Mr. "Boobs, Blood, and Bad Words" himself, Daniel Fried, called me out last night about the infrequent number of updates here at VHS Summer recently. And if you must know why things have slowed down over the last few weeks, I'll tell you. About ten months ago, I ran out of shelf space in my den. All my acquisitions since then have formed precarious towers that sway to and fro in the A.C. current like rigid palm trees. I keep having nightmares where one of these structures topples onto me, leaving me crippled in a tomb made of VHS. Plus, I'm getting really fucking tired of having to play a game of Jenga any time I wanna watch "Warlock."
That said, I've had to shell out some bucks for some renovations, so I can finally re-organize this mess. Money and time have been scarce, but I'll try to manage at least one update a week. Here are just a few of the titles I've gotten in recently.
PSYCHIC KILLER (1975)
Based on the word “psychic” in the title, I was expecting some proto “Patrick” action. However, what we get is something slightly more original, with a killer using astral projection to get back at the people responsible for his wrongful imprisonment. A familiar name to anyone who knows shit about sixties and seventies television, this gem was directed by Ray Danton. Somehow, he manages to make this feel like TV horror in the process, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This is a recommended but roughly made film with a unique centerpiece subject.
SLUGS: THE MOVIE (1988)
Through the seventies and into the early eighties, there was a major wash of horror and sci-fi that zeroed in on industrialization's impact on the ecological system. The formula was simple. Greedy humans pervert nature indirectly with their unscrupulous activities, and nature strikes back viciously. I call it "hippie horror," and while "Slugs" is a later effort in that sub-genre, it wields the same "will we ever learn" moralist edge. This was directed by Juan Piquer Simón, best known for his Frankenstein-meets-chainsaw-massacre epic "Pieces." This particular film is probably the only other thing he's done worth seeing though. Most eighties horror develops a camp sheen with time, but this sucker slid out in an afterbirth of nacho cheese.
More hippie horror bullshit, here, as rats get into grain contaminated by growth hormone and go into a 'roid rage. This is high on my viewing priority list primarily because it was directed by the late Robert Clouse, who helmed both “Enter the Dragon,” and Bruce Lee’s posthumous “Game of Death.” This is unique in that Clouse is the only Bruce Lee director to go on to direct a Bruceploitation flick. Clouse is responsible for a bevy of other cultish martial arts films, including "Black Belt Jones," "Gymkata," and Cynthia Rothrock's “China O’Brien" films. He also worked on the incredibly underrated TV show, “The Master,” in which Lee Van Cleef teaches Timothy Van Patten how to be a ninja. I briefly touched on another film he did a few months ago, entitled "The Pack," which is also kind of hippie horror-ish. “Rats” also stars Scatman Crothers in a breakout role as a doddering old negro. Check it out.
OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN (1983)
Holy shit, this looks fucking incredible. Peter Weller moves into a dream home with his family only to find it is occupied by an army of rats. Weller soon becomes obsessed with ridding his abode of this rodent infestation, often resorting to destructive lengths in order to win the colony war. On top of that, it was directed by the dude who did "Cobra!" And underneath it all, there simmers a disdain toward corporate
Cancerously inept technical ability results in a poorly executed film, which, strangely enough, enhances this sequel’s dark humor. I have no doubt that tongue almost tore through cheek when the marsupial variation of the lycanthrope was pitched. This is a grossly misunderstood film, trampled by more austere horror fans who approach this sequel like it's some kind of black tie affair. Drenched in satire and with visuals verging on psychedelic, "The Howling III" is so bizarre it can be off-putting to most viewers. Most horror fans have a stick lodged firmly up their a-holes, which makes it impossible for them to lighten up. Have a couple beers, sit back, and don't try to somehow tether this sequel to the other films in the series, and you'll find yourself pleasantly surprised.
A side note: the "Howling" films were based on a trilogy of novels by horror author Gary Brandner. None of the films have been overtly faithful to his work, but I always thought it was hilarious that Brandner’s novels usually sat right beside the novelizations for the films which are based on his original novels. That’s some Escher painting shit right there. If you’re interested in revisiting the series, I’d actually recommend you pick up Brander’s books from Amazon first. Almost every film struggles in its own strange way to borrow elements from his work, and it's kind of cool to see how each film corresponds with all three books. Hopefully someday someone will produce a Howling trilogy that’s faithful to the actual novels, which are actually pretty awesome.
