And now, the thrilling conclusion of High May! I hope you have enjoyed reading these reviews. Because I'm ready to move on. Without further ado...
The b-movie gods must be smiling down upon me. I never thought that this month would end on a high note (pun positively intended), but it has. 1974's Horror High is a schlocky drive-in dazzler with all of the pomp and pulp of the most palatial piffle playing at your local grindhouse theater. It bears the pockmarks of any cult classic worth its salt. The film print is a grungy collage of convulsive scratches, the acting ranges from amateurish to serviceable and the kills don't hold back in the plasma department. In other words, it's glorious. It will never be mistaken for an a-movie, so it may surprise you to learn that it's a modern take on Robert Louis Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."
Personally, I was pleasantly stupefied by a different factoid. The script was penned by Jake Fowler. That name probably doesn't mean anything to you, nor should it. It was a nom de guerre (I could have said "pseudonym," but where's the fun in that?) used by J.D. Feigelson, the gifted scribe responsible for Dark Night of the Scarecrow. To be specific, he was responsible for the screenplay. That's good news, as Scarecrow is a sentimental favorite of mine. It's a subtle, foreboding genre jewel that stands in stark contrast to Horror High. "Subtle" is not an adjective I would use to describe this flick. See, Scarecrow is a film you absorb on a winter night, snug beneath a tufted throw blanket; conversely, Horror High is a film you watch on a summer night flanked by friends and malt coolers.
You don't need Smirnoff (try their blueberry lemonade vodka...it's quite toothsome) to enjoy this well-groomed trash, though. The plot concerns Vernon, a nerd who acts as a lab assistant at his school. Naturally, he is a prime target for imperious bullies and even the faculty. An unhinged janitor suspects Vernon when his black cat is found in a state of...disrepair? The eccentric fucker snaps, and he forces our ostracized lead to quaff a beaker brimming with a toxic brew. Vernon clutches his stomach, retching in agony. Eventually, he turns into a wild-eyed beast with superhuman strength. The janitor is picked off, and Vernon spends the rest of Horror High alternating between "bashful lab technician" and "unsightly fiend."
The Jekyll/Hyde dynamic is handled exceptionally well. Vernon experiences an honest-to-goodness character arc that extricates itself at a relaxed pace. Speaking of pacing, Horror High skates along without undergoing any lulls in the action. Apart from blaxploitation regular Austin Stoker and Playboy cover girl Rosie Holotik (yummy, by the way), the supplementary cast is downright awful. You could argue that the storyline is borderline anorexic. It barely supports a feature-length film, and there are no real subplots to speak of. In the end, those are petty quibbles. Horror High is a campy, entertaining slab of 70's muck. And it has a groovy soundtrack to boot! The less said about 1987's Return to Horror High, the better.
If you don't feel like reading four paragraphs, here is the truncated version of this installment of Panels From Beyond the Grave: Buy this fucking comic! With that out of the way, I'll try to impart a blow-by-blow account of this title's history. Unfortunately, the facts are a little fuzzy. I do know that Nosferatu 1922 is a tie-in to the "Silent Screamers" toy line that boasted modernized redactions of frightful pre-code icons in action figure form. The dolls (but Dom, they're not dolls...please, spare me your harangue on semantics) were released in 2000, which was right when I stopped collecting figures. I do remember them, though. I don't remember this comic book.
I checked, and I couldn't hunt down comic adaptations of the other toys. For the record, the "Silent Screamers" banner also included Metropolis's Maschinenmensch droid, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari's somnambulist hero and the monster from Thomas Edison's Frankenstein. Did the fine folks at Image order issues for those characters? I hope so, but the Internet is telling me otherwise. Back to the bloodsucker at hand. Nosferatu's plot is inventive. A bratty, precocious urchin rushes into his favorite hobby shop to buy the latest "Silent Screamers" figure (yes, the comic is self-aware). When I say "buy," I mean steal. This kid is an insufferable shit. I'm getting ahead of myself; anyway, he sees a detailed Count Orlock model on the top shelf.
His efforts to climb within reach of the collector's item are thwarted by gravity, and he tumbles to the floor. A seemingly innocuous jack-in-the-box lands next to him after being jounced by all the commotion. Being the curious cub that he is, he turns its crank until BLAMMO! We are introduced to Asylum Jack. He will be our vulgar narrator for the evening. Perhaps in a futile attempt to scare the boy straight, Jack relates the story of Nosferatu. This is where we gnaw on the meat of the comic, and illegitimate mother of pearl, it's beyond badass. For the sake of convenience, I'll refer to the Nosferatu portion of the comic as a flashback. You should know that the flashback is drenched in a flaxen sepia tone that recalls the caramel tint of the silent film. It's gorgeous.
