Games of Survival (1989) Badlanders (1992)

Writer and director Armand Gazarian has written two (Double Cross and Badlanders) and directed five (including the IMDb-barren pages for Streets of War and The Searcher) SOV/direct-to-video features. As result of my post-apoc fandom, I’ve seen the two we’re reviewing today. And that’s probably two more than you.

At least until now.

Yep, this all comes courtesy of Sam the Bossman devising another “Apoc Week,” so this is as good a time as any to hip you to the ’80s SOV canons of Armand Gazarian. Hey, anyone who decides to eschew the usual horror route for Road Warrior tomfoolery in the SOV-doms of the VHS wastelands is aces in my book.

So, is this Gazarian SOV-apoc one-two punch better than the adventures of Ace Hunter — in the utterly awful — Megaforce from Hal Needham? Oh, by the Kobol Lords, yes! Uh, yeah, right, Hal. You willfully made a “campy” and “spoofy” movie. Sure, you did. That’s what they all say when their movie bombs and sweeps the Golden Raspberries to pull a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. You had $20 million of Albert S. Ruddy and Golden Harvest Studios money to play with and made crap, Hal. Armand Gazarian shot his apoc-romps on couch coins, lunch money, and paper route income. He had chicken shit and made a chicken salad. And you turned your poultry and greens into daggit dung.

So guess who got my .99 cents? That’s right, Uncle Al. I will always err to the side of SOV-made movies. Always. For I bow at the SOV altars of Lord Brett Piper and High Priest Dennis Devine where Armand Gazarian is an obvious disciple.

Not a spoof cover. That is the real VHS cover. More on the “S,” later.

Now, we kid our ol’ Uncle Hal and Al because, as you watch the opening pursuit of our ersatz man with no name — okay, well, his name is Zane — you’ll notice that (impressive) low-budget rat buggy looks a lot like the goofy dune buggies from Megaforce. And the homages don’t stop there, as we’re getting a pinch of Allan Arkush and Nicholas Niciphor’s always cool-in-my-book-even-though-it-ain’t-Rollerball Deathsport. Now, if you’ve never watched that terminally weird Corman apoc (shame on you), that David Carradine and Richard Lynch-starrer concerns a post-apoc dictator forcing prisoners into games of motorcycle-gladiatorial combat.

Hey, wait a sec . . . we’ve been def-conned! We’re not on a post-apoc Earth! We’re on a post-apoc planet in a galaxy far, far away. And our faux Max-cum-Pliskken, Zane (Nicolas Hill), is now a prisoner aboard a space prison. The prison’s cloaked-lizard warden, in a bit of galactic glasnost, decides he’ll offer freedom to seven of his ne’er-do-well charges to “play a game of strength, skill, and survival.” The game field: Los Angeles, Earth. The object of the game: Return our BSG-inspired Imperious Leader’s cherished family heirloom: a spiked ball, hidden on the L.A. game field. The penalty for not playing the game or attempting to escape: your head is Bob Hauk’d off of your body via an embedded micro-sensor.

And, with that, Zane, along with the likes of the Conan the Barbarian-clad Skullblaster, Moozy, Baarg, Zooloj, Gygon, and Minig, are dropped into their present-day Los Angeles battlefield. Of course, the action is inept, as it is shot on the fly, sans permits, which provides us with a well intention — or ill intended — comedic effect. Of course, our alien warriors are sometimes confused or frightened by Earth technology and culture — and get cruised by gay men — but they do love our pizza. Of course, love must ensue, and to that end, as Jack Deth hooked up with Helen Hunt in Trancers, Zane meets Cindy Sexton — who introduces him to the freeze-dried Celestes and helps him win his freedom. Oh, wait . . . this is more Highlander (“There can be only one!”) than Trancers, so it’s be-still-my-beating-heart Roxanne Hart (who is still breaking my heart in a 2019 episode of NBC-TV’s The Blacklist) rollin’ in my VHS-cortexes.

You’ll have a lot of fun watching this SOV take of Richard Connell’s 1932-inspiring short story, The Most Dangerous Game. But, if you’d rather not, give this four minute sampling (embedded below) a spin. My only two complaints with Game(s) of Survival: I wish the VHS rip was of a better quality, as it’s obvious the tape used on the upload we found on You Tube has seen its better days, as it is washed out and darkened. Second, the opening scene with that Philippines-styled armed dune buggy is so good, I wish Armand Gazarian would have held his game on an alien planet and given us an SOV version of Charles Band’s Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone and Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn — instead of Fred Olen Ray’s Alienator. But any guy who channels his milk money and his aunt’s and grandma’s birthday money to homage Death Race 2000, Endgame, and Rome 2072, is okay in my book.

Ah, but wait! That Earth-bound snafu is solved — somewhat — with our second film in today’s Armand Gazarian double feature: Badlanders.

Settle down, kids. Badlanders is also known as Prison Planet. At least there’s no errant “S” to deal with, as in Game(s) of Survival.

