The Disco Exorcist (2011)

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Another Wild Eye Releasing release! Lord knows where they find this stuff from, but they’re distributing and selling some of the oddest low-budget and just plain forgotten horror movies out there. So far, we’ve loved “They Will Outlive Us All” and “President Wolfman”, and been a bit bored / annoyed by “Invasion Of The Scream Queens” – but their independent spirit deserves supporting, so go give them a look. What side will “Disco Exorcist” fall on?

 

If you’re going to have a movie absolutely chock-full of sex, then this is the way to do it. Everyone seems to be having such a great time in this movie! Lots of boobs, lots of mens’ asses and a surprisingly large amount of full frontal male nudity. There’s no women in peril having to run about screaming with their boobs out, no “shock the men, stalk the women” nonsense…just a lot of people enjoying sex, at great length. Pun not even intended.

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Rex Romanski (Michael Reed) is a happy-go-lucky swinging guy, the centre of attention at a disco (this entire movie is set in a dayglo parody of / homage to the 70s). He makes no bones about his lifestyle, and the women he’s been with seem fairly happy with the arrangement too, despite being a little upset they’re no longer riding the Rex Express. He’s waiting for the right woman, and one night meets Rita (Ruth Sullivan), who bewitches him immediately. One night of surprisingly graphic sex later, and Rex is smitten, telling his friend Jose as much the next morning, while enjoying a porno movie starring the delightful Amoreena Jones (Sarah Nicklin).

 

So, Rex and Rita go to the club again the next night, and all seems well. That is, until in walks Amoreena! Rex goes to talk to her, they hit it off and Rita is not thrilled. And from that, one of the funnest, rudest, horror comedies of recent years kicks off. Rita curses Amoreena, Rex is offered a gig on Amoreena’s latest porno movie and jumps at the chance, “big boobed extras” get possessed by the demonic spirit, and the horror is ramped up.

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My last note while watching the movie just says “mountains of blow and dongs”, and that could almost be the movie’s subtitle. It’s that fun, relaxed attitude to sex, where everybody gets what they want, which is surprisingly refreshing to see – especially after a film like “Savage Vengeance” which has absolutely nothing nice to say about humanity at all. Rex isn’t a stud, either – he’s a fairly slender guy who doesn’t appear to be packing anything spectacular downstairs, so the implication is he’s so popular because he looks after the women he’s with, too. Or maybe I’m over-thinking this? Who knows.

 

“Disco Exorcist” makes an effort to really look like a grindhouse movie, too, with digitally-added “dirt” on the print, 90% of the dialogue being dubbed in afterwards, the occasional scene shot on super-8, and so on. I’m not sure where the line is between having fun with the homage and just being annoying, but this stays on the right side of things. I mean, it’s a great deal more cheaply made than any of the movies it’s paying homage to, which adds another layer.

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The acting is surprisingly strong too, top to bottom. It appears director Richard Griffin has something of a stable of performers, as all three main stars and many of the others have made regular appearances for him. Normally, I’d be saying “well, X was good, but Y and Z sucked” but everyone’s great in this, knowing just how silly to pitch their performances. It’s great!

 

Now, bear in mind this movie has a lot in common with the plot-led pornos it’s cribbing from, and while nothing hardcore goes on, there’s lots and lots of sex in this movie. I mean, a lot. There are three sex scenes in the first ten minutes, and it doesn’t really ease off after then either. So bear that in mind while choosing when and where to watch it, and you should have a fine time. Griffin is a director I’m going to pay more attention to.

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Rating: thumbs up

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Savage Vengeance (1993)

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Also known as “I Spit On Your Grave 2”.

I was a bit conflicted about even reviewing this. I love Donald Farmer and his wonderfully odd shot-on-video work, but there’s really not a lot to like here, although it’s got such a weird story to it that I had to cover it. Camille Keaton had the fortune / misfortune to star in the original “I Spit On Your Grave”, a grindhouse piece of filth from 1978 with absolutely no redeeming features whatsoever. She barely worked after, the odd appearance at the bottom of credit lists notwithstanding, until 2010, when she got hired by a new generation of filmmakers who wanted some of that old-school sleaze kudos.

 

This movie represents her one and only starring role for over 30 years, and by all accounts she didn’t enjoy it, walking off the set before the end of filming (resulting in a rather oddly edited denouement). Meir Zarchi, the director of the original “I Spit On Your Grave”, sued, causing it to sit on a shelf between 1988 and 1993 and forcing several changes to be made. The main character’s surname was altered, resulting in some rather clumsy dubbing, Keaton herself had her name taken off it, and some re-editing had to be done (presumably to remove footage from the original movie). This scrabble for extra footage, though, does give us the rather wonderful opportunity to see a scene lifted directly from “Scream Dream”, Rikk-O-Shay (with Melissa Moore on vocals) performing “Ball Buster”. But more on that later.

