Leprechaun 2 (1994)

Leprechaun 2 starts way, waaay back in ancient Ireland where William is being hunted down by Lep through the forest, while he utters his first line that sets the tone immediately: “scream as you MAY, scream as you MIGHT, if you try to escape, you’ll be dead on this NIGHT, haha.” William has been his slave since he stole his pot of gold, but that’s no longer important. Now that he has finally reached his 1,000th birthday on St. Patrick’s Day, he can now claim something more precious: a bride. And the lucky one has already been chosen, the only thing holding back is that she has to sneeze three times. And if no one saves her soul by speaking  the magic phrase “God bless ya”, the poor girl is his forever, and then William is a free man. The only problem is that the girl is William’s daughter, and he cant have any of that. After he ruins the whole set-up by saving her from the worst marriage ever, Lep says he will wait for another 1000 years, and hunt down William’s whole bloodline, before he snaps the guy’s neck.

 

Then we jump to present day, to Los Angeles, exactly one thousand years later on the St. Patty’s Day, where we meet the teen couple Bridget and Cody. Cody works for his uncle Morty, who runs a shady Dark Tourism Ride which scams people by showing them false resting spots of celebs and murder houses. Morty is also a greasy alchoholic who’s always too drunk to drive as he just sits in the local Irish pub and drowns himself in brown liquor. And now having seen the three protagonists, our favorite host, Lep, emerges from a tree near Harry Houdini’s house to finally get the show started. His first victim is a bum whom Lep rips out his golden tooth before he starts the huntdown for his chosen bride. And who can that possibly be? Bridget, of course, who’s a descendant of William’s bloodline. Lep was a man of his words. It’s now up to Cody to save her.

 

Lep 2 hasn’t got much more to offer than bad acting, retarded silliness and the production value of a porn film. Warwick Davis reprised his role as Lep in the first sequels of five (!), and like in the first one, he’s once again the only reason to give this a watch. He has far more screentime compared to the first film, and more quote-worthy poetry-driven one-liners to entertain us with, as he goofs and giggles his way to one scenario after another. He’s even getting hammered in one scene where he has to prove himself, as the proud Irish he is, that no one can drink him under the table. The ice cream man Clint Howard and the Twin Peaks receptionist Kimmy Robertson has a short cameo as a tourist couple. And the rest of the characters are just bad actors who do their best by remembering their lines and look scared when the script says so.

 

The effects are trash. There’s one scene where we’re supposed to believe that Lep rips one guys finger off. You can see a mile away that he gently pulls the finger off a fake hand. He then licks on it and says with his manic voice: Finger licking GOOD! AAAAH…!!” Then we have the pot of gold that gets ripped out of someone’s stomach. I won’t explain how it got there other than it’s so laughable and poorly executed that I only wonder where the budget of 2 million dollars went.  There’s also a desperate attempt to appeal to the teenage audience by showing a second or two of Bridget’s naked boobs, allegedly performed by a topless double. This scenes also involves two spinning lawnmower blades, which Lep tricks some guy to believe are two big breast that’s waiting for him. A cheap, but memorable kill count.

 

The Leprechaun franchise is infamous for its total absence of continuity which leads to the big question: Is Lep 2 related to the first film in any form? No. Trimark Pictures actually had big plans for making a direct sequel where Lep would seek revenge on Tori (the protagonist from the first film), and they felt confident enough to get Jennifer Aniston back when they offered her a paycheck of 25,000 dollars. She refused, of course, which led any continuation to go completely off the rails, and every sequel was treated like a reboot or stand-alone film with different writers and directors who had no clue what to do with the franchise, other than trying to top the previous one with as much B-movie insanity as possible. Some other theory is that there’s a different Leprechaun in each sequel, just played by the same actor. But sequels or not, the films get crazier and crazier where we follows Lep’s quests for gold in places such as Las Vegas, in space, in tha hood, and it’s overall an amusingly bizarre franchise to dive into, especially if you have a soft spot for schlocks.

 

Lerprechaun 2 Lerprechaun 2

 

Director: Rodman Flender
Writers: Turi Meyer, Alfredo Septién
Country & year: USA, 1994
Actors: Warwick Davis, Charlie Heath, Shevonne Durkin, Sandy Baron, Adam Biesk, James Lancaster, Linda Hopkins, Arturo Gil, Kimmy Robertson, Clint Howard
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0110329/

 

Related posts: Leprechaun (1993) | Leprechaun 3 (1995) | Leprechaun 4: In Space (1996) | Leprechaun in the Hood (2000) | Leprechaun returns (2018)

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leprechaun (1993)

