This movie begins and ends with interviews with its director Charles E. Cullen who is either the director of movies like The Curse of the Mummy Cat and Killer Klowns from Kansas on Krack or the New Jersey nurse who was the most prolific serial killer ever.
Anyways, Charles has people asking him questions about his art, which is making a shot on video slasher about the Boogieman, who is the kind of killer who sledgehammers a baby just to show how evil he is.
How do you stop a monster like that? How about a Vietnam vet bounty hunter? What if there was a witch doctor joining him?
This is also in black and white and man, it has a hell of a body count. People are set on ablaze, machetes, chainsaws, rifles and even a car is used. Meanwhile, the music pulses and winds howl and the drone overtakes your mind and you wonder what next level of strange madness is about to emerge from your screen.
According to The Last Exit, Cullen is “an ex-chicken farmer that mixes slow-paced country humor with rural drug-culture and a love for cult, bizarre, trash and horror b-movies. Like a freaky country carnival, he expresses this via many forms of entertainment, including movies, weird country music, puppet shows, homemade TV shows and so on.”
Callen also made Night of the Bums, a movie in which a bat attacks a baby and then bums rip the infant into little bloody chunks. Man, this dude does not seem like he’d be a good dad.
You aren’t raising a kid with him. You’re watching his weird slasher. Relax.
DAY 2: A Horror Film Featuring Non-Avian Dinosaurs and Mezozic Reptiles.
Norbert Moutier also made Ogroff, a shot on video slasher. Moutier was an accountant who contributed to the zines Monster Bis and Le Petit bédéraste du 20e siècle before starting to make his own movies in 1982, often serving as the director, screenwriter, producer and sometimes even acting. He quit accounting and started a comic book and movie store, which really feels like a dream life.
Somehow, he got some of the biggest genre personalities in France to be in his movies, like Howard Vernon, Jean-Pierre Putters, Quélou Parente, Christophe Bier, Christophe Lemaire and Christian Letargat. In this movie, he got Jean Rollin to play Professeur Nolan, the leader of this strange experiment in which secret agents work alongside time travel scientists who are in the past to study dinosaurs. Those secret agents bring a war criminal with them to execute because killing is illegal in the future. They’re using a spaceship to get there and also dumping tons of trash, using our past Earth as a trash pit.
Obviously, everything I knew about time travel is wrong.
Moutier also convinced Tina Aumont (Fellini’s Satyricon, Torso, Arcana) to be in this movie. There’s even a striptease scene without nudity, which seems a strange thing to do when dinosaurs are attacking, but when you meet a cave girl, you just watch and be polite.
As for those dinosaurs, they are often rubbery puppets and other times straight up dinosaur toys moved in stop motion. Keep in mind this movie was made the same year as Jurassic Park. If you thought that Carnosaur was the nadir of dinosaur movies, you’ll look at this and say, “Yes, the tar pit does deeper.”
Most of all, this movie is worth watching because Rollin is in the lead. I can only imagine that he kept talking to Moutier, the auteur, and saying, “You sure we can’t just a lot of fog and have a nude vampire woman look depressed and slowly walk through this scene?”
Also: the entire film was shot with the camera audio, so there’s non-stop hiss all over everything.
Most bigfeet, bigfoots, skunk apes and otherwise hominoid cryptids tend to stay in the woods or far away from the eyes of man. Yet in Dave Wascavage’s $550 wonder Suburban Sasquatch, the creature has no issues in attacking human beings right in the small bedroom communities where they believe that they’re safe.
A lot of folks through the word auteur around like it means only doing one or two things on your movie. Dave earned this distinction by being the director, writer, editor, producer, cinematographer, composer, art, video effects, costume, sound, firearms, the voice of the sasquatch and playing the following roles: Dave the Fisherman, Hunter Victim 2, Waiter, Guest and, of course, the Suburban Sasquatch itself.
He’s also smart. Most of the budget went to the food for the wrap party.
Wascavage also knows how to talk about his movies, saying that this “…is a movie about famil, A statement about life as humanity presses onward into nature. The creature is a mystical creature seeking to change humanity.”
