Does anyone else remember when this movie came out? It was the Birdemic of its day. It was reviled by fans and critics alike upon its release, but instead of abiding in the patois of cult circles with the mulishness of an Ed Wood nonstarter, it was swept under the proverbial rug. Nowadays, it has zero name recognition. That's incredible. Back in 2001, Children of the Living Dead was one of the biggest stories of the year for horror websites. Everyone...EVERYONE detested it. A little background information, if I may. This was supposed to be a quasi-sequel to both Night of the Living Dead and Return of the Living Dead. Executive produced by John Russo (the hack responsible for the 30th Anniversary Edition of Night), Children was mismanaged at every turn.
How mismanaged was it? Director Tor Ramsey e-mailed the author of a negative review to basically apologize for the film's very existence. He denounced the zombie reel, claiming that producer/screenwriter Karen Wolf sabotaged the project. She refused to tweak her (godawful) script. After Ramsey edited and submitted his cut, she re-edited it, adding gobs of looped dialogue that muddied the storyline. In effect, she butchered the fucking thing. Genre specialists treat Children like a deformed sibling hidden away in the basement of our collective imagination. We just don't talk about it. Well, I'm ending the unspoken gag order. I'm toting this homely, piss-stained freak into the virulent light of day.
To be perfectly honest, I'd rather sit through Children than Birdemic. Don't get me wrong; this is sorry impedimenta. It's plain bad. But if you ask me, it's "interesting bad." Apart from hordes of the walking dead, the film establishes a lead villain. The guilty party? Abbott Hayes, a kind of zombie slasher. He seems to possess the capacity to reason beyond simply craving brain matter. It's a nifty idea, but of course, we never find out how he reaped these powers. The make-up effects are rubbery, which didn't bother me. Children benefits from the patronage of 80's aesthetics. You won't see a speck of modern day polish, and the last time I checked, that's a tally in the win column.
Onward! To the loss column! The acting is rigid, the pace is slack, the editing is a botch job and the climax doesn't actually resolve anything. Tom Savini is gifted with the top bill, but he expires in the prologue. Coincidentally, his scenes outshine the rest. There are no real main characters, as the narrative decides to hit the reset button on two occasions. I remember a cute chick and an annoying sheriff. That's your cast breakdown. So yeah, I don't care for Children of the Living Dead, but it's not offensively horrible. I mean, it's horrible, but if it premiered on Syfy, nerds would quote the everloving shit out of it. Where are my Abbott Hayes memes?
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 11:42 PM
BONE CHILLERS: STRANGE BREW (Betsy Haynes)
It was only natural that the success of Goosebumps would prompt a corkscrew crest of disputers to the throne. My buddies remember spotting Bone Chillers in bookstores and school libraries, but oddly, I don't. I don't even remember the Saturday morning TV show. Yes, it had a boob tube counterpart and yes, some of the books were adapted for the small screen. This is my vestal voyage reading a BC tome (probably my laziest abbreviation to date...I am not proud). Is it similar to Goosebumps? Do cyborgs peculate tiled hopscotch diagrams from the offices of prepubescent masons? Um, yes! It's another horror series aimed at tweener consumers. To my utter shock, this one is legitimately good.
For all I know, the companion BC titles could be drivel, but I can vouch for the validity of Strange Brew. It manages to entertain without banking on drippy nostalgia. Betsy Haynes cooked up an original premise for this, the fifth link in her chain of chillers (later entries were authored by different folks). Tori's best pal - Heather - is leaving for a family trip, so she is faced with the prospect of a lonely, woebegone summer. Gah, she is gonna be so bored, you guys. In the weeks preceding her doomed "off-season," she begins to find recipes in strange, random places. These aren't regular recipes, though. In fact, they read more like magic spells. One calls for toenails, horsefly wings and six cups of pond scum. This putrid potpourri is supposed to conjure a tempestuous thunderstorm out of thin air.