 

As if to add an extra layer of weirdness to proceedings (and to give evidence to the idea this went unreleased for a long time), this has the pre-title title “I Will Dance On Your Grave vol. 1”. “Cannibal Hookers”, released 4 years before this, was vol. 3! I do sort of admire that level of laziness, and will report back when I find out what vol. 2 was, or why entirely unrelated movies were made part of this non-series.

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Jennifer (SURNAME REDACTED) decides, one day, to drive into the middle of nowhere, take her magazine on a walk into the wilderness, then sit and read it. For reasons which never become apparent, a car full of four guys (see their album cover pose above), one of whom looks a little familiar, also drive to the same spot, track Jennifer down and rape her. But this rape isn’t the average traumatising, violent screen depiction of rape – everyone keeps their clothes on (although Jennifer does get her top ripped open at one point); so you get the curious image of a guy with his jeans on rubbing against the upper thigh of a woman with her jeans on, which is clearly supposed to be a full-on penetrative rape. One of the men, all of whom are unarmed, even forces Jennifer to give him oral sex, which seems a risky proposition given you’ve just brutalised the poor woman. She’s left lying on the ground, sobbing, then…

 

Five years later! Jennifer is now a student at law school, despite being 41 at the time of filming (although she aged remarkably well). The professor in one of the classes talks about her crime as an example of vengeance being an admissible defence in court these days, and makes a few “hilarious” jokes about rape and revenge murder, which naturally upsets our heroine. She decides to take her friend Sam (Linda Lyer) off for a trip to some other wilderness somewhere, to get away from it all, and after she agrees to buy the beer, Sam agrees.

 

At the same time, a woman rejects a man’s advances in a bar (Tommy, played by Farmer himself), so he waits for her to leave and then brutally butchers her in the car park outside. His performance is, to put it mildly, over the top, and here’s a screenshot:

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The band in the bar is Rikk-O-Shay…hold on! Their curly haired backing singer, the “star” of “Scream Dream”, was one of the rapists at the beginning of the movie! To see him bouncing about in the background, five years after he had his penis chopped off, is an odd moment, and these two performances represent the entirety of Nikki Riggins’ career in the movies. I can’t get bogged down in the details, though, we’ve got plenty more movie to get through.

 

Unlike the rural idyll it’s portrayed as in many movies, the wilderness here is just overgrown and ugly, and much more believable as a result. Stopping off at a gas station for supplies, they run into Tommy, who makes an inappropriate advance on Sam, only to be stopped by the guy who works there, Dwayne. Dwayne acts like a gentleman, but it turns out he’s the good cop to Tommy’s bad cop and they’re a rape gang! Now, I don’t know a lot about the world, but to completely accidentally fall foul of two different rape gangs in the space of five years seems the worst luck perhaps ever, or just incredibly lazy writing.

 

Later, Sam decides to go for a walk in the woods, gets lost, and happens upon Dwayne’s house. Bad move, Sam. She is raped, killed by Tommy in a fit of rage, then the two men have their way with her corpse before eating her. All this happens with clothes staying on, in case you were wondering. Jennifer waits til the next day before trying to track down her friend, but luckily Dwayne is at the store again and offers to take her to where Sam is. I appreciate I’m a bit of a cynic, but if I’d been the victim of a crime as horrific as Jennifer’s, I’d be much slower to trust a couple of sleazy scumbags who I knew nothing about. But we’ve only got 64 minutes, so those sort of niceties are right out of the window.

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So there’s yet more rape, and another long chase through the woods, culminating in what looks like Jennifer’s death…although it turns out when our two villains go back to the store to gloat over what they’d done, that she was fine, and didn’t have a scratch on her. It’s at this point that they clearly didn’t have Keaton for filming, as someone else has to tell Dwayne that she’s been buying chainsaws and guns and wants to meet them tomorrow. All this, given that the police would almost certainly believe her (they appear to be looking for an excuse to arrest the gruesome twosome), really makes no sense. Tommy’s degenerated into a full-blown necrophile by this point, although the impression is ruined somewhat by one of the corpses blinking several times while the camera focuses on her.

 

This is a horrible movie. Given how short it is, a really large portion of its running time is women either running away from rapists or being raped, and there’s nothing to distract from the grim spectacle of that. It’s poorly shot (on video, naturally), poorly lit, the acting is shocking, and there’s barely a script; plus the music, never a strong suit in Farmer’s stuff, is unbearable, tuneless noodling from beginning to end. I really don’t understand what Farmer was aiming for here – there’s nothing particularly graphic, with everyone being fully clothed at all times, and apart from one fantastic effect when Dwayne gets his head split open with a chainsaw there’s not any gore either. There’s no sense of humour and precious little sense of humanity.

 

Rating: thumbs down

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Invasion Of The Scream Queens (1992)

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Firstly – much love for Wild Eye Releasing. Those folks are doing some sterling work bringing ultra-low budget and completely forgotten works of horror cinema to a wider audience, and if you have any spare money I heartily recommend buying some of their stuff and having a good time. Well, a good time is not guaranteed, but you know. Get this film from here.

