The Jar (1984)

In the tradition of Curse of the Blue Lights, Manchurian Avenger, Mind Killer, Night Vision, and The Spirits of Jupiter, here’s another, early ’80s homegrown effort from the wilds of Denver, Colorado. Sure, there are other, obscure Mile Highers to review, such as Savage Water (1979), Lansky’s Road (1985), and Back Street Jane (1989), but good luck locating vintage VHS copies of those Rocky Mountain low budgeters, and there are no — unlike The Jar — freebie or with-ads online streams of those home growners to share.

Yeah, there’s nothing like a reputation among horror fans as “being the worst film ever made” to have a film transition — not by a reissues imprint (Arrow, Severin, Kino), mind you, but by the film’s fans — out of the analog snow drifts of the brick and mortar old to the digital streams of today. And when those same fans shout for a DVD/Blu restore . . . well, there must be something in those frames, right?

Outside of a brief, local theatrical release on April 16, 1984, The Jar is purely a direct-to-video effort (a genre lumped-in with shot-on-video films intended for direct-to-video release) that received its first, widespread distribution in 1987 via the Magnum Entertainment imprint. As result, we have a film that passes the James Whitcomb Riley SOV-duck test — and lands as a buckshot-filled mallard on our SOV stacks.

Well, eh, maybe.

While the proceedings aren’t exactly blowing off the lid off any canisters, The Jar is not that bad.

The debut, 1987 U.S. issue by Magnum Entertainment.

It’s hard to believe this lone effort by screenwriter George Bradley and director Bruce Toscano — an effort clearly influenced by Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case (1982), with a soupçon of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981), and a dash of Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm (1979) — was shot in Techniscope Anamorphic at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio (if we are to believe the IMDb). Sure, video tapes uploaded to video sharing sites suffer from repetitive, brick and mortar wear n’ tear renting and, regardless of what format a film is shot in, you’ll experience a VHS-wash out, but shot in 35mm? This film? The fuzzy, color-hazing duck a l’orange aromas of the S-VHS and U-Matic recording format of broadcast-news ENG cameras and 3/4-inch U-Matic videotape using Ikegami cameras, permeates the nostrils.

Regardless of the film’s rumored $200,000 price tag — keeping in mind the “Midnight Movie” and VHS rental classics of The Evil Dead shot for $375,000, Phantasm for $300,000, and Basket Case for $35,000 — The Jar comes across as a much cheaper production. In fact, while The Jar more closely resembles a Don Dohler 16mm-to-35mm backyard effort (his debut, The Alien Factor, shot for $3,500; his sophmore effort, Fiend, shot for $6,000), Bruce Toscano’s efforts — however valiant — are void of the against-the-budget Dohler charms we’ve come to adore. The Jar is a perpetually grainy and dark film where the framing is non-existent and the dubbing out-of-sync. It simply does not look like — regardless of its impressive-against-the-budget “Vietnam flashback,” complete with a helicopter; a rental which probably chewed up much of the budget — a $200,000 movie.

The Jar is a film with no middle critical ground: Those who love it, love it. And the haters are as cunning as they are cruel. There is, however, a sliver of middle ground when it comes to the film’s score: everyone agrees the ambient, Goblinesque keyboards by a one-and-done artist, Obscure Sighs (actually director Bruce Toscano and cinematographer Cameron MacLeod), is better than the film deserves. It’s those cherish, Italian-giallo Goblin memories that lend the few to name drop Dario Argento. True, Argento may drift into bizarre, disjointed narratives with out-of-nowhere twists in his works, but a soundtrack alone does not an Argento film, make. What everyone on both sides of the critical fence agree on: all of the respective film disciplines — in front and behind the cameras — took one hell of swing for fences, but instead, struck out.

This critic concurs.

The soundtrack is engaging. The film — in its technical aspects of cinematography, lighting, editing, and sound — is not. There is, however, something to appreciate in writer George Bradley’s insightful and inventive, religious-inspired chronicle. This reviewer sees an influence from The Holy Bible’s synoptic gospels narrative of the Temptation of Christ: the film’s lead character of Paul, our faux-Jesus, is sent off into “the wilderness” to be tempted by the jar’s inhabitant, our faux Satan.


