2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 11: The Illustrated Man (1969)

11. SKINS & NEEDLES: Body art or body harm? When getting the mark leads to all hell breaking loose.

Beyond Bird with the Crystal Plumage, there’s one movie my mother has already brought up that she hated. And that would be this one.

The book that these stories come from has eighteen of them, but Howard B. Kreitsek and Jack Smight picked these three for the film without ever speaking to that book’s author, Ray Bradbury. The tattooed man who appears in the book’s prologue and epilogue would become this film’s main story and be played by Rod Steiger.

The funny thing is that when Steiger takes off his glove to reveal his entire hand is tattooed, it’s played off as a horrific moment. A half century after this movie was made and nearly every one of my friends has this many tattoos.

Carl the tattooed man meets Willie and uses his skin illustrations to show tales throughout time. The ink came from a mysterious woman named Felicia and at the end of the film, Willie sees his death at the hands of Carl in the only bare patch of skin on the Illustrated Man.

The stories that are told include “The Veldt,” which takes place in the future and has children who study within a virtual version of the African veldt. Soon, the lions will solve this issue of their parents. “The Long Rain” has solar rains* that drive an entire crew to madness in space. And “The Last Night of the World” predates The Mist with parents that must decide if their children should survive the end of the world.

The final story — and its bleak ending — is exactly why my mom hates this movie. The fact that she may have told me all about it when I was a kid may have given me nightmares.

This movie didn’t do well critically or financially. Rod Serling, who would be the expert on adapting short stories to film called it the worst movie ever made.

*Their spaceship is recycled from Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Escape from the Planet of the Apes.

SLASHER MONTH: Cannibal Campout (1988)

You have to wonder why more slashers didn’t have a killer with a fighter pilot helmet. Maybe Joe has one on in this because it came out after Top Gun, unlike the majority of slice and dice movies. Regardless, it’s a great look*, even if the quality of this movie isn’t always top of mind.

Don’t get used to any of the victims. I mean that — everyone, including their unborn children — is fair game for the three killers. In addition to Joe, there’s Rich and Gene, hillbillies who treat their mother with the same kind of reverencee as Addley and Ike do their mama in Mother’s Day.

McBride would follow this gory assault on senses with Woodchipper Massacre, which is just as disgusting and I say that with love. Despite the lack of taste, budget, effects and acting on display here, this movie made me laugh numerous time and really, isn’t that why we watch these things? There’s no defending my love of this film — much less any SOV piece of junk — but there is no need for defense. I don’t believe in guilty pleasures and I am unashamed to admit that I like plenty of absolutely revolting and poorly made movies.

*It also covers the face of co-director Jon McBride and probably allows him to have others in the shot while he directs.

SLASHER MONTH: Blood Widow (2014)

Someday, I’d like to make the movie that the poster for Blood Widow promises me, a movie in which a female killing machine that looks kind of like a ninja waits in the woods to kill twentysomething teenagers. I realize that that’s what happens in this movie, but the poster is a near-infinite integer of percentages better than the actual movie, which is numbing in its shot on digital video dullness.

This movie was directed by Jeremiah Buckhalt only a month after graduating from Full Sail University and he made it with the help of his fellow classmates and the faculty. So now I am going to feel bad for making fun of this movie and should stop now.

There’s another movie planned called Blood Widow Lives that I feel like my OCD will make me watch when it comes out. This one has a feel good story behind it and now I feel like I shouldn’t say how out and out fecund it is, so maybe I’ll either save my sadness for the next installment or feel better that it’s an improved movie.

The poster and the costume are still awesome, though.

You can watch this on Tubi.

2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 10: Doctor Strain the Body Snatcher (1991)

10. RITUALS: It’s good to have a routine, even if it’s evil.

This is a Shot On Video remake/remix/rip-off of Re-Animator that has the worst quality filming, the most drone soundtrack and ends right in the middle of a scene. Some people will say that that sounds like a bad time. These are not the kind of people that you want to hang out with.

This movie also has long dialogue sections, longer montages of science happening and something else called God Science, which involves regenerated serial killers out of the grave. Also, no one seems to notice that Dr. Strain’s face is basically falling off. Were the people of his area that polite? Was this made in Canada?

I used to record drone black metal and actually recorded a laundromat behind some of my guitar parts to give it a sound that was covered up with strange mechanical noises and the sound of water. I can only assume that the people that made this movie did the same, because so much of it is barely audible, which makes it even better, because you can just drop out and allow the power of this junk to warm your veins.

Also — I have no idea if this is shot on 16mm or video and if you’re the kind of person ready to fire off an angry mail because I don’t know, I’m ready.

You can watch this on YouTube.

SALEM HORROR FEST: Death Cast (2019)

When six young and hopeful actors land roles in an experimental horror film shooting on a remote location with no crew present — what is this Makinov directing the Who Can Kill A Child? remake? — and only drones to film the events. Of course, before you can say snuff film, that’s exactly what starts happening.

Director/writer Bobby Marinelli has done just about every job there is to do on a set, so his knowledge of the way these characters behave is probably pretty well informed.

He told Timothy Rawles of iHorror, “A lot of my career as a reality television producer was based on manipulating ordinary people into extraordinary situations. I often wondered how far this could be taken and it developed into a really interesting premise for a horror film. With Death Cast I was able to blend reality docudrama tropes with those of a slasher flick, the result is familiar but unique to the genre.”

I got major vibes of a better David DeCoteau Full Moon production here, which is not a bad thing, so if you’re in the mood for a slasher that plays with technology and the need to be a star, this is the one for you.

Death Cast is now playing Salem Horror Fest. When we have streaming info, we’ll share it in this post. For now, you can follow that link to buy a festival badge and check out several other films during October. You can learn more at the Facebook page and official site for the movie.

SALEM HORROR FEST: Hideout (2021)

As they run from a botched robbery, four criminals — one critically injured — end up at a farmhouse. But the family inside may be more dangerous than waiting for the police.

The first full-length film from Kris Roselli, Hideout has families on both side of the character divide and cross purposes for the robbery. Shot in an Airbnb house in Millville, NJ, the foursome make their way into the home and are treated — at first — with hospitality as the grandma and granddaughter remove the bullet and treat Reed (Chris Wolfe, who is wonderful in this, going for sympathetic to menacing sometimes in the very same moment). However, once the fugitives realize the homeowners — and soon everyone in the neighborhood — know who they are, things begin to get violent.

Bryan Enright, who plays Kyle, is really solid in this. He expects to be able to control these civilians and gradually learns that he’s in over his head. This is a great opportunity for him to show just how talented he is with a big role and he makes a wonderful showing.

That word — gradually — comes into play here as the criminals start trying to escape   as the supernatural moments begin to increase. And there’s a really tense scene as a neighbor gives two of them a ride, realizes that he’s listening to a police report about them on the radio and ends up bleeding out at the hands of Reed.

Part criminals trying to escape, part home invasion, part occult horror — this film has moments for just about any genre fan to dig into.

Hideout is premiering during the Salem Horror Fest and will be available on demand November 9. Until then, you can follow that link to buy a festival badge and check out several unique films during October. You can learn more about Hideout at the official Facebook page.

SLASHER MONTH: Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1995)

Written and directed by Kim Henkel, who wrote the original film, this take on the Sawyer family has sadly been forgotten, but it had — as so many films do — a rocky creation, a two year period where it disappeared and features two big stars who pretty much don’t want anything to do with it. It’s also the last movie in the original timeline of the films before remake and reboot and reimagining became the constant status quo for chainsaw movies.

I can see why some people dislike this movie. After all, there’s now a thousand-year-old secret society paying off the Sawyers — who now choose pizza over human flesh — to kill people to keep the population in a constant state of fear. Or maybe they do it so people can achieve transcendence through that terror. Leatherface, who used to be a killing machine, now struggles with not only his ability to capture and murder the teenagers, but his sexuality, cross-dressing and screaming like a child.

He also does not use a chainsaw.

The real center of this story is Renée Zellweger’s Jenny, who Henkel wrote the story around, claiming that was about “her transformation, her refusal to shut up, to be silenced, to be victimized. And by extension her refusal to be oppressed.” In the director’s cut, it’s shown that she’s been abused her whole life, so the terror of the Sawyers leaves her unafraid.

Actually, they’re now the Slaughters, not the Sawyers, and led by the other big star in this production — he wasn’t at the time — Matthew McConaughey as Vilmer Slaughter, a maniac who combines the characteristics of the HItchhiker, Chop Top and Leatherface with a cybernetic leg and the need to self-scar himself. His wife Darla reveals much of the conspiracy theory in the film, except that she also claims that she has a bomb implanted in her skull and that Vilmer is from space.

This movie played 27 theaters, then Japan and then disappeared for two years, as CAA wanted nothing to ruin the success of McConaughey. It finally played in twenty cities in 1997. Yet it has its fans, as no less a Chainsaw fan as Joe Bob Briggs said, “This is the best horror film of the 90s” and called this “a flick so terrifying and brilliant that it makes the other two Chainsaw sequels seem like “After-School Specials.”

The end of the film features John Dugan, Grandfather from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Paul A. Partain, who was Franklin and Marilyn Burns, who was Sally. I love that she locks eyes with Kenny as the movie closes. I also adore that this movie has so many Texas bands, like “Der Einziger Weg” by Debbie Harry and Robert Jacks (who was Leather in this), plus songs by Roky Erickson and Daniel Johnston.

2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 9: Ogroff (1983)

9. SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL: One with a misunderstood freak/mutant/abomination etc.

Written, directed by and starring Norbert Moutier (as N. G. Mount), a man who loved horror, Ogroff somehow has Jess Franco-star Howard Vernon show up in it. That’s some feat, as this is as grimy and low end as a shot on video French slasher gets.

I mean, how great is it that Moutier owned a video store and published zines and was like, “I’m going to make something for people to rent from my store.” That means that for half the movie, Ogroff has a metal mask, rubber boots and a jaunty cap. And when you’re not admiring that outfit, you’re just watching him kill. And kill. And kill again.

After he battles a lumberjack with a chainsaw, he falls for a girl and the zombies that live under Ogroff’s house to emerge and Vernon to show up as a vampire priest who wants the girl for his own. Look, Orgoff isn’t going back to onanistic pleasure after getting to make sweet love.

But these are just words and the truth is describing what this movie feels like is like explaining what the color brown looks like to a blind man. It kind of washes over you in its drone haze and creates the perfect mood. Now, that mood comes at the price of watching someone’s legs get chainsawed off, but there must be sacrifices.

The best art has no idea that it is art.

 

SLASHER MONTH: Shadows Run Black (1984)

There’s a serial killer called The Black Angel out there doing his or her thing. This movie is listed as an erotic thriller on Wikipedia, but that sounds like a giallo, but it’s slasher month and hey — this movie sat on shelves for years until Kevin Costner became a big name.

Rydell King is a cop with something to prove, because his daughter was kidnapped and killed several years ago, so the opportunity to deal out justice to another killer sounds like a dish he didn’t put in the air fryer. He gets the idea that a prostitute named Lee, who is totally living that Betsy Russell/Donna Wilkes life because she looks way too clean to be a girl working those rough streets, can lead him to the killer.

She then goes to her birthday party, which has a dude playing stand-up bass and a magician and we have another 80s movie that says, “See, being a hooker is totally fun and safe except for that one guy who wants to kill you.” And then Lee gets strangled while her boyfriend (Costner) doesn’t want to go swim naked with her. He claims its because he wants to watch the magic show, which is absolutely a lie because no one really likes magic, and more likely because every time he swims, The Mariner must drink his own urine.

In case you wonder when someone is going to die, it’s every time someone gets naked. And by someone, I mean women, because this movie is all about the male gaze as well as showing how pubic hair was styled in 1981. It’s also horrible. Yes, despite non-stop nudity, this movie still manages to be like overdosing on opiates and the sleep of death that results.

Actually, this might be a giallo because an obvious dummy gets thrown off a rooftop.

ARROW STREAMING: Dementer (2020)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We first posted about the movie on March 3, 2021. Now that it’s streaming on the Arrow Player, we felt that we should bring it back to your attention. 

Head over to ARROW to start your 30-day free trial. Subscriptions are available for $4.99 monthly or $49.99 yearly. ARROW is available in the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland on the following Apps/devices: Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc), Apple TV & iOS devices, Android TV and mobile devices, Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc), and on all web browsers at https://www.arrow-player.com.

Dementer has an intriguing premise: what if someone tried to escape a backwoods cult? How would they get past all the abuse? And how would they try to earn a living?

After fleeing one of those aforementioned religious groups, Katie (Katie Groshong), sleeps in her car and tries to make a living by working in a home for special needs adults. Her days are still filled with waking nightmares, remembering ritualistic attacks where she was whipped and beaten while a voice continually reminded her that “The Devils listen to the sound of the innocent.”

She’s convinced that those devils have targeted Stephanie (director Chad Crawford Kinkle’s real-life sister, also named Stephanie), who is living with Down’s Syndrome. Despite a series of rituals and even a sacrificed cat, Katie can’t keep the feeling that evil and sickness want to claim this innocent soul for their own.

Larry Fessenden, whose career has seen him act, direct (Wendigo) and produce (House of the Devil) plays a man who still has a hold on our protagonist. Is she able to see reality in the right light? Is she meant to be the child’s protector? Is she even qualified to do so?

In a world where representation is often discussed and not always acted on, this is a brave movie. Director Chad Crawford Kinkle has built the film around his sister Stephanie, saying that he has “gone to great lengths to create a bold genre film that embraces and properly represents the developmentally disabled, while still being both thrilling and disturbing. The result is a singular, deeply personal independent feature unlike any before it.”

In fact, it had been in the works a long time. Kinkle said, A year ago, my mother mentioned that she had a dream that I made a film with my sister Stephanie, who has Down Syndrome. I don’t think that I told her, but for a few years now I’ve had the idea of building a horror film around my sister.”

As for what he made, he sees it as more than just another movie: “The resulting film is something that I’ve never seen before. While certainly a horror film, it needed another description like; experimental, abstract, dream-like, nightmarish or even art house.  What seemed best is that it is more of a dark poem, since much of the script was written on intuition and not traditional story logic.”

There’s a lot of thought that went into filming this as well, as it has a look and feel, unlike so many recently released genre films that just seem to point and shoot the camera. The opening moments, which juxtapose children’s drawings with moments of sheer terror and the dreamy world of the special needs home are jarring.

I’m looking forward to what everyone involved in this film does next.