Editor’s Note: This interview with Dutch filmmaker Wim Vink by Hans Minkes originally appeared in the pages of the Netherlands-published Schokkend Nieuws (Shocking News) Film Magazine, dedicated to horror, science fiction, fantasy and cult cinema. It was first published on July 9, 2013, and digitally-republished in its homeland on September 9, 2013, and updated on July 22, 2018.
Hans Minkes, the writer of this interview for Schokkend Nieuws, also publishes his film insights for the Dutch-language cinema blog Bloedlink FilmBlog— a blog dedicated “about the real necessities in life . . . Genre, Horror, and Cult Movies!”
As you read this interview, you’ll discover Wim Vink has a rabid, international fan base and is revered in the United States by horror aficionados. While the press is bountiful in the Netherlands, there’s no English-language press on Vink’s works—let alone an interview—with the writer-director.
Our thanks to Schokkend Nieuws and Hans Minkes for allowing this English-translated version of this article to appear on B&S About Movies.We also extend our special thanks to You Tube user altohippiegabber for their efforts in preserving the career of Wim Vink and making us aware of this rare interview, which we’ve translated for U.S. and other English-speaking fans. As Alto opined: Wim Vink is undoubtedly the godfather of the Dutch horror film, “the uncrowned horror king of Tiel.”
Amen to that.
Wim Vink: Groundbreaker from Tiel
09-09-2013 | Last updated: 22-07-2018 | 07-09-2013 By Hans Minkes
In ZOMBIE 1, Richard Raaphorst’s short film from 1995, Wim Vink rises from the grave after a drunk has pissed on his tombstone. This time, reaching retirement age is enough to bring about his return. Wim Vink, after a long career as a professional photographer, hangs up his camera. But his film camera hangs on another twig. . . .
The founder of Dutch low-budget horror—he has directed the short films ZOMBIE HORROR (1981), DANCE MACABRE (1986) and the feature film HEAVEN IS ONLY IN HELL (1994)—is reviled by many. He is accused of a lack of talent or is called a sell-out for the ostentatious use of surreptitious advertising in his films. Yet there is no escaping it: Wim Vink was the first to shoot horror films on pro-super-8 and 16mm with friends and acquaintances. And that from the wet river clay of Tiel.
What I admire in this man is that he has managed to make horror films with his own hands for years and that he enthusiastically tried to sell them to everyone. Pouring blood bag after blood bag on your actresses, while no one around you is waiting for this and investing so much money in your dream with a reasonable chance of never seeing it again, that’s guts! To me he is the Godfather of Dutch Horror.
ZOMBIEHORROR was your first short horror film in 1981. Why did you choose horror?
“I was crazy about horror. I had already filmed everything; documentaries, nature films, corporate films, but no feature film yet and you should have tried everything. The equipment was there and within two days I had gathered friends around me who wanted to go on the adventure with me. I was a big fan of Fulci, Argento and Romero’s work, so a horror film was a natural choice.”
How did you manage to finance the films?
“I paid for everything out of my own pocket for ZOMBIEHORROR. I had a budget of 10,000 guilders (!) [dollars]. Later I started using surreptitious advertising. I often had to hear criticism about that, but it was effective and shooting a film costs a lot of money.”
It sometimes comes across as if you were fighting the windmills of Tiel like a Don Quixote in clogs. Did you encounter a lot of resistance? To what extent are you responsible for the end result?
“The problem is I’m stubborn. I want to keep everything in my own hands and that takes a lot of time. I wrote the scripts, filmed everything myself and also did the editing. It was always really a Wim Vink Production. You really shouldn’t arrive in the Netherlands with Dario Argento at the time, then you would have been ripped off. I’ve argued hundreds of times with people who don’t understand horror, but I don’t anymore. Everything is allowed in movies. It is and remains film. End of discussion.
“The headmaster of a school in Zoelen, a village next to Tiel, has been unimaginable at me with letters sent to the local newspapers. I was put down. Fortunately, there were also supporters, such as the then mayor of Tiel. The misunderstanding has even once almost led to a real lynching. I had planned a funeral scene next to the cemetery in a small village outside Tiel on a Sunday morning. We were busy when suddenly a procession with villagers and accompanying coffin entered the cemetery. To say the least, people were not pleased with the film crew present. We were almost molested there. Fortunately, one of the actors was a police officer. He called for reinforcements quickly, otherwise things could have gone wrong.”
In the pre-internet era, advertising a movie was a bit more challenging than it is today. No YouTube or crowdfunding, but with a film look and your soul under your arm, you can visit potentially interested parties. How did you handle that?
“In the Netherlands I distributed large numbers of video tapes with my own hands, but it was mainly abroad where I had the most success.”
In a videotape I bought from you, I found a personal message from the American distributor Mondo Video. They asked if you could provide NTSC versions of your movies. What have you managed to achieve internationally?
“I immediately saw the great potential of the foreign market and therefore decided to make my films in English. I have spent many guilders [dollars] advertising in fanzines worldwide. For example, I had advertisements in Fangoria, which I paid five hundred dollars for at the time, and then you only had a postage stamp size in advertising space. The advertising campaign certainly paid off. I distributed my films single-handedly in the United States, Russia you name it! I also had a long-term contract with the French television channel Antenne 2, which often showed my films in the late evening programme. I have won 187 awards worldwide, so in addition to scorn and ridicule, I have certainly received respect and appreciation. [There was never a deal with Mondo Video due to financial disputes].”
Despite the relative success overseas, you were systematically rejected at film festivals in the Netherlands. Seems quite frustrating to me.
“I submitted my films several times for festivals, but I never made it through the pre-selection. ‘We don’t allow those kinds of films,’ was often the reaction I got. I thought, look at it, I am organizing a festival myself; the Benelux Horror & Science-Fiction Narrow Film Festival in Tiel. It had four editions in the eighties and was very infamous! I had about 1,200 visitors in one day, so there were definitely people waiting for genre films.”
Strangely enough, you can’t be found in the compilation video THE NETHER HORROR COLLECTION from 1995. Your name does appear in ZOMBIE 1 by Richard Raaphorst. The grave of Wim Vink that is pissed on by a drunkard, on which ‘Wim Vink-the Zombie’ comes to life; do you consider it an ode or a snarl?
“Oh, delicious! I think it’s a good joke. Any form of publicity is advertising and it was entertaining too. Richard Raaphorst contacted me to ask if I would mind. The film was already finished by then, but I said: ‘Go ahead!’ I’m actually flattered.”
I recently came across a DVD of your movie HALF PAST MIDNIGHT on a site. Doesn’t seem like pure coffee to me?
“I’ve come across that DVD too, but it’s as illegal as it can be! I have not given permission for that. I’ve been working on the release of a DVD box set containing all six horror movies I’ve made for some time now. With making offs, trailers, soundtracks, stills, mini posters, and two short horror/science fiction animation films. And then there is also a bonus. What that will be. . . . There were some contractual obligations that made it take so long.”
Now that you’re retired, you naturally have plenty of time. Can we expect some more news from you?
“It’s always itchy! I have stories on the shelf for ten films. But making those films takes a lot of time and energy and I’m not twenty-five anymore.”
* Be sure to read the retrospective review by R.D Francis at B&S About Movies of Wim Vink’s Half Past Midnight and Heaven is Only in Hell, along with Pandora and Dance Macabre.
Our many thanks to Julius Koetsier, the Editor-in-Chief at Schokkend Nieuws, for working with B&S About Movies to honor the work of Wim Vink in the U.S.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook.He also writes film reviews for B&S About Moviesand publishes music journalism pieces and short stories based on his screenplays, on Medium.
Editor’s Note: We’re also discussing the writer and director’s earlier works Pandora (1984) and Dance Macabre (1986) within this review.
Thanks to the digital realms, with horror fans willing to rip VHS tapes into DVD-rs for their retro-retail portals and video-sharing sites, the once-lost, extremely-hard-to-find resume of Wim Vink — which has all of the earmarks of the ’80s SOVs we adore at B&S About Movies (thus our joint “SOV” and upcoming “Video Nasties” tribute-review weeks) — is easier to discover.
Well, unless you live in the Netherlands, where these films were shot-on-film stocks and distributed exclusively on VHS tapes, independently, by Wim Vink.
Vink’s was an oeuvre you didn’t hear about during the height of the video ’80s in the U.S. You may have picked up on the films in some of the more, offbeat, pulpy underground mags n’ ragzines of the day; possibly you back-page ordered (Spine and Blood Cult) or back-page tape-traded a grey copy. However, we, the many, had their first exposures via the Internet, as horror aficionados began praising the work on blogs, genre message boards, and websites. Maybe, as I did with Pandora — my first exposure to and the only film of Vink’s I’ve seen pre-Internet — many years ago, you picked up a grey copy (along with the U.S. made but Japan-distributed Cards of Death) at your local comic book store.
Vink’s works are intelligent films rife in scene details, but with very little dialog. They’re films that wear a Romero and Argento influence on their bloody sleeves, only with more of an art house film vibe. Some say the films are “boring and repetitive” — and more so with the only full-length film in the Vink catalog, Heaven is Only in Hell. However, that is the whole point of a Vink joint: the devil, if you will, is in the details: the mundane details. For the mundane is, in fact, our reality. Sure, a “good” or “professional” filmmaker knows how to edit out those moments for “narrative flow,” etc. and so on. Well, you know what: when I want that in my film, I’ll load up an A24 or Blumhouse “shock-scare” set piece.
Me, I’m the guy who watched Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm at the local duplex in 1979 and was jaw-dropped. Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead dislocated my mandibles as a “Midnight Movie.” (And, along the muddy water banks of the Waal, bordering the south-central city of Tiel, it seems Vink lost his own, lower jawbone.) And I’ve rewatched the ‘Cos’s and ‘Ram’s debuts more than I’ve watched Star Wars — and I’ve watched them every Halloween, since. Look, I’m a Dennis Devine SOV-type of guy; the one who has watched Fatal Images and Dead Girls more than the average VHS purist. I can go on and on . . . and on — and I have during this “SOV Week” — about the films of Doug Ulrich and Al Darago (Snuff Kill). I adore the heart and inventiveness of each and every one of these filmmakers.
