Movie Review: 31 (Thirty-One)

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31

Lionsgate
2016
R

“You know what they say, Kemosabe. In Hell, everybody loves popcorn.”

  • Five carnival workers are kidnapped and held hostage in an abandoned Hell-like compound where they are forced to participate in a violent game, the goal of which is to survive twelve hours against a gang of sadistic clowns.

When it comes to Rob Zombie movies, love ’em or hate ’em, you can’t deny that you won’t be bored with them. With a style planted firmly in the 1970s-era exploitation style horror, calling his movies “over-the-top” just doesn’t seem to do it justice. Also, his movies seem to be able to give you the benefit of an acid trip without actually having to drop acid.

Same as it was with his 2016 flick 31. While Zombie’s previous movie, Lords Of Salem, was more of a psychological horror, 31 leans more to his House Of 1000 Corpses-style of intense, bloody and ultra-violent slasher style of movie, chock full of the kind of mind-bending insanity-inducing visuals you would come to expect from Rob Zombie in the first place.

On the plus side, at least Zombie doesn’t fill his movies with a bunch of pretty people. And these characters aren’t pretty, both in their looks and their speech. But, you should know by now that the characters in his movies revels in the ugliness. There’s a certain twisted charm in that, really.

In 31, we have an RV full of carny workers traveling to their next gig, traversing the bi-ways of 1970s America, when they stop at a gas station and comes across the local weirdos. Later than night, they come across a roadblock and are kidnapped by goons dressed in Freddy Kruger sweaters, and wake up in a warehouse, where they’re told via loudspeaker by a group of people dressed like 17th Century French aristocrats that they’ve been volunteered to play a game called “Thirty-One”, and for the next 12 hours they will be in kind of a Most Dangerous Game type setup, only they’re pursued by several different murderous clowns, and if any of them happen to survive the 12 hours, they win! Only, they never really get around to saying what it is they win, as nobody’s ever really one one of these games before. So, of course, you already know that one of ’em are going to survive. But, I digress. The clowns include a diminutive Latino dressed as a Nazi called Sick-Head, a couple of redneck wackos named Psycho-Head and Schizo-Head, a guy-girl team named Death-Head and Sex-Head (respectively), and when all of those fail, they call in the fan-favorite pinch-hitter Doom-Head, who was taking this year off and wasn’t in a good mood to have his Halloween festivities interrupted.

I wonder if it says anything about my own mental state by how I can watch a Rob Zombie movie like this and just shrug and say, “Okay, sure.” at the insanity that was unfolding in front of me while watching 31. For those of you who want your movies to ultimately make sense in the end…nope, 31 isn’t the movie for you. Sure, I was left with many more questions than answers while watching this: Why do they call the game “31”? Why is Malcolm McDowell dressed in a powdered wig and foppish 18th-century regalia? Does Rob Zombie really think that actual dialogue works like that? Doubtful that these and other questions will ever be answered, but I’m thinking that’s the point. I’m fine with insanity for insanity’s sake.

What this boils down to, though, is that 31 isn’t exactly what you would call a genre-defining movie. It falls squarely in the torture-porn exploitation style, with its sheer madness being the most amusing part of the flick. I wasn’t expecting a full mind-blowing freak horror that got under my skin and stayed there like Lords Of Salem; this, however, did feel ultimately like going through the motions. Good for a rental.

Movie Review: DAY OF THE ANIMALS

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day of the animals
Film Ventures International
1977
PG

“Mighty advertising executive speak with empty head!”

 

  • The depletion of the earth’s ozone layer causes animals above the altitude of 5000 feet to run amok, which is very unfortunate for a group of hikers who get dropped off up there by helicopter just before the quarantine is announced.

While the whole Nature Run Amok thing is one of my least favorite subgenres in horror, I have to admit that some of the most fun z-grade movie schlock tends to fall squarely in that kind of flick. Especially the ones made in the 1970s; there’s just a special kind of cheesy magic in movies like Frogs, Grizzly, and the Shatner-riffic Kingdom Of The Spiders. And now I have 1977’s Day Of The Animals to add to my list.

