Dead Birds (2004)

A group of confederate deserters during the American Civil War robs a bank for gold, an event that doesn’t go as smoothly as they planned. Trying to find a place to rest for the night, they come upon an old abandoned mansion located by a corn field. Entering the field they see a strange-looking scarecrow which they believe to be the corpse of a real person…and as if that wasn’t enough to realize this place is no good and should be avoided at all cost, they also come upon a hideous-looking deformed creature, which they shoot upon sight. But oh well, they still have to spend the night somewhere, so they enter the old mansion anyway, and soon find out that awful things have happened here which will also impact everyone who sets foot at the place.

 

Dead Birds is a Western horror film from 2004, directed by Alex Turner. The first part of the movie builds up pretty well, with tension and an admirable creepy atmosphere. This is also helped by a good cast: Henry Thomas (ET), Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous), Michael Shannon (Man of Steel), Mark Boone Junior (Memento), Isaiah Washington (Ghost Ship) and Nicki Aycox (Jeepers Creepers). The first half of the movie is very much an ongoing build-up of expectation and dread as we know things are wrong and that stuff will happen, and when they do there are some effective scenes and even a little bit of gore once we see the demonic creatures and the dead bodies.

 

Later on, it does unfortunately start to drag a bit, and there are more hints and suggestions as to what has happened and is happening, rather than any proper explanation, which makes the story feel a bit tangled. Which is a shame, as the setting, visuals and atmosphere are spot on. Just a little bit more clear focus on the background story and maybe more perceivable explanations for what is happening could have increased the tension for the last half of the movie as well. The mystery behind the mansion and its grounds involves a story of black magic, demonic possession, human sacrifice and the occult, which should have been offered more details and scenes than it eventually did. And maybe some more gore…since when these scenes do occur, they actually look pretty good.

 

Now, regarding the title: I couldn’t spot more than one dead bird, though…so I wondered what that title is supposed to mean. Upon doing some research, I found that “Dead Birds” has a meaning that in the Dani language refers to weapons and ornaments recovered in battle, and a more poetic meaning that people, because they are like birds, must die. Dead birds are also considered to be symbolic of discontentment, grief, failure and hopelessness, and seeing a dead bird is some kind of bad omen. So there’s many ways to perceive the title, which makes more sense once you put it in context with the plot of the movie.

 

While by no means any masterpiece, and perhaps a little dated now (especially the CGI effects), this low-budget horror film has still got some creepy scenes and good atmosphere.

 

Dead Birds

 

Director: Alex Turner
Writer: Simon Barrett
Country & year: USA, 2004
Actors: Henry Thomas, Patrick Fugit, Nicki Aycox, Michael Shannon, Muse Watson, Mark Boone Junior, Isaiah Washington, Harris Mann, Melanie Abramoff, Donna Biscoe, Brian Bremer, Russell Durham Comegys
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0377749/

 

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Murder-Set-Pieces (2004)

The film starts off with a quote from Jack the Ripper that says The Jews are not the men to be blamed for nothing.”  Then we see some silent and grainy black and white documentary footage of the September 11 attacks, as we hear a little girl’s voice saying “Just you wait a little while, the nasty man in black will come. With his little chopper, he will chop you up!

 

And after this quick, cryptic segment we see some images of some freshly dead young women, drenched in blood, in some kind of torture room, just to gives us a foretaste of what to expect during the next 90 minutes.

 

In Murder-Set-Pices we get the pleasure to meet The Photographer, played by the German actor Sven Garrett. He’s a muscle-build pussymagnet, who during the daytime spends his time with his airhead of a girlfriend, and by night roams the streets of Las Vegas to photograph young naked models. And from what we saw in some glimpses of in the opening sequence, The Photographer is a cold-blooded, emotionless serial killer who, after having threesomes, rough sex orgies and anal-raping his models like a gorilla, ends the ritual by murdering them in some grisly fashion, and sometimes tortures them in his basement.

 

And if that’s not enough to shock and disgust you, he also mutilates them and eats their flesh. And just to place the rotten cherry on top, he’s also a neo-Nazi who listens to speeches of Hitler while he’s pumping iron and thinking about his next victims. Doesn’t sound quite family friendly, but even though 55 gallons of fake blood were used on a kill count of 30 victims, Murder-Set-Pieces is way too amateurish to do its purpose.