 

This also continues our Donald Farmer season. The great Farmer, after dropping the insane classic “Vampire Cop” on the world, decided to do a documentary featuring the women of the new world of low-budget and shot-on-video (SOV) horror. Well, “decided” might be too strong a word – it looks like he was offered interviews with a bunch of women in their homes, or waiting in the reception room of some movie company, and saw a buck to be made.

 

There’s absolutely nothing interesting visually about this documentary at all, unless you count the sound drops and weird tracking problems that came from Farmer’s original VHS tape and Wild Eye’s transfer of said VHS. So I’d normally try and say something about the movie itself, but in this case I’m stumped. Pro wrestling fans will recognise a lot of the “shoot interview” trend in this, where a wrestler was filmed telling stories in a hotel room on the road somewhere for a couple of hours. No-one has ever said “this shoot interview was really well filmed”.

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A substantial number of women are interviewed, and what’s interesting I think is the mix of extreme honesty and typical Hollywood back-covering from them. Sadly, a lot of them had to rely on, for want of a better word, bottom-feeding scum like Jim Wynorski and Fred Olen Ray for work, and those guys were far more interested in whether a woman would take her clothes off on camera than telling an interesting story (with one or two minor exceptions for both guys). So you get young women like Melissa Moore, Michelle Bauer and Brinke Stevens, and veterans like Mary Woronov and Martine Beswick, all trying to be as polite as possible about men who I’m sure they’d have crossed the street to avoid had they been in any other line of work. Stevens even manages, from the vantage of 2015, to be a little heartbreaking, as she talks about writing movies and getting into A-pictures…when we can see her IMDB page and the last 20 years is full of cheap horror garbage I’d never even heard of.

 

I think the politeness spoils it, slightly. For instance, making a movie in four days must have been a bizarre experience, and it’s brushed over as “well, I was new, and I’d do anything”. Tell us more! Give us dirt!

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There are no new ideas in the world, and so it is with this movie. Farmer must have seen “Scream Queen Hot Tub Party”, released the previous year, which was a Fred Olen Ray / Jim Wynorski joint effort and basically an hour of mostly naked women talking about the shitty movies they’d been in…although Farmer changes it up and also interviews people like David DeCoteau, who artfully skates round why he doesn’t use certain actresses any more (real answer: they had the temerity to join a Union, and his cheap garbage is most definitely non-Union).  DeCoteau, “interestingly” enough, is still trading on the “Scream Queen” name, casting Linnea Quigley, Bauer and Stevens together in 2014’s “3 Scream Queens”.

 

It’s an fascinating artefact from a fascinating time, and thanks to Wild Eye for putting it out there. But, all told, I’m glad Farmer went back to doing what he did best – making spectacularly cheap horror movies. While I have my soapbox, though, I’ll add a little bit about Wynorski and Olen Ray, as their shadows loom large over this sort of cinema. A lot of sites and magazines will call them “legends”, or make reference to their “gleefully un-PC” cinema, or will even pretend to like their movies. This is 100% bullshit, though. Not only did they make cheap crap with very few redeeming features, they exploited women, and if you think “well, the women could have refused to work for them” then I’m sorry that you don’t understand how the world and power relationships work. Anyway, after the era covered by this movie, Wynorski went on to basically make soft-core pornography (including “Witches of Breastwick” and “Cleavagefield”, and those movies are not as much fun as the titles suggest) and Olen Ray, along with also making soft-core horror, just with less entertaining titles, made super-cheap family movies (“Abner The Invisible Dog” is one), because his entire business model relies on fooling old people and children in video shops and Netflix queues.

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Look at this asshole

B-movies, cheap SOV horror or whatever you want to call it, can be sleazy fun without being so exploitative, but if you only had their work to go on, you’d never realise that. I’m far from a prude, but if being called a prude means I don’t have to pretend to like the person who made “Girl With The Sex-Ray Eyes” then I accept the title. Hell, I’ll be an equal opportunities prude, just look at the front cover of any David DeCoteau movie made in the last decade and tell me you don’t feel a little bad for the guys on the posters.

 

I realise I’ve spent over half this review talking about people who aren’t in it. Sorry ISCFC readers, but “Invasion Of The Scream Queens” comes recommended – just don’t expect much of the documentarian’s art.

 

Rating: thumbs up

Yor, The Hunter From The Future (1983)

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This would have been cool if it had actually been in the movie

If you’ve ever seen “Planet Of The Apes” on video, you’ll probably wonder what all the fuss is about with the big twist at the end, seeing as how it was revealed on the poster / front cover. This movie tries to go one step further by actually revealing the twist in its own title – at every moment of this rather oddly paced movie, you’ll be thinking to yourself “when is this bloke going to hurry up and get to the future?”

