Saturday, September 24, 2011

DEATH DRUG (ACADEMY ENTERTAINMENT - 1978)

On October 30th, at the Ritz Alamo Drafthouse in the downtown Austin vomitorium district, Video Hate Squad's third edition brings to you a tale of pressing importance: "Death Drug" starring Philip Michael Thomas! Here's what badass at large Lars Nilsen has to say about this unique movie going experience that simply cannot be missed:
"Just in time for Halloween, a different kind of horror story. This time it's not a demented killer with an axe or a power tool, it's not a supernatural menace from another dimension, it's a drug that makes real life a horror movie: PCP. Angel Dust. Sherman Hemsley. When up and coming musician Philip Michael Thomas ries to buy a stick of weed to celebrate his record deal, the lowlife dealer gived him a stick of the sherm, which immediately fractures his reality into a million pieces. Soon his comb turns into an alligator, the pipes in his bathroon turn into snakes and his life turns to shit. As usual, his friends try to help him but he goes farther and farther off the deep end until finally, in an astonishing massive freakout scene in the supermarket, he must confront the ultimate PCP apocalypse! Made in 1978 but not released on video until Thomas had achieved success in Miami Vice, this demented film is only aided by the new, hyper-serious Philip Michael Thomas wraparound segments and music video(!) added for the 1986 video release. This movie is it!"
Lives will be changed! Tickets are only a dollar! If you can deny yourself the opportunity to watch this on the big screen after viewing the following clip, then fuck off and die!



THE NESTING (WARNER HOME VIDEO - 1981)

Picked up a pristine clamshell copy of this Warner Home Video release last week. Novelist Lauren Cochran moves into her dream home which turns out to be a brothel haunted by ghost hos. Actually, that's over simplifying things, but there really is enough atmosphere here to make you a little nervous if you're alone. Check out the trailer, courtesy of Blue Underground.

THE SURVIVALIST (VESTRON VIDEO - 1987)

"Most liberals will hate this movie for it surely tells it like it is... if you are a fan of big government or dislike survivalists stay away from this one" - IMDb user, Nolan Price of Shawnee, OK.

If I am ever diagnosed with a terminal illness I’m going to put this movie on, because every moment of it feels like a fucking eternity. I’m not exactly sure what happened here. This thing has so many great things going for it. You have Steve Railsback as Jack Tillman, the survivalist of which the title speaks. You have Marjoe Gortner as Lt. Youngman, a bat shit leader of the National Guard who squanders his resources during a crisis to snuff out Tillman for making him look stupid in front of some Oakies. The bare bones are promising: Tillman, a man who’s been preparing for the breakdown of law and order in the face of imminent world war, braves riots and upstart warlords to find his son. All these elements sewn together should make for a very entertaining movie. Unfortunately, there is one killer ingredient in the bowl that turns this thing into molasses: padding. Virtually every establishing shot is BLED TO DEATH for the purpose of extending the running time of a film that should have only been (and probably was) about 70 minutes long. There's driving. Lots of driving. Lots of shots of cars driving down winding roads. And then there's running. My god, it feels like people are running through brush on a loop. Night time establishing shots of the moon that go on for fucking eons. I won't even get into the marathon shots of Gortner's helicopter continually landing and lifting off, or the battery of pointless aerial shots they sandwich in between them. While this film is not without basic story telling problems, it is this minutia of excessively dull bullshit that drowns the pacing and brings on the yawn.

The story itself is sort of like a Tea Partier’s wet dream. In some remote and unpopulated area of Russia, a nuclear war head is detonated. Naturally, the US gets blamed for this, and Ruskies are burning for blood. Media attention sparks the decline of American civilization, and people almost immediately start rioting. Our hero Tillman gets the news while he’s grilling, and immediately decides to ride a tractor into town to get his strong box from the local bank. Lt. Youngman, played by Gortner, plays a self-important motorcycle riding hoodlum who also happens to be a higher up in the National Guard. Now, hilariously, all the cops and the troops in this movie are played by creepy long hairs, hippies, and bikers, all of whom take advantage of the situation. These counter culture scum have infiltrated every facet of local government and have been waiting for just such an opportunity to pounce. THIS COULD ALL HAPPEN, MAN! BEWARE!

