SLASHER MONTH: Seed of Chucky (2004)

Don Manicini has written every Child’s Play except for the reboot. He also directed this one in which we meet Glen, the good guy — literally — doll son of Chucky and Tiffany. He’s found a living working as a dummy for an abusive ventriloquist, but when he sees a preview of Jennifer Tilly’s new horror film Chucky Goes Psycho and sees Chucky and Tiffany rebuilt from their original remains, he realizes who he really is. He uses the Heart of Damballa of bring them both back to life. The killing starts almost from the first second they are awake.

This is a strange world that is Hollywood but a bit removed from our own, a reality in which Jennifer Tilly attempts to seduce Redman as he prepares to make a movie about the Virgin Mary, where John Waters plays a papparazzi who gets killed with acid (unlike Dawn Davenport, he does not survive), where Glen has an evil twin who can possess him and why wouldn’t she be called Glenda?

Universal Pictures, which produced the previous three films, wanted a more conventional slasher film. They rejected the script with the note “This is too gay.” 2004 was not all that long ago. It was finally distrbuted by Rogue Pictures.

FANTASTIC FEST 2022: Give Me Pity (2022)

Director and writer Amanda Kramer (Ladyworld, Please Baby Please) has created this exploration of the first ever television special for Sissy St. Claire (Sophie von Haselberg. It’s an evening full of music and laughter, glamour and entertainment, as the ad copy goes, but Sissy’s live event quickly begins to become a nightmare thanks to a mysterious masked man.

Sissy is determined to make it no matter the cost and in the past world of entertainment, let’s say late 70s to mid 80s, that meant getting your own variety special on TV. Well, she sure does, but as each song plays, the lighting gets stranger, the mood gets more ominous, the hair gets just a bit more out of control.

This was the world where performers could compare themselves to God’s favorite Son — where’s Bobby Bittman, Sammy Maudlin and William B. Williams to hype her show? — and say things like, “I’m just dying to be known.” Her psychic guest refuses to even make physical contact with her, claiming that she’s demonic. Yet through it all, the video effects distorting the screen, the masked man silently judging and just Sissy all alone on stage, even doing a two-woman sketch all by herself, she remains what they call a trooper.

The only downside I can say of this is that I wished it stuck to the format of TV shows and was under an hour — with commercials trimmed — and not as long as it is. The idea comes through early, the rest feels like endless riffing on the same notes. But what it does play is strange and wonderful enough to keep you watching.

THE IMPORTANT CINEMA CLUB’S SUPER SCARY MOVIE CHALLENGE 5: Office Killer (1997)

5. A Horror Film Directed by a Fine Artist.

Cynthia Sherman is a fine artist whose work is mainly a series of photographic self-portraits, depicting herself in many different contexts and as various imagined characters. Her best-regarded work is the collected “Untitled Film Stills”, a series of 70 black-and-white photographs of herself playing the female roles of arthouse films and exploitation films.

Working from a script that she wrote with Elise MacAdam, Todd Haynes and Tom Kalin, Sherman made Office Killer, a movie in which Dorine Douglas (Carol Kane) goes from taking the corpse of her friend Gary Michaels (David Thornton) after he accidentally gets electrocuted to going on a murder spree that includes artistic murders of Girl Scout, the office manager Norah Reed (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and Reed’s lover Daniel Birch (Michael Imperioli). By the end, she’s on the road, a severed head in the passenger seat, looking for another office job.

Plus, Molly Ringwald works in the same office and Eric Bogosian appears in dreams as Dorine’s father.

This movie isn’t sure what it wants to be. Does it want to play the violence off-screen or shove your face in it? Is it a parody of slashers or just a bad one? It’s hard to tell. It reminds me of why I don’t really like C.H.U.D. because it seems like everyone in it is above being in a horror movie. I do like that the art for it tries to make it look like a 90s erotic office thriller, which it is not.