 

Part of this problem may be explained by Yor’s provenance – this 90 minute movie is edited down from a 4-part miniseries on Italian TV. So, people will pop up and be villains, for about 20 minutes or so, before disappearing, getting summarily dispatched, or whatever; and Yor gets himself into a number of romantic scrapes that resolve themselves remarkably quickly. As it’s co-financed by Turkey, you get to see a lot of locations which fans of bad movie gold like “Turkish Star Wars” will remember very well too, and when a movie is this difficult to explain, it’s almost guaranteed to be some fun.

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Yor is Reb Brown, bad movie royalty from his roles in “Space Mutiny”, “The Sword And The Sorceror” and the original awful “Captain America”, and he appears to just be strolling through the Stone Age wilderness when he rescues a tribe from a rampaging Triceratops. Pag (Luciano Pigozzi, Italian “That Guy” actor) is the “protector” of Ka-Laa (Corinne Clery), who likes what she sees when she sees Yor. Some guys with blue-ish skin attack the village, and our three heroes, after the barest minimum of resistance, just run off and leave their friends and family to die. Hurrah!

 

Yor, Pag and Ka-Laa make friends, enemies and see some of the truly beautiful and unusual sights of Turkey, and they find someone who has the same weird medallion thing as Yor, which sort-of sparks the quest to find out who he really is. Then, with the movie about two-thirds done, the sci-fi stuff kicks in and the plot, not so much as hinted at to this point, kicks in. Blame it all on nuclear destruction, although where the dinosaurs popped up from is anyone’s guess, and this ends up with Yor heading off to the island where all the technology still is. Will he stop the bad fella’s quest for world domination? How little self-respect does Ka-Laa have?

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It’s certainly an unusual movie – although I’m sure there’s backstory in the TV series that would have made all this make a little more sense, the impression that the people making this were very worried about their audience getting bored is strong. Although…the sheer amount of stuff does become tiring, partly because it’s so samey. He rescues some villagers from a monster! He meets a lady! Ka-Laa is jealous of the lady! He walks through some caves! I was a little disappointed that one of these ladies, the staggeringly beautiful Marina Rocchi (as Tarita, who avoids getting blown up by lasers near the end) didn’t have a bigger role, and indeed had a career that didn’t go much of anywhere.

 

By the time the albino-looking people and their Darth Vader-ripoff adversaries have shown up, the excitement that should be there from having a movie with stone age stuff suddenly go full sci-fi has been worn down a bit. The last section is, dare I say it, a bit boring even?

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I think “Yor” has been helped by its reputation, much like “Plan Nine From Outer Space” (which isn’t really one of the worst thousand films ever made, much less right at the bottom). It won a few of the early Razzie Awards, it’s got a wacky title, it’s got Reb Brown doing that weird shouting thing he does…it’s a fun story more than a particularly fun movie. Cast your eyes over the ISCFC’s other sword and sorcery reviews for something a bit more exciting.

 

Rating: thumbs down

Scream Dream (1989)

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Our Donald Farmer season continues! Thanks to the wonder that is “Vampire Cop”, we’re big fans of Farmer’s work here at the ISCFC. Lord knows why, though – the chap is, for one, unable to tell the difference between vampires, cannibals, witches and demons; if you’re killed before the halfway point of one of his movies, you’re dead for good, but after then and chances are you’re coming back to life to start attacking other people; and his shot-on-video (SOV) is cheap-looking, even among other SOV horror of the time. But he’s got something weirdly compelling about his movies that gets us watching and reviewing them, and hopefully get you watching them too.

 

You want an opening scene with nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of the movie? We got it! You want a song performed in its entirety right after that, a song which is almost brain-buggering in its badness? We got that too! “Scream Dream”, the song, is performed by a band which is never identified by name at any point (although the credits call them Rikk-O-Shay, which might be their real name or their movie name, not sure) and their lead singer is a magnificent creature called Michelle Shock.

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Confusion piles on top of confusion, dear reader. Those of you with large record collections, or former readers of Rolling Stone, will remember Michelle Shocked, the alternative-folkie turned oddball pop star turned born-again Christian; she was enjoying her first flush of success in the mid / late 80s, so it seems pretty unlikely that at the very least, someone working on this movie wouldn’t have heard of her. Why the almost identical name, then? Sadly, we may never know – although I am going to try and get an interview with Donald Farmer when I’ve finished reviewing his old films, as he’s got a couple of new ones in the pipeline I hope he wants to promote.

 

After a 30 second pause, the song is repeated! Rick, a scumbag, decides to spend his girlfriend Suzy’s car payment money on a trip to a (UNNAMED BAND) gig, and she comes along even though she quite reasonably thinks they suck. Backstage afterwards, and she still doesn’t leave him when he describes her as his sister to Michelle, only walking out finally when Michelle invites him to hang around and have some sex. Rick gets eaten, of course, but only after doing the second least convincing “I’m getting a blow job” face ever (behind only “The Room”, of course).

