Movie Review: AMERICAN NIGHTMARE

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american nightmareMonarch Home Video
2002
R

“How many people out there are doing the old ‘razor blade in the apple’ trick? Good…”

In the mid- to late-aughts, I was really going for broke with the horror movie watchin’. Blockbuster was still open (though starting to show its age), but my main supplier of my horror movie fix was the now late and lamented Hasting’s store that was across the way from where I worked. They always had a far more vast selection of older titles, more variety, and a much better rental price. Well, until the Family Video opened and I discovered their 2 For A Dollar rental selection had a great horror selection. But, I digress. Point is to this pointless reminiscing is that I rented American Nightmare from Hasting’s…or was it Family Video? Crud, I can’t remember. Great. Let’s get to the review, then.

On Halloween, seven friends call the American Nightmare pirate radio show to confess their fears. Unbeknownst to them, a serial killer is listening. Before the night is over, they will discover that their confessions have ignited a psychological game of cat-and-mouse with a killer intent on delivering their fears upon them.

American Nightmare, for what it’s worth, is a functional slasher horror that’s a bit on the dull side. I was checking my phone more often than not while watching this, which is never a good sign. It’s not that American Nightmare is bad, it’s just dull. Pass on this one.

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Uncle NecRo Watches: HALLOWEEN 2018

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UNCLE NECRO WATCHEShalloween 2018 banner
It’s been 40 years since the release of the horror classic that gave birth to our greatest fears in a William Shatner mask. Of course, Uncle NecRo and Brian went to see it, more out of morbid curiosity than anything else. Were we pleasantly surprised by a treat? Or did this turn out to be yet another nasty trick? Listen in and find out…

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Movie Review: PRAY.

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prayCross Shadow Productions
2007
NR

I’ve always said that the horror genre is the perfect medium for Christians to get involved in. I say that with absolutely no sarcasm or irony whatsoever. But, of course, this is generally not very well received by most of my fellow brethren and sisteren who share the faith in Christ Jesus as I do. You may have noticed that I don’t generally watch a lot of Evangelical Christian produced movies, for the obvious reasons. But, once in a while, I come across something so utterly adorable that the Evangelical Christian market puts out, I have to actually watch it just to marvel at it. Sometimes I enjoy it for all the wrong reasons. It’s the same reason why I love movies like The Room and Birdemic.

Recently, thanks mainly to the YouTube channel Say Goodnight Kevin, I discovered the attempt to make a Dove-Approved, family friendly slasher horror. That, of course, seems as feasible as dividing by zero. But, then, here we go. The movie is called Pray. (that period is actually part of the title, not the indicator that I’m done writing the sentence), and I believe I may have found that rare treat for my bad movie watchin’ tastes. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Madison and Lacy enjoy an out-of-town Christian rock concert. After some eerie events, the friends decide to drive back to their hometown. However, someone or something follows them home! Events unfold that find Madison alone at the mall later that evening. The mall closes, and we find our heroine mysteriously trapped inside. It will take her resolute strength and unflinching faith to escape!

Pray. is the most amazeballs movie I’ve every had the gleeful joy of watching. I mean that. This movie manages to hit near The Room levels of badness that it must be seen to be believed. There is just so much to unravel here that I really don’t know where to begin. But, here goes.

First off, not only do we start with a text of the definition of the word “miracle”, but the movie itself doesn’t think that we, the viewers, are competent enough to take it in, so there’s a handy-dandy voice-over reading the text out loud for us. I love it when the movie I’m watching decides to insult my intelligence right off the bat. It gets this out of the way, so I can settle in and enjoy things. Anyway, the acting here is about what you would expect from a low-budget Christian-based independent flick–meaning, I wouldn’t be surprised if they used volunteers from the church to film this, with a script that just had a general outline of what was going to go on, some minimal dialogue actually written out, then the rest just improvised for filler. There’s a scene early on, when the gang of kids emerge from where the nondescript “Christian rock concert” was, and the WGWAG* has his guitar strapped to him. He wasn’t a member of the band. He brought his acoustic guitar with him to the concert. Look, I’m acquainted with plenty of acoustic guitar enthusiast youth group types, and I’ve yet to witness any one of them take their guitar with them to a concert, Christian, rock or otherwise, unless they’ve got a set to play themselves. But, I digress.

