Kansas cult filmmaker Donald Farmer made his first film, the short Despondent Yearning, in 1973; by 1976, he completed his sixth short, A Taste of Flesh: based on those titles, we’re guessing they’re skin flicks. After Christopher Lewis single-handedly birthed the home video SOV-market by bypassing con-fest screenings, Grindhouse theaters, and four-walling Drive-Ins for one-off showings, instead opting for distribution exclusively on the new “screens” created by the home video market for Blood Cult (1985), Donald Farmer was inspired to shoot his first feature-length film (90 minutes): Cannibal Hookers (1987).
As you can tell from the artwork, in conjunction with the title, the major and regional chains didn’t stock Cannibal Hookers: only the more out-of-the-way mom & pop outlets for us wee-lads with more discriminating tastes carried it (see Snuff Kill); even then, it was behind the beaded curtain at most of those outlets. While Farmer cleaned and shortened the running time for the impossible-to-find Demon Queen (1987), it was his third film, Scream Dream (1989), that was his first film to receive the most wide-spread distribution on the main floor in the horror section. And for a wee-metal head (moi), the cheesy mixture of rock and horror of the Hard Rock Zombies and Shock ‘Em Dead variety made Scream Dream an instant rental.
Since his meager SOV ’80s beginnings, Donald Farmer has amassed another 30-plus credits, with titles such as Vampire Cop (1990) and Cannibal Cop (2017), the too-irresistible-not-to-rent Chainsaw Cheerleaders (2008), Shark Exorcist (2015) and, we’re guessing, its sequel, Bigfoot Exorcist (2021). In between, Farmer also completed two documentaries on cult film: The Bizarre World of Jess Franco (1988) and Invasion of the Scream Queens (1992), the latter features Janus Blythe of fellow SOV’er, Spine (1986).
So, when you’re renting a film such as Cannibal Hookers, the title, in conjunction with the cover, its tagline, and a couple of film stills on the back cover of a ripped-out neck and chest is all you need to get the gist of the situation. Plot means nothing, as the copywriters opted to only tell us to “be prepared for a film that is depraved, with bloodsucking terror” that includes ne’er-do-well johns being sliced n’ diced. Of course, in the SOV greylands adrift on the boarders of the adult film industry, there’s more than likely a couple of incognito adult film actresses in the cast and more than likely — like Spine — shot by a porn company looking to move into the legit horror realms. But guess what: there’s hardly any nudity here, just like Spine. But Sheila Best, aka Tara the Southern Bell from G.L.O.W. for your wrestling fans, is pretty good as the bitchy “Carmilla” of the sorority.
Regardless of the suggestive box art, Cannibal Hookers is not the all-out slaughterhouse cross-pollination of the cannibal and vampire genres marketed: this is a “comedy,” after all. And when you’re dealing with a movie that concerns two sorority pledges forced into Sunset Boulevard hooker-servitude for the night, you know you’re getting a T&A comedy. Of course, the sleazy Gamma Zeta Beta sorority is a lesbian vampire coven — and our two pledges are the newest flesh-eating zombie hookers (a great cult title if there ever was one) to join these ladies of the night.
The gore . . . well . . . this is a film where you see the blade coming down, the scene cuts to a scream, and a limb falls into the shot, à la The Spirits of Jupiter comes to my mind. But at least it’s all shot-in-camera practical effects (CGI blood splatter is the bane of my existence). In terms of SOVs overall: Cannibal Hoookers is a rougher VHS ride than most, one that’ll make you load up your copies of the superior Spine and Snuff Kill (1997) for one more spin.
You can view the trailer for Cannibal Hookers and learn more about Donald Farmer’s early career as he talks about the making of the film in the third episode of the SOV The True Independents web series as a You Tube sign-in. You can learn more about the full documentary at SOV Horror.com, your one-stop shop for all things horror.
Donald Farmer impressively upped his game in this story about heavy metal’s newest superstar, Michelle Shock — whose albums are in the racks next to the faux metal gods of Black Roses (1988). As with those hypnotizing rockers led by the demon-morphing Damien in that film, Michelle Shock lords a supernatural power over her fans: a power so strong, just watching her videos has an effect on the males of the metal species. As with Black Roses, and the guys from Holy Moses in Hard Rock Zombies (1985) before her: when Shock’s band arrives in town to put on a concert, the town rises up in protest.
