Monday, December 30, 2013

Inside (2007): Baby Blues

Inside 2007

Inside opens with the aftermath of a violent car crash involving a man and his pregnant wife, Sarah (Alysson Paradis). It is quite clear that Sarah’s husband did not survive the accident, leaving Sarah alone, distraught and carrying a child. Flash forward to four months later, it’s Christmas Eve and Sarah is due to be induced the next morning. Until that time, however, Sarah will wait out the final night of her pregnancy in her home, with no one other than her cat to keep her company. While this would likely be a night where anticipation and sadness clouds Sarah’s thoughts, things take an unexpected turn when a psychotic woman (Béatrice Dalle) starts harassing her. Eventually, the woman’s harassment turns into an all out attempt to murder Sarah, and what ensues is a visceral bloodbath of violence and destruction as Sarah must fight to protect not only herself, but her unborn child, too.

Directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, Inside (À l'intérieur) is a 2007 French horror film that starts off in a fashion that is quite reminiscent of John Carpenter’s Slasher masterpiece, Halloween. The inspiration is clear in how some of the earlier moments are executed as well as the effect they have on the viewer, featuring a sort of background horror that, if you catch it, will give you a good reason to change your adult diaper. Inside plays the creepy vibe perfectly for the first act, then the film slowly unfolds into a full-on, no holds barred gorefest. Or, better yet, a gorefeast, because the bloody brutality of Inside has a satisfying taste reminiscent of the gruesome Slasher films of yesteryear.

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Inside comes in under 90 min and pushes a relentless pace from start to finish. The film holds this pace with a simple narrative that only focuses on a few characters. The locations are also kept to a minimum, as - outside of the opening car accident - Inside is set almost entirely inside of Sarah’s home, with Sarah left to defend herself against the onslaught that is La Femme. There are a few sporadic characters that show up and give La Femme the opportunity to show off her ferocity, but the core of Inside is solely focused on the simplistic cat and mouse game between La Femme and Sarah.

*I’m about to get into some character motivations which might be too spoilery for anyone who hasn’t seen Inside, so please, tread lightly, if at all.*

La Femme is, without a doubt, one of the most frightening characters to ever grace the screen. The chaos caused by this woman is almost legendary. But the question remains: why would any woman, crazed or not, attempt to kill a woman carrying a child? Where is her compassion? Well, her compassion, her empathy and her sanity were all left behind in the very car accident that took Sarah’s husband from her, as it’s later revealed that La Femme was the other unseen motorist. Worse yet, La Femme was also pregnant and lost her child as a result of the car wreck, which has sent her down a path of vengeance where her goal is to take Sarah’s child and raise it as her own.

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This is what makes  La Femme such an interesting character. As much as she’s a monster, La Femme is laced with a strong trace of sympathy. This is a character who has lost something that meant more to her than most viewers can ever fully grasp: her child. As a result, she blames Sarah for this loss, and her drive is that of a person who wants back what was unfairly taken from them. Does it make her a good person? No, not at all, but it is hard not to feel a little sorry for her, especially when Sarah is presented as a woman who is conflicted about being a mother herself. Why should Sarah be allowed to have a child that she doesn’t seem to really want, while La Femme, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to be a mother?

Now, in defense of Sarah, she too has suffered an incredible loss; a loss that removed an important part of her foundation. It’s clear that the death of her husband has greatly affected Sarah, and having him taken away from her results in her feeling incomplete and fearful of motherhood. The father of her child is no longer there to be the emotional support system that she always thought would be in place. And in no way does this reflect poorly Sarah as a person or make her weak in any way. In fact, I can imagine losing such a huge part of one’s life would result in an incredible amount self doubt and weakness. Furthermore, this pregnancy has likely served as a reminder of her husband’s death, something that, understandably, would be quite difficult to deal with.


Inside revels in its simplicity as a straightforward, no bullshit horror flick, but the fact that it gives a nice undercurrent of thoughtful character development shows the filmmakers were focused on keeping the audience engaged beyond the cool gore gags and buckets of blood. As much as Inside is a wet dream for a splatter fan, and as much as it delivers some truly tense moments, the strength of the film is in the internal conflict between Sarah and La Femme, two characters looking into a mirror, only to see the other’s reflection.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas for Your Ears!


First of all, for those of you who celebrate Christmas, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas. For those of you who do not, I would like to wish you a happy Wednesday, and I am sorry that you have to deal with all this shit every year. Now, whether you celebrate the birth of commercialism or not, I do have a special gift for you on this fine Christmas day. In fact, I have two of them, neither of which are socks or underwear.

