. There is no reason for a human being to see this, EVER.
Apparently, I had a thing for monkey themed horror movies as a pre-teen, and I really cannot recollect whether or not this is one of the better ones, or one of the lamer ones. Although to be fair, regarding 80s horror, who can tell the difference? Anyway, this movie stars a somewhat mainstream actress in the lead role. I really cannot remember her name, but she was kind of moderately big in the 80s. I want to say her first name was Kelly, but I could be wrong. Ultimately, she becomes guardian of two really intelligent chimpanzees, and one of them falls in love with her (no, really), and tries to kill her. Also, one of the chimps wears a tuxedo and smokes cigars. Yeah. . . This is what I spent my adolescent years doing, folks. I can almost feel the shame creeping up my esophagus.
Monster in the Closet
Why not ANOTHER TROMA flick kids? Of all of the TROMA films I saw as a wee one, this is probably the best of the bunch, and that really is not saying a whole lot. Still, this is a pretty enjoyable, entertaining film, and one that really feels a lot different than most TROMA offerings. Monster in the Closet is about, well, a monster in the closet, and the titular creature is on a rampage in Small Town, USA. Of course, this movie plays it incredibly well, making it something of a satirical look at 1950s culture. The ending is so incredibly awesome in the cheesiest possible way that I have a hard time believing that anything else in a movie can be so simultaneously cool and lame. Believe it or not, the film features Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas in one of her earliest film roles. Blink, and you will miss her. Huh, I wonder why she never brings this movie up in interviews?
Do you ever recall seeing a movie where you remember the beginning and the end, but have NO remembrance of what happened in between? Well, that very problem plagues my memories of Mutant, which, while not a good movie by any token, is at least more memorable than most of the movies I saw during the timeframe. The beginning of the film starts off with two hitch hikers (that I think are brothers) coming into some backwoods town and getting a hotel in one of those bed and breakfasts. One of the brothers ends up missing, some stuff happens, and the finale involves the surviving brother fighting chlorine bleeding zombies at a chemical plant. Yeah, I am surprised as you that it did not get an Oscar nod.
Necronomicon: The Book of the Dead
Despite the title, this movie has nothing to do with the Evil Dead mythos. Rather, it is an anthology film in the vein of Creepshow based on the works of HP Lovecraft. Now, when I say based, I mean the stories have the same title, because these works have NOTHING at all to do with anything HP ever wrote. You know, just like everything else based on his works. Weirdly, this movie actually stars Jeffery Combs as HP himself, who serves as the adhesive that glues the vignettes together. I think there were three stories, but I only remember the first and last one. Neither of them, really, were any good, so if you missed out on this one, you really did not miss anything special.
Night of the Demons 3
Can you say guilty pleasure? While this is definitely the least of the Night of the Demons trilogy, it still has some pretty enjoyable scenes, and if you have nothing going on a Friday night, you could really do a lot worse. The thing that really gets me about the NOTD franchise is that Angela is played by the same actress in all three films, but in each movie, she looks DRASTICALLY different than she did in the previous film. For example, in part 1, she looked like a totally un-tap-able skank, in part 2 she looked like a hot Latina and in this one, she has a forehead like Bam Bam Bigelow and love handles. Granted, I have a soft spot in my heart for chunky goth chicks, so your mileage may vary. Anyway, the cinematography is way better than it has any right to be, there are Full Metal Jacket puns a plenty and the special effects are not that bad. Do you like boobs, girl on girl smooching and people having their brains exploded? If so, this ought to itch whatever scratch you are looking to alleviate.
Not of this Earth
Quick: what is cheesier than the original Roger Corman production from the 1960s? Answer: the 1980s REMAKE starring Traci Lords and that one dude that used to host Talk Soup. No, not Johnny Henson. No, not Greg Kinnear, either. NO, not Hal Sparks EITHER. You know, Roger Lodge, the guy that went on to host Blind Date? Well, he plays a cop in this movie, and it is a pretty safe bet that he regrets EVER signing on to star in this one (even if his role DID include a make out session with an ex adult film star). Anyway, this is a pretty off the wall movie, but then again, what do you expect from a movie that is a. based on an already cheesy drive in movie from thirty years prior, b. about a vacuum cleaner salesman from outer space with electro eyeballs, and c. featuring a former adult film starlet as the leading actress? You know exactly what you are getting into when you took this one off the movie rack: in that, I doubt very few people that even bothered checking it out were disappointed with what lie within.