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(UNNAMED BAND) get some really bad publicity, with the local TV news calling them devil worshippers and so on. As the lead singer is a witch (just the sort of witch who transforms into something that looks like a demon, complete with horns), this is pretty much fair enough, but their record label boss fires “the most controversial singer of all time” despite her being the only reason anyone would possibly be interested in this lot.

 

The thing I love about Farmer’s movies is the layers of weirdness you have to dig through in order to get to the core of what he’s doing. The male lead of the movie is one of (UNNAMED BAND)’s backup singers, called Derrick, and he goes round to Michelle’s house to console her, only to get attacked. As he’s the only person in the movie who even thinks of defending themselves, he kills her and runs off…and the villain of the movie is dead before the halfway point and stays that way. What? But luckily, we get the replacement lead singer going over to her house to take some of her outfits, finding the body, and then deciding to eat her? Honestly, that bit confused the hell out of me. So after having a little nibble on her predecessor’s corpse, she gets possessed by the spirit of the witch, or something, and pretty much takes over where Michelle left off.

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That replacement is Melissa Moore, star of many a terrible B-movie (including “Samurai Cop” and “Vampire Cop”), and she’s mostly in this so she can do about half her scenes in the nude. Her character’s name is Jamie Summers, one letter different from the Bionic Woman (Jamie Sommers), so perhaps the Michelle Shock thing was a joke too? Nude is, I suppose, better than being a complete doormat, which is the fate of most of the women in the movie. There’s the other backup singer, described as the drummer’s girlfriend, who leaps into bed with Derrick at the first opportunity, even after he’s horribly insulted her; the TV reporter, who’s offhandedly told by some guy working on her show to “get me a coke”, which she immediately complies with; poor Suzy at the beginning; and a few others with even less screentime and / or self-esteem. Perhaps Farmer was going through a bad relationship at the time?

 

There’s a worm-monster thing in Michelle’s house, but I’m really not sure what it’s doing there. As the movie is 69 minutes long, I’d have been happy with another minute telling us about the worm, but it’s just there, hanging out, leaning round corners as if it’s the most obvious glove puppet in movie history (which it is).

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I’m not 100% sure I can tell you what “Scream Dream” is about, to be honest. The IMDB description says she possesses Jamie to get her revenge on the band, and I’m not sure that’s the case, although she does kill a few people who wronged her while she was alive, though, so I’ll give her that. Oh, and she (as Jamie) has a very un-erotic love scene with Derrick, in the house where her corpse is still lying downstairs. We get to hear the classic song “Angel Fire” from Farmer’s previous movie “Demon Queen” too, so there’s that. Continuity fans will enjoy the scene with the female backing singer accompanying the band, hours after her death, too.

 

I’ve really barely scratched the surface. Farmer appears to be devolving as a filmmaker – the sound is worse, the lighting is worse, the music is worse, the acting couldn’t get worse but stays at the same level…next up on our chronological Farmer odyssey is “Invasion of the Scream Queens”, a documentary about female horror actresses, and that is, apparently, quite good. What?

 

If you can find the DVD of this, and it’s really really cheap, pick it up and have a laugh.

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Rating: negative thumbs up

 

 

Bloodbath At The House Of Death (1984)

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Kenny Everett is a perhaps rather forgotten English institution. Starting off on pirate radio in the 1960s, he was a friend of the Beatles; his love of comedy and performing characters on the air made him a national celebrity, and he was given his own long-running TV show (sketches, musical numbers) along with his constant radio work. Some of his radio stuff was amazing – his shows on the worst records of all time are worth digging out, and it was the perfect medium for him. He was also very good friends with Freddy Mercury, and enjoyed the gay nightlife of London with him (while remaining in the closet for most of his life). Like Mercury, he died of AIDS-related illness, in 1995.

But this thumbnail sketch of his life says nothing about how amazingly funny he could be. I loved his TV show when I was a kid, and his fiercely independent streak resulted in him making a few videos of jokes too rude for TV (this is long before such videos became de rigeur for any self-respecting comedian) as well as an independently financed horror comedy starring all his old friends. That he did all this while being a particularly rotten Tory – comparing Arthur Scargill to Hitler, without a hint of irony, for one – is even more surprising. In the 20 years since his death, characters like him have largely disappeared from TV – everyone who gets anywhere near the mainstream has to be as tediously safe as houses (except, maybe Russell Brand, from the opposite end of the political spectrum?) and our entertainment is worse off because of it.

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All this is, oddly, irrelevant to a discussion of this movie. While Everett no doubt had some input into the finished product, the lion’s share of the praise or blame must lie with writer/director Ray Cameron and writer / actor Barry Cryer. Cryer is another English treasure, performing standup for many decades, plus acting and appearing on radio comedy panel show “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue” since the early 1970s. To say his jokes are old is to be polite – I think cavemen would groan at a few of the hoary old gags he trots out on a regular basis; and this movie has plenty of those. That’s not to say they’re bad, as classics are classics for a reason, but there’s a few you’ll be able to see coming from a mile off. Cameron and Cryer wrote most of Everett’s TV stuff, so when a guy with money to burn offered Everett a movie, they were the natural choices to write and direct.

