Jeffrey Obrow is a stellar screenwriter and director — who teaches at USC’s film school — who should be a horror household name, but alas. . . . He gave us the Daphne Zuniga Friday the 13th rip that is The Dorm That Dripped Blood (1982), which served as his feature film debut, the hag n’ trollsploitation two-fer starring Rod Steiger and Kim Hunter that is The Kindred (1987), the pretty cool Dean R. Koontz adaption of Servants of the Twilight (1991), and what I thought was a pretty decent take on Bram Stroker’s “Jewel of the Seven Stars” with Legend of the Mummy (1998). Each are highly recommended watches for your this year’s “30 days of Halloween” watch schedule.
Here, in his second film, a group of people come into possession of an ancient, Aztec clay doll. However, the doll is possessed by an evil spirit. . . .
Cry (low budget) havoc and let slip the (meh acting) mayhem by way of a class project as four high schoolers research the trinket — in a graveyard with a Ouija board, of course. Modeled after Destacatyl, a Mexican god, the idol was acquired by one the student’s parents from their own South of the Border excursion to learn of its myth. Jerry (Warren Lincoln, over and done after the 1986 pseudo-U.S. giallo, Torment) soon becomes obsessed with learning more about the idol . . . then becomes obsessed by the idol’s trapped spirit.
Let slip the stalking. . . .
Is the inanimate-objects-possessing-the-souls plot a bit derivative? Does the concept of possessed idols, which are knock offs of the ol’ “genie in a bottle” stories of yore, date back to the Hammer/Amicus drive-in ’50s and ’60s? Sure, but what movie in the John Carpenter and Sean S. Cunningham ’80s backwash, doesn’t?
However, thanks to Jeffrey Obrow — along with his usual partner, Stephen Carpenter — while the acting isn’t that great, the script is production-solid, the film is effectively spooky n’ atmospheric (with a truly shock-scaring arms-out-of-the-bed pisser), the film score does its job, the effects are low-budget but Fangoria gooey-goo great, and the ending has a decent didn’t-see-it-coming twist.
Sadly, The Doom That Dripped Blood, The Power, The Kindred, and Servants of the Twilight, while each are well-made, valiant efforts, they were not the box office bonanzas Jeffery Obrow and Stephen Carpenter hoped; each went their separate ways. All four are fine films. I wished they would have made more. . . .
Jeffrey Obrow, as result of his transition into academia, slowed down his career, but came back with the aforementioned Legend of the Mummy and three more horrors (not as effectively-distributed): They Are Among Us, The Perfect Host, and One by One; his latest, currently-in-production writing and directing effort, is the Molly Ringwald-starrer, Pursued (2022). If you like to know more about Jeffrey Obrow’s work, look for his August 1991 Fangoria interview with Anthony C. Ferrante, “To Serve the Twilight,” in promotion of his Koontz adaption (sorry, no online scans; copies abound on eBay, however).
Stephen Carpenter eventually hit box office gold penning the Martin Lawrence action-comedy Blue Streak (1999) and the Samuel L. Jackson comedy, The Man (2005). Did you see Eliza Dushku in Soul Survivors (2001)? Well, that’s Stephen behind the Brother processors and Canon Reds. Then, between 2011 to 2017, he created and scripted the 123-episode run of Universal/NBC-TV’s Grimm.
And in production backstory twist: While Obrow and Carpentet co-penned and directed The Power, the initial concept and story draft was done by John Penney: he gave us the box office failure Zyzzyx Rd. (2006), a film that made a lousy $20 bucks in its brief theatrical run.
Oh, and one of our students, in her debut, is Suzy Stokey: she became a go-to actress for our beloved Fred Olin Ray (A Christmas Princess) in his films The Tomb, Star Slammer, and Deep Space.
Maybe you’re up in the Cannuck neck of the TV movies woods and you saw this Lifetime “Shocktober” entry under its original title of Cradle Robber. Maybe you stumbled into this non-shocker on streaming home video as Dating to Kill. . . .
Wait a sec . . . the IMDb states this is a U.S.-production filmed in Los Angeles. . . .
Hey, it’s not my fault, for when you have a channel such as Lifetime drowning U.S. audiences with a wealth of Great White North productions, the land were Toronto can double for “Anywhere U.S.A.,” you naturally assume everything Lifetime distributes, is Canadian in origin. These are U.S. and not Maple Leaf’ed thespians, you say? One was born in Atlanta, Georgia, trained and based in Los Angeles?
Regardless of where it was made: This is just another Lifetime “Damsel in Distress” romp of the non-shocking, bloodless-horror variety. You know, the schlock the channel marathons under their yearly “Shocktober” banner to compete with the likes of the Micheal-Chucky-Freddy fetishists over at AMC and the SyFy Channel.
What Seduced by a Killer — or whatever title you give it — is, is really just another of their single-mother-hates-man flicks where all of the men are evil. Well, at least not the men who can take you to 4-Star joint to “clink” champagne flutes (but, in some plot twists, they are). Yeah, just like Olivia Benson and Amanda Rollins over in the SVU squad room: women can’t be strong and independent . . . if they’re in a stable, nurturing relationship with a man. Oh, by the way: mom is totally devoted to her ingrate of daughter, so well, she’s “strong,” so cue up the Helen Reddy homage and hear her roar.
“You’re never home, you’re always working. It’s like you don’t want to be here!” hotter-than-her-daughter mom browbeats her hardworking husband who put two, fully-loaded SUVs in a double-wide circular driveway of their two-story Colonial spread, as their perpetually-ingrate, ne’er-do-well, social-media obsessed daughter trots off to private school in the one-year-old sports car model that instills the furrow-of-eyebrow of among her “friends.” Then daughter goes home to scream at mom, “I’m eighteen! Let me live my own life! Look at this! I’m over my data, again. If you can’t at least get me a new car, you could buy me a decent cell phone!”
And boy, oh boy. The actress (Mia Topalian of LMN’s Stalking My Mother and The Nanny Murders, if you dare) as that bitchy teen is just awful. Awful to the point that when her whiny voice screeches, “What, what do you mean?” to the swing of her pony tail, you leave your protagonist sympathies at the door as you root for her unhappy end. Even I want to give Tessa a smack into some adult wisdom — and I deplore violence against women and using physical abuse as behavioral control. I don’t care that Teesa is in therapy to deal with her “issues” of being a well-to-do rich kid.