“What the hell, R.D? Are you nuts? Did you watch the same film we did?” Bill Van Ryn bewilderingly drags his cigar. “First, it’s Ingmar Bergman, Brigadoon, Inca death masks and incestuous ghosts with The House That Vanished. Now you’re turning a best-forgotten, SOV piece of junk into a Jesus parable? Sam,” Bill chair swivels. “What the fuck is it with this guy? And tell him to stop featuring me in his rambling, half-assed reviews.”

“I know, Bill. I know. I’ll talk to him. Just leave him be for the moment. He’s quiet and happy in his corner. Besides, we have a Groovy Doom double feature to plan,” dismisses Sam the Bossman.

“Fuck those bastards,” R.D leans into and frantically fingers his laptop. “Here’s some Fellini and Ambrose Bierce references to frost your ass.”


When the final frame of the film’s end credits rolled, a single world appeared: Carrion, which was the film’s shooting title. From the Latin, caro, meaning “meat,” it refers to dead, rotting flesh — animal and human. Another of the film’s alternates titles — if we believe the IMDb — is Charon, the ferryman of Hades who carries souls of the newly dead across the river Styx.

You’ll recall that the powers at New Line Cinema retitled Sam Raimi’s Book of the Dead as The Evil Dead, due to reasoning that “you don’t want movie goers thinking they’ll have to read when seeing a movie.” If one takes a viewing of the script for The Jar — originally released in 1984 as Carrion — in that context, it seems screenwriter George Bradley brought a much more profound narrative, one that expands beyond our assumed, previously mentioned, VHS-horror rental inspirations.

In addition to a definite, Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits (1965) inspiration, there’s also an Ambrose Bierce An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (1890) vibe in Bradley’s pages. It is that Bierce connection — as result of our protagonist’s war flashbacks — that led some fans to opine The Jar reminds of the later-released Jacob’s Ladder (1990). That exquisite, Bruce Joel Rubin work is, itself, an afterlife amalgamation of the Genesis parable of Jacob’s Ladder, Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, tales from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and Bierce’s short story.

Yes, I’ll debate you on this fact: That level of intelligence, as well as impressionistic ambiguity, is in the frames of The Jar.

Is the jar’s occupant, in fact, Charon itself? Is it a coincidence that many a Greek lekythos, that is, a vessel or canister, used to carry anointing oils for funerary rites, are decorated with artistic Charons and found in tombs? Is the jar of our film, in fact, a lekythos meant to anoint the dead? Is Paul, our protagonist, already dead, going through a series of tribulations on his trip through purgatory before reaching Heaven?

The visual craftsmanship of that intelligence, however, as we’ll come to discover, is not in the frames. The Jar is case of — well, a jar of — a film where noble ambitions, it seems, exceeded the skill sets involved. However, director Bruce Bradley and his cinematographer, Cameron MacLoed, are not two morons running around with a camera making a movie. The Jar certainly has its WTF moments of Euro-cinema ambiguity — which is my personal, celluloid jam — pitter-pattering afoot.

Paul’s Federico Fellini-inspired Vietnam flashback.

The most enjoyable aspect of reviewing lost tapes from the VHS fringes in our now, digital age is that the actors involved with the film are able to offer their experiences on social media, in this case, the IMDb: Gary Wallace, who portrayed the lead, Paul, confirmed the “amateur” aspects of the film.

Wallace tells us the film was shot for $200,000, in two stretches of two weeks: the first was shot in the fall, while the second shot in the spring, with pickup shots in the summer. No only were rehearsals non-existent during the shoot: all of the dialog was dubbed. The cast would shoot from 5 to 6 am until dark. Then return to the studio and dub until 1 to 2 am that morning. The process then repeated the next day, etc. Wallace also tells us that director Bruce Toscano — a photographer by trade — decided he “didn’t want the 60 Hz” signal so he could sync the recorded voices to the film. Toscano and his assistant [sound recording Ronnie Cramer, we assume] ended up cutting little pieces of tape and splicing them together to at least try to make the sound match the movie.

European VHS on Antoniana Video out of Spain.

“I think he [Bruce Toscano] and the script writer [George Bradley] had a vision of what they wanted the movie to be,” recalls actor Gary Wallace. “If I remember correctly, they were trying to portray various incidents of inhumanity and how [that] inhumanity could pass from one person to the next.”

That’s what the Jar — or at least the occupant of the Jar, is: a mystical, otherworldly canister/creature that tests the humanity of its possessor and, it seems, in order to save their own “humanity,” they have to pass the canister and its (forget the VHS cover) blue, demonic occupant (that looks a Ghoulies (1985) outcast) to another person. Or the Jar, after if finishes draining a soul, and prior to its host’s death, inspires its passing to another soul.