My only beef: Wim Vink is, unlike Coscarelli, Raimi, and Devine, an utter mystery — at least here, in the U.S. (Well, not so much, anymore, as we’ll discuss, later.) Even the Ulrich-Darago collective under the shadow of Vink, is easier to uncover in our Google world. Vink’s career is a series of fan-blogged and message board bits n’ pieces — and we’re doing our best to pull it all together, for a one-stop, Wim Vink shopping experience, right here, at B&S About Movies, in little ‘ol Pittsburgh, U.S.A. (along the muddy river waters of the Allegheny).
In fact, while many believe Vink’s resume of pro-super-8 and 16mm films consists of only four films — it’s actually a resume of eight films. The others — it seems, are forever elusive in the U.S. — are ZombieHorror (1981), Surrealism (1982), Porror (1988), and the Star Wars homage Luke Skywalker Meets the Horror of Darth Vader (1989).
Yes, Wim Vink’s career demands a box set — complete with a color booklet, commentary tracks, and other various vignettes. Make it happen, Severin. Yeah, we know about the music cues “borrowed,” and it’s a music copyright licensing nightmare. However, Wim Vink’s films must be digitally preserved: he is a Dutch filmmaker of historical importance and deserves to have his oeuvre contained in a luxurious box set. So make it happen, ahem, Arrow Films.
Alas . . . until then, and every now and then, we’ll just have to keep plugging “Wim Vink” into search engines and video hosting sites — with the hope that the remainder of Wim Vink’s resume surfaces, somewhere. . . . I want to set up a theater in Pittsburgh, fly in Vink, and have an all-day retrospective — complete with a question and answer event, then have fans line up to buy DVDs and posters for a signing session. Hell, we’ll invite Quentin Tarantino and Nicolas Winding Refn.
Calm down, R.D. Settle. . . .
The reality is: Wim Vink’s films are, in fact — regardless of the “depth of field” issues that appear from time to time (but that’s more of a VHS tape wear n’ tear issue) — “good” and “professional,” properly-edited films. Vink’s films are not just some U.S., 16mm-blown-to-35mm “backyarder” from the Drive-In ’70s (say, like the pretty fine works of Maryland master Don Dohler), nor an ’80s SOV’er start-n-stop-start shot over months of weekends on the non-thespian “friends and family plan,” on-the-sly, sans permits. Vink’s works consistently hit all of the engaging, cinematography touchstones of well-framed singles and doubles, wides, reverses, cutaways, and even “POV” and “God Shots” in the frames.
The films are also — especially Heaven is Only in Hell — packed with background actors, aka extras: and they’re real, trained actors (some say they’re friends and acquaintances; if so, they so a stellar job). And we know this because of the natural approach of the acting exhibited. No one in Vink’s films are deer-in-the-headlights-I’m-in-a-movie! acting for the cameras. And while Vink’s films are practically void of dialog, the leads are effective — in conjunction with Vink “professionally” setting a scene — in “selling the drama” at hand through staging and body language.
There’s a great scene — sans dialog (as with all of the films; the only audio present is soundtrack music) — in Half Past Midnight where one of the bullies leans over the nurse’s desk-station to speak with her mother: a character whom we’ve already met, earlier, in the film. So, we know they’re “conspiring” to hide the daughter’s behavior that put our tortured protagonist in the hospital, in the first place. In the next scene: mom’s injecting poison — with the purpose of murder.
Vink’s work with that hospital scene takes me back to Francis Ford Coppola’s work in The Godfather, which I rewatched in the same week as Vink’s slight resume. (Settle, hear me out.)
Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone goes to the hospital to visit his father, Don Corleone, to discover the police officers assigned to protect his father — as well as hospital workers — are missing. Then, footsteps. The assassin is coming . . . revealed to be a bouquet-bearing Enzo, the neighborhood baker, only wanting to pay his respects. Michael — without dialog, his mind working — sees Enzo in his fedora and overcoat: he looks like one of pop’s men. So Michael asks Enzo for a favor: stand outside, in front of the hospital. The “presence” will stave off the assassin until the “family members” arrive to protect the Don. No dialog: just staging and actor body-language.
Then there’s the Corleone wedding scene: Today, that extensive scene would be studio-cut to shreds. But it’s a scene with all these, wonderful, engaging little details and events — moments that add nothing to the narrative at hand (the grandfather sings a dirty song in Italian, for example) — but it’s details that need to be there.
Vink’s work is filled with those same, non-dialog and, what seems, superfluous details. Yes, even though Vink is working in the SOV-horror realms, those works, while admittedly rough in spots, are competently produced works (unlike, say, the abysmal Blue Murder (1985) — probably the best-produced works in the annals of SOV-to-retail, as well as 16-to-35mm-to-Drive-In distribution (something like the abysmal Night Fright (1967) comes to mind).
While there may be music-cheats (but really “homage”) afoot in a Vink joint, in terms of staging, there’s no “cheat” in a Vink film: we get a staging, prop, and set design competence not prevalent in most other, SOV or 8 and 16mm horrors.
During Vink’s lone feature-length production, Heaven is Only in Hell, that’s a real fire truck and real ambulance in the scene — a scene packed with voyeur extras (voyeurism is one of the film’s subtexts) — and real first responder personnel amid a well-stocked, engaging crowd. We’re inside a real hospital, not some errant room with a bogus, unconvincing dressing. And a real school campus, both interior and exterior. A character is a car mechanic: we’re inside a real garage, and a real hair salon, a real record store, and so on. So, yeah, a Vink production is not your typical SOV or single-digit-mm joint: somehow, all of the locations — regardless of the budget — are booked, and up the overall production values.
Vink’s earliest was Pandora (1984), a shot-on-8mm tale-to-video of Romero-styled zombies, shot-in-Dutch (the only one), concerned with an Evil Dead-styled box with the power to raise the dead. Eh, who needs the English language when you can listen to zombies (loudly) munching. Then there’s Dance Macabre (1986), with more Romero-undead mayhem by a cult that raises a female’s skeletal remains who then attacks people and starts a zombie plague (more munching) in an apartment complex. Both are short in content, but, oh, so long — as all of Vink’s films are — on style: a Lucio Fulci fever dream, if you will.
Pandora and Dance Macabre are extremely hard to find on VHS (again, at least in the U.S.). Today, we’ll review the two easiest-to-find films: the main subjects of this two-fer review, and then we’ll ease into those first two films.
Half Past Midnight(1988)
Dutch writer-director-make up artist Wim Vink’s next SOV’er concerns a shy, sweet girl bullied at school by her fellow classmates: your typical, ’80s big-haired and mascara-type bitches, and boyfriends. Debbie loves computers and electronics and solders circuit boards (which comes in handy for the later mayhem). She loves photography. She has great relationship with her mom. She rides a bike, everywhere.
Why do her classmates hate her so?
They’re bullies. There is no reason.
Since Vink is a director of details, one of surrealistic-slanted cinematography, there’s little to no dialog to tell us why: for Vink is about the actors selling the story — which they do, both lead and background. Sure, the “story” all seems mundane, at first watch (you can’t watch it just once), but that’s only to heighten the shock of when Debbie gets her revenge by killing her tormentors one by one, in extremely gruesome, bloody ways — and OTE gory and bloody, in the best of ways.
Half Past Midnight is a great example of ultra-low-budget horror. It’s absurd. It’s raw. It’s awesome. And it was shot in Tiel, Gelderland, Vink’s hometown. So it is truly homegrown, which makes us love it, even more.
Half Past Midnight is also, only half an hour long (and in English) — the prefect length, due to its brutality — with its tale of Debbie (Angelique Viesee), an attractive-awkward student, relentlessly bullied by her dickish classmates. One is a voyeur always taking pictures of Debbie’s misfortunes. Her teacher (Ad Kleingeld) takes pity, but with an ulterior motive: he rapes her.
While it’s not established if we are in a high school or college, everyone looks to be beyond their teen years. And that office building looks more “college campus” than “high school” to these eyes. So, that takes the creep-factor off the fact Debbie’s, obviously older, teacher asks her on a date. Now, mind you, without dialog, Vink’s made a statement on how easy it is for a sexual predator to chose and manipulate an insecure victim; the simplest act of kindness to a put upon person can open the door to a graphic event. Again, it’s about the “reality” in a Vink production.
As we mentioned: voyeurism is part of the — non-verbal — subtext. Everyone stands by and watches Debbie being assaulted, brutally, and does nothing. And when one does, such as her lecherous teacher (helps her pick up dumped books and papers; has her collect the student’s papers after class), it’s only as a backdoor for his own assault. Then, the bully who photographs Debbie’s assaults — in an eerie foreshadow of today’s smartphone-viral media sickness — develops the film in a dark room, with a glean in her eye.
So . . . the bullies are back: with a teacher now in their corner. The students ambush-spray an aerosol can in Debbie’s face and blind her. She stumbles into traffic and is hit by a car. She survives, barely. But a nurse at the hospital — the mother of one of the bullies — injects poison into Debbie’s eye.
Debbie dies. (We think.)
Debbie returns from the dead — whatever was injected in her eye, reanimates her (we think) — so she lays waste to the lot of them, going “Ash” on their asses, if you will. Using her electronics skills, Debbie solders herself a belted-power pack, complete with knife sheath, to run an electric chainsaw. And said chainsaw POVs into chests, as butcher knifes go through-and-through necks, as well as sawed off arms, and torso dismemberment, and intestinal flow, ensues, in one of the bloodiest, seven minutes ever committed to film. The only thing missing is a penis detachment by hedge clippers.
