Nazis at the Center of the Earth (2012)

Nazis at the Center of the EarthNazis at the Center of the Earth. How can you go wrong with a title like that which sounds more like a drive-in flick from the 1970s, or something that Robert Rodriguez, once upon a time, could have made under his Grindhouse banner? Well, first off – this is from the cheap film company The Asylum which is, in the most recent decade, most known for its own original Sharknado franchise. Besides that, we can mention a neverending list of shitty low-to-non budget mockbusters such as Titanic II, Transmorphers, Atlantic Rim, AVH: Alien vs. Hunter, Invasion of the Pod People, Independents’ Day (yes, really), Battle Star Wars … And the list goes on like a non-stop diarrhea of the most shameless clickbait titles to fool people with one brain cell to trick them into watching something familiar to a mainstream Hollywood film. Their Paranormal Activity Entity wasn’t the worst as far as I remember, although it’s ages since I saw it.

 

The one we’re talking about here is their own warped version of Iron Sky, only here the Nazis aren’t coming from the moon but from the depths. And mockbuster or not, the title is enough to get my attention as I eat fat turkeys like this for breakfast, and it turned out to be as fun and crazy as the title would suggest, with even more surprises. In other words; the best way to experience this loony ride is to go in blind as this review will contain some spoilers.

 

We are at the research center Niflheim in Antarctica where two scientists are out on the snowy fields, ready to sample the surface for their research. When they unfold something metallic under the snow with a swastika painted on it, they get captured by a group of Nazis wearing gas masks, and they take them to a bunker somewhere deep underground. The leader of the research team, Dr. Adrian Reinstad (Jake Busey, the son of madman Gary Busey) heads out with his crew to find them.

 

One of the crew members, named Silje, is supposed to be Norwegian, by the way. And she speaks the language just as clearly and fluently as Brad Pitt speaking Italian – or like these two guys from an episode of The X-Files.

 

Anyway – they descend into a huge, dark pit that takes them to something that at first looks like an alternative Narnia dimension. But with a further look, it’s a huge underground world with trees, plants, and a forest where a fortress can be seen in the distance. Here they meet the evil Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele (Christopher Karl Johnson), with the infamous badass nickname The Angel of Death, who performed torturous experiments on victims at the Auschwitz II concentration camp during WW2.

 

Nazis at the Center of the Earth

 

So, the big question is: why is he still alive, and what’s his agenda?

 

Wikipedia can tell us that Mengele died by drowning after he suffered a stroke while swimming in 1979. That’s of course BS and pure falsification of history as we here learn that he actually kept himself alive all these years by taking organs from victims and replacing his bones with mechanical skeletons. And with his army of Nazi zombies, he’s still experimenting, so he finally can reanimate none other than der Führer himself. The plan here is to rise up to the surface with a war spaceship, so they can finally take over the world and create the perfect Arian race. Of course.

 

The film has apparently one of the highest visual effects shot counts in an Asylum production with a budget of $200,000. And still, it looks like a Lada trying to be a Plymouth Fury flooded with empty bottles of Vodka, Smirnoff and Jägermeister. Not a single outdoor scene looks realistic with its cheap digital backgrounds. The snow vehicle we see at the beginning looks like something from PlayStation 2. We see people who are supposed to be in the distance in the fake-looking Antarctica when they’re clearly copied and pasted with lousy use of green screen. It’s also made in a serious way with actors who really try to act professionally, which just makes it more amusing. A great recipe for a funny-bad movie, for sure, and in my judgment, not made bad on purpose like the Sharknado films. There’s some decent gore here, which is the only legit quality to point out.

 

But what’s takes the cake here, or the big Golden Raspberry, if you will, is the true star of the film: Please kneel and give your salute to –  Robo-Hitler (James Maxwell Young), where Hitler’s head is attached to a cyborg machine. Yes, you heard that right. This actually took me off guard, I did nazi that coming, and my eyes teared up from laughing. Everything here is just perfect; the way he stomps with his cyborg body like a mecha boss from a Sonic the Hedgehog game, the amateur acting, the goofy faces, the whole naive, enthusiastic energy. What more is there really to say? Nazis at the Center of the Earth is an epic schlockfest and a true gem in its category which is available on Blu-ray at Amazon.com, and last time I checked, on Tubi.

 

Nazis at the Center of the Earth Nazis at the Center of the Earth Nazis at the Center of the Earth

 

Director: Joseph J. Lawson
Writer: Paul Bales
Country & year: USA, 2012
Actors: Dominique Swain, Jake Busey, Joshua Michael Allen, Christopher Karl Johnson, James Maxwell Young, Lilan Bowden, Marlene Okner, Adam Burch, Maria Pallas, Abderrahim Halaimia, Trevor Kuhn
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2130142/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Absentia (2011)

AbsentiaTricia is a woman who lives alone in a house in Glendale, California. Her husband has been missing for seven years, and the time has finally come to declare him in “dead in absentia”. This is a tough decision for Tricia, and her younger sister Callie comes to stay with her during this time. Daniel’s death certificate is being worked on, and Callie helps Tricia look for a new apartment. However, when the date for declaring him dead approaches, Tricia starts having nightmares and experiences terrifying hallucinations of him, where he appears to be angry and frustrated. Her psychologist says this all stems from the guilt she feels, but declaring him dead after all these years is still the right thing to do so she can finally move on. Callie, who is a former drug addict, tries to keep her days busy by jogging around the neighborhood, and one day she runs into a creepy tunnel where she sees a man who appears to be shocked that she can see him. He begs her to contact his son, but she assumes this man is just a confused and possibly dangerous hobo and runs off. She later comes back and leaves some food for him, but he’s not there anymore. Later, when Callie has decided to finally sign Daniel’s death certificate and get it over with, she sees a bloody and barefoot person in front of her house. When she sees that it’s Daniel, she is first a little confused as she thinks it might be yet another of her creepy hallucinations of him…but then she realizes it really is him, in flesh and blood. At the hospital, he appears to be disoriented and severely malnourished, and can only explain that he’s been “underneath”…