Now, here’s were the dark photography and poor framing we previously spoke of, comes in: but since we are low-budget cheating, here, it makes — from a creative standpoint — sense. Just not from a narrative one. Did Paul hit another car? Did a car hit him? Did he hit the old man? Did he just run off into a ditch and find the old man? Was the old man hitchhiking or just laying on the roadside? Did the Occupant of the Jar set a trap and make Paul drive off the road to find the old man, so the Jar could be passed on? (I personally think it’s the latter. It’s also obvious: The “accident” was shot — as with the nighttime car scenes for The Evil Dead, as well as Reggie’s ice cream truck wreck in Phantasm — on a darkened soundstage, well, an ad-hoc’d warehouse.)

Anyway, after an “automotive accident,” Paul picks up a crazed, old “hitchhiker” (as some critics have stated) obsessed with a jar he carries in a crumpled paper bag. After taking the man to his apartment — instead of the hospital (so goes the Jar’s power to do its will, IMO) — the man disappears (goes to Heaven or some afterlife, IMO): but leaves behind the Jar. Paul opens the Jar. And no matter how many times Paul gets rid of the Jar, it — with its fetus-like occupant (that never actually comes out of the jar to crawl around) — returns.

Another Felliniesque hallucination.

So starts off the film’s Coscarelliesque surrealism meets David Lynch symbolism (think Eraserhead) — only with none of either filmmaker’s level of non-linear style or viewer engagement. Paul’s disjointed hallucinations and/or dreams where reality meshes with illusion take him from watching his own birth in a blood-filled bathtub (my interpretation of who the teen in the bathtub, is), seeing himself crucified (as he looks down, deep inside a back alley dumpster), a black & white flashback when he interacts with his younger self (again, my interpretation), and a creepy little, Stephen King-type girl walking with a balloon in a park (Is it his dead daughter or little sister? I’m lost . . .), as well as a group of cloaked monks out in the rocky desert (carrying the cross to Paul’s crucifixion).

So — at the risk of plot spoiling — does Paul kill his pretty, romantically-inclined neighbor when she appears to him . . . as the old man who cursed him with the Jar? Does Paul eventually pass off the Jar to his boss to rid himself of the evil? Should we directly pass “Go” on the celluloid Monopoly board and go straight to the Aylmer in Frank Henenlotter’s Brain Damage (1988) to suck our brains dry? Have we gazed deeper, down inside The Jar than it probably deserved to be? Is it really better than most critics have opined?

No matter.

We know you’ll open The Jar because, you, like us, enjoy out-trashing the last trashy mess we just watched. Take comfort in knowing there’s at least a contingent that enjoy The Jar (including moi). The same can’t be said for the abysmal remake of Jacob’s Ladder. Yes, there was a remake released in 2019: everyone hated it. (Ditto for the 2019 remake swipe at David Cronenberg’s Rabid. Just why? Why? Oh, why!)

You can watch The Jar on You Tube (the Magnum version) and You Tube (the Antoniana version). The soundtrack also has its fans, as you’ll listen from the You Tube clips HERE, HERE and HERE. The second two are fan remixes that make it sound more Tangerine Dream than Goblin, however. But that’s not a bad thing.

Perhaps those remixes could be used in a remake? The story for a great film, is there.

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

Frankenstein 90 (1984)

When you consider Frankenstein 90 against Frankenstein 70, Joe D’Amato’s Frankenstein 2000 and the deranged Frankenstein 80, it comes up very, very short.

Directed, written and produced by Alain Jessua, this film stars French singer and actor Eddy Mitchell as the monster. I’m struggling to say something nice about this movie and then I read that the effects were by Reiko Kruk and Dominique Colladant, who did the makeup for Herzog’s Nosferantu and Just Jaeckin’s Gwendoline and now I’m thinking how much I’d rather watch those movies.

The mad scientist’s wife leaves him from the monster while he falls for the bride, but you know, if you want to make a comedy of Shelley’s story, you have the high bar of Young Frankenstein to vault over, you know?

It also has the horrible notion that the suave and sophisticated new Frankenstein’s monster can assault a woman and she falls in love with him, which made me not want to watch this much longer and I’m doing an entire month f Jess Franco, so just imagine.