For his second apoc outing, Armand Gazarian impressively upped his game to improve on the Game(s) of Survival model as he gives our ol’ apoc-good buddy Cirio H. Santiago a run for his Philippine pesos. Sure, you’ll name drop Mad Max in the frames, but the real inspiration here is all of those Philippine and Italian-made knockoffs of The Road Warrior. Nope, while it looks like Bruno Mattei made this — and if you’ve seen his apoc romps Rats: Night of Terror or Shocking Dark, you’ll know what we mean — he didn’t make this. Nope. Claudio Fragasso — and if you’ve seen Interzone, you know what we mean — didn’t make this either.

Anyway, in the distant Earth year of 2200 — in the badlands of Yuma, Arizona (anyone see Parsifal in his battle car on his way to the “Baked Apple”) — we meet our intrepid freedom fighter, Blaine (U.S. born-cum-Thailand acting James Phillips), who boondoggles a Snake Plissken-styled robbery of a government repository.

Instead of being sent to Manhattan Island Prison, Blaine is sent to Prison Planet, aka the planet of Annakin (uh-huh), committed to fight in gladiatorial combat games. Then he kills the brother of Broxton (Micheal M. Foley from Karate Cop), the planet’s blood thirsty warlord.

Ah, but this is a secret mission: Blaine wanted to get caught and shipped off-world to find fellow Prison Planet inmate Himshaw — the good brother of the Earth’s evil dictator — who holds the key to overthrown the Annakin regime and restore freedom on Earth.

Spiritual hokum, shirtless muscle-bound nomads, porn-flick mustaches, oversized penis-envy swords, slave girls, virgin maiden sacrifices, weasel-whimpy convicts, and slave traders — all in glorious overacting — a-go-goes, and then some. And the guns, Oy! The guns always “jam” when you need ’em the most in the apocalypse. Hey, the big-budget movies always roll out the ol’ “dead car battery/faulty starter” (on a brand new car, no less) trope, aka now the “dead cellphone/no signal” trope, so why can’t a low-budget movie have the a “gun jams” trope? And yes . . . even though we are in the throes of the 21st century — and as with all Italian ’80s apoc films — all the cars are from the ’70s.

From his humble SOV beginnings, Nicolas Hill worked his way up to the better-made, ’90s-era martial arts flicks Showdown (with Billy Blanks), Death Match (with Martin Kove), Raw Target (with Dale Apollo), Fists of Iron (with Michael Worth), and Bloodsport 2 (not with Jean-Claude Van Damme, but with Pat Morita).

James Phillips, according to the digital QWERTY warriors of the IMDb, co-starred with Eric Estrada in the 1989 Thailand-shot actioner The Lost Idol (check your golden Ark at the door, Indy). And for that same director, Philip Chalong, aka Chalong Pakdeevijit, Phillips co-starred with Jan-Michael Vincent (see why we dropped Alienator), and Sam J. “Flash Gordon” Jones in 1990’s In Gold We Trust (and Sam did his own apoc-slopper, Driving Force). Our villain, Micheal M. Foley, in addition to Karate Cop, you may have seen his martial arts skills in 1991’s Cybernator (I haven’t*) or 1992’s Desert Kickboxer (again, nope).

Jonnie Saiko — who appears in Game(s) of Survival as Zooloj — also appears in Hell Comes to Frogtown, Roller Blade Warriors: Taken by Force, and The Guyver. He’s since gone on to a successful career as a special effects mold technician to work in the X-Men, Alien, Predator, and Scary Movie franchises.

As for the rest of the Gazarian canons: Streets of War stars Frankie Ray from Badlanders; digital streamers may have seen him in 2018’s Jurassic Galaxy (not moi). The Searcher stars Robert “Maniac Cop” Z’Dar, so there’s that incentive to find it. One of Gazarian’s producer credits is 1998’s Blood Revenge starring martial artist Chris Cuthrell, so there’s that. And Gazarian is still at it, as his latest (in post-production) credit is Awaken, starring Lance Henriksen, Edward Asner, and Tobin “Saw” Bell.

Yep. From an SOV debut to working with Tobin Bell. That’s a pretty cool career, Armand. See, there is a career to be made after ENG cameras and 3/4-inch U-Matic videotape and Hi-8s and NewTek Video Toasters.

You can watch a VHS rips of Game(s) of Survival — recently uploaded in September 2020, so thank you, VoicesInMyHead — on You Tube. Check out that page! It has lots of great uploads, such as the bonkers-trashy Lightblast, Death Nurse, more SOV’in with Bits & Pieces, and Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly. So have fun! Hey, bonus! We found an even cleaner copy on the Internet Archive.

Now, as for Badlanders, aka Prison Planet, there’s no freebie uploads to share. What’s the deal, Tubi? You had it, but now it’s not available? Denied. At one time, Badlanders was part of the VOD programming of the now — sadly — defunct IMPACT cable channel. However, as result of it once being a part of the IMPACT library, you can watch Badlanders as part of the Sling streaming platform, which also makes it available on the upper-tier cable channel EPIX. Perhaps you’re awash in disposable income (frack you, preppy) and you can afford ATT’s DirecTV to watch it there.