So, you thought Deadbeat at Dawn was the ultra-low-budget throwdown. Eh, piffle. Jim Van Bebber is a pussy compared to Wim Vink. Debbie ain’t no Carrie (a definite influence, here, alongside The Evil Dead) that’s for damn sure, for no ESP is required. Just a chainsaw, please. Oh, and lots of loud, screamin’ guitars by Rob Orlemans!
Half Past Midnight is simply fucking amazing. Period. Exclamation point.
Heaven is Only in Hell(1994)
The joy of a Wim Vink film is, not only recognizing the musical-homage cues, but the plot and visual cues. In the case of Vink’s only feature-length film, fans cite Michele Soavi’s classic The Church (1989). And if you’re familiar with that film — of course you are — the film unbalances you with its “what the hell is going on” plotting. Soavi’s works (the early ’90s pieces of StageFright, The Sect, and Cemetery Man) are less about fixed, narrative flow and more about image collages; loosely connected nightmares. And as with Vink’s other works: the characters are connected, somehow, then they’re not. The Vink modus operandi: ambiguity.
Here, we meet Mike and Sharon; he works as a garage mechanic, while Sharon works as a bookkeeper at stereo store. (Were they once related; now reincarnated in a future, apart, now searching for one another?) A local house for sale — where someone previously died (when, who knows/or is Mike seeing his future) — begins to haunt his mind, to the point his work suffers. Sharon, likewise, is disturbed by the same visions: the result of her psychic abilities.
Of course, as with the characters in each of Wim Wink’s films: the characters don’t live fast, they slowly exist in boring, mundane lives: going to work, then home, work, home. And it’s the drudgery that make them susceptible to the supernatural, in this case: the ghostly chants urging them to open a well’s portal.
Their dreams/visions concern a centuries old pagan coven, led by a witch and her young daughter (?), and a cursed, ancient well that, as result of progress, is now in the basement of the empty home Mike purchases. Meanwhile, Sharon’s visions overwhelm her to the point that she breaks into the house to find the “Hell Well” in its cellar — set in the middle of a finished, wooden floor, covered by an iron pentagram. And Sharon brings a “sacrifice” from her aerobics class; with fresh blood, she can now descent into the well. Mike? He hesitates and rejects his mistress: he’s strung up “Evil Dead” style by ghostly ropes from the home’s attic’s rafters — and slaughtered.
This time, the soundtrack’s all-original, composed by Angelique Vink (who also plays Sharon), as well as synth-numbers by Sander Brokke and Vincent Hooyer. And, again: sparse dialog, with only the repetitive looping of the film’s opening chant-narration for an unsettling, moody work of horror impressionism (think F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu from 1922, better yet: Carl Theodor Dreyer’s stellar, Vampyr, from 1932). Again, detractors may say the film is overly repetitive and padded; that maybe so. However, I see it as a purposeful, artistic-narrative choice: Mike and Sharon’s lives are so, utterly empty, their aural and mental visions consume their lives to the point of an obsessive-compulsive disorder.
So, with that, as mysteriously (well, at least outside of the Netherlands) as Wim Vink drifted into the VCR-driven snows of the SOV ’80s . . . he dissipated into the developing, nickle-collated, laser-spinning ethers. For Wim Vink’s visions were not meant for a digital world, only the analog tapes of the past. . . .
Oh, Hail Satan and the hell with this being in Dutch with no subtitles. All I know is I’m nostalgia waxing an Amando de Ossorio-meets-Paul Naschy Spanish zombie joint, à la Tombs of the Blind Dead and The People Who Own the Dark. (Hey, did you see the 2020 homage-sequel, Curse of the Blind Dead, yet? Do it!)
Now, when you see the word “Pandora,” you think “box,” but what we have here is a book . . . well, there’s a box, too . . . as well as music cues lifted from Suspiria, The Exorcist, and even some Tangerine Dream*. Of course, the music is gone . . . so we can hear the zombie munching n’ licking n’ slurpin’.
What’s great about Vink’s work is that it’s a body of work that understands film is an art form based in “showing” and not “telling”; for film is 90% visual and 10% dialog (and the stage is the reverse). A film’s images tell the story though props, an actor’s body language and, most importantly: that your actors are not skilled in the craft of acting—but “being.” This was a fatal mistake made by James Glickenhaus (The Exterminator, producer of Maniac Cop) with his debut film, The Astrologer (1975): he didn’t have a complete grasp of — as does Wim Vink — of cinematography; so his otherwise intriguing film, bogs down with 60 minutes of ponderous dialog against its 79-minute running time. This is a “mistake” not experienced in a Vink film.
So, regardless of language, we have a young woman who requests information on a book; the librarian directs her. Why would a book that can open a doorway for the dead to rise be in the library? Why was the woman looking for the book?
I don’t care.
All I know is, she — we think — has been “possessed” by the book, and having visions of a white-robed witch. And a leaf-covered sarcophagus slides open and four, Bob Clark/Alan Ormsby,’60s era Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things zoms are now the white-cloaked witch’s army of the dead. And they need to retrieve a box — from a businessman who possessed the box.
Fog starts pouring out of the box. One witch stabbing later: lunchtime for zombies — and it’s better than anything dished in Bruno Mattei’s Hell of the Living Dead.
Then, the woman who checked out the book, buys that errant “Pandora” box from an antiques shop . . . and the witch and her zombie quartet are back, for the box. And we get a little bit of time displacement, a sudden transport into a cavernous crypt, and an even larger zombie army. . . .
Dutch language, be damned, this film rocks my rocks offs.
Dance Macabre (1986)
In 1978, Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Rob Talpert and Scott Spiegel released their their proof-of-concept short Into the Woods: a tale about a group of friends who desecrate an Indian burial ground while staying at a cabin. Around that same time, Don Coscarelli began filming Phantasm: his tale about two brothers running afoul of a cryptic mortician. Romero released Dawn of the Dead that same year. Dance Macabre is a homage to those films, right down to a music-pinch from Phantasm’s funeral scene, as well as synth-cues from Romero’s, as well as Argento’s and Fulci’s zom-romps (you’ll know ’em when you hear them). And I love the hat tip to Coscarelli, courtesy of a reenactment of Jody first meeting The Tallman, right down to the bone chilling, “Sir.”
Oh, my beautiful Vink surrealism. My only complaint is that the film isn’t longer than 22 minutes. My greatest love: there’s never one moment of silence. Outside of a character’s ritual chant, no one speaks, but the ripped music cues never stop, throbbing, trapping us in a black-metal disco on the cusp of a Dante circle. Well, except for the flesh munching. . . .
We first meet a trio of necromancers digging up a coffin of skeletal remains.
Why? Who cares.
Then we’re traveling down a modern-day road in a 19th Century-styled, horse drawn carriage. In the back: a kidnapped girl, then carried up to the attic of an apartment building. One throat slit and blood flow later: we have a white-eyed, big-haired blonde demon reanimated and on-the-loose (with a knife-licking fetish), impaling knifes into foreheads and ripping across throats of the building’s tenants.
Of course, the dead rise as a plague breaks out in the building. A SWAT team is called in for a little Pittsburgh-inspired cops vs. zombies battle. . . .
Who were the necromancers? Were they in the past? Who’s the blonde? Sure, she’s a witch, but from when and whom?
I don’t care. . . .
I just watched a film with more fun packed into 22 minutes than any 90 minute VHS slopfest I’ve watched in my analog lifetime. Dance Macabre is everything I want in an SOV horror — even though this was shot on 16mm. And it only gets better with Half Past Midnight, and even better-better with the full-length opus, Heaven is Only inHell.
Why didn’t Argento, Fulci, or Romero see the magic in Wim Vink and bankroll a 35mm feature proper? What a fucking tragic, missed opportunity.
Were to Watch
You can watch Heaven is Only In Hell on You Tube courtesy of BurialGround5 — what would we do on Saturday nights without BG5?
Someone by the name of Jurgen Telkamp saved Half Past Midnight for the digital realms — god bless you, brother — on You Tube. Devilman666 comes with the back-up assist on another You Tube copy, as well.
You can watch Dance Macabre on You Tube, thanks to Hipster Pobre.
You can watch Pandora on You Tube courtesy of altohippiegabber. Just wow. The memories. Thank you!
Vim Wink’s Complete Resume (Thanks, Alto!)
1981 — ZombieHorror (30 mins) 1982 — Surrealism (25 mins) 1984 — Pandora (30 mins) 1986 — Dance Macabre (22 mins) 1988 — Porror (6 mins) 1988 — Half Past Midnight (32 mins) 1989 — Luke Skywalker Meets the Horror of Darth Vader (5 mins) 1994 — Heaven is Only in Hell (86 mins)
What a path from Japan to my little house in Monongahela, PA, USA: Filmed in 1995. Edited in 2005. Completed in 2009. Released in 2012 on DVD-R. Theatrical release and DVD in Japan 2014. Released internationally in 2017.
After a surprise phone call from his photojournalist ex-girlfriend interrupts the most important part of his day — his workout — Naoto agrees to meet her to research haunted houses. Along with a professional psychic, they enter the abandoned home of Naoto’s father, a place with a dark secret and a ghost — Naoto’s mother! — with a grudge decades old.
Then a clock flies off the wall and knocks out the psychic, possessing her with the spirit of the long-dead spirit was has been stuck within the walls of the house. And then the goop and gore start flowing through the floorboards and down the walls and Evil Dead gets referenced, but man this shot on video film is closer to a rip off of a rip off of a direct to video sequel to that movie and that’s more than a great thing.
I mean, Naoto even finds a shotgun and says “Groovy.” And that’s all you really need, you know?
Yeah, I know Satan’s Blade was shot on 35mm, but this “SOV Week” is all about the brick and mortar nostalgia of the video store ’80s. So, if it walks like an SOV and quacks like an SOV and has a cheesy, Combat-cum-Scrapnel Records-styled cover — film stocks, be damned — it’s an SOV in my analog-pumpin’ heart.