So many lives are touched by the madness that is the creature. Rick Harlan (Bill Ushler) is a directionless man who sleeps on the box springs and a mattress with no need for a bed frame. He may dream of being an investigative reporter beyond just covering local community events, but even his best friends tell him that his dreams are, frankly, stupid.
John Rush (Dave Bonavita) is a cop who moved to town after losing his wife in a sasquatch attack, thinking that the suburbs would be a place to rest and heal. He’s wrong.
Talla (Sue Lynn Sanchez) is a Native American warrior who must fulfill the destiny of her family and hunt the beast as her ancestors have done since before we even measured time. She’s also where most of the film’s budget went, as Dave took Sanchez to a mall and found sound boots and fringed clothing that said “Native American warrior.”
As for the sasquatch itself — played by Bonavita, Juan Fernandez, Wes Miller and, as we said before, Wascavage who also created the beast’s distinctive vocalization by growling into a microphone, dropping the pitch and deciding that after three minutes, he had achieved perfection.
Perhaps the most charming thing is that this movie was a family affair, as Wascavage wrote it with his wife Mary, who also has that auteur gene, as she was also the caterer, screenplay editor, assistant propmaster and wrote the songs “Trust In Thee” and “Collision Force,” performing the latter. Dave’s mom Loretta also appears as Rick’s mom — owning every moment she’s on screen with lines like “And remember, I don’t like you. I love you.” — and his father and brother are also in the cast.
There are real estate women devouring hot dogs, a child being menaced by a bigfoot and then watching their mother get eviscerated, said bigfoot launching a cop car into the air in a feat of low grade CGI mayhem, bloody human limbs being used as weapons and a black garbage bag crafted lair filled with body parts that reminds me of the best parts of Don’t Go Into the Woods. Actually, that movie feels like the absent father of this film, drunkenly calling it on its birthday and awkwardly explaining why it can’t come to its birthday party.
Also: the sasquatch can teleport.
The best shot on video bigfoot movie ever made in West Chester, PA — home of CKY, some of the Jackass crew, Matisyahu, Amy Steel from Friday the 13th Part 2 and Anna Jarvis, the founder of Mother’s Day — this is a movie with a heart — a bloody and gore-covered one — that makes it so much better than it has any right to be. For all the famous directors that bemoan what is and what is not cinema, they could do more for the art form by picking up a camera and finding a bigfoot suit with some prominent titties.
Want to hear even more from me and Bill from Drive-In Asylum?
We’re on the commentary track for the blu ray of this movie from new label Visual Vengeance which is available from MVD.
Select Bonus Features:
New 2021 Commentary by Director David Wascavage
Commentary from Sam Panico of B&S About Movies and Bill Van Ryn of Drive-In Asylum
Includes full RIFFTRAX version of the movie
Archival Behind The Scenes Featurette
Making The CGI for Suburban Sasquatch
From The Director’s POV: Archival Interviews
Limited Edition Slipcover designed by Earl Kessler FIRST PRINTING ONLY
R.C. Nanney shows up in four movies — other than this one — and they include Wolfman (a 3D movie made by Earl Owensby Studios, as well as their Hyperspace and two other near-regional slashers, Final Exam and Death Screams. Born in Cleveland County, North Carolina, R.C. was known as “The Rhythm Kid” on stage and Curly Lee on the radio. At some point in the 70s, R.C. bought land near his wife Sandy’s family in Knob Creek, a place where Knobby lives.
North Carolina’s own Bigfoot, Knobby is also referred to — at least in this movie — as a Wampus Cat, which is a half-dog, half-cat creature that can either walk like a man or a beast while having yellow eyes that can see inside your soul. That said, some claim that R.C. was the one to name Knobby. He’s definitely the one who made this movie, in which he appears and sings “The Knobby Song” in this shot on video film that was sold in tourist shops.
R.C. also made 1983’s Return of Knobby and 2005’s Knobbett, as well as screen printing his own Knobby merchandise. He told the Shelby Star, “I didn’t try to make any money. Big movie companies spend thousands of dollars with the expectations of getting more money. I spent $15 to $20 with the expectation of getting people to laugh and smile.”
In 2010, Tim Peeler saw Knobby and protected his dog from the creature by rough talking him and poking him with his stick before telling it to git. Knobby is still alive.