Truth be told, every page is gorgeous. The wrap-around segment explodes with dynamic reds and brilliant blues. The script? In terms of plotting, the flashback runs parallel with its source material. The gore is augmented, but that's the only noticeable difference. Of course, Nosferatu 1922 ends with a sick twist. I wouldn't have it any other way. This would have made a bitchin' episode of HBO's Tales From the Crypt. It fucking rules. Plain and simple. Take my word for it and buy a copy online. If you're into...well, awesome things, you won't regret it. See, this is one of the reasons why I read so many Image comics as a kid. Who needs Captain America and The Silver Surfer when over-the-top horror is just a couple of racks away?
This isn't a review of any sort. I just wanted to write a little blurb about the movie that I rented last night (from a video store). The "found footage" subgenre doesn't appeal to me. In fact, Cloverfield is the only recent flick to employ this gimmick that I can honestly say I enjoyed. Luckily, Chronicle doesn't rely on neoteric subterfuge to do all of the heavy lifting. There is an actual story here with three-dimensional characters and a mounting sense of nervous unease. And the action sequences...wow! They pack a fucking wallop. Seriously, a wallop has been packed.
Chronicle isn't flawless. It didn't need to be a "found footage" movie, and some of the dialogue is stilted. But watch it anyway. Highly, highly recommended.
Stand back. This is a review of Friday night's Smackdown. I wanted to test the waters. Since I stopped watching WWE, I've noticed one or two promising tweaks that the McMahon-Helmsley faction has made to the product. So with a bottle of Cheerwine and a gut full of trepidation, I checked out the blue brand. Let's see what happened...
~ I'll start with the main event picture, as it started the show. I'm not convinced that Sheamus is the prospective uber-babyface that WWE wants to build, but I'm glad that his push is persistent. He has all of the tools. As for the triple threat curtain closer, I loved the fact that Daniel Bryan attacked Kane before the match. It keeps DB relevant and it allows The Big Red Machine to lose gracefully.
~ Christian is a fan favorite again, huh? Okay, I'll roll with it. To me, it's a prudent idea to give him a string of (relatively) easy wins. Dig the frog splash.
~ Finally! The former federation is beginning to develop a tag team division. Obviously, we're still not where we need to be (too many teams don't even have names), but I'm thrilled that we're heading in the right direction. On the downside, The Uso's continue to be inexplicably buried. On the upside, O'Neil/Young look decent. So far, their matches have been adequate. I'm hoping that they will be embroiled in a full-scale feud with Rikishi's pups, provided that the right team goes over.
~ Ryback's double musclebuster. It's time for Goldberg Jr. to advance past the "jobber squash" stage. The crowd is already antsy.
~ There is a place for comedy if the bit is...y'know, funny. Personally, I was entertained by the "match" between Santino and Ricardo Rodriguez. Chapfallen, fatalistic smarks tend to forget that this is sports entertainment above all else.
~ Damien Sandow cracks me up. It's a garden-variety gimmick, but he makes it work. "Do your job!"
~ Big Show gets an "A" for effort. It's refreshing to find him turning against the WWE Universe. However, I'm deducting points since he merely repeated everything he said on Raw.
~ Eve is awful on the mic.
~ The match was strong, but how many times do we have to watch Sheamus wrestle Jack Swagger? Blah.
Only a pair of cons, but is that indicative of a dramatic shift in the creative process? No. This was just a favorable episode. Besides, Smackdown is usually superior to its Monday night counterpart. Regarding the future of this column, I'm content to play it by ear.
Full disclosure...my opinion of Full Moon High is biased. It's a slight bias, but it's potent enough to sour my outlook on this pungent precursor to Teen Wolf. You read that right. Larry Cohen cobbled this flick together before Michael J. Fox howled at the moon. So we have bragging rights on our side, but what else? Now, I've forced myself to sit through a repository of horror/comedy hybrids in the name of journalistic integrity. I'm determined to round off "high" month. Due to the nature of pubescent popcorn pics, I've been taxed with a surfeit of infantile humor. Excluding one title (well, maybe two), my May has been flooded with movies that desperately wanted to be funny. NOTE: They were not funny.
Full Moon High bends over backwards to elicit chuckles. The script is just a rapid-fire nexus of zingers, but as I'm sure you can ascertain, most of the jokes on display fizzle like birthday candles that your drunken uncle decided to piss on ("You can't piss on hospitality!"). I've seen so many of these cheeseball spoofs, that I was tired of this one before it got underway. And that bothers me because I'm a big Larry Cohen fan. Regrettably, 1981 was a substandard year for the director of such cult classics as It's Alive and Q: The Winged Serpent. A scant thirty weeks separated the release date of Full Moon High from that of the meager It Lives Again. An uninspired double feature, to state the obvious.
This drollery doesn't seem to know how to handle its comedic stylings. Is it a send-up? A parody? A good-natured coming-of-age story? Don't ask me. At times, it mimics the absurdity of a David Zucker production. In other scenes, Cohen echoes the complexion of John Hughes witticisms. The film also tries to make you laugh on the power of its cast alone. I'll admit that Ed McMahon gives a spirited performance as an aloof philanderer, but he's the only actor that stands out. Adam Arkin is simply mundane as Tony, a jock who is bitten by a werewolf while vacationing in Romania. As the first act draws to a close, we fast-forward twenty years to find Tony returning to his high school to enjoy the puerile mischief he missed out on.