The pacing and editing is shoddy, the film making is worse than amateur, many of the shots were lit very badly, and don’t even get me started about the complete lack of actual scares, tension or suspense in this so-called “horror” movie. Look, I understand that, to get a movie “Dove Approved”, there has to be certain homogenizing going on to get just the right amount of sanctification to make this family friendly. I wouldn’t be complaining much if the makers of this movie just relied heavily on jump scares, but even that’s too scary for Christians, apparently. Mind you, there’s a lot of music cue buildup to what you may thing will be a scary payoff, but no. The actual killer in this–listed on the IMDB page as “the Shape”, so they’ve ripped off something from a much, much better movie, par for the course for any Evangelical Christian attempt at pop culture–looks so very much lame: a hoodie and one of those translucent masks that you can get at any dollar store nearby. And that final twist ending itself not only insults your intelligence, but then punches it in the gut, and spits on it as it lays on the ground in the fetal position, before riding off with its girlfriend on a motorcycle. Seriously, this twist will make you pine for the days when “The call is coming from inside the house!” made your bellybutton pucker.

So, what else do I have to say? Would you believe there have been two sequels to this movie? With the third one in 3D. Because of course there is. You better believe I have those two cued up in my streaming account as we speak. In the meantime, though, Pray. (you gotta remember that period, it’s important) needs to be watched by everybody. Highly recommended for all the wrong reasons.

[*=“White Guy With Acoustic Guitar”]

Movie Review: TRICK OR TREATS

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trick or treatsLonestar Pictures
1982
R

“You’re cute. Are you the babysitter?”
“Well, you’re not. That’s a stuid thing to do.”
“It’s Halloween!”

As the Halloween season continues, I came across this obscure title set during the night of Halloween–the slasher Trick Or Treats. See, to differentiate this one from the other two better known Halloween flicks Trick Or Treat or Trick R’ Treat. I need to stop referencing better movies in my reviews. Anyway, that and this particular movie was released a few years before those two afore mentioned movies.

I came across Trick Or Treats on — where else? — the stream on Amazon, as one of the horror flicks set during Halloween. I had never heard of this one, so I threw it on to see how this was. *sigh* Let’s see if this was a treat or a trick.

Try and guess which way this is going to go.

Mr. and Mrs. Adams are attending a Halloween masquerade party and decide to leave their precoucious son Christopher in the care of Linda, a local babysitter. Christopher is a master of mischievous pranks and continually batters Linda with them, until a bizarre turn of events unleashes a true madman, just escaped from a mental institution, who treats Christopher to a trick he will never forget…and his babysitter may never survive. Next time your doorbell rings, be prepared…because it’s Trick Or Treats!

My biggest issue with Trick Or Treats–and there are many–is that it’s a movie that doesn’t seem to know if it wants to be a straight slasher flick, or a thinly veiled spoof of a slasher flick. I say this because there seems to be a kind of over-the-top quality to the acting with everybody that seems to indicate that no one was taking this anywhere near seriously. Which is fine, but there are moments where the “humor” almost achieves an Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes level of awfulness…only without the self-awareness.

I will say this: Trick Or Treats is something that benefited greatly with David Carradine all-too-brief appearance as the stepfather. Otherwise, we’re set upon by an inept script plagued with horrible dialogue an far too many clearly improvised scenes and pacing issues. As it stands, this is a movie that could have been much more enjoyable had they ditched the escaped mental patient angle and developed the story as a deranged child torturing his babysitter in kind of a Problem Child meets The Omen by way of Home Alone black comedy. But no, we’re given this badly rendered urban legend trope to waste everyone’s time with. I would much rather get my house egged than watch this again. Pass.

Movie Review: FINAL EXAM

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final examMotion Picture Laundry
1981
R

“Being brilliant has its drawbacks.”