Yeah, Satan’s Blade is rife with that ol’ brick and mortar, mom n’ pop stores nostalgia that I constantly lament about at B&S About Movies . . . so I don’t care if Satan’s Blade is an ultra-low-budget rip on the first two Friday the 13th films, as say some critics. Me? I see The Evil Dead crossed with a crime caper gone bad, in the frames.
You too, huh? We’re both thinking of, even though it wasn’t made yet, Scarecrows (1988). As I said in that review, as I re-watched Scarecrows all those years later, I couldn’t help but think Quintin Tarantino and Robert Rodriquez watched it back in the day — and it bled into their formulating From Dusk Till Dawn, which flips-its-script from an action caper to a vampire flick. Well, I think Q n’ R are fans of Satan’s Blade, too, with its script-flip from a crime caper to a faux-Jason armed with a haunted blade, gone wild.
Look, all I know is that my youth was filled with King Diamond, Slayer, and Saxon albums — and pretty much anything came down the Combat/Shrapnel pipeline. Those were the days that the soundtrack — with some much-needed, added adjustments — of River’s Edge spun in my car. And I had just bought copies of the new albums by Hallows Eve and Heathen. And I rented the crap out of any and all SOV horrors that I could get my hands on and I just rented a copy of L. Scott Castillo Jr.’s lone film.
Yeah, Satan’s Blade is that nasty tapeworm lodged in the cockles of my analog heart, pumpin’ through my celluloid veins like a vinyl selection from the Metal Blade Records catalog: forever.
Load the friggin’ tape!
A pair of female bank robbers make off with $50,000 after they kill two bank tellers in cold blood (a female Seth and Richie Gecko, natch). They lay low at a snowy mountain cabin, waiting for their third partner to split the spoils. But, as is the case in any noir: greed ensues. And double crosses. And everyone ends up dead. Two by their own hands. The third . . . by an unseen force.
Something is in that cabin . . . of the “Jason, Jason, Jason, kill, kill, kill,” variety.
That “something” is a local legend about a murderous mountain man who comes from the bottom of the lake by the cabin.
Cue the dopey vacationers who rented the cabin at the wrong time: two married couples celebrating the law school graduation of one of them — and a group of nubile college girls with a friend mourning the death of her father. Of course, sex — which always stirs these heavy mental, shiny-implement lovers — ensues, with the proceedings getting down to the ol’ “final girl,” Stephanie — who comes to discover the town Sheriff is behind the murders, as he wanted the money from the robbery hidden in the cabin.
Is the Sheriff really possessed by the Satan’s Blade — a knife that is also a talisman?
Look, I love this movie. I don’t care of how “derivative” the plot is critically analyzed by the other.
Satan’s Blade is an up-against-an-ultra-low-budget slasher, which — for moi — only enhances its eerie vibes, and I dig that the music is synth-Carpenter cheesy. Sure, the story is slight, so there’s a bit much in the expositional prattling-padding department, with lots of driving and walking (but not as much driving as in Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare, thank god). Sure, this Castillo jam isn’t as gory as a Vim Wink shot-on-video joint or off its GBH nut, but then, what SOVs are?
At least the acting is better than in most SOVs, not that everyone is on-point; there’s some woefully strained thespin’ afoot. I also dig the amped-up film noir of it all, filled with whodunits, double-crossings, and red-herring flip-floppin’ twists. In addition, L. Scott Castillo Jr. — apparently made this for one-million dollars — who was probably hoping to strike Raimi Midnight Movie gold, ain’t exactly Raimi-inventive, but he still knows his way around a 35mm camera. So while — in my eyes — Satan’s Blade has that ol’ SOV stank on it, technically, it’s not an SOV; but it’s surely closer to, but better than, a 16mm Don Dohler (Fiend) joint (which I lump into my SOV-dom with Satan’s Blade).
Yeah, I love this movie.
Double featuring Satan’s Blade with a Doug Ulrich and Al Dargo’s joint (Snuff Kill will get you started) just feels right. Toss down a John Howard and Justin Simonds (Spine) chaser, for a triple. . . .
Ugh. Satan’s Blade also makes me feel old; now I am missing my ol’ video stores with their 5-5-5 membership cards. So I hate you, Castillo. But I love yahs, just the same.
And so it goes. . . .
Courtesy of the ongoing efforts of VHS Legacy — doing the Lord’s work (yuk, yuk) — you can watch Satan’s Blade on You Tube. You can also learn more about the Arrow Video reissue — an incredible transfer, by the way (working in 35mm paid off, L. Scott) — with an “Arrow Story” video uploaded to You Tube. The reissue caveats on Satan’s Blade, run at the different times of 79, 82, and 83 minutes, so shop accordingly. Olive Films released their hard presses in the United States in 2015 on Blu-ray, while Arrow Films released their DVD/Blue combo in the United Kingdom in 2016.
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.
There’s no breaking of the Ninth Commandment, allowed. Not this time.
We know you’ve never seen or heard of this beautiful collision of a Christploitation flick and an ’80s SOV’er for the most epic, greatest SOV in the horror realms committed to video tape. And yes, video store owners, who had no friggin’ idea of what was distributed to them (see the great Spine shelving snafu), gandered at the words of “Heaven’s Gates” and “Hell’s Flames” and, instead of placing the tape in the “Family/Children’s” section (and this is not child appropriate in the least) where it belonged, they tossed it on the horror section shelves.
And there it was for me to score: in the horror section of the video store, a store sandwiched between a Falafel joint and an accident-attorney office.
Yes, I was a truly blessed, metal-head and VHS lovin’ youth that day of yore. . . .
So . . . this 50-minute Canuck Christploiter made in St. Catharine’s, Ontario by Reality Outreach Ministries portrays people of various ages and walks of life who die in a variety of unexpected ways (e.g., drug abuse, the bottle, car accidents, muggings-gone-bad, steel girders falling). The way they lived on Earth determines where they will spend eternity: Heaven or Hell.
Oh, and a warning: this is a stage play produced by the ministry and committed to tape.
BUT IT IS STILL EPIC! ROLL THE TAPE!
Dude . . . when this play’s depiction of Heaven kicks in, it is right out the Estus Pirkle playbook — but HGHF has nothing on The Believer’s Heaven and beats it by a few clouds. Then, when Hell kicks in — complete with a bastardized Gene Simmons-meets-King Diamond-cackling Satan — it holds no candle to Jose Majica Marins’s Coffin Joe depictions of Hell in This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse. Oh, ye reader, forget about Estus Pirkle’s multi-colored Rubic’s Cube face-painted Satan in Ron Ormond’s The Burning Hell, for Reality Outreach Ministries has just blessed you with the Satan you always wanted in your nightmares.
Oh, yeah. The rest of the plot.
Well, it’s a bunch of vignettes, as “actors” do “scenes” that warn, you, on the various horrors awaiting those who do not accept Jesus Christ. For example: We have a young couple on a nice, romantic evening in the park (two folding chairs on stage, natch). She speaks about “her psychic said romance is in the air” as her Christian boyfriend warns her on the dangers of “deceptive physics.” Then, a mugger shows up, steals her purse, and shoots both. Dead.
For reals. I am not making this up.
Now, we’re at the “Pearly Gates” and the boyfriend gets in. The girlfriend says, “Wait, why am I here? I’m supposed to be reincarnated!”
Cue King Diamond.
The King and two of his minions grab Blondie and drag her into the red-cellophane fires. Meanwhile, the best part, is the boyfriend pulls the ol’ I-told-you-so gag — with a glean in his eye. Why? Because Christians get off on the ol’ I-told-you-so-and-seeing-you-go-to-Hell gag.
Two construction worker-buds are on top of a high building (again, folding chairs on the stage). The saved worker witnesses to his troubled work-bro and turns him to Christ. Suddenly . . . a girder (actors, awfully, selling the drama) falls. Both die. Both go to Heaven. But, since the one guy just got saved . . . there’s a paperwork snafu, since there wasn’t time to write his name down in the Book of Life. But don’t worry. Jesus shows up to set the Angel in charge of the book, straight.
For reals. I am not making this up.
Okay, just one more. . . .
A little girl begs her busy, career-driven and charity-committed mom to go to church. “Next, week, Sweetie,” mom brushes her off. Suddenly . . . a car (again, actors — awfully — selling the drama), hits them. Mom and daughter are dead.
Then, mom gets the shock of her life: being a good parent, a loyal wife, and doing good deeds, alone, won’t get her into Heaven. But since the daughter went to church, she goes to Heaven. So, to Hell mom goes. Why? Because working with the homeless and the handicap wasn’t good enough for God — and you turned your back on His son. Yes, King Diamond shows up and takes away mom — to the girl’s screams and cries, begging Jesus to save her mom. Seconds later, Jesus shows up and touches the girl. All is well. The girl skips up the silver and gold staircase.
For reals. I am not making this up. It’s not a fever dream. It’s real.
And you thought Estus Pirkle’s sharpened bamboo into the ear canals of children was sick. We told you this tops a Pirkle joint six days a week and twice on Sundays. It’s pure insanity — stage production, be damned — so how can you not want to watch this? Okay, so it’s not as bonkers as Pastor Kenneth Okonkwo’s two-part, papier-mâché production, 666: Beware, the End is at Hand, but what zero-budget soul-saving epic, is?
Anyway, it goes on and on and on like this for a glorious 50-minutes, well, near 75-minutes, since the festivities are front and backended with a Pastor’s service. But name your sin: Abortion. Drugs. Sex. Not going to church. Reincarnation. Fortune tellers. The dangers of every and any sins, are depicted, here. Lovers and families are torn apart. People hug Jesus and go to Heaven without a tear or care of their loved one being dragged to Hell.
