Tuesday, 30 June 2015

KillPandaKill is Closing Up Shop

  After almost 4 years and with a heavy heart, I'm sad to announce that this will be the last post for the KillPandaKill and the News To Me blogs.  I'm going through some complicated times in my life at the moment and sadly, I do not have the time to watch and review the films with the same vigor as I have in the past.  I feel that these films and filmmakers deserve more time and thought than I can offer right now.
  I want to take this time to thank everybody who has taken the time to read the blog, left messages, sent materials to be reviewed or has spoken to me on any or all the social media websites.  You people are awesome!  And I really appreciate everything that you've done for me and I couldn't have done any of this without your help.  This has been a fantastic learning experience and greatest opportunities to meet and chat with so many awesome people about films.  It's been totally top notch!
  I'm not sure what I'm going to do next but I'm sure it will be an adventure.

  Thanks again,

  Erin V

P.S. I will be keeping my twitter account and will still be chatting about films on there.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Satanic Summer: Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)

Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)
Director: Harold P. Warren
Starring: Tom Neyman, John Reynolds, and Diane Adelson
Running Time: 68 min

  I remember seeing this film years ago on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and really digging it.  However, this time watching it, I will be alone and won't have the hilarious rifftrack from the MST3K crew to keep me sane and stop me from banging my head on the desk while watching this "classic" B-movie.  If I don't make it back alive, tell my family & friends I loved them. 

  Michael, his wife Margaret, their daughter Debbie and the family dog, Peppy are going on a vacation in El Paso, Texas.  They drive, and drive and drive and drive and Michael eventually gets lost on an old dirt road in the middle of nowhere.  They drive some more and eventually reach what looks like an abandoned old shack.  Michael and Margaret get out of the car to go to the house and ask for directions but just as they get out of the car, a strange derelict looking character named Torgo comes out of the house and welcomes them to the shack.  Michael asks for directions but Torgo evades his questions with strange talk about his Master.  Michael gets fed up and insists that his family stays the night at the creepy old shack with the even creepier Torgo and his Master.  At first Torgo refuses, but quickly gives in, telling his guests that the Master may be angry but he will let them stay.  Michael forces Torgo to get their bags and takes his family into the shack like a boss.
  Once inside the shack and after putting the bags in the one other room, Torgo excuses himself to speak with the Master.  Michael and Margaret look around and discover an incredibly evil fireplace with statues of hands on it and a creepy painting of a mustached man in a robe with his doberman.  Nonetheless, this isn't sinister enough for them to want to leave like any normal person and it's still better than that Motel 6 they stayed in last year. 
  Meanwhile, Torgo has awakened his Master from his eternal sleep or nap and lets him know that they have visitors.  The Master sees the visitors using some kind of magic thang and decides that he wants to add Margaret to his collection of wives.  This infuriates Torgo because the Master already has six wives and Torgo has none. :(  However, the wives cannot decide if they should kill the little girl Debbie and this indecision causes a huge riff in the Masters' household.  Can Michael and his family escape this crazy little love shack or will Margaret become wife number seven for this fashion impaired mad man!

  This is such a terrible, terrible film and luckily this was the only film that writer/director Harold P. Warren ever created.  He even bragged after the premiere that this was the worst film ever made, which is a pretty bold statement but pretty close to the truth.  There are so many filler scenes of driving with no dialogue in the first half that make you wonder if this film is worth the trouble of watching.  Then, there are a bunch characters that are introduced and have nothing to do with the overall story, which makes you question why were they written in at all and where were was he even going with this?
  Although the film was English, Warren still dubbed all the actors voices and sound effects in post production which caused seven year old, Jackey Neymen (Manos: The Rise of Torgo, Curse of Bigfoot) who played Debbie to cry at the premiere when she didn't get to hear her own voice on the big screen.  However, she was not the only one hurt by the Manos production.  The worst has to be what happen to John Reynolds, who played Torgo, who I believe was suppose to be a Satyr or some kind of half goatman.  First of all, there was no reason he need to be a Satyr because that story angle goes absolutely nowhere.  It's not relevant throughout the story at all and I kept waiting for a big reveal that he is a ferocious goat demon or something but nothing happens.  Even Michael and his family aren't freaked out about it, they just think he's some weird dude with big knees in an abandoned shack.  Unfortunately for Reynolds, he unintentionally put on the metallic leg rigging on improperly to cause this Satyr effect which caused permanent damage to his kneecaps.  This caused him chronic pain after the shoot and the months before his death.
 The worst thing though about the film though is that Manos never shows up... ever!  Manos is the demon that the Master and everybody worships in the film but he doesn't put in an appearance and there is no explanation to why they worship this deity at all.  Funny thing about Manos is that it's Spanish word for hands, so the title of this film is actually Hands: The Hands of Fate.  I read that this amused the crew of the film so much, they would refer to the project as Mangos: The Cans of Fruit behind Warrens' back.  You wacky film crew, you.