2022 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 5: Night Creature (1978)

5. CAKE IN FRIGHT: To celebrate the birth of Donald Pleasence, light a candle, eat a slice and watch one of his many.

You can read another take on this movie here.

If you want to see what Donald Pleasence movies I’ve seen, here’s the Letterboxd list. I love him because he was a working actor. Like John Carradine, he was there when you needed him. And at times, he’d show just how good he was. But he’s a workmanlike — in a good way — presence in so many movies.

Directed by Lee Madden (The Night God Screamed, the Alan Smithee who made Ghost Fever) and written by Hugh Smith (second unit director of Abby, writer of The Glove), Night Visitor has Pleasence as Axel MacGregor, a writer and big game hunter who has unleashed a deadly black panther and doomed everyone around him which is a real problem as his daughters Leslie (Nancy Kwan, Wonder Women) and Georgia (Jennifer Rhodes) have just come to town along with Ross (Ross Hagen, who also produced this movie), a guide who seems pretty sleazy.

All this movie should be about is Pleasence hunting this animal that has already hurt him and he’s brought it to his turf for one last battle. You have the great thespian monologuing and trying to imitate the big beast and man, his eyes bugging out and him snarling and that’s the best.

At times, I’m given to just yelling out Pleasence line reads, like “The evil is gone” and “I shot him six times.” I celebrate him eating at a salad bar in 90s giallo. I’ve read that he drank through this entire movie and I in no way want to judge him for that. My memories of the actor are always wonderful and he lives again every time someone watches one of his films, whether he’s playing a President, the devil or a preacher who turns into a warthog.

TUBI EXCLUSIVE: Hot Take: The Depp/Heard Trial (2022)

It makes my heart a little happy that Tubi is leaning in on being the National Enquirer of streaming TV, literally racing this starnge Rashomon take on the very recent Depp vs. Heard trial. This is absolute junk food television that I have devoured every single overly sugary bite of.

The 70s and 80s were a magical time when pre-multi streaming channel and internet and social media we waited for TV movies to deliver the proper take on a public scandal. That’s why this film made me so happy, as it continues this sleazy tradition.

Mark Hapka is Depp and he may look more like Mark-Paul Gosselaar than who he is supposed to be, but he also has the benefit of Johnny’s weird drawl and young Steven Tyle sartorial choices. Not that Megan Davis is a dead ringer for Amber Heard either, but the film really is wild because of how it lets them break the fourth wall and speak directly to us, the audience, who need to know the truth even though we’ve already made up our minds and probably realize that this is all bread and circuses meant to distract us from the fact that our planet has about five good years left.

There’s a long limo scene here where Rob, Depp’s security guard and lifesaver, brings him a tuna fish and corn sandwich, a meal that reminds the man who was once and will be again Jack Sparrow of the only good parts of his childhood. Rob is a magical figure who Depp gives an island to. He is also not a real person but someone made for this movie, so I want a sequel where Rob benevolently rules over his island only to have Johnny come and want it back.

Director Sarah Lohman has mostly worked in shorts and episodic TV while writer Guy Nicolucci has written for Conan O’Brien, Comedy Central’s roasts and The Daily Show. That should give you an idea of the direction of this, as it cuts to influencers and vloggers their feelings on the trial, creating a Greek chorus of the public reactions to this event.

Yes, a finger is cut off. Yes, a bed is shat upon. No, it’s not as bad as it could be. I love reading people saying, “Why does this exist” and “No one wants this,” yet they make the effort to post about it. Yes, plenty of people are going to watch this even if they won’t admit it. That’s why they call it exploitation.

You can watch this on Tubi.

SLASHER MONTH: Blood Games (1990)

Israeli director Tanya Rosenberg only made one movie and this is it. And that’s a shame because I haven’t seen a movie that can somehow combine the roughest moments of 70s exploitation with female characters that are given plenty of agency and personalities that are explored more than their bodies. I mean, yes, it’s scummy as it gets, but it also surprises you at every turn.