Sadly, R.C. passed in 2016. Yet he left behind this film, the attempt of a man to create some fun on the new magic of videotape — pretty advanced, when you think about it — and created a North Carolina version of The Legend of Boggy Creek, if one that’s even more raw and weird.
Don’t expect to find this on IMDB or Letterboxd. But watch it all the same.
Michael Pollklesener is the man — well, maybe kid — who made all of this and played the Fucker, who didn’t survive his first movie, Fuck the Devil, because a VHS tape of Evil Dead II chopped his head off. But this time, a tape of A Nightmare on Elm Streethas brought him back to life, thrown an Evil Dead shirt on his decayed body, a rubber mask on his face and acid washed jeans on his bod and sent him out to become invisible, make people puke and kill, baby, kill.
Just imagine: at some point in Germany, someone got a camcorder and said, “Ich möchte einen Slasher-Film machen” and just did it. There’s no deep meaning, just blood and gristle and vomit and chunky stuff and bathtub murder. It also has it’s own theme song when the Casio on demo mode runs out of bossa nova beats.
Is it any worse than the direct to streaming stuff that litters Amazon Prime? At least someone cared when they made it.
Director and writer Peter Horak may have shot this in Prague and California, but it looks like the kind of movies that Cabellero and VCA put out in 1998 without you know, all the ejaculate. It also has a lead who loses his girl in a rowboat accident, which sends him to Europe, and into the orbit of — you knew it — Dracula (played by three actors, Ernest M. Garcia, Chaba Hrotko and Tom McGowan).
Who can battle Dracula? How about Bruce Glover? Yes, Crispin’s dad.
Horak did stunts on Viva Knievel!, Throw Mama from the Train and more than twenty other films. I have no idea what made him write, produce and direct a comedy Dracula movie that is beyond brutally unfunny. I mean, I have no limit when it comes to evil — I mean bad movies — and this one really pushed me even worse than any other film has.
Which means I loved the experience and I’d totally force you to watch it while screaming about why they made the choices they did.
Night of the Living Dead shocked audiences with scenes of ghouls devouring human bodies — actually fried chicken — but I can’t even imagine what would have happened if those audiences sat through Andreas Schnaas’ Zombie 90: Extreme Pestilence.
A military transport carrying untested lethal chemicals crashes into the forest, leading to a dead patient returning from the dead in an operation room. Before long, decimated human beings are turning up and the Extreme Pestilence pandemic has broken out. That’s a nice way of saying zombies and we all know that the only way to kill them is to take out the brain.
The English dub was done as a joke and honestly, it makes the movie. It’s also deeply offensive, but so is this movie, in which no people in wheelchairs, breasts, babies or penises are safe.
It’s not the best zombie movie ever — or even the best gore movie, as it promises — but for those that find its wavelength, it’s pretty entertaining. I mean, it cost $2,000 or less to make, so they definitely got their money’s worth of H.G. Lewis’ looking blood.
Olaf Ittenbach did everything on this and stars as Thommy, whose family moves into a new house, upon which he discovers a cursed mirror and diary. Man, this is why I was glad my family never moved, because I was barely able to deal with the revelation that the family that lived in our house before kept one of their kids locked in one of the rooms upstairs so that no one would discover that they had had a mentally challenged child.
So anyways, this mirror and diary turn young master Thommy into a crazed killer and then, unrelated but we can assume that the wheels of fate and karma and movies have connected column A with column B, we soon watch his girlfriend Petra die in a car accident and then rise from the dead.
If you dug Olaf’s The Burning Moonthen you’re going to love this. Spoiler warning: a cock gets nailed to a board and sprays a lot of blood. The more tender of the menfolk out there may want to skip that.
All this movie has going for it is a great title, box art and idea. A creepy Santa doll is possessed, has an Irish accent and kills a whole bunch of people in the summer. All of the editing is done in-camera, the quality is the level of a birthday party shot by a drunken relative, everyone is probably drunk (I hope they are) and there’s a lot of blood. The effects are abysmal, given away by everyone ripping open their own blood packets, and the Santa attacks are kind of like Bruno Mattei throwing Rats onto Geretta Geretta.