  So why should  anyone in their right minds just this atrocious film.  Well, it's hilariously bad.  Even without the MST3K rifftrack I still found myself laughing at the insanity of this film.  Warren may have considered this the worst movie ever but it still had a plot and the characters had motivations which is a lot more than I can say for some films that I've seen over the years.
  Sure the acting is terrible and this is mostly because all the actors were from a local theatre group that Warren knew but at least they were trying.  This was probably the biggest role that Tom Neyman, who played the Master, ever got and he played the hell out of this role, maybe even too much.  His overacting and inexperience is hilarious to see on screen.  Also John Reynolds performance as Torgo is excellently bad.  He seems to have no direction and just acts like that drunk creepy uncle at family functions.  Some of his scenes are just confusing and my favourite has to be when the Master forces his wives to tickle Torgo as a punishment. WTF? This is what Torgo wanted the whole time.  Note to self: Create a Tickle Me Torgo doll, will make millions.  

  This is not a good movie in almost any sense but it is fun to watch with other fans of bad movies.  Although there is a story, which may have been better as a short, you can really tell that the person organizing the production is way to out of their depth and had no idea what they were trying to  achieve with this film. When it comes to this film, the cliche, "It's so bad, it's good" really works or at least it's good enough for a few laughs with on a late evening with friends.  If I were you, I'd ease myself into this film with the MST3K version but if you're feeling adventurous, watch the link below.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Satanic Summer: Satan's Cheerleaders (1977)

 Satan's Cheerleaders (1977)
Director: Greydon Clark
Starring: John Ireland, Yvonne De Carlo, Jack Kruschen
Running Time: 71 min

  I think I have a good idea of what I'm getting into here.  This looks like a hard hitting drama about an underground satanist cult, a group of talented cheerleaders and deep look at the religious psyche of America in the 70's.  Just kidding, this is probably an exploitative teen comedy from the 70's, that has an extremely thin story line, terrible jokes and may border on pornography at times. But it does have John Ireland and John Carradine in it, so it can't be that bad right?