The reason I’ve not said much about the film is there’s really not a lot to say. It exists solely to trot out an almost uninterrupted stream of terrible old gags, and the thin thin string that runs through it relates to a haunted house. Well, sort of. In 1975, 16 people are killed at Headstone Manor, and in the present day (1984) several groups of paranormal investigators go there to try and get to the bottom of what went on. Most of the cast were present on one of Everett’s TV shows, so you get good old names like Cleo Rocos, Gareth Hunt, John Fortune, and Don Warrington, as well as Pamela Stephenson as Everett’s lisping assistant, and amazingly, Vincent Price as “The Sinister Man”. Price was apparently a darling on the set, sharing old stories with anyone who asked and giving great value for money. Having seen him much nearer death in the terrible “Dead Heat” a few years later, it’s nice to see a film using his legendary status well.

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So, these people get killed off, there’s sort of a twist (which really feels like they ran out of time to shoot Price and had to think of some ending on the fly, although no, that’s how it was scripted), a very confusing bit of editing around Everett’s character near the end, and that’s your movie. Shot mostly on the producer’s farm estate, for very little money.

While a lot of the gags are brilliant (“Bats!”) it would be remiss of me not to mention a few things which sit very badly with the 2015 viewer. Everett was still in the closet at the time, and although there’s a gay couple in this movie, they’re mocked, more than given funny things to say or do. And then there’s a tattoo joke, where everyone in the village has the same creepy tattoo on the backs of their hands…until the camera happens upon the one black guy in the pub, who has the same tattoo, only in white. Probably laughed off at the time by everyone involved, but not in a million years would they do that gag now, and quite rightly.

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It feels like a cross between “Airplane!” and British TV comedy “A Touch Of Cloth”, only not quite as good as either. Too many misses, sadly – Everett’s weird German accent is a subplot that does nothing and goes nowhere; and the slightly confusing ending spoils things too. Still, it’s like a set of cheesy old jokes preserved in amber for eternity, and there’s gore and nudity and smutty stuff for all the family to enjoy. And how many other mainstream comedians would have picked this as their first movie?

Rating: thumbs in the middle

Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

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I’m as surprised as you’re going to be, ISCFC readers, because the last in the “original” run for both Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger is surprisingly decent. It really shouldn’t be – born from idiots on the early internet and “Fangoria” magazine seizing on the idea and running with it, the sort of thing that would be a meme these days instead of a movie.  But what it achieves is telling a fairly interesting story using both characters, has honest-no-fooling layers to it, with plenty of fine acting and gore too. But seriously, please read the rest of this review because I know I’ve totally given away my feelings in the first paragraph.

 

Although never mentioned, it seems like we’re being asked to ignore the last movie in both series. “Freddy’s Dead” finally, no twist at the end, kills Freddy off forever (and leaves Springwood a ghost town where all the kids are dead); and “Jason X” takes place in space 450 years in the future. I don’t think “New Nightmare” counts in this “universe” either, in case you’re already getting annoyed with me. Freddy is in hell, forgotten about, and is itching to get back into the teenager-slaughtering game; but he needs people to start remembering him so he has power, and to that end goes and finds Jason Voorhees and, pretending to be Jason’s mother, persuades him to resurrect himself and go to Springwood. Why Jason can just pop back into existence whenever he wants and Freddy can’t is sadly never explained. Even if, casting your mind back, Freddy didn’t need people to believe in him to start killing people in the first movie? Ah well, there’s worse plot holes in better movies. A few murders from Jason, people start talking Freddy again, and boom! He’s back in business. Or so the theory goes.

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Hearing Jason’s music play over a shot of 1428 Elm Street is, even for someone like me who hated most of one series and half the other, a pretty cool moment. Living at the old Elm Street house is Lori (Monica Keena), along with her widowed father; one boring weekend evening, she has her friends over, Kia, Gibb, Trey, and Blake (the women are the better-known of the group – Kia is singer Kelly Rowland and Gibb is Katharine Isabelle, from “Ginger Snaps”). Trey is every super-douchebag boyfriend cliché ever, and gets his first, being folded up the wrong way in a bed by Jason – the first of many excellent effects. There’s also Lori’s old boyfriend and his mate, who’ve been locked up in an asylum for four years, coming back to town to complicate matters.