 

Gunnar “Leatherface” Hansen pops up in a quick cameo as a car mechanic so The Photographer can buy a gun. He then goes to a stripclub so we can enjoy some fresh nudity before it cuts right over to a rape scene. Then we see some flashbacks of The Photographer as a kid where he cuts off the dress of a barbie doll. Then it jumps to a scene where The Photographer is getting a blowjob in his car by using a severed head. Then we see Tony “Candyman” Todd in a cameo as a desk clerk in some adult book store, which escalates into a messy robbery scene, and it’s the only scene here that’s got some tension and entertainment value. But guess what happens next: more rape scenes, a pornographic photo session with two lesbians, a drawn-out torture porn scene that seems to last beyond the running time, before we the film completes The Unholy Trinity of Cameos by Edwin “The Hitchiker” Neil.

 

And as you’ve probably figured out by now, there’s is none to zero plot to find here. The film is a mishmash of a bunch of random scenes that are stitched together with no relation to each other. There’s no start, middle and end, no track of time, no progress, and the whole film feels more like a 90 minutes montage of deleted scenes from a film that never got finished.

 

The most noteworthy and head-scratching thing is that writer and director Nick Palumbo managed to raise 2 million dollars from investors, which at that time was the highest budget to an independent slasherfilm. Quite impressive, though, for a young underground filmmaker. But then the big question is: where did the budget go? There’s zero style or any form of production value to see here, and The Human Centipede, which had a lower budget than this, looks like a David Fincher production in comparison.

 

Murder-Set-Pieces is also filled with controversies. Palumbo claims that this is the first film in the history that’s been thrown out of three laboratories, producers were arrested, and cast and crew were arrested numerous times. Sounds like one of those disastrous film productions where a four hour long behind-the-scenes documentary would be far more interesting and entertaining than the movie itself. But if this sounds interesting enough, be sure to avoid the US release from Lions Gate where 20 minutes have been cut out, and instead look for the European director’s cut version.

 

Murder-Set-Pieces Murder-Set-Pieces Murder-Set-Pieces

 

Writer and director: Nick Palumbo
Country & year: USA, 2004
Actors: Sven Garrett, Cerina Vincent, Tony Todd, Gunnar Hansen, Edwin Neal, Jade Risser, Valerie Baber, Destiny St. Claire, Maria Keough, Renee Baio, Lauren Palac, Andrea Mitchell, Jessie DeRoock
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0422779/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gravedancers (2006)

The movie starts off showing a scene with a woman alone in a room, who is attacked by something neither she nor we can see. She gets hanged in the stairways, and a black envelope drops to the floor. We then fast forward to a year later, when a group of friends (Sid, Kira, and Harris) have attended a funeral and decides to go drinking afterwards. Drunk and stupid, they decide to do something silly that can only be brought on by drunken stupidity: they first break into the Crescent View Cemetery. Their original plan was to just say their final goodbyes to the recently departed, but Sid finds a black envelope amongst some of the flowers on the grave. Inside is a poem which urges them to be joyful and to dance upon the graves. And of course, since they’ve already gotten quite sloshed by now, they think this sounds like an excellent idea in order to celebrate life. And so….they start dancing on graves…

 

Later, mysterious things start happening to the friends. Harris and his wife Allison start hearing strange sounds at night, and suddenly have creepy visions. Kira starts getting attacked by an entity that bites and assaults her, and Sid experiences unexpected fires. Eventually they get in contact with some paranormal investigators, who thinks that they awoke something when they danced on the graves.

 

The Gravedancers is directed by Mike Mendez, who also directed the cheesy spider-creature-feature flick Big Ass Spider. It starts off in a very routine-like fashion, where we get an ominous start showing us that something sinister is going on, followed by some people making a stupid mistake, and then shit starts hitting the fan. You needn’t see many supernatural horror movies in order to recognize this formula, but what matters is how it spins the movie around it. So, how does The Gravedancers do in that regard? Well…

 

First off, the story isn’t half-bad. It’s not very original, but it works, and I actually liked the revealed reason for why they get haunted in the way they do. Much of the story is simple but it’s not a completely hackneyed entry into the supernatural horror genre, it does have a few things of its own. When it comes to scenery, I gotta give some props with using actual locations for the filming. The filmmakers sought out houses that were going to be demolished/burned (in South Carolina, it’s common to burn down abandoned/condemned houses) and asked if they could film there before they were burned down. The location for the hospital, however, was not an abandoned place, but actually a convalescent home (a place where people are recovering from illness or medical treatments). During the shooting at that place, the filmmakers received numerous complaints about the loud screaming and dangerous stunts. Not sure how shooting a horror film in a place where people are supposed to recover and need some quiet and peace was considered a good idea, but what the hey…you take what you can get, I guess.