Screenwriter Mark Jones had already worked in the TV industry since the 70s, and wrote for Saturday-morning cartoons like Scooby-Doo, Yogi, Dinky Dog, Mr. Magoo, Heathcliff, James Bond Jr, ALF and the list goes on. At the age of forty he decided to take his career to the next level by writing and directing his first little, low-budget horror film. And one night he sat in a bar and saw the Lucky Charms commercials on TV,  the brilliant idea for a horror spin to the Irish mythical folklore creature, Leprechaun, popped up in his head. And since Halloween and Friday the 13th was already taken, a horror film about an evil Leprechaun would be perfect to air on TV every St. Patrick’s Day and give him an annual paycheck. He pitched a script to Trimark Pictures and got the green light (pun intended) after being rejected twice. On board he had the British actor Warwick Davis in the title role, who was then only known for his role in Willow, and was pretty excited to play an antagonist.  An young and unknown Jennifer Aniston plays the main protagonist in her first movie role.

 

Leprechaun starts off in 1983 where Dan returns to his farmhouse in North Dakota from a trip to Ireland. He arrives in a black limousine, drunk on Jameson Whisky, and shows his wife a pot of gold that he’d stolen from a Leprechaun. But little did he know that the Leppy has followed him, and kills his wife by pushing her down the basement stairs as he screams his trademark line I want me gold NOW!”. Dan suppresses his powers with a four-leaf-clover, which is like cryptonite  for Leprechauns, before he traps him in a crate. After sealing it he puts the clover on the crate to hold him trapped forever. He then gets a stroke.

 

Ten years later, the young lady Tori (Jennifer Aniston) and her dad is moving into the farmhouse we saw earlier. Tori is not impressed and wants to go back to Beverly Hills. After freaking out by some cobwebs and the sight of a spider in the basement, she runs out and bumps into Mr. Prince Charming (a love-relationship that never got developed in the script, I guess). But it gave her enough reason to stay so we can see her with a shotgun at the end. But where’s the man of the party, Leppy himself? He’s still in the basement, trapped in the crate, waiting for someone to finally remove the four-leaf-clover so he can finally pop out, look for his gold, and give us some entertainment. Of course, it had to be some fat, clumsy redneck to remove the clover by an accident. He’s supposed to be the comic relief, but no one had any idea how Warwick Davis would completely outshine the whole cast.

 

Lerprechaun

 

If Beetlejuice and The Joker had a baby, it would be something like Leppy, and the one and only reason to watch the film is because of Warwick Davis. Without him and his witty and unique, cartoonish, wild persona and line-deliveries, this film would be unwatchable and forgotten, and we wouldn’t have the awesome sequels. He’s  dedicated to the fullest, clearly having a blast, and the imaginative prosthetic make-up by FX artist Gabe Bastalos matches his personality perfectly. The rest of the characters have nothing much to offer and are as bland as bed sheets, and the film’s main problem is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. In some scenes it looks like a cheap kids movie made for TV, and the next we have some dark moments where Leppy bounces some dude to death with a pogo stick. He breaks some police officer’s neck and rips someone’s eye out. Too childish for the older viewer, yet too brutal for the minors. So … I don’t know.

 

The highlight is where Leppy chases Jennifer Aniston with a wheelchair, a scene where she actually had to run in slow-motion so that Davis could keep up with her, as he had trouble steering the wheels. I would love to see a raw footage of that, haha.

 

The film is most known for Jennifer Aniston’s first film role, and this is probably her best performance as far as I know. She runs, screams, and when she’s not looking confused and asks herself what the hell she’s signed on to, she tries her hardest to look scared when confronted with Leppy. At some point she looks completely dead inside where she might be realizing that this actually was a feature film and not a deliberate prank. Luckily for her she found success in the sitcom Friends shortly after, and did what she could to pretend that this film never happened. Even though the film was a perfect target to get panned and mocked by critics, it struck gold at the box office, gained a cult-following and the executives at Trimark now saw the opportunity for more gold with a franchise with Warwick Davis who reprised his role in five sequels. And what a bizarre franchise we got. Dear Lord …

 

Lerprechaun Lerprechaun Lerprechaun

 

Writer and director: Mark Jones
Country & year: USA, 1993
Actors: Warwick Davis, Jennifer Aniston, Ken Olandt, Mark Holton, Robert Hy Gorman, Shay Duffin, John Sanderford, John Voldstad, Pamela Mant, William Newman, David Permenter, Raymond C. Turner
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0107387/

 

Related posts: Leprechaun 2 (1994) | Leprechaun 3 (1995) | Leprechaun 4: In Space (1996) | Leprechaun in the Hood (2000) | Leprechaun returns (2018)

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Above, So Below (2014)