  Ms. Johnson has brought her P.E. class down to the beach today to play some touch football in the sand.  Apparently, it's the schools' cheerleaders, Debbie, Sharon, Patti and Chris vs high school quarterback superstar, Steve and his cronies.  Everybody is having fun until coach Downer shows up and breaks up the party and the gym class ends up just them hanging out on the beach and having some fun wacky teen antics.  That is until the revival high school teens show up, the one that their school is playing in the big game, and also want to use the beach! Like O M G!  Although the beach is enormous, the two schools almost come to blows about who is using it, but luckily Ms. Johnson suggests playing chicken for the beach.  Of course, the cheerleaders win and the other school heads off the beach defeated. :(
  However the rival school gets their revenge by TPing their school.  Bastards! And even show up at practice before the big game to pick a fight.  After a shitty brawl ensues, the principal breaks up the fight and sends these outsiders back to their school and punishes Steve with a suspension for fighting back?  The girls are pissed and have to get ready for the big game.  They head to the showers and pass by the creepy old janitor, Billy, who has two terrible secrets.  One, he has a secret peephole that he uses to watch the girls shower and two, he is a Satanist and he has sold his soul to the devil to get revenge on all the little punk kids that he has to deal with during the day at his shitty job.
  After their showers, the girls head out to the big game but are run off the road by some sort of supernatural powers that Billy somehow possesses.  He ends up picking the girls up under the false pretense that he will drive them to the game but on the way, he takes an evil detour and drives down to a deserted satanic alter, you know the one off route 5.  Then this old man forces 5 young women to the alter and tries to rape one of the girls.  Unfortunately for Billy, a magical force protects Patti and  blasts Billy with a energy bolt that kills him.  Distraught and a little upset, the girls find their way back to the main road and with the help from a familiar looking hobo get directions to the sheriffs house.
  The sheriff tells them that he'll look into this crime but he needs them to stay there.  The girls are nervous and scared but are relieved that this sheriff will keep them safe.  Regrettably though, the sheriff and his wife are the leaders of the neighbourhood satanic cult, Local 666, and are planning to sacrifice these girls to their lord and master later tonight.  Will these cheerleaders ever get a break?  Or will they be offering up three big cheers for the dark master soon?

  This movie was pretty silly and poorly written buuuuuuuuut it actually had some good twists at the end, which was quite surprising.  I really don't think that director Greydon Clark (Black Shampoo, Skinheads) was trying to create a cinematic work of art here but he does succeed in making an interesting teen sex comedy/horror movie.  
  The best part of this movie is when it finally shifts gears and leaves the high school comedy to focus more on the satanic cult angle.  It's not really scary per se but there are some dark undertones to the film that leave a "Last House on the Left" in taste in your mouth but Clark never pushes this horror/comedy to that limit, at least not on screen anyway.
  Poor John Ireland (Spartacus, Red River, All The King's Men), who plays the satanic sheriff earns his paycheck in this and is a real trooper for every meandering scene that he is in.  Also, John Carradine (The Grapes of Wrath, Psycho a Go Go) and Jack Kruschen (Cape Fear, The Apartment) give decent performances but the bar is set really low here, so its not that difficult.  Basically they showed up and that was good enough.  
  The ending is actually one of the better twists that I've seen in these smaller budgeted films.  It's humorous and justice is properly handed out. Unfortunately the epilogue, which is amusing still falls flat again at the end into a groan fest.  

  So issues with the film, where there are tons and I'm not going to get into them all.  There is a reason why these young ladies had a limited acting career but then again this isn't Shakespeare.  Answering yes to, "Would you wear a cheerleader uniform" and "Will you take off your top in some scenes", would have been the right answer to secure any role in this film.  I think that how they got John Ireland.
  Also, there are a lot of sexist under tones throughout the film.  I'm not sure if they are suppose to be a biting satire of teenage girls or if the writers really thinks that young women, cheerleaders in particular, are this dumb.  From the way the script was written, I would say it was the latter.  I know it's the 70's and its a teen comedy but there was a lot of times I just had to shake my head.  In the end the girls do end up overcoming the odds, but as if we didn't see that coming.

Anyway, this is an alright B-movie and fans of bad movies will probably really enjoy.  This film is filled with some incredibly bad acting and an almost nonexistent script but it does have some inadvertent laughs and they somehow have fallen ass backwards into a very ingenious ending.  So if you're looking for a horror/teen/sex comedy with a lot of the worst things about the 70's, including the jokes, then throw this movie in and start cheering!


Wednesday, 17 June 2015

This Is How The West Coast Rocks! Review of The Los Angeles Ripper (aka LA Maniac) (2011)

The Los Angeles Ripper (aka LA Maniac) (2011)
Director: Craig J. McIntyre
Starring: Celeste Marie Martinez, Randy Tobin, and Ava Rose
Running Time: 78 min

  I had heard some buzz about this film on twitter and was really excited to be asked to review it.  When it arrived, I noticed that this was a Troma film and after reading all the disturbing reviews on cover, I knew I had to watch this film right away.