 

Absentia from 2011 is written, edited and directed by Mike Flanagan and produced by FallBack Plan Productions. It was partly funded by over 300 donors through a Kickstarter campaign, where the goal was to raise $15.000 and they ended up with $25.000 which was a bit more than one third of their final budget. Mike Flanagan has been serving several titles into the horror genre over the years, including Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016), Dr. Sleep (2019), the TV mini series The Haunting of Hill House (2018) and many more. While Absentia is one of his very earliest work, there is actually a little bit of an easter egg here where in the psychologist’s office we see the Oculus mirror on the wall, which had been previously used in Flanagan’s short Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man With the Plan from 2006, and was later included in his feature film Oculus from 2013.

 

This movie is definitely a slow burner, where the mystery regarding Daniel’s disappearance and the tunnel nearby keeps you guessing and curious throughout the movie. The mood is dire and depressing, with a steady build of unease. There’s a fair amount of subtlety here, which doesn’t always work in the movie’s favour, but at other times perfectly boosts the underlying feeling of unease. Like, the small detail of seeing posters nearby the creepy tunnel of missing dogs, implying that it’s not only Daniel’s that’s gone missing in that neighborhood. The small nudge to the old children’s tale The Three Billy Goats Gruff, an old Norwegian folktale which was first published in 1844, is also a nice touch where using something from old folklore and twisting it into something else in modern time.

 

While Absentia is by no means any masterpiece or a must-see, it’s still a nice watch if you want something eerie and slow-paced where it’s all more about mood than substance.

 

Absentia

 

Writer and director: Mike Flanagan
Country & year: USA, 2011
Actors: Katie Parker, Courtney Bell, Dave Levine, Justin Gordon, Morgan Peter Brown, Jamie Flanagan, Doug Jones, Scott Graham, Connie Ventress, Ian Gregory
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1610996/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uninvited (1987)

UninvitedWe’re at a genetic research facility, where a bunch of crazy scientists have decided to genetically alter a house cat into some kind of mutant. Why? Well, probably because crazed scientists always think “can we” when instead they should have been thinking “should we”. It goes just as well as one might expect: the cat escapes, leaving a trail of blood in its wake. Don’t be fooled, though, because this mutant kitty isn’t all that bad. After escaping, it meets a nice man who gives it food, who is then mugged by two thugs who steal his truck. The cat jumps on it and have them both killed, using its pussy power and serving up some instant karma right there. Go kitty! Those aren’t the only sleazebags we meet, however, as a multimillionaire by the name of Walter Graham is preparing for an escape to the Cayman Islands in order to avoid the usual: tax evasion, criminal prosecution, and all that stuff those islands provide a safe shelter from for felons like him. He’s made sure to bring with him enough money and liquor in order to make the journey pleasant. Before boarding his luxury yacht, however, he does of course make sure to bring some booty together with the booze, inviting two young nitwitted girls aboard. The girls bring along three boys as well, much to Walter’s dismay. But not only that, they also bring along…dun dun dun…a certain orange feline one of the girls just found close to the harbor! Walter protests even more about the cat, saying it’s not invited. Well, too late, everyone’s already on board and he’d better start the trip to the Caymans without further delay before even more uninvited guests ends up on deck, specifically those from the authorities. Best to haul ass out of there and get the party started! Of course, things quickly goes awry when the drunken captain gets killed by the cat after threatening it, and falls into the deep blue sea. Since no on else witnessed this, they believe it was an accident, but it so happens that one of the boys aboard is a biologist, who decides to inspect a blood sample from what they assume is the captain’s blood, and finds abnormalities in the blood cell count. It doesn’t take long before they realize they have a very dangerous uninvited guest aboard the luxury yacht, with a mutant killer kitty on the loose!

 

Uninvited is a creature feature B-horror film from 1987, written and directed by Greydon Clark. Back in the day it was released on VHS by New Star Video, and here in Norway it was released as Killer Cat. It later got a DVD release in 2009 by Liberation Entertainment, and in 2019 a remastered version was released by Vinegar Syndrome.

 

If you haven’t guessed it already: this one is totally B-cheese all over the place, topped with some catnip for good measure. It’s ridiculous as hell, which of course is part of the charm, but it’s also a bit of a mess and somewhat uneven. There are periods where things are crazy and fast-paced, and then there are periods where everything slows down before it amps up the pace again. It’s worth sitting through the more boring parts though, and of course the highlight of the movie is the cat itself. Already from the start, the mutant cat is more the hero than the villain here, where many of the characters are utter scumbags, so at first it appeared to take a bit of the “monster misunderstood and good, humans bad” trope, but the kitty doesn’t discriminate, and not only the baddies are killed. So, who are you actually supposed to root for..? Well, it doesn’t really matter in the long run, because of course you’re rooting for the cat! Which is constantly meowing during nearly all its screentime. Except it isn’t, because for some retarded reason they decided to play the two stock-sound meowing effects on repeat whenever we see the cat on screen, despite the cat’s mouth being closed. It’s both hilarious and annoying at the same time, and while I would like to say “take a shot for every time the cat meows without even opening its mouth”, I think I’d rather not, because you’d end up with alcohol poisoning before getting halfway through the movie. Yes, the constant meowing really is that much.