Also known as Daddy's Deadly Darling, Pigs is without question one of the WORST movies I have ever seen, and trust me, I have seen some ATROCIOUS movies in my day. For starters, the movie has almost NOTHING at all to do with the box art. So, you are walking down the horror aisle, and you see the VHS cover art for Pigs. Hey, a movie about bloodthirsty, man eating hogs, right? So you take the bait, you rent it, and for the next 90 minutes, you sit around watching ABSOLUTELY nothing happen. Seriously, there is more action going on in the plastic video case then the actual movie itself. Ultimately, this movie is about a chick that kills her dad, escapes from a mental institution, lives on a farm with this crazy dude that feeds hobos to his livestock, and. . .you know, the movie is nowhere NEAR as enticing as it sounds. They do not even SHOW the victims getting chewed alive by living pork, and the only thing even remotely resembling a horror scene is this part where the lead actress puts her make-up on all crooked in the mirror. Very, very rarely do I say this, but this movie just flat out SUCKS.
Did this movie receive a wide release theatrical run? I want to say it did, but I really cannot remember if the commercials ever made it to the nationals. Regardless, EVERYBODY has at least seen the box art for this one, as it displays a female taking off a mask to reveal a. . .gasp, frowning skull! Hey, say what you will about the actual movie, the tagline to this thing was downright awesome: buy a box, go home in a bag. Now that is some world class word play right there. Anyway, this movie has nothing at all to do with killer popcorn, but instead, is about a group of film majors holding an all night B movie marathon, which just so happens to be attended by a hideously burned, scimitar wielding maniac. Although the movie falters far more than it succeeds, it has its moments. NOTE: If you have ever wanted to see a character get killed by a fart bomb, this is one you need to hit up on Netflix PRONTO.
When you hear about the premise behind Project: Metalbeast, it is only natural for one to assume that it is quite possibly the greatest idea for a movie EVER made: a group of military researchers are preyed upon by a ROBOTIC WEREWOLF. The fact that said ROBOTIC WEREWOLF is played by Kane freaking Hodder (for the noobs out there, the greatest actor to ever put on the Jason Voorhees mask) just makes the movie all the more appealing. In reality, however, this is a pretty forgettable movie, and one that is nearly indistinguishable from the 9.5 gajillion sci-fi horror hybrids that sprung up in the mid 90s. I will give them props for the ending (hint: it involves a SILVER ROCKET LAUNCHER), but the 85 minutes leading up to that final five minutes of awesomeness is nothing more than a tedious exercise in, uh, tedium, I guess. An A for theory, but a C minus for the actual practice.
Prom Night 3: The Last Kiss
Now here is a movie that is WAY better than it has any right to be. Prom Night 3 is basically a comedic reinterpretation of the Nightmare on Elm Street formula: a supernatural demon (in the form of a pretty hot chick from the 1950s) decides to seduce your stereotypical 1980s loser in order to GET REVENGE on the high school for, uh, something or another. Forgive me for not remembering the sordid details of a movie I have not seen in approximately eleven years. Regardless, there are some downright fantastic scenes in this movie, including a scene in which a science teacher gets ice creamed to death. Uh. . .you will just have to watch the movie to see what I mean. Also, this movie has one of the greatest endings in the history of b horror movie swerves: finding Jason in your backseat is one thing, but waking up only to find yourself smack dab in the middle of the Eisenhower administration? SHUDDER!