I love my SOV ’80s and Gazarian’s two apoc-romps slide nicely onto my “alien shelf” amid the collection. Be sure to click on the SOV ’80s link at the end of this article and you’ll discover all of our reviews of — not only ’80s SOV’ers — but films that are inspired by and pay tribute to the era. And for as many that we have reviewed, there’s as many we have not. So, to remedy that, come September 12 to the 18, we’re blowing out a week-long tribute to another 25-plus more of those SOV ’80s classics, mostly horror, natch. Join us!

* Doh! Now we did! Check out Cybernator . . . which is not to be confused with Cy Warrior!

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

The Carrier (1988)

Holy shit, this fucking movie.

If The Abomination is a Shot On Video (SOV) exploration of disease and religion, madness and murder straight out of Texas, this is its oddball rural Michigan brother that has much higher production values.

This is a movie where if I describe it to you, you’ll say, “There’s no way that that is a movie and no way that that much weird can be sustained across an entire movie.”

But you’d be wrong.

Jake’s parents died in a fire that some in town blame him for. He just wants to come to the bar, get drunk and be left alone, but someone has to call him out as a killer. And maybe someone in the bar actually did the killing and not him. But no matter what, Jake really does encounter some black creature in the woods, the kind that people whisper about in that weird bar that Jake should have avoided. But then, even though Jake survives the attack, he’s left with a scar and a disease that makes him — unknown to all in town — the carrier of a strange plague which spreads to every inanimate object that he touches. When anyone touches what Jake has touched, they are dissolved into that object.

Not long into this movie and everyone in town is covered in garbage bags and post-apocalyptic gear and breaking into religious madness and herding cats to use to test anything that has been claimed by the carrier’s horrible touch.

1950’s Sleepy Rock, Oregon may as well be your town during COVID-19, a disease that no one was sure where it came from and how they could get it and all turning against one another. Of course, this movie was about AIDS way back in 1988, but its theme is even more in your face true today than way back when.

Director and writer Nathan J. White honestly should have made more movies than this one and done effort. He was aided by Peter Deming, who was the director of photography on Evil Dead IILost Highway and the Twin Peaks 2017 series.

Every time I thought, “This is getting way too silly,” the movie would redeem itself or get even weirder and sillier, which I appreciate to no end. This is why regional films are so important: there were no studio notes or people saying, “None of this makes any sense.” Therefore, it all makes perfect sense.

The Soultangler (1987)

Dr. Anton Lupesky has developed a drug named Anphorium, which allows the soul to leave the body and enters any corpse with eyes. Of course, the drawback is that sometimes, the fatal hallucinations that result make the drug’s users into raving lunatics. Shot for $8,000 in seven days in Long Island, starring friends and relatives of director Pat Bishow, this is a regional delight.

The original version of this movie was 62 minutes and that’s really all it needs to be. It does not need any of the filler that was added, because we’re here to see people get killed and have cerebellum destroying drug trips.

There’s going to be a whole Shot on Video (SOV) week coming up on our site and this is a good first course. It’s filled with everything the best films in this genre — media? — have: acting so strange that it feels like aliens are in the cast, synth music that is shockingly awesome, monstrous levels of gore, dream sequences that are actually frightening and the feeling that you just might be watching a cursed videotape.

This is the kind of movie that normal people rented at the video store and talked about for years, saying stuff like, “What was the name of that weird horror movie that we rented back in 1988 that we hated so much?” Screw those people. This movie always finds its audience. It may find you. I hope so.

Tales from the QuadeaD Zone (1987)

Shirley Latanya Jones (Black Devil Doll from Hell) is the star of this Shot On Video (SOV) anthology — can two stories be an anthology? — as she reads to her dead son from a book called Tales from the QuadeaD Zone.

The first one, “Food for ?” is all about a redneck family getting killed because they can’t afford enough food for everyone. Then, “The Brothers” has an evil zombie clown from Hell, so it has that going for it. You know, if you hate a sibling and then they die, maybe don’t paint them up like a clown.

Then, Shirley kills her boyfriend.

Hand drawn titles, barely competent cinematography and tons of gore. What’s not to enjoy?

Director Chester Novell Turner worked in home remodeling and wrote horror stories on the side before making this movie and Black Devil Doll From Hell. He was unhappy with how Hollywood Home Video sold his first movie, so he distributed this one himself. There were about a hundred copies of this movie sold in Chicago and that was it. After all, there was a rumor that Turner had died in a 1996 car accident. Happily, Louis Justin of Massacre Video found him in order to get the rights to release this movie on DVD.

This isn’t a good movie. But you have to give it to Turner. He had a dream and he took his shot.

Gorehouse Greats: Brain Twisters (1991)

We get it, Mill Creek! You’re a “green” company! You recycle and waste not. We originally reviewed Brain Twisters on November 1, 2020, as part of our reviews for Mill Creek’s Sci-Fi Invasion set. We re-ran that review February 1, 2021, as part of its inclusion on their B-Movie Blast 50-Pack. So, in the grand tradition of movies that do not deserve a second, alternate look (we’re talkin’ at you Cavegirl), Mill Creek beat us into submission once again . . . so let’s give Brain Twisters a new spin — as part of its inclusion on Mill Creek’s Gorehouse Greats 12-pack.