When Youngman tries to stop Tillman from getting his gold out of the bank, Tillman pretty much makes him look like a total boob by running over his motorcycle with his tractor. While they continually allude to the fact that these two characters have some sort of sordid history, Tillman’s ultimate disrespect toward Youngman spawns a die-hard vendetta.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (literally), Tillman’s wife and daughter are sexually assaulted and shot to death by trio of senselessly marauding rotten-toothed hippies. The best part is that they don’t even break in. Instead, they pretty much just strut in because the survivalist’s wife forgot to lock the goddamn door. This was just one of many inane details that bothered me about this movie. Anyway, Tillman gets back to find his family butchered. His daughter’s hanging on by a thread, so he rushes her to a hospital. There, he meets up with family friends The Ryans, a husband and wife doctor/nurse team played by consummate weasel Cliff De Young and the aging Susan Blakely. Unfortunately, Tillman’s daughter is DOA, and the rioters outside have resorted to using TNT to get into the waiting room.

With the situation rapidly deteriorating, Tillman realizes he’s got to go find his son, who’s been sent away to sleep-away camp for the summer. It’s only a matter of time before things go sour for the Ryans, but De Young’s character is adamant that he obey his oath and stay to help the blood crazed denizens outside. Tillman says “fuck that” and knocks his pussy ass out, and then takes the doctor and his wife on a road trip to find his kid.

Meanwhile, Gortner gets a Colonel to sign off on a helicopter, and he’s soon stalking Tillman through the air.

The second killer ingredient here is the sheer illogical nature of the characters, in particular Cliff De Young’s doctor character, Vincent Ryan. All this dude does is whine, and bitch and complain, and he seems eager to break away from Tillman, even though he’s their only source of protection. In fact, Vincent and his wife Linda (Blakely) decide to part ways with Tillman, which gets them into trouble with some bikers. Vince gets his nose broken and his wife’s narrow corridor almost gets renovated into a double wide hallway, but Tillman shows up with his rifle and starts blowing biker scum away. Afterward, Vince is still eager to brave the potential gang rape of his wife by leaving the security Tillman provides just so he can go help others. That’s pretty unbelievable, but it gets much worse. What practically murders the film is the ensuing romance between nurse Linda and Tillman.

Once Nurse Linda realizes that her husband is a total pencil neck twerp incapable of protecting her, she starts making eyes at Tillman. De Young gets the drift and splits. In a pointless excursion, both Tillman and Nurse Linda find an abandoned hotel somewhere and decide to fuck. This dude’s wife just got raped and murdered by Neo-Mansonites, and not even 48 hours later he’s already nailing some other broad? What an asshole. Hilariously, amidst the approaching post apocalypse, these two seem more concerned about how they’re going to explain to Tillman’s son why he has a new mommy now.

Eventually, they find his kid hiding in some pre-designated cave. I guess they had a contingency plan in case the world went to hell while he was away at summer camp. The ending is a bunch of nonsense with Lt. Youngman commanding the Hell’s Angel’s chapter of the National Guard to kill off Tillman, but that obviously doesn’t work out well for them because, after all, this film is titled “The Survivalist.”

The bright side is pretty bleak here. Scrubs-clad Cliff De Young plays a great blubbering vagina. Railsback is here, but he’s not nearly coked out enough to be entertaining. You do get to see Blakely’s tits, but even at this point she’s old and dried out, so who cares anyway? Even Gortner is only minimally entertaining with a catch phrase that gets old very quickly. With a lot of trimming, this might have been a smoother ride, but as it stands “The Survivalist” contains all the boredom and anxiety of an eight hour car ride through West Texas. There is only the hope that you might fall sleep until you reach your destination. The only reason this is slightly better is that you can at least hit eject.

For the morbidly curious, here are the first fifteen minutes of the film, courtesy TheRareMovieGuy. Admittedly, it's good for some laughs, but it deteriorates quickly.

The film was apparently based on the cultishly popular pulp series, "The Survivalist" by Jerry Ahern, though they seem to share little outside of a few themes.

Friday, September 23, 2011

DAGON (LIONS GATE HOME ENTERTAINMENT - 2001)

Stuart Gordon has solidified a reputation as one of the horror genre’s heavyweights through a very narrow margin of good work. The immediate standouts of course are the classic “Re-Animator,” and from my point of view, the superior “From Beyond.” Personally, “Dolls” only squeaks by because it’s heavily greased up in nostalgia. Outside of a few titles, Gordon’s resume is rather disappointing. There were strained efforts to rekindle Gordon’s heat over the years, though their failure had more to do with the economics of Full Moon. I remember sitting through the not-even-awful-enough-to-be-laughable “Robot Jox” and thinking, “holy shit, this is by the guy who made 'Re-Animator?'” It wasn’t until the “Castle Freak” affair that I was fully discouraged from ever giving another shit about what Gordon was doing. As with most Full Moon films at the time, the only cool thing about the movie was the action figure tie-in, and even still, the movie itself was impossibly shitty, so it made it hard to even wanna own the thing.