Going through some of the lesser-known slasher flicks that came out in the wake of the success of Halloween and Friday The 13th, I came across this particular title on the streaming: 1981’s Final Exam. It seemed like an amusing way to kill 90 minutes or so. Most early 80s slashers were. So, while I was in the midst of recovering from my leg infection, I threw it on for kicks and giggles.

At Lanier College, the semester is almost over. Exam week is coming to a close when some upper classmen play a prank by staging a phony terrorist attack. But the next excitement in the school won’t be a prank. It’s something a lot more final than an exam. Students are falling prey to the knife-wielding maniac hell bent on making sure that school is out…forever!

First off, I’d hate to evoke the tired “the 80s were a different time” explanation, but there may be an issue with using a mass school shooting as a “prank” in one of the earliest scenes in the movie. Yeah, in this day and age, that came off rather…awkward and WTF than anything. Of course, everyone blows this off with a flippant “oh, those scamps”. I’m about as morbid and dark as you could know, and even I thought this was rather in bad taste. But, I digress…

So, when all is said and done, what we have with Final Exam is really a mediocre college campus comedy, with the whole “slasher” angle more incidental than anything. Outside of the opening scene of a young couple getting kababbed while making out in a secluded area, it takes nearly an hour to get to the actual stabby-stabby point of the flick. Until then, we have to sit through your stereotypical week college comedy tropes with some right annoying characters working off of a middling story. Once the “slasher” part of the movie actually starts, it’s a predictable by-the-numbers afaire that ends up forgettable once the end credits roll.

For what it is, though, Final Exam isn’t terrible, per se, and for a movie starring mostly stage actors, its low budget and the acting maybe has a bit too much cheese at times, but overall I didn’t regret watching this. Not that I plan on doing so again, but it’s worth a look-see.

Movie Review: MOTEL HELL

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motel hellUnited Artists
1980
R

“I’m the biggest hypocrite of them all. My meats…I used preservatives.”

Well, here we are. One of the pantheon of legendary cult favorite horror movies that I knew, as a fan of horror flicks, I was required to watch. Hotel Hell was one of those titles that I remembered always seeing on the shelves at the old Applause Video store whenever my family would make the weekly pilgrimage to Fremont, Nebraska in the 1980s, in the Horror section, the box artwork hypnotizing me with the two smiling leads on the cover, somehow conveying a nice balance between friendly and inviting with complete insanity. It simultaneously intrigued me and repulsed me at the same time. Which meant, I so wanted to watch this movie. Of course, at that age, that wasn’t going to happen, as there was no way I was going to convince my parents to rent it. It was always some obscure live action Disney movie or something we would end up getting.

Anyway, long story short, I recently finally gotten around to watching Motel Hell by way of the Amazon streaming service. Having done so, and knowing what kind of cult following this thing has, did I like this? Would my younger tween self have liked this had my parents consented to let me watch it? Well, let’s get to the rundown, and then let’s see if I’m able to ‘splain m’self.

The titular Motel Hell is actually Motel Hello, only the neon light “O” is on the fritz, and keeps blinking out. It’s an out-of-the-way cozy place that’s owned by Farmer Vincent, who is known all over the 30-mile radius for his extremely tasty meat snacks. Along with his sister Ida, they take care of their customers as well as keep up with the meat production. The secret to his famous smoked meats is a blend of pork, which he raises himself organically (or so he says), and also some humans that he can trap from the road that passes by the place. One night, while doing just that, he snags a biker and his girlfriend, knocking both of them out. The biker went into his “human garden” hidden on his farm; the girlfriend gets told her boyfriend died, and so she develops Stockholm Syndrome and begins helping out on the farm. This causes a bit of a rift when a bizarre love triangle between the new girl, who has fallen in love with Farmer Vincent (eeeew), Ida, who doesn’t want to share her older brother (eeeeew) and the younger brother, who’s also the local sheriff, who has the hots for the new girl but is unreciprocated (SEE: in love w/ Farmer Vincent…eeeeew). Things come to a head (no pun intended) when the humans in the Human Garden manage to escape and attack the family, which leads to a chainsaw showdown at the end.

