Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Every once in a while, I finally have a movie on the site that I can share with my mom.

New Paradise Cinema was written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore and was well-known in the U.S. when it came out in 1988, winning the Best Foreign Film Academy Award.

One morning in Rome, a famous film director named Salvatore Di Vita — played by a real-life famous filmmaker, Jacques Perrin — wakes up to his girlfriend telling him that Alfredo has died. She has no idea who that is, as Salvatore is a closed book, a man who will not commit and who has not returned home for three decades. This is but the beginning of the story.

Eight years after World War II, Salvatore was Toto, the son of a widow who spends every second that he can at Cinema Paradiso, the movie house where he becomes friends with Alfredo (Philippe Noiret, Topaz), a middle-aged man who allows him to sit in the projection booth and watch the films. As Rome is such a religious town, the local priests have demanded that any moment of romance must be deleted from the films, at which point the audience shots in anger.

Toto soon learns to run the projector, but one night, as he steals the projector to watch The Firemen of Viggiù on a wall of a house, the cinema catches on fire. Toto saves his friend, but a film canister explodes, destroying the man