Psycho Cop 2
Forgive me, but I never got around to seeing the first Psycho Cop movie. And no, this is NOT the same thing as Maniac Cop, which is a totally different (and let us face it, BETTER) film franchise. Anyway, Psycho Cop 2 is about, well, a psycho cop, as he decides to show up unannounced at a bachelor party being held by a bunch of mid level executive horn dogs. I really cannot recall any of the kills in this movie, but I DO recall that the titular character drove around in a squad car littered with chopped up body parts and pentagrams painted in (what I assume to be) blood on the windows. This, of course, begs the question of how in the hell did he get his hands on a squad car (and for that matter, how come nobody NOTICED a blood splattered police cruiser in the middle of braod daylight?), but hey, you are not supposed to go into movies like this with, you know, thought. Depending on how drunk you are, this may very well be a pretty enjoyable little romp. Then again, the ONLY way you can find it enjoyable is if you are already tanked on booze, so I would not really call mine a ringing endorsement by any stretch.
Heaven help us, ANOTHER flick from TROMA. The big draw for this one is the fact that it is filmed in something called Entrail O Vision, which basically means. . . Well, truthfully, I have no clue. This is another movie that is shot on video and NOT film, so it looks like something you would see on a public access channel at three in the morning. I absolutely HATE movies that are shot this way, and since certain portions of the film are shot in this weird, red tinted glow, a lot of times, the movie makes you feel like you are going to barf all over the couch. Redneck Zombies is about. . . Well, take a guess. Overall, I really cannot recommend this film, but I have to admit, it has some memorable scenes, like the visit from the hooded tobacco salesman and the appearance of a dude that looks JUST LIKE Will Sasso of Mad TV fame. Ultimately, this movie sucks, but I kind of doubt anybody expected that much out of the film to begin with. You can make your way through it, but there are SCORES of better movies out there for you to waste your time on.
Return of the Living Dead 3
I really do not like this movie. The original Return of the Living Dead is one of the greatest horror films EVER made, and while the second film was a monumental step down from the greatness of the original, it was at least a TRADITIONAL zombie yarn. In part 3, all of the goofball fun has been excised for a (largely) serious story about a dude who brings his dead girlfriend back to life with zombie gas. A majority of the movie consists of the couple running around in a sewer while being chased by that dude that played Adam 12 on TV, and although the ending is pretty cool (SPOILER: it involves the lead actress shoving glass through her skin and eating Mexican gangsters), the movie as a whole is pretty bleak and unmemorable. It is not horrible, but it is not really worth your time, either.
This movie RULES! It used to come on WATL in Atlanta all the time, and I NEVER missed it when it was aired. As it turns out, the unedited version is even more kick ass than the already kick ass edited for network TV original, and this is one unsung 80s classic that you NEED to see ASAP. Not surprisingly, Slugs is about a town overrun with mutant, man eating. . . Salamanders. There are so many great scenes in this movie that I do not know where to begin. How about the scene where a dude eats a slug at dinner and ends up puking his guts up at a fancy restaurant? Or how about the scene where a dude puts his hand in a glove (containing a carnivorous slug) and hacks off his own arm with a garden trowel to escape? Obviously, it would have made more sense to, I do not know, just take the glove off, but whatever. In all seriousness, though, I positively ADORE this movie. Definitely check it out if you get the opportunity.
Before any of you sticklers out there send me hate mail, I know that I probably added one too many S-s here, but give me a break. Outside of having perhaps the worst title in movie history, Sssssssss is a largely forgettable 70s flick that, for whatever reason, is kind of revered in most critical circles. All you need to know about this movie is that it is about a scientist that transforms a college kid into a snake. The make up effects are particularly bad (yes, even for the 1970s!), but the movie at least has the decency to chug along at a pretty steady pace. Personally, I really did not like this one, but your mileage may vary. See it if you REALLY like cheesy movies, avoid it if you do not.
Well, this movie is kind of offensive. If you are looking for a smart, sympathetic social satire about the plight of the homeless in America, for the love of all that is holy, LOOK elsewhere. This movie is packed to the brim with heartless, crude stereotypes about the homeless, so if you have anything that remotely resembles a bleeding heart, you might want to steer clear of this feature. The plot of Street Trash is pretty straightforward: someone is giving radioactive rotgut to the homeless, and it is causing them to mutate into puddles of hobo goo (and occasionally, flushing themselves down toilets). There is a particularly unpleasant scene involving a drunken socialite (dude, I know alcohol makes people do unreasonable things, but COME ON!), and there is a pretty decent decapitation scene towards the end of the film. Overall, Street Trash is a thoroughly unpleasant film, and a movie that I really do not think anyone will enjoy, simply due to the callous nature of the script. It is a pleasing oddity, but that is about all it offers moviegoers.