First up, the Zubaz clad Carl Brezdin of Fist of B-List and myself were brought in as special guest hosts on the Gentlemen’s Guide to Minite Cinema (GGTMC) for their annual Christmas episode. Now, instead of focusing on a pair of holiday films, Samurai and Big Willy – the gentlemen behind the GGTMC – chose to cover the 1990 Teddy Page/Sean P. Donahue joint, Blood Hands, and the 1985 Shaw Brothers gangster/martial arts flick, Hong Kong Godfather.

Blood Hands HKG

No bullshit, this episode is sure to deliver some serious joy to your heart, and I can say that confidentially because I had a complete and total blast recording it with them. If you’d like to check out the episode for yourself, I have provided the proper links below:

Elves 1989Now, as awesome as all of that already is, I am feeling a little extra generous this Christmas, so I have one more fun little tidbit that is sure to fill your stocking with a wad of Christmas spirit. The before mentioned Karl Brezdin and myself got together and recorded a special episode of the Midnite Ride, which is a short form podcast in conjunction with the GGTMC. Seeing as it’s the holidays, Karl and I decided to take a look at the 1989 holiday classic, Elves, staring Dan “The Camel” Haggerty!

Again, this is another fine episode about a not so fine, but utterly silly holiday horror flick. If you’d like to hear Karl and myself ramble on about this holiday shiterpiece, then please hit the links below:  

Okay, I would like to get drunk now, so get the fug off my lap or I’ll be forced to give you a few black and blues for Christmas. However, before I go, here are some more links you need to check out:

Monday, December 23, 2013

Big and Hairy (1998): Like Your Mom

Big and Hairy 1998 Movie review

I first became aware of Big and Hairy when the Queen of Incredible herself, Emily of The Deadly Dolls House of Horror Nonsense reviewed it way back in 2012. Her review was the beginning of a legacy, as soon Emily was kind enough to send her copy of the film to The Magnificent Seven Inches himself, Justin “McMuffin” Oberholtzer, who then reviewed it over at his Movienalia blog. While that would seem like a fitting place to end the saga of Big and Hairy, somehow, someway, Emily’s copy of Big and Hairy made its way to my doorstep, and now I, Mattsuzaka, will end this Big and Hairy trilogy in disappointing fashion.

Directed by Philip Spink and based on a NOVEL?! by Brian Daly, 1998’s Big and Hairy is about a kid named Picasso (Robert Burke), who has been forced to relocate from Chicago (it’s ALWAYS Chicago!) to a small island town due to his father landing a great job making *ahem* lawn ornaments. Picasso is having trouble with adjusting to this new place, so to fit in he joins the basketball team that seems to have forgotten that basketball season ends in March (the film is set during the holiday season). However, there’s one issue: Picasso sucks at basketball. When he is first introduced, Picasso has the opportunity to get a big win for his team, the Lawn Ornaments, so long as he can make a couple foul shots. Of course, Picasso chokes, costing the team the game, which should not be a surprise seeing as there wouldn't be any conflict if he was a baller.

Big and Hairy 1998 Movie review 1

Picasso is labeled by his classmates as a “choker,” which to me seems a lot better than being called Picasso, but thankfully he has a supportive coach, Mr. Donovan (Greg Thirloway). Coach Donovan is the kind of fair and balanced coach who, despite popular opinion, will play every kid, no matter how good or bad they are, which is certainly the right thing to do, if you ask me. Though the wrong thing to do is to tuck your polo shirt into your khakis without a belt on. That shit is unacceptable.  

Picasso also receives a lot of support from his loving parents, who are played by Chilton Crane and the always gross Richard Thomas. I have to be candid here and say that Picasso’s parents are, without a doubt, the worst people on the face of the celluloid planet. They're basically a couple of weird hippy parents who dress in Christmas tree skirts and name their kids PIcasso. While they are clearly meant to be funny and over-the-top, I couldn’t help but want to toss gasoline on them before pushing them into a pit of lava, and that was before the scene where they do an interpretive dance, during a game, to a fake version of Stuck In the Middle with You. I fucking hate them.

Big and Hairy 1998 Movie review 2

Anyway, Picasso is still without any real friends, and worse yet, if the Lawn Ornaments can’t get into the *fill-in-the-blank* tournament, then Coach Donovan will be fired. What’s a Picasso to do? Well, the obvious answer is befriending a Bigfoot who is not only friendly but totally nasty at basketball! PERFECT! Not only does Picasso now have a friend to hang out with, he also gets his new buddy to join the basketball team, which results in the Lawn Ornaments crushing every team they face.

