Movie Review: MANOS: The Hands Of Fate

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manos the hands of fateMill Creek Entertainment
1966
NR

“I am Torgo. I take care of the place while the Master is away.”

Everything that can go wrong does on a young couple’s terrifying vacation. Lost and unable to find an inn, they stop at the door of a mysterious house. They are told by the disfigured Togar that the Master does not like visitors, but with no other shelter in sight they decide to spend the night. Their presence ignites the fury of a Devil cult that preys upon their innocence. The family is forced to suffer interminable psychotic rituals. Unrest with the cult provides a chance for escape, but the Master will not free them so easily.

When talking about bad movies, there are certain ones that have achieved legendary status due to just how bad they are. Plan 9 From Outer Space. Trolls 2. Birdemic. The Room. These titles and more, so many have heard about, but few have been brave enough to venture into watching them, for fear of losing whatever tenacious grasp on their sanity they have. I have seen many, but one that I have put off for a very long time was one of the worst ones ever made, the subject of this particular review: Manos, The Hands Of Fate. But finally, my inner Movie-Watchin’ Masochist got me to watch the copy that came in one of those 50 Horror Movies for $20 packs. The horror. The horror. And not the good kind, either.

What we got here is essentially a movie that was made on a bet by a dentist claiming that making a movie was easy enough that even he could do it. So he did. With a local theater troupe, a hand-wound 16mm camera that could only take 32 seconds of footage at a time, and a budget that would make a shoestring seem like blockbuster money.

Manos: The Hands Of Fate tells the tale of a couple and their whiny young daughter and equally annoying doggie taking a drive in their convertible out in the desert, on their way to a vacation getaway in the middle of nowhere. Obviously, they get lost, and after getting worthless directions from a couple making out, and after driving and driving and driving and driving through many a cut scene, they end up even more lost, with twilight coming upon them, before stopping at a building they figure they could spend the night at. They’re met by an odd gentleman with an odd walk and an even more odd way of talking, telling them that his master doesn’t want them to stay there. But then he lets them stay there. Then the dog disappears, then the young daughter, then the curator of the building begins to creep on the wife, stuff happens, and then the aforementioned Master awakens, along with his wives, who then argue about letting the wife stay and be part of the cult’s harem or not. I wish I could say “wackiness ensues”, but I would be lying.

So, this movie was made, and was immediately lost to the void of cheep independent Z-Movie Hell, as nature intended. But, decades later, because humanity is being punished for our sins, the movie was rediscovered and given a mutated new life of Cult Status, due to its So-Bad-It’s-Good nature. I call it the Ed Wood Effect.

Manos: The Hands Of Fate has the magical effect of bending time and space, making you think that the running time is hours upon hours longer than it really is, and your perception of reality after watching it will make you stare into the void for hours afterwards, trying to process what exactly it was you just watched. Watching Manos: The Hands Of Fate made me want to re-watch The Room for something fast-paced and exciting. I hope you’re getting the point, here. Manos: The Hands Of Fate has the excitement of watching your Great Aunt’s old vacation videos. Even the MST3K working barely made it watchable. I happened to watch it without the help of the boys in the Satellite of Love. Watch at your own peril.

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Movie Review: V/H/S/2

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1-27 - Movie Review: VHS2Magnolia Home Entertainment
2013
R

Inside a darkened house looms a column of TVs littered with VHS tapes, a pagan shrine to forgotten analog gods. The screens crackle and pop endlessly with monochrome vistas of static-white noise permeating the brain and fogging concentration. But you must fight the urge to relax: this is no mere movie night. Those obsolete spools contain more than just magnetic tape. They are imprinted with the very soul of evil. From the demented minds that brought you last year’s V/H/S comes V/H/S/2, an all-new anthology of dread, madness, and gore. This follow-up ventures even further down the demented path blazed by its predecessor, discovering new and terrifying territory in the genre. This is modern horror at its most inventive, shrewdly subverting our expectations about viral videos in ways that are just as satisfying as they are sadistic. The result is the rarest of all tapes–a second generation with no loss of quality.

The second anthology film of found footage style horror shorts after the surprisingly good first one, continues on in the style of wrap-around story while watching original shorts that the first movie did. Why mess with a proven formula? Here, it works just as well, if not a bit better. Let me give you the run-down:

With a wrap-around story called “Tape 49”, involving a couple of private investigators checking out the disappearance of a college kid, who seems to have a rather odd videotape producing obsession; one goes to find the kid, while the other checks out the video tapes. It doesn’t end well by the end of things, as you may have surmised by now. In between the wackiness, we’re treated to four short films in the kid’s collection…

“Phase I Clinical Trials”
A young man receives an experimental cybernetic implant to replace his right eye that he damaged after a car accident. That night, he notices one of the “glitches” the doctor warned him about: he can now see dead people in his apartment. The next day, a red-haired lady shows up, claiming that she had the same kind of experimental implant for her ear to restore her hearing, and that she can hear dead people. And the dead don’t like the idea of being noticed by living people. Wackiness ensues.