 

The cat itself is for the most part a cute and fluffy one, but the mutation has caused it to sometimes let loose a monstrous Mr. Hyde version from inside its own mouth. Whenever this happens, this monster crawls out of the cat’s very obviously fake head, and sometimes attack people in true Hobgoblins style (meaning the people just hold a puppet while shaking it, pretending for dear life that it’s alive and trying to kill them. Just as convincing every time). Some of the filming was indeed done on a boat, at least, as the director paid $15.000 in order to rent the luxury yacht for two weeks. But this is of course not the only place the film was shot. Like in many B-horror movies, some inventive ideas had to be used, and of course the classic of filming stuff in the director’s garage was a thing here. Other than that, there were several shots featuring a miniature of the yacht which was done in the director’s own swimming pool.

 

Uninvited is one of those B-Horror movies that makes me glad we have badges instead of ratings here at Horror Ghouls. Because, how the fuck are you supposed to properly rate a movie like this? At one hand, a simplistic take on the movie’s quality would be something akin to a 4/10, but on the other hand it’s a 8/10 when it comes to B-horror entertainment value, topped with extra cheese and overall a ridiculously fun pastime. So, if you enjoy those kinds of movies, check it out if you can. The Vinegar Syndrome releases are out of print and going for a hefty price at eBay, but it’s also available on several streaming sites.

 

Uninvited Uninvited Uninvited

 

Writer and director: Greydon Clark
Country & year: USA, 1987
Also known as: Killer Cat
Actors: George Kennedy, Alex Cord, Clu Gulager, Toni Hudson, Eric Larson, Clare Carey, Beau Dremann, Rob Estes, Shari Shattuck, Michael Holden, Austin Stoker, and a cute fluffy ginger cat
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096341/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

The First Omen (2024)

The First OmenFirst off, just let me say, in the most dry British gentleman-accent as I’m raising my glass of brandy, that: metal up your arse and Hail Satan!

 

Because who in the right mind would have thought that we’d get a pretty decent prequel to The Omen from 1976 in the year of 2024? Huh… but here we are. Unfortunately, the timing for the promotion for The First Omen couldn’t be much worse as it came straight after The Exorcist: Bieber Believer. *Fart*. People seemed to be finally fed up to the throat with soulless rehashed franchise revivals and didn’t give The First Omen much thought of the day. I was one of them. Here we fucking go again. Satan wept. Then the film came, people saw it, and I was as surprised as everyone else with the common reaction as it was better than expected. It’s a shame that the film underperformed at the box office, but as I said: bad timing. They should have waited another year when the corpse of Believer had once and for all rotted to dust and was faded from everyone’s memory. Oh, well. The motivation for giving it a chance on the silver screen peaked higher when I noticed that the film was directed and co-written by Arkasha Stevenson, who was also involved in the brilliant, sexy and satanic mini series Brand New Cherry Flavor (2021). This is her feature-length directorial debut. And she has learned from the best and knows how to direct a horror movie, that’s for sure.

 

The year is 1971 and the young woman, Maggie (Nell Tiger Free) has arrived in Rome, Italy, where she’s met by Cardinal Lawrence (Bill Nighy) to drive her to Vizzardeli Orphanage, where she is about to start a life as a nun. The place is filled with red flags (or red omens, if you will) as soon as she sets her first footsteps into the orphanage. She sees some children’s drawings on the wall, but the one that takes her attention is a more sinister drawing made by the mysterious, quiet girl Carlita (Nicole Sorace). Maggie knocks on her door to introduce herself to this Carlita, who hides behind her bed. She crawls at Maggie like a cave girl and gives her a big, wet lick on her cheek. Welcome to Italy, baby. We soon learn that she isn’t quite right in her head and Maggie gets some strong advice from the shunned priest Father Brennan (played by the demon voice himself, Ralph Ineson) that it’s best to keep a distance from her. So many omens here. What was the first omen again..?

 

Anyway, the film spends a good chunk of time letting us get to know Maggie. Since she hasn’t taken her vows yet, and is basically still free as a bird, her roommate Luz dolls her up and takes her to the disco where Maggie gets her very first sexual arousal. Sure you wanna marry God, honey? Meanwhile, Father Brennan is dedicated to exposing the evil plans of the church. Because we’re in a time when Italy is in a rebellious revolution where young protesters are on the streets and setting cars on fire and such. But the most alarming of all: more and more people have turned their backs to the Lord Jesus Christ. And the church can’t have that. No spoilers, but what the writers did here was quite ballsy, I must say, and some aspects are also straight facts when it comes to sexual abuse, which is an open secret in the Catholic Church and has been for many years. Here, they take it a bit further. And since Italy is still a hardcore Christian country where they still believe that every single mental problem is demon possessions, I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if several audiences died of heart attacks while they were holding their crucifixes and rosaries. Chiama un ambulanza, por fervore!

 

Maggie is also witnessing a morbid birth scene in the orphanage, which should be enough to take the hint and fly right back to the USA and never look back. But she hasn’t seen anything yet, nor does she know that she’s just a number waiting to get her belly pregnant. She starts to see cryptic visions and a creepy nun in the corner in her dark room and her mental state slowly starts falling apart to pure paranoia while questioning her faith. Nell Tiger Free (free the tiger?) is really outstanding, which gives a colorful emotional range to her role. She’s emphatic, sweet and likable and no one would guess that she was the mother of the most evil kid on the planet.