Fast forward to a cozy, rainy afternoon some time in the mid-2000s fit to be wasted on Sci-Fi channel originals. This was back before some woman had disfigured the network’s reputation with her gynocentric re-titling. I was probably poised for my third horrible feature of the day when Brian Yuzna’s Executive Producer credit prompted eye-rolling. But wait… hold on. Directed by Stuart Gordon? This was a winning combination. Yuzna had sporadic hits with the live action “Guyver,” “Return of the Living Dead III,” and I even really loved “Bride of Re-Animator.” The works that defined Gordon as one of the “masters of horror” were produced by Yuzna, and it was very apparent that once that team parted ways, the quality of Gordon’s work declined. Say what you want about some of his movies, bottom line is that Yuzna is a great producer, and Charles Band is not.

The film that once again united Yuzna and Gordon was titled “Dagon,” yet another HP Lovecraft inspired horror jaunt, this time inspired by “The Shadow over Insmouth.” Ten minutes in, and it was very apparent that these two guys were still very capable of creating palpable atmosphere – something Gordon’s post-“Dolls” productions lacked completely.

While sailing the Mediterranean with his girlfriend and another couple, things go horribly awry for workaholic nerd Paul Marsh when their yacht runs aground amidst a storm. Luckily, or rather unluckily, they are just off the shore of a rustic fishing town, and so Paul and his better half brave the waves to find help. But there’s something strange about the small town of Imboca. For one, feels strangely empty, save for a few shrouded lurkers, which do nothing to promote the sense of security you want from a so-called populated area. It doesn’t take long before shit hits the fan and Paul finds himself on the run from a township of mutinous, gilled fish mongers, whom we learn pray to the ancient god of the depths known as Dagon. But entwined with terror is a sense of familiarity about this place. While hiding out, he chances upon Uxia (played by the stunning Macarena G√≥mez), a girl who’s been a part of recent reoccurring dreams. Not only is Paul equally familiar to her, but she also seems to hold the key to his destiny.

Rarely do so-called Lovecraft adaptations closely resemble their source. That’s been the main criticism from fans for years. However, since most of Lovecraft’s stories are relatively short, they require a great deal of embellishment. Of all the Lovecraft films floating around, “Dagon” is easily in the top percentile in terms of its faithfulness to the source material, though it still takes quite a few liberties. Gordon’s robust reverence for the Lovecraft universe feeds and makes healthy the overall spirit of the production, while Yuzna brings great value to the production. Everything from the production design, locations, and special effects are wonderful. All ingredients spun together conjure an atmosphere strong enough to stand toe to toe with something kind of Giallo. Not that I’m saying this is Giallo, but the vibe is rich enough to compete in that class.

My only criticism toward the film will probably seem odd to most, but there is a fairly graphic torture scene where an urchin who’s been aiding Paul has the flesh skinned from his face. It’s not that I’m squeamish, but this part kind of feels out of place compared to the rest of the film. Otherwise, this stands as one of Gordon and Yuzna’s best efforts to date. It’s a shame we never got a follow up.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

JUNGLE WARRIORS (MEDIA - 1984)

At one time, people actually made interesting movies. I just don't understand what happened. There are a limited number of people out there who still produce what you could call "exploitation flicks," where women are physically molested and abused for the sake of entertainment, but they're generally too smutty and serious to be fun. I don't understand why they give mentally imbalanced dudes who dress like Joe Coleman, dye their hair black and have no sense of humor money to make tribute films to their ex-girlfriend issues.

Exploitation films now verge on dirty secrets, or something closer to pornography, whereas they used to be a healthy part of fringe culture. Where did all the overly-macho, overly-sexed action flicks go? Why isn't anything fun anymore? There seems to be very little joy in anyone's work these days. Everything is just way too serious and way too direct. Sure, the people who churned out shit like "Jungle Warriors" were more than likely motivated by the opportunity to make a return on their investment. They knew people liked explosions, violence, and tits. Twenty-some years later, the public has been cheated out of what it once loved through the shaming voice of the moral minority. Our attitudes have regressed in many ways. If someone made a movie like this today, it would probably start riots of ecstasy. It's okay to enjoy this shit. Really. It doesn't make you deviate.