And Jessica-the-hot-mom, aka the-not-winning-any awards Clare Kramer (*loved for her work in the cheerleader flick, Bring It On, as well as Glory in TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer), well, she ain’t inspiring a rescue, either. You’re the worst salon operator, ever, Jessica. Why do you keep walking away from your clients in mid-hair cut to do other things?
I give up Lifetime-Canadian production houses. I have a “Y” chromosome, therefore, I am inherently chauvinistic. The females of the species have one more “X” than I, so, like the Amazonian warriors of old: single-motherhood is cool and it’s socially valiant to raise a kid without a father figure to instead leave the child raised by babysitters (talking to you, Olivia and Amanda), as you go off to “pursue your career,” sans any pesky male hindrances.
Bad Husband. Bad Boyfriend. Bad Son. Bad everything is the ongoing plot in these Lifetime flicks and I am annoyed as f**k with them. As I am annoyed with these . . . where are all of these 18-year-old girls that fall for 40-plus men? Where? Not that I want to date an 18 year old . . . oh, if “life” were only like a Lifetime movie, where I’d have an 18-year-old girlfriend, an ex-wife who hates me, and an estranged daughter who loathes me. Well, two out of three ain’t bad (and the 18 year old ain’t one of them). So goes the vagabond life of a radio jock.
Anyway, down the predictability road we go, with cops who can’t help unless either A) 48 hours or B) 72 hour pass, cloaked strangers — in the days of doorbell cams and every other cam imaginable hanging over garage doors and from eve-soffits canvasing a neighborhood — can sneak and lurk undetected, as they — in the case of this shocking potboiler — induce heart attacks in the healthiest of persons (By oleander. No, not kidding. Flower extract poison.)
Yeah, this is the type of movie, where, after a fight with, and knocking down the killer — and the killer is out cold, or rolled down a hill, etc. — the damsel doesn’t pick up the weapon or kick the s**t out of the person that just tried to kill them: they run, leaving the errant weapon next to the body of their stalker. Well, why not: Nancy, aka the hot, man-hating single aunt, instead of getting her gun from house’s kitchen drawer, follows the stalker’s muddy footprints for that climatic fight scene, you know, where she runs and leaves the weapon next to the killer because, we haven’t quite reached the 80-minute end-mark of the film. Oh, and Nancy? Pay more attention in your law classes, as your “law advice” is as inaccurately-bad as the scripted-advice from this film’s keystone cops.
So, the movie . . . if you made it this far. . . .
Jessica owns a salon.
Tessa’s running wild and in need of a father figure.
Along comes Eric (David Fumero, the only other recognizable face — and shining light, here — as we know him from Power and L.A.’s Finest), the troped “older man” (aka a DILF for the ladies) trolling online for a new, buoyant squeeze. “He’s old enough to be your father,” the story goes, although mom is diggin’ that bad-boy aroma permeating off his GQ suave-body and she’d rather have a hot guy with a tee n’ tats than a hard-working guy with collared shirt and tie.
How hot is Jessica?
Well, Christian, the hot doctor she’s dating, you know, the one that treated Will, the oleander-poisoned-to-death boyfriend, violates all medical ethics to do a medical history search on Eric because, as it turns out: Eric has a psychiatric hospital history. Ugh, Jessica, look in your old college year books! You know your daughter’s boyfriend. He attacked you on campus, way back when. (And I think the irritating and dumb Tessa is Eric’s daughter, was the eventual “plot twist” that I missed because Dating to Kill turned into white noise as I cleaned the cat box and refreshed the water and food bowls.)
Whatever. Welcome to the Lifetime neighborhood, Lady Aberlin.
It’s running on Lifetime all this month, but there’s a few uploads on You Tube, if you dare.
* Credit to Melanie Novak (visit her own little slice of movie review heaven) for reminding me about Claire’s work. I had that factoid noted, but I punched this review out — today — so quickly, right before press, I forgot to put it in there. So, if you have some Buffy nostalgia, you just may “dare for Claire” — and dig this flick more than I.
DAY 13 — THE RUBY ANNIVERSARY: Watch something that came out in 1981.
Editor’s Note: Okay, we’re are cheating, here. But this film rolled out in the worldwide video marketplace from 1980 to 1984, so . . . well, it’s our site, after all.
Lost somewhere between Bill Van Ryn’s love of Herb Freed’s second film, Haunts (1976), and Sam “Bossman” Panico’s love for Herb’s fourth film, Graduation Day (1981), and the mutual Ryn-Panico-Francis love for Freed’s Tomboy (1985), is my love for this third film in the Freed canons that stars the one-two B-movie bunch of John Saxon* and Lynda Day George. Now, please keep in mind that the use of “love” in this first paragraph is subjective and, in the B&S vernacular, is applied to bad movies so bad, they worm themselves into your ventricles to deposit a VHS tape worm your colon shall never pass.
Such a film is . . .
Look, a film that rips the stop motion and plate effects from Sam Raimi’s TheEvil Dead (watch the “Ending” clip embedded below to see what we mean), touts itself as the next Amityville Horror** (in some of its alternate slip box copy), spins a Pino Donaggio score, and has an evil entity sportin’ long, green-optical effect fingernails and a matching set of eyes — how can you not love it?
You still need more reasons to show Herb Freed the love?
Then how about this ’80s Combat-cum-Shrapnel (Megaforce covers were better, but not by much) indie-metal styled cover we dug up? No way. For when a shitty film is ensconced in even shittier, ’80s metal-inspired album artwork, well, that’s an instant rental.
Just wow. There’s nothing “Raimi” or “Amityville” or “Nicolas Roeg” or “Brian De Palma” (whose films Pino Donaggio scored) about this darkly-shot film, although it wants to be. Nothing. And the continuous POV-shots of the spiral stairway is in no way transforming this into a faux-Dario Argento joint. So, please, for the love of ol’ Scratch, just stop with the Hitchcockian spirals, for the Italian Giallos you’re ripping are so much better at it. For not only do I want to break out my old art school kit to start marker comping a new cover to send to Vipco and Media Home Entertainment: I also want to run screaming onto the set with a haul of flashlights from Home Depot (because Lowe’s sucks) to see what the hell is going on . . . in the head of John Saxon. (And don’t get us started on the film’s sound issues.)
