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.

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.