Anyway, this movie rules. A bunch of models fly down to South America for an exotic photo shoot and are quickly captured by a drug czar's militia. Once brought back to his pleasure dome, they are menaced by Sybill Danning. Meanwhile, the Mafia has arrived to discuss business. What a fucking plot! And if you weren't already sold, here's a little trivia tidbit on how Marjoe Gortner wound up replacing Dennis Hopper in this flick:
"Dennis Hopper was arrested by Mexican police for wandering naked around a village near where the film was shooting. He was fired and replaced by Marjoe Gortner. He later said he had a drug problem at the time and didn't even remember being arrested, let alone being fired from the picture."
Check out the trailer, courtesy HumungusFromDaHood.

SLAPSTICK OF ANOTHER KIND (VESTRON VIDEO - 1982)

This has been described as the absolute worst Vonnegut adaptation ever. Somehow in my head that statement translates as "fucking amazing." Starring Jerry Lewis, Madeline Kahn, and Marty Feldman, everything about this just looks monstrously bad, but even in the most horrible wreckage can be found a sort of beauty. This could be a best of the worst contender.

NAKED VENGEANCE (LIGHTNING VIDEO - 1985)

Man, Carla Harris cannot catch a break! First, her good Samaritan husband gets gunned down by a big city criminal when he tries to break up an attack. Then, in a state of mourning, she decides to visit her parents' rural home to recover. Shortly after arriving, she is harassed and eventually gang raped by a gaggle of white trash who also kill her mom and dad. Fuck man, even "Death Wish"’s Paul Kersey managed to spread his bad luck out between several films. And if what will obviously wind up being some pretty heavy baggage wasn't enough, the sheriff shows no real interest in nailing the creeps who assaulted Carla and killed her folks! Grief turns to a thirst for vengeance which can only be quenched through brute vigilantism. I haven't seen this yet, but it has been described as better than your average rape/revenge flick, surpassing many of its predecessors, including "I Spit On Your Grave." Directed by exploitation powerhouse Cirio H Santiago, I’m sure this is bound to be pretty good. Check out the badass trailer, courtesy AussieRoadShow.


VHS SUMMER LIVE EVENTS THIS FALL!

To commemorate what is easily the greatest holiday ever conceived by mankind, VHS Summer has coordinated a series of ass-stompingly killer double-features to ring in the Halloween spirit! If you’re in Austin, we urge you to come out to the following screenings with us at Beerland, located on Red River between 7th and 8th Street.

As always, we’ll be digitally projecting the actual VHS Tapes onto the big screen and running sound through our PA. Our concessions stand also vomits free popcorn upon request! A few people I know have expressed concern about seeing movies in this environment, and I'd like to dispel any negative ideas people might have about our screenings. If you’ve been worried that it will be an unpleasant viewing experience with a bunch of drunken hoodlums riding their motor bikes through the club while you're trying to watch the movies, this is not at all the case. We have comfortable seating, reasonably priced drinks, and while it's a different crowd, rest assured they are there to see something unique. There is no shouting at the screen. So, come have fun.


SEPTEMBER 25th: “BLOOD SONG” w/ “BLOOD HARVEST
This month’s theme celebrates slasher films starring 60s pop stars as their culprits! The first film of the evening, “Blood Song” stars the terminally adorable Donna Wilkes from the classic “Angel” as a young girl with a psychic connection to a crazed serial killer on the loose. In the midst of home drama, Wilkes is continually plagued by hyper-violent imagery of a flute-playing mangler’s grizzly deeds as he wheels his way to her locale. The psycho in question is played by none other than former Teen Magazine sensation Frankie Avalon. Guys, no shit, he’s actually very convincing as a mentally frayed stalker with a hair-trigger temper. Come see Frankie like never before as he raves, rapes, rips, and rends his way toward poor Donna in this incredibly strange supernatural slasher!

However, my friends, we have saved the most surreal for last. Closing out the night will be the budget horror classic “Blood Harvest,” which tells the story of a woman who returns home to her rural family farm home to be plagued by a mystery killer. This movie is a total POS, but what makes it so utterly compelling and legitimately nightmarish is that it stars sixties pop sensation TINY TIM as a minstrel clown. Tim is creepy all on its own, but his presence here heightens the already eerie atmosphere to something that will fuck you out of some sleep. Seriously, Michael Meyers is some baby shit compared to Tim in clown makeup. Come get scarred for life!