Sundown is one of those movies that really does not belong in ANY sort of genre classification. Yeah, this movie is about vampires, but it really is not a horror film. It is also set in a Western backdrop, but it really is not a western film, either. A lot of times, the movie aims for humor, but overall, it is not a very comedic flick. In other words, this movie has no idea what it wants to be, and that definitely hurts it in the long run. Essentially, Sundown is about a town out West that is inhabited by two bands of vampires: one is the classical, eat-all-the-humans variety of bloodsucker, and the other group is comprised of reformed vampires that protect humans and feed on synthetic plasma. And oh yeah, the main good guy vampire in the movie is played by DAVID FREAKING CARRADINE. There are a lot of intriguing ideas in Sundown, but those ideas never translate on the screen. You will not hate the movie, but you probably will not love it, either.
Tales from the Hood
Of all of the movies discussed in this feature, I think this is the one that most people will have actually heard of. In 1995, Spike Lee decided to make a horror anthology in the vein of Tales from the Crypt, and the result is, for the most part, pretty effective. The movie contains four tales, all tinted with just an auger of racial commentary. Ads for this movie were all over comic books in the mid 90s, although for some reason, Marvel felt the need to eliminate the three sixes from the gold tooth of the skull featured in the film s theatrical poster. The two best stories involve a former Klan member getting hunted by African fetish dolls and a vignette starring David Allen Grier as an abusive step father. The narrative is pretty good, and by and large, the acting is quite consistent. Things get kind of preachy here and there, but overall, this is one of the better mainstream horror releases of the mid decade.
The Bite: The Curse II
The Bite: The Curse II is really a bizarre film, and not just because it is a film about a dude that is turning into a half man, half snake monster. Obviously, the movie is a sequel to 1987 s The Curse, which is one of my all time favorite 80s horror films. That being said, this movie has absolutely nothing to do with the original film, and while must films that take hard turns for sequels end up sucking, this movie is shockingly kind of enjoyable. Especially notable is the appearance of Jamie Farr as an unlicensed doctor, and there is a particularly well done scene in which the main hero (or is it villain?) of the film starts puking cobras all over the dash of his car. This movie is not a classic, but it is serviceable enough for a Friday night feature.
Never judge a book by its cover, and never judge a VHS release by its box art. The cover to The Boneyard features a mutant poodle, and since the movie was in the horror section, one only assumes that the flick has to be about, well, a mutant poodle that eats people. As it turns out, the movie is actually about a psychic P.I. that deals with all sorts of asinine supernatural mumbo jumbo, including this one chick that keeps committing suicide only to keep coming back to life. Eventually, the poodle monster does show up, but it is really WAY too late for it to safe this gruelingly boring and unfunny horror comedy. A definite avoid here.
I swear, for a solid YEAR, the local CBS affiliate would play this movie at 2:30 am EVERY Sunday morning. Eventually, I saw enough bits and pieces of the film to inspire me to rent the unedited version, and this really is one of the better horror sci-fi flicks of the early 90s. To begin, the movie starts off with a bunch of redneck hunters (hunting with what appears to be Sprite bottle silencers), getting killed by an alien that WEARS the heads of its victims. Before long, the alien makes its way into the city, where it starts eating homeless people, showing up at band rehearsals unannounced, and at a certain juncture, donning a pit bull s head in order to chew up some suburbanites watching a VHS copy of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. In case all of that did not verify the sheer awesomeness of the movie, it also stars Rae Dawn Chong, who yeah, is kind of hot. Like I even need to tell you to give this one a look up?
The Dead Pit
There is a scene in which a character in The Dead Pit is lobotomized. Keep in mind, in the scene, the prop being used for a brain is about the size of a tennis ball and, oh yeah, PURPLE. Needless to say, the makers of The Dead Pit really were not fans of things like obvious scientific knowledge, and they really were not fans of original plot framing, either. The Dead Pit concerns a woman that ends up in a mental institution overrun by zombies and brain scrambling surgeons. At one point, she has a nightmare in which she is sandblasted to death, and that is really the only good thing I can say about this movie. This movie is about as flat as a warm bottle of Faygo: even at 99 cents, I felt kind of ripped off in renting it.
