Tag Archives: low-budget

HORROR NERD OF THE MONTH: Tom & Terry!

This is it, mutants! We’ve made it to the final entry in my year-long serial, Horror Nerd of the Month. I want to extend a big thank you to those of you who have faithfully followed over the past 12 months, commenting, liking, sharing, and all that other good stuff. And can that really be true? 12 months already? It feels like just yesterday that I posted the first entry in this exercise of monthly moronics; CV’s introductory nerd was poor Jerry, from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I can hear his virginal death shriek in my head as I type this.

There wasn’t technically a horror nerd for November, but I wouldn’t dare slight you which is why I’m doubling up this month. That’s right: December’s HNotM is a twofer! And what a twofer!

May I present Tom (Tom Casiello) from Woodchipper Massacre, and Terry (Louis Tripp) from The Gate. It only makes sense that I’d pair these two up: both are bespectacled redheads with a penchant for rock. But despite their love of flaming solos and killer air guitar, these guys are absolute zeros on the Cool Dude scale.

Below I offer visual evidence of their cringe-inducing flopping about whilst in the privacy of their own respective rooms. We’ve all been there, sure. But these guys, well, it’s not helping their cases.

Until next year, mutants!

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“They Look Like People” (2016) REVIEW

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On his way home from work, Christian bumps into an old friend, Wyatt, who he hasn’t seen in awhile. They do the small talk bit: Christian’s life is going well and he doesn’t hesitate to make it known; Wyatt’s life, not so much, so he does the whole “Oh, me? Oh, yeah, everything’s great. I’m GREAT. Why am I holding these two suitcases? Oh, well…” thing. Before you can say this never happens in real life, Wyatt is up in Christian’s apartment making himself cozy, but, y’know, not too cozy – he continually insists “Hey man, I’ll just grab my stuff and go…” (more)

BRUTAL FUTURISTIC POSTERS!

Welcome to the future. It’s 1990. Or maybe it’s 1998. Or maybe it’s 2010. Or maybe it’s even later.

The landscape is a vast desert wasteland where madmen roam the scorched earth on sputtering motorcycles culled from spare parts and outfitted with human skulls. Or – maybe – the landscape is a trash-filled, neon-soaked city overrun with crime and violence, where drugged-out maniacs in leather gear terrorize innocent, law-abiding citizens. Continue reading BRUTAL FUTURISTIC POSTERS!

BLACK DEVIL DOLL FROM HELL – 13 Days of Shot on Video! (#11)

With 13 Days of Shot On Video I’ll be reviewing a new shot-on-video horror film every weekday for the last two weeks of October. You can view all entries HERE.

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In terms of sheer unintentional lunacy, Black Devil Doll From Hell may be the most batshit crazy movie I’ve ever seen. To call Black Devil Doll from Hell “a doozy” — a movie wherein a woman buys a possessed doll from a thrift shop and is then repeatedly raped by said doll for pretty much the entire remaining runtime — feels like the understatement to end all understatements. We the viewer really truly don’t know what we’re in for, even if we think we do. Black Devil Doll from Hell is audacious, bizarre, borderline pornographic, and the director is clearly insane. But dammit, it has heart! A real earnest sincerity that a lot of films are lacking. I mean, how else can you explain why director Chester Novell Turner decided to make this strange and unclassifiable movie? He obviously had a vision he truly believed in, and you can’t help but admire that.

Even by SOV (shot-on-video) standards, Black Devil Doll from Hell is one of the lower-tiered releases. Abrupt cuts, continuity jumps, and audio issues abound. But again, Turner saw the production through to the end — ponying up $8000 of his own money to complete it — and that takes dolls. I mean balls! Balls. It takes balls. Not dolls.

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The movie opens with a painfully long credit sequence: we get your standard white type on navy background, set to some weird proto rap-rock tune whose lyrics do us the service of laying out the entire plotline (kind of like a James Bond film from Hell.) For almost seven minutes the repetitive song drones on, though to be fair it does include some killer guitar solos. Mind you, most films don’t even have opening credits anymore, and the ones that do are usually set to some sort of kinetic motion or action, so the length of the opening is particularly noticeable.

And speaking of music: the music throughout the rest of the film (composed by Turner, naturally) takes on two different vibes. There are these upbeat instrumentals that sound like they came from a Wesley Willis demo tape; oddly cheerful and wonderfully out of place in such a horrifying movie. And then there is this high-pitched stabbing synth sound that almost has a John Carpenter feel to it, but it’s so loud and shrill that it oftentimes overpowers the dialogue. Needless to say, if musical variety is your thing, Black Devil Doll from Hell has you covered.