You see, he poses as his own son. There are scads of plot holes along the way, and ordinarily, they wouldn't be obstacles. You're supposed to go with the flow when it comes to wacky pratfalls, right? I mean, this is pure camp. Who am I to complain about the unrealistic...everything? I'd be inclined to agree if the tone didn't shift gears every five minutes. Full Moon High doesn't play by its own rules. Furthermore, I wasn't entertained. Perhaps I wasn't in the right frame of mind to dig the telegraphed punchlines or the cartoonish characters. I will say this; it wasn't as irritating as Sleepy Hollow High. At least the narrative moved at a snappy clip.
Thankfully, my next review subject is light on tomfoolery. I'm in the home stretch!
To say that I geeked out while watching this clip would be a mammoth understatement. It's a pastiche of behind-the-scenes footage from the set of Pumpkinhead (one of my favorite films of all time). We see the titular monster being put together. Now THOSE are special effects.
- The cover. Did it need to be devoted to Dark Shadows? I get that the original TV series has a borderline zealous patronage, but Burton's redux resides on the outskirts of the horror genre. The hipster in me always sighs when RM reserves its cover for mainstream residue. At least the artwork focuses on the "real" Barnabas Collins.
- I have to assign two hyphens to the cover story because...well, it takes up quite a bit of space. Analysis of the series (and the big-budget movie) occupies a wide stretch of this rag. That's fine and dandy if you're a card-carrying Dark Shadows disciple, but I'm not. In my opinion, a surplus of eggs wound up in a small basket. To be fair, it's rare to stumble upon an issue of any magazine that caters exclusively to a single person's tastes. What can I say? The Gothic soap opera was before my time, and frankly, the prospect of plunging headfirst into the show's 1,200-episode history is rather daunting.
- There is a remake of Mother's Day starring Rebecca De Mornay? And it's garnering rave reviews? Color me intrigued.
- I dug Dan Murphy's interview with Jeremy Wade, host of Animal Planet's River Monsters. I've only caught a couple of episodes, but I wouldn't be opposed to watching more. The sidebar Top 10 list is doubly fascinating. Lyle Blackburn breaks down some of the most apocryphal "lake legends." Of course, The Loch Ness Monster is given an honorable mention. I highly enjoyed reading about the lesser-known beasts. This was basically an extension of Monstro Bizarro, a cryptozoology column that RM unveiled just recently. Great stuff.
- Paul Corupe's Late-Nite Archive takes an enlightening look at Plan 9 From Outer Space, which made its debut on Blu-ray in March. We already know that Ed Wood's pet project is considered (by morons) to be the worst film of all time, so Corupe approaches the subject with a diagnostic eye. He intimates that the script is politically subversive (his words) for its time. It dares to suggest that the government hides information from the public. Gasp! Was the social commentary premeditated or is this a case of a journalist reading too much into a simple b-movie in an effort to find a fresh angle? Who knows? Regardless, Corupe delivers a fun read.
- Bowen's Basement forgoes the formalities of dissecting obscure cinema to reflect on a milestone. This is the 50th edition of said column. It's one of my favorite parts of RM, so here's to another 50!
- There is a piece on a book called "Dark Directions" by author Kendall Phillips. Apparently, this tome discusses the effect that certain directors (Craven, Romero and Carpenter) have had on society. This isn't a knock on the article, but Jesus, you couldn't pay me to read such pseudo-intellectual slop. First of all, those filmmakers have been discussed to death. Secondly, does Phillips actually believe that Wes Craven is in the same league as Stanley Kubrick? And does he actually believe that Halloween has a feminist streak? Laurie Strode symbolizes a tug-of-war between female independence and overbearing masculinity? What???
- The Gore-Met tackles The Burning Moon. Sweet!
- I'm not a huge fan of Huntress, but I got a kick out of the brief exchange with their Pagan bombshell of a vocalist. Her occult imagery is authentic, and I respect that.
This issue will be extra rad for Dark Shadows freaks. For the rest of us, it's still pretty cool. I would advise glancing at the table of contents if you're on the fence and low on funds.
This one came close to missing the cut. It was originally titled What Do You Want to Do Tonight?, and some of you may have seen it under the alternate handle of Raging Fury (sounds like a feral, brutish "nature runs amok" vehicle). At any rate, Hell High is a preoccupying case with a skewbald history. It was released three years after it wrapped. More calamitous still, it was released two years after the untimely death of its lead. It's a wonder that this exploitative cheapie landed on DVD. Falling somewhere between 80's fluff and 70's sleaze, Hell High follows an obstinate loafer who plots to violate his biology teacher. He wasn't expecting the mousy prig to retaliate in such a warped, barbaric way.