 

MILL CREEK DRIVE-IN MOVIE CLASSICS: Don’t Open Till Christmas (1984)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ho ho no, we already wrote about this movie way back on December 18, 2017. It’s also part of our list of ten movies that ruin Christmas! Read on, little elf!

A guy in a Santa suit has sex with a woman in a filthy alley before they’re both killed by a man in a grinning see-through mask. Another Santa has his head impaled by a spear while his daughter watches. And yet another has his face grilled while roasted chestnuts on an open fire.

Scotland Yard inspector Ian Harris (Edmund Purdom, who wrote and directed this film as well as appearing in 2019: After the Fall of New York and Pieces) and detective Powell are perplexed. Plus, Harris just got a gift that says “Don’t Open Till Christmas.” They question Kate, whose father was a killed Santa, and her boyfriend, Cliff.

The next day, Cliff tricks Kate into coming to a porn studio. She storms off and he takes photos of a model dressed as Santa. A pair of police officers spot them shooting nudes in public, so he runs and the killer finds her, but lets her go. Oh yeah — and there’s a reporter named Giles digging around, too.

Things get worse. A strip club attending Santa gets knifed. The police think Cliff is the killer and the paper Giles says he works for has no idea who he is. And another Santa runs into the London Dungeon (yes, the place The Misfits sang about) and gets killed.

Even after undercover officers go after the Santa killer, they can’t find him and are killed themselves. The killer has a stripper who was there on the night he killed the Santa in her club and says that she will be the supreme sacrifice to Christmas evil. And Caroline Munro (!) is on stage in a nightclub when a Santa is chased on stage and stabbed in the face with a machete. Another Santa is castrated soon after.

It turns out that inspector Harris has no birth certificate and has gone on leave, disappearing to a mental asylum where Kate follows.

It turns out that Giles is Harris’ insane brother. Kate finds out first, but she is strangled and stabbed while detective Powell listens. Then, Giles lures him to his doom, as he electrocutes him in a junkyard.

Sherry escapes and Giles chases after her. She knocks him over a railing and he has a flashback of when he went insane: he caught his father, dressed as Santa, having sex with another woman. When his mother found out, Santa shoved her over a railing. But it’s too late for Sherry, as Giles has survived.

Finally, Harris wakes from a bad dream and unwraps his gift, complete with a card from his loving brother. It explodes, killing him and ending the film.

What I have just done is write about this film in a way that will probably make you want to watch it. It’s a slasher that even references Halloween in its opening credits. But it’s no Halloween.

According to tvtropes.com, “this utter sleazefest of a film is quite a jumbled and confused mess, and for good reason. While production began in 1982, the film remained in Development Hell for two years, due to the title of director continually changing hands; first up was Edmund Purdom (who also portrayed Inspector Harris) who walked off the set, prompting at least three or four others to fill in for him, with one only holding Purdom’s former position for a mere two days before being fired.”

Whew. You got better things to do this Christmas. Trust me.

2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 28: The Super Ninja (1984)

28. THESE FISTS BREAK BRICKS: In celebration of the excellent new book, watch a martial arts movie.

John has two jobs: he’s a maverick NYPD cop. And, well, he’s also a ninja. A super ninja.

Alexander Rei Lo is the guy for this role because a look across his IMDB resume tells us that he sure was in a lot of ninja movies. Don’t believe me? How about this list: Ninja KidsNinja vs. ShaolinMafia vs. NinjaUSA NinjaNinja vs. Shaolin GuardNinja Death (three films), Wu Tang vs. Ninja, the nine-hour long Ninja: The Final DuelNinja CondorsNinja: The Battalion and two Ninja in the Deadly Duel films.

Anyways, it’s the 80s, drugs are everywhere and John the ninja cop gets framed. Using his shadow skills, he escapes and uncover a plot to steal his girlfriend’s father’s life work, so he travels to China to face the 5 Element Ninjas.

Honestly at this point, I’d get you $20 for the blu ray.

But then there’s an impossible long sex scene* set to the smoothest sax jazz and I want the UHD, I want to Kickstart a web series, I want to make two sequels to this with the original cast. I want Eugene Thomas to make a whole series of Spencer side stories. I want Stallone to watch the way they ripped off the first Rambo movie and say, “Heyyyyyyy alight!”

This movie taught me that if I want to beat the five elements of ninja — silly me thought there were only four elements and metal was a man-made thing — and a tiger ninja, I just need to “draw strengths from your future and past and see beyond the illusion of this world.”