 

“Freddy vs Jason” uses the cliché of “authority figures who don’t want to know” and for maybe the first time ever, does something clever with it. I won’t spoil it, because I think this one is worth watching, but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The entire story of the non-supernatural-murderer people is solidly done, all round, which means you’re not just waiting round for the next teenager to get hacked to pieces or thrown about in their dreams – although there’s certainly that element to it. There comes a moment where Freddy is doing his thing with Gibb, but Jason kills her out in the real world before he can finish her off, and that brings their conflict to a head. Jason didn’t listen! He was only supposed to kill a few people! If you can’t trust an entirely mute monster of a man whose sole reason to exist is to murder people who enjoy sex, who can you trust?

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Director Ronny Yu is much better known for doing epic historical kung-fu movies in the Far East, and this represents the end of his dabbling with Hollywood. But he does get some lovely visuals in there, including the cornfield rave, a genuinely well-shot little moment, and the use of water to “imprison” Jason. For a slasher movie, it’s better than it has any right to be. Jason’s dream is quite clever too.

 

This was the first movie for writers Mark Swift and Damian Shannon, who’ve since gone on to write the 2009 “Friday The 13th” reboot, and have their names attached to the new “Baywatch” movie (among others). I don’t want to get too excited about this, but I think there are people who just knock together whatever will do for the money, and there are people that realise even a probably terrible slasher movie can be used as a calling card, if it’s decent enough. Putting thought into something doesn’t cost extra – although it would have been nice if they’d watched the previous movies in both series, as there’s the odd thing I noticed, and I’m just some joe off the internet who likes horror.

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It’s not all fun and games, though. There’s a thing about Jason dying in water so Freddy traps him with it, as if he’s mortally afraid of it. The problem is, Jason was never really “afraid” of water  (he swims most of the way from Crystal Lake to New York in part 8, if you care to cast your mind back) so it smacks of a last-minute decision because they needed to extend the final fight a bit. And even after the attempt to bring Englund’s characterisation in “New Nightmare” back to something more genuinely terrifying, he’s the same old quip-spewing psycho here as he always was. In the age of the internet, the idea that blacking out a few newspaper reports will be enough to make people forget about him is strange – not one teenager ever looked on a “gross local news” website?

 

But after all that, I liked it! The final fight between the two titans of terror, the Gods of Gore, the super-slashers, the I-have-a-headache-and-can’t-think-of-any-more, is really well done; and Jason’s “characterisation” (from stuntman Ken Kirzinger, not long-time guy Kane Hodder) is deliberate, slow and as frightening as a slasher movie is going to get. Eagle-eyed viewers can also spot future “Lost” star Evangeline Lilly, back when she was a model who just did occasional extra work, as a high school student too.

 

Freddy’s complaint about being forgotten is a meta-reference and mirrors the vague feeling of embarrassment there’d be at making another straight “Nightmare On Elm Street” movie – and that “New Nightmare” was, relatively speaking, a box office failure. Freddy “needing” Jason plays into this too – much as I love it, the previous year’s “Jason X” performed worst of the lot at the box office, so it was both of them or neither of them.

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There’s also the fact that New Line Cinema, home of both franchises, originated Freddy whereas Jason was bought in. And Freddy can talk, which certainly makes him a more interesting character…saying that though, the thing is, this feels much more like a “Friday the 13th” movie with a guest appearance from Freddy than it does the reverse. The thing about Jason is (depending on how much you’ve thought about it, or at all), he’s a force of nature more than a person, so who cares about backstory or anything like that. He can be adapted, whereas Freddy needs dreams, teenagers, parents with secrets, etc. Plus, he loves torturing people before he kills them, whereas Jason definitely doesn’t, which is why Freddy only manages a measly one kill to Jason’s 15 or 16 (I lost count).

 

I suppose it’s easier to fit Freddy into a Jason movie? Or perhaps it was the on-set influence of producer Sean S Cunningham, aka the biggest hack in the modern history of the movies, who was apparently around more than “Freddy’s producer” Robert Shaye. Have I mentioned how little I like Cunningham? Oh yes, every chance I get. I also just found out that Ronny Yu was allowed to film the final fight (the only real reason anyone paid to watch this, surely) any way he liked, including picking the winner. The coda is the same old (literal) wink-wink, nothing’s-over crap we’ve had in so many slasher movies, but that shouldn’t spoil the rest.

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So, a movie that succeeds, with strong acting and a decent sense of humour, despite it’s occasionally hefty roadblocks. If you rank both franchises together, it’s definitely top 5, (along with Nightmares 1, 3 and 4, and Jason X), but if you’re seriously ranking slasher movies, then you might need to go and have a lie down and a nice cup of tea.

 

Rating: thumbs up

 

Postscript! I’ve been thinking about the Freddy thing, and continuity. Let’s say the Freddy that we know dies at the end of part 3, with the destruction of his bones. The chap who pops up at the beginning of part 4 is different, a dream demon entity who’s borrowed Freddy’s face and feeds on fear (such as the people of Springwood have for Freddy). Actually, with the opening monologue from Freddy, using clips from the first three movies, this doesn’t work either. DAMMIT

Cannibal Hookers (1987)

Killing Spree 2? What?