Almost a slasher, almost a rape/revenge manifesto...that's the problem. It never goes far enough in either direction. It's certainly disturbing in spots. The cast is on-point, the visuals are moody and the violence is sufficiently violent. But I didn't buy it. I wasn't invested. For starters, the characters are grating. The even-tempered protagonist is too dull for words, and the central gang of delinquents annoyed the piss out of me. I guess we're supposed to identify with the aforementioned biology teacher, but she's written as a shallow machination whose sole purpose is to counter the bad guys. These hang-ups notwithstanding, Hell High seems to be popular amongst genre fiends. All I can do is shrug my shoulders.
In the early 90's, it was customary to see cross-promotion between WCW and New Japan. I don't think that this reciprocal arrangement did much to benefit either company, but it gave the fans a chance to see a clump of unique match-ups. This particular bout involves Sting (in the verdure of his "surfer" stage) and Hiroshi Hase. Before I discuss the match itself, allow me to dish on Hase. He wrestled opposite The Great Muta in the infamous rumpus that led to the creation of The Muta Scale, a measuring stick that indicates how bloody a certain match is. He is also one of the few wrasslers to successfully transition into politics.
As for the match, it's...fucking awesome. Seriously, this is one of the best Sting matches I've ever laid eyes on. It doesn't hurt that Jim Ross is calling the action. Both men are babyfaces, and the crowd eats it up. Apart from a floundering botch towards the finish, this shit rules!
Originally, I was going to review another EC title, but I can't find the fucking thing. Fortuitously, my copy of the first issue of Gore Shriek was staring at me when it came time to select a replacement. By sheer coincidence, this is an EC-style anthology. You probably haven't heard of this series, unless you happen to be a pious comic connoisseur. To hazard a guess, it's because the medium experienced a desiccation of horror throughout the 80's. In spite of slashers scaring up profuse coinage at the box office, a taste for grue didn't bleed over into four-color format until the 90's rolled along. FantaCo, a modest publication house, sought to fill the void left behind by The Cryptkeeper and Uncle Creepy.
Ironically, Gore Shriek spurns the time-honored tradition of having a sardonic host. There is no wrap-around narration. We just get straightforward bloodshed that touches on everything from rapacious parasites to zombified farmers. Now, this series has corralled one mean reputation in the Internet age. You could say that it has a cult following, so my expectations were fairly bloated going in. And...meh. Don't get me wrong; it's cool, but I wasn't flabbergasted by eye-popping artwork and gilt-edge storylines. People consider this to be the best horror comic of all time. In consequence, I don't feel like a dick for wanting something a little more grand.
Gore Shriek starts off on the wrong foot with "Host." While it parades sickening levels of skin rot (including pustules and muscle-grinding microbes), the detail is lost in busy black-and-white illustration. I have nothing against B&W comic books, but at times, I couldn't even tell what I was looking at. Plus, there were too many characters to keep tabs on. The untitled second vignette is the polar opposite. It's simple, atmospheric and somewhat shocking (a monster peels off the face of a 5-year-old girl). I don't have anything negative to report on "Zombie Toolshed." It concerns zombies...in a toolshed. Dig the twisted, profligate ending.
The issue closes with "Cottonmouth," a three-page tale of wicked requital that moved me to scratch my head. Maybe I'm obtuse (no, that can't be), but this succinct yarn confused the hell out of me. Am I supposed to know what the undead ghouls are referring to? Am I analyzing it too much? I don't get it. I mean, kudos to Steve Bissette for his fantastic artwork, but his story doesn't make sense. Again, I seem to be in the minority. Gore Shriek is worth owning for the kickass cover alone, so I certainly don't despise it. It has its moments. I wouldn't mind reading other FantaCo titles. Savage Dragon says, "There weren't enough superheroes!"
Starting tomorrow, I'll be turning my attention to comic books. Typically, I write one edition of Panels From Beyond the Grave every month or so. If it wasn't for the trusty Bob Ignizio, it wouldn't be a particularly prolific column. I hope to churn one out each week for an undetermined amount of time. Why the sudden deluge of comic reviews? Well, a friend of mine shipped a stack of badass comics my way (he's in the process of moving, so he had to cast out all manner of geek-approved regalia), and they're too gnarly NOT to review. Stay tuned!
Sleepy Hollow High was made in 1995. It was released in 1999 to cash in on Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow. Can you guess which film is superior? Cunt of Nazarene, this is a piece of shit. Mother of iguana splooge. Holy fistfuck. Son of a...well, you get the point. I'm struggling to conceive of a frame of reference, a felicitous habitude to gauge the quality (or lack thereof) of this partial birth abortion. To put things in perspective, writer/director Kevin Summerfield also helmed Max Magician & the Legend of the Rings and Operation Dalmation: Paws & Claws Rescuers. But wait! A fellow by the name of Chris Arth is credited as co-director. Yes, it took two people to commandeer a camera and baste this eyesore together.