Is it possible that this lone feature film from Jerry Sangiuliano appears on all Mill Creek box sets? We just discovered it also appears on their Drive-In Cult Classics Volume 4 set and their Drive-In Cult Cinema Classics 200-pack. So, it seems, whether you want to watch it or not, by hook or by crook, you will, so says Mill Creek. So, let’s crack open our first film on the Gorehouse Greats set.

Gorehouse Greats Mill Creek

No, we can’t blame Albert Pyun directing Charles Band’s Arcade, as that 1993 evil video game romp wasn’t made yet. But we can blame “The Bishop of Battle,” the segment from the 1983 portmanteau Nightmares, you know, the segment when Emilo Estevez’s video-game obsessed ne’er-do-well was sucked into an evil video game, which itself, ripped off 1982’s Tron.

And here comes Jerry Sangiuliano — a decade late and several dollars short — as his 1991-era computer graphics make 1992’s The Lawnmower Man — this film’s sole raison d’être — look good. And we all know how god awful that’s-not-a-Stephen King-adaptation is. And to prove you can’t keep a god awful movie down: Sangiuliano tried to pass this off in the DVD age as a “new” film, Fractals, in 2013 — with the same out-of-date graphics that were out-of-date in 1991. But where the superior Circuitry Man from 1990 succeeds, this one fails. Utterly. Yeah, this one is lost between order and chaos and heaven and hell, alright.

So what’s it all about?

A sci-fi thriller without thrills.

Mind control with CRT monitors complete poor pixel resolution. And beeps. And boops. And wires. And conduits. And horny teens. And dumb cops. And cops who take victims to dinner. And touchy-feely college professors manipulating weak teen girls (see Dr. Carl Hill in Re-Animator). And a college professor of neuroscience who lectures students on medical quackery who is, himself, a quack: instead of screwing the medieval devices he displays in his classroom to human skulls, he plugs his students into a Commodore 64.

Dr. Philip Rothman (dry-as-toast Terry Londeree in his only film role) sidelines his professorship with a gig at a software company developing a software platform that taps into the human brain. And he’s using his unknowing students as lab rats. And somewhere along the way, it’s discovered the software has a mind control side effect (I think), so the head of the company decides to integrate the discovery into video games. Is he evil already or does the discovery make him evil? (I don’t know and I don’t care.) What’s the purpose of turning video-game obsessed teens into killers? What’s the end game, if you will? (You got me.)

Of course, every slasher film — even the most pseudo ones, such as this tech slop — needs a “final girl,” so we have Laurie Strode Stevens (Farrah Forke, in her acting debut; she was Alex Lambert for a three year, 35-episode run on NBC-TV’s Wings; Hitman’s Run for you direct-to-video fans) as one of several college students who’ve volunteered for Rothman’s experiments to improve video game designs — only to be programmed-cum-hypnotized to kill. Or commit suicide from the second floor of a Chili’s (Or was that an Applebees?). Hey, this was filmed in Scranton, PA., so if you lived there, maybe you recognize the eatery.

Man, nobody wants to go to Scranton. Not even, Archie. “Scranton?!”

So, does this all sound a bit like Conal Cochran’s nonsensical masterplot to take over the world with Halloween masks fitted with computer chips made from stone-flakes of Stonehenge? Or Dr. Anthony Blakely’s plan to take over the world by growing a giant brain the basement of his psychiatric institute for wayward teens?

Yeah, it does. And then some.

Yeah, the body count is building. Boringly so.

Ah, but Halloween III: The Season of the Witch and Ed Hunt’s The Brain had, if not a lot of sense, finesse and charm as it huskered its bananas-as-fuck junk science, along with R-level gore and sex to buoy our interest. Maybe if a Stuart Gordon-esque brain worm-thingy popped out of a student’s reprogrammed head, à la Dr. Edward Pretorius via his Sonic Resonator in From Beyond, we’d have a “bang,” here, instead of a whimper.

In the end, this is all just a bunch of PG-level shenanigans in dire need of a David Warner-embodied Master Control Program and a Cindy Morgan as our cyber-hero babe and a crazed Darryl Revok “sucking brains dry” via video games. But alas: Jerry Sangiuliano ain’t no David Cronenberg and this ain’t no Scanners joint. And the acting just stinks across the board, which is probably why Forke never capitalized on her support role in Heat with Al Pacino and Robert De Niro or scored another notable network TV series, and we never heard from male leads Terry Londeree and Joe Lombardo — ever again. If only we had Dan O’Herlihy as the evil software engineer and David Gale as the meglomaniac professor to prop this up, maybe we’d have . . . something.

Should we give Jerry Sangiuliano credit for being ahead of the urban legend curve? Nope.

Maybe — one day — they’ll make a movie based on the Polybius urban legend (seeded in 1994) with (speaking of Dan O’Herlihy), a touch of the charm that made the video game as-a-combat-training-tool tomfoolery from The Last Starfighter so much fun. Until that happens, the curious and the masochist can free-stream Brain Twisters on You Tube.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Queen of Lost Island (1994)

I’ve watched many a bad movie for this site, but this has to be the new basement when it comes to films, a Shot On Video piece of flaccid garbage that wants so very badly to be pornography but stops short, providing all of the downsides of 1990’s VCA crap you had to rent from the back of the video store with none of the upside, like actual pornography or the lunacy of the Dark Brothers or Rinse Dream.