 

Regarding the effects and ghosts, they are…incredibly cheesy, actually. There’s even a scene with a giant flying disembodied head chasing a car, something that would be perfect in a Ghostbusters movie (or a Goosebumps episode), but considering how the movie takes itself somewhat seriously, this scene actually caught me a bit off-guard. However, it was said that the Disney ride The Haunted Mansion was a major inspiration to the film and design of the ghosts, so that explains a few things…

 

While The Gravedancers does come off a bit as a run-of-the-mill supernatural horror flick, it does have its moments, I gotta give it that. It’s not great, it’s typical B-grade horror, and its (unintentional or not) cheese-factor is actually one of its redeeming factors.

 

The Gravedancers

 

Director: Mike Mendez
Writers: Brad Keene, Chris Skinner
Country & year: USA, 2006
Actors: Dominic Purcell, Josie Maran, Clare Kramer, Marcus Thomas, Tchéky Karyo, Megahn Perry, Martha Holland, Oakley Stevenson, Samantha MacIvor, Jack Mulcahy, Jim McKeny, Geneva Avarett-Short, Bob McHone
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0435653/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nightbeast (1982)

Welcome to Z movie hour. Today we take a look at a micro-budget and campy sci-fi schlockfest with an evil alien and his lazer gun, made by amateur filmmaker Don Dohler, starring his neighbours, brother-in-laws, himself, and his two sons.

 

Nightbeast opens with a small spaceship that gets hit my a meteor and crashlands spectacularly in the woodsland of Maryland. And there went the whole budget, I would guess. Out of the burning spaceship comes a hideous-looking alien (Nightbeast). He looks like a skinned gorilla and always has a sadistic, evil grin on his face, which clearly tells us that he’s not here in peace.

 

Some of the locals get sheriff Cinder to show the crashlanding area, and he then says with a deadpanned face:j e s u s ! Must have been lightning.”  Nightbeast has no time to waste, and starts killing off some local hunters with his tiny lazergun that makes them disappear into thin air. He then kills uncle Dave and chases his two nephews (played by the two sons of director Dohler) through the woods where they hide in a car. Hah, as if that helped! Nightbeast zaps the car and it vanishes with the kids inside. There’s no mercy with this alien. And besides of his beloved gun, he uses his hands to rip out the entrails of his victims, which gives us some decent gory moments.

 

After thirty minutes of almost non-stop cheesy guns-and-lazer-action scenes with some really hilariously bad effects, the movie gets to a halt with a pointless sideplot with some biker called Drago. He’s just a scumbag who likes to hit women, and you can’t wait for him to be killed off.

 

And we have a pool party, shot in the back of Don Dohler’s house with his friends, family and a bunch of extras, neighbours I guess, who’s probably not aware they’re a part of a film. All seems to be invited, except for Nightbeast. What happened to him, you ask? He’s still around and lurking, even in the daylight. And just before you know it, he pops up and encounters his next victim with a jump scare and… how can I describe this…well, he taps on the victim’s arm which then falls off. I believe we’re supposed to believe that he rips his arm off, but no, he just taps on it and Don Dohler tries his best to hide the poorly made effect in some quick, inept editing. It’s Z movie schlock at its finest!

 

The two sheriffs Cinder and Lisa is determined to chase the alien, and the film of course shoe-horns a love interest between these two. And then we eventually get to the love scene in some motel room, and God almighty, this is the most cringey and awkward thing ever. As if they weren’t amateur actors already who have zero ability to convey any emotions in front of camera, it starts the scene with Lisa half-naked after having taken a shower and says to Cinder: “I better get dressed now, huh?” Cinder then says with his deadpanned face: No ….. You are a very attractive girl, Lisa …….. I guess I never really noticed it before.”  Some romantic piano music plays and … next! The film at least ends with a fun and action-packed bang with some more spectacular cheesyness. And yes, don’t you worry about our woman-hitting biker Drago, which you probably have forgotten about already, he will get his karma.