Yes. Jesus greets you, personally, each and everyone, with a hug . . . as you walk through a literal door, aka gate, under the Angel that’s perched on top of a golden pedestal, on top of the silver and gold staircase — you know, the Angel who makes sure you’re in the Book of Life, sans any paperwork snafus where you died two-second later, after just “being saved” by a buddy.
Now, hear me out for a second: Wouldn’t it be the “Christian thing” to do, that, when your loved one is about to be dragged to Hell by faux-Gene Simmons, that your “Christian Heart” would make the ultimate sacrifice and take your loved one’s place, so they can enter Heaven?
Oops. Sorry for allowing logic into the plot. Never pick at the plot holes. Especially not in Christian Cinema.
Look, it’s a fun and frolicking “SOV Week” at B&S About Movies, so we can poke (sorry) a little fun, here. However, honestly, for a stage play, the production values are pretty decent. The stage is one, single dressing. A simple lighting change is all it takes to transform the silver and gold of Heaven into the red and orange fires of Hell. Sure, it’s not an Oscars-level production, but still, for a church auditorium-cum-chapel gig, it leaves you impressed. Yeah, credit where credit is do: the stage manager, or audio visuals manager for Reality Outreach Ministries, really makes this all work, brilliantly. I wonder if he ever did a film, proper? I’d rent that movie.
However, what is not impressing, are the “actors,” who we assume are volunteering for the cause. The way they jump around, screaming and “rejoicing” on stage with their “I’m in Heaven. Woooo! This is awesome. Angel, is my name in the Book of Life? Yes, I’m in. I’m going to Heaven!” would be a flailing, arms-akimbo thespian tragedy if it wasn’t so gosh darned funny.
The caveat: The uploads are of two, different productions of the same play. In my opinion, the first version (with King Diamond) — the one I watched on tape all those years ago, is the stronger production of the two. The second version (with Gene Simmons; the second still, above) — which I didn’t know existed until this review — runs a bit longer at 90 minutes, due to it having more Pastor preaching than the first.
Both are still epic. Watch ’em both!
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.
Oh, this friggin’ SOV’er . . . it’s a bizarre gem that wastes no time and is everything that the SOV porn-backed Spine strove to be — and failed. It skips the opening title cards and gives us two 30-year-old virgin teenagers making out for the first time — well, Marybeth gives herself away for the first time — on a backwoods rural road — and goes porn. Then the tits and dicks are a-floppin’ (we don’t see any penis, but you get the point). One silhouette figure in the fog later (it’s not an owl, Marybeth) and we get an ice pick in Biff Preppy’s ear and Marybeth — breasts a-flyin’ — gets another ice pick through the mouth into the tree trunk, and that’s after our black-clad killer in a beret — and no mask — gives her a quiz about dying and blood. So, you see: if you fail, you die. (And that’s an important “plot point,” so keep that under your beret, for later.)
Okay, so two kills are on the tote board. Roll the opening title cards with the not-Whitesnake metal tune about “moving violations” and “being under the gun” and “lost desires.” Is the SOVness as cheesy as the unpoofy hair metal?
Oh, hell yes. And so much more. This is a movie where, if you’re not a baptist, you’ll be forced into being a baptist. So, yeah, baptists are dying here: brutally. Luckily, the female ones wear lingerie and, once they take off the glasses and let down the hair bun — they’re “hot” as you know what. Yeah, so we think this is a bunch of adult film stars nom de plumin’ for mainstream legitimacy between the Penthouse reels.
In case you’re wondering — and if that opening kill salvo doesn’t put you wise: Fatal Exposure isn’t a repack of Dennis Devine’s SOV debut, Fatal Images (1989), although this, as with Devine’s flick, centers around cameras. But the camera isn’t haunted. But the photographer is: by Jack the Ripper.
I know. I know. Another Jack the Ripper movie? As if Christopher Lewis’s The Ripper, and Jeff Hathcock’s Night Ripper! and Peter Sasdy’s Hands of the Ripper, and Jess Franco’s (who fucks up any genre) Klaus Kinski-starring Jack the Ripper, and Lucio Fulci’s nothing-to-do-with-Jack Halloween ripoff The New York Ripper wasn’t enough . . . now we get SOV’in Jack Rippington, he the great, great grandson of the pride of White Chapel. So, Jack Jr.’s not possessed by a spirit, just a couple of f’d double helices from granddad Jack’s semen sacs.
So, what’s Rip’s (Blake Bahner, formerly of the U.S. soap Days of Our Lives) glitch? He photographs women . . . and drinks their blood, as it’s his “viagra,” if you will — so Jackie is a sort of vampire. As with this week’s review of Murderlust pinching-foretelling the serial killer exploits of Dennis “BTK” Rader, this time we’re getting a pinch of ex-race car driver and faux-photographer Christopher Wilder who used women to lure other women under the guise of “modeling” for him.
So, to than end, Jackie finds, not a new victim, but “love” with Erica — he picks her up in a cemetery; she’s “turned on” by death. She’s perfect: he uses her as bait to lure women for him to photokill. Of course, Erica (Ena O’Rourke, in her film debut; vanished shortly after) is as dumb as Marybeth who kissed the ice pick, earlier. And Erica will make — finally, after all the searching — a great incubator for Jack’s son to carry on the family’s business: making great art for: okay, you see, the real reason the original Jack the Ripper killed all those women: for his photography endeavors. Oh, and it gets weirder: Erica is a doppelganger for Jackie Rippington’s great grandmother. Calling Dr. Freud: Jack wants to oedipal grandma. Lovely. Let loose the semen sacs o’ double helices.
So, speaking of the ice picking that opened the movie: under 20-minutes in, we get a stockade decap and a gym drink tumbler blood refill. See, we told you baptists were going to die . . . in a soft-core sex slasher that ended up on Showtime’s late night “after dark” weekends all those cable-years ago. Circular saws, electrocutions, and a wide array of SOV-cheap gore, long, soft-core bedroom sex scenes padding the short running time, moonshine jugs of chloroform, a lingerie bondage scene, bubbling sheriffs, serial killers breaking the fourth wall, serial killer inner thoughts via voice overs, southern plantations that aren’t Dunsmuir Mansion but wants to be such, wooden actors (trying), and Bloody Mary drink jokes cut footloose across Alabama — with nary a banjo on anyone’s knee — ensues.
If you read our reviews for our “SOV Week” tribute, we’ve sunk pretty deep into the analog mire — but the quagmire gets quaggier via Google as you’ll find so many more SOVs from the ’80s and ’90s to overwhelm the VHS shelves of your analog mind. And this directing effort from Peter B. Good, the producer behind the death-docs Faces of Death III and IV (he made his directing debut with the 1978 sci-fi/haunted forest romp The Force on Thunder Mountain*) is one of the better SOV’ers of the ’80s that will be one of those analog scuzz’ers you’ll return to for a few more views over the years — as have I. It’s a shame this was Good’s final directing effort, as Fatal Exposure showed a lot of potential for future growth.
We found a nice, clean VHS rip on a really great, You Tube retro-VHS page, The Burial Ground 5. Enjoy!
* Yes, you know us all too well, for we have since reviewed the VHS slopper that is The Force on Thunder Mountain. Once a film title is dropped, the tape worm bores into the cortex and it must be excised by sheer QWERTY force.
“Slit your wrists, you f**kin’ b**ch.” — The oh, so snotty and so punk DSZ, who, after the show, got their poseur arses tag-teamed by Jello Biafra and Henry Rollins in the back alley where Johnny Rotton urinates on them while Sid Vicious gives ’em a Doc Martin to the ribs.
A brain-eating monster-mutant baby and the San Francisco band the Nuns . . . together in a shot-on-video and direct-to-tape horror film. Here. Punch my VHS home video membership card. And toss one of those Clark Bars on the bill.
Okay, so let’s get the demon baby stuff out the way: Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive (1974) is afoot here, but not Lucio Fulci’s Manhattan Baby (1982), which seems like it’d be a demon baby movie, but really it’s an Egyptian tomb possession movie. But Night Feeder is a more expensive (and most SOV’ers are) kin to the Canux’er Things (1989), which, if you’re keepin’ SOV notes, was the first Canadian shot-on-Super 8 gore issued to VHS — and has its own monster-mutant baby. Sadly, with that cover and that fetal promise . . . this doesn’t deliver the over the top gore we anticipated.
Now, the baby, here, looks like George Constanza’s boss, Mr. Kruger, from Kruger Industrial Smoothing . . . with no offense to the awesome, and late, actor Daniel von Bargen, intended. But all offense intended to Sam, my boss, who keeps telling me to stop with the embedded Seinfeld references in my reviews.
As for the rest: There’s boobs. Lots of skin. There’s bad acting, really bad acting. And stillborn dialog with too much of that honey hush yakity-yak and not enough blades and blood to go with the boobs. And too much watered punk-to-new wave music and not enough blood. Where the frackin’ feldercarb is the mutant baby that’s sucking human skulls brain-dry and fillin’ up the slabs in the morgue where our cop gets to overact and underact and scenery chew (but the gore is decent).
So, what does San Francisco’s the Nuns have to do with this?
Well, they’re not the Nuns: they’re the band DZS, aka Disease (not to be confused with DMZ, who recorded for an album for Sire and are located in New York). And the DZS’ers are also a violent street gang. And the ubiquitous keystone coppers think the incognito Nuns are a sicko brain removal cult — or something. Well, their groupies have been either OD’in or found brain-drained around ‘Frisco, so they’re on top of the suspect list.
Oh, and there’s an ex-Vietnam vet street guy known as “the Creeper” dithering around that’s also on the suspect list. Why not toss Michael Moriarty and Christopher Connelly on the suspect list while you’re at it, SFPD? Where’s Harry Callahan when we need ’em? Oh, okay, we got that nosey (hot female) writer lookin’ for that “big break” on the case . . . as the “case” splatters across San Francisco’s new wave scene (shot on location in the actual clubs with actual fans and was shot by ‘Frisco artists and scensters).