Then again, one of these ninjas sets his hands on fire before he punches you.

You can watch this on Tubi or download it from the Internet Archive.

*The sex scene is so long that nearly two complete songs play during it.

SLASHER MONTH: Folies Meurtrières (1984)

Shot on Super 8 at some time in the early 80s in France, this film is 52-minutes of a killer aimlessly killing, killing and killing some more while a fuzzed out synth soundtrack plays, the kind of music that those that say their films are “inspired by John Carpenter” but just have a neon color palette and a few keyboard songs on the soundtrack dream and wish and hope and pray that they could achieve.

Then everything changes.

And by changes, I mean the end of Maniac gets ripped off.

Look, I get it, this is a cheap knockoff of a slasher that may be bright enough to make fun of the things we accept in these films. But man, I kind of love these lo-fi movies that want nothing more than to make their own effects and do the best they can to entertain you. They’re not major movies — they were never intended to be — but they seem like they were a lot of fun to make.

I’ve heard that this movie is in the genre murderdrone, in which “90% of the movie is people wandering around and getting murdered set to shitty lo-fi bedroom synths and it’s increasingly hard to pay attention but you can’t look away and you’re stuck in a murdertrance.” This Letterboxd list has some more of those…

As for the man who made this, Antoine Pellissier, well…he’s a doctor now.

2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 21: Razorback (1984)

21. BARN HOWLS: There are strange things afoot at the farm. Bonus points if you see a pumpkin patch!

Between the cinematography of Dean Semler (The Road Warrior, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome) and the lunatic vision of Russell Mulcahy (who was known for his music videos before making movies like this and Highlander; some of the videos he directed include “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles, “Vienna” by Ultravox and tons of Cultre Club and Duran Duran songs), Razorback looks better than any movie about a gigantic rampaging pig should.

But not just any pig. A giganic razorback that’s so maniacal that it eats its own young and now has the power to implicate men in the murder of their family. That kind of pig. Most of the film’s budget went to making six animatronic pigs that were used for different stunts, including a special boar made to attack cars.

As for real boars, they really are pretty tough. Can they be stabbed in the throat and keep going? I honestly don’t want to find out for myself. But hey — this is a Jaws on land film that even has “New Moon on Monday” show up on the soundtrack. And there are moments where the camerawork gets nearly psychedelic and you think, “Hey, is this art or a movie with a giant pig that eats people?”

SLASHER MONTH: Death Wish Club (1984)

Also known as The Dark Side to Love.

Also known as Gretta.

Also known as Erskine Caldwell’s Gretta.

Also known as Carnival of Fools.

Also known as “The Case of Gretta Connors,” which is part of…Night Train to Terror.

Of the three stories within that film, The Nightmare Never Ends and this one were actually fully complete movies* that may be better in their chopped down form, but let me tell you, this movie is completely beyond insane for so many reasons that don’t make it into Night Train.

It’s also based on Erskine Caldwell’s book Gretta, but when I say loosely, I mean loosely.

Pre-med student Glen Marshall falls for Gretta (Meridith Haze, who is great in this movie and I wished had done more than just this role) the first time that he sees her in an adult film. He starts to hunt her down, not knowing that she’s a woman kept by George Youngmeyer**, her Hollywood producer sugar daddy pimp husband after he bought her back when she was selling popcorn at the carnival.

Well, Glen gets her. She thinks that she’s a mermaid and won’t leave the bathtub, so Youngmeyer asks Glen to visit, make love to her in front of him and then he’s allowed to take her home.

But Glen gets more than he bargained for as Gretta is a sexual beast that is only happy when a man is making love to her. Otherwise, she’s selling your TV set, bringing in a piano and parading in front of your mother naked. She is not the kind of girl you take home as they used to say. She’s a fantasy woman for Glen but removed from the fantasy male gaze of pornography she remains the fantasy male gaze pornography object which is perfect in ten-minute onanistic blasts — pun intended — but potentially exhausting in real life.

Other than her sex addiction, Greta is only turned on by the adrenaline that comes from putting herself in near-death situations, along with a club of others who have survived death. This coterie has some real maniacs, including Federico Libuse, Contessa Pacelli and Prince Flubutu, who we are led to believe is Jimi Hendrix.

After surviving the deadly sting of a claymation Tanzanian winged beetle, Glen decides that no sex is worth all of this. He tries to get back with his normal former girl and back to his normal life but she tells him that there’s no way that he can ever be free from Gretta.