Can you believe that shit? I mean, as if! BUT HOLY FUCK, IT WORKS! Tori's makeshift monsoon (I'm trying not to alliterate, I swear to Abyzou) floods the neighborhood and stamps out her brother's baseball game. Pretty exciting, but she proceeds with cautious awareness. Spells keep materializing around her, intensifying with each discreet invocation. Who is sending them? Heather warns her to stop playing with danger. "Stop playing with danger," she warned. God, this synopsis is too fucking long. Should I spoil the identity of the entity sending the spells? I mean, it's fairly easy to predict within a few chapters. It's Tori's imaginary friend from when she was younger.
An evil imaginary friend. I dig that. If Strange Brew was penned by R.L. Stine, it would be called My Imaginary Friend is Trying to Kill Me! And I'd still read it. Haynes isn't Mark fucking Twain, but she does know how to frame action and suspense. The characters are realistic enough. I enjoyed the subtle application of literary tools to drive a worthy message home. Remember, kids...learn to love yourself. Otherwise, your imaginary friend will try to kill you with shoelace serpents. I'm looking into obtaining further Bone Chillers bookies. If anyone wants to donate Frankenturkey or Toilet Terror to the site, I'd be down to review those bitches. Holla.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 11:14 PM
Friends give me shit for championing Sebastian Bach's solo output. Yes, he comes off as a strutting, haughty douchefuckle, but what does that have to do with his pipes? The guy is nearing fifty, and he can still belt out high notes with the best of them. Is it the hair metal stigma? I'm repeating myself, but in my scientific opinion, Skid Row didn't belong in the same puce lavatory as Poison. NOTE TO SELF: Try puce balloon shades in the master bedroom. Failing that, don't be afraid to experiment with a tart, ruddy vermilion. Don't settle, Dom. Pamper yourself. I am incredibly sorry. As an interior decorator, I am always at the mercy of the creative process.
Um, so this isn't Bret Michaels we're talking about here. This shit actually rocks. Bach's first solitary stag, 2007's stormy Angel Down, was a killer collection of metallic scorchers and melody-conscious hard rock tunes. 2011's Kicking & Screaming was a tad more radio-friendly, but it's worth spinning from time to time. Now it's 2014, and we have Give 'Em Hell. I...struggled to reach a concrete conclusion on this one. My initial impression was daubed in disappointment. Seb seems poised to slide further in a commercial direction with each release. Is he actively trying to water his style down? Beats me, but I don't recall the songwriting on Angel Down sounding this formulaic.
Even the vocals are, shall we say, simpler. Practically every line is double-tracked and prohibitively processed. It's sad because Seb's voice doesn't need to be produced to death. I don't hear enough soul, and I definitely don't hear enough of his natural vibrato. The vein-popping screams still persist. After several listens, the flexuous hooks and catchy choruses began to corporealize on my person. Like fever blisters. Or keloid scars. I have plenty of issues with Give 'Em Hell, but in all actuality, it's damn listenable. At his most mediocre, Mr. Baz is quite capable of outperforming the gravamen of modern "rock."
Let's take a look at individual compositions, why don't we? "Harmony" lives up to its title, seeing as how vokill harmonies augment the verses. "All My Friends Are Dead" has an interesting midsection that might appeal to guitar geeks. The pained "Push Away" is the finest cut for my money, while "Gun to a Knife Fight" hedges its bets with a super melodic refrain. The album has a steady flow going, but it's bollixed by a head-scratching cover of April Wine's "Rock and Roll is a Vicious Game." What the fuck? It's entirely out of place, and to make matters worse, it's a shit song. Seb, I get that you're proud of your birthplace, but couldn't you have picked a better Canadian band to commemorate?
It's subjective, I suppose. Give 'Em Hell is a solid follow-up to Kicking & Screaming, but man, it cowers in the shadow of Angel Down. If you want a good laugh, scope the video for "Taking Back Tomorrow." Me. Oh. My.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 11:25 PM
This one is...odd. It's a "demon possession" pic, a political thriller and a lubberly actioner all fucked into one. Do you like cornball Chuck Norris movies? What about cheap, aimless slashers? Yeah? You're good to go! Demonstone (a.k.a. Deathstone) has the ideas of a capricious conspiracy theorist and the budget of a penny-pinching skinflint. The convoluted plot finds R. Lee Ermey and Jan-Michael Vincent (that's right, motherfucker) struggling to solve ritualistic murders in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. Each victim is branded with the same acroamatic insignia. To make a stupid story short, it dates back to a slain Monk and his vengeful curse.