The Food of the Gods I & II
Now here is a double feature for those of you that enjoy the most esoteric of esoteric cinema. The first film in the series concerns a group of campers fighting off oversized hornets, vermin and rabbits that grow to gargantuan size after eating radioactive marshmallows (or something like that). The second film is actually set in an urban environment, and features a gigantic rat and an eight foot tall eight year old that developed a case of gigantism after chugging tainted milk. There is a TERRIFIC scene in part two in which a dude starts experiencing rapid body growth while doing the horizontal mamba: it really is one of the funnier scenes you will see an eighties horror film. Needless to say, these movies are not great features by any stretch of the imagination. That said, if you are looking for really off kilter entertainment, this is about as kooky as it gets.
The Gate II
Everybody has seen the first Gate movie. Hell, it almost beat Ishtar at the box office in its first week of release! Even so, most people are not even aware that the film had a sequel, and perhaps even more surprising is the fact that its actually a halfway decent movie. The movie begins with the kid from the first movie that WASN'T Stephen Dorff pouring gerbil blood into a computer for some sort of Satanic ritual. Eventually, he somehow finds a metaphysical way to grant wishes, only the wishes turn into (literal) kaka after 24 hours. Worth seeing for this line alone: Who needs chicks when you got god damn demons, man?
The Gates of Hell
You know what to expect in a Lucio Fulci film: blood, zombies, and acts of violence that really have no impact on the plot whatsoever. The group consensus is that this is Fulci s unsung THIRD zombie classic behind The Beyond and Zombi, and while this movie is nowhere near as good as those films, it still has enough in it to keep you interested. I guess my favorite scene involves an irate dad shoving his daughter s boyfriend into a whirring drill bit, not because it is particularly grisly, but because it literally has NOTHING to do with anything else in the movie. If you get tired of watching Dawn of the Dead for the nine millionth time, you might want to give this one a try.
The Killer Tongue
Hey, you know that zombie chick from Return of the Living Dead 3? Well, she stars in this movie as a chick with a tongue possessed by outer space microbes. Yeah, she REALLY needs to get a new agent. Anyway, this is an early comedy horror film from the 2000s, and while it has a pretty nice cast (including Robert Englund!), it is , by and large, a pretty forgettable opus. The best scene involves a dude getting his internal organs scrambled during a make out session: from that point on, you are better off just watching a blank screen, so it is for the best if you skip this one.
Wow, I TOTALLY forgot about this movie. The only things I recall about this flick are that it stars Rod Steiger, has something to do with an underground lab, and there is a scene in which a dude pulls out a smoke and says that he is saving it in case of nuclear war. Surely, there is more to the movie, but hell if I can remember it. Next!
The Legend of Hell House
Well, I remember renting this one and enjoying it for what it was, but for the life of me, I cannot recall a damn thing about it, other than the fact that it is a haunted house movie with an entirely British cast. If you liked the Haunting, you will probably like this one, so. . . Yeah, that is all I have here.
This is a straight to video feature about an industrial washing machine owned by Freddy Krueger that eats virgins. It is also based on a story by Steven King, who was clearly still on blow when he wrote it. In the film s finale, the washing machine GROWS legs and chases the cast. If you have not had an aneurysm by now, consider yourself fortunate.
After The Exorcist was released in late 1973, every film company in North America made an effort to ape the success of the William Friedkin blockbuster. Some were good (like The Omen), some were pretty bad (like The Sentinel), and some. . . Well, some were just flat out weird as all hell. Certainly, The Manitou is the third kind of movie. The Manitou is about a woman that grows a tumor that may or may not be the reborn spirit of some Indian god: so basically, it is the exact same premise as The Exorcist, only without all of the Catholic imagery. The ending scene is particularly trippy, and probably gave at least one or two people seizures when it was originally released. The thing I remember most about the movie, however, is the epilogue, in which the filmmakers claim that the movie was, at least partially, based on a true incident involving a Japanese boy that, I quote, gave birth to a conjoined twin. Its probably a load of it, but that always stuck with me. The fact that THIS is the most memorable thing about the movie probably says something about the inherent quality of the film.