Christ, this is a phenomenal piece of work. The most BAFFLING thing about this movie is that it was directed by Oscar winner Robert Wise, who did one of my favorite films of all time, "The Haunting." This is the motherfucker who also did "West Side Story" and the "Sound of Music" here, directing some vaguely post apocalyptic
FAUST: LOVE OF THE DAMNED (2000)
There is no way you can make a faithful film version of Quinn and Vigil's "Faust" that does not include multiple close ups of full on vaginal and anal penetration and at least six actual on-screen deaths. I mean, this is a comic book that somehow made snakes coming out of pussies germaine to the plot. When I was a kid, the original "Faust" comic was a taboo title they kept locked away behind the counter with the rest of the jerk-off material. And it wasn't just Vigil's excruciatingly detailed depiction of deviant sex that made it the most transgressive title of its day, but it was the fact that all of it was draped in occult-brand gore. Every issue sold like hotcakes, to the point that multiple pressings were necessary. Over the years, there were a lot of rumblings of a "Faust" film, but most of them disintegrated. Back in 2002, I was actually blind-sided by the box for "Faust: Love of the Damned" while browsing a local video store. I had no idea a film had even been made. If someone had actually made a film that was loyal to the comic, it would be the most ass-kicking titty-fest ever. And then I saw Brian Yuzna's name on it and kept walking. To me, Yuzna is the John Russo to Stuart Gordon's George A Romero. Fuck that guy. Nevertheless, I think I'm finally ready to sit through this piece of shit.
STONE COLD (1991)
Alright, assholes, let me clear this up for you. This is Bill Forsythe in an episode of one of the greatest TV shows known to man, C.H.i.P.s, performing the smash hit "Pain" with his band Pain.
Okay, firstly, why has no one covered this song yet? Secondly, Bill Forsythe kicks ass. Know him. Fear him. In fact, his name isn't Bill Forsythe anymore. It's "Holy shit, it's Bill Forsythe!" Get it together, alright? That said, Holy Shit, it's Bill Forsythe! is in this movie, which automatically means it rules. However, it gets better. See, action movies used to kick ass until Al Qaeda turned everyone into sensitive Seals and Croft loving faggots. Some of the stuff that happens in this movie is incomprehensible by today's standards. For instance, you will never again see an un-manned motorcycle crash through the top floor window of a capital building, and hit a helicopter, causing a mid air explosion that drops and destroys a bunch of cop cars. Kinda makes you cry a little, doesn't it?
The movie stars football legend Brian Bosworth as Joe Huff, a man so badass that even his fucking leather jacket has a mullet. I'm not lying. Anyway, Huff is his own dude with a prejudice against the rules. After interrupting the opening scene from "Cobra," Huff is fired for making Stallone look like an Elizabethan pussy. The FBI is so impressed with his inability to follow orders that they enlist him to infiltrate a contraband dealing biker gang run by leathery Lance Henriksen. But when Joe finds his cover compromised by some stupid hoe, and he is forced to put the titties down and take justice into his own hands by making every fucking thing blow up.
Ever know one of those guys who everyone suspects is gay because he goes out of his way to prove he's not gay by making fun of other gay dudes and calling everyone queer? Well, this movie is a lot like that guy. It tries very hard to be macho, and you know what? I totally buy it.
A year after "Stone Cold" was released, a surprisingly lesser known film best known by the title "Beyond the Law" went straight to cable. Starring Charlie Sheen, the film follows the story of a law enforcement officer who's fired for his unorthodox procedure, and then recruited by the FBI to go undercover with an outlaw biker gang to help make busts. This film was actually based on the true life account of officer Daniel Saxon, who was initiated into the inner circle of a notorious biker gang for the FBI. The similarities between both films, plot-wise, are striking, and I have no doubt that both films are a treatment of Saxon's story. The major differences between both films are that "Stone Cold" is ridiculously over the top and coursing with testosterone, while "Beyond the Law" plays the story from a more dramatic angle. Also, Charlie Sheen's jacket doesn't have a mullet.