  Kristy White has come to L.A. to live her dream, to make it big as a heavy metal singer.  Her cousin Angel and her Aunt Peggy, let her stay with them and have her work off her room and board, which basically means she's doing all of Angels' chores and getting beers for her Aunt, who just sits around all day on her couch watching horror movies.  Good gig if you can get it.
  Anyway, Angel takes Kristy out to party on their first night and after some dancing at a club, they run into Angels' drug dealing friend Grahm and his buddy, B.C..  Grahm immediately falls for Kristy and after some shitty small talk, with all the charm and grace of a pig in truffle patch, he asks Kristy if she wants to hook up with him tonight.  Classy.  At first Kristy tries to be polite but after a few minutes of Grahms' pestering, she just gets up and leaves him at the table to find her cousin, who is in the bathroom snorting coke.  Sadly, Grahm follows Kristy to the bar and continues to bother her.  When Angel finally returns from her bump, Kristy begs her to go home and they take off, leaving Grahm at the bar alone.
  This is probably for the best because when Grahm isn't selling drugs & badgering girls to have sex with him, he's murdering hookers.  And after Kristy leaves, that's exactly what he does.  He finds a lady of the evening outside the bar and invites her back to his van.  After some good rockin, Grahm murders her and dumps her body. 
  However this does not stop Grahms' obessession with Kristy and he starts stalking Kristy and he follows her to the beach, the mall and eventually to her home.  Can Kristy escape this maniac and finally get a chance at living her dream as a metal singer or will this killer cut her performance short and turn her dreams into nightmares?

 This is a very Tromaesque picture and has a similar look and feel to films like "Redneck Zombies" and "Rabid Grannies".  This is director/co-writer Craig J. McIntyre (A Few Loose Screws) second feature and he creates a very open format story here, leaving his characters untethered to the contemporary rigid scripting and which allows Grahm, the opportunities to explore his depraved hobby.  In a weird way, it sort of seems like an arthouse film but it really isn't.  Also, there are parts of the film, especially with the pacing, that remind me of William Lustigs' "Maniac" but that film obviously had a much bigger budget.
  The acting was good.  Co- writers Randy Tobin (Monkeyman935, WS), who plays Grahm, and Celeste Marie Martinez (Rosie, Exquisite Corpse), who plays Kristy give a pretty decent performance.  Martinez brings some fun to her character and doesn't follow or fall into the usual scream queen tropes and Tobin, who plays his character to a tee with a psychotic edge that could do him well in future roles. 

  So, this was pretty good independent film but there were a few things that could have made it better.  Although the sound was decent for most of the film, I did find myself turning up the TV and missing what some people were saying at times.  Then other times, I had to turn it back down again because it was too loud.  Also, the music bed could be overpowering sometimes and it would drown out the dialogue, which doesn't help the story at all.  Sure you may have a great piece of music for that scene  but if your missing key plot points because you can't hear the dialogue, then what good is it. 
  The ending was good but it really comes out of the nowhere.  The ending happens at this rundown shack/cabin/house in the middle of nowhere and this is where Grahm and B.C. bring ladies to torture and execute them.  This is the first time this place gets mentioned throughout the whole film and it's weird because previously Grahm has just been killing people in hotel rooms and his van.  I wish that the shack had been referenced earlier on because it is a cool creepy place and there is much more that  could have been done with a location like that.  It still works they way they have it but it could have been better and a little foreshadowing would have been nice.

  With that said, this is still a fun gory Troma movie and definitely worth having a watch.  The story is a little loose but there are some depraved moments that every horror fan can enjoy.  So if you like independent horror films, grab a copy of this and find out how the west coast maniacs rock it. 

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Satanic Summer: Black Candles (aka Los ritos sexuales del diablo) (1982)

Black Candles (aka Los ritos sexuales del diablo) (1982)
Director: José Ramón Larraz
Starring: Helga Liné, Vanessa Hidalgo, and Jeffrey Healey
Running Time: 84 min

  I've seen this films' poster a number of times over the years and the Spanish title has always intrigued me.  I may not know the language but I do know that it doesn't translate to "Black Candles".  I'm sure I couldn't go into a candle store in Spain, Mexico or L.A. and ask the poor old lady behind the counter for "los ritos sexuales del diablo" and expect black candles, but they I could be wrong.  Anyway, flying in blind into this film and like always hoping for the best.