I really wanted it to fit into this week’s theme of matriarchal societies, as it seemed like from the description that Strain’s character was She. But no. No, not at all.

This all became more crustal clear when I saw who made it: Donald G. Jackson, the director of more than three Roller Blade themed movies who has one lone success, Hell Comes to Frogtown.

A whole bunch of women has been invited to an island that takes over their minds — or so they say — while Julie Strain waits for them, naked and swinging around a sword. Do you know how boring a movie has to be to not be good while featuring Julie Strain topless? This movie will give you the answer.

Literally, during this movie, I yelled out loud, “Robert Z’Dar, don’t you have something better to do?”

Also known as The Devil’s Pet and Elixir — the name it finally came out in 2004 on home video under — this movie also has Tina-Desiree Berg (Legend of the Roller Blade Seven), Lori Jo Hendrix (Bikini Summer) and Jeff Hutchinson (who shows up in many of Jackson’s films, like Lingerie Kickboxer and Roller Blade).

Fans of bad movies — this is quite literally as bad as it gets.

Ghoul Scout Zombie Massacre (2020)

So, after stream-stumbling into Omar Jacobo’s enjoyable, Mexican-made horror FUBAR that is Blood Freaks, I began picking through distributor Rising Sun Media’s Facebook page — and this feature film debut from writer/director Eric Eichelberger caught my eye (and dislodged from its socket). And from what I can see, while GSZM was released to VOD streaming in 2018; it’s now offered as a new, free-with-ads stream on Tubi in 2021 (or at least the tail end of 2020): I should know, as I am constantly farming the Tubi platform for films to watch — especially new and off-the-reservation flicks — and this film never populated on my previous digital excavations. Ah, wait . . . the film, in fact, hit the festival circuit in 2018 and debuted on streaming platforms in October 2020. So there you go. Roll ’em, Dano!

Here’s the plot synopsis from the Rising Sun Media marketing department:

Four girls find themselves in a reform school run by an evil woman that joins forces with her equally demented scientist brother who creates a serum to turn attractive rocker guys into lobotomized slaves for his underground movie business. The scientist brother laces Girl Scout cookies with the serum while his sister offers full pardons to the girls to sell them. They are aware that they aren’t your average cookies and agree. The evil plan backfires and the rocker guys turn into flesh-eating zombies and terrorize the town. It’s up to the girls to clean up the mess and restore peace before it’s too late!

Now, with a synopsis like that, what’s not to watch? Plus, more drug-laced cookies and zombies, like in Blood Freaks? And reform school girls in girl scout uniforms. Lobotomized sex slaves. A scientist running an underground porn business. A zombified rock band. This sounds like a John Waters Pink Flamingos joint.

Of course, I’m all in. And it’s the latest film from the guy who rebooted Death Race back to its campy-beginnings with Death Race 2050! Oops, wait. That’s G.J. Echternkamp who wrote and directed that cheezy-campy-crazy fest. This cheezy-campy-crazy fest is the feature film debut by Eric Eichelberger. (Hey, I’m the guy, despite how much how I adore them both, perpetually confuses the German bombshellness and Swedish schwingness of Elke Sommer and Brit Elkland in reviews, so cut me a break!)

Eichelberger’s debut feature film (he’s worked primarily as a reality television editor; he was an art director on Stuart Gordon’s King of the Ants (2003), if that’s a film you’ve seen; I haven’t) is all about perspective: If you’re a 20-something digital streamer that never experienced the analog SOV-VHS ’80s (e.g, pick up a Don Dohler flick, watch films like Spine; or, in a horror perspective, Curse of the Blue Lights) and the celluloid La Brea tar pits’ ass jawbone-dislodging of ’70s grindhouse and exploitation flicks onto brick-and-mortar home video rental shelves (check out Bloodsucking Freaks), or woke up late-nites on Fridays and Saturdays to watch Cinemax’s “After Dark” programming blocks rife with sexed-up Basic Instinct-clones (Harry Tampa’s Fleshtone is an example) and X’d-up T&A comedies of the Porky’s variety (we did a “Drive-In Friday” tribute to those ’80s teen-sex comedies), then of course — you’ll hit your favorite streaming platform or review site and christen GSZM as the “worst movie you’ve ever seen.”

If the tee-shirt of Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case doesn’t clue you in, all hope is lost.

Ha! Then ye digital reviewer, thou has never tossed back a sour ale of the Eddie Romero or Godfrey Ho variety, or noshed on Hard Rock Zombies (which is GSZM’s closest celluloid relative for this reviewer) and other (awful) ’80s heavy metal horror ditties of the Blood Tracks variety.

Eichelberger is one of us: he’s watched way to many Italian zombie movies (your poor mom!). He’s probably watched Lucio Fulci’s Zombie (1979) more than myself and Sam the Boss, combined. And it’s a foregone conclusion the ‘Eich also partakes of the zombie cheap-slop, such as Jess Franco’s Oasis of the Zombie (1981), Jean Rollin’s guacamole-smeared living-dead romp Zombie Lake (1981), and (ugh) Bruno Mattei’s Hell of the Living Dead (please, Bruno, just stop it already). Did the ‘Eich watch Wendy O. Williams in Reform School Girls (1986)? You bet he did.