“A Ride In The Park”
A cycling enthusiast is riding his bike one lovely day through a state park, when he’s attacked and bitten by a zombie. He reanimates and begins a delightful romp through the suburbs, all the while capturing everything on his Go Pro. Wackiness ensues.

“Safe Haven”
Four members of a news crew are filming a documentary with a mysterious Indonesian cult, when the “time of reckoning” arrives. Wackiness ensues.

“Slumber Party Alien Abduction”
Um, a bunch of kids having a slumber party are abducted by aliens. It’s there in the title.

Overall, I think between the first one and this one, they run neck-and-neck to how much I enjoyed them, but I would have to concede that as far as stick-in-your-brain quality, V/H/S/2 has the slightly better collection. “Safe Haven” is hands-down the best one on the list, followed closely by “Phase I Clinical Trials” for a good effective supernatural ghost story. “A Ride In The Park” is a fun take on the somewhat-exhausted zombie genre. And “Slumber Party Alien Abduction”…well, it didn’t falsly advertise. It didn’t suck, it’s just kinda…eh, whatever. Regardless, I would definitely recommend checking this one out, along with the others in the series.

Movie Review: BLACK ROSES

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BLACK ROSESSynapse Films
1988
R

“If I was Mrs. Miller I would be hysterical because Mr. Miller’s dead.”

The town of Mill Basin is your typical Midwestern Ozzy and Harriet type community, a sleepy little township where nothing really exciting and out-of-place happens. That is, until a rock band by the name of Black Roses arrives to play their brand of rock and/or roll for the teens. The parents are suspicious at first, but decide to let the kids be kids, and not give it another thought. That is, until the teens begin to exhibit strange and reprehensible behavior, and a teacher discovers that there’s more to the band Black Roses than a really generic sound and poofy hair…

I rented this movie a long time ago, probably when it first came out on VHS back in the day, because of not only the fact that it seemed like a horror movie based around metal (being the fanatical metal head that I was back then), but the cover featured some nifty faux 3D embossed artwork, so the image of the guitar jumped out at you.

Then I watched it. Even at that time, when hard rock / metal bands with big hair and no talent were dominating pop culture, when I would check out any and every movie that had the word “horror” on it and like some part of it no matter how horrid it was, I was completely underwhelmed with this movie.

Mind you, it was a different time in the mid-to-late 80s. Metal and hard rock were under severe scrutiny for demonic ties, and horror movies were being spit out by the baker’s dozen every month. It seemed like the two were a logical fit. And they are. When it’s done right.

Black Roses, however, takes a bland script, a generic rock band that spits out very generic rock, and a plot that seems a bit more than Reefer Madness with the evils of rock. You know the bit- good, law-abiding wholesome teens listen to a rock band, and then they’re suddenly violent, beer-guzzling and sexually deviant waistoids. But it’s not their fault, oh no. It was the ROCK MUSIC! And that’s how the movie plays out. The music of Black Roses puts the kids into a trance (because you’re much more susceptible to hypnotic suggestion when you’re lulled to sleep by the music…wow, it’s bland), kids worship at the altar of the stage, and near the end of the band’s tenure in the town, they’re not really playing music, and the lead singer (decked out in the finest bondage accessories) turns into a demon that looks suspiciously like one of the “Station” aliens in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. Of course, when the band is vanquished, all returns back to normal, discounting the massive hangover one ensues once the end credits roll…

If it weren’t for the fact that this was produced well before the advent of the Internet, and thus the Dial-The-Truth wanker’s anti-rock propaganda, I would be hard pressed to find some kind of connection with some anti-rock ministry out there. Sad thing is, I think this is much more of a tongue-in-cheek response to all the needless hoopla that surrounded the controversy at the time. Badly done. Stale, bland cheese. Rent Trick Or Treat instead…

Movie Review: BELIEVERS

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BelieversRaw Feed
2007
R

Religious wackos are a staple in many a fine horror movie. Problem is (for me, anyway), most of ’em are portrayed as Christian, or at the very least a weird offshoot therein. Not that I’m trying to get whiny about it, I’m just pointing out the cliché’ here. Because Believers is about religious wackos that are scientists. How’s that for something different?

Yes, in a nice refreshing twist on the religious cult horror convention, here a couple of emergency rescue paramedics answer a distress call, only to run afoul of a doomsday cult of scientists who are very certain that a mathematical alga rhythm is a warning of the beginning of the end of everyone on earth, and the only way to escape the destruction of mankind is to…kill themselves. So their spirits can (scientifically) ascend to a higher plane of existence. Scientifically speaking. Yeah. Anyhoo, what follows is a fairly standard yet effective dark psychological thriller that maintains the disturbing fun without ever resorting to pointless torture porn. Acting is generally on the strong side, though the head paramedic character is a bit on the over-macho side. The production seems a bit on the cheap side, but that’s mainly due to the lack of fundage and resources the director Dan Myrick (the co-creator of The Blair Witch Project) was given, which is odd, considering he was part of one of the highest-grossing indie movies of all time. But, minor quibble there.

Bottom line: Believers is a nice twist on a rarely tread horror territory. Very much worth at least a rental…