Scarlett is a young scholar who continues her dead father’s search for the philosopher’s stone (a legendary alchemical substance discovered by Nicolas Flamel, which supposedly has the powers to turn metals into gold or silver, and granting eternal life). She travels to Paris, and together with her ex boyfriend George and Benji, the cameraman, they go to the Catacombs of Paris. Scarlett had earlier found the “Rose Key”: an artifact that has some codes which, upon using them to solve a riddle on Flame’s headstone, gives them some coordinates that points to an area inside the Catacombs. But of course, this specific area proves to be off-limits. With the help of a stranger, they get in contact with a guide, Papillon, who will take them to an off-limits entrance. Crawling through a narrow tunnel, they are pushed forward as it collapses, and they end up in an area with a blocked tunnel. Finding no other way to leave, they decide to break through the tunnel…and what they find further inside is more hellish than they could have imagined.

 

As Above, So Below is a found footage horror film from 2014, which was actually the first production ever that secured permission from the French government to film in the catacombs (a place we actually visited some years back, a delightful experience). As part of the promotion for the film, Felix Kjellberg (AKA PewDiePie) traveled through the Paris Catacombs. The film is directed by John Eric Dowdle, who previously directed The Poughkeepsie Tapes, Quarantine, and Devil.

 

The film incorporates several things, including a little bit of Egyptian history, Knights of Templar, mythology, religion, and of course it draws some obvious inspiration from Dante’s Inferno. Trapped inside some really claustrophobic areas, where the characters are pushed further and further into the complexity of Hell itself, makes for a suspenseful viewing. There’s a lot of atmosphere here and scenes that are both creepy an sometimes even outright scary, with madness and paranoia taking over their resolve. The claustrophobic feeling is genuine and really creepy.

 

As Above, So Below is a pretty decent found footage horror film with a little bit of an adventurous side to it, which makes it feel like a “National Treasure meets Blair Witch” kind of thing, with a reminiscence of The Descent and The Tunnel. It blends several pieces of mythology with well-executed symbolism, and of course excellent use of scenery as it was filmed in the real Catacombs of Paris with little use of props. Due to its heavy symbolism and use of mythological aspects it may not cater to everyone, of course, but we found it to be a thrilling little ride.

 

As Above So Below

 

Director: John Erick Dowdle
Writer: John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle
Country & year: France, USA, 2014
Actors: Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge, François Civil, Marion Lambert, Ali Marhyar, Cosme Castro, Hamid Djavadan, Théo Cholbi, Emy Lévy, Roger Van Hool, Olivia Csiky Trnka, Hellyette Bess
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt2870612/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tunnel (2011)

the tunnel 2011 reviewThe New South Wales State government plans to recycle the huge amounts of trapped water in a network of abandoned train tunnels. However, these plans suddenly come to a halt, and publicly no one is ever told why. Rumors are spreading, like how homeless people using the tunnels end up going missing. This brings a young journalist, Natasha, to start an investigation into what she thinks is some kind of government cover-up. She and her crew decide to enter the tunnels and look for answers, but after being refused entry by a security guard, they do of course find an alternative entrance into the place. While exploring the tunnels, they start hearing strange noises through the audio headphones, and when one of the crew members go missing they eventually realize that they might not be alone in these deep, dark tunnels.

 

The Tunnel is a crowd-funded Australian horror film made in the mockumentary style (faux documentary), directed by Carlo Ledesma and written by Enzo Tedeschi and Julian Harvey. While found footage movies have pretty much become dime-a-dozen these days, it is still a format that can be quite effective. By the time of this movie’s release back in 2011, Australia already had an other gem in their mockumentary-horror repertoire: Lake Mungo from 2008, a movie that’s mostly been obscure and little known but have had some kind of re-discovery as of late. While Lake Mungo is a movie that plays more on loss and grief with some supernatural vibes underneath, The Tunnel hits heavier on the creep-keys with atmospheric scenery and things going wrong in the dark. It does have a fair amount of creep factor and plays a lot on the fear of what might be lurking in the dark, and the creepy setting helps to set the mood. The claustrophobic and dark atmosphere is pretty much what carries the movie, and easily manages to give you a whiff of the heebie jeebies since the darkness implies more than it shows, and leaves a bit to your own imagination.

 

The movie isn’t fast-paced and spends some time before plunging the characters (and viewers) into the tunnels and the horrors that lurk there, and it also spends some time on “interviews” in order in order to maintain the documentary-style. If you have patience for the somewhat slow build-up and can appreciate that the creep-factor is more focused on what you can imagine instead of actually seeing, then you should be able to enjoy this low-budget Australian mockumentary.