 

The film wasn’t as scary I’d hoped for, though. But nevertheless, the film wins me over with its gothic atmosphere and overall grim sense of premonition constantly looming in the air (it’s after all an Omen film). It has a great build-up with a string of unpleasant moments and a tension that boils up to the predictable, yet highly effective climax. Arkasha Stevenson directs the hell of the movie, which is overall beautifully shot with some great scenery of Rome and its old, antique surroundings. Despite some few lame jump scares thrown in, which is almost unavoidable, this is a solid quality film in old-school form that also stands well on its own legs.

 

Although this prequel does it very best to blend it all in with the first film, there’s an obvious change here, and that’s the jackal, the dog that actually gave birth to Damien. But, of course, we couldn’t have a two-hour movie with a dog running around in the streets of Rome, that wouldn’t be the best recipe for a prequel. The jackal is a key figure here, though, but thus far the keyholes has only produced girls. And that’s as much I can say before spoiling, because the desperate motivation here is everything.

 

I also like the writing on the poster that says The Most Terrifying Movie of The Year, a quote from the Fox studio themselves. That’s cute. Maybe not the most terrifying of the year 2024, we still have to see ’bout that, but certainly the most terrifying film in the franchise since Damien: Omen II (1978). There’s also a cool nod to the lift scene from that film plus other references without going too much into member berry lane. Hearing Ave Satani (originally written and composed by the great Jerry Goldsmith) for the first time in a movie theater, here with a remix version by Mark Korven, was epic in itself. The film also opens the door to a spin-off sequel, and I can’t say I’m very enthusiastic about that idea.

 

The First Omen The First Omen The First Omen

 

Director: Arkasha Stevenson
Writers: Tim Smith, Arkasha Stevenson, Keith Thomas, Ben Jacoby
Country & year: USA, Italy, Serbia, Canada, 2024
Actors: Nell Tiger Free, Ralph Ineson, Sonia Braga, Tawfeek Barhom, Maria Caballero, Charles Dance, Bill Nighy, Nicole Sorace, Ishtar Currie-Wilson, Andrea Arcangeli, Guido Quaglione, Dora Romano
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5672290/

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gacy: Serial Killer Next Door (2024)

TriangleI don’t think John Wayne Gacy needs much of an introduction, but I’ll give a quick one anyway. When we’re not talking about Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Ed Gein or Henry Lee Lucas and numerous other well-documented psychos, he’s known for being the most notorious serial killer of all time in America. Yes, THE most of ALL time. Ever.

 

So we’re more or less talking about the king himself of the serial killers’ hall of fame – an average bulky and outgoing man living in an ordinary house in the suburbs who was loved by the community and who gladly entertained the locals with his iconic clown persona Pongo under festive circumstances. Also a top tier master manipulator who appeared like a wolf in sheep’s clothing like most of his like-minded in the life of serial killing. At night, he spent his double-life by living out his murdering fetish fantasies as a closet gay and picking up male prostitutes to take home and show them his infamous handcuff trick. He killed up to over thirty young men and buried them under his house crawlspace during the late 1970s, until the smell couldn’t be held back much longer. He got sentenced to death by lethal injection and got executed on May 10, 1994, notably the same day Jeffrey Dahmer was baptized in prison.

 

Gacy was 52 when he met his maker and his last words were short, sweet and simple: “kiss my ass!

 

There are three or four films based on John W. Gacy, as far as I know. And while we’re at it, I can mention two earlier films I’ve seen so far that are based on the killer clown. The first one is To Catch a Killer from 1992, a low-budget miniseries in two parts made for TV. This was made while Gacy was still alive, and he didn’t like hearing the news that a film based on him was in the works. And the one and only interesting thing here is that Gacy wrote a letter to actor Brian Dennehy and begged him not to portray him. Dennehy didn’t respond and, to Gacy’s relief, I suppose, the three-hour long miniseries hardly focuses on Gacy at all. What we have is a complete nothing-burger where we follow a dull, sleepwalking police lieutenant with the personality of a bread who tries to collect enough evidence to finally catch him. Gacy himself appears almost as a guest here and the whole thing is so dreadfully boring and something that David Fincher would make while being in a deep coma. Why this one is so highly praised by the majority is beyond me.

 

The second one is Gacy from 2002, here with Mark Holton in the title role. If he had a few pounds less, he would look exactly like Gacy. Nothing more to say about this one other than it was a boring, unfocused mess.

 

Gacy: Serial Killer Next Door

 

Gacy: The Serial Killer Next Door is the newest one, released back in January – written and directed by Michael Feifer, the unknown brother of Saul Goodman. And judging from the trailer, this one at least seemed to be entertaining with the funny-bad vibes bouncing all over the place. Good enough for me. Here we follow the teenager Bobby who lives across the street from Gacy in a quiet, boring suburb. Bobby knows that there is something off with this guy as he’s witnessing Gacy taking young men into his house at night, who never seem to leave. He’s glued to his bedroom window to spy on him and tries to convince his parents that the police have to check this shady neighbor. The parents just scoff it off and don’t believe any of it because he’s just a dumb teenager who has seen too many movies.

 

The plot starts to thicken when Gacy knows that Bobby knows and Bobby has to do whatever he can to finally expose him before becoming the next victim.