Babe & The Ball Girls — Babe (Laura Albert who went from sexy scenes in movies like Angel III and Dr. Alien to the stunt work she still does today and oh man, I can’t forget that she’s in Stephen Sayadian’s Dr. Caligari), Donna (Lee Benton), Wanda (Rhyve Sawyer), Stony (Julie Hall), Louise (Paula Manga), Connie (Sabrina Hills), Ingrid (Randi Randolph), Shorty (Sonjia Redo) and Mickey (Lisa Zambrano) — have been brought to this backwater swamp by Mino Collins (Ken Carpenter) to play against his son’s softball team. Despite the guys getting physical and actually even breaking Stony’s nose, the girls easily defeat them and leave a few of them with aching balls. Their coach and manager Midnight (Ross Hagen) wants to get them out of town, but Collins isn’t paying up and his son Roy (Gregory Scott Cummins) recovers from getting a softball to the ball bag by trying to assault Mickey and Connie. Midnight saves them and gets stabbed for his troubles; the rednecks chase the bus and half the girls want to fight back and the others want to run.

Things don’t go so well. This is a dark film that somehow combines Deliverance with A League of Their Own and who knew that could even be a thing? It also has George “Buck” Flower sneaking into the locker room of the ladies and getting pummeled while wearing a hat that says “The check is in the mail.”

Writers Craig Clyde and James L. Hennessy also wrote China O’Brien 2 before this, so you know they know direct-to-video pacing. They were joined by writer Jim Makichuk, the very same person who directed, wrote and produced Ghostkeeper.

This is a movie that delivers slow-motion death on every side in this war, women in barely there outfits playing softball for money and a crossbow.

When I grew up, one of the biggest events in my hometown was when a Globetrotters-like softball team called The King and His Heart came and played against our hometown’s best softball players. Led by Myrle Vernon King, there only had a pitcher — of course that was Myrle — a catcher, a fast baseman and a shortstop against full teams. When asked why his team only had four members, Myrle would sometimes say that they needed someone to get on every base and still hit, but if he was feeling cocky, he’d say that no team could take on his pitching so thought that he should just reduce the roster to just himself. He may have been right, as during a February 18, 1967 charity game, Myrle struck out Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Brooks Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Maury Wills and Harmon Killebrew in order.

It’s so odd because this movie is erotic and exploitative yet it doesn’t make you feel bad about it. It helps when the women kill the men, doesn’t it?

You can get this from Vinegar Syndrome or watch this on Tubi.

FANTASTIC FEST 2022: Fantastic Shorts

Feast your eyes and ears on this eclectic smorgasbord of the year’s finest fantastic shorts!

The Coupon (2021): Wendy (director Laura Seay) gave her husband (writer Micah Cohen) a silly coupon book for his birthday, including a get one oral favor free offer. You never cash in these coupons. But when he runs over a man (Adam J. Harrington) and doesn’t want to report it to insurance, he ends up giving him all the money in his wallet, as well as the coupon and a ride to the hospital. Now, the coupon has come back to be collected.

This is a movie that takes a simple idea and delivers it flawlessly. I had a blast with this one, as even though you can see the punchline coming, it’s still so well told.

The Diamond (2022): No matter what, Stefan can’t make friends. Perhaps it’s because he tries too hard. Or maybe he’s dangerous to everyone around him. One day, he finds a diamond in the woods and yet can’t reach it. Later at the doctor’s office, he meets a miniature man and actually becomes friends with him. However, he must use him to get what he really wants, that diamond. Or maybe he can actually make a friend this time.

Director Vedran Rupic and writer Gustav Sundström have created a world where a man tries to wear fake herpes sores to try to win people over to the embrace of his friendship. And the end of this movie, the moral and the choir and the…look, don’t let me ruin it. This short is beyond perfect.

