SLASHER MONTH: Lunchmeat (1987)

Lunchmeat is not pretty — although it does have Kim McKamy, the actress who would one day become Ashlyn Gere, in the cast — and it looks like it was filmed by the same gigantic home camcorder that your dad once used to tape your prom.

Directed, written and produced by one and done auteur Kirk Alex, who drove cabs for years to raise money for this movie, which tells the story of Paw and his three kids: Elwood, Harley and Benny, the gigantic man on the cover of the VHS release.

The kids that are fated to die first have to eat human meat within the burgers of Wilbur’s Bar and Grill and then they’re off to be part of a USDA Grade — trust me, that’s the lowest grade that can be legally sold to humans — remix of Texas Chainsaw Massacre that isn’t as good as even Blood Salvage. If you’re gong to remake something already made, make it weirder. Make it different. Do something.

For everyone proclaiming this murderdrone, all the killing happens off screen and at no point did I use this movie to find a higher plateau of reasoning. I sure tried, however! Maybe I have such a disdain for movies that instill a distrust of the Southern accent, particularly when this movie takes place in California.

SLASHER MONTH: Sledgehammer (1983)

You know, David A. Prior has beaten me so many times, I wonder why I even come back. I just know I’m going to get hurt again and just look at the art for this movie, the worst video box I’ve ever seen, a cover so poor that it’s stopped me from watching this numerous times.

Yet here I am.

So ten years or so ago, this little kid got locked in the closet while his mom and her lover planned to run away but then someone came in and sledgehammered them both, which seems to be a very crossfit way to kill someone.

So yeah, a seance by a bunch of horny kids brings the little boy back in the form of an enormous man with a clear mask that can somehow only be defeated by its own sledgehammer, which feels incredibly stupid.

But you know, at some point, all the bad acting and thirtysomething teenagers and food fights give way to mind-numbing murders and that’s what I’m here for, the catharsis that for some reason comes from movies shot in the woods outside a suburban development or, in this movie’s example, the director’s apartment. Everybody came to have fun and make something bloody and they ended up getting this onto the shelves of video stores across the country and that makes me happier than I can explain to you.

Man, if you love slow motion, let me tell you, they made this movie for you.

Wicked World (1991)

I had the revelation that Things was only the torture test for this film, the gateway drug, the get past this excess to enter the doors of perception because Wicked World takes all the bonkers intensity of that film and somehow compounds it.

Grant Ekland (director Barry J. Gillis) is a cop who is haunted by the death of his girlfriend at the hands of a psychotic slasher named Harold (Eddie Platt). But now the system is letting Harold free — as he obsesses about how he hates his nurse, sliding boards, helicopters and life — and Ekland has the chance to end his life.

This is all cut around moments where Harold kills people and asks them if they want to live, including one girl who deadpans, “I’d like to become a famous actress! You can’t kill me! I’m too young to die! A model! An actress!”

Also: Gillis loves the female behind, I can tell you that much.

This is the kind of movie that’s inspired by a Black Sabbath song, that has a message at the beginning about boxer Arturo “Thunder” Gatti being drugged and murdered in Brazil. I have no idea what that has to do with anything that we see next, but when it comes to Gillis, I have learned to not ask.

Honestly, I’ve stared down some of the most aberrant movies the world has to offer and this one gave me reason to doubt my sanity. It’s the kind of thing I hunt for, a movie that ends with a long rant about how we need microchips to control our impulses if we want to survive, as well as a great soundtrack by Marshall Law and some of the most jarring editing I’ve ever seen.

Toronto used to seem so polite. I didn’t realize it had this movie in its orbit.

SLASHER MONTH: Death Nurse 2 (1988)

Will Death Nurse reuse most of the first film and push me into a Shot on Video K hole in which I shake and shiver and scream for release? Yes, of course. It has to be this way.

You know when they used to set up movies serials and then bait and switch the ending so that all the ways you spent the last week debating how the hero would survive — yes, I know none of you were around in the 30s and 40s for this — and then they’d just screw around and do whatever?

This movie does that because all the tension of the detective at the door is defused when Nurse Edith Mortley just stabs him, feeds him to the rats and feeds the rats — endless repetition — to the patients.

“In the circle of life
It’s the wheel of fortune
It’s the leap of faith
It’s the band of hope
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding”

At least in this film we learn that Gordon is only a veterinarian — which explains the dog heart to human transplant in the original movie — and Edith never finished nursing school.

Edith kills everyone in this, getting away with everything, until the bodies start to stink, so she covers them with lime and the rats run into the streets and the movie ends the same way the last one did, with her slumped on the couch, waiting for the cops.