While being squarely a low-budget exploitation flick, Day Of The Animals has the distinction of featuring Leslie Nielsen in the midst of his “serious actor” phase, as an antagonistic jerk who eventually snaps and then fights a bear while shirtless. Among other things. Oh, what a glorious spectacle this is, with Nielsen practically unhinging his jaw to chew the scenery. Add to this the stock footage shots, the shoddy attempts to make the animals scary, the really very bad acting and dialogue, and the dodgiest scientific reasoning and explanations given for the why behind the animals revolting they way they are that would make Al Gore facepalm, and you’ve got a movie that…is still better made than Birdemic. Mind you, that’s like saying the Galveston Plague was better than the Bubonic plague.

Overall: Get yourself the Riff Trax edition of Day Of The Animals to take the edge off, and marvel at the underappreciated greatness that was the late, great Leslie Nielsen. Not for the faint of heart for all the wrong reasons.

Movie Review: The INCREDIBLE 2-HEADED TRANSPLANT

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The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant Movie PosterAmerican International Pictures
1971
R

“Stop jerking around. You and I are now one, dummy.”

Dr. Roger Girard id a rich scientist experimenting with head transplantation. His caretaker has a son, Danny, who is an extremely strong full-grown man, but he has the mind of a child. Meanwhile, Manuel Cass, a maniacal killer, has murdered Dr. Girard’s caretaker and is badly injured himself. Dr. Girard decides to transplant the murderer’s head onto Danny’s body. The new creature, with one head of a murderer and the other with the mental capacity of an eight-year-old attached to an extremely powerful body, begins wreaking havoc…

The 1970s was a wacky time for horror and sci-fi movies.As with the fashion, the music, and generally all other avenues of pop culture at the time, I can only surmise it had something to do with the nation detoxing from the last part of the 60s.

That, at least, would be the only explanation for the existence of this here movie, The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant.

This is a low budget sci-fi horror flick that co-stars Casey Kasem, America’s Top 40 radio host, and voice of Shaggy and various cartoon characters. Among other things. Here, he plays Dr. Ken, the best friend of Dr. Roger, the main character that takes the phrase “two heads are better than one” far too literally. I bring this up because the presence of Kasem is the most notable thing in this movie.

From the word go, The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant is about as cheesy as you would expect a movie with that kind of title to be. Of course, this was made in the era where the “psycho killer” was still characterized as a wild-eyed, grinning and manic individual, possibly high on the marijuana from Reefer Madness. And that is how the escaped lunatic killer is played, full-tilt, all throughout the flick. On the other end of the spectrum, I theorize that the only model they had to work with when creating the caretaker’s son with the mentality of a child was from Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. There’s even a scene involving crazy enraged-for-no-reason bikers in here that, I’m fairly certain, was thrown in because bikers were a big thing in exploitation cinema at the time. Had this movie been made in the 80s, it would have been ninjas. Which would have made this movie better, really.

The acting matches the premise of the movie; that is to say, it’s crazy and over-the-top. The effects…well, it’s low budget, and also made in 1971. So, yeah, the whole 2-headed thing is kinda…well, it was done better on the television version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

All this to say that The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant is a glorious over-the-top mess that must be watched by everyone. Gather your friends, surround yourselves with your favorite libations, and make a night out of this.

Movie Review: SATAN HATES YOU

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1-13 - Movie Review: SATAN HATES YOUTLA Releasing
2010
NR

Tormented Marc wages war with his inner demons while unknowingly getting locked into an infernal collision course with his wild sister Wendy, who’s appetite for bad boys and hard drugs is positively insatiable.

I’m not sure, but I think I just watched what very well may have been the first Evangelical horror exploitation movie. The kicker is that I actually enjoyed Satan Hates You! far more that I thought I was going to.

Essentially, Satan Hates You! is a low budget satire of the old Evangelical style Turn or Burn! films that were staples of youth group outreaches in the 1970s and 80s. The 1990s, too, if you factor in the transfer to VHS. And if you’re lucky enough to have been subjected to any of these kinds of films, you know that making a satire of these films are probably the easiest things to come across. Some would say the original films are satires unto themselves. But I digress.