Last Seen (2021): Nathan Ginter directed and star Chris Jensen wrote this story of Devon, whose sister has gone missing, his relationship with his mother has deteriorated and struggles have started with his lifeguard job. However, the only good thing in his life are the sea monkeys that his sister left behind. As you can tell from the description, this is a dark movie about those left behind when others disappear.

Ginter and Jensen may not have done much yet, but this short points at their ability to do so much. This made me think about the people in my life and what their loss would feel like. This isn’t a feel good movie, other than to feel great about the talent that made it.

A Man Trembles (2021): Directed and written by Mark Chua and Li Shuen Lam, A Man Trembles takes place in 1998 Singapore during the peak of the Asian Financial Crisis. A man and his family spend their final day on Earth at Sentosa island, a place where he comes to confront what is in-between salvation and terror.

In case you never heard of this island — I hadn’t — Sentosa is Asia’s leading leisure destination and Singapore’s premier island resort getaway, a 500-hectare island resort home to an exciting array of themed attractions, award-winning spa retreats, lush rainforests, golden sandy beaches, resort accommodations, world-renowned golf courses, a deep-water yachting marina and luxurious residences.

Let me tell you: the end of this is harrowing. Well done.

Phlegm (2021): Directed and written by Han-David Bolt, Phlegm reminds me of Jamie Thraves’ video for Radiohead’s “Just.” Pascal Ulli plays a man walking to work that ends up stepping on a snail, wiping off his shoe and then stepping directly onto another snail until the sticky material all over him just weighs him down and forces him into the ground. As the camera pulls back, it’s revealed that he is not the only person to have undergone this disgusting and horrible trial.

It feels as if this is every day when I had to walk to work, the feeling of not even wanting to enter the building, every step bringing me closer to a destructive experience that tore away at my soul, forced to be around fake faceless emotionless ciphers of not even human beings. No snails though.

Three Meetings of the Extraordinary Committee (2021): Directed and written by Jones, the filmmaking project of Michael Woodward and Max Barron, this black and white film finds itself in the small farming village of Dobre where the citizens are about to vote for a mythical creature. The film looks at the political and religious views of a town that is not in our country or even our world and yet shows us how ridiculous voting and the process of people trying to figure out how to do the best will of all is a fool’s mission. However, this film looks absolutely gorgeous as it tells its tale.

I liked the old religious figure most of everyone, as he is literally non-plussed at having to discuss religion with someone so below his caste.

Wild Card (2022): Daniel (Billy Flynn) and Toni (Tipper Newton, who directed and wrote this short) have been matched by a video dating service that feels inspired by the Found Footage Festival Videomate videos. The date is awkward, as every time Daniel seems to impress Toni or gain ground, she tears him down, builds him up and then cuts him down all again, sometimes in the same moment.

So how does he make it back to her place? And if he’s the first date from the service she’s been on, why are there so many videotapes everywhere? And who is that threatening her on the answering machine?

Wild Card gets exciting right when it ends, right at the moment that it has been teasing and it demands that you watch more. I loved it and it got me — so please, give us that second date.

I was struck by just how much it gets right from the neo-giallo erotic thriller look of the 90s and how much I want even more of this.

SLASHER MONTH: Sin Reaper (2012)

Sam (Helen Mutch) has nightmares of a monastary stalked by a hooded man with weapons from the Crusades killing people left and right. Her therapist Dr. Hoffman (Lance Henriksen) figures out where this places is — a former German monastery called Wallenhausen — so she flies off to explore the place and before you know it, there’s the Sin Reaper murdering people with his Christian-themed mace.

This was directed by Sebastian Bartolitius, somehow was in 3D and got picked up by Fangoria. I have no idea how those last two things happened. This movie also has the slowest killer you’ve ever seen in a slasher. He makes Michael Myers look like Usain Bolt.

I’ve read people say that this seems like a Krimini film or an 80s slasher without the benefit of good kills or the often requisite T&A. I can agree, but those genre usually produce interesting results.