Why, John, why? Lynda Day George (Pieces), I get. But the money was that tight that you had to take this movie?
Yeah, yeah, I know, the plot: John Saxon’s architect Larry Andrews got himself a gig for a new condo development on a remote island in the Philippines. And who got him the job? His old pal, Del — who just so happens to be the ex-husband of his new wife, Barbara, played by Linda Day George.
Yeah, John’s, uh, Larry’s, buckin’ for a demon taunt, here . . . and Babs’s ex-hub isn’t playing his cards close to the vest when he rents out Casa Fortuna, a spacious Colonial mansion on the island, for the Andrews to bunk down while Larry designs the condos. Or something like that. For the lighting and sound is so bad throughout, and the effects suck so much ass, that I just don’t know, or care, what Babs and Del’s past is about, and that Larry’s a dick for shackin’ with his best-friend’s wife and was probably having an affair prior to, or the house’s past for that matter. Just bring on The Exorcist ripoff shenanigans, already, so William Friedkin can sue Milano Films International.
Sure enough, this is one of those islands rife with native folk who dare not go near the house. Eh, so what if the place is haunted by the 100-year-old Alma Martin (the divine U.S. daytime TV star Janice Lynde*˟ in an array of bad wigs) who returned from the grave to murder Estaban, her carousing husband, who murdered her. And now, well, Lynda Day’s body will do just fine to allow Alma to twist off Larry’s old noggin and stick it on backwards — so he can spend eternity looking at his own ass. Why? Because all men suck and Alma is doin’ ol’ Babs a favor with Larry’s cranial remodel.
Look, if the artwork, along with the trailer, and a clip of the epic ending doesn’t inspire you to embrace the evil, then I don’t know what will. Just turn in your B&S About Movies membership card, for I know ye not.
You can watch Beyond Evil on You Tube HERE and HERE.
Many thanks, once again, to Paul Z. over at VHS Collector.com for the clean images. Be sure to check out his reviews of the DVD and Blu-ray reissues of the lost VHS classics of the ’80s on his Analog Archivist You Tube portal.
*˟ In addition to her work on Another World, One Life to Live, and The Young and the Restless, Janice Lynde was part of Don Kirshner’s stable of artists in his failed TV Movie pilot, Roxy Page. She also guested on U.S. TV nighttime series, such as Barnaby Jones, Mannix, Medical Center, and Quincy, M.D. Later on, in the ’80s, you’ve seen Janice on Baywatch, Night Court, Sledge Hammer!, and Who’s the Boss. Lost Janice Lynde TV movies — both series pilots — that we need to seek out: Quinn Martin’s Escapades (1978) and Bernard L. Kolawski’s Nightside (1980), oh, and Irwin’s Shaw’s drama-cheeze fest, Top of the Hill (1980).
DAY 12 — CAMPFIRES & FLASHLIGHTS: One where a character tells a scary story and then . . . flashback.
As part of our annual “Slasher Month” last October, we reviewed Snuff Kill (1997), the third film — and best known and distributed film — from homegrown Baltimore SOV filmmakers Doug Ulrich and Al Darago (Ulrich also came to work with our SOV hero, Don Dohler, on 2001’s The Alien Factor 2). Now it’s time to take a look at their debut film, the anthology Scary Tales that, while released in 1993, had a long-in-development on-off shooting schedule that began in the mid-’80s. As with Snuff Kill — in which Al Darago portrayed the rocker-slasher Ralis — he and Doug Ulrich provide the film’s original tunes (“Destined to Love,” “She’s a Good Time,” “Let It Go,” and “I’m in Love”) as well as take care of all of the other film disciplines.
As the film opens, we meet a hooded, faceless storyteller with glowing eyes who weaves three tales from an ancient text to a group of ghostly, silhouetted children: “Satan’s Necklace” concerns an evil piece of jewelry that possesses its owner’s soul. In “Sliced in Cold Blood” a man loses his sanity upon discovering his wife’s infidelity. Then things come very close to our current techno-reality in “Level 21,” as a man loses his soul — literally — to a PC-based video game.
Amid the expected muddy-to-distorted audio, Spirit Halloween-effects, and accepted non-thespin’, we get an inventive against-the-budget human-transformation-to-vicious, man-eating demon, lots of heads split-open or decap, a knife out through the mouth, demons breath fire flumes, and in the final Tron-inspired tale (but closer to the lower-budget “The Bishop of Battle” segment starring Emilio Estevez in the 1983 Universal-produced omnibus, Nightmares; even more so to Charles Band’s 1984 tech-manteau The Dungeonmaster with Jeffrey Bryon sucked into a netherworld overlorded by Richard Moll), we get a gaggle of netherworld dwarfs and ninjas in an ambitious against-the-budget Dungeons & Dragons playing field. Remember the computer non-effects in Jerry Sangiuliano’s tech-slasher Brain Twisters? Well, it’s like that, and not the least bit “Tron.” But that’s okay because this movie splatters to the side of bountiful, which is why we rented home video SOVs in the first place.
Look, if you’re expecting a celluloid-perfect homage to the ’70s Amicus anthologies that inspired Ulrich and Darago’s debut film, then just keep on walkin’ past the crypt and go watch George Romero’s Creepshow. In the end, this is The Night of the Living Dead-era fun, as we’re living vicariously through Doug Ulrich and Al Darago, two guys just like us, who, instead of watching, reading and writing about films, they went out and made them. (And watch Scary Tales instead of the yawn-inducing Creepshow 2. Yes, I am saying team Ulrich-Darago’s film is more entertaining than a George Romero comic-book based sequel.)