This movie takes footage from the last film, Criminally Insane and Satan’s Black Wedding to extend its nearly sixty minutes of screen time and still feels too long by five hours.

SLASHER MONTH: Death Nurse (1987)

The health care crisis and the rising silver wave of seniors in the need of extended ambulatory care are major worries that our society will be dealing with for decades. What does not worry or deal in this would be Nick Millard’s 1987 Shot On Video scummiest Death Nurse, which gives us the Shady Palms Clinic, which is run by the brother and sister team of Doctor Gordon Mortley and Nurse Edith.

Their John Waters-style plan is to take in physically and mentally ill patients that no one wants, do surgical experiments and then keep billing for their care. The only patient that has survived their madness is Louise Kagel, who is always drunk and regularly services the ungood doctor sexually.

There are so many problems in the way they do business. Why would they believe that a dog’s heart would work inside a man’s? Why would they have a cat running around that would steal that heart? And then, they throw the body to the rats, which means more and more rats arrive, as if this is one of those we replaced this predator with this predator and now we need a new predator situations and when the law sends an EPA man down to check, they stab him because no one keeps track of government agents, right?

Everyone has to pay, whether they eat rats, get injected with poison or just get stabbed. The bodies pile up, the cops find the bodies and we end with Edith just sitting on the couch, knowing the end is coming soon.

I kind of love that this movie has 35 minutes from Criminally Insane in it, so that when I watch Death Nurse 2, I know that I will think I’m, well, insane and that I’m rewatching the same movie. Because I will be, if you think about it.

This is a movie made for…someone. I don’t know who. But I’m very afraid of them.

Slasher Month: 7 Sins of the Vampire (2013)

(I know: This is technically a “vampire” flick, but this chick removes hearts and penises after sucking ’em dry. That’s “slashy” enough for me!)

Here’s the rub with 7 Sins of the Vampire: You’re watching and wondering why it looks the way that it does: like an ’80-era VHS SOV release — considering this came out in 2013, the era of digital cameras and software editing suites. Well, that’s because 7 Sins of the Vampire — shot and private-press released as Blood Seduction (year unknown) — was completed in 2002; its production began in the late-90s, not long after the completion and release of Snuff Kill in 1997. Personally, when considering how much Doug Ulrich and Al Darago improved as filmmakers across their three films, and the positive reception given to their best-known and distributed film, Snuff Kill, I’m shocked that it took a decade for the film — shot in Dundalk, Maryland — to make its first baby steps into national distribution platforms.

Another alternate title for the film — which sometimes appears as a tagline on alternate DVD pressings — is Invasion of the Vampire Hookers. Now, is team Ulrich-Darago going for an Al Adamson-patch job-starring-John Carradine vibe — without (thankfully) any John Carradine footage dropped in from another film? Probably, because these guys are one of us and have probably VHS O.D’d on way too many Al Adamson flicks with superfluous, edited-in-from-another-picture John Carradine (in lieu of superfluous John Rhys-Davies and Eric Roberts). Ugh. You’re making me remember Cirio H. Santiago’s inept Vampire Hookers and Nai Bonet’s inert vanity-fanger Nocturna: Granddaughter of Dracula — both with John Carradine. Oy. I don’t know if that’s a good thing . . . or a bad thing.

I hope you’ve read my reviews for Doug and Al’s previous three films (Scary Tales, Darkest Soul, and Snuff Kill) and previous SOV film reviews and analysis of the genre (click the “’80s SOV” tag at the end of this review to populate the site’s SOV reviews). You know how I feel about SOV films — and the respect I have for Doug Ulrich and Al Darago, who grew up as longtime, Patterson High School friends. Sure, 7 Sins of the Vampire is technically rough — and what SOV, whomever makes it, isn’t — and there’s artistic-disciplinary miscues, especially in the acting department. But team Ulrich-Darago’s storytelling matured in this ’70s drive-in styled, supernatural detective tale — that reminds of the law enforcement horrors of Christopher Lewis’s Blood Cult (1985) — concerned with two detectives who come to discover the recent rash of murders plaguing their city are being committed by a vampire pimp and his bevy of vampire hookers. And our vamp-pimp is a chauvinist and there can only be one: he can bite and turn any woman he wants, but the girls, after feeding, need to de-heart the Johns so they don’t turn. Oh, and remove their penis.