The Mutilator is probably the bloodiest video I rented as a kid, but that is pretty much all that I can remember about it. From what I recollect, The Mutilator is a Canadian film that follows your basic slasher movie template: horny kids do stupid things and incur grisly death as a result. Although I remember the film being quite gory, I really cannot recall any of the details of the film deaths, which is just about the worst criticism you can lob at a slasher flick. There are bloodier movies out there for you to enjoy: even more important, there are far better films for you to enjoy as well. Skip unless you simply HAVE to see every slasher movie out there.
The Phantom of the Opera (1989)
File this one under the umbrella of good idea, lousy execution. At the forefront, remaking The Phantom of the Opera with Robert Englund in the role of the titular character sounds like a tremendous idea for a film, but the movie itself is relatively bland and devoid of character. Even for a HUGE Englund fan boy such as myself, this is a pretty boring and disappointing movie. Hell, I remember the trailer for Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 at the beginning of the film more than I do the actual video itself, so that gives you a good indication of just how memorable this movie is.
The Unborn and The Unborn II
I am not totally sure if the 2009 film entitled The Unborn is a remake of the first film, but if it is, they really had a heyday with rewriting the script. The original film is actually a pretty bleak film that takes the Its Alive formula and makes it way more nihilistic. For example, there is one scene in which the female tries to rid herself of her mutant offspring by having a back alley abortion, and the fetus FIGHTS back. That scene is reason enough to check out the first movie, but its follow up is largely devoid of intriguing or memorable scenes. There is a scene in which a woman blows up a can of aerosol spray in a microwave, and that is just about EVERYTHING I remember about the second flick. All in all, you would have to be REALLY bored to make it through this double feature, so be warned.
From William Lustig (director of Maniac, Maniac Cop, and probably some other awesome movies that suck), Uncle Sam is an AWESOME 1997 straight to video release about a dude that gets killed by friendly fire in Iraq, gets shipped back to the U.S., is reanimated by flag burners (really) and dons an Uncle Sam costume to slay draft dodgers and tax evaders in the name of Old Glory. Isaac Hayes makes an appearance as, well, pretty much every character Isaac Hayes has ever played, and for those of you looking for some commentary on the way modern Americans view the Military-Industrial Complex, this is a movie that might just surprise you with its insight. This is one of the better B movies of the late 90s, and a movie you really need to see if you dig cheesy horror. Oh, and that lenticular cover art? BAD, ASS.
If you have seen one late 80s vampire movie, you have pretty much seen them all, and they are all better films than Vamp. Do not let the alluring cover art fool you: there is nothing even remotely interesting about the film itself, and that hot red head on the box art? Yeah, well, in the movie, she is played by GRACE JONES, who herself is perhaps the most frightening human being in the annals of written history. You are way better off checking out The Lost Boys or Fright Night here, folks. A definite skip.W
ell, that TOOK forever. All in all, most of the movies I saw way back when were largely pretty forgettable, but I will never forget the influence all of those crappy 70s and 80s horror movies had on my youth. If I had not spent all of those hours watching such drivel, who knows where I would be today? Certainly, I would not have the same interest in popular culture, and if that is the case, I probably never would have gotten passionate about writing. It is amazing the way our youthful recollections influence us as adults. Perhaps even more amazing is WHAT it is from our youthful recollections that we remember most. Some people may think that my secluded youth with all of these movies was a negative, but to me, it is unquestionably a positive aspect of my childhood. It gave me plenty of memories, introduced me to some unusual (and in some cases, important) aspects of the world and allowed me to direct my creativity into productive, artistic outlets. Yeah, it may have given me a bad complexion (and I am certain that I have at least ONE overdue charge still hanging in the air), but I would not trade those thousands of hours of inactivity for the world. I may have rented the movies, but those movies bought me a lifetime of fond recollections. Who in their right mind would want to rewind something like that?
James Swift is a 20-something writer currently living in the Metro Atlanta area. His new book Mascara Contra Mascara: A Tale of Two Masks is currently available through iUniverse Publishing. His next rental at Broadway Video is free.