After watching this movie, going in with minimal knowledge of it beyond a couple of hick folks make meat snacks out of people (which always elicits a cry of “SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!” from me, regardless of who’s around to hear it), I emerged from this experience…well, not a changed man, per se, but I now understand why Motel Hell is held in such high regard. It’s a black comedy about back road cannibals that isn’t exactly the best one of this sub-sub genre — movies like Parents and the second Texas Chainsaw Massacre would come out later in the decade and prove to be far more effective — but it has a kind of laid-back charm that casts aside the whole political commentary side of things, and just gives us an off-beat story that’s chock full of WTF moments (those swingers, a rock band called Ivan and the Terribles, and the one and only Wolfman Jack as a local televangelist) but also a kind of charm to it, as well as the lo-fi effects kills on and off screen.

Overall, I found Motel Hell quite enjoyable on that campy fun level. It’s not the best one, and you get the impression that the writer and director could have pushed the limits just a bit, but were maybe afraid to do so halfway through the production. But, Motel Hell also is far from the worst one of the bunch. It’s available on the Amazon Prime Streaming, which is how I watched it, but however you take in your movie watchin’ experience, I would urge you to check out Motel Hell at least once.

Movie Review: JASON X

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jason xNew Line Cinema
2001
R

“Jason Voorhees. He killed nearly two-hundred people and simply disappeared without a trace. Under the right buyer, he could be worth a fortune.”

 

It’s been said that one of the sure signs of a movie franchise jumping the proverbial shark is when one of the sequels is set in space. Or, is that an indication that the series is running out of ideas? It’s too early in the morning as I write this, and I haven’t had my coffee yet. Also, it’s a Tuesday. I have no idea what bearing this has on the review, here. Let’s move on before I devolve into a raving lunatic…

At this point in the game, any prospect of the Friday The 13th series going back to its roots was met with a very audible snicker. Almost ten years since the abysmal Jason Goes To Hell, and now we’re going to shoot Jason Voorhees into deep SPAAAAAAACE! to wreak gleeful mayhem. Let’s get to the rundown, shall we?

In the near future of…2010, Jason Voorhees is finally captured by the US gov’ment (I guess this is an alternative timeline where they didn’t blow him up in an airstrike) and being held at a research facility. Since Jason proves to be rather hard to kill, a scientist decides that, if they can’t kill Jason, the next best thing to do is to permanently contain him by way of cryogenic deep freeze. Another scientist accompanied by soldiers has alternate plans to research the hockey masked slasher’s rapid regeneration and seemingly immortal qualities, but they suddenly find themselves having to deal with an escaped Jason. The body count begins, until he’s finally lured into the cryogenic pod by the scientist that wanted him frozen in the first place. But, right as she activates the freeze, Jason manages to get in one final blow, killing the scientist, while everything in the room freezes due to a breach caused by Jason’s machete. Fast forward a few hundred years, and Earth is now a wasteland with all of the humans moved out to the creatively named Earth Two. Now, the old Earth is being explored by students on a field trip, where they stumble upon the popsicle’d remains of Jason and the scientist. They take ’em back to their ship to revive the scientist and study the body of Jason, while they fly back to Earth Two. Inevitably, a couple have sex, and if you know the rules of this game, that revives Jason to begin his delightful slaughter of whoever gets in his way. The revived 21st Century scientist rallies the survivors, explaining who and what Jason Voorhees is while trying to avoid getting kebabed. This goes about as well as to be expected, when they finally take him out with an android with really big guns. But, of course this is IN SPACE!, so Jason gets an upgrade thanks to a bunch of nano-tech to Uber Jason. Time to cue up the obligatory “Bodies” by Drowning Pool, sit back and watch the wackiness unfold before your eyes.

I’m just going to come out and say it: I absolutely love Jason X. It’s like the filmmakers went “screw it,” and decided to have fun with the story in a way that didn’t insult our collective intelligence like with Jason Goes To Hell. It doesn’t take itself that seriously. I would argue that Jason X knows it’s a bad movie, and invites you to come along and revel in the cheesy goodness. Okay, sure, the effects haven’t aged very well, and there’s maybe one too many former Andromeda co-stars in the cast, but really, this is a perfect way to spend a bitterly cold and rainy Saturday afternoon in April.

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