Bigfoot (or Ed as they have named him) takes the small town by storm, and soon both Picasso and Ed are the coolest dudes in school, something that seems a little odd seeing as Ed is a SASQUATCH! As Emily perfectly pointed out in her wonderful review of the film, no one seems to give a toss that there is a Sasquatch playing basketball and going to school, let alone that one actually exists. Whether or not Ed seems out of place being, you know, a Sass, I would think that having a dude that hairy around would be unpleasant. Like, there is no possible way that this dude doesn’t smell like total ass. I can imagine his breath is rank, he has to have some serious dingleberries, and I’m sure piss dribbles down his leg and dries onto his fur every time he takes a leak. Try to tell me otherwise.

Big and Hairy 1998 Movie review 4

When it comes to Ed, the only thing that anyone cares about is whether or not the rule book allows him to play basketball. Now, while there’s no rule against a monster playing ball against a bunch of kids, there is a rule against having 13 players. This results in Picasso quitting the team, something that will only lead to his eventual comeback where he steps up and makes the winning shot. Oh, SPOILER ALERT! Sorry.

This release of Big and Hairy comes from Feature Films for Families (which also released The Buttercream Gang), a company based out of Utah and led by Forrest S. Baker III, who, at his best, looks like a rapist. Anyway, this disc’s “special features” includes a special message from Baker III himself, who (couldn’t look any rapier) talks about how their releases contain no profanity, sexuality, violence, or vulgarity. Hunter III believes that rated R movies have a negative impact on society, so he is here to save the world (so he can rape it), but not before he asks for a donation.

Big and Hairy 1998 Movie review 3

While I have no love for loser Feature Films for Families, I will not hold that against Big and Hairy, which is most likely a film that the Mormon company has nothing to do with outside of buying the rights so they can release it on DVD. Though, seeing as they are a company the cleanses the human soul from sin, it’s likely that they edited some content out of Big and Hairy to make it more family friendly, which means there are no Sass on human sex scenes. Oh, well, there’s always that Farrah Abraham porno if you’d like to fill that void.

Sadly, there is no trailer for Big and Hairy, so to make it up to you I will leave you with this nice man:

Big and Hairy 2

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972): Shriek in Heavenly Peace

silent night, bloody night movie

It’s Christmas Eve in a small New England town where the owner of the long-abandoned Butler Estate, Jeremy Butler (James Patterson), is looking to unload his property and the many horrific secrets it contains, which include deception, sexual abuse and murder.  

Directed by Theodore Gershuny, Silent Night, Bloody Night is a holiday themed slasher film that employs many of the traits that would come to be standard fare for the genre in the years following its release. You have a secluded location, a mysterious killer who stalks potential victims (sometimes by way of menacing phone calls) before going in for the kill, and while not overly violent by any means, there is certainly some effective bloodletting to be had by way of various types of murder weapons. Point-of-view is impressively utilized to show the world from the unknown killer’s perspective, something that would go on to become a slasher standard after the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween.  

silent night, bloody night movie 1

Of course, slasher films in general were greatly inspired by the Giallo films from Italy, and regardless of being the earliest example of a proper holiday slasher film – even predating Black Christmas by a few years – Silent Night, Bloody Night certainly owes a huge debt to the Gialli that came before it. This comes specifically with the tactic of featuring an unknown assailant adorned with black leather gloves as well as the attempts to misdirect the viewer with a handful of mostly ineffective red herrings.

When it comes to the actual story, it’s fair to say that Silent Night, Bloody Night has a lot going on. My brief description from the start of this post barely scratches the surface, as the film is so plot heavy that nearly 50% of the movie requires narration, much of which is provided by the movie’s lead character, Diane (played by a lovely Mary Woronov). Using voice over for expositional purposes is, for all intents and purposes, a cheap tactic; however, Silent Night, Bloody Night has such an ambitious plot that narration is quite necessary. Furthermore, the narration is used well and actually adds to the overall atmosphere that the film gives off.

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What sets Silent Night, Bloody Night apart from many holiday slasher films is the creepy tone it so perfectly exudes. Despite its incredibly low-budget, there lies a tangible layer of Gothic ambience that is quite similar to films such as Night of the Living Dead and Carnival of Souls. Silent Night, Bloody Night has a cold feeling about it, and not just in the physical sense. There’s a somberness about all aspects of the film, as it emanates a feeling of complete and utter despair, something of which comes through in everything from the locations, the set design, the music, the pace, and of course the exceptional cinematography by Adam Giffard.