All of those film come to play in the frames of GSZM. And like those films, this one is also strictly for adults only: it’s lewd, it’s lascivious, it’s gratuitous, and nudity is at forefront (and back!) for extended periods. (You’ve been warned.) However, unlike most of those films, which were not homages to anything other than cinematic ineptitude-by-low budget, Eichelberger’s debut, while admittedly production-bad with tragic thespin’, is supposed to be “bad” to mimic the bad films in which it’s tipping its hat. (And a couple truths: This is actually a well-shot film, void of any of that annoying, fish-eyed handheld lensing of the i-Phone variety cloggin’ up Amazon and Tubi. And that Eric Eichelberger is on his way to being the new David DeCoteau (who we worship at B&S, so know your Ellen Cabot, ye reader). And that the most experienced actors on board, leads Vance Clemente (makes me think he’s Crispin Clover’s brother) and Jessica Mazo, are actually quite skilled; here’s to hoping they move onto larger roles or nail a guest-starring network series gig. Oh, and adding to the meta: GSZM features the last ever screen performance from the late Bloodsucking Freaks director, Joel M. Reed, who we lost this past April.)

No, Girls Scout Zombie Massacre is not a 10-star film by any means. It’s also not a 1-star film, either, you IMDb’ing Amazon scamps. It’s also not Shaun of the Dead or Return of the Living Death nor Re-Animator or Severed Ties, either (and what films are, as they’re zombie-horror-comedy gold standards). GSZM is what it is: an intentionally bad, campy-comedy-horror movie — and it’s inherently preposterous to give Eichelberger’s film a bad review. Look, if you’ve sat through any Troma Team film (shite, don’t get Sam started on a Troma tear) and you’re into Charles Band’s direct to video oeuvres, with their soupçons of gore, a dashes of comedy, and smidgens of T&A, then there’s something for you to watch. The only thing that’s missing is Eddie Deezen (Beverly Hills Vamp) as our mad scientist and, along with Michelle Bauer, Linnea Quigley (The Good Things Devils Do), and Brinke Stevens co-starring, we’d have ourselves another USA’s Up All Night romp with back-to-back showings of Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Sorority Babes in the Slime-Bowl-O-Rama, and Nightmare Sisters.

The only downside to the film — IMO, so take it as you may — is that the film is a bit too long and would have been better served by a cut to a more first-time-director-streaming-friendly 80-minutes. But this is a self-financed and produced film with none of those “no, thou can not do that on film” pesky studio suits or distributors to rein it all in. But that’s par for the streaming course in the digital lawless wastelands of the 21st Century VOD-tundras. A couple reviewers mentioned a 70-minute running time, which would be one hour eleven minutes. So, we’re assuming, what we are able to currently free-stream on Tubi must be a “director’s cut,” because that cut runs 111-minutes, that is, a one hour fifty-one minute running time. But it’s the steaming verse, so we give the widest of wide berths to the new kids sailing the seven seas of the Amazon-fed oceans.

All in all: A job well done, Eric, we look forward to your next film; definitely make another one. And you’ve inspired us to watch — finally, the one Gordon film I haven’t watched — King of the Ants, on Tubi. Of course, the whole reason for this review is for you, dear B&S reader, to check out Ghoul Scout Zombie Massacre on Tubi courtesy of Rising Sun Media. You can learn more about the film on GSZM’s official website.

And be sure to check out our recent interview with director Eric Eichelberger.

Disclaimer: No, we do not know the filmmaker. And we didn’t receive a review request, either. We discovered this film on our own and genuinely enjoyed 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.

Blood Freaks (2021)

Upon discovering the streaming one-sheets for this experimental art-horror film on Tubi, I assumed I stumbled into a new Asian extreme horror film. Just look at the images for yourself: The first films the VHS centers of my celluloid cortex loaded was the J-Horror static of Takashi Miike’s Audition and Gozu, Bigas Luna’s narrative corkscrews of Anguish and Reborn, Fruit Chan’s testament to man’s sexual obsession with youth and beauty in Dumplings, and Alejandro Jodoroswky’s unholy trio of El Topo, Holy Mountain, and Santa Sangre. But, as I learned Blood Freaks was an arthouse-import from Mexico, I soon understood the one-of-kind voice behind the film is a student of the supernatural phantasmagoria of José Mojica Marins with his Coffin Joe romps At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul and This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse.

As Blood Freaks (aka La Puta Es Ciega, aka The Whore is Blind)—a homage to those forbidden, lurid clamshell and plastic-trayed Big-Box VHS/SOV bottom-of-the-barrel delights from our ‘80s youth—unspooled, I began to realize that writer and director Omar Jacobo is one of us: a freaky denizen who, when turning 18, delighted at being allowed to fan through the adult film section’s gigantic binders; who gleefully frolicked amid the horror-section shelves for the Fangoria-inept and the Famous Monsters-obscure. As one of the copy taglines for the film reads: “sleaze, gore, and more,” which is exactly what we wanted. We wanted mind-bending. We wanted backstreet scuzzy. We wanted our characters to be eclectic-crossed-with-freaky and a soupçon of crazy.