You have to give team Ulrich-Darago their props as — unlike most SOV auteurs, who only managed one film — our SOV duo from Baltimore made four, including Darkest Soul, the aforementioned Snuff Kill, and 7 Sins of the Vampire, in quick, back-to-back succession. The only other SOV’ers to pull off multiple films as quickly was Christopher Lewis with Blood Cult, The Ripper, and Revenge . . . well, because of Blood Cult’s rep as the first mail-order SOV, Lewis is the best known. But there’s the crowned king that is Dennis Devine of Fatal Images and Dead Girls fame that’s still making them, albeit digitally these days (his latest is 2020’s Camp Blood 8). And porn-funded British SOV purveyor Cliff Twemlow (with his directing-partner, David Kent-Watson) knocked out six film in quick succession in the wake of his SOV pinnacle, GBH. Jeff Hathcock made his debut with Victims! in 1985 and during the next seven years pumped out three more: Night Ripper!, Streets of Death, and Fertilize the Blaspheming Bombsell. Yeah, you’ll SOV-drop fellow Baltimorite Don Dohler with his ’80s shoestring trio of The Alien Factor, Fiend, and Nightbeast released between 1978 to 1982 — but while they have that SOV-couch change stank on ’em, those were shot on film.
However, of all of those films and their makers, we’ll always pencil-in Doug Ulrich and Al Darago on the top of our SOV lists courtesy of their Wiseauian heart and tenacity to release their quartet of films in quick succession — while showing improvements in their storytelling and effects skills along the way. Sure Tim Ritter of the SOV classics Truth or Dare and Killing Spree and Donald Farmer of Demon Queen and Scream Dream are still makin’ movies into 2021 and should be at the top of the list for their still growing, extensive resumes . . . well, I don’t know . . . I just dig what Doug and Al loaded into the SOV canons. I like ’em, so sue me . . . plus: we haven’t gotten around to reviewing Ritter or Farmer flicks on the site — at least not yet. Too many films, so little time.
Editor’s Update: We first reviewed The Invisible Mother on May 2, 2020, during its award-winning festival run. We’re pleased to announce that Freestyle Digital Media* has acquired the North American VOD rights to this entertaining, psychedelic horror-thriller rife with giallo overtones. You’ll be able to rent and own copies of The Invisible Mother on digital HD internet, cable, and satellite platforms starting on October 12, 2021.
“It’s not going to work, you know. We’re almost dead.” — Grandma Mona
When Marcy (Fayelyn Bilodeau) loses her job as a flautist with the Chicago Philharmonic, her girlfriend, and apartment in one fell swoop, she does what most of us have done in the midst of our twenty-something failures: we return to our childhood home.
In Marcy’s case, she’s not only lying low to figure out her next move, but to help her grandfather Archie (Richard Riehle) take care of Mona (Helen Slayton-Hughes), her dementia-suffering grandmother. When Marcy begins to experience the same visions and voices as her grandmother, she realizes a spirit attached to a box of antique tchotchkes has invaded the suburban clapboard home. Helping Marcy in the supernatural battle is Coco, the neighborhood’s Barbie Doll-cum-Tangina Barrons-wannabe (Kiersten Warren), a mysterious phone psychic, and an ice cream truck-based weed dealer with a penchant for the supernatural and horror films.
Now, while that synopsis sounds conventional—like Blumhouse “shock scares” conventional—there’s nothing in the recent haunted house, possession, and supernatural forces-at-play CGI universes of the Paranormal Activity, Insidious, or The Conjuring franchises (or American J-Horror reboots) that will prepare you for phantasmagoric feast that is The Invisible Mother. For you are entering the The Twilight Zone on acid: A world where M.C Escher and Salvador Dali are your overlords: a surrealistic world where you run up a set of ouroboros stairs from a melting world to nowhere. This is a film where you will experience the same excitement the first time you watched the out-of-left field insanity of Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm and Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead. It will become the new “classic” that horror aficionados will slide onto their shelf next to those films for perpetual, over-the-years viewings. It’s a film, like David Robert Mitchell’s amazing Under the Silver Lake that, after your first viewing, you immediately hit the start button to suck on mother’s teat a second time to drink in all the details you missed the first time. Toss the recent pseudo-yellow oozers of Omar Jacobo’s Blood Freaks and David Fowler’s Welcome to the Circle on that list.
Those who’ve had an opportunity to see The Invisible Mother on the festival circuit call it a “modern day giallo.” And there’s certainly a giallo influence in the swirling cameras, odd cinematography angles, and vibrant color schemes of the Maestros Mario Bava and Dario Argento—along with Paul Naschy’s penchant for out-of-left-field Spanish red herrings and plot twists, and Spain’s giallo purveyors Claudio Guerin’s and Bigas Luna’s corkscrews for the bizarre.
But there’s also a taste of giallo’s black-and-white noir roots: Is Glorianna (Debra Wilson) a faux-witch with an agenda? Is Coco giving the ol’ Henry James turn-of-the-screw on the old folks? Is Archie gaslighting Mona and did he call Marcy home to twist her into his plan? Are Archie and Coco in consort? Do Glorianna and Coco need Marcy for a sinister, Argentoesque purpose? Is the house on a hellish portal and Marcy is the key? Is Mona really suffering from Alzheimer’s? Is Wyatt’s (Kale Clauson) weed, in fact, laced and causing Marcy’s oneiric state? What is going on in this Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain-inspired world where even Sigmund Freud would question his own sanity?
But then there are the elements of David Lynch’s taste for the oneiric experimental (The Elephant Man, Lost Highway), Andy Warhol’s palate for the perverse avant-garde (Flesh for Frankenstein), the celluloid hyperbole of John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Polyester), and Todd Solondz’s oeuvre of offbeat plots and kinked characters (Happiness and Welcome to the Dollhouse).
And while the VHS centers of my celluloid cortex loaded up copies of the bloody, Neapolitan delights of Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Paolo Cavara, Ruggero Deodato, Riccardo Freda, Lucio Fulci, Umberto Lenzi, and Sergio Martino, I also got my analog buzz on with the J-Horror static of Takashi Miike (Gozu, Visitor Q), Takashi Shimizu (Ju-On, Reincarnation), and Lee Soo-yeon (Uninvited). And while impressionist Alejandro Jodoroswky (El Topo, Holy Mountain, and Santa Sangre) is justifiably named dropped when reviewing The Invisible Mother, I shall trek one step deeper into the underworld: I got some serious supernatural phantasmagoria vibes of the José Mojica Marins variety with his Coffin Joe romps At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul and This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse.