Where everything seems to come together both in terms of plot and filmmaking technique is best portrayed in the film’s final act with a flashback sequence that runs nearly 13 minutes long. This sequence reveals the dark and demented history of the Butler Estate that has plagued the residents of the surrounding community for over 20 years. Blanketed beneath a hauntingly effective rendition of “Silent Night,” the surreal sepia tone photography hypnotically entrances the viewer into a world where a foreboding sense of madness is imminent. What is revealed in these moments is both fascinating and frightening, and these elements are greatly elevated in the way the segment is technically put together.

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I’ve had the opportunity to see Silent Night, Bloody Night on a handful of occasions over the years – even reviewing it back in 2009 – and it’s come to be one of my favorite holiday set horror films. Film Chest recently released restored the film for DVD, and the difference between their restoration and any copy I have seen on YouTube or from a Mill Creek set is quite incredible. However, that’s not to say the film looks amazing, as this release is still filled with many imperfections, all of which can be forgiven considering Film Chest likely cannot afford to do extensive cleanup.

Silent Night, Bloody Night is a fine example of that rare perfect storm where a low-budget and artistry come together to concoct a film that is vastly more brilliant than its hokey, yet evocative title would ever allude to. If you are a fan of the movie, then the Film Chest upgrade is worth the money in my opinion. On the other hand, if you are curious about the film and aren’t quite ready to drop some cash on a DVD release, the full movie is available all over YouTube. Just be aware that the quality is going to be pretty shoddy.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Salute Your Shorts: The Winter Stalker (2009)

the winter stalker short film

A woman is unknowingly stalked by an obsessive madman who has spent every waking moment watching her every move. After so much time has been spent learning all the ins and outs of this young, innocent woman, the time has come for the man to pay her a visit and do to her what he truly believes must be done. What ensues is an event that will surprise viewers as much as it will shock them.

Written, directed and produced by Stephen Reedy, The Winter Stalker is a 2 minute short film that takes place on Christmas Eve. While the short is indeed very brief, The Winter Stalker’s concept is both nicely executed and effective, delivering a perfectly misleading horror story without any unnecessary bloat.

Give it a watch for yourself, and feel free to let me know your thoughts afterwards!

Salute Your Shorts 3.5

Saturday, December 14, 2013

We Wish You A Turtle Christmas Holiday Special (1994)


It’s Christmas Eve, and Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael are about to wrap some Christmas presents when they realize that no one picked up a gift for Master Splinter. Worse yet, everything is closing soon! The only way to rectify this turtlelly terrible situation is to hit the streets and sing a bunch of shitty versions of Christmas songs while they search for gifts.  

Released in 1994, We Wish You A Turtle Christmas is a live action, direct-to-video Christmas Special featuring everyone’s favorite pizza eating sewer dwellers, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We’ve seen the Turtles go through a variety of changes since their incarnation back in 1984, with a fluctuation that has ranged from being quite serious to pretty silly. But the Turtles seen in this Christmas special are possibly the most ridiculous they’ve been, being light years away from the heavy metal listening, violent characters created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.

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Currently bestowed with a solid 2 out of 10 on IMDB, We Wish You A Turtle Christmas features the most ratchet version of the turtles imaginable. Their mouths hardly move, and if they do, they certainly aren’t in sync with what they are saying/singing. Furthermore, the voice acting is as broke as M.C. Hammer, but what would you expect from a group of characters covered in visible zippers? Maybe that’s just a part of the mutation.

Terrible costuming and voice acting be damned, for the real bad of this really bad Christmas special has to be the wall-to-wall musical numbers. We Wish You A Turtle Christmas is overflowing with offensively bad music that comes in a variety of awful flavors. Songs range from a reggae tune to a hip-hop song, fittingly titled Wrap Rap, which naturally occurs as the turtles are wrapping presents. There’s a scene where Michelangelo sings an opera song, and of course there are a number of holiday classics, all of which are given a TMNT makeover.

For example:

Deck the Halls with pepperoni

Fa-la-la-la-la la-la-la la

Mustard, eggplant and bologna

Fa-la-la-la-la la-la-la la

we-wish-you-a-turtle-christmas-TV-special-1994 2

However, the cream of the crap-crop comes during a moment where I could not help but verbally exclaim, “Splinter, NO!!,” and that comes when Master Splinter spits his version of The Twelve Days of Christmas. Which in this case should be renamed The Twelve Hammers I Want to Lodge Into My Cranium Simply So I Can End this Pain Days of Christmas. But as bad as this never-ending song is, however, I am almost more offended by the gifts that the turtles give to Splinter, which include a framed pizza, videos games, a skateboard, yo-yos – you know, the kind of stuff that Master Splinter would love to own if he were a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and not Master Splinter.