Last year, Arth produced a documentary entitled Lone Wolves & Dragon Tattoos: How Scandinavian Crime Fiction Conquered the World. I was set to mock his pet project, but actually, it seems to be far more interesting than Sleepy Hollow High. If the preposterous critic quote on the cover hasn't clued you in (Scream meets Dawson's Creek...where do I sign up?), this is a slasher. A thin, bromidic slasher. Any correlation with Washington Irving's inculpable short story is merely cosmetic. We follow a group of teenagers as they pay their debt to society. They are burdened with the task of communal upkeep. For whatever reason, these rapscallions have to...clean a forest? I spaced out here and there, so I'm a little fuzzy on the trivial minutiae of the plot.
Anyway, they are systematically picked off by a pumpkin-headed sociopath brandishing a sword. Okay, this could have been a cool villain, but he/she is wasted. A similar baddie appeared in 1995's Jack-O, and as pitiful as this may sound, I'd rather sit through Jack-O. It's not even a close call. Hell, at least that flick bequeathed Linnea Quigley's wet curves to its audience. Sleepy Hollow High is devoid of nudity. To add insult to injury, the death sequences are painfully dry. We get a single severed limb, a bloodless decapitation and a couple of ho-hum stab wounds. Big deal. It goes without saying that the characters are forgettable caricatures fit for an afterschool special. Therefore, I won't say it.
The pacing...goddamn it, the pacing. I fought to stay awake during the first act. The first act! The trenchant synopsis that I relayed earlier is meatier than the fucking script. NOTHING happens. Yeah, that's right; Sleepy Hollow High is "all caps" boring. We are treated to an extraneous pregnancy subplot, but it only garners five minutes of total screen time. Let's see. What else? The lighting is horrid, the cinematography is horrid, the acting is horrid, the ending is horrid...motherfucker, the ending is horrid. We find out (oh, spoiler alert) that the whole film was a nightmare. I wish I was joking. If Kevin Summerfield ever decides to kill himself, I want this review to serve as his suicide note. How's that for a critic quote?
I present to you a badass clip from War of the Gargantuas, one of my favorite kaiju dishes of all time. I was going to post a snippet of a Tim Burton interview where he fawns over this flick (he has a sentimental attachment to it), but embedding was disabled. It's just as well. I refuse to voice public support for a man who has besmirched as many intellectual properties as Burton has. God, Dark Shadows looks terrible. Where is the creative spark that fueled Ed Wood and Beetlejuice? He needs to break up with Johnny Depp and focus on original material.
Sorry, I was addled by a hostile tangent. If you haven't seen Gargantuas, stop fucking around and score a copy!
This episode of Raw aired on September 12th, 1998. The 12th was a Saturday. Apparently, the USA Network tinkered with its schedule thanks to a sporting event of some sort. We are only afforded 90 minutes of action, and all in all, the "script" is light on storytelling. You had to wait until Monday to see most of the main event players. You know what that means, don't you? A desultory smattering of midcard matches! I'm in Henry O. Godwinn heaven! Get it? H.O.G. heaven? roflmaololz
~ Edge and Jeff Jarrett kick things off with a brisk bout. Not much to say about this one, but it does end with a Southern Justice sighting. They will be quarreling with Too Much later.
~ Droz versus a post-Blackjack/pre-Acolyte Bradshaw...interesting. It's a feisty brawl. J.R. recounts the risible angle involving The Road Warriors. Oy. You see, Droz was introduced as the third member of the Legion of Doom to compensate for Hawk's erratic behavior. Unfortunately, said behavior became part of the storyline leading up to a histrionic suicide attempt. I can't remember when, but eventually, the identity of Hawk's dealer was revealed. It was Droz! Holy soap! Fret not; there was a happy ending. Droz is now a paraplegic, while Hawk jobbed to God several years ago. Er, wait a second.
~ Marc Mero squashes Miguel Perez with Jacqueline by his side. The Sable chants are simultaneously whimsical and oppressive. Worst. Diva. Ever.
~ The Disciples of Apocalypse square off against Golga and Kurrgan of The Oddities. Luna and The Insane Clown Posse are at ringside. Jerry Lawler adorns the Cartman doll with his crown. Halfway through the breviloquent (READ: short) match, the top rope snaps. ICP interferes and everything breaks down. Wow. This was in the thick of the Attitude Era, folks.
~ A Rock promo! It was 1998, so he spoke in a low register. He spoke with poise, purpose and oodles of cool. As much as I love modern day Rock, I miss the icy knavery that he dropped at the turn of the new millennium. Good stuff.
~ Too Much take on Southern Justice in an extremely irrelevant tag team encounter. I love it. Mark and Dennis were a proven commodity, so why was SJ given a premature burial? I realize that injuries came into play. Maybe I'm just bothered by the fact that Too Much enjoyed meteoric success as Too Cool.
~ Another tag match? Here we have D'Lo Brown/Mark Henry versus The Headbangers. Chyna causes a disqualification. Absurd.