Going into watching Satan Hates You!, I had a few preconceived ideas of what I was getting into: low budget, cheesy effects, horrible acting, a hack script, and ham-fisted editing. There was no evidence that I was going to get otherwise–this wasn’t my first tractor pull, after all. However, when I pressed play and braced myself for the inevitable, I was greeted with a film that was indeed all of these…but one gets the sense that it was all deliberate. A method to the madness, if I maybe allowed to butcher the Bard. Everybody else does, after all.

Satan Hates You! follows the lives of Marc and Wendy, two people being tempted by a couple of lounge-lizzard type demons in hopes of harvesting them for eternal damnation. Marc is an unemployed alchoholic with serious insecurities about his sexuality. Wendy exists in a constant purple haze of drugs and sex, around friends that encourage and enable the behavior. They’re inching their way towards their own destruction…but unbeknownst to them and the demons that are following them around, there are other forces serving a Higher Power that are secretly working to save and protect Marc and Wendy’s souls.

There were a few points that impressed me about this movie: For starters, there was absolutely no nudity, and the only vulgarities came from the myriad of punk rock tunes in the soundtrack. If you’re familiar with a lot of micro-budgeted films, you understand that this is not the norm. And if that’s your main reason for watching these things, sorry to disappoint. Actually, I’m not sorry, but whatever. The acting is sub-par, but as I mentioned before, I have my suspicions that it was somewhat deliberate, considering the subject matter it’s spoofing. And make no mistake–this is a spoof. This is not for the squeamish and easily weirded out. There’s even one sequence that I couldn’t make through without looking away, and I’ve been known to consume food while watching these, no problem. Hint: It involves an abortion. Yeah. It goes there. You’ve been warned.

Impressive, though, is the inclusion of a couple of bigger names in the horror genre in minor roles: Michael Berryman as the motel owner Mr. Harker, and the late, great Angus Scrimm as an archangel.

Overall, I found myself enjoying Satan Hates You! far more than I thought I would. It’s cheesy, hammy, over-the-top and gads I enjoyed mostly every moment of this. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re in the mood for some over-the-top exploitation that has some fun with religious tropes, Satan Hates You! is worth checking out.

Movie Review: ANATOMY OF A PSYCHO

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Anatomy-of-a-Psycho-posterMill Creek Entertainment
1961
NR

A young man is despondent over the conviction and subsequent execution of his older brother. Having idolized his brother to the point of it being obsession, the young man cannot believe he was guilty, even though he was, and swears to avenge him.

Here’s an interesting tidbit—Anatomy Of A Psycho was co-written by none other than Ed Wood, with music originally used for Plan 9 From Outer Space as this film’s soundtrack. If only Anatomy Of A Psycho could have been as much campy fun as Plan 9 was.

Having Anatomy Of A Psycho included in the 50 horror movie pack is a bit of a misnomer, but it’s not entirely surprising. If anything, Anatomy Of A Psycho is more Juvenile Delinquent Exploitation that’s about as exciting as an After School Special. And it’s the early 1960s, so there’s the obligatory teenage shindig featuring rather forgettable generic 60s rock n’ roll, played right after forgettable Big Band music. Them teen parties were odd back in the day, weren’t they?

Anyway, rather than a bona-fide “psycho”, all this is is about a kid who gets upset after his older brother is executed on a murder charge. Of course, this being the 60s, he decides to cope by swearing revenge on everyone who had a hand in convicting his brother. Which just amounts to him and his hoodlum friends wearing gunny sack masks and beating up the DA’s son. And burning down the mansion where the afore-mentioned teen shindig was being held. I think about the only murder committed here was the “psycho”’s bestie as a means of inditing his sister’s fiancée. Or something. There’s the obligatory courtroom scene, followed by the final confrontation with the teen “psycho”, with the predictably standard ending.

All told, Anatomy Of A Psycho—although featuring no anatomy lesson, and definitely no psycho—wasn’t too bad of a time-waster. It’s your standard Teenagers-Behaving-Badly kind of movie only the early 1960s can produce. Bit over an hour, not too long, and some bits of unintentional hilarity, mainly in the glorious overacting. Falls in the watch once out of curiosity and move on category.