“For years you were like a snail. Happy, hiding. Happy, hiding.” —Wyatt, the Ice Cream Man
And even after all of that critically rambling, I still haven’t spoiled The Invisible Mother; for this feature film debut by co-writers and directors Matthew Diebler and Jacob Gillman may be difficult to explain, but it’s impossible to spoil. And while I may have led you to believe this film is incoherent, these two neo-giallo enthusiasts, who cut their teeth in the reality television (Matthew Diebler; Catfish, Ice Love Coco) and special effects fields (Jacob Gillman; Sucker Punch), weave a cohesive narrative.
And that’s the intrinsic beauty of The Invisible Mother. It defies convention. It’s an ambiguity open to your interpretation. It’s a film noir riddle falling down an out-of-control Alice in Wonderland “rabbit hole” puzzle wrapped in an Italian murder enigma. Diebler and Gillman crawled inside our bodies to wear us like a Jame Gumb skin suit: they made a film for us, the cinematically nostalgic orphans enamored with ‘70s films reissued on the ‘80s VHS video fringe.
The Invisible Mother is a giallo—yet it’s bloodless. It’s Argentoesque—without the blunt force trauma. It’s fear and dread—with a soupçon of Naschy’s taste for the humorous dark. It’s a psychedelic whirling dervish of primary colors; a realm rife with intricately detailed sets, practical in-camera effects, and stop-motion and reverse photography (by co-writer/co-director Gillman). It’s a film that never shocks or startles. It’s a film where your eyes blaze wide-open at an endless series of unsettling “WTF” moments set to a pseudo-progressive jazz soundtrack (like a Dario Argento film co-scored by Bauhaus and The Normal) that induces nausea. It’s a film rife with all these little moments (of copper fishes, kitschy salt n’ pepper shakers, licorice cookies, pin cushions, 1940s Royal Victorian phones, 1970s oil lamps, and 1980s VHS-era video art from the beyond). It’s a masterpiece of “giallo impressionism” that I want to expose in-a-catch-all-schizophrenic-run-on-sentence-of-hysterical-amazement.
In case you haven’t figured it out: I bow at this movie’s yellow-soaked altar.
The most heartwarming highlight of The Invisible Mother is seeing the long-in-the-business “I don’t know their names, but I know their faces” of Richard Riehle (I just saw him on a re-run of TV’s Roseanne) and Helen Slayton-Hughes (who I just watched in a binge of HBO’s True Blood) given the opportunity to carry a feature film—and both are award-winning fantastic. Reihle’s 400-plus resume since the late ‘80s features his work on Fox-TV’s Grounded for Life and CBS-TV’s NCIS, along with the films Bridesmaids, Bruce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, Casino, and Office Space. Slayton-Hughes was Ethel Beavers on NBC-TV’s Parks and Recreation and appeared in the Metallica romp, Hesher.
You know Fayelyn Bilodeau from her recent appearances on Showtime’s hit series Shameless and TV Land’s American Woman. You’ve seen Keirsten Warren in a wide variety of film and TV appearances since the early ‘90s, such as her feature film debut in Independence Day (Tiffany the Stripper who greeted the aliens on the building roof that got zapped), and her recurring roles in Desperate Housewives and Saved by the Bell: The College Years. And it’s nice to see animated voice artist Debra Wilson, a cast member of my beloved FOX-TV’s Mad TV and Reno 911!, on the big screen. Kale Clauson most recently appeared on TV’s S.W.A.T and Good Girls.
“I am not sure what you’re trying to convey. I simply sell frozen confections. Perhaps I can interest you in some Necco Wafers?” —Wyatt, the Ice Cream Man
Recently completing a successful, multi-award winning film festival run, The Invisible Mother is currently shopping the market for distribution. You can stay up-to-date with information regarding its theatrical, PPV, VOD, and DVD releases on Instagram, Facebook, and The Invisible Mother.com. Follow and bookmark ‘em. The Invisible Mother is going to be one of 2020’s most talked about movies.
And we’re diggin’ “Dracula,” the film’s theme song by Geneva Jacuzzi and Bubonic Plague. You can learn more about Geneva’s music at her official website. Then there’s the ambient music of Matt Hill & Umberto serving as the soundtrack. You can listen to all four albums by Umberto on their You Tube page. The embedded playlist, below, will get you to those songs, and more, from the film.
About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.
Okay, so let met get this straight in my head: This is a 55-minute, Italian-made anthology horror of three tales consisting of a killer sex doll, a killer handbag . . . and a parody of Joe D’amato’s Anthropophagous. And — being ever the good sport — Dardano Sacchetti, the writer of, well, a large portion of our favorite films at B&S About Movies, appears in the frames.
Just wow. You made my youth worth living, Dardano!
But Sacchetti isn’t the only Italian icon, here: Underground horror greats Linnea Quigley (recently of The Good Things Devils Do), David Warbeck, and Sergio Stivaletti appear, as well as directors Joe d’Amato, Luigi Cozzi, and Lucio Fulci; the late maestro’s daughter, Antonella, has a cameo as a pregnant lady . . . whose fetus is blown out of her vagina into the air. Yes, it’s like that. No, really. And it’s all very dumb, and it’s all very cheap, and it’s all very sloppy . . . and it is extremely sick. So, hell yes, we love it!
Just wow. We never heard of this one. We never once seen it on a U.S. video shelf. And here we are, 26 years after the fact, lovin’ it, over on You Tube.
Look, if the trailer doesn’t sell it . . . turn in your B&S membership card. For we never knew ye. If it does, well, pair this up with Nigel the Psychopath for a Halloween double feature.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.
DAY 10 — RITUALS: It’s good to have a routine, even if it’s evil.
The 1970s were a time of “witchhunting,” with such film as Michael Reeves’s The Conqueror Worm (1968), Michael Armstrong’s Mark of the Devil (1970), Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971), and Otakar Vavra’s Witchhammer (1970). So Paul Naschy answered call — to the exploitative extreme — with his Spanish-Italian produced directorial debut (very loosely) based on Spain’s Grand Inquisitor Toma de Torquemada — who advocated burning the guilty at the stake. Naschy — again, in his debut behind the camera — does a solid job in scripting the serious-classic side of the subject matter from the British-made Witchfinder General (aka The Conqueror Worm) with the sleazy-trash side of the German-made Mark of the Devil — without delving into the Ken Russell arty or Vavra exactness — with a nudity and gore-filled romp rife with solid, period-correct set design.