We Wish You A Turtle Christmas culminates in an epic musical number ending that features a slew of street kids dancing in the background like generic strippers to the titular song, which seems like a brilliantly thought out idea. I mean, it’s not as if the turtles are trying to keep a low profile or anything. You know, it’s not like they’re teenage mutant ninja turtles who live in the sewers with a human sized rat that wears a robe and practices kung-fu.

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In closing, We Wish You A Turtle Christmas is bad on a level that is challenging for my mind to absorb without creating a stream of blood pouring from my nose. But at the same time, I kind of love it, which I guess speaks to my tolerance for shit. I know there are those of you out there who, like me, will get a kick out of this one for how awful it is, but be forewarned, for there are moments where you will question your sanity.

You can watch We Wish You A Turtle Christmas in three parts on YouTube. If you can make it through all three parts, that is.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Thirteenth Day of Christmas (1985): Unwrapping Madness

the 13th day of christmas 1985

It’s the thirteenth day of Christmas, and Gilbert (Patrick Allen) and his wife, Evie (Elizabeth Spriggs), are enjoying an evening drinking wine and playing cards with some old friends. The night is going well, that is until Gilbert and Evie’s mentally ill son, Richard (John Wheatley), shows up and puts an uncomfortable damper on the evening. The night grows increasingly intense, however, as Richard’s mental stability slowly crumbles to the point of complete madness.

Through conversation between Gilbert, Evie and their friends, it is learned that Richard has spent some time in a mental institution. It also becomes very clear that Gilbert has little-to-no patience for his son’s condition, and would rather see him sent back to a mental institution than creating chaos for the entire family. This sets up a good conflict for the story in that it’s easy to feel sympathetic for Richard, as his father is angered by his situation while his mother is somewhat fearful of it, therefore Richard likely isn’t getting the support he needs to stay mentality stable.

the thirteenth day of christmas 1985 1

On the other hand, Richard is a Grade A nut job, so it’s difficult not for feel a shred of sympathy for Gilbert and Evie, who have to constantly deal with someone who is so often potentially hostile. Richard’s the kind of person who must always be handled with kid gloves, and any wrong move can cause a chain reaction that results in a psychotic explosion.

The strength of The Thirteenth Day of Christmas comes from the way it portrays the feeling that comes from being around someone who makes you feel uncomfortable. That whacked out person who just keeps talking nonsense to you and becomes increasingly agitated with each minute that progresses. Your response is driven by the fear of making this type of person even more upset, which could cause an eruption that ends in violence, so you simply force a smile and hope for it all to end as soon as possible.

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Directed by Patrick Lau, The Thirteenth Day of Christmas is one of six entries of Time for Murder, a UK television series that focused on hour long stories of mystery and suspense. Seeing as The Thirteenth Day of Christmas was made for UK television, it features a visual aesthetic similar to that of old episodes of PBS’s Masterpiece Theater, which in and of itself gives the episode a natural atmosphere on a visual level. However, there are times where I felt as if there was something missing; something that hindered the atmosphere and tension. And this is especially true during the episode’s second half.

The one real flaw of The Thirteenth Day of Christmas is that it is missing a key component necessary to building tension, and that’s music; something of which is not at all prevalent until the closing credits. Strangely, I neglected to notice the lack of music until the closing credits rolled, but the second I heard it, I knew that a slow, somber, holiday inspired score could have gone a long way to add to the effect that this one has. It’s unfortunate that something so simple can take away from the great build up of Richard’s descent into madness, but I suppose that shows just how important music is when it comes to movies and television.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Salute Your Shorts: Father Christmas (2011)

Father Christmas short film 2011

It’s Christmas Eve, and the Williamson family are gathered around the fire, enjoying each other's company, when one of the family members discovers an audio cassette from Christmas, 1991. The tape brings about some difficult memories for some of the family members; however, what they learn when they actually listen to the tape is far more horrific than any of them could have ever anticipated.

Made for the 48 hour Bloodshots Canada horror filmmaking contest, Father Christmas was created by the Vancouver based sketch comedy troupe MegaSteakMan. Regardless of being a comedy group, the team behind MegaSteakMan takes a serious approach to Father Christmas and are quite successful in doing so. In its brief running time, Father Christmas presents an effective tale of terror that makes for a nice treat for those of you looking for something a little darker this holiday season.

Give Father Christmas a watch below, and please share your thoughts afterwards!