Groper and Butkus (our filmmakers Al Darago and Doug Ulrich) are rival cops, one always trying to outdo the other, always butting heads on cases. So, when they both end up at a crime scene with a man hanging by his neck and his guts slit open, Grouper calls it a murder: Butkus, a suicide. But that’s their relationship: opposites attract. Meanwhile, Groper’s grizzled “Dirty Harry” gets assigned a Slimski: a baby-faced rookie for a partner — whose teenage sister is the latest vampimp (a new word!) victim. It all comes to a head — pardon the pun — at the pimp and hooker’s abandon warehouse lair. It’s all very Carl Kolchak: The Night Stalker on a shoestring and couch change — and I like it. And it’s all wrapped up in just over an hour, making it the shortest film of Al and Doug’s quartet of films (Snuff Kill was the longest, at 80 minutes).

Is this gory? Of course. How gory? Well, when a John picks up one of our fair-fanged hookers, she doesn’t just fang ’em: she rips out his throat. And don’t forget the heart removals. Oh, and the penis-ripping. Oh, and this SOV ups its game with the casting of professional Baltimore-based actors — a first in the Ulrich-Darago’s canons — George Stover (100-plus credits; including John Waters films and Don Dohler’s The Alien Factor and The Galaxy Invader) and Vincent DePaul (140-plus TV and film credits).

So, yeah. Heart and penis removals . . . with subsequent licking, sucking, and munching. Lovely.

The DVD, a well-pressed and easy-to-purchase release via Amazon Prime and other online retailers, features a “Making Of” featurette, along with actor screen tests and make-up effects tests. Also featured is the 15-minute, black-and-white thriller-short The Devilish Desire of Dario Dragani (2012; thus why the DVD was issued in 2013). Shot by Mark Mackner in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for $100, it’s a modernized re-telling of the silent German short, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). (But I’d have to film-drop the really cool Michael Caine black comedy, A Shock to the System (1990), with his put-upon executive resorting to murder to move up the corporate ladder.)

Here, Dario Dragani’s desires take a supernatural turn: he uses an office underling, Cecil, as a somnambulist to murder those who stand in his way to promotions — and winning the heart of Jane, the office heartbreaker. It’s very retro-homagey and very nicely done. You can watch a rip on Vimeo. Mackner — who has made four features films since 2008 — is completing his forth feature: Daisy Derkins and the Dinosaur Apocalypse. Now how can you pass up a film with a title like that?

The embedded clip below — courtesy of DarkFallFx — features the trailer and a couple post-production clips and camera test vignettes. When you go to that You Tube portal, you can also watch the short film The Prophet of Oz (2013), Doug Ulrich’s Christian-based inversion of The Wizard of Oz.

I’ve had a lot of fun revisiting and reviewing the Doug Ulrich and Al Darago canons this fine, and viewing-appropriate, October. I dig these dudes and so will you. Stream ’em.

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

SLASHER MONTH: Hollow Gate (1988)

At a Halloween party ten years ago, a young boy named Mark Walters was almost killed by his drunken, alcoholic father who tried to drown him in the apple bobbing water. Now, the boy has grown up and is ready to begin a murder spree.

Mark is off his pills, he’s killed the grandmother who raised him and he’s having a party at Hollow Gate that will draw in plenty of victims. He’s not to be screwed with or made to watch you screw. A young couple that makes fun of him by making out in a car while he watches are surprised when he sets a fuse and blows them up real good. And if you turn him down to go see the movies, he’s going to strangle you.

Maybe don’t even go around Mark.

He also takes a page out of Terror Train and Bloody Mania by switching costumes with every kill. Mark takes that even further by having whole characters — an English foxhunter, a soldier, a doctor and a rancher — that he plays while he puts teenagers in the ground.

There are also two golden retriever that know how to kill and are just so happy about it.

Hollow Gate isn’t great, but the more bad slashers come out this century, the better it gets.

2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 23: Darkest Soul (1994)

DAY 23 — DEPT. OF INDUSTRY & LABOR: A story based on doing a job. Speaking of jobs, your psycho-gig ain’t finished yet, there’s still 8 days to go!

How obscure and hard-to-find is this second SOV entry on the joint resume of Doug Ulrich and Al Darago: this is the only image of the original VHS we could find — our thanks to the Letterboxd user who uploaded and preserved it.

Yes. The uploaded image we found is cut n’ cropped as seen — and we are grateful to have it.