 

Even though the film has a polished look, the thick layer of amateurish overtones reeks all over the place as much it does from Gacy’s crawlspace. It’s very low-budget with acting that smells like wet farts filled with laughable NPC dialogue. The film’s protagonist Bobby (played by Mason McNulty) does the best he can while his parents are not believable for one second. And I could not avoid getting distracted by the over-sized upper lips of the actress who plays Bobby’s mom. I don’t wanna be mean, but seriously… Enough with that plastic surgery boolshit!

 

We have a couple of scenes where Bobby hangs out with his friends to convince them about Gacy, also after he has witnessed one of his murders. And woof, the acting here is really rough with some bonkers dialogues:

 

What is it like to see someone die?

It’s really… it’s not like the movies. It’s really sad.

 

Is it? Really? Aww. Bobbe also have the balls to sneak into Gacy’s graveyard crawlspace where he tries to take some pictures for evidence. Here we see some glimpses of the most fake, clean plastic Halloween prop skeletons lying around. I don’t think the police would be very convinced.

 

The only slightly positive thing here is Mike Korich as Gacy. But that’s only on the surface level. His scenes where he’s dressed as Pogo and laughing in the victim’s face look more like a parody and there’s not much more character depth to explore. Still, Mike Korich is the only reason to give the film a watch, as he at least seems to have some fun here. I also see what they tried with Disturbia (2007) and The Summer of 84 spin, but it didn’t land well at all as the last portion of the film couldn’t be more predictable. Not the most memorable film, but lowbrow entertainment with enough of the funny-bad moments to kill some time with as long as it lasts. Nothing more, nothing less.

 

Gacy: Serial Killer Next Door is available on Tubi.

 

Gacy: Serial Killer Next Door

 

Writer and director: Michael Feifer
Country & year: US, 2024
Actors: Mason McNulty, Mike Korich, Brock Burnett, Caia Coley, Gordon Hinchen, Shelby Janes, Nick Stellate, Michael Boutell, Izabellah Diez, Lilo Baier, Ashley Ray Keefe
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt23736318/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kuso (2017)

KusoI LOVED this earthquake! It was the best one I’ve ever seen. All my enemies are DEAD! HAHAHAAA…!

 

And the earthquake we’re talking about is the one that took place in Los Angeles in 1994. One of the survivors from that brutal event was the eleven-year old Steve Ellison, aka Flying Lotus. 23 years later he would release his first feature film which took a lot of inspiration from the trauma of being an earthquake survivor as a child, and his overall fear of skin diseases and probably a laundry list of other phobias that followed. He also wanted to show how ugly people could be. Show their ugly asses, as he said. And ‘boy, he sure fucking did. This is the type of film that people like John Waters and Harmony Korine would gladly show on their first dates. Take that as a warning, if you will.

 

So, what’s Kuso really about? What’s the plot here? Uhm… yeah, good question. We’re in a trippy and surreal post-apocalyptic world where people have gone completely batshit insane while having their faces infested with big, nasty zits. The world of Mad Max is a walk in Disneyland in comparison. Here they don’t eat dog food straight from the cans but rather things such as a solid menu of stomach-turning “food” that includes worms and…bodily waste. Scat porn, several viewers say, and that’s not so far from it. This is juicy body horror to the extreme, disgusting and revolting, and if you have some certain boundaries when it comes to such, take also this as a warning. At the same time, it’s all done with a pitch-black sense of humor, so it’s not to be taken seriously. Still, there are moments here that even got a little too much for me, and my melted brain felt the after-effects while I slept through the following night.

 

But what is it really about? We follow a group of people who deal with their separate meaningless lives in their own post-apocalyptic environment. The film works more or less like an anthology with four vignettes which we bounce back and forth from: Royal, Mr. Quiggle, Smear and Sock. In between the segments we have some insane acid-trip scenes that even Terry Gilliam could be jealous of. It’s all dream logic and if you could livestream someone’s deepest cocaine-filled fever dream on a monitor screen, I wouldn’t be too surprised if this was the result. I don’t see much point in even trying to break down the segments. I would also lose the little I have left of my own sanity if I did. It’s just pure, perverted, unfiltered, experimental art-house madness where you can never, ever guess what’s about to happen next. Very graphic and visual, filled with details and even more unpredictable what-the-fucks you can imagine, and as far from mainstream audience-friendly as it can get. An overall unique experience for the senses that you would never watch with your mom and dad. And just to quote the director himself: This is definitely a movie for a certain kind of person.

 

Kuso was first distributed by Shudder and is also available on a DVD/Blu-ray combo on Amazon. The film is here reviewed from a very rare DVD edition from Sweden, just to point out.

 

Kuso Kuso Kuso

 

 

Director: Flying Lotus
Writers: David Firth, Flying Lotus
Country & year: US, 2017
Actors: Hannibal Buress, George Clinton, David Firth, Arden Banks, Byron Bowers, Shane Carpenter, Angel Deradoorian, Regan Farquhar, Pretty Ricki Fontaine, Zack Fox, Tim Heidecker, Bob Heslip, Anders Holm
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6131712/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Galaxy of Terror (1981)

Galaxy of TerrorAfter making fifty-plus films since 1955, Roger Corman was tired of directing and stepped down as a producer. The guy is now 97 years old and is still working in the business. Salute! With his company, New World Pictures, he hired young talents who would later work in big Hollywood films. And Galaxy of Terror is more or less his trademark film with the ingredients Corman got notoriously known for: schlock and awe with tons of entertainment value. Galaxy of Terror had a budget of 1.8 million dollars and was filmed in Roger Corman’s backyard in Venice, California.