OCTOBER 9th: “NIGHT OF THE DEMONS” w/ “POPCORN”
This event will be co-hosted by fellow VHS enthusiast and French Inhales frontman Dan X.O. We fully endorse his selections.

“So much can be said, but so few have seen the cinematic splatter work that is “Night of the Demons.” Sure, it's got your run-of-the-mill “possessed teens in a haunted house” plot, but never has it been delivered with such style and humor. It also has a great soundtrack featuring Bauhaus and simulated punk songs from the film’s composers. It also stars Linnea Quigley (“Return of the Living Dead,” “Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers”). All constructed by Kevin Tenney, the man who brought you the classic “Witchboard.” I can assure you that after watching this, you will never look at a tube of lipstick the same way again.


Next up is the highly underrated slasher “Popcorn,” and it is surely a treat. A group of co-eds are stalked and killed in a theater during an all night horror movie marathon. Yes, the premise is familiar, but this little nugget has got a few things going for it that most slashers don't: really fucking awesome and elaborate kill sequences, Kelly Jo Minter from “A Nightmare on Elm Street 5” and “The People Under the Stairs,” and a villain so charismatic and likable that it’s shocking that he didn’t wind up with his own franchise. Even the film's protagonist claims "that makes perfect sense" after the killer reveals their motive!”
- Dan X.O.



OCTOBER 16th: “TRICK OR TREAT” w/ “SHOCK EM DEAD”
This edition will be co-hosted by one of our favorite people on the planet, Gerard Cosloy, part of the brain trust behind Matador records, proprietor of 12XU records, author of sports blog “Can’t Stop The Bleeding,” and man about town.

“Through the miracle of backwards-masking, deceased hair metal merchant Sammy Curr returns from the grave to fuck with mourning fan Eddie Weinbauer (Skippy from “Family Ties”) and extract violent retribution from Eddie's bullying classmates. The part of Curr was supposed to be played by WASP's Blackie Lawless but perhaps running out of cash after granting tiny parts to Gene Simmons ("Nuke", the local DJ) and Ozzy Osbourne, they instead opted for former "Solid Gold" dancer Tony Fields (a name that doesn't quite signify "demonic metal icon"). "Trick Or Treat" was directed by Charles Martin Smith, no stranger to confusing music-related projects (his turn as middle-aged looking high school rocker George Smalley in Ron Howard's TV film "Cotton Candy" would rank as the least convincing portrayal of a rock musician...were it not for Tony Fields).


I'm sure everyone reading this is a huge fan of the broadway musical "Damn Yankees". Or perhaps the short lived CBS TV series, "A Year At The Top". Either way, the creators of "Shock 'Em Dead" really upped the ante on deal-wit-da-devil movies when they decided who better to sign a satanic pact than an aspiring metal guitarist? And what better way to reward his devotion to the dark lord than by a) making Traci Lords his lust interest, b) hiring multi-neck guitar wank wizard Michael Angelo Batio as his stunt double? Whoever said "the devil has all the best music" probably never heard Nitro, BUT I DIGRESS. "Shock 'Em Dead" has only gotten funnier over the years, and it's arguably Ms. Lords finest role… since she turned 18, anyway.”
- Gerard Cosloy

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"WE LIVE! WE LIVE STILL!"

It just occurred to me that I haven't updated this blog in over a month, which is ironic since Summer has always been my busiest season for movie watching. I am not a fan of what I like to call "the hell months." Since this Summer began, I seriously haven't watched much. As a teenager I used to spend most of the Summer in some cold, dark room with grocery bags of tapes borrowed from our local video store, Salzer's. This year, steady triple digits have turned our state into kindling. Our cowardly mail man has made himself scarce on any day that breaks 110, and the glut of tapes he's no doubt been stock piling in the back of his sweltering little Jeep have occasionally been heat-damaged.

So, my luck's been pretty bad in terms of tape hunting lately. In the meantime I've buried myself in work. A few of the people who know me pretty well are aware that I help produce hip hop videos. No shit. Here's one of the latest ones I worked on with my partner Donlee Brussel.


Not exactly my cup of tea, but it was a chance to film something. Donlee and I have two more videos ahead of us before the end of Summer, too. One of them is for a metalcore band, and will feature Scout Taylor-Compton. None of this is VHS related, I know, but I just wanted people to know what was up with me and why I'd slowed down on this sucker for the time being.

Once I'm a little less busy I'll pick up contributing to this blog again. In fact, in the tradition of the last bunch of Kickboxer entrees I did, I'm kind of thinking about doing a string of reviews on "Relentless" and its sequels.