Salute Your Shorts 3.5

Monday, December 2, 2013

Jack Frost (1997): Frost Bitten, Twice Shy

Jack Frost 1997 movie poster
En route to his execution, mass murderer Jack Frost (Scott MacDonald) is killed after being involved in an auto accident with a vehicle containing a top secret hazardous material that turns the madman into a living, breathing, pun-spewing killer snowman made out of fabric and oversized oven mitts. And what’s worse than a living, breathing, pun-spewing killer snowman made out of fabric and oversized oven mitts? A living, breathing, pun-spewing killer snowman made out of fabric and oversized oven mitts that’s looking to take vengeance on the small town sheriff that had him put away.

1997’s Jack Frost specializes in overly ridiculous entertainment. It’s pretty much inherent to the storyline, as the moment you mention “killer snowman” it is impossible to hold back some sort of an eye raising smirk. When a filmmaker comes up with an idea as goofy as a killer snowman, the best thing to do is embrace the humor of the situation, which is exactly what director Michael Cooney does with Jack Frost. Jack Frost is as much a stupid horror movie as it is a foolish comedy, which can be a difficult balancing act, especially if you aren’t able to deliver some genuine laughs.

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As a comedy, Jack Frost has some genuinely humorous moments; however, while some of the jokes land well, there are also plenty that fall flat. At times, certain situations are effectively more humorous than their execution, and the fact that the film avoids going too far over the top and into that late-era Troma type of territory makes it an infinitely more tolerable watch. That’s not to say that Jack Frost isn’t over the top, because it is; it’s just far less obnoxious than it could be.

Jack Frost is notable as the film debut of Shannon Elizabeth. However, it’s even more notable for being the film where Shannon Elizabeth’s character, Jill, is raped by Jack Frost while taking a bath. The sight of a killer snowman sexually abusing a girl with his carrot is mind-bogglingly outrageous. In fact, the entire situation is as stupid as it is funny as it is offensive, but if it wasn’t all three of those things, then it certainly wouldn’t be nearly as memorable a scene as it is.

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*Obligatory paragraph dedicated to the Michael Keaton starring Jack frost and the irony that comes from two human/snowman movies being released within a few years of one another, yet one is a family film while the other is a low-grade horror flick*

Director Michael Cooney has a very scant amount of directing credits to his name. Three to be exact -- with two of them being of the Jack Frost variety. His writing credits are slightly more impressive (save for that horrific ending to 2003’s Identity), but I think it’s safe to say that he will forever be associated with the creation of Jack Frost. I suppose things could be worse for someone in the film business. It’s better to be remembered as the guy who wrote and directed those killer snowman movies than the guy that no one remembers at all. And no amount of antifreeze can take that away from him.

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Outside of a few exceptions, 1996 wasn’t a banner year for what you could call great horror cinema. The year brought about a bevy of awful direct to video sequels to franchises that had already long overstayed their welcome. On the other end, there were some original movies that hit the horror scene, but many of those ended up being toilet bound. It’s tough to say if the toilet is the destination for a film like Jack Frost, as it’s simply one of those movies that will draw the ire of some while bringing a certain joy to others. I suppose it all comes down to the type of movie fan you are.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Death-cember: The Fruitcake of Holiday Celebrations

While the holiday season began in September, you know, if you’ve stepped foot into any retail outlet in the last four months, nothing truly kicks the season of sadness off quite like the first day of DEATH-CEMBER! For those of you who aren’t hip to what Death-cember is selling, I shall give you the quick rundown: during the entire month of December, I place my focus on movies that are either holiday related or feature a wintry setting. Simple enough, right?

Anyway, over the past few years, Death-cember has, unfortunately, been a little neglected, which is mostly due to Chucktober fatigue. However, this season I plan to bring da pain and deliver a Death-cember worthy of at least 10 solid minutes of your time. But you don’t have to take my word for it, just take a look at what’s in store for you this holla-day season:

the 13th day of christmas 1985

Big and Hairy 1998 Movie review

Jack Frost 1997 movie poster

Inside 2007


Now if that lineup that doesn’t unwrap your candy cane, then I don’t know what will! So without any further adoo-doo, let’s get this panty party started!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ninjavember: Bionic Ninja (1986)

Bionic Ninja 1986 poster

When the average person thinks of ninja movies, director Godfrey Ho often comes to mind. Actually, scratch that. When cult/genre movie geeks think of ninja movies, director Godfrey Ho often comes to mind. While Ho is a filmmaker who is often associated with the ninja genre, it is very rarely done so in a respectable fashion. In fact, outside of a small handful of movies, much of Ho’s work is what many would consider to be so bad it’s good, and that’s an opinion that falls firmly on the nicer end of the scale. However, it’s that so bad it’s good symmetry that makes Godfrey Ho’s work in the genre so memorable. Whether or not the average moviegoer can appreciate his brand of cinema, this notoriety is a worthy achievement in my eyes.