 

The film starts with a space guy who runs from someone, or something, in a spaceship which has crashlanded on the mysterious planet Morganthus. He gets brutally killed by an unseen force which we soon learn comes from a huge, futuristic-looking pyramid not so far from the crashing site.

 

We’re not on Earth, however, but on planet Xerxes where an obscure ruler called Planet Master whose face is covered with a red, gloving dot is ordering the crew of the spaceship Quest to go on a mission on the same planet we saw in the beginning. Why? That’s a good question. We meet our crew of ten: Cabren, Alluma, Kore, Baelon, Ranger, Dameia, Quuhold, Cos, Captain Trantor and Commander Ilvar. The two most familiar faces we see here are Sid Haig, 22 years before he became a more household name as the killer clown Spalding. The other one is Robert Englund, three years before he wrote film history with his killer glove.

 

As the crew lands on the planet, they are quick to discover the pyramid, which they decide to investigate. And what they encounter as soon as they even touch the pyramid are not scary aliens, but a manifestation of their own deepest fears which are ready to kill them in the most brutal ways.

 

Visually, the film takes a lot of inspiration from Alien and copies the style of H.R. Giger with some mixture of 1950s sci-fi. So it’s no wonder it’s been called a rip-off of that film. But that’s only on the surface. Plot-wise, Galaxy of Terror goes in its own unique direction whereas Event Horizon took the concept to the more extreme.

 

The most remarkable thing here is the set-design and overall look of the planet, which was constructed by a young workaholic by the name James Cameron. He worked day and night on the set, also as a second-unit director, to prove himself, and so he did. Much of the visual style was also used some years later in Aliens which explains some of the similarities. The spaceship hallways were set up in Roger Corman’s own house.

 

And with that being said, the film has enough of schlock and fun B-movie moments to get entertained by. There’s some very wonky and eye-rolling dialogue here and no one can blame Sid Haig for demanding to play his character as a mute. That was only until he had to say his one line I live and I die by the crystals.” And sure he did. RIP. The acting is overall decent and they do the very best of what they had to work with. We have some great and fun death scenes that include a victim getting sucked by some tentacles with the most cartoonish slurping sound effect. Robert Englund fights an apparition of his dark self (an early glimpse of Freddy, perhaps?) while the others among the crew get burned alive and blown to pieces.

 

And, of course, what is Galaxy of Terror without its classic rape scene? And not just any rape scene, but with a huge, slimy maggot! Director Bruce Clark refused to film it, so Roger Corman had to step in and do it instead. He’d already gotten some flak for filming a rape scene in Humanoids From the Deep the year before where a fish monster fucks one of the victims. So this was clearly right up his alley. The blonde actress Taaffe O’Connell got the pleasure of almost getting killed when the thing almost squeezed her to death, completely naked and covered in slime, during filming. Luckily, she survived and looks back at the incident with a great sense of humor. This scene had to go through the editing process three times before it got an R rating instead of an X. This was originally meant to be a morbid love scene where Taaffe moans like a porn star and literally dies of an orgasm overdose. Anyway, it became the film’s big money shot, which Robert Englund can tell when a film critic in a suit and tie once came to him shortly after the release and said: You were MARVELOUS in that film where the giant maggot FUCKED THE GIRL!”

 

Galaxy of Terror Galaxy of Terror Galaxy of Terror

 

 

Director: Bruce D. Clark
Writers: Marc Siegler, Bruce D. Clark
Country & year: US, 1981
Actors: Edward Albert, Erin Moran, Ray Walston, Bernard Behrens, Zalman King, Robert Englund, Taaffe O’Connell, Sid Haig, Grace Zabriskie, Jack Blessing, Mary Ellen O’Neill
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082431/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Popcorn (1991)

976-EvilPopcorn is the title and popcorn is what you get – with a lot of cheese and confusion. On the surface, if not judging by the movie poster itself, this may look like one of the numerous slashers from the mid 1980s. It managed to trick me until the very distinct early 90s hip-hop music hit the speakers.

 

Popcorn starts off with some strange nightmares from the head of the young teenager Maggie (Jill Schoelen, The Stepfather‘s girl, here at age 28) about a younger girl who gets trapped in a fire and chased by some guy who tries to kill her. This is not just some random nightmare, however, as Maggie has subconsciously developed psychic abilities. Unlike her lost twin sister, Lydia Deetz, she can’t see dead people, though. But yeah, her nightmares and visions have some more relevance later in some way or another.

 

But enough of dreaming, because a big event is just around the corner. You see, Maggie and her film student classmates are preparing for an all-night horror movie marathon-screening at the old local and out-of-business movie theater, Dreamland. Here they’ll show a bunch of schlocky public domain films in the hope of funding some money for the university’s film section. To make it more eventful, they’re adding some inventive gimmicks in the purest William Castle style with three of the films. We have Mosquito in 3-D with a big mosquito model that flies on strings over the audience. The second is The Attack of the Amazing Electrified Man with the use of “Shock-o-Scope”, or simply called electrical “buzzers” in seats. The third one is called The Stench with Smell-O-Vision and you can just imagine that one.

 

The theater also has a dark history of the film director Lanyard Gates, who killed his own family while he shot the final scene of the film The Possessor –  a short, cryptic avant-garde reel that looks much like the nightmares Maggie has recently been having. So, the question is why and how. Well, she’s soon to find out when a killer is lurking around the theater, who’s also stealing the victims’ faces.