So, as the movie plods along, we find out the lead (bravely played by Shirley L. Jones) is a church-going good girl who frowns upon promiscuous behavior and shuns men who only show interest in her for her body. However, she makes the regrettable mistake of buying a possessed (and extremely horny) doll from a thrift store and then showering in front of it. She plops it down on the toilet, says “these are the only eyes that’ll see me naked before I’m married”, and then gets in the shower. It’s like the puritanical version of saying, “I’ll be right back” in a horror movie. Anyway, while she’s in the shower, she starts fantasizing about having sex with the doll. And this pattern continues for the next couple scenes: she showers, she fantasizes about dummy sex. It’s surprisingly pretty graphic, too: the camcorder-look and homemade vibe make it feel even sleazier and realistic.

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Eventually the doll actually comes to life, knocks her out and ties her up, and then, y’know, rapes her repeatedly — all the while insulting her, exhaling some mysterious smoke, and shouting “bitch!” more than Freddy Krueger could ever dream of. And yet the most insane part of it all is that she’s supposedly deriving pleasure from the whole thing. It’d be offensive if it weren’t so goddamn insane. Ratcheting up the insanity: the doll was modeled after Rick James. No, I’m not joking.

So now that she’s experienced, y’know, puppet penetration, she seeks out the real thing. But she finds that her human suitors don’t quite live up to her plastic partner. No one can please her quite the same way the Black Devil Doll from Hell does. So she pleads with the doll to do the horizontal mambo with her one more time, only this time the doll has apparently had enough of Jones, and gives her what I can only describe as a “deadly orgasm” — at least, that’s what it looks like.

Soon enough, the doll makes his way back to the thrift store and is purchased by yet another innocent, unsuspecting young woman. And so the cycle begins again. And just like that, the barely-70 minute runtime is up and it feels like you’ve been watching this thing for 3 hours.

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As I said earlier, Black Devil Doll from Hell is pretty bad even by ’80s SOV standards. Not the worst I’ve seen, but pretty close. Of course, I mean all of this in terms of its technical achievements. When it comes to originality and the always appreciated “what the hell did I just watch?” sensation, Black Devil Doll from Hell knocks it out of the park. It’s vile, and strange, and moralistic, and misogynistic — but you’ll also be laughing while shaking your head in shock.

Turner may only have two films to his name — Black Devil Doll from Hell (1984) and the equally-treasured horror-anthology Tales from the Quadead Zone (1987) — but he’s still lauded among the tapeheads and celluloid collectors, like some VHS version of Dalton Trumbo or Herk Harvey. Watch if you absolutely must (and you must, naturally) but have a bar of soap ready to wash the dirt off afterwards.

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WOODCHIPPER MASSACRE – 13 Days of Shot on Video! (#7)

With 13 Days of Shot On Video I’ll be reviewing a new shot-on-video horror film every weekday for the last two weeks of October. You can view all entries HERE.

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Woodchipper Massacre, along with Cannibal Holocaust, I Spit on Your Grave, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, should be included in the annals of horror history grouped under the heading, “Great Titles for a Horror Movie”. Sure, to call the events that take place in the movie a “woodchipper massacre” might be a bit of a stretch — but what a title! You can’t beat it.

Woodchipper Massacre is directed by and stars Jon McBride, a name which even first time shot-on-video consumers should immediately recognize; McBride was instrumental during the late-’80s and mid-’90s shot-on-video wave. (In fact, I already reviewed one of his movies for 13 Days of S.O.V.!) It also stars Tom Casiello — the redhead, bemulleted, brace-face with glasses — who would go on to win several Emmys writing for soap operas as an adult.

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Nice wig.

The movie sees a trio of youngsters (McBride, Casiello, and Denice Edeal) left alone for the weekend when their father goes out of town on a business trip. For whatever reason, the dad decides these kids need adult supervision (despite the fact that Jon McBride is clearly in his late-20s), so their Aunt Tess comes to watch them while he leaves on business. It’s clear from the get-go that Aunt Tess comes from an old-fashioned, more regimented upbringing — one she intends to enforce on the indifferent kids.

Later on in the movie, Aunt Tess’s son, Kim, shows up to the house, fresh from prison and in search of some money. The group, feeling threatened and unsure of when the dad will return, decide to put the woodchipper in the front yard to good use.

Now, Woodchipper Massacre is a hard to categorize film. It’s nowhere near what I would consider a “horror” film. And while there is a lot of humor, most of it falls flat or sometimes goes completely unnoticed because of how low-budget the presentation is; I found myself thinking many times, “Was what I just saw supposed to be intentionally funny, or was that just bad acting and poor production?” The one thing I can assert is that it definitely gave off a sitcom-style vibe: the kids left alone for the weekend, the single father, the older brother, the annoying aunt, her creepy son who pops up in the third act. They even have sitcom-style credits at the end, which just further solidified my feelings about it. I’d go as far as to say Woodchipper Massacre has invented its own genre: Sitcore. (Bleh, forget it. I’m not tryin’ to coin that.)