In the apartments of a low-rent Mexican walk-up, its misfit tenants are just that: They’re Andy Warhol perverse; they’re David Lynch oneiric; they’re John Waters hyperbolic. They’d fit right into the plotting of Flesh for Frankenstein, The Elephant Man, and Pink Flamingos: for I have no doubt that Omar Jacobo is a student of those films, and of the French New Wave impressionism of Claude Chabrol with La Femme infidel, Jean-Luc Godard with Breathless, and Francois Truffaut with The 400 Blows.

However, somewhere along the way, Jacobo’s celluloid schooling in the art of French-inspired subjectivity, ambiguity, and existentialism careened off the rails, drunkenly swaggering down a seedy, Mexican backstreet with a ratty, washed-out VHS rental of Bloodsucking Freaks in his hands—not realizing it wasn’t a product of the SOV ‘80s, but a low-rent and long-forgotten, inept drive-in homage to France’s Grand Guignol theater; a scuz-fest that sloshed the fecund streets of New York City’s grindhouse circuit in 1976, only for its asinine jawbone to be dislodged from the La Brea Celluloid Tar Pits onto home video store shelves for multiple-additional, muddy washouts from its perpetual rental-play. What was damaged to-the-point-of-blue-screen-of-death tape wasn’t artistic license: it was consumer-rabid wear-and-tear mistaken as artistic license.

Blood Freaks is a Dante’s Inferno of a retro-horror fantasy with a narrative structure created through an inventive use of music, camera work, and occasional still-image jump-cutting to imply movement through the dark underside of Mexico. It’s there that we meet the lives of the physically grotesque and spiritually sordid, violent tenants of a dingy apartment building: a blind, schoolgirl-clad lesbian prostitute who entices Janes/girlfriends (and if an unwanted John happens to attack her; well, just watch out for what she’s packing in the shaft of her cane) for her once overweight, cooking-obsessed Madam-girlfriend, and that Madam’s lesbian-dominatrix sister—and the “girlfriends” end up being her (temporary) submissives. Together, with the dominatrix’s male-dwarf partner (not forgetting Ralphus, the demented dwarf from Bloodsucking Freaks, and Jodorowsky’s dwarfs in his unholy trio), the sisters run a bathroom-based taxidermy and black market organ lab supplied with their girlfriend-subs. Their milkman-neighbor also has his kink: he’s a pornographer that tapes the sister’s sex-slave exploits to sell on the black market. Additional monies are made with the skins of the Janes: the dwarf treats the epidermal hides for use on his mannequin sculptures. Oh, as for the obsession with cooking: the ingredient-drugged foods are fed to the Janes who end up in the makeshift taxidermy-cum-art studio. Eventually, the sisters tire of their milkman-porn partner—and make him the bathlab’s newest specimen; he returns as an out-for-revenge zombie.

And cue the music for the Happiness of the Katakuris-inspired punk-rock house party. . . .

As the credits rolled on Blood Freaks—a surreal delight of incoherent symbolism, philosophy and weirdness just like Jodorowsky and Marins used to make—the feature film debut of writer-director Omar Jacobo shot on an $80,000 shoestring, I sighed; filled with the same adulation the first time I watched the opening 16-mm celluloid salvos of Robert Rodriquez with El Mariachi and Kevin Smith with Clerks. For Jacobo’s debut is a film of erudition: while a more commercial horror consumer, at first, may see “inept” filmmaking afoot with Jacobo’s arthouse-centric style, he is not part of the new, iPhone-shot digital ignorance proliferating the digital corners of Amazon Prime and Tubi, a net-realm where any John, Dick, or Jane—packing a handheld-device and a modicum of an idea—are (not) making movies.

At first glance, it’s easy to slag Jacobo’s homage to ’80s SOV horror (that analog genre of VHS-taped films, such as John Howard’s Spine and Christopher Lewis’s Blood Cult, which we hold in high regard amid the B&S About Movies cubicle farm) as an unfocused and incoherent, amateur film school project. (I worked as an actor on film school projects: I know incoherent amateurism: Jacobo is far from it.) Unlike many of those ‘80s Big Box SOV purveyors of old (we love you, Don Dohler, but still) and more so with the iPhone digitalmongers of the new, Jacobo comes to his chosen profession with a clear skillset. He, while in an admittedly unconventional way, understands the concepts of framing, shot composition, and editing. And he also understands (as does Jake Thomas with his absolutely stunning, just released film, Shedding) that dialog is the death of narrative; that images and an actor’s non-verbal language can carry a film. Jacobo also understands (as does Matthew Diebler and Jacob Gillman with their also recently-released and equally amazing The Invisible Mother) that film is a visual medium and that the devil—quite literally with Blood Freaks—is in the ambiguity-open-to-your-interpretation details: an enigma of pet chickens picking among the skins of peeled potatoes on the floor and five-minute dream-steria shots of a sordid, lesbian Madam making drug-filled meatballs and soups, a dwarf taxidermist who enjoys sculpting mannequins, and a dominatrix who specializes in baking jelly-centered drugged cookies.

Yeah, I love this movie, just in case if you’re wondering.

Then again, I ballyhooed from the rooftops for Michael Reich’s equally VHS-centric She’s Allergic to Cats and David Robert Mitchell’s ambiguity stunner Under the Silver Lake (well, Sam ballyhooed that one for the site) to deaf ear and blind eye; for I’m the guy who likes-everyone-hates the low-rent scuzziness of duBeat-e-o by Alan Sacks and Marc Sheffler. So what do I know? I’m just some guy writing film reviews in a cubicle farm somewhere in the backwaters of Allegheny County, where the vast majority of the world—as Sam, my boss, always points out—hates most of the films we love. And while that world flocks to Wonder Woman 1984 and fawns over Patty Jenkins, we, the B&S minions, flock to films like Blood Freaks and filmmakers like Omar Jacobo—who has the common sense to not use a timeline-skewed Cro-Mags shirt in his movie two years before the album it promotes was released.

And life couldn’t be any more sweeter for it: Blood Freaks is the type of film that makes me glad to wake up and write film reviews. You know, for the chicks. And for the fun. But mostly for the chicks.

You can learn more about Blood Freaks and Madre Foca! Producciones on Facebook. You can also visit distributor Rising Sun Media on Facebook and stream their catalog of Mexican-bred, full-length indie films on their Vimeo channel. After making a low-key, U.S.-streaming debut on Vimeo Online in May 2020, Blood Freaks is now widely available as of January 2021 as a free-with-ads stream on Tubi.

Be sure to surf by B&S About Movies, daily—from Sunday, January 17 to Saturday, January 23—as we’ll feature the classics of Mexican action and horror cinema all this week.

Disclaimer: We did not receive a review request or screener from the film’s director, producer, or P.R firm. We discovered this film all on our own and truly enjoyed the movie.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publish music reviews and short stories on Medium.

Lipstick and Blood (1984)

Don’t ask me why, but in 1984, Lindsay Shonteff, who spent most of his career making spy spoofs like The 2nd Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World decided to make a Shot On Video* giallo.

Is it any good? No.

Is it weird? Yes.

Is that why we watched it? You know it.

Starring Jane Linter — who never made another movie — and Joseph Peters, who played a Hooded Ghost in two of The Adventures of Justine films, which are very similar to Gwendoline, this is all about a man stalking an exotic dancer who is only dancing to raise money for her wedding.

The stalker, Jay Preston, lives in a world of Mayfair-esque lad mags, call girls and yes, a blow-up doll to sate his strange passions. But soon, when he watches Jennie on stage, he knows that he has found the woman who can satisfy him. Sure, she has a fiancee, but fantasies don’t take into account the real world.

This, of course, means killing her fiancee, murdering multiple people to earn enough money to keep moving from motel to motel, then forcing her to dance for him and him alone when he isn’t assaulting her or killing her parents. You may ask yourself, “Really, who is all this depravity for?” Then you realize that the 1980’s had a burgeoning video nasty market in the UK and see where Shonteff was trying to make some much-needed cash in the economic crunch of 1984.

Sadly, the director already made a much better version of this kind of story back in 1969 with Night, After Night, After Night, but hey, you’re looking for giallo that no one else has and you need to get your kicks somewhere, right? And look who has the skinny on some scummy VHS era hackwork that only two other maniacs on IMDB have reviewed? Me. I’m not proud of it either, but here we are.

Despite having a lead character who blames a woman for his inability to even make a complete bowel movement — a first! — this is one of those movies where the lead character is an exotic dancer that somehow never gets naked, which really seems to challenge this movie’s goal of being repellant filth. Imagine if David Hess said poopy in his rants. It just doesn’t work. If you’re going to be a cesspool dwelling movie that upsets people enough to get on the cover of tabloids, go for it. Instead, other than its ranting leading man, a final act turn toward proto-American Psycho satire and a shotgun blast of an ending, this is a rather tame affair. You know, except for that blow-up doll.

*He also made another SOV movie, a post-apocalyptic film called The Killing Edge.

Punk Vacation (1990)

A peaceful California town goes bonkers when a punk gang kills the owner of a diner who was just defending his daughter. Now, she and the entire town want revenge, but they’ve taken her hostage, leading to a battle of redneck vs. punks.

If you’re like me and you love movie punks who are the furthest thing from actual punk rockers, then good news. Punk Vacation is ready to give you the goods.

Director Stanley Lewis — not his real name — was a graduate from the American Film Institute who didn’t want his career tainted by this film. Come on, man. There are plenty of art films that have disappeared since 1990 and I’m not writing about any of those movies.

Like I said, the main issue is that the punks are anything but. They’re in their thirties and more of a biker gang from a 1960’s message movie than a bunch of guys who hang out at crust bars. Are they the heroes? Or are the horrible people in the town who we should cheer for? Or should we be all for the cop who is pretty bad at his job? I can’t tell.

None of the punks on this art are in the movie, in case you’re wondering. That doesn’t mean this is a bad movie. It just feels like the kind of movie that’s better for having John Rambo or Thunder or Indio or Billy Jack come to town than an all over place gang who sit on rocks and discuss the merits of stewardess school versus computer repair.

Also: No real vacation.

You can watch this on Tubi or buy it from Vinegar Syndrome.