For the life of me, I cannot locate the last match of the night. Goddamn legal ramifications. It was DX and Kaientai...yeah, I shouldn't want to watch it, but I do. I hate to end this column on an abrupt note, but it's out of my claws. I'll get you for this, Jack Tunney!!!
I haven't done this in nearly two years, but hey, it's worth a shot. A shot in the dark is still a shot, right? I'm looking for the following films on VHS. If you own one or more of these titles and you're willing to part with them, shoot me an e-mail (the address is located in the top right-hand corner of every page). I'll buy them, although I'd prefer to trade for them. These flicks will likely be reviewed for the site, so you could consider it a donation.
The Monster of Piedras Blancas
Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake
I Was a Teenage Mummy ('62)
I realize that most of my selections are impossibly rare, but again, it's worth a shot. Holla!
There are so many angles I could take with this one. I could go the funny route. Aside from Funnyman, a flighty British slasher boasting a Christopher Lee cameo, this is the only genre nugget I know of that monopolizes the intrinsic iniquity of jesters. I'm amazed that those godless harlequins don't show up more often in fright flicks. They're fucking creepy! I could go the tragic route. Actor Simon Scuddamore committed suicide shortly after principal photography wrapped on 1986's Slaughter High. He plays the madcap villain, a crestfallen soul bent on mutilating the former jocks and cheerleaders who bullied him in High School. Coincidentally (?), his performance struck me as genuine, and that was before I learned of his grievous fate.
I could go the informative route. Slaughter High was originally titled April Fool's Day, but it was beaten to the punch by Paramount's holiday-themed "dead teenager" picture. Or! I could go the standard route. Let's do that. I'll just outline my opinion of this harrowing, yet entirely esculent entry in the "high" sub-subgenre. Unlike Monster High (and to some extent, Zombie High), Slaughter High is aimed at adults. Superfluous nudity? Check. Unsparing bloodshed? Check. Caroline Munro cavorting in skimpy, pellucid sleepwear? Motherfucking check. Already, this time capsule of a movie has earned a couple of Z'Dars, and I still haven't told you about the acid bath.
I'm a big fan of Acid Bath (the band), so if your exploitation reel features a literal acid bath, I will dig it by default. The other death sequences are just as clever. An expendable side character is eviscerated by the rotary blades of a tractor...ouch! Of course, the downside is that most of the characters are expendable. Yeah, it comes with the territory, but I can't exalt the virtues of a vacuous script. To be honest, the only person I identified with was the crackpot beneath the jester mask. That doesn't say much for the crassitude of my moral fabric, does it?
Three mortals are credited with directorial duties. I don't know who was responsible for framing shots, but for what it's worth, Slaughter High is well-tailored. The climactic chase scene looks fantastic, although the pace decelerates as the final curtain is drawn. The acting is passable. Again, Scuddamore stands out, while everyone is...there. Munro isn't challenged. She actually looks bored, but in her defense, she is supposed to seem vain and detached. It's worth mentioning that Slaughter High was produced by the creative team who brought us Pieces and Don't Open Till Christmas.
Must-see material for slasher nuts. I don't consider myself to be a slasher nut, but I had fun with it.
The "high" marathon will continue tomorrow. However, I had to make slight adjustments to my review list. Cemetery High is off the table. In its place, I'll be tackling Sleepy Hollow High. Also, the list has expanded to include Hell High. I added an extra title as a contingency plan in the event that I won't be able to watch Horror High. You see, it's not available on Netflix, and I can't find a decent copy for under $20. I'm working on acquiring the film through alternative means, if you catch my drift.
Oh, don't read too much into the Christopher Lambert sighting. I took in Stuart Gordon's Fortress earlier today. Man, that flick rocks!
Today, we're traveling back to 2012. The WWE was in a state of disrepair. The product was so diluted, I took an extended furlough from wrestling that lasted several months. Surprise returns would pique my interest momentarily (it was good to see Paul Heyman back), but any momentum was quelled by inconsistent booking. They say you can judge a promotion by the strength of its midcard talent. In the spirit of denigration, let's watch a match from Superstars, a web-only show that barely existed in 2012. We have Jinder Mahal versus The Great Khali, an encounter that was forgotten almost immediately.
Mahal was brought in to feud with Khali. Over the next few months, they sparred, tagged (Khali's heel turn was forgotten before it happened) and sparred again. Bear in mind, this bout occurred long after their program came to an abrupt halt. It wasn't quite beating a dead horse; at this point, the horse had already been entombed in loam. Hell, the horse was fucking mummified. Nonetheless, Khali garners a ringing crowd reaction. The WWE Universe loves beanstalk giants who can't talk, work or move. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that he was using stilts to totter between the ropes.
Honestly, I dug Mahal. It's not his fault that he was utilized in the most feckless ways imaginable. Plus, he's straight out of 1992. "I'm evil because I'm foreign!"