Bionic Ninja Godfrey Ho 5

Outside of being behind many a ninja film during the genre’s heyday in the ‘80s, Ho is also closely associated with a specific brand of cut-and-paste filmmaking, wherein he would take footage from one film and splice it into footage from any number of other movies. In doing so, Ho effectively, or not really effectively, created a brand new movie altogether, ready to be packed up and sold under a veil of facetiousness. This leads us to Bionic Ninja, a 1986 release that pairs up footage from the 1984 Kent Cheng action/comedy, The Daring Kung Fu Refugee, with footage that Ho directed to give it that much needed ninja edge.

It’s the footage that Ho directed that does its best to drive the “storyline,” focusing on a secret agent named Tommy Foster who is sent to Hong Kong to retrieve a, and I quote, “top technical secret film.” And believe you me, there is nothing more frightening than a secret film, especially when it’s of the top technical variety. The top technical secret film was stolen by a group of KGB hired ninjas––because that’s simply how things work in Godfrey Ho’s world––so Tommy is in for the fight of his life if he wants to retrieve the top technical secret film and save the world from KGB/ninja domination. Or something like that.

Bionic Ninja Godfrey Ho

While this plot sounds fairly easy to follow, making complete logistical sense even, on a whole Bionic Ninja is a jumbled mess of random scenes from a Godfrey Ho directed movie about ninjas mixed with another movie that’s not about ninjas. It only takes me about 5 minutes before I am completely lost in this flick, something that happens with a fair amount of Ho’s movies. I don’t even know why I try to comprehend what is happening on screen, because it only results in a migraine inducing level of thought not worthy of my miniscule brain power.

There are portions of Bionic Ninja where my mind goes numb in a fashion that causes my soul to exit my body, look down on my physical self, and spew judgment at my movie choice for the evening. This is partially due to the complexity of the plot (of which there isn’t any) as much as it has to do with the long scenes of unnecessary dialogue, all of which come from the portions of Bionic Ninja not directed by Ho. The entire thing clearly does not fit together, so anything that isn’t top technical secret film related only works as boring and confusing. With that said, the martial arts in the scenes taken from The Daring Kung Fu Refugee are legitimately good, and exude a level of competence unsuitable to the project as a whole.

Bionic Ninja Godfrey Ho 3

But where The Daring Kung Fu Refugee delivers some solid martial arts action, it is the portions of Bionic Ninja that are directed by Godfrey Ho that truly make the film a reasonably entertaining watch. Despite his reputation as a cut-and-paste filmmaker, Ho certainly knows how to deliver the cheesy goods, something that he does in spades with his portion of Bionic Ninja.

This is especially true with Tommy Foster, who can often be seen wearing a yellow tank top with matching yellow sweatpants, complete with dirt stains on his backside. When Tommy’s isn’t busy trying to locate the top technical secret film, he rocks his days away training with the heart and ferocity of a lion. This results in some brilliant scenes of Tommy practicing his tumbling, fine-tuning his swordplay and working on his shuriken throwing skills, all of which are done in a public park. Because that’s completely legal.

Bionic Ninja Godfrey Ho 1

Seeing as Bionic Ninja is a ninja film, and a bionic one at that *SPOILER* there are no bionic ninjas *SPOILER END*, the ninjas do play an integral role in the ridiculousness that the film serves up. Here are a few examples of the ninja antics found in Bionic Ninja:

  • The KGB hired ninja clan (I could stop there) are led by the always elusive “White Ninja.”
  • Ninjas have the ability to realistically jump cut into and out of a scene at any given moment. Ninjas take a cab.
  • Ninjas take a cab without their ninja masks on, which I think defeats the purpose of being a ninja.
  • Ninjas always move in synchronized motions.
  • The final battle consists of the inevitable white ninja VS. red ninja, which is equal parts ridiculous and awesome.

Anyway, I think you smell what my ninja smoke bomb is cooking.

Bionic Ninja Godfrey Ho 7

While not coming even close to being a highlight on Godfrey Ho’s filmography, Bionic Ninja is enjoyable enough for those who enjoy the filmmaker’s work. The enjoyment of the movie comes from the hilarity that Ho brought to the table, which makes me wish he had simply made an entire movie full of Tommy/top technical secret film action. If that had been the case, we might have ended up with something closer to the insanely enjoyable Undefeatable, instead of the typical hit or miss patchwork film that Ho is best known for.