Corrupt bureaucrats pin the blame on an American Marine, but the viewer knows better. We get to see the comic, yet uneventful death sequences. Demonstone is frugal in the gore department, unless you count soft-pedal squibs. There is plenty of gunplay, however. Fuck, these people waste more bullets than I do when I masturbate. This is the very definition of direct-to-video urine. In spite of itself, Demonstone is entertaining, and while I'm throwing around hospitable laurels, the acting is alright. If it were the 90's, I would tell you to rent it from your local video store.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 11:36 PM
I have a Mexican friend. He lives in Mexico. Apparently, Mexico has access to the Internet (???). Anywho, his name is Diego. His website thing is called Wolf in a Gorilla Suit. It's similar to this website thing, only worse.
Marshmallow badgering aside, Diego is a pal and a cool dude. He recently remodeled his site, and he just posted a review of Devin Townsend's Casualties of Cool record (I told you he was a cool dude). He also breaks down movies, books, sports and...well, everything else. Check him out.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 3:14 PM
I'm a complete dumb-dumb when it comes to art, but I've always known enough to know that H.R. Giger was one of the most unique and brilliant artists on the planet. Like most genre nuts my age, I became aware of Giger's work through 1979's Alien. It's a classic film for many reasons, set/creature design chief among them. Take a second to cogitate on the history of sci-fi/horror cinema. Has there been a monster more imitated (read: ripped off) than the xenomorph? Godzilla has been the only beast to reach that level of prestige. Impressive company, no?
Of course, the come-slither occupants of LV-426 represent a bald fraction of Giger's oeuvre. His art is nightmarish. Stark. Provocative. Dripping with subtext. And it all resides in the same harrowing universe. We lost a supernova, folks. Thankfully, we are still afforded the privilege of staring in bewilderment at Giger's masterstrokes. I hope they play Triptykon at his funeral.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 11:54 PM
By sheer coincidence, I've touched on a string of giddy, witless b-movies. Okay, maybe it's not a coincidence. Random Reviews Incorporated tends to felicitate itself as a channel of centrality for fans of mega-mucho cheese. Having said that, I cover "a-movies" as well. Rarely do I review two consecutive cult strudels as glutinous as 1965's The Rider of the Skulls and the mutt that stands before me now, 1985's Hard Rock Zombies. How in the hell do I keep finding films that defy description? Luckily, this bad boy is a little easier to imagine in your head, and in consequence, it's a little easier to write about. But that doesn't mean it makes any goddamn sense whatsoever.
A rock band flounces into the town of Grand Guignol to play a gig for a prospective record label executive. While on the road, a sexy hitchhiker offers room and board in the heart of the city. Despite vague and ultimately nugatory warnings from a concupiscent piece of jailbait ass (I can't be the only bachelor who has used the expression "concupiscent piece of jailbait ass" in a pick-up line, can I?), our protagonists forge ahead. They meet the hitchhiker's family. Her husband is a voyeuristic photographer, her grandmother is a wheelchair-bound werewolf and her grandfather is Adolf Hitler. Oh, and there are dwarf servants. One of them is Phil Fondacaro, while the other is a malformed freak who eventually eats himself.
I couldn't fabricate this shit if I tried. I expected wall-to-wall entertainment, but Hard Rock Zombies fizzles halfway through. Ironically, it becomes an interminable bore after the hard rockers assume the form of zombies. There are too many music video moments that are hindered and buttonholed by confounding editing. The soundtrack isn't terrible, but fuck, I wasn't in the mood for a musical. Hard Rock Zombies was affianced as the feature presentation in American Drive-In, released the same year (this according to IMDb). Originally, it clocked in at a mighty 20 minutes. 20 minutes! Do you know what that means? Ladies and gentlemen, it means that we have roughly 20 minutes of a suitable spookshow on our hands.