 

And of course, I have to mention that the synth soundtrack is composed by a 16 year old kid, named Jeffrey Abrams, later known as JJ Abrams. And this is his first screen credit. Nightbeast was originally released by Troma in 2004, which seems to be out of print. It’s now available on a Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Vinegar Syndrome.

 

Nightbeast Nightbeast Nightbeast

 

Director: Don Dohler
Country & year: USA, 1982
Actors: Tom Griffith, Jamie Zemarel, Karin Kardian, George Stover, Don Leifert, Anne Frith, Eleanor Herman, Richard Dyszel, Greg Dohler, Kim Pfeiffer
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0086013/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dracula 3000 (2004)

Dracula 3000 What does Jason, Pinhead, Leprechaun and Dracula have in common? They’ve been into space. And this has to be the worst of them all. Good grief.

 

We’re in the year 3000 and get introduced to Captain Abraham Van Helsing (Casper Van Dien) and his small crew on a salvage space ship, looking for a large cargo ship named Dieter that has been missing for fifty years in the Carpathian Galaxy. And yes, we’re talking about the outer space. They find the ship while it’s heading towards Earth,  completely empty for crew, and they decide to take possession of all the valuable stuff. They soon learn that some spooky shit has been going on when they find the only dried-up corpse left on the ship’s bridge, tied up with a crucifix in its hands. And oh man, this is unbelievably bad: it looks like they just bought the cheapest Halloween skeleton they could find and dressed it up, and God knows what went through the actors’ heads when they had to act serious when they saw it. They find a video log from fifty years ago, of a frightened Captain Varna (Udo Kier) who says that he locked himself in his cabin after some pandemic infected the crew after they cargoed a bunch of coffins in the Transilvanian station. And you can never guess who’s lurking among them on the ship: It’s the new variant Nekronomicron! Just kidding. It’s Dracula. Of course.

 

The first crewmember to get bit is 187. That’s not his IQ, it’s his name. He’s a goofy, stereotypical manic crack smoker and is played by none other than the 90s rapper star Coolio. And as ridiculous as he is with his hysterical overacting, at least he seems to have some fun playing a vampire from Da Hood while flashing his fangs as much as possible. The B-movie actor Casper Van Dien, known from Starship Troopers and  a laundry list of straight-to-videos, seems to really have a hard time keeping himself awake as he yawns out most of his dialogues like he couldn’t give a single fuck about anything other than his paycheck. And who can blame him when you have to read lines like this while doing your best to keep a straight face:

 

– Transilvania? What the fuck is Transilvania?
– Transilvania is a planet in the remote Carpathian System. It’s a.. uhm.. it’s a planet of vampires!
– Vampire?? So what the hell is a vampire?
– It’s sorta like a man … only far more evil, if you could imagine that.
– All that bloodsuckin’, that’s some white people shit!
– I want to watch my anaconda spit all over your snow white ass.

 

And we have classic lines such as:

 

– I put up for your shit cuz you’re black and… ugly.
– I have to go to the bathroom! I really do!
– I… AM A VAMPAIAHH!!!
– Dude!
– Bro!

 

Captain Van Helsing also learns that he is related to a certain another Van Helsing from the late 1800s, and that Dracula is on his way to Earth to seek revenge. And prepare yourself for the most pathetic Dracula ever put on screen. He’s just some teenager dressed as Dracula, and is as charismatic as an average high school douchebag and as intimidating as Hello Kitty. There’s a scene where he attacks the blond chick among the crewmembers, and she really struggles to look scared and not to chuckle.

 

And other than that, Dracula 3000 looks like something you would find at the bottom at the barrel of the SyFy or Asylum Films catalogue, but even they would be too embarrassed to release this half-assed turkey. It also had a spot on the IMDb Bottom 100 list at one time, and that pretty much says it all. But, yeah, there’s a good amount of laughs to get from this if you’re weak for shitty and unintentionally funny films, in this case most thanks to Coolio and the string of quoteworthy dialogues.