This movie needed better effects, improved blocking for the murder scenes and, well, it needs a lot more than that. It kind of needs to start over again. Imagine if a Full Moon castle-based movie wasn’t good. This is that movie.

You can watch this on Tubi.

SLASHER MONTH: Bride of Chucky (1998)

Written by Don Mancini and directed by Ronny Yu — the same person who directed The Bride with White Hair and would go on to direct Freddy vs. Jason — this movie may not have doen well with critics, but it introduced a very essential part of the Child’s Play series: Tiffany Valentine (Jennifer Tilly), a former lover of Charles Lee Ray who ends up trapped in a doll just like him. Now, she has to dig up Chucky’s human body and get an amulet which will allow them to possess her neightbors Jesse and Jade (Nick Stabil and Katherine Heigl).

Have you ever wanted to see John Ritter get nails driven into his face? Good news. This movie is ready to deliver.

Mancini referred to this as “part horror, part comedy, part romance and part road movie” and that’s why it works. Fans may have been upset that Andy Barclay wasn’t back, but they’d be won over soon enough. Inspired by Bride of Frankenstein, they went all in on finding a mate for Chucky who could live up to his love of killing. They succeeded. They also pushed the series into campier territory instead of the nearly straight slasher and supernatural vibe of the first three movies. After all, it was pretty wild to have a child’s doll killing so many people. They leaned in here and went for the laugh, not just the jugular.

This also comes from the era where every slasher had a soundtrack worth buying. Beyond Blondie’s “Call Me,” this has Rob Zombie’s “Living Dead Girl” and his band White Zombie’s “Thunder Kiss ’65,” as well as Monster Magnet’s “See You In Hell,” Motörhead’s “Love for Sale,” Bruce Dickinson’s “Trumpets of Jericho,” Powerman 5000’s Machine Man inspired “The Son of X-51,” Kidneythieves covering “Crazy,” the song Willie Nelson wrote for Patsy Cline, plus Slayer’s “Human Disease,” Coal Chamber’s “Blisters” and Stabbing Westward — yes, it was 1998 — performing “So Wrong.”

This movie was hyped on the October 12, 1998 episode of WCW Monday Nitro when Chucky interrupted Gene Okerlund and Rick Steiner to tell the Dogfaced Gremlin that his brother Scott would win their feud. The SyFy version of Chucky would show up in NXT in 2021 and even cut a promo on Rick’s son Bron Breakker.

Bride of Chucky also got in a visual gag that the creators had wanted since the second movie: an evidence locker has Michael Myers’ mask, Jason’s mask, Leatherface’s chainsaw, Freddy’s glove and Fluffy’s crate from Creepshow.

THE IMPORTANT CINEMA CLUB’S SUPER SCARY MOVIE CHALLENGE DAY 4: House Squatch (2022)

DAY 4: A Horror Film Released by SRS Cinema.

Directed by Anthony and Mark Polonia from a script by Mark and Aaron Drake, this movie takes place in Shadyville, which has a new resident, the House Squatch, which is, well, squatting in a home that’s for sale. That means that a real estate firm is going to use their money-based power to strong arm the police into sending the creature back to where he came.

Just so you know, Pennsylvania contains multitudes. So while this and Suburban Sasquatch were both shot in my home state, Wellsboro and West Chester are 194 miles apart. Somehow, both of these movies have a Bigfoot that has interdimensional powers that operates in the non-urban neighborhoods of the Keystone State.

So we end up with a sheriff (Ken Van Sant) and a Sasquatch hunter (Jeff Kirkendall) searching the cul de sacs of a small town hunting for the hairy ape that is bedeviling them all. Hopefully that laser gun will come in handy.

The Polonias said that this movie was “the first in our series of “House” meets “Monster” themed movies follow our hugely successful House Shark.” I can’t wait to see what weirdness they figure out next.

You can get this from SRS or watch it on Tubi.