  After the death of her brother Mark, Carol and her boyfriend Richard visit her sister in-law Fiona at her home just outside of London.  After Fiona picks them up from the airport and gives them a ride back to the house,  they discover that the power is out at the house, which Fiona tells them happens all the time.  Luckily, Richard has the most powerful lighter in the universe and the light from his tiny lighter helps lead them to the kitchen to get some candles.  Oddly enough, all Fiona has are black candles left, which Carol remarks about being a tool for witches and black masses.  Fiona laughs it off and gives them a quick tour of the house by candle light.  During the tour, Carol also notices that their is a wall in house completely covered in paintings and artwork of demons and the devil.  Fiona tells her that Mark was quite interested in the occult before he passed away and she just hasn't been able to take them down yet.  Anyway, she leads them to their bedroom and says goodnight.
  After Fiona leaves, Carol gets undressed and tells Richard that she thinks something strange is going on and doesn't trust Fiona.  Unbeknownst to them, Fiona is spying on them from outside their room through a peephole.  However, Richard tells her not to worry and then they have sex with Fiona watching outside masterbating. Kinky.  Then as if things weren't weird enough, while Carol is sleeping, she dreams about having sex with her brother and having Fiona watching and touching her.  She wakes up in a cold sweat and goes down to the kitchen for some water.  When she is in the kitchen, she is startled by a man's face outside the window, which quickly disappears into the night.  Fiona comes downstairs to see what is going on and Carol tells her that she thought she saw a man peeping at her.  Fiona tells her that it's just nerves and makes a special "nerve tonic", with herbs from her garden, for Carol so she can go back to bed.
  However Carol wasn't being crazy, there was a man there and he was a satanic priest!  Who came to meet with Fiona about their Satanic Autumn festival party picnic.  The satanic priest tells her that it's a bad idea to have these people here, especially with all the crazy shit they have planned, but Fiona tells him not to worry about it and that she'll take care of Carol and Richard, MWahahahahahahaha!  Will Carol and Richard be able to survive the week and save their souls with their satanic sister in-law tempting them or will they fall prey to this demon temptress and get involved in worshiping the devil to? 

  This isn't so much a horror movie as it is a softcore porn with some a very disturbing storyline.  If you can call it a storyline.  After doing some reading, I realized that director José Ramón Larraz (Vampyres, Symptoms) has a made a number of these erotic horror films and it was kind of his forte.  However, I'm not sure that all of them had a woman fornicating with a goat.  Yes, a goat.  It's obviously not real, but there is a love seen with a goat, so that these satanists can collect the blood to  create their magic spell for their satanic hootenanny.  It's pretty twisted because it goes on waaaaaaaaaay to long.  Besides that, the rest of the movie is pretty tame sexually.  Larraz tries to shock with other taboos, like incest, multiple partners and well the devil stuff but he really blew his load on the shock factor in the middle of the film with the goat thing. Really, where do you go from that? Cum on?
  As for violence and gore, there is only one scene that I found horrifying to watch, outside of the seeing the all these hideous 70's undergarments, which was a gentlemen being skewered from behind by a sword, not a goat.  It may have last like most of these actors about 2 minutes and wasn't that memorable or frightening.

  There is a story in this but it's not a very good one.  I must admit that it is better than "Terror at Orgy Castle", which is another porn/horror, but that's really not saying much.  What was not clear to me was what Fiona had intended to do to Carol and why or what the whole purpose of the film was.  Was Fiona trying to get kill Carol, was she trying to turn her into a satanist or was she just being a bitch.  It's never quite clear what the motivations are here, so I think it was just a device to make a sleazy 70's adult film.
  Also the ending is, surprise, surprise really weak and you kind of feel ripped off for watching the film.  I don;t want to give anything away but it ended like most of the actors in this film, cheap and feeling terribly unsatisfied.