AND it means that we have roughly 70 minutes of trite wadding on our hands. Ugh. The script contains a spoonful of amusing ideas (werewolf granny, incognito Hitler, undead rape ceremony, etc.), but if you're looking for heavy metal horror, God knows you have options. Satan knows, too! You're much better off renting Rocktober Blood, Trick or Treat or my personal favorite from this sub-subgenre, Black Roses. Those flickies jam better tunes anyway. I will give Hard Rock Zombies an extra half-Z'Dar for the scene where Jessie resuscitates a tarantula with a bass riff. Now that's fucking metal!
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 8:02 PM
Every day seems to be an oddball holiday of some sort. Like Cheeseburger Day (christened, I'm sure, by a Hakari elder of bovine extraction) or Pinata Day (christened, I'm sure, by a Valenzuela elder of equestrian extraction). Well, I hereby decree May 10th to be Spanish Western/Horror Serial Day OR Spanish Western/Horror Abandoned Pilot Day. I'll level with you, amigo; I don't know what production house The Rider of the Skulls crawled from. I don't even know what it was supposed to be. There is scant information available on the web. Signs point to this vaquero* vehicle being a cross-stitch of serial segments. Was the serial ever completed? Are there other chapters curdling and corroding in a warehouse somewhere?
Don't ask me. For all I know, Rider could be a dense anthology. The film is episodic in nature. It follows a poor man's Zorro as he battles a werewolf, a vampire and a headless horseman (!). In that order. The lycanthrope seems to be targeting an orphan and his legal guardians. I'll get to the fanged fleabag in a minute, but I want to establish the fact that The Rider adopts the orphan. He also adopts the orphan's odious, obnoxious caretaker, himself an orphan. Literally. This fat guy refers to our black-clad hero as "Dad" and "Daddy" throughout the rest of the picture. It's fucking weird. It's fucking annoying.
Okay, back to the wuhrwolf. The budget was extremely low, but I have to hand it to the effects crew. The monster masks are wicked in their own beleaguered way. After disposing of Monster #1 (via monkey flips and arm drags), The Rider encounters Monster #2 in...um, a different town. It's a vampire with bat wings for ears! Did I mention that Rider also employs the faculties of a witch, a zombie and two grim reapers? Because it totally does. It was induced in 1965, so writer/director Alfredo Salazar wasn't granted access to gnarly prosthetics or advanced gore. Can you imagine how dope this shit would have been in 1985? It would have been Mexico's rejoinder to Spookies.
Monster #3? The Headless Horseman. A woman finds a bandit's severed noggin in a coffer, and the fucking thing - halfway decomposed - instructs her to reattach it to the host body. She is understandably shaken. Of course, the problem is resolved with violence, but not before Beheaded Billy (shut up, that's my name for him) sasses God. Let's just say that God wins the argument. As you can surmise, The Rider of the Skulls is a buggy, fluky b-wonder. I'm not married to my rating. Honestly, I'm not sure how much I dig this butternut, but I know that I dig it. When it comes to vigilantes whose parents were murdered, Batman is near the top of the list.
*Spanish for "cowboy" or "herdsman."
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 7:29 PM
I'm calling this my comeback tour. I'm revivifying the site (again), and I started by archiving the Music Reviews page. Go ahead, check it out. Random Reviews will be updated DAILY, just like old times. I may tweak the weekly "schedule" a bit, but I'll explain more in the coming days. Stay tuned, frick-fracks!
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 9:09 PM
I really, really wanted to write a full review of Evilspeak #1, but I haven't been able to focus on anything. My fucking life is...eh, it's not relevant (or terribly interesting). Here is what you need to know. Evilspeak is a rad horror rag that focuses on pre-90's dementia. It's well-nigh overwhelming at an elephantine 80 pages, and there are no ads to speak of! Highlights? The heartfelt tribute to Chas Balun, the retrospective on Gore Shriek, the coverage of the Blood Island "trilogy," the interview with Heather Langenkamp and Amanda Wyss...basically, the whole whoppin' honker. Motherfucking buy it HERE.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 6:24 PM