This Ninjatastic review is in conjunction with NINJAVEMBER, a special ninja themed blog-a-thon hosted by the menacing yellow ninja, Karl Brezdin. Head over to the deserted island ninja training camp known as Fist of B-List to keep up with all the ninjacentric goodies to come!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Salute Your Shorts: The Haunted Doll’s house (2012)


After a wealthy man purchases an antique doll house from a pawnshop, he learns that the doll house has a dark history when it comes to life late one night. The doll house reveals a tale of deception and betrayal that involves a family who, driven by greed, helps their grandfather reach his final destination with a bit of poison. As one would expect, doing such a horrific thing can only lead to the family being forced to pay for their sins.

Based on a short story by M.R. James, The Haunted Doll’s House is brought to life by Stephen Gray using a mixture of live action and stop motion animation. In it’s 11 minute runtime, The Haunted Doll’s House succeeds in providing a silently creepy and gothic atmosphere, which specifically comes from the fantastic stop-motion animation used to bring the inhabitants of the doll house to life. However, outside of the stop motion work, the short falls, well, short in terms of its conclusion. The finale has an anemic feel about it, and the lack of a satisfying ending leaves behind a feeling of disappointment.

Regardless of its failed finale, The Haunted Doll’s House is worth a watch if you enjoy good stop motion animation. If that’s the case, give it a watch below, and please let me know if you find the ending to be as lackluster as I do.

Salute Your Shorts 2.5

Monday, November 4, 2013

Roger Corman’s Horror Classics Vol. 1 DVD Review


Film Chest Media Group recently released a Roger Corman triple feature on DVD, and were kind enough to send me a copy to take a look at. Roger Corman’s Horror Classics Vol. 1 features three of Corman’s better known horror films–The Terror, Dementia 13 and A Bucket of Blood–all of which have received a brand new restoration from the original 35mm prints. The set is presented in widescreen with an aspect ratio of 16×9 and are in 5.1 stereo (except for A Bucket of Blood, which is mono).

All three of these Corman classics are in the public domain and readily available to watch online as well as being included in any number of Mill Creek sets, so it’s not as if getting your dirty paws on these movies is all too difficult. With that being said, the draw of this set is the fact that the films are restored, which might be a huge selling point for some horror fans.

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Pop Flix’s release of A Bucket of Blood

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Roger Corman’s Horror Classics Vol. 1 release of A Bucket of Blood

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Pop Flix’s release of A Bucket of Blood

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Roger Corman’s Horror Classics Vol. 1 release of A Bucket of Blood

I personally relish the world of uber cheap bulk DVD releases as the price/amount of movies vs. their picture quality tends to lean towards the former end of the scale for me. However, I fully support a nice restoration, and seeing a public domain movie be shown some love is quite the commendable effort in my eyes. Anyone can cash in, but not everyone is willing to put forth the effort to give these films their do justice.

Now, does this translate well with Roger Corman’s Horror Classic’s Vol 1? Well, the answer to that question is mostly. The Terror, A Bucket of Blood and Dementia 13 were indeed given a digital restoration, and while the films might be the best they’ve looked on home video, this collection isn’t quite the best it could be.

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Pop Flix’s release of The Terror

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Roger Corman’s Horror Classics Vol. 1 release of The Terror

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Pop Flix’s release of The Terror

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Roger Corman’s Horror Classics Vol. 1 release of The Terror

All three films certainly look much cleaner, clearer and have richer quality to them, and the widescreen presentation certainly makes for a nice improvement over the releases that I have seen (key words being “I have seen”). With that said, I do see signs of DNR (digital noise reduction) work on all three movies, which as seen in the screen grabs strewn throughout this post has negatively affected some of the film’s fine detail.  

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Pop Flix’s release of Dementia 13

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Roger Corman’s Horror Classics Vol. 1 release of Dementia 13

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Pop Flix’s release of Dementia 13

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Roger Corman’s Horror Classics Vol. 1 release of Dementia 13

DNR does drive some videophiles crazy, while others seem to be okay with it. Personally, I’m not a big fan of it, but I can deal with minor DNR, and it certainly isn’t a break for me in terms of this release. All three films featured in Roger Corman’s Horror Classics Vol. 1 do indeed look good, especially when you consider that all three of these movies were made on a very low-budget. Furthermore, I appreciate the fact that Film Chest took the time to show these movies a little love and care, giving them an overall solid release that fans of these films should enjoy.

*All of the comparison screen grabs are taken from my personal copy of Pop Flix’s Roger Corman Drive-In Collection, a set that contains ten films on four discs.

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