 

Popcorn had a troubled production, which shows more and more as the film progresses. The film was first helmed by Alan Ormsby, a veteran who’s already worked on films such as Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972), the Ed Gein flick Deranged (1974) and Cat People (1980). After the first weeks of shooting, he was gone, just poof, and replaced with first-time (and last time) director and Porky’s actor Mark Herrier, of all people. Uhm…okey, then. Porkman does a steady job, though, despite the hiccups and a script that gets more convoluted. The third act is quite messy where we have twists and turns with a Saturday Morning Cartoon goofball of a villain that I would guess came out of the fart pipe of Freddy Krueger while he was playing Nintendo. We also have an intermission in the middle where the audience gets entertained by a reggae band to keep the party-mode going. Quite fitting considering that the whole film was shot on location in Kingston, Jamaica.

 

That Popcorn was released in a time when the slasher genre was more or less dead, didn’t do the film much favor. Despite the box-office failure, the film has since grown a cult-following and was also an inspiration for films like Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994), In The Mouth of Madness (1995) and Troma’s Shock-O-Rama (2005). In other words, Popcorn is overall an entertaining and fun little oddball flick with an original take on the genre. It’s also far more light-hearted and jovial than the average slasher with little to no blood n’ guts. With a theater packed with teens, you’ll have some expectations, but the film doesn’t grab that opportunity, sorry to say. What we have is a scene where a body count gets stabbed by the mosquito model with its stinger and a cheesy electrocution scene just to add an extra flavor to the gimmick shtick. But what really does the film is that we get the pleasure to see some scenes from the films featured in the theater. Attack of the Amazing Electrified Man is already a personal favorite where a manic Bruce Glover alone steals the whole show. I’d love to see the full version of that film.

 

Popcorn Popcorn Popcorn

 

 

Directors: Mark Herrier, Alan Ormsby
Writers: Mitchell Smith, Alan Ormsby
Country & year: US, Canada, 1991
Actors: Jill Schoelen, Tom Villard, Dee Wallace, Derek Rydall, Malcolm Danare, Elliott Hurst, Ivette Soler, Freddie Simpson, Kelly Jo Minter, Karen Lorre, Ray Walston, Tony Roberts, Bruce Glover
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102690/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Resurrected (1991)

The ResurrectedCharles Dexter Ward is showing increasingly bizarre behaviour, and his wife Claire hires a private investigator to look into his strange affairs. The investigator, John March, starts peeking around the isolated farmhouse which Charles recently started using after uncovering his family history and discovering that this abandoned farmhouse belonged to his ancestor. Said ancestor’s name was Joseph Curwen, to whom Charles bears an uncanny resemblance. John notices that there are numerous deliveries made to the place, and upon asking Charles himself, he explains that he is undertaking some chemical tests where he uses animal cadavers. While certainly showing off eccentric behaviour, there’s nothing John can use here to offer any explanations to the worried wife. Then, after a man in a neighboring house ends up brutally murdered, where his remains have been attacked and eaten as if by a crazed animal, John starts to believe it’s not a coincidence. He brings Claire with him to the farm in order to confront Charles, but find him in a state where he ends up committed to a hospital. The doctors find that his metabolism is inexplicably high, which causes him to become extremely hungry, and his cravings are for blood and raw meat. John decides he must uncover the secrets of the old farmhouse and what Charles was doing at the place.

 

The Resurrected (aka The Ancestor and Shatterbrain) is a 1991 horror film directed by Dan O`Bannon, and it’s an adaption of the H.P. Lovecraft novella The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. The screenwriter, Brent V. Friedman, had developed a version of the script which was titled Shatterbrain, while O`Bannon wrote his own ideas and had imagined the title to be The Ancestor. Friedman’s script was mainly used, but O`Bannon also incorporated some of his own ideas into the movie. Interstar Releasing planned for a wide theatrical release in 1991, but they went bankrupt before it could happen and thus it ended up straight to video in 1992. This movie was O`Bannon’s second and final movie as a director, after his directorial debut in 1985 with The Return of the Living Dead.

 

The Resurrected is not the first film to be based on Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. In 1963, Roger Corman made a film called The Haunted Palace, starring Vincent Price, which also provides a take on this story but very loosely and mixed with the Edgar Allan Poe’s story by the same name as the film. I haven’t yet seen this one, so can make no comparisons here. I have read the Lovecraft novella, and while it should go without saying that movie adaptions rarely manages to capture the essence of horror and wonder in Lovecraft’s stories (there are, of course, exceptions), this movie actually does follow the original story for the most part, just setting it in more modern times. Many Lovecraft adaptions tend to change so much that the original story is barely recognizable, and some just doesn’t really do the original stories justice. However, this is something I’ve come to terms with a long time ago, I don’t expect any Lovecraft adaption to be on par with the source material. I just want to be entertained. And some of the movie adaptions (both the decent and the bad ones) often manages to do exactly that, so I’m not gonna complain.

 

Now, most horror movie fans are well aware of O`Bannon’s The Return of the Living Dead, and have most likely witnessed some of his screenplay work in several of the movies in the Alien franchise, and other horror films like Lifeforce. Just like the original Lovecraft story, it starts in a mental asylum where Charles is incarcerated, and then the story moves backwards in order tell what happened. It’s set up a bit like a detective mystery, with a pretty blonde wife begging the investigator for help and all. Set in the modern times, which were the 90’s when the movie was made, works well enough. The opening scene which includes a bit of blood and gore before getting a scene where the investigator starts retelling his experience, helps fuel the story as the next parts are, unfortunately, a little bit too slow before it finally picks up the pace and delivers.