Killing Spree 2? What?

Welcome back to our series on Donald Farmer, the shot-on-video mastermind of the late 80s and 90s, who made some of the ugliest, weirdest movies of the time. We’ve already seen and thoroughly enjoyed “Vampire Cop” and “Demon Queen”, and we move onto his second movie, 1987’s brain-hurting “Cannibal Hookers”.

 

Right at the very beginning, we’re given confusing information. Before the title comes up, we have a screen reading “I Will Dance On Your Grave vol. 3”. Volume 3? This is only Farmer’s second movie! Why do you baffle me so? As best as I can gather from my limited research, “I Will Dance” is the subtitle of at least three equally ugly, violent, cheap movies  – “Death Blow: A Cry For Justice” (memorably described as “Rape Movie” by one of its IMDB reviewers), directed by Rafael Nussbaum; “Killing Spree”, directed by Tim Ritter, and this, all from 1987; and another Farmer epic from 1993, “Savage Vengeance”. I would love to know what made those fellows band together!

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After some poorly shot home movie footage of downtown LA, we’re right into the action. A chap called Lobo (every single inbred redneck stereotype you’ve ever seen, rolled into one person) is eating a person in his cellar, and a surprisingly authentic-looking prostitute strolls in to complain about him. She’s authentic-looking due to having awful makeup, ugly 80s “glamour” underwear and being a few years north of your traditional movie hookers, but we don’t have time to get used to her before we’re introduced to more equally unappealing-looking men and women, making up the cast of this here classic. Nor do we get any justification for why Lobo is in this movie, sadly – not what he does for the hookers, or anything like that.

 

I won’t bother with names, mostly because I don’t remember any of them (apart from Lobo) but partly because even IMDB doesn’t know who half of them are. Seriously, do any of you read reviews and go “I’m not paying attention to this because he didn’t write the character names down”? If you’re detail-oriented like that, I suggest pondering on this being a review of a near-30-year-old movie called “Cannibal Hookers”, shot for about the same amount of money as you have in your pockets right now. Anyway, the movie! A couple of women want to pledge at a sorority, but the head sister (who looks comfortably old enough to have a daughter in college) decides their initiation is to dress up like a prostitute, pick some guy up, take them to a specific address and have sex with them for money. The 80s!

Behind the scenes - look! Lighting!

Behind the scenes – look! Lighting!

Luckily, in this gigantic city, as our two heroines are stood on a street corner, Girl 1’s boyfriend and two of his friends happen to be strolling by, so they all go to the mysterious address, which appears to be a real genuine whorehouse! So, people get trapped and eaten, escapes, rescues, etc. Also, almost entirely unrelated (until the last five minutes) is a subplot about two cops tracking down the cannibals. They’re kind of the comic relief, as one of the cops is so stupid it’s a surprise he’s able to tie his shoelaces every morning. The other one is generic tough cop guy, but he’s pretty stupid too.

 

Farmer appears to have improved by leaps and bounds since the previous year’s “Demon Queen”. Okay, the sound is still terrible, and the majority of the acting is on the amateur side (in other words, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d hired a bunch of hookers and homeless guys to be his actors) but the effects work much better and you can see what’s going on most of the time. So kudos to him, but obviously all the stuff that’s still hilariously bad is way more fun to talk about.

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Our girls are buying their hooker outfits from what appears to be a clothes rail inside a comic shop. Is that a thing? Main cannibal lady is rubbing some gore on herself, and you can see the “please yell cut soon, because this is disgusting” in her eyes. One hooker disrobes and her underwear is actually less revealing than her dress. There’s a padding scene of someone driving round…in the last five minutes of the movie. And then there’s the two biggies. First up, being a cannibal is apparently a communicable disease now! Much like “Demon Queen” was about a vampire, so is this, but they just altered the name to give themselves a bit of variety – this at least explains why this group of cannibals leaves dead bodies for the police to find that are barely touched.

 

And the other biggie is the ending, which I’m not going to spoil. But if you watch it yourself, and I’d highly recommend it because the world of Donald Farmer is one you ought to visit as often as possible, just have a think about it for a minute. It’s an even odder ending than “Demon Queen”. Add that experience to the wonderfully dreadful music which drowns so many scenes, and you’ve got yourself another gem.

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Now, don’t mistake my happiness at describing this movie for saying it’s “good”. Good and bad are sticky concepts when you’re down at the bottom of the cinematic heap, as we are here. What it is, is a bloke with no money and a bit of a sense of humour just making something happen. These movies (and many more to come) are cheap, ugly, filled with insane performances and often ropey special effects, but they’ve got energy and they get a story told. I see Farmer as a precursor to people like friend of ISCFC and filmmaker extraordinaire Len Kabasinski – a guy who just goes out there and gets it done, screw the budget (although Kabasinski hires good actors from time to time and has brilliant fight scenes).

 

Rating: thumbs up