It’s not good — it’s vehemently not good — but man, with that title, I had to enter the breach for you, my dearest readers. Consider it my holiday gift to you. Because I don’t feel like Christmas means anything anymore. I hate getting dark and dismal, but one look outside our doors will show you that this time when we’re all supposed to come together to celebrate good will toward men surely isn’t happening, so if I can bring some light into your life with a bunch of moronic kids abusing one another with a Santa figurine, then so be it. Ho, ho, ho.
In the tradition of Curse of the Blue Lights, Manchurian Avenger, Mind Killer, Night Vision, and The Spirits of Jupiter, here’s another, early ’80s homegrown effort from the wilds of Denver, Colorado. Sure, there are other, obscure Mile Highers to review, such as Savage Water (1979), Lansky’s Road (1985), and Back Street Jane (1989), but good luck locating vintage VHS copies of those Rocky Mountain low budgeters, and there are no — unlike The Jar — freebie or with-ads online streams of those home growners to share.
Yeah, there’s nothing like a reputation among horror fans as “being the worst film ever made” to have a film transition — not by a reissues imprint (Arrow, Severin, Kino), mind you, but by the film’s fans — out of the analog snow drifts of the brick and mortar old to the digital streams of today. And when those same fans shout for a DVD/Blu restore . . . well, there must be something in those frames, right?
Outside of a brief, local theatrical release on April 16, 1984, The Jar is purely a direct-to-video effort (a genre lumped-in with shot-on-video films intended for direct-to-video release) that received its first, widespread distribution in 1987 via the Magnum Entertainment imprint. As result, we have a film that passes the James Whitcomb Riley SOV-duck test — and lands as a buckshot-filled mallard on our SOV stacks.
Well, eh, maybe.
While the proceedings aren’t exactly blowing off the lid off any canisters, The Jar is not that bad.
It’s hard to believe this lone effort by screenwriter George Bradley and director Bruce Toscano — an effort clearly influenced by Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case (1982), with a soupçon of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981), and a dash of Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm (1979) — was shot in Techniscope Anamorphic at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio (if we are to believe the IMDb). Sure, video tapes uploaded to video sharing sites suffer from repetitive, brick and mortar wear n’ tear renting and, regardless of what format a film is shot in, you’ll experience a VHS-wash out, but shot in 35mm? This film? The fuzzy, color-hazing duck a l’orange aromas of the S-VHS and U-Matic recording format of broadcast-news ENG cameras and 3/4-inch U-Matic videotape using Ikegami cameras, permeates the nostrils.
Regardless of the film’s rumored $200,000 price tag — keeping in mind the “Midnight Movie” and VHS rental classics of The Evil Dead shot for $375,000, Phantasm for $300,000, and Basket Case for $35,000 — The Jar comes across as a much cheaper production. In fact, while The Jar more closely resembles a Don Dohler 16mm-to-35mm backyard effort (his debut, The Alien Factor, shot for $3,500; his sophmore effort, Fiend, shot for $6,000), Bruce Toscano’s efforts — however valiant — are void of the against-the-budget Dohler charms we’ve come to adore. The Jar is a perpetually grainy and dark film where the framing is non-existent and the dubbing out-of-sync. It simply does not look like — regardless of its impressive-against-the-budget “Vietnam flashback,” complete with a helicopter; a rental which probably chewed up much of the budget — a $200,000 movie.
The Jar is a film with no middle critical ground: Those who love it, love it. And the haters are as cunning as they are cruel. There is, however, a sliver of middle ground when it comes to the film’s score: everyone agrees the ambient, Goblinesque keyboards by a one-and-done artist, Obscure Sighs (actually director Bruce Toscano and cinematographer Cameron MacLeod), is better than the film deserves. It’s those cherish, Italian-giallo Goblin memories that lend the few to name drop Dario Argento. True, Argento may drift into bizarre, disjointed narratives with out-of-nowhere twists in his works, but a soundtrack alone does not an Argento film, make. What everyone on both sides of the critical fence agree on: all of the respective film disciplines — in front and behind the cameras — took one hell of swing for fences, but instead, struck out.