  This is not what I was expecting at all but it is horror erotica and fits within this months' criteria.  However, like most adult films that I've seen, there is little to no real plot here, most of the actors and actresses spend there time moaning and groaning but not in a terrifying way and somebody has simulated sex with a goat.  I'm not judging but if this seems like something you're into then this is a must have film to pick up.  Sadly, I could not find a trailer for this.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

The 3 Vicious Pigs! Review of Berkshire County (2014)

Berkshire County (2014)
Director: Audrey Cummings
Starring: Alysa King, Samora Smallwood, and Bart Rochon
Running Time: 83 min

  I'm always excited to see horror films from new and talented filmmakers, especially from Canada!   This one looks and sounds like an interesting twist on some of my favourite fairy tales, so I hope they are just as terrifying as the originals.

  Kylie Winters is at a costume party when the high school heart throb, Marcus makes a appearance.  After making a quick round, around the room, he makes his way over to Kylie and invites into the ever so romantic kitchen to, umm, "chat".  Surprised and feeling extra special, Kylie follows Marcus into the kitchen and after a bit of "chit chat", he convince Kylie to give him some oral pleasure.  Unfortunately, she doesn't realize that she is being video taped by some people through the kitchen window and Marcus as well, with his phone.  I guess she just kept her eye on the prize.
  Anyway by the time lunch hour rolls around on Monday, everybody at school has seen Kylie's blowjob video and she feels as though she is the laughing stock of the school.  Also, Marcus' girlfriend is pissed at her and wants to beat her, so she ditches school and tries to head home but when she gets into her car, Marcus hops in too.  He apologizes, tells her he didn't know that they were being video taped and he needs her to tell the principal that he had nothing to do with that video going up on the internet.  Kylie tells him to get lost and takes off home.  Sadly, while trying to wash the shame of this terrible day away in the shower, which never works by the way, her mom confronts her and tells her how ashamed she is of her and doesn't know how she could do such a thing.  This makes Kylie feel better..., no, wait the opposite..., worse and she falls into the fetal position in the shower and cries her sorrows away.  Thanks mom!
  However,  it's Halloween and she still has a babysitting job to do.  So after some supportive words being screamed at her by her mom, "I wouldn't hire you as a babysitter, because of what you did" and "You really need to stand up for yourself", Kylie gets in her car and drives what seems like a million miles away to her babysitting job.  When she gets to the impressive home, she meets the father who introduces her to the kids and gives her a quick tour of the place.  She is given instructions on what time the kids should eat and go to bed, then right before he leaves to go to the party, his wife who is a Vice Principal or something takes Kylie aside and tells her that, "She wouldn't let her babysit for her, but they had no other choice".  And with that encouraging remark, the parents are off to a party until 1 am and Kylie has to take care of their precious children.
  The evening goes by quickly and nobody really comes this far out to trick or treat, so when 9 pm rolls around, Kylie puts the kids to bed as instructed.  She goes back downstairs to watch TV and then there is a ring at the door.  She goes to answer it and sees a kid in a Halloween pig mask outside.  She opens the door and the kid says nothing but Kylie know the deal and goes back inside to get some candy for this weird kid.  After grabbing a handful of candy, she returns to the door and sees that the kid as backed up a few paces, so she walks outside to put the candy in the bag.  However once outside, another person in a pig mask tries to grab her but luckily Kylie is too quick and makes it back into the house and locks the door.  The pig people bang on the door and are trying to find a way in, Kylie calls the police but they tell her that because she is so far away that it will take some time to get there.  Under siege and terrified, can Kylie save herself and the kids from these horrible pig people before the police arrive or are they trapped and their bacon cooked?