 

The Tunnel

 

Director: Carlo Ledesma
Writers: Enzo Tedeschi, Julian Harvey
Country & year: Australia, 2011
Actors: Bel Deliá, Andy Rodoreda, Steve Davis, Luke Arnold, Goran D. Kleut, James Caitlin, Ben Maclaine, Peter McAllum, Rebecca Clay, Shannon Harvey, Arianna Gusi, Russell Jeffrey, Jessica Fallico, Ben James
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt1735485/

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terror (1978)

A lady called Mad Dolly is being chased by some mob in a forest who believe she is a witch. She gets captured and about to get burned at the stake, on order by Lord Garrick. Before they get the chance to lit her on fire, she gives her final speech with silly facial expressions, and summons some demonic forces that causes one of the executioners to catch fire, and then all hell breaks loose. Lord Garrick runs back to his mansion where an arm bursts through the wall and strangles him. Lady Garrick, who wanted to see Mad Dolly dead more than anyone else, finds her Lord dangling from the ceiling. The Lady is then confronted by a resurrected and vengeful Mad Dolly, who chops her head off and gives the most cheesy, evil laugh ever. And only eight minutes in it’s fairly okay to ask what the hell this is.

 

What we just saw was the ending sequence of the fresh, new supernatural horror film by James Garrick, which he screened for some of the cast members. What a load of rubbish, says one guy in the audience. The film is supposed to be based on true events that happened to James’ ancestors 300 years ago, and he has inherited the mansion from Lord and Lady Garrick. The inheritance includes the most important item of all: the sword that chopped the head off the Lord, hanging over the fireplace. While James is throwing a party in his inherited mansion, we meet Gary who can’t stop bragging about who great he is to hypnotize people. He gives a demonstration on Ann, a struggling actress who works for James. Things gets an unexpected turn when she slips into full trance, and picks up the sword and tries to attack James. Ok, party’s over! After she wakes up, she runs out the door and back to the hostel where her roommate sees her on the bathroom, washing her hands for what we can assume is blood.

 

And the morning after, James’ girlfriend Carol is found dead near the woods, knifed to death. James highly suspects that Ann did it after she tried to stab him with the sword the previous night and is determined to expose her.

 

This is an odd, little film, made by the English horror film director Norman J. Warren, known for his obscure low-budget exploitation flicks such as Satan’s Slave (1976), Outer Touch (1979), Inseminoid (1981) and Bloody New Year (1987). With Terror he wanted to make something new since the horror films at that time was pretty much the same, and he took a lot of inspiration from the new wave of Italian Giallo films and his new favorite, Suspiria. The inspirations are clearly visible for sure, with the use of colors, but as a whole there isn’t much new to behold here. And that’s a shame since there’s some potential here with its flexible camera work, gothic imagery and classic, gloomy atmosphere with fog machines and all. It has the visual package, but the script turns it into an unfocused mixed bag of supernatural horror, whodunnit mystery, slasher, cheese and sleaze and God knows what, stitched together frankenstein-style with several long and pointless scenes that drag on for too long.

 

One of the highlights is the scene with Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in a certain film called Star Wars the year before. His appearance comes in the most unexpected moment, it took me completely off guard. And there’s also a scene with a nude stripper in a sleazy bar in London, a long and pointless filler scene. Director Norman J. Warren added this in to make the film more commercial. And he’s really determined to give us shots from all different angles and close-ups so we can enjoy some fresh nudity and forget the rest of the movie for some minutes. But it seemed to work, though, since Terror became a box-office success in England after its release, despite the censorship from Video nasty. A fun little nugget of trivia: the stripper in the film was a real stripper they had to hire because the other stripper who auditioned for the scenes seemed too tired and bored. “She was indeed sexy and scary“, Warren said, and her act was so outrageous, they had to cut part of it because there was no way the censors would let it through.

 

There’s some decent gory moments here, such the traditional knife stabbings, glass panels that falls and chops off a head, a drunk dude who gets fence stabbed and then crushed in a garbage truck. Awesome. And then we have…a flying car. Ok, I didn’t expect that one. The last four minutes is the best part which at least ends with a great, colorful and crazy climax. Not a terrible film, but not great either. As a 70’s oddity it works fine as a curiosity, I guess, and it has its moments. Terror is available on Blu-ray/DVD Combo on amazon.com

 

Terror Terror Terror

 

Director: Norman J. Warren
Country & year: UK, 1978
Actors: John Nolan, Carolyn Courage, James Aubrey, Sarah Keller, Tricia Walsh, Glynis Barber, Michael Craze, Rosie Collins, Chuck Julian, Elaine Ives-Cameron, Patti Love, Mary Maude, William Russell, Peter Craze
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0141897/

 

 

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