 

While there were some issues with the pacing, the viewing experience was upheld by a constant feeling of mystery. You keep wondering what Charles has been doing at the farmhouse, but it takes a little too much time to actually get there. Once secrets are revealed we get some really nice shots of monstrous creatures and a hellish underground basement lab. While apparently trying to veer away from your typical B-Horror cheeseflick with a more serious approach, there’s no doubt that once the blood, guts, and otherworldly creatures fill the screen we get to see that this movie doesn’t stray too far away from the B-movie range. And I mean that in a positive way, of course. Originally, O`Bannon actually planned for the movie to have more humor, but it was re-edited and re-cut which removed this, much to his disapproval.

 

Despite a few flaws, The Resurrected is a decent horror film with an ominous mystery-fueled atmosphere, great creature-effects by Todd Masters, and a fitting music score by Richard Band.

 

The Resurrected The Resurrected The Resurrected

 

Director: Dan O’Bannon
Writer: Brent V. Friedman
Country & year: US, 1991
Actors: John Terry, Jane Sibbett, Chris Sarandon, Robert Romanus, Laurie Briscoe, Ken Camroux-Taylor, Patrick P. Pon, Bernard Cuffling, J.B. Bivens, Robert Sidley, Des Smiley, Eric Newton
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0105242/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

976-Evil (1988)

976-EvilIn this directorial debut of Robert “Freddy Krueger” Englund, we dial the number 976 to hear our horrorscopes. Yes, with three R’s. And anyone who dials this cursed number will hear a voice by Satan himself as he speaks in riddles how you’ll die in just a few moments.

 

In real life, 976 was an actual premium-rated telephone number that allowed people to call services of everything from Tech support, overall entertainment to phone sex. And, of course, having your horoscope read (with one R). The service also charged extra, which was every parent’s nightmare when they got the next phone bill.

 

Fun fact: Robert Englund still meets fans at comic cons who tell him that their worst grounding by their parents was when they called Freddy himself on a 976 number where Englund laid down a bunch of stock replies. He would also on occasions answer the phone for people all over America for an hour. This was at the peak of Freddy mania. Fun times.

 

One of the callers we meet here is the teenager Hoax (Stephen Geoffreys). He’s an awkward nerdy introvert on the spectrum of mentally retarded. He lives across his cousin Spike (Patrick O’Bryan), who is the polar opposite of Hoax: cool and a badass pussy magnet. And Hoax looks up to him as Spike has to protect him from being bullied. He also lives with his crazy, religious mom who doesn’t make things easier. And Spike can’t protect his sorry ass every minute as he also has a girlfriend to be with. Hoax gets frustrated, angry and now wants to show the bullies and even his mom that he’s no longer to be messed with. After a Satanic ritual and a 976 call, he gets slowly possessed by Beelzebub, develops supernatural powers and big claws to have his sweet revenge.

 

The first forty minutes or so in this “anti-bullying film” (as Englund calls it) are pretty slow and clunky, and with a script co-written by Brian Helgeland (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Highway to Hell, Mystic River), I expected some more insanity, for lack of a better term. We have a weird love/hate relationship between the cousins Hoax and Spike to build up some dramatic tension. Unfortunately, their chemistry isn’t quite there. Spike also has a girlfriend, Suzie, who mostly looks bored until she gets attacked by spiders. We have a detective, who investigates the source of the cursed 976 call, who looks even more bored. The only one who stands out among the flat characters is the clumsy goofball Hoax as he wears the same nerdy outfit throughout the whole film, except some scenes where he’s wearing a cute pajamas.

 

The real fun is when Hoax starts to get possessed through several stages with some really tasteful make-up effects by Kevin Yagher, who also worked on the original Child’s Play and several of the Elm Street films. We also have some clever use of miniatures, and a climax with set-designs which look like something from a dream sequence from the already mentioned franchise. The direction is mostly solid with colorful, vibrant cinematography in the purest 1980s style. Robert Englund is of course the one behind the evil 976 voice, where he does his very best to not sound like Freddy Krueger. The gore is very minimal, as low-budget as this is, but the little we have is at least well done.

 

As much as we love the cheesy and distinct corniness of the 1980s it must be said how ridiculously dated the film is. Such as being a nerd in that decade was the most “gay and uncool” thing ever. The concept with payphones and if not novelty phones where you actually had to get your fat ass from the couch to dial the number to the local pizza delivery. Could anyone born after the 2000s even grasp to imagine? My oh my, the ole’ days… It’s funny how Robert Englund had to repeat himself during the commentary track on the Blu-ray to remind the Gen Z how insanely different the world actually once was.

 

976-Evil overall is a very mixed bag that maybe works best just as a curiosity to see how our favorite boogeyman from the 80s is as a director. Slow first-half, full popcorn entertainment with some extra cheese during the rest. The film was released on Blu-ray from Eureka Classics in 2020 with an extended version and commentary track by Robert Englund and his wife Nancy Booth, which both met on the set of the film and has been married since. How cute.

 

976-Evil 976-Evil 976-Evil

 

 

Director: Robert Englund
Writers: Rhet Topham, Brian Helgeland
Country & year: US, 1988
Actors: Stephen Geoffreys, Jim Metzler, María Rubell, Lezlie Deane, J.J. Cohen, Patrick O’Bryan, Sandy Dennis, Darren E. Burrows, Gunther Jenson, Jim Thiebaud, Robert Picardo, Paul Willson, Greg Collins
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094597/

 

 

Tom Ghoul