Sigh . . the memories are flooding back . . . hitting the ol’ mom-and-pop video store (one of many that I member-haunted) sandwiched between a quickie market and Punjabi eatery with a gym on the corner bay next door to an insurance agency; a dinky-cheesy outlet stocked (an SOV honeyhole!) with way too many titles under the Shock-O-Rama banner, as the owner was stocking the shelves more for himself — god bless him — than his clientele, obviously. That store also carried Doug Ulrich and Al Darago’s first SOV entry, Scary Tales (1993), Snuff Kill (1997), and this, their second effort, Darkest Souls.

If you haven’t guessed from the cover: we’re dealing with grave robbing. Tommy and Mark are your typical slacker-losers who want the riches without the work. So they’re fired from gigs and job-hoping a lot, to finally bottom-out — literally — as grave diggers. As they come to realize they’re digging holes for rich people dripping in jewels, they resort to grave robbing. And like the tagline says: they find their “treasure.”

So, if I had to rate them: Snuff Kill is the best of the trio; as I said in my review of that film: it has the best acting and the film’s lead, Mark Williams, is effective. Then Scary Tales. Then Darkest Soul, which isn’t as O.T.T as Snuff Kill — and what film is — but it’s a well-written film that’s only undone by the script playing against-a-budget and has a nice Coscarelli-Morningside vibe. Then, again: I’m a guy who does tombstone rubbings and road tripped graveyards in my carefree days, so I dig stories about grave diggers. I enjoy the progression of the Doug Ulrich and Al Darago trilogy, as you watch them grow as filmmakers. Thus, Snuff Kill became their tour de force as result of all the things they learned from Scary Tales and Darkest Soul: Snuff Kill has the gooey gore of Scary Tales and the fleshed out story of Darkest Soul.

I have to admit that I lost touch with my inner SOV as I aged-out of the ’90s and home video outlets became gift shops and insurance offices — and even 501c3 bible-bangin’ outlets. Thus, I wasn’t aware that Doug and Al made a comeback of sorts with 7 Sins of the Vampire (2013), a film I discovered as I gathered my thoughts for my last October review of Snuff Kill.

The AGFA – American Genre Film Archive has released Darkest Soul on Blu-ray in 2020 as part of their Blu-ray release of Scary Tales. I’m a purest: I’ll always go for the VHS before a DVD or Blu. But it’s near impossible to find VHS copies — outside of grey or retro-repacks — of the original tapes. I still have Snuff Kill, lost Scary Tales to the blue screen of death, and only rented-and-watched Darkest Soul a few times — and never came across an errant cut-out-bin copy. So, thanks to the AFGA, you can get, not only Darkest Soul, but also Scary Tales, on one convenient disc. And it’s great to go home again — even if it’s a digital cheat, so for that AFGA and Vinegar Syndrome, we bow before your pseudo-VCR altars in eternal thanks.

Now, how about a Doug Ulrich and Al Darago four-pack? And — reissue-shingle executives — can I write the liner notes? Hey, I always go the shameless groveling route.

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

SLASHER MONTH: The Resurrection of Michael Myers Part 2 (1989)

One night at Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, the nurses and doctors throw a party, but you just know that that dude with the darkest eyes, the devil’s eyes, is going to show up, right?

But what if Jason Vorhees showed up?

And what if Leatherface came over?

Then a zombie looking for a copy of the original film in this series?

Sure.

It’s wild, because these guys seem absolutely unhinged compared to the ways they’ve killed before. Leatherface saws off a woman’s leg and beats her to death with it. Jason pours acid in a guy’s face. And then Michael does everything from scissor stabbing to shoving a broken bottle in a woman’s face. He saves his best or grossest or most creative kill when his BM gets ruined when a victim wonders in, so The Shape drowns the guy in the brownest of water.

Then everyone raps.

There’s no way this movie isn’t better than Halloween Kills.

You can watch this on YouTube.

SLASHER MONTH: The Resurrection of Michael Myers (1987)

Look at that featured image and bask in the blobby look of a fifth-generation video and know that the people who made this — Mike Beck (who was also the chief editor of the Swedish edition of Hustler and had suspected Olof Palme-killer Christer Petterson pose naked in an issue), Richard Holm (who directs TV today) and Henrik Wadling — had a great time.

As an audience watches Halloween, a killer awakens in an office building and begins killing everyone in his path before one of the victims comes back from the dead, Freddy shows up, a karate fight gets started and everyone decides to just give up and dance to “I’m Your Boogeyman” years before Rob Zombie started playing that song.

Depending on your love of SOV movies, you’re either going to be absolutely in love with this or see it as amateur hour junk. Not only is there a sequel, but the VHS tapes of this movie appear in that movie, which is the kind of meta that Scream would like you to believe that it invented.

You can watch this on YouTube.