It should be blatantly obvious that I'm a fan of campy movies. I find that the most conducive camp is either subtle or unintentional, which is why I grimace at self-referential b-movies that shove cheese down your throat with juvenile gags and overblown comedy. Monster High winks at the camera with the same peremptory mirth of The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. I didn't care for it. It wants to be a zany cult classic for the ages, but there is just one problem...it's not funny. It's ridiculous. It's outlandish. It's gratuitous. But it's not funny. Truth be told, it's essentially a Troma flick without the clunky, forced Lloyd Kaufman intro.
A rococo demon by the name of Mr. Armageddon (imagine a flamboyant Vegas act who is possessed by Satan...no, scratch that; a transsexual game show host cross-pollinated with a peacock) has arrived to set doomsday into motion. The fate of the world is decided by the outcome of a basketball game. It's almost as if the screenwriters were content to volley absurd punchlines back and forth for 90 pages. We get a zombie, a mummy, a pair of killer shoes, a Triffid-esque marijuana bud beast and an extraterrestrial pop duo (at one point, they rap/sing about a hysterectomy). Yep.
In the end, Monster High tries too hard. It might have been tolerable if the characters were remotely likeable. Seriously, I wanted to butcher every single person in front of the camera. Thumbs way the fuck down.
Check out this promo reel for Warlock Home Video. It's a company that releases lost shot-on-video b-movies from the 80's (and 90's) onto DVD/VHS. Two of their more obscure catalog titles are Die-B-Que and Death-O-Lantern. You probably missed them during their initial run because...well, they were made a few years ago. It's a gimmick. They were filmed in the style of "classic" SOV slashers such as Spine and Sledgehammer. If this melange of gory clips is any indication, Warlock's retro forgery is pretty damn convincing.
Whenever I hear someone say that there are no original ideas left, I roll my eyes. That seems like a loafing excuse to pardon the spate of prosaic, derivative dross currently cluttering video shelves (it's kind of cute to insinuate that video shelves still exist, isn't it?). Somewhere on this petrous marble we call Earth, there is ground waiting to be broken. Or so I thought before watching 1987's Zombie High. I won't tell you that my beliefs are shaken to the core, but they were jostled a bit. Remember Disturbing Behavior, the glossy teen thriller that cropped up in the wake of Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer? It was halfway decent. Hey, it featured Katie Holmes at her hottest, so it couldn't have been that bad.
Well, it's a ripoff. To specify, it's a virtual remake of Zombie High. Virginia Madsen stars as Andrea, a college student struggling to acclimate with her new surroundings. She's a freshman at a stuffy, turgid boarding school that is opening its doors to females for the first time in its 100-year history. It doesn't take long for Andrea to realize that her fellow pupils are exceedingly untoward. Cold, stoic, creepy. They act the same, they look the same...they...hmm, what's the word I'm looking for? Drone? No. Automaton? Warmer, but no. Zombie? YES! But no. See, the title is misleading. These aren't actual zombies.
As it turns out, the dean of admissions is an immortal ghoul who lobotomizes undergrads. He uses their brain sauce to foment a serum that keeps his flesh from decomposing. Technically, the student body is not comprised of the living dead. Plus, this isn't a high school we're talking about, which makes the title doubly strabismic. If there is one thing I won't tolerate, it's a strabismic appellation. Goddamn strabismic appellations! Naturally, a rebellious side character ditches the underhanded university only to reappear later in the film as a "zombie." It's Disturbing Behavior, I'm telling you.
I predicted every twist, but I must admit, I had fun with Zombie High. Madsen is reliable, the cheese quotient is off the charts (the in-house soundtrack is hysterical) and I smirked more than I scowled. Would I recommend it? That's a different question altogether. The gore is dry, and aside from intermittent profanity, this flick doesn't earn its R rating. I won't even go near the plot holes. I'll give it this much; if it was on television on a slothful Saturday afternoon, I'd watch it again. If you have free time, read up on Zombie High's blooper-ridden production. Apparently, the crew consisted of film students. Oh, the crushing irony!
Part-time Random Reviews contributor Bob Ignizio is back with another installment of Panels From Beyond the Grave. Bob is stationed in Cleveland, Ohio. As such, he specializes in covering local media, be it musical or cinematic (click HERE to visit his tubular movie blog). Today's review subject was hatched from the bustling "cool people" scene in Cleveland, and as a matter of fact, it deals with a nearby body of water. I plan on picking up a copy myself. Read on to find out why.
PS-Why can't my state have a "cool people" scene?
THE LAKE ERIE MONSTER (#1, Spring 2012)
John G. and Jake Kelly's The Lake Erie Monster #1 utilizes the structure of old school horror anthology books like Tales From the Crypt and its watered-down descendants like House of Secrets. Monster even goes so far as to include a cadaverous host character who introduces each story with morbid wisecracks (in this case, a zombified Commodore Perry...look him up). The two artists' styles, however, have more in common with underground comics from the 70's and some of the weirder books to come out of the self-publishing boom of the 80's.