As plague and pestilence ravages 16th century France, Paul Naschy’s sexually depraved and spiritually corrupt Bernard de Fossey (who can teach a lesson or two in the depraved shenanigans department to Vincent Price, Herbert Lom, and Oliver Reed in their respective films) leads a trio of witch hunters who strike fear in the countryside as they judge, torture and condemn those they suspect of witchery. While staying at the home of the local magistrate, de Fossey falls in love with his host’s daughter, Catherine, who, in turn, is in love with another. When her lover is murdered by thieves (paid for by de Fossey), she makes a pact with The Devil (Paul Naschy, in a dual role, as our resurrected faux-Antichrist; he appears in a third role as The Grim Reaper) to extract revenge.
What’s great about Naschy’s scripting, here, is the ambiguity.
Sure, de Fossey is a sadist out to satiate his fleshly desires, but he believes what he does is truly called on by the Lord. (Remember: Adolf Hitler, while inherently evil, neither saw himself as such, but a just man in a cause for the common good of Germany’s citizens.) Then there’s Catherine, who, so as to deal with her depression and nightmares over her lover’s death, allows herself to be doped up by Mabille, the local witch-alchemist — who may or may not be a witch (with lesbian tendencies) — using Catherine as a vessel to kill de Fossey. So, is Catherine really possessed by The Devil and did she really conjure-resurrect Him, or is she simply psychotic? Then there is Renover, the local town (one-eyed) rapist. His rejection-fueled misogyny, which rather see those he lusts after burn at the stake than to be with anyone else, fills up the dungeons with plenty of (fully) naked women — their bare breasts ready for (nasty) torture, as well as rack stretchings and charcoal burnings.
Naschy’s scripting, albeit more graphically than it should be (be prepared to close your eyes for the rotating gear/breast-clipping device), balances the perverted dichotomy practiced in the name of Catholic Church (again, back to the sick bastard that was Torquemada) with the ongoing quest of female liberation — who still need to sell their souls to men (or The Devil, in this case), to be “liberated.”
To say I love the pseudo-Hammer and Amicus Brit-vibes of Inquisition is an understatement. It’s a well-researched, well-made, historically accurate and intelligent film that ranks alongside Naschy’s interpretations of the atrocities of Gilles de Rais in two of my personal, Naschy favorites: Horror Rises from the Tomb (1973) and Panic Beats (1983) — with an honorable mention to his zombie-apoc’er, The People Who Own the Dark (1975). Otakar Vavra’s previously mentioned Witchhammer chronicles the real life exploits of serial killer, uh, Witchfinder Inquisitor Boblig von Edelstat, who cut a horrific swatch across 1600’s Czechoslovakia.
The trailers are age-restricted, so you can watch them as account log-ins on You Tube HERE and HERE.
The Mondo Macabro Blu-ray on Inquisition— as is the case with all of their Naschy reissues — is excellent, with its features of an introduction by Paul Naschy, an interview with star Daniela Giordano (as Catherine), an audio commentary by Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn from The Naschycast, and the inclusion of Blood and Sand, a mini-documentary on Spanish horror films.
For the true Paul Naschy fan in you — oh, it’s in each and every B&S About Movies reader, admit to it — pick up the two-box Shout Factory! The Paul Naschy Collection. (One day, we’ll crack these open and review them, in full.)
“From the moment that I read the script it was perfect. It didn’t need any changes. The subject matter was incredible. The writing was perfect for that subject matter. It had such a wide variety of emotional range that each character was going to bring to the table that it just jumped off the page.” — Actor Paul Logan, with Alika Gasimova of ISAFF Interviews
To say that I, as a film critic, am privileged to have watched an advanced digital stream of this masterpiece, granted the opportunity to expose it to others, well, that’s what makes my job the best job there is. I’ve acted in my share of shorts, watched many at film festivals, and reviewed a few along the way for B&S About Movies, but never a short film like The Ice Cream Stop. Raul Perez and Thai Edwards are two unknown filmmakers with a major studio, A-List education as to the importance of the emotional impact and social influences of film; an art form that can, when expertly executed, can open eyes and instill a new perspective in the viewer.
Raul Perez, as with any film school graduate, ultimately wants to write and direct his own films. An up-and-coming actor, such as Thai Edwards, wants to be noticed and book larger roles beyond the usual shorts, web series, and network/cable under-five “day player” roles that serve as the beginning of an actor’s career. To quote Rodney Dangerfield: It’s tough out there, in Tinseltown. So amid his directorial work with shorts and music videos, Perez has worked in various capacities on the crews for the hit TV series Black-ish, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, Ellen’s Game of Games, and Major Crimes. Thai Edwards, along with his writing-producing partner, Marty Baber, decided to take Tinseltown by its thorny star to become a wingtips-on-the-desk and cigar-chompin’ QWERTY warrior.
Here, in his eighth directing effort, Raul Perez makes his co-screenwriting debut in a fitting tale exploring our recent concerns regarding racial inequality and social injustice . . . and how one’s life can change in a moment at the mercy of another’s misplaced anger and bad decision making, turning another human being into an exorcising-personal-demons punching bag.
Surgeon Dr. Michael Harris (a solid Thai Edwards) returns home at 3 am from a double shift at the hospital to Tameka, his loving, pregnant wife (a ditto Nicola Lambo). Before going to bed, he asks her if she needs anything: she’s craving ice cream. Although exhausted, he decides to make a quickie-mart run.
It is on his return home that Micheal’s life changes: Officers Reynolds (Paul Logan) and Davis (Dustin Harnish), “aroused” by Micheal’s driving, initiate a traffic stop. Although Micheal checks out, the stop escalates upon the arrival of Officers Morales (Chris Levine) and Officer Smith (Jed Dennis), as their out-ranked level heads can not stop what’s been set in motion. At that moment, each of their lives change — and are connected beyond their mutual, traffic stop tragedy.
Not many films instill the sickness of a burning anger mixed with fear in the pit of your stomach . . . and cause you to shed tears. The Ice Cream Stop is a gut punch and not for the faint of heart. It is a film you must see.