Yawn. Okay. Where’s the gore?
Well, there some gouged eyes. Well, one eye, on each head, as that’s how the brains are removed. We got gooey zombie corpses. Dream sequence shock scares. We could have done without the female journalist and male cop romantic subplot . . . yes, just like that other San Francisco cop movie — with Harry Callahan — The Dead Pool (1988), you know, the one where Jim Carrey was “Axl Rose.” Oh, and our reporter: she’s roommates with the leader (the actor of) of DSZ, which is, again, actually the Nuns — but we wished this was a sequel with a subplot about Johnny Squares as an on-the-way up local, unsigned artist right before Peter Swann cast him in Hotel Satan, so Johnny’s record label got a bargain on a rock video shoot.
And that’s pretty much what this is: a police procedural without the Harry. And the Nuns ain’t the Gunners or a faux-Axl. And this ain’t a slasher. Or a horror. It’s a cop figuring out stuff with a reporter helping . . . and instead of it being a mobster or a vampire — as in the really awesome Robert Loggia mobster-vamp flick Innocent Blood (1992) from John Landis — we end up with a killer baby. And the baby takes almost to the end of the film to “birth.”
Cue the baby, finally!
While Night Feeder is an SOV, it is also a “regional horror” (we did a tribute week to regional horrors back in March) that played out in and around San Francisco. Then, the story goes: after its premiere, the film vanished from U.S. shores — only to rear its ugly VHS tape in Poland, of all places. Stateside audiences — well, everyone outside of Poland — finally got to see this uber-obscurity of the SOV terra firmas courtesy of a 2017 DVD reissue through Bleeding Skull and Mondo Video. Nope. Sorry, kids. No trailer or online streams of the freebie or PPV variety to be shared.
However . . . the things you discover when you “right click” IMDb hyperlinks to pump up the word count on a review — and create one-stop review shopping by going film trivia gonzos.
Anyway, unlike most SOVs, the filmmakers behind the scenes on Night Feeder moved on to bigger and better things. Well, the co-writers and director vanished in short order, but special effects artist Jonathan Horton, had quite the career. He got his start on the Dennis Quaid sci-fi’er Enemy Mine (1985) and worked on David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986), then moved onto Anaconda(1997). So, when the baby finally show up (and not for that long), that’s why it’s the BEST part of the movie.
Now, as you pick through the credits, you’ll discover that Night Feeder was made by women. Sure, Jim Whiteaker is a man, but at this point, since he never did anything else, could “Jim” possibly be a creative alias — for fear that a movie about a brain-sucking baby by a feminine creative team wouldn’t be accepted? (Check your David DeCoteau vs. Ellen Cabot credits.) However, our writers are Linnea Due and Shelley Singer. The producer — as well as the art director and editor — is Jo Ann Gillerman (and that’s her husband, James, on the score; he also co-produced).
The star here — amid all the men, be it cops or musicians — is Kate Alexander, as Jenna, our fearless “Lois Lane” reporter. Kate was a local ‘Frisco actor and also fronted two other SF-shot films: The Method (1987) and the comedy-horror, Kamillions (1990); the later has the same creative team as Night Feeder. Oh, and Kate was in something called From a Whisper to a Scream,which isn’t the Vincent Price-fronted omnibus we know; it’s a Yaphet Kotto-starring action film, aka Love You To Death (1989), that looks like USA Network “Up All Night” and Showtime “After Dark” programming plate fodder (I wasn’t aware of the film — until writing this review).
Speaking of which, Jonathan Zeichner, our detective, also did a soft-core “erotic” cop thriller, Deadly Desire (1991), with Kathyn Harold and Jack Scalia in the Sharon Stone vs. Micheal Douglas roles of the Basic Instinct variety. Support player Cinta Wilson (Victoria, here) worked her way up to So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993). And this SOV’er could have used an errant axe murder or a nail gunner of the Nail Gun Massacre variety . . . it’s cheaper than a latex mutant baby!
It’s “films” such as Blue Murder that give our beloved SOV ’80s a bad reputation because, as with the lesson in apoc-tedium that is Survival: 1990, this inert John Carpenter knock off is just another mismarketed Canadian TV movie, a chunk of celluloid with the unmitigated, analog gall to dovetail its fast-forwarding poo-stank alongside our cherished, rightful SOV classics of Boarding House* (1982), Blődaren (1983), Copperhead (1983), Black Devil Doll from Hell (1984), Sledgehammer* (1983), Truth or Dare (1985), and Spine (1986).
You’ve been caveated, dear reader, for there is nothing worse than a shot-on-video Canadian TV movie masquerading as a legitimate “made for the home video market” slasher of the superior Christopher Lewis Blood Cult (1985) variety. So let’s unpack this loaded baby diaper. And don’t let the emptor hit you in the ass on the way out when you see this grindhouse aka’ing in the VHS marketplace as The Porn Murders. And if you’re wondering what the “Blue Murder” title means, well, Google “blue movies” to find that bit of marketing brilliance.
Now, you’d think with a movie with a killer adorned in a dime store, plastic-elastic Clown mask hacking up porn filmmakers and actresses — leaving them with a clown-mask calling card on their faces — we’d end up with some serious shower-after-watching sleaze n’ gore. Well, we could have — if the “Roger Corman of Canadian,” William Fruet of Death Weekend (1976) fame, was at the bow of the U.S.S Argento. Or Shaun Costello of Forced Entry (1973) fame was second mate. Or Jim Sotos of that film’s remake The Last Victim (1975) was swabbin’ the decks, ye matey. Maybe if real-life porn makers Justin Simonds and John Howard of Spine fame were in the galley.
Be we digress, again.
So, to solve the crimes, the old “hard-nose homicide cop” and “intrepid crime reporter” trope (neither are hard-nosed nor intrepid, natch) spools from the master to slave sprocket as we see our killer clown fire a gun . . . then cut to the body falling to the floor. And this goes on for eight more bloodless killings — nary a boob in sight via POV Italian black-leather gloved hands clutching a silencer. Remember how Billy Eye Harper killed all of those people in Rocktober Blood (1984) — off camera? Yeah, it’s like that. Only there’s no Sorcery tunes aka’in as Head Mistress rockers to ease the boredom.
“Sexy, slick and bloodthristy — with an amazing surprise ending.” — CVN Communications copywriter hornswogglin’
Oh, speaking of music: There’s an opening credits-glam rock theme, “Blue Murder,” but it’s not by the band of the same name Carmine Appice put together with John Sykes of Whitesnake and Tony Franklin of the Firm because, well, Carmine was too busy with King Kobra tunes masquerading as Damien-written tunes for Black Roses (1988) rockers. There’s another sappy-as-sentimental-ass love song “Madly in Like with You,” that’s not by Girlschool — and both songs should have been ditched for Kim McAuliffe and company’s “Screaming Blue Murder” and “Don’t Call it Love.”
“Okay, R.D. Enough with the ’80s heavy metal memories. Get back to the movie.”
Okay, well, the real band in the movie is known as One Life to Live. And don’t bother, as we already researched those never-was Cannuck non-rockers and there’s nary a QWERTY-character of web-Intel. But we do know that they’re not one of “Canada’s Top 20 Greatest Bands” . . . but Nickelback and Bare Naked Ladies? Oh, Canada, what the hell. Thank god Four Non-Blondes aren’t from the Great White North . . . but April Wine, is.
Hey, maybe if our killer dressed like a kitchen worker and had a beef with Entenmann’s and killed pastry chefs and left Jelly Roll calling cards. Then add in a couple Girlschool tunes — and (real life) porn actresses in schoolgirl outfits instead of friggin’ one-piece bathing suits with feather boas — and we’d be onto a sticky-sweet something.
I know, back to the movie . . . with the only online clip available . . . from Turkish TV. Yes, this made it across the ocean into Turkey.
So, eh . . . “The Porno Killer” is on the loose and attempts to harangue Dan Blake, our resourceful crime reporter, into covering his exploits . . . or more will die. So Dan consults with Lt. Rossey, his homoerotic-implied buddy-boy (e.g., the sitting-on-the-toilet-while-I-take-bubble-bath conversation) to sift through the so-not-giallo red herrings of mobster-cum-porn producers battling for each other’s 3/4-inch tape territory and corrupt cops on-the-porn take. Then there’s the one-eyed henchman and houseboys in the mansions and on the yachts of the porn producers. And don’t forget the Catholic Priest with a psychology degree explaining why someone would don a clown mask and hot-wire bombs to beds and wine bottles. (No joke: there’s bomb-wired libations.) There’s not even one of the 24th letters of the alphabet here, let alone three; but there’s a whole lot of Zzzzzz that take us to that “amazing” twist ending. . . .
Alas, the only “twist” we care about: Is the Jamie Spears starring here — in his only acting role as our intrepid reporter Dan Blake — really the father of Britney and Jamie Lynn Spears? The Magic 8-Balls of the web say, “YES” — but there’s nothing amid the web-myriad of Spears digital ephemera that states that fact. And I’m looking at both Jamie-stills and I’m not seeing the resemblance between the actor and the dad. If it is Brit’s pop — eh, is it — no wonder this was his only movie and he leeched off his daughters, aka he’s awful at acting. Really awful. And wouldn’t it have been funnier — and this film needed a dash of comedy, if anything — if the football jersey Danny-boy perpetually wears throughout the film was number “69” (yuk-yuk) instead of 66? Ah, but “66” is the numeric code for spooning . . . which makes Danny’s downward stare and Lt. Rossey’s leg hike in the tub even more distributing . . . jokes about sexually denied spherical objects in one of the three primary colors between violet and green, be damned.