The main feature is the first part of The Lake Erie Monster itself. Written by Kelly and illustrated by John G., Cleveland's own counterpart to the Loch Ness Monster gets re-envisioned as a kissing cousin to the sort of hokey monsters that inhabited drive-in schlock like The Horror of Party Beach and The Monster of Piedras Blancas. Set during the early 70's, the story takes full advantage of Lake Erie's less-than-pristine state at the time, as well as the post-hippie rock 'n' roll subculture of the era. As is appropriate for the first act of a monster movie, we don't see much of the monster, although his violent handiwork is displayed in some detail. John G.'s style is a bit soft around the edges, but he still brings a good amount of detail to images like a severed, waterlogged head.
Kelly handles both art and writing chores on the back-up feature, "Thousand Legger ." This one definitely strikes a nerve with me. I wouldn't say I have a full-blown phobia, but there's just something about the titular creepy-crawlies that sends shivers down my spine whenever I see one. Now imagine the nasty critter is giant size. Kelly's artwork is more defined and solid-looking than John G.'s, reminding me a bit of Charles Burns' work.
Aside from the two stories, there's also a one-page installment of “Commodore's Cleveland,” a segment that will apparently serve to inform readers of various urban legends and grisly happenings from Cleveland's past in each issue. As a fun bonus, the artists have also created ads for various Cleveland area businesses in the style of old 70's comic book ads.
These guys aren't trying to produce the great American graphic novel here; they're just having fun playing with some tried-and-true formulas and adding a Cleveland-centric twist. For my money, I'd say they've succeeded. Don't take my word for it, though; check out a few pages on the Lake Erie Monster blog (link below). You can also order a copy of the rag for yourself. Even if you aren't a resident of the “mistake by the lake,” I think you'll dig it.
I'll spare you the obligatory Dio/Ozzy comparison. There is no comparison. Outside of metal circles, the pop lexicon would have you believe that Black Sabbath dissolved in the late 70's. But we know better, don't we? Tony Iommi was always the nucleus of the band, and he churned out molten bollards of heavier-than-thou racket under the Black Sabbath name well into the 90's. The albums (and line-ups) varied in quality, I grant you. The general consensus is that most of the band's post-Ozzy work was goddamn stellar. In my opinion, 1980's Heaven and Hell is one of the best metal albums of all time, and I'd even go as far as to say that it rivals the eponymous debut.
I dig Born Again, Headless Cross, Tyr, Dehumanizer and The Devil You Know (nevermind the compulsory epithet; it may be filed in the "H" cabinet, but it's a Black Sabbath record). I could have chosen to review any of those sets, but here lately, The Mob Rules has been welded to my CD player. It...rules. Stylistically, it doesn't take many chances. Some of the songs are mirror images of the finest cuts on Heaven and Hell. For instance, "Turn Up the Night" and "The Sign of the Southern Cross" are tweaked reiterations of "Neon Knights" and "Children of the Sea," respectively. So why do I adore The Mob Rules? Because supremacy trumps novelty.
If your music is gnarly, it doesn't matter if you are blazing a trail of innovation. Congenial art will always supplant the vicissitudes of static stasis. Case in point, "Country Girl." It's a basic rock song in 4/4. It comes equipped with meat-and-potatoes riffage and modest lyrics. If it was performed by any other band, it would be forgettable. Obviously, Black Sabbath isn't any other band. Dio's soaring, emotive vocals play off of Vinny Appice's foot-tapping groove...Iommi fires off a tasteful solo...Geezer Butler holds down the bottom end with aplomb...I bang my head, wishing that I was talented enough to sing along. You see, it's all in the execution. "Slipping Away" is the polar opposite. It's a bluesy jam that demands unfettered improvisation. It's sick, man. SICK!
"The Sign of the Southern Cross" is a portentous ballad of epic proportions. If you don't love this tune, you're lame. It's as simple as that. The heartrending melodies of "Falling Off the Edge of the World" speak to my soul like a shrink consoling a mental patient after a particularly traumatic breakthrough. "Over and Over" is the quintessential album closer. The extended leads are downright heavenly. And yet, The Mob Rules is inferior to its predecessor by a nugatory smidge. Superfluous filler track "E5150" is the deciding factor. It doesn't add anything to the album as a whole. Plus, I tend to skip "Turn Up the Night" for two disparate reasons. A) It's too buoyant. It belongs on the soundtrack to a perky, winsome rock opera. B) "Voodoo" is killer.
Nothing else needs to be said. Fade away, fade away!
My name is Dom Coccaro. I'm an established freelance writer. I like to write reviews, but I find that it's hard to find review-writing gigs on the Internet that pay more than $0.00. I don't like being boxed in and I don't like to constantly give my writing away for free, especially if it's not on my own website. So I created this blog. I'm free to review anything I want to, though I'll be mainly focusing on horror, metal and wrestling. Often times, my review selections will seem incredibly random. Randomness is underrated. Thus, Random Reviews has been birthed from my cavernous vagina.
PS-This blog is rated R for profane language.