 

Dracula 3000

 

Directors: Darrell Roodt
Country & year: Germany, South Africa 2004
Actors: Casper Van Dien, Erika Eleniak, Coolio, Alexandra Kamp, Grant Swanby, Langley Kirkwood, Tom Lister Jr., Udo Kier
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0367677/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unholy (2021)

Mary Elnor is a young woman being accused of Witchcraft in Banfield, Massachusetts, in 1845. She is being hanged from a tree, and then lit on fire by an angry mob, who also bounds her spirit to the body of a doll before she takes her final breath.

 

Years later, we meet Gerry Fenn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who is a journalist who has gotten his reputation thrown into the gutter after being caught faking cases just to get publicity. He’s on an assignment which leads him to Boston, where he is going to look into a case of a cow with so-called satanic markings on it (which proves to be a teenage prank). Before deciding to leave the place and look for other means of stories that can give him some much-needed income, he finds the tree where Mary was hanged, and also the doll which was once “hidden” (in the very visible and big hole of the tree trunk…). He crushes the doll, and of course, then freeing the evil spirit of Mary Elnor.

 

After it gets dark and Gerry has decided to leave the place and return home, he sees a young girl run across the road to the tree where he found the doll earlier, and hears her speaking before fainting right in front of the tree. He takes the girl to a church nearby, and learns that her name is Alice and that she is actually deaf and can’t speak. This peaks his interest as he knows he heard her speak just moments before, and decides to stay around town to follow this strange case a bit further. Soon, Alice brings publicity from both close and far as not only does she now speak, but she claims that she was cured by the Virgin Mary, and she also starts healing people. When Gerry finds out that the so-called Virgin Mary is not what Alice believes her to be, but is instead a sinister entity, he tries to reveal what is actually the truth for once.

 

The Unholy is directed by Evan Spiliotopoulos, and is also his directional debut. It is based on a novel from 1983 by James Herbert, called Shrine. In the leading role we find Jeffrey Dean Morgan, whom most people probably know best as the villain “Negan” from The Walking Dead, but he also played the father of Supernatural-duo Sam & Dean. And oh boy, does this movie have a few cheesy Supernatural-vibes indeed!

 

The movie’s opening sequence leaves no mystery to be revealed, we already know that “Mary” isn’t the Virgin Mary, but the witch that was executed in 1845, Mary Elnor. Since we already know what’s going on, it’s hard to build any real suspense or sense of mystery, so the progress forward relies heavily on actor performances and character interactions. Fortunately, Jeffrey Dean Morgan does a solid job as the journalist who has fallen from grace and needs to turn his career around, only to find himself facing a dilemma: knowing that he’s now got a real, true case in his hands (not just another hoax), but also finding out that there’s something sinister going on, and that profiting from this case might not be the best moral decision. Thus, the lead character carries much of the movie. As for the villain, Mary Elnor herself, she does unfortunately not come off as the least bit scary. Often when she appears on screen, with her jerky movements and overly villainous treats, you almost feel like you should get your controller in hand and prepare yourself for a video-game boss battle. Like you’re watching some kind of cutscene before a fight. It does add another layer of cheese, however, and makes her appearances particularly entertaining.

 

And with all of that being said: The Unholy is not a scary movie, not even creepy. But if you can enjoy it as an easy-going popcorn flick with a little bit of B-grade cheese here and there (or like some kind of long Supernatural episode with Sam & Dean’s dad going on a solo-adventure), you’ll probably get some entertainment out of it.

 

The Unholy

 

Director: Evan Spiliotopoulos
Country & year: USA, 2021
Actors: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Cricket Brown, William Sadler, Katie Aselton, Cary Elwes, Diogo Morgado, Bates Wilder, Marina Mazepa, Christine Adams, Dustin Tucker, Gisela Chipe, Danny Corbo, Sonny Corbo
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt9419056/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