I mean, Youngmeyer did warn him that Gretta lives “in the fourth dimension.”

There’s a new problem, though. Gretta has overdosed and Youngmeyer takes him to her funeral. Lost, he makes his way back to the club where he first saw her playing piano and it turns out that Gretta is still there, but now she has become a he, the piano playing noir tough guy Charlie White. She hasn’t left the suicide club either, as now Glen has to survive a homemade electric chair and is forced at gunpoint to get in a sleeping bag and be in the path of a deadly multi-ton wrecking ball.

So can our protagonist get the man he’s in love with to be the woman he’s alternatively afraid of and sexually attracted to again? Will he have to break into her wedding The Graduate style and do some kung fu? Why is Gretta glad that Chopin is dead?

There’s even an ending that speaks to Yordan’s theories on love. Or whatever he saw it as.

Death Wish Club is an astounding piece of moviemaking. It’s very David Lynch without trying to be, which is the best kind of film, a movie that’s near occult-level weird because the people making it were all very damaged or just had no clue how humanity behaves because they came here from a parallel planet where this is how men meet women.

This is the kind of movie that I love.

You can watch this on Tubi.

*Scream Your Head Off was unfinished, but later was put together as Marilyn Alive and Behind Bars and man, it’s crazy as it gets.

**I love the theory that The Bloody Pit of Horror advances that this character is pretty much writer Phillip Yordan, who may have never fallen out of love with Cat People actress Simone Simon and just treated the rest of his wives like Youngmeyer, who believes that “one-sided love is the only emotion.” Yordan was quoted as saying that he married his first three wives “…and supported them in a lifestyle none of them experienced before they met me. That’s all I had to offer.” For more about Yordan, check out our piece on another of his absolutely bonkers films, Savage Journey.

Slasher Month: The Power (1984)

Jeffrey Obrow is a stellar screenwriter and director — who teaches at USC’s film school — who should be a horror household name, but alas. . . . He gave us the Daphne Zuniga Friday the 13th rip that is The Dorm That Dripped Blood (1982), which served as his feature film debut, the hag n’ trollsploitation two-fer starring Rod Steiger and Kim Hunter that is The Kindred (1987), the pretty cool Dean R. Koontz adaption of Servants of the Twilight (1991), and what I thought was a pretty decent take on Bram Stroker’s “Jewel of the Seven Stars” with Legend of the Mummy (1998). Each are highly recommended watches for your this year’s “30 days of Halloween” watch schedule.

Here, in his second film, a group of people come into possession of an ancient, Aztec clay doll. However, the doll is possessed by an evil spirit. . . .

Cry (low budget) havoc and let slip the (meh acting) mayhem by way of a class project as four high schoolers research the trinket — in a graveyard with a Ouija board, of course. Modeled after Destacatyl, a Mexican god, the idol was acquired by one the student’s parents from their own South of the Border excursion to learn of its myth. Jerry (Warren Lincoln, over and done after the 1986 pseudo-U.S. giallo, Torment) soon becomes obsessed with learning more about the idol . . . then becomes obsessed by the idol’s trapped spirit.

Let slip the stalking. . . .

Is the inanimate-objects-possessing-the-souls plot a bit derivative? Does the concept of possessed idols, which are knock offs of the ol’ “genie in a bottle” stories of yore, date back to the Hammer/Amicus drive-in ’50s and ’60s? Sure, but what movie in the John Carpenter and Sean S. Cunningham ’80s backwash, doesn’t?

However, thanks to Jeffrey Obrow — along with his usual partner, Stephen Carpenter — while the acting isn’t that great, the script is production-solid, the film is effectively spooky n’ atmospheric (with a truly shock-scaring arms-out-of-the-bed pisser), the film score does its job, the effects are low-budget but Fangoria gooey-goo great, and the ending has a decent didn’t-see-it-coming twist.

Sadly, The Doom That Dripped Blood, The Power, The Kindred, and Servants of the Twilight, while each are well-made, valiant efforts, they were not the box office bonanzas Jeffery Obrow and Stephen Carpenter hoped; each went their separate ways. All four are fine films. I wished they would have made more. . . .