Needless to say: when the rock starts, the teenagers start to disappear. And when the rumors of Michelle Shock’s (a brunette) devil worship proclivities cause the promoter to cancel the show, her manager replaces her with (a blonde) Jamie Summers (ex-Playboy Playmate Melissa Moore, who’s done her share of Jim Wynorski flicks, such as Sorority House Massacre II and Linda Blair’s Repossessed). Shock then calls forth a demon (an impressive on-a-budget full body-and-mask by Tom Savini-crew member Rick Gonzales) to extract revenge on her band. We soon come to learn Michelle was actually possessed by a demon that’s been body-hoping metal singers over the years — and it now possesses Jamie to carry on the carnage.
The rock and the gore . . . well, we’ve always said Rocktober Blood (courtesy of its first and third acts, natch) is the best of the heavy metal horror flicks, and that hard fact still holds true. We’ll even go as far to say that, in a neck-to-neck race, Dennis Devine’s all female-rocking Dead Girls, crosses the finish line against Farmer, first.
While it’s as campy as Cannibal Hookers, Scream Dream ditches the comedic to play as a straight horror piece, one that’s helped by the familiar and experienced Moore adding a bit of thespin’ class to the SOV proceedings. And it’s kind of hard to hate a film that gives an unknown band, in this case, Rikk-O-Shay, a chance to get their hair-metal grunge tune “Ball Buster” out to a mass audience via a movie . . . that starts with a chainsaw-to-the-vagina bondage dream sequence and a blowjob-castration by demon-babe mouth.
You can view the trailer for Scream Dream as a You Tube sign in.
So, thanks to the fine folks at Massacre Video, the once hard-to-find Demon Queen is easily accessible for us horn-doggers who need it in our home library.
Ditching the sorority sister hi-jinks of Cannibal Hookers and cheese metal of Scream Dream, we’re now inside a video store with another ne’er-do-well clerk who implores members to rent his favorite horror films, for no other reason to pad out the film’s already-thin plot. The “plot,” such as it is, concerns a homeless female demon, natch, who’s actually a vampire (a bitch’s gotta drink), who moves in with a drug-dealing couple on-the-hook to a dwarf coke dealer for 6Gs.
Hey, it’s an easy swallow at only 46 minutes (40 if we cut the 6 minutes of end credits) — even with its cochlea-straining sound and repetitive Casio-whining synth music, so what’s the problemo? You know you love this stuff: it has all the over-the-top on-the-cheap gore and analog-tape effects that remind of those cheesy Missing Persons and Simple Minds camcordered-hits of early ’80s MTV yore. Oh, yes: the out-of-place “dream sequence” set piece from Scream Dream is back: only our succubus hottie does the dreamin’ as she de-hearts a guy. Meanwhile, those real-life heart-rips turn her victims into fine, Romeroesque citizens. Torn, bloody hearts against naked breasts and fleshy face rips, ensues.
Oh, yes! As with Cannibal Hookers and Scream Dream: I love every minute of the SOV-heart of it all; your own Dalton-ness down by the roadhouse, may vary.
While there’s no online streams of Cannibal Hookers, there’s a streaming copy of Scream Dream on You Tube. You can find DVDs of both films — which are not digitally restored, but straight VHS-to-DVD rips — on a couple of different imprints specializing in cult horror films. You can find Cannibal Hookers DVDs at Amazon and Walmart, while copies of Scream Dream are available at DVD Planet.
Oh, and guess what?! The SOV-lovin’ lads at Letterboxd Funtime You Tube makes my night, as I can sit and watch Demon Queen for the first time, ever. I’m stoked! Sam the Bossman is equally stoked, as he’ll be reviewing that film for our “SOV Week” blow out in September 2021.
Wow, it’s good to be home again, jammin’ on a “new” Donald Farmer SOV’er. Sweet!
From the Never Say Never Department: During the last two weeks of January 2023 we had, yet another, another “SOV Week” blow out — and gave Scream Dream a second, alternate look. Be sure to click through our SOV tags at the bottom of any of our SOV reviews to populate our ever-growning SOV catalog of shot-on-video films from the ’80s and beyond.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.