  For a first time feature, I think this was pretty good.  Director Audrey Cummings paces the film well and captures the vibe of a home invasion film.  Very reminiscent of films like, "You're Next" and "The Strangers", the terror comes from the hopeless feeling of being trapped in your own environment and not knowing what these masked strangers want or what they're going to do next and this comes across very well in the film.
  Also, the cinematography looks fantastic and Michael Jari Davidson (Mourning Has Broken, Anything Goes) gives us some gorgeous shots of some terrifying imagery.  With a lot of lower budget films, some first time feature filmmakers (say that three times fast), aren't able to capture the right look or tone of the project but in this case Davidson really nails it.

  This is an indie film and I can just imagine how hard it was to get made, so I'm going to take it easy but I do have some suggestions for any future endeavors.  There might be SPOILERS in the next couple paragraphs, so be weary before reading.  I found that there was a real lack of sympathy for Kylie character.  There was nobody that stood up for her, which was really weird.  She didn't seem to have any friends at school and even though she was a minor, the police were not called by any parents or teachers to have this video brought down.  She was never treated as a victim of a horrendous and humiliating trick, which in these times is a little unrealistic.  If she had just one friend or even her mom to take her side then, I think the story would be a little bit better and seem more real.
  Also, this is a SPOILER so be aware!  There is so much focus on this blow job incident that I expected that there would be more to it throughout the film but there really isn't.  Which I think is a missed opportunity for more bloodshed and mayhem.  Why doesn't Marcus's girlfriend and her friends come out to the house to try and play a shitty Halloween prank on Kylie & get murdered?  Why not make them the killers?  What about the guys who shot the video, what repercussions do they have for ruining this poor girls' life?  There are just a lot of unanswered questions here and if it  wasn't going to be prevalent to the rest of the film, why harp on it so much at the beginning?  doesn't make sense to me.
  SPOILER Although I did enjoy the ending for what it was, I thought it was a little over the top. What! I know, I enjoy a good massacre like the next guy but again it didn't really make sense and there is no way that it could be possible to do that.  It stretches the imagination a little to far for my likes.  It seemed a little tacked on and rushed, which is a shame because there were possibilities to leave on a really strong note but I think it was missed.

  With that said, I still found the film to be enjoyable and would probably dig seeing it on big screen if the opportunity arose.  The direction is good and it has a ton of good horror elements in the story, along with some real masterful cinematography.  So, if your looking for a film that will make you lock your doors at night and avoid answering the door on Halloween, this film is for you.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Satanic Summer: Devil's Rain (1975)

Devil's Rain (1975)
Director: Robert Fuest
Starring: Ernest Borgnine, William Shatner, and Ida Lupino
Running Time: 86 min

  I was really surprised that I had never heard of this film until just recently.  Not only does it have a prominent 70's cast such Borgnine, Shatner and Tom Skerritt but it was directed by Robert Fuest, the man who brought us the "Dr. Phibes" films! And on top of that the Satanic stunt/realism coordinator is none other than Anton LeVey.  So, this should be an interesting film on all levels of craziness.