The name of Charles Wiener — considering the material — is no joke: he’s a real person who, after this writing and directing debut — wrote a Canadian not-Police Academy ripoff Recruits (1986) that only has the presence of Jon-Mikl Thor (Zombie Nightmare) to recommend it, as well as writing and directing the-Police Academy-set-inside-a-fire station-ripoff Fireballs (1989). Did you see Wiener’s Animal House-cum-Porky’s inversion, Screwball Hotel(1988)? Neither did we . . . DOH! We did? But if you’re a martial arts completionist and need a Canadian not-starring Jean-Claude Van Damme rip, there’s Wiener’s third and final directing effort, Dragon Hunt (1990), for your shelf. (No, I will not review the dogger that is Dragon Hunt, for I’ve choked down enough wieners for one day.)
Hmmmm. This sounds like another B&S About Movies gauntlet drop. But Sam never answered the Robert Clouse Gymkata (1985) challenge, so my Dragon Hunt throw down to complete the Wiener catalogin’ at B&S is for naught.
Okay, time for a nice cup of Green Tea and a slice of Entenmann’s Pound Cake, hold the crappy-ass Van Hagar not-a-pastry ode. Excuse me, could you pass a spoon? You’re lookin’ mighty fine in that numero “66” jersey, big fella.
Fork me, R.D. out.
* We are on the case with the well-deserved Boarding House and Sledgehammer for our “SOV Week,” so search for it. Use the search box, you lazy sod.
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.
Indiana poet James Whitcomb Riley was long gone by the time of 16mm and SOV backyard filmmaking. But his rule regarding quacking ducks applies: If it looks like an SOV and quacks like an SOV . . . well, I’ll call that 16mm bird an SOV duck.
So, yeah. Technically speaking, Murderlust isn’t a shot-on-video water fowl that falls under the “SOV Week” theme week we’re rolling at B&S About Movies, as it was shot on 16mm film in the 1:33:1 aspect ratio and released in a direct-to-video format by Prism Entertainment — the home of the (annoying) side-opening VHS box (give me clam-shells, give me a “Big Box” with the crinkle-plastic tray, or bottom-loading sleeves, but not side flaps).
As with the work of Don Dohler — who also shot on 16mm (and seen theatrical releases with his films; see The Alien Factor), but is name-dropped often in discussions regarding SOV filmmaking — Donald M. Jones shot in 16mm (but seen only direct-to-video releases), but all of his film — from their VHS images on the tape to the artwork encasing the tape — ooze the same SOV sleaze of films shot on 3/4-inch U-Matic tape via broadcast ENG and Ikegami cameras. Courtesy of that video-tape technology, Boardinghouse* (1982) became the first shot-on-video feature-length horror film. Shot direct-to-video tape, Boardinghouse was transferred to 16mm, then blown-up to 35mm for limited theatrical exhibition. David A. Prior — who’s a pretty big deal to us Allegheny County cubicle farmers on the celluloid pastures — shot his debut feature film, Sledgehammer* (1983), on video and released direct-to-videotape.
The grainy, 16mm documentary vibe of Murderlust that we watched on VHS didn’t receive its less-than-stellar, grainy “atmosphere” from being “road showed” via Drive-In reels emulsion-scratched to hell and back again, and again (or from cinematic incompetence; it’s actually well-shot and edited). It was because of that cover — and the subsequent write-ups in our pulpy horror movie mags, Murderlust (like Blood Cult and Spine issued in 1985 and 1986), received its celluloid battle scars courtesy of its incessant rental-replays on the ‘80s home video market beating it to hell and back again, and again. Murderlust was a movie, with one, singular-stocked store copy: alwaysrented out, damn it — the in-the-plastic sleeve-cased box perpetually perched on the shelf with no VHS tape tucked behind it. As with Romero’s The Night of the Living Dead, the “to hell and back again” consumer processing (first via drive-ins, then UHF-TV, then VHS for Romero’s zom’er), lent, more so, to the documentary-grainy quality of Murderlust — and left it looking oh so SOV-ish . . . even through, er, that bird ain’t a duck.
It was the hazy, grey days of filmmaking, adrift somewhere between 16mm giving away to video tape technologies, while drive-ins felt the financial pinch of the burgeoning home video market — with its confounded contraption called a “VCR” that something called a “VHS tape” — that provided a more cost-effective and marketing-effective format. The new format was so effective that Christopher Lewis wowed us VHS dogs when he shot his debut film, Blood Cult, on video for exclusive direct-to-video distribution — a pioneering first. Films such as Cliff Twemlow’s GBH and Justin Simonds’s Spine were marketed on “mainstream” imprints backed by porn producers to get in on the home video horror game, as well.
Unlike most SOV filmmakers, director Donald M. Jones managed to make more than just one self-financed backyard film. “Backyard,” if that term is new to you, is a pre-SOV term — one that also came to encompass shot-on-video films — reserved for films shot on Super 8 or 16mm that were produced on shoestrings with friends, relatives, and neighbors — each lacking in their own levels of disciplinary professionalism — that were literally shot in the backyards of the filmmaker and whomever was shanghaied into the film. In the case of Murderlust: the “backyard” was California’s Mojave Desert, while scenes in the church and bar were shot in and around metro-Los Angeles — on the sly sans permits, which is a part of the “backyard” modus operandi.
Jones got his start with Deadly Sunday (1982)**, then followed up Murderlust — his best known and distributed film — with Project Nightmare (1987), and Housewife from Hell (1993) — then vanished from the home video tundras until the direct-to-video release of Evil Acts (2015). Unfortunately, as with John Carpenter, Don Coscarelli, and Sam Raimi before him — and stymied by the direct-to-video marketplace — Jones’s slasher ’80s-era films failed to achieve a Halloween, Phantasm, and The Evil Dead-styled connection with horror audiences (the fate that cursed the really fine The Redeemer issued around the same time). Only fans of the most obscure low-budget horrors remember Jones with the same celluloid-cum-analog vigor as David A. Prior, who’s noted for the aforementioned Sledgehammer, or John Wintergate’s Boardinghouse and Christopher Lewis’s Blood Cult.
Murderlust is a movie that takes this QWERTY warrior back to days of those cardboard-musky vinyl repositories of old, aka, record stores, when we purchased record albums — primarily metal albums — strictly for their cover art, with nary a clue as to the band’s lineage and backstory. And we rented — or aftermarket purchased — VHS tapes on the same principles. And sometimes the music under the artwork (such as buying the New Jersey-indie After the Bomb by Hammers Rule) was just as “meh” as the movies inside the VHS case.
Such is Murderlust: the cover is great, but the movie is a hard slice of dry, white toast with no butter and hold the grape jelly packet. For a cover that shows a woman violently strangled, there’s very little strangling afoot, here — and none of the sleazy n’ scuzzy, over-the-top SOV splattering after taste of the Snuff Kill variety. Our resident murderluster is no Mancunian cutting a GBH swath across London, well the Mojave, in this case. Instead, we get two strangles, with the rest of the kills off screen and bloodless (our killer buys a newspaper with the headline: “9 bodies found in the desert”). Instead of John Carpenter giallo-suspense (Halloween) or Sam Raimi graphic-to-dark comedy (the first The Evil Dead, not the meh remake-sequel), we get a character study. To pinch Alice Cooper, “the man behind the mask,” as we “study,” is a psycho who doesn’t enjoy, but struggles with, his “murderlust” of kidnapping, raping, and desert-dumping women — while he maintains a (crappy) job and even begins a “normal” heterosexual relationship.
And that’s the sole strength of Murderlust: Steve Belmont, our church-attending security guard who serves as a Sunday School teacher and elder tortured by his psycho-sexual impulses, isn’t just some mindless, supernatural hockey-masked maniac who cuts a Krueger swath across the Mojave. Screenwriter James C. Lane — who penned all five of Donald M. Jones’s films — intelligently ditched the slasher-blueprint to give us one of the slasher ’80s best-arced, non-trope characters. Belmont is a man who Jekyll and Hydes as he’s denied sex by his dates (he’s a nice guy, but a security guard at a guard gate — “. . . you’re cool and so is your job, but you’re just a DJ,” they’d preamble their R.D-dump), he’s plagued by financial issues, his cousin’s criticisms grind him down some more, his boss enjoys writing him up, and he’s accused of sexual misconduct by a misguided teen at his church when he’s promoted to a counselor’s position.
For whatever reasons, Jones made an artistic choice not go nude or graphic, as is the case with American slashers and giallo-imports in the ’80s — be them SOV or 16 mm backyard. (While graphic, not “going nude” — considering its porn-linage — is what scuttled Spine; going “nude” and “uber-graphic” is what made Blood Cult a hit.) While that artistic choice makes for a pseudo-boring film, it also leads to an authentic, grimy film. But grime is not goo and strangling is not slashing (unless it’s Don Dohler’s red cloud-infected, strangulation killer in Fiend) and, without the goo and the slash, we’re in a damsel-in-distress “final girl” finding-her-inner strength flick that, today (under the eyes of Fred Olen Ray and David DeCoteau!), are pumped out at ad nauseam program-replays on Lifetime (David D.’s most recent is The Wrong Valentine). And since those telefilms are void of grime and never go “goo,” well, you know how a Lifetime flick goes: yawning from unknown Canux actors (sometimes in vanity projects, pushin’ themselves, if not their Kardashian-sytled brats) frolicking about Toronto masquerading as Anywhere, U.S.A., ensues (such as the channel’s 2021 “Shocktober” entry, Seduced by a Killer).
In the end, while actor Eli Rich is head and shoulders above most backyard and SOV-era actors to sell the inner struggles — and everything is decently scripted and well-shot — Steve Belmont is no Frank Zito cutting his own mannequin-murderlust swath in the best of the Carpenter-inspired slashers: William Lustig’s Maniac (1980). If Murderlust went for that Maniac-styled depravity, we could have had a precursor to John McNaughton truly chilling Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986). That based-in-reality film bastardly-birthed out of the exploits of Henry Lee Lucas; Murderlust chillingly predicts the backstory of Dennis Lynn Rader, a church elder and common working man (ironically: home security systems) who lead a secret life as the B.T.K Killer between 1974 to 1991. (Gregg Henry of The Patriot and Hot Rod chilled us with his portrayal of Rader in a 2005 CBS-TV movie.)