Jeffrey Obrow, as result of his transition into academia, slowed down his career, but came back with the aforementioned Legend of the Mummy and three more horrors (not as effectively-distributed): They Are Among Us, The Perfect Host, and One by One; his latest, currently-in-production writing and directing effort, is the Molly Ringwald-starrer, Pursued (2022). If you like to know more about Jeffrey Obrow’s work, look for his August 1991 Fangoria interview with Anthony C. Ferrante, “To Serve the Twilight,” in promotion of his Koontz adaption (sorry, no online scans; copies abound on eBay, however).

Stephen Carpenter eventually hit box office gold penning the Martin Lawrence action-comedy Blue Streak (1999) and the Samuel L. Jackson comedy, The Man (2005). Did you see Eliza Dushku in Soul Survivors (2001)? Well, that’s Stephen behind the Brother processors and Canon Reds. Then, between 2011 to 2017, he created and scripted the 123-episode run of Universal/NBC-TV’s Grimm.

And in production backstory twist: While Obrow and Carpentet co-penned and directed The Power, the initial concept and story draft was done by John Penney: he gave us the box office failure Zyzzyx Rd. (2006), a film that made a lousy $20 bucks in its brief theatrical run.

Oh, and one of our students, in her debut, is Suzy Stokey: she became a go-to actress for our beloved Fred Olin Ray (A Christmas Princess) in his films The Tomb, Star Slammer, and Deep Space.

You can watch this ad-free on the Internet Archive.org or with-ads on Tubi.

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: Shadows Run Black (1984)

There’s a serial killer called The Black Angel out there doing his or her thing. This movie is listed as an erotic thriller on Wikipedia, but that sounds like a giallo, but it’s slasher month and hey — this movie sat on shelves for years until Kevin Costner became a big name.

Rydell King is a cop with something to prove, because his daughter was kidnapped and killed several years ago, so the opportunity to deal out justice to another killer sounds like a dish he didn’t put in the air fryer. He gets the idea that a prostitute named Lee, who is totally living that Betsy Russell/Donna Wilkes life because she looks way too clean to be a girl working those rough streets, can lead him to the killer.

She then goes to her birthday party, which has a dude playing stand-up bass and a magician and we have another 80s movie that says, “See, being a hooker is totally fun and safe except for that one guy who wants to kill you.” And then Lee gets strangled while her boyfriend (Costner) doesn’t want to go swim naked with her. He claims its because he wants to watch the magic show, which is absolutely a lie because no one really likes magic, and more likely because every time he swims, The Mariner must drink his own urine.

In case you wonder when someone is going to die, it’s every time someone gets naked. And by someone, I mean women, because this movie is all about the male gaze as well as showing how pubic hair was styled in 1981. It’s also horrible. Yes, despite non-stop nudity, this movie still manages to be like overdosing on opiates and the sleep of death that results.

Actually, this might be a giallo because an obvious dummy gets thrown off a rooftop.

SLASHER MONTH: Disconnected (1984)

I’d never seen this until the Neon Brainiacs guys picked it one of our movies on the Drive-In Asylum Double Feature. Man — this is something.

Directed by Gorman Bechard, this film centers around video store employee Alicia — if you love seeing classic VHS cases, this is assuredly a movie you should watch — who allows an old man into her home to use the phone and abruptly disappear. She tries to relate this story to her boyfriend Mike and her gorgeous twin sister Barbara Ann, who is definitely stealing Mike away from her. She’s also being pursued by a strange man named Franklin who comes to her store despite not having a VCR. And when she gets home from the bar that night, she starts a series of prank calls that either have strange voices at the end or have Mike and her sister discussing murdering her and the affair they are having behind her back.

At the same time, Detective Tremaglio is investigating a series of crimes and this section of the movie takes the form of what we’d call found footage these days, as we see the actual interrogations.

If you’ve just read those two paragraphs and thought, “Disconnected seems to make no sense,” trust me, it lives up to its name.

Alicia and Franklin begin a romance — at the same time that he’s murdering women and using their dead bodies for sexual pleasure — and then just when it seems like things are about to get resolved, the calls begin all over again, even after she destroys the phone, which starts bleeding. Then the old man leaves her apartment.

Shot in Waterbury, Connecticut and featuring a soundtrack with XTC, The Excerpts (the band Jon Brion started in), Haysi Fantayzee and Hunters & Collectors, there really isn’t a slasher — there isn’t a movie — like this. Of course, Vinegar Syndrome put it out. They made some kind of deal with several dark demons to have the inside track on the rights to forgotten VHS rental movies or something. They’re going to all lose their souls, but we get some great movies out of their dark deal.

You can also watch this on Tubi.