In the Mouth of MadnessJohn Trent used to be a freelance insurance investigator, who is now a patient in a psychiatric hospital. One day, Dr. Wrenn visits him, where Trent recounts his story: after the disappearance of the popular horror novelist Sutter Cane, Trent is having lunch with a colleague. Suddenly, Trent is attacked by an axe-wielding man who is shot dead by the police, and is later revealed to be Cane’s agent. This man went insane after reading one of Cane’s books, and killed his family as a result. And he is not the only one…apparently, some people seem to go crazy after reading Cane’s novels. Shortly afterwards, Trent is hired by the director of Arcane Publishing who wants him to investigate Cane’s disappearance, and also to recover the manuscript for his final novel. Linda Styles, who is Cane’s editor, is assigned to accompany him. While she explains to Trent that Cane’s novels are known to cause paranoia, disorientation and memory loss in some readers, Trent believes it’s all hogwash and considers his disappearance to be a bluff, something done entirely as a publicity stunt. But bizarre phenomena starts happening, and during their investigation, Trent and Linda enters a small town which looks like and includes people that are exactly as described in one of Cane’s fictional novels. Is it all staged, or is something else at play?

 

In the Mouth of Madness is the third film in John Carpenter’s (unofficial) Apocalypse Trilogy, with the first being The Thing (1982) and the second being The Prince of Darkness (1987). The movie is focusing majorly on atmospheric and creepy imagery, and John Carpenter really is good at creating an amazing atmosphere in many of his films. This one comes off as a surreal and bizarre detective story, with some interesting visual effects. Sam Neill does a convincing portrayal of the detective who is gradually falling into the abyss of pure madness as he’s investigating the alleged disappearance of the famous writer.

 

In the Mouth of Madness is a ride that takes you through a bizarre world of madness, although it might appear a little disorientating at times and there’s not offered too many explanations when wrapping things up. Regarding the movie’s concluding and final act…there are some parts that doesn’t make all that much sense. There are also some bits during the movie that appears to be a little involuntarily funny at times, but nothing too distracting. It’s still an interesting and enjoyable experience if you don’t take it all to seriously, where there’s a mix of elements from H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King (whom Carpenter based the Sutter Cane character on). While there’s a lot of Lovecraftian stuff all over the place, the Stephen King vibe cannot be missed.

 

So, overall, it’s well worth a watch if you want something strange with a little bit of Lovecraft mixed with a Stephen King flavour and maybe a little pinch of Twilight Zone.

 

Fun fact: the film that Trent is watching at the end of the movie is called Robot Monster, which Carpenter has stated was his favorite monster movie when he was a kid.

 

In the Mouth of Madness In the Mouth of Madness In the Mouth of Madness

 

Director: John Carpenter
Country & year: USA, 1995
Actors: Sam Neill, Julie Carmen, Jürgen Prochnow, David Warner, John Glover, Bernie Casey, Peter Jason, Charlton Heston, Frances Bay, Wilhelm von Homburg, Kevin Rushton, Gene Mack, Conrad Bergschneider
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0113409/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Manor (2021)

The ManorJudith Albright suffers a stroke on her 70th birthday, and is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. She is moved to a nursing home, a beautiful old-fashioned mansion. While her grandson opposes the move, both Judith and her daughter Barbara insists that this is what will be best for everyone. Judith is a given a room which she shares with another woman. Her roommate is called Annette, but she is nothing but a disturbed, babbling fool who clutches her bible like her life depends on it. Upon staying at the home for a short while, Judith is starting to witness strange behaviour in several of the residents, but doesn’t think much of it, considering that many of the people there are suffering from dementia and are prone to be confused and acting strangely. She befriends a group of other residents whom she starts playing bridge with, and things seem to be rather well…until one evening, when Annette is more disturbed than ever, especially after the cat Ozzie jumps into her bed. That night, Judith wakes up and sees a dark shadow leaning over Annette, and no one believes her about what she’s seen. When Annette dies and Judith also starts seeing that shadow creature in the bedroom, she knows something is very wrong at the nursing home, but of course…no one will believe an old, confused woman…

 

The Manor is one of the movies in the Welcome to the Blumhouse series, which consists of several movies that are all available on Amazon Prime. In this movie, it tackles the theme of the multiple dreads of growing old, with Barbara Hershey in the leading role. Here, she plays the role of a grandmother who is, by all means, definitely too young and healthy in all kinds of aspects for her to become locked inside a nursing home which treats its patients like they’re running a psych ward. We can’t help but feeling Judith’s frustration and desperation when no one is willing to listen to her, and just consider her unstable and ill despite being of perfectly sound mind.