This critic concurs.
The soundtrack is engaging. The film — in its technical aspects of cinematography, lighting, editing, and sound — is not. There is, however, something to appreciate in writer George Bradley’s insightful and inventive, religious-inspired chronicle. This reviewer sees an influence from The Holy Bible’s synoptic gospels narrative of the Temptation of Christ: the film’s lead character of Paul, our faux-Jesus, is sent off into “the wilderness” to be tempted by the jar’s inhabitant, our faux Satan.
“What the hell, R.D? Are you nuts? Did you watch the same film we did?” Bill Van Ryn bewilderingly drags his cigar. “First, it’s Ingmar Bergman, Brigadoon, Inca death masks and incestuous ghosts with The House That Vanished. Now you’re turning a best-forgotten, SOV piece of junk into a Jesus parable? Sam,” Bill chair swivels. “What the fuck is it with this guy? And tell him to stop featuring me in his rambling, half-assed reviews.”
“I know, Bill. I know. I’ll talk to him. Just leave him be for the moment. He’s quiet and happy in his corner. Besides, we have a Groovy Doom double feature to plan,” dismisses Sam the Bossman.
“Fuck those bastards,” R.D leans into and frantically fingers his laptop. “Here’s some Fellini and Ambrose Bierce references to frost your ass.”
When the final frame of the film’s end credits rolled, a single world appeared: Carrion, which was the film’s shooting title. From the Latin, caro, meaning “meat,” it refers to dead, rotting flesh — animal and human. Another of the film’s alternates titles — if we believe the IMDb — is Charon, the ferryman of Hades who carries souls of the newly dead across the river Styx.
You’ll recall that the powers at New Line Cinema retitled Sam Raimi’s Book of the Dead as The Evil Dead, due to reasoning that “you don’t want movie goers thinking they’ll have to read when seeing a movie.” If one takes a viewing of the script for The Jar — originally released in 1984 as Carrion — in that context, it seems screenwriter George Bradley brought a much more profound narrative, one that expands beyond our assumed, previously mentioned, VHS-horror rental inspirations.
In addition to a definite, Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits (1965) inspiration, there’s also an Ambrose Bierce An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (1890) vibe in Bradley’s pages. It is that Bierce connection — as result of our protagonist’s war flashbacks — that led some fans to opine The Jar reminds of the later-released Jacob’s Ladder (1990). That exquisite, Bruce Joel Rubin work is, itself, an afterlife amalgamation of the Genesis parable of Jacob’s Ladder, Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, tales from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and Bierce’s short story.
Yes, I’ll debate you on this fact: That level of intelligence, as well as impressionistic ambiguity, is in the frames of The Jar.
Is the jar’s occupant, in fact, Charon itself? Is it a coincidence that many a Greek lekythos, that is, a vessel or canister, used to carry anointing oils for funerary rites, are decorated with artistic Charons and found in tombs? Is the jar of our film, in fact, a lekythos meant to anoint the dead? Is Paul, our protagonist, already dead, going through a series of tribulations on his trip through purgatory before reaching Heaven?
The visual craftsmanship of that intelligence, however, as we’ll come to discover, is not in the frames. The Jar is case of — well, a jar of — a film where noble ambitions, it seems, exceeded the skill sets involved. However, director Bruce Bradley and his cinematographer, Cameron MacLoed, are not two morons running around with a camera making a movie. The Jar certainly has its WTF moments of Euro-cinema ambiguity — which is my personal, celluloid jam — pitter-pattering afoot.
The most enjoyable aspect of reviewing lost tapes from the VHS fringes in our now, digital age is that the actors involved with the film are able to offer their experiences on social media, in this case, the IMDb: Gary Wallace, who portrayed the lead, Paul, confirmed the “amateur” aspects of the film.
Wallace tells us the film was shot for $200,000, in two stretches of two weeks: the first was shot in the fall, while the second shot in the spring, with pickup shots in the summer. No only were rehearsals non-existent during the shoot: all of the dialog was dubbed. The cast would shoot from 5 to 6 am until dark. Then return to the studio and dub until 1 to 2 am that morning. The process then repeated the next day, etc. Wallace also tells us that director Bruce Toscano — a photographer by trade — decided he “didn’t want the 60 Hz” signal so he could sync the recorded voices to the film. Toscano and his assistant [sound recording Ronnie Cramer, we assume] ended up cutting little pieces of tape and splicing them together to at least try to make the sound match the movie.
“I think he [Bruce Toscano] and the script writer [George Bradley] had a vision of what they wanted the movie to be,” recalls actor Gary Wallace. “If I remember correctly, they were trying to portray various incidents of inhumanity and how [that] inhumanity could pass from one person to the next.”
That’s what the Jar — or at least the occupant of the Jar, is: a mystical, otherworldly canister/creature that tests the humanity of its possessor and, it seems, in order to save their own “humanity,” they have to pass the canister and its (forget the VHS cover) blue, demonic occupant (that looks a Ghoulies (1985) outcast) to another person. Or the Jar, after if finishes draining a soul, and prior to its host’s death, inspires its passing to another soul.
Now, here’s were the dark photography and poor framing we previously spoke of, comes in: but since we are low-budget cheating, here, it makes — from a creative standpoint — sense. Just not from a narrative one. Did Paul hit another car? Did a car hit him? Did he hit the old man? Did he just run off into a ditch and find the old man? Was the old man hitchhiking or just laying on the roadside? Did the Occupant of the Jar set a trap and make Paul drive off the road to find the old man, so the Jar could be passed on? (I personally think it’s the latter. It’s also obvious: The “accident” was shot — as with the nighttime car scenes for The Evil Dead, as well as Reggie’s ice cream truck wreck in Phantasm — on a darkened soundstage, well, an ad-hoc’d warehouse.)
Anyway, after an “automotive accident,” Paul picks up a crazed, old “hitchhiker” (as some critics have stated) obsessed with a jar he carries in a crumpled paper bag. After taking the man to his apartment — instead of the hospital (so goes the Jar’s power to do its will, IMO) — the man disappears (goes to Heaven or some afterlife, IMO): but leaves behind the Jar. Paul opens the Jar. And no matter how many times Paul gets rid of the Jar, it — with its fetus-like occupant (that never actually comes out of the jar to crawl around) — returns.
So starts off the film’s Coscarelliesque surrealism meets David Lynch symbolism (think Eraserhead) — only with none of either filmmaker’s level of non-linear style or viewer engagement. Paul’s disjointed hallucinations and/or dreams where reality meshes with illusion take him from watching his own birth in a blood-filled bathtub (my interpretation of who the teen in the bathtub, is), seeing himself crucified (as he looks down, deep inside a back alley dumpster), a black & white flashback when he interacts with his younger self (again, my interpretation), and a creepy little, Stephen King-type girl walking with a balloon in a park (Is it his dead daughter or little sister? I’m lost . . .), as well as a group of cloaked monks out in the rocky desert (carrying the cross to Paul’s crucifixion).
So — at the risk of plot spoiling — does Paul kill his pretty, romantically-inclined neighbor when she appears to him . . . as the old man who cursed him with the Jar? Does Paul eventually pass off the Jar to his boss to rid himself of the evil? Should we directly pass “Go” on the celluloid Monopoly board and go straight to the Aylmer in Frank Henenlotter’s Brain Damage (1988) to suck our brains dry? Have we gazed deeper, down inside The Jar than it probably deserved to be? Is it really better than most critics have opined?
We know you’ll open The Jar because, you, like us, enjoy out-trashing the last trashy mess we just watched. Take comfort in knowing there’s at least a contingent that enjoy The Jar (including moi). The same can’t be said for the abysmal remake of Jacob’s Ladder. Yes, there was a remake released in 2019: everyone hated it. (Ditto for the 2019 remake swipe at David Cronenberg’s Rabid. Just why? Why? Oh, why!)
You can watch The Jar on You Tube (the Magnum version) and You Tube (the Antoniana version). The soundtrack also has its fans, as you’ll listen from the You Tube clips HERE, HERE and HERE. The second two are fan remixes that make it sound more Tangerine Dream than Goblin, however. But that’s not a bad thing.
Perhaps those remixes could be used in a remake? The story for a great film, is there.