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While I’m sure there’s no definite correlation, Woodchipper Massacre seems like it inspired a few films (or at least, a few film scenes) that came after it: Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, Fargo, and The Mangler — all share plot points very reminiscent of what goes on in Woodchipper Massacre.

My complaints about the movie are typical of any shot-on-video horror flick I’ve seen: mainly shoddy writing combined with terrible, terrible acting. Everyone in the movie is basically just yelling their dialogue, rushing through their lines. Cousin Kim looks like some deranged combination of Gene Wilder and Jeff Daniels’ character ‘Harry’ from Dumb and Dumber. He’s so incredibly over-the-top, it makes me wonder: surely he had to know, right? Wasn’t he ever compelled to scale it back just a notch? And Aunt Tess — who looks like she could be their great grandmother (dear lord, that awful wig) — speaks mostly in antiquated aphorisms, idioms and proverbs. Half of them sound made up. “Sleep is good for the soul”, she says at one point. Who has ever said that? No one, because it’s not a phrase.

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Cousin Kim, bastard child of Gene Wilder and Harry Dunne.

However, Woodchipper Massacre does have one strong suit: incredible, incredible music! I mean, really, truly. The opening theme recalls influences from Harold Faltermeyer’s Fletch score. From there, the soundtrack bounces between weird video game sounding music to toe-tapping new wave style instrumentals. The closing credits sound like an Oingo Boingo demo — it’s amazing. All of it is surprisingly listenable.

Before I wrap this up, I wanted to point out two things:

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  • On multiple occasions we see the day and time onscreen. This is never relevant or vital to the plot in any way. Superfluous, amateur inclusion …or hilarious, multi-layered in-joke? You be the judge.

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  • The movie opens with a fake statistic crawl, ala The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. This is the third shot-on-video movie I’ve reviewed (Cannibal Campout and Redneck Zombies being the other two) that has referenced TCM. Just surprising that even amid the glut of ’80s slashers, these no-budget home movie auteurs were paying respects to the original no-budget exploitation classic.

If’n you ain’t seen Woodchipper Massacre, I suggest it for the music alone. But I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of the hammy acting, too. Just don’t expect any gore: the movie may have a brutal title, but much like its equally-brutally-titled inspiration, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre — it’s fairly bloodless.

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“Starry Eyes” (2014) REVIEW

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I was compelled to write this critique after seeing so many glowing, positive reviews for the film – a feeling I did not share.

First, the positives:

Technically, the film is sound. It’s easy to watch, nice to look at. Nothing boring or distracting about the visual compositions. It was shot by a competent cinematographer. Same for the editing and sound/music – it was well done.

As for acting, the lead, Alex Essoe, does a solid job as well. It can’t be easy to bounce between meek and sweetly optimistic, to terrified and revenge-filled. She does it all without ever going over-the-top (though, she does come close).

So what don’t I like? Well, two things stick out to me – things I can’t ignore enough to be able to enjoy the film.

First: as the film progresses, the deterioration and degradation of the lead character, is almost beat for beat identical to a film that came out just one year prior, “Contracted”. Now, in the name of fairness, the fact that I HATED (loathed, despised, abhorred) “Contracted” really doesn’t have any sway on my opinion of the merit or worth of “Starry Eyes”, but what happens to both leads is so goddamn identical I couldn’t help but keep thinking of the former film, and that was distracting. I’m talking identical scenes. In the way that you can only see so many night-vision-nanny-cam-ghost-in-the-room scenes before your brain shuts off automatically whenever it sees another one, I just immediately checked out due to the similarities. “Contracted”, boy. I can’t write a bad enough review for that mean-spirited, aimless, derivative drivel.

The other thing that got me tangled about this movie was that it just doesn’t add up. Look, I am all for suspending disbelief when watching a horror flick. In fact, a pet peeve of mine is people who pick apart the believability of some horror films. (Y’know, films about zombies and monsters and ghosts – they need to be believable.)

However, this film uses a logic to get the lead from point A to point B by any means necessary that ignores (and hopes the audience will ignore, too) any sensible conclusions that could have/would have occurred in the meantime that might’ve led the film in a different, exciting direction.

Take an amazing movie like “Rosemary’s Baby”, which this film seems to borrow from heavily. In “Rosemary’s Baby”, the fertile Mia Farrow is conditioned and lulled into a false sense of security by the sweet, loving old neighbors in her new apartment. Little does she realize she’s being set up to be the incubator for the second coming of baby Satan. The warning signs Rosemary sees are dismissed by her husband (a co-conspirator) as just imagination. And we, the audience, aren’t 100% sure, either – until it’s too late, of course. And that’s what makes it such an effective, well-made film.

However, everything about “Starry Eyes” is so…naggingly off and predictable. Every new scene screams at the lead, “Stop what you’re doing. Why are you doing that?”

It’s hard to enjoy a movie when there’s no one to root for.