 

As for actual scares…well, there’s not really much. The shadow figure never manages to be more than just slightly creepy, but there is nice chunk of suspense when we try to figure out what is going on together with Judith and her exploration of both the premises and its residents. Scenery-wise it’s great to look at, where the mansion-like interiors of the nursing home gives a perfectly spooky vibe.

 

Overall, The Manor is more of a Goosebumps type of horror movie than a Conjuring one, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. While it’s very easy on the scares, it does have a pretty good amount of spooky atmosphere, and makes for a nice and easy Halloween flick.

 

A little bit of fun fact: the black cat Ozzie is based on Oscar, a therapy cat that lives in the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island, U.S. since 2005. The cat is said to know when someone is about to die, and sleeps next to the patients when they are in their last hours of life. Oscar has “predicted” over 100 deaths.

 

The Manor

 

Director: Axelle Carolyn
Country & year: USA, 2021
Actors: Barbara Hershey, Bruce Davison, Nicholas Alexander, Jill Larson, Fran Bennett, Katie A. Keane, Ciera Payton, Nancy Linehan Charles, Shelley Robertson, Stacey Travis, Devin Kawaoka, Cissy Wellman
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt13372794/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nikos the Impaler (2003)

Nikos the ImpalerWe’re supposed to be somewhere in Romania during the middle-ages, where some evil iron-masked barbarian named Nikos (embodied by Andreas Schnaas) is ready to be executed in a cave by an angry mob. The tone is set in stone already during the first seconds with its horrendous bad lighting, grainy muddy images, bonkers acting with cartoonish dialogue deliveries, and the sheer atmosphere of zero-budget reeking all over the place. It’s what to expect from Andreas Schnaas, if you’re already familiar with his home-made and chaotic splatter films. And just forget about any thick Romanian accents, here they speak fluently American. God bless. Anyway … before they cuts out his entrails and sets him on fire, we get dialogues such as:

 

– Nikos, today you die!

– I. shall. not. DIE!
– I. never. DIE!
– I will return…to seek my revenge!

 

And of course,  Nikos was a man of his word. We jump to present day, all the way to New York City, where Nikos’ iron mask has been stored in a museum as an ancient artifact. Things go straight to a violent shitshow when a robbery goes wrong and some blood gets spilled on Nikos’ mask. He is then resurrected and wastes no time to find new victims to kill in the most brutal ways possible. And lucky for Nikos, the museum is already filled with visitors, ready to be body counted.

 

This is the eighth film of Andreas Schnaas, and it’s pretty established by now that he isn’t a technical, competent director, to put it mildly. There’s isn’t much of an improvement to point out, and Nikos could easily fit right into the Violent Shit series. Nikos has the same level of amateurish look and the the same paper-thin plot as the Shit series, filled with gallons of fake blood, hilariously bad acting, lots of messy low-budget gore, insanity and a lot of shit. Most of the film happens indoors and at night time, and thus suffers from inept lighting and a camera with a lens that looks like it was rubbed by a thin layer of butter. Its blurry, ugly and looks like more shit than ever, and I don’t know if that’s an insult or a compliment, to be honest.

 

Nikos the Impaler

 

But even though Mr. Schnaas never seemed to have the desire to make it to mainstream Hollywood, he rarely fails to entertain. There’s always some raw energy behind his films, and Schnaas  just seems to have one big, wild party while making them, as the madman he is. How much we actually laughs with or at the movie is not easy to tell, but that just makes it even more funnier.  We also see Nikos goes on a murder-spree in the streets of New York and causing mayhem by using his sword to shoot laser against cars. And the explosions looks like something from a Nintendo 64 game. It gets to the point where it’s just so-bad-it’s-good, really.

 

The acting isn’t much to talk about, it’s only stick figures just set up to be killed, played by a bunch of amateur actors. Some of them have some funny dialogues between the kills to keep us entertained, at least. The cult-actress Felissa Rose (that girl from Sleepaway Camp) is maybe the most familiar face among the bunch. Nikos also walks into a VideoTape store (back in a time when they still existed) so we can have some funny cameos from Tromaville, like Lloyd Kaufman and Debbie Rochon – and last but not least the porn actress Darian Caine, who was comfortable enough to be slaughtered in a messy shower scene with a lot of fake blood pouring down her tits.

 

Nikos the Impaler is available on eBay after the limited editions flew out of stock years ago. It’s also on YouTube, but with crappier image quality.

 

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Director: Andreas Schnaas
Country & year: USA, 2003
Actors: Joe Zaso, Felissa Rose, Andreas Schnaas, Antonio Tomahawk, Frank Franconeri, Daniel Alvaro, Mike Marino, Hugh C. Daly, Erotida Cruz, Fred Cerniglia, Abbandandolo Brenda, Joseph Michael Lagana
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0309916/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dracula’s Widow (1988)

Dracula's Widow We are in one of the darker corners of Hollywood, Los Angeles, where the young man Raymond Everett (Lenny Von Dohlen) owns a horror-themed wax museum. One day he gets some new deliveries, all the way from Romania, one of which is a casket that contains something you’ll never guess what – Vanessa, Dracula’s widow (Sylvia Kristel). Yes, a living, bloodsucking vampire. So why has she gotten herself all the way over to Los Angeles, you may wonder? No one knows. She doesn’t know, the script doesn’t know, even the Man Who Knows poster we see on the wall on Raymond’s apartment, doesn’t know. So where do we go from here? Who knows.

 

Anyway, as soon she rises from the casket, she goes straight to a bar where she hooks up a random, sleazy guy who will become her first victim to feed her need for human blood. At the same time, two men breaks into the wax museum while Raymond is upstairs sipping red wine and watching Nosferatu. After Vanessa kills one of the men, she goes up to Raymond and claims him as her slave before she puts her teeth in his neck, and wants him to take her back to her husband in Romania.

 

Instead of just giving her a one-way ticket and wish her the best, he tells her the shocking fact that Dracula is dead, and she’s a widow. Now she wants to know who killed him, so she can have her revenge. And guess what – Van Helsing’s grandson, simply named Dr. Helsing, coincidentally lives in Hollywood. Of course. And even though he’s old and fragile, and should rather be at a nursing home, he’s still determined and pretty eager to continue the legacy of his grandfather to hunt down vampires.

 

Dracula's Widow

 

And no joking here, this is the plot so far. We also get a crime investigation side-plot with Lt. Lannon (Josef Sommer) when Vanessa starts to leave more dead bodies around after her ongoing killing spree in Hollywood. When she’s not transforming herself into a bat, she uses her long fingers as daggers to kill her prey. There’s a pretty pointless, yet funny massacre scene with a group of devil-worshippers who are  about to sacrifice a naked blond chick to Satan, where the B-movie glory skyrockets all up to eleven. We see Vanessa turn into a monstrous creature with some really cool prosthetic makeup, as she kills off the whole group which leaves another gory crime scene to Lt. Lannon. He, of course, eventually gets in touch with Dr. Helsing, who easily convinces Hannon that all the killing is done by a vampire.

 

It’s noteworthy to mention that Dracula’s Widow is written and directed by Christopher Coppola, nephew of Francis Ford Coppola, who also made a certain Dracula film some years later. It’s easy to crap all over the film by comparing Christopher to his superior uncle, but Dracula’s Widow isn’t completely hopeless when it comes to cheap entertaining value, with some good old ’80s cheese. It’s a sleazy, gory and just a plain silly popcorn flick to kill off a Wednesday night. Nothing more, nothing less. The funniest moments here is of course the comical over-acting by Silvia Kristel, with her goofy facial expressions that she displays when she tries to look intimidating when she’s not wearing the monster make-up. Lenny Won Dohlen, known from Twin Peaks, has the same angsty look he always portrays. I also like the scenes with Dr. Helsing, that old geezer cracks me up. The guy who plays Lt. Lennon is the only one who takes his role dead serious, even though there’s absolutely nothing to take seriously here.

 

Dracula’s Widow is available on DVD after a quick search.

 

Dracula's Widow Dracula's Widow Dracula's Widow

 

 

 

 

Director: Christopher Coppola
Country & year: USA, 1988
Actors: Sylvia Kristel, Josef Sommer, Lenny von Dohlen, Marc Coppola, Stefan Schnabel, Rachel Jones, Duke Ernsberger, G.F. Rowe, Richard K. Olsen, Lucius Houghton, J. Michael Hunter, Traber Burns
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0097230/

 

 

Tom Ghoul