The most recognizable face in the unfamiliar but effective cast of The Ice Cream Stop is actor Paul Logan. U.S. daytime TV fans know Paul for his four-year run as Glen Reiber on The Days of Our Lives. You’ve also seen him on the highly-rated SyFy Channel and mockbuster streamers Atlantic Rim: Resurrection, MegaFault, and Mega Piranha. Fans of TV’s Criminal Minds, Lethal Weapon, and NCIS will notice Nicola Lambo, while fans of TV’s S.W.A.T. will recognize Thai Edwards, who also appeared in the dramatic indie Anabolic Life with Chris Levine. B&S About Movies readers know the work of Chris Levine by way of the indie streamers No Way Out and his leading role in the upcoming, retro-’80s actioner, The Handler.
Courtesy of the pedigree of the network TV resumes in front of and behind the cameras, all of the disciplines are firing on all cylinders (oh, are they ever) — as the expertly-cut trailer above, proves. No trailer is complete without great cinematography: to that end, Chris Warren’s night photography is of a stellar, Oscar-level quality (reminding of J. Micheal Muro’s work in Paul Haggis’s Crash and Robert Richardson’s in Martin Scorsese’s Bringing Out the Dead), making him a name to expect more great works.
The cast, via their superior acting skills, are instantly relatable: Thai Edwards and Nicola Lambo are pure, major studio chemistry as the expecting couple. Paul Logan and Dustin Harnish make us hate them, while Chris Levine and Jed Dennis — with little dialog and more body language and facial expressions (the signs of a truly great actor) — illicit sympathy; you feel their regrets that this “stop” is wrong. No actor can pull that off without a great script: the connection to the characters comes courtesy of an expertly crafted screenplay by Edwards and Perez that’s replete with perfect character arcs; everything the viewer needs — in a script that forces a dark, vile ugliness that exists in our society into our faces and causes us to look within ourselves — is there. Not many short films on the festival circuit leave you wanting more, saying, “Give these guys a budget to make this into a feature” (or do another film), which is the end game of some short films. The Ice Cream Stop is one of those very few film shorts to accomplish that goal.
“I had to equate this literally to playing like a child molester or Hitler, someone who is loathsome and who you detest. You had to just go there. If you didn’t commit 100% percent to something like this, especially if this is not the way you think, the audience would see right through it.“ — Actor Paul Logan, with Alika Gasimova of ISAFF Interviews
It’s no shock to this reviewer that The Ice Cream Stop recently completed successful, award-winning screenings at the Los Angeles Film Awards in March and the Colorado International Activism Film Festival in September. Currently continuing its festival run — and surely to win many more awards — you can follow the film at its official Facebook and Instagram portals to keep abreast of its commercial streaming release date. And do keep track, for The Ice Cream Stop is a film you must see.
If you enjoy film to the point of wanting to know what goes into making a film, you can learn more about the process through the insights of Raul Perez and Thai Edwards — as well as the rest of the cast — courtesy of their mutual interview with Isaff Interviews WordPress; the portal also offers a video version of the interview on You Tube. There’s more insights to enjoy at the personal website of Thai Edwards.
Just wow. I love this amazing film and await more from all concerned.
“My partner Marcelle Baber, the creator of The Ice Cream Stop, is the one responsible for [the film] and gets the real credit. We all played our part individually and collectively in this project; Raul had a great vision on how to illustrate it and the cast just gave it a heartbeat, but without the idea that helped create the words in order to tell a story, [our film] would never be.
“Marty [Marcelle Baber] had a dream and this was just a conversation that he brought to his cousin-by-marriage, Raul, and Raul, after ten-plus years of trying to get something going after a few failed attempts, brought [the project] to me and I took it on like any actor/executive producer who believed in the vision and all the people involved, would.
“We all helped to develop and work on the storyline for about seven months; some of this actually came from personal experiences that happened to me and Marty . . . what happened to George Floyd just made us want to do something about it — but in a different way and take a different approach. This helped Raul a lot to come up with the shots needed for the film; it all took about six months after Marcelle brought it to us. This was a film given to us by God at a time when it was much needed. Above all, I’m just happy that we got the assignment given to us, right! It’s a hard watch: you’re either going to love it or hate it; but I see it to be a timeless piece, especially since things haven’t changed and the conversation about this, still, is a non-issue with some people.” — Thai Edwards, to B&S About Movies
Disclaimer: We didn’t receive a review request or screener copy of The Ice Cream Stop from a PA firm or from a distribution company. We discovered the film on our own via social media and were provided a screener for the film upon our request. That has no bearing on our review.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook.In addition to writing film reviews for B&S About Movies, hepublishes on Medium.
DAY 9: SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL: One with a misunderstood freak/mutant/abomination, etc., (or in this case: a fatherless child with farm implements).
Oy, this movie . . . this friggin’ movie! Just like a Wim Vink joint, such as Half Past Midnight, a Jim Larsen joint takes its punches for being repetitive and plotless, with its “awfulness” compounded by its scant-to-no dialog and added-in-post victim screams that come replete with bad acting and well, bad everything that a film should not be.
Frackin’ balderdash: Nigel the Psychopath is a thing that should be.
For as our cherished (well, my) Doug Ulrich and Al Darago Karo Consortium for Better Film product line foretold in Snuff Kill: a Larsen bowel movement is a burst of pure offal ridiculousness squeezed out by an-off-the-Ritalin energy. Yeah, that’s right: move it on over, Mr. Dennis Divine, for there’s a new, pulpy monster mag back pages SOV-auteur in the john, er, town.
Yeah, just plop it right over ‘ere, Jimbo: our VCRs have been trained on a steady diet of the fibrous intestinal cleaners of Jean Rollin, Jess Franco, and Bruno Mattei for a very long time. We can handle the raison d’etre Sean S. Cunningham stank for the one hour serving you’re dishing . . . or is that squatting? Hey, if we can clench our cheeks on Joel Reed’s Gamma 693, we can pass this tape worm without the vasoline assist, no problemo.