The VHS of Murderlust was highly edited (and I never found an uncut version, if there even was one) — which degraded Steve Belmont’s secret life to a serial killer cut loose in a TV movie (even a police procedural TV series; thus our Lifetime comparison). The Severin restoration reissues the film with those scenes intact. I’ve haven’t the pleasure to see this “as intended” version, so perhaps those restored scenes may pique your interest to add Murderlust to your DVD/Blu collection. Plus, you’ll learn more about the film courtesy of writer James C. Lane’s commentary track.
You can view the Serverin Films’ age-restricted trailer and 1985 VHS trailer on You Tube. You can stream a VHS rip of the 1985 version of the film, also on You Tube. There’s also an upload on Tubi (which runs non-aged restricted) — with the Severin rebooted artwork as the upload avatar. However, the You Tube and Tubi uploads are both fuzzy and washed-out and of the same running time — and the same ’80s VHS cut of film.
* Those whole enchiladas of Boardinghouse and Sledgehammer are on the way, so look for ’em! Put in the effort and use that search box, buddy. (See, we did ’em! No searchin’ no more. Click the links!)
** Not be confused with the revenge-seeking pastor romp that is Dark Sunday (1976).
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.
Oh, R.D, you’re a real pain in the posterior and a kick in the lower abdominal area this week with your ‘squeezin’ the Charmin’, SOV fanboydom. Yes, I am a self-aware man: a man that fights his life of monotony on the highway to mediocrity by binge-watching SOV films.
So, I’ve pretty much — with the other camcorder SOVs, as well as the 16mm-blown-to-35mm-backyard’ers-that-walk-and-quack-like-an-SOV that I’ve dovetailed into our “SOV Week” tribute — name dropped all the essential films and ramble-babbled as to the SOV “about” of it all. (If you click the “’80s SOV” tag at the end of this review — and all of this week’s reviews — you’ll populate all of our past and present reviews and chit-chat on the SOV/direct-to-video genre.) So, we’ll skip the SOV genre “plot points” and get right into the dual, shot-on-video careers of our camcorder auteurs behind these two flicks: writer Gerry Daly and director Deryn Warren.
Mirror of Death, aka Dead of Night in some quarters, was their joint direct-to-video feature debut. Bloodspell, aka The Boy From Hell, was their second film. Then came Black Magic Woman (1991), which was Deryn’s lone writing credit (and stars Mark Hamill and Apollonia, if that inspires a stream). Then Jerry Daly came to write Crystal Force (1990) (although it looks like one, it isn’t a repack of the Alien-rip, Star Crystal) and Witchcraft III: The Kiss of Death (1991)* — all of which fall under the SOV banner and populate-in-memory on many o’ fans SOV-genre lists. Apparently team Warren-Daly returned with the PG-13 comedy Sweet Tessie and Bags (2008), which is a barren IMDb page and Google quest to nowhere . . . with images of handbags and a child eating an Eggo waffle (which isn’t a film still, by the way).
Today, Deryn Warren is a noted L.A.-based acting coach and publisher on the film arts. As with my previous Google excursion: it’s another digital tundra quest to nowhere, with pictures of Tim and Tyne Daly — and an image of a guy that’s not our Jerry — noshin’ a Smuckers pastry.
Waffles, Smuckers, and damn Jerry’s too-common-of-a-name, oh, my! Where will this yellow-tainted, SOV road take me, now?
Mirror of Death
So, if the cover doesn’t sell it: this is a backyard possession opus. Hold the pea soup and the Lisa and the Devil thrown-up frogs, as we meet Sara. Sara is another one of those bullied mousy-to-hotties that goes from mousy-to-hottie after lighting a few candles and ramblin’ a voodoo incantation. But like Stanley Coopersmith in Evilspeak and those “no false metal” horndogs, Holy Moses, in Hard Rock Zombies: when you mess with Luciferette, you get the hornettes — wrong chants and mirrors cracked, be damned.
What the . . . hey, is this the same red-optical possession effect from Doh Dohler’s regional drive-in’er Fiend (1980; also reviewed this week, look for it)? So that answers all the questions of that film: our poor violin teacher in that film was possessed by Empress Sura from Egypt?
So, our fire from Cairo rises from the looking glass and makes Sarah beautiful, so as to more effectively cruise all the local bars and hotspots Sarah could never go to before. But like Angel Martin in Shock ’em Dead, who went from dorky pizza boy to buff rock star, Sarah — now Sura — needs to pick up men and feed off their souls. (So, just like the fat red worm, two-tentacled octopus-thingy in Dohler’s movie.) Throat rips, heart rips, and the ol’ ancient dagger-in-eye gag, ensues, but are cheaply done and not the least bit overly, well, gag-inducing — which is what we want in our SOVs: to gag. (Then puke our mirco’d-burrito and slightly micro’d Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food: Remember, you have to soften those Fudge Fish into the gooey marshmallow swirls and improve the mallow-to-caramel swirl ratio content in our stomachs.)
And that’s all I am gonna say about that, Forrest. Except that every time I watch Striking Distance, I wait for Bruce Willis to say, “Hey, Lt. Dan! I’m a shrimp boat captain on the mighty Three Rivers.”
This is where the trailer for Mirror of Death was embedded . . . until You Tube cancelled the uploader’s account.
And team Daly-Warren are back with another ne’er-do-well SOV demon and a put-upon yoot (know your Joe Pesci references) by a dickhead of a dad who’s a dicksicle of a dad because a dickhead of a demon possessed dad, you got that? But, etc., and so on, in a tale that doesn’t not ensue in the “tradition” of The Fury or The Shining, no matter what the copywriters at Marketing Media Corporation and Vista Street Productions tell you. So the demon ditches dad and nestles into junior, so our resident supernatural terror may knock off the student body of the Ed Wood School of Non-Thespin’, aka the St. Boniface Group Home for Bullies.
Yeah, it’s the ol’ Stanley Coopersmith-hold-the-Tranya (know your Star Trek; don’t make us go all-Corbomite on your ass) bit as one too many practical jokes on ol’ Danny boy has sounded the pipes to summon our demon. And, once Danny-not-Torrence turns 18th, the demon will be cast inside not-the-son-of-Jack-and-Wendy, forever.
Is Bloodspell an improvement over Mirror of Death? Yep. Is it still a gore-deprived backyard’er? Yep, and more so than the prior. But at least we have a demon with a woodchipper fetish (but sadly, not for corkscrews, as in our this-week-reviewed SOV’er, The Brainsucker). Then there’s the errant, mind-controlled pigeon into the window that cuts up a bully’s face and a spontaneous-burnt-to-crisp stunt by-mind. And a showstopping (sarcasm) dad-gets-a-metal-pipe-impaling-so-lighting-can-strike gag lifted out of one of the Friday the 13th sequels (it was VI, but Jason was revived and didn’t die from the gag). Oh, and Danny, well, the demon, kidnaps Jenny (Theodora Louise), the girlfriend of Charlie, Danny’s only and now-not friend. Why? Well, to celebrate his birthday because, Danny the Demon is 18 and he likes it. And we wished Alice Cooper came up with another “The Man Behind the Mask” Friday the 13th theme song (again, Part VI: Jason Lives) to make blood worth spillin’ . . . and spellin’.
In the end: Bloodspell isn’t just a film with not-special-special effects: there are no special effects. And no blood of the kill-by-E.S.P variety. And acting so inept-inert that, if Larry “Seinfeld the Soup Nazi” Thomas starred in Bloodspell (or Mirror of Death), he’d apologize for it, as he did with his involvement in Terror on Tour — but, amazing, not for his involvement in an even worse SOV, known as Night Ripper!, so what gives, Lawrence? But hey, Bloodspell — but not Mirror of Death — filled out a programming block on USA’s Saturday Nightmares** — which is how most of us saw it, in lieu of VHS.
This is where the trailer for Bloodspell was embedded . . . until You Tube cancelled the uploader’s account.
Now, why did I make that earlier, off-the-cuff Bruce Willis/Pittsburgh reference?
Well, as is the case with most of these backyard’ers of the 16mm (or 8mm formats, even) or SOV variety, the film’s IMDb pages aren’t complete — with blank actor profiles of thesp’ers who never appeared in another film. However, our resident damsel-in-distress at St. Boniface is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-born and bred Twink Caplan, aka Theodora Louise back then, who does have a profile — because she’s still in the business.
Remember when Jim Belushi was a comedy-thing? Well, Caplan produced Curly Sue (1991), as well as the Gen-X comedy Clueless (1995) and its related TV series, as well as Amy Heckerling’s follow up, Loser (2000). Acting wise, before Bloodspell, Caplan co-starred in Underground Aces (a pretty awful, 1981 comedy that I only watched because of its Dirk Benedict-Battlestar Galactica connection; it’s not “Animal House in a car parking garage,” trust me), as well as guest-starring on such ’80s series as L.A. Law, Who’s the Boss, and Valerie (aka The Hogan Family). Caplan still picks up parts in indie films and cable-streaming series.
Meanwhile, Ray Quiroga, the producer of Dead of Night, Bloodspell, and Black Magic Woman, continues to produce indie films.
* Witchcraft III (1991) was preceded by Witchcraft II: The Kiss of Death (1989). It all began with the Italian-produced but shot in Massachusetts Witchcraft (1988), aka Witchery, aka La casa 4, aka Ghosthouse II.
Our thanks to Paul Zamarelli of VHS Collector.com. What would we do without his preservation efforts of all things analog — be it SOV or 16mm backyard? Seriously, Paul is the king of clean .jepg images of the lost classics of the home video-era.