  Mark Phifer arrives home to find his mother, Mrs. Phifer and their live-in old man, John upset.  She tells him that Corbis has found them and he wants the book!  Suddenly, they hear a familiar voice outside and they leave the house to see who it is.  It's Mark's father, kind of.  He has no eyes, a gooey looking face and tells them that Corbis wants the book!  And they don't go to an abandoned mining down to drop it off, then they're all doomed forever!  Mark feeds his creepy pops full of lead with his shotgun and they watch in horror as this creature melts into wax in front of them.  They go back into the house and Mrs. Phifer refuses to give up the book to anyone because she knows that it will bring doom to them all!  She gives Mark a magical amulet and he leaves to talk some sense into this Corbis fellow but when he gets to his car which is only three feet away, he hears screams from the house.  Mark dashes back to the house to find John hanging upside down, his mother kidnapped and the house ransacked!  He JUST went to the car.  But, he cuts down John and heads back to his car to go and face this evil monster Corbis.  Nobody hangs John upside down in a corner, nobody!
  When he arrives in the abandon mining down, he meets up with Corbis immediately and over a magical cup of water at a hitching post, they decide to have a battle of faiths for the souls of his family members.  Apparently, Corbis is a satanic priest, who may or may not do magic for children's parties on the side but as a considerable in with the big D and Mark, well, he has a magical amulet and God on his side.  So, they go into a church and say prayers at each other until Mark gets fed up and pulls a gun on Corbis.  Corbis laughs and says, "Is THAT your faith?" which humiliates Mark, who then runs out of the church and into the street, where he is surrounded by disciples of Corbis.  Corbis uses the old, change your amulet into a snake gag on Mark, which disarms him and they take Mark back into the church to torture him to find out where this magical book is.  The end.
  No wait, Mark has another brother, Tom Preston, that wasn't mentioned at all in the first part of the movie and who's wife, Julie is psychic.  During a DEMONstration of her psychic powers at a university, she sees all the things that just happened in the first part and gives a ton of spoilers away for the rest of the film in a fast forward montage clip in her head.  She tells Tom right away and they head back to the old homestead to grab the book and battle the evil Corbis once and for all!  However, Tom leaves his psychic wife at the homestead because Corbis is too dangerous, so instead of bringing someone with unlimited psychic powers, he takes a gun? Dummy.  Will Tom be able to finally defeat the evil Corbis and save his family, who forgot to mention that he exists in the first half of the film or will he and his psychic wife give up the book and become satanic minions like so many before them?  

This really is a terrible film buuuuuut, it's so bad that there is a certain amount of charm to it and it did make me laugh at lot.  Director Robert Fuest (The Abominable Dr. Phibes, many ABC's After School Specials) is so completely all over the place with this film, that at one point Corbis and Phifer are arguing about what whether Phifer or Preston is Mark's last name, and one wonders did this satanist not catch the right guy?  It's explained later on in the film in a confusing flashback that really brings more questions to the table that don't get explained throughout the rest of the film.  Also, the whole Tom Preston story in this, seems completely tacked on and I don't even know if Tom Skerritt (Alien, War Hunt), who plays Tom and William Shatner (Kingdom of Spiders, Visiting Hours) even share a scene together.  It's like here's Movie A and here's Movie B and Fuest is desperately trying to mash them together.
 The cast is decent, in a bad movie kind of way, Shatner is of course Shatner in this.  His unusual speaking style with the dramatic pauses for no reason are very prevalent in this film.  Also, John Travolta (Battlefield Earth, Chains of Gold) has top billing in this but this being his first movie before Welcome Back, Kotter became a hit, so he is just one of the satanic drones and I don't even remember seeing his face without makeup.  However, my favourite has to be Ernest Borgnine (Deadly Blessing, Convoy), who plays the satanic leader Corbis.  He gives a good performance but the best part of this is that he turns into a demon goat thing, which totally cracked me up. 

  Which brings me to some of my favourite parts of this film, which is the special effects.  Although, relatively cheap looking effects ( I could be wrong) and using some time lapse techniques, the make-up crew are the ones who save this film for me.  For one, they do the wonderful make-up job on Ernest Borgnine, which alone is a reason to watch this movie but they also create these creepy druid, eyeless creatures that bleed wax and white goo when they get shot.  It's actually pretty cool looking at the end when Tom (Tom Skerrit) is battling them, there is some serious demon druid carnage.
  Also, I loved the ending and I was actually surprised at what happens at the end.  No, they don't go all go out for ice cream, but there is actually a solid twist here that is creepy, strange and enjoyable.
  On a side note, as I mentioned before that this had Anton LaVey, Leader of the satanic church working as the Satanic stunt/realism coordinator, so one has to wonder if this is what he imagined when he was preforming the secret rights at his church.  Did he believe that he would turn into a demon goat and be a vessel for the devil? Who knows?

  Is this the best horror movie that I've ever seen in my life?  No, not even close, but if you dig MST3K films than you will probably enjoy this as well.  This film has a nonsensical, all over the gambit story line but does have some special effects and very shatneresque acting moments for the entire cast.  So, if you are looking for a satanic film that will make you chuckle and confuse you at times, than burn some incense, chant the words and pop this into your machine and prepare for a hellish evening of fun.