Okay, so . . . the pesky plot, or lack there of: Our misunderstood ‘lil devil on this 9th day in the month of our Scarecrow is Nigel: a gas mask-adorned psycho who frolics among the SOV backyards of America as he lives by the edict: heaven is a place where everyone is a lot happier. But not just anyone, mind you: get the adults the frack out of here, for Nigel stalks the local playground and kills children death-porn style — with a weedwacker (well, a sickle/rake thingy) — along with the occasion broomstick impaling and staple gun dispatching. Heads are split open, neck are garroted-by-tree, faces are stomped, and arms and legs are loped off in quick succession in between fight scenes that make ol’ Dolemite himself, Rudy Ray Moore, look like Bruce Lee.
Oh, hell yes, and jumpin’ Jehoshaphats, Nigel the Psychopath is a film that breaks all the rules, not just the crafts of filmmaking and thespin’, but of good taste and common sense that jangles the five sense. Ye must embrace the inept editing and the muddy-to-blaring music that goes from acoustic guitars to reggae to rock. Accept and suspend all logic as Larsen’s gang of shemps* out-Raimi a Sam Raimi production with a commitment to the shot-on-video cause. Pair ‘er up with Cards of Death and Lazarus the Legend and analog yourself into a snowy-screened stupor.
In the end, for me: Nigel the Psychopath isn’t so much a fluid narrative, but a documentary — a documentary chronicling Jim Larsen and his friends having the best ’80s summers, ever, as they lived the dream of making their own slasher movie. So, yeah, uh, okay . . . Nigel the Psychopath may not be the best movie (for me, it is), but it’s full of the heart that lacks in wannabe, SOV-masquerading junk like the Canadian slop that is Blue Murder. And the Larsen love comes in spurts!
Thanks to writer and director Jim Larsen interacting with his fans via the wonders of the web, we’ve come to know that, while we toss his slasher opus on our SOV woodpiles, it was actually shot on Super 8 mm film and VHS video between the years of 1986 to 1989. There are also three versions on YouTube to chose from: the original super 8 film short, the VHS-version, Nigel the Psychopath At Large, and Nigel the Psychopath: 33rd Anniversary Director’s Cut (that runs a wee-longer, at 70-minutes). Pick one or pick ’em all and watch the insanity for yourself, courtesy of Jim’s very active You Tube portal.
What’s that? You want to know more about the man, the myth, the “real” warped mind of Jim Larsen? Well, he’s on the web at themindofjimlarsen.com via WordPress. He tells his version of events concerning Nigel the Psychopath with his own page dedicated to the film. Read it!
* Dude, if we have to explain “shempin'” to you, we know ye not. Turn in your B&S About Movies membership card.
“Have you ever felt the need for vengeance?” opened the film review posted at our fellow WordPress site, On the Subject of Horror. They, like B&S About Movies, take a Charlie Kaufman-approach to reviews and write ourselves — along with our past fears and pains — into our reviews. Why? Because that’s how deeply we associate with films. It’s therapeutic. So, I kept reading . . . and discovered a film that slipped by me, as result of Mr. Covell’s engaging writing. So, you see, personalizing film reviews, in conjunction, with a little self-deprecation, works. For we leave the haughty Variety, to well, Variety. Yeah, they’re a fine publication, as is The Hollywood Reporter, but well, you gotta go gonzo and be a little different on the digital plains along the muddy banks of the ol’ Allegheny.
And “different” best describes The Head Hunter: a film that just isn’t a piece of once-swallowed-and-gone-head candy and click, “next-movie” consumption: this movie sticks to your brain and burrows into your marrows — where those pesky little Tardigrades swim amid your biology.
Sure, we enjoy the big, CGI “shock scares” of the A24 and Blumhouse variety, and James Wan (Malignant) never steers us wrong, but it’s the little guys that get us. What really intrigues us at B&S About Movies aren’t those filmmakers with ten or one hundred million dollars in their pocket: it’s what the filmmakers with $10,000 or $100,000 in their pocket can do. You know those films: the production cost of one shot/scene in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman could cover the entire production cost of an indie streamer.
Using Jean-Jacques Annaud’s 1981 film Quest for Fire as inspiration and shooting in Portugal and Norway, this brilliant feature film by Jordan Downey and Kevin Stewart, the team behind the ThanksKilling franchise (?), was shot for a mere $40,000.
Let me say that again: this film was short for four Salmon P. Chase greenbacks. By the ThanksKilling guys.
In some faraway Norwegian wood, we meet our medieval bounty hunter who tracks down monsters and other beasts of burden for his kingdom. When his daughter is slaughtered by one of those beasts, he transforms into an unstoppable “slasher” for the cause. Only, instead of flailing and wailing “final girls”: he’s collecting the heads of monsters.
Our father (an excellent Christopher Rygh) comes to learn that the dish of cold vengeance from which he dines, as with Max von Sydow’s Töre in Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, will never fill, never quench his internal furnaces of burning hate. “Father” isn’t a bully, but as in any bully: Sure, the initially draw of first blood floods the cortex with sweet brain candy. Then the emptiness, returns. For vengeance never quenches. Revenge never satisfies. Well, maybe for the narcissist and the sociopath who walks down a school hallway or sits in a manager’s office. . . .
As our buds over at On the Subject of Horror pointed out: the team that gave us the ThanksKilling movies, movies about a rabid, profanity spewing turkey puppet, made this. Which makes this $40,000 streaming wonder all the more amazing.
Are there a production faux-pas? Sure there is, as is par for the digital greenways, uh, maybe (my eye saw none). But there is no question this is a beautifully shot film and a non-sugary feast for the brain.
As another fan opined on another You Tube upload of the trailer: “Someone give these guys a budget, this movie was great!”
Initially distributed by Vertical Entertainment on digital media, The Head Hunter found its way to DVD through Lionsgate. You can watch it online at Amazon Prime and Roku. To learn more, the film also has a very well-written and informative Wikipage that will take care of the “DVD supplement” needs in a streamer’s live.
Do yourself a favor: watch this movie. For if ye do not, thy shall feel the wrath of . . . oh, who are we kidding? We’re bully-scarred milquetoast movie calves . . . and you can kick our little white-veal asses to kingdom come with the slightest branch of Norwegian wood. Like the warriors from GWAR: you wouldn’t even break a sweat dispatching us. But you could take a moment to hit that “like” button or leave a comment for us hard-writing lads.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook.He also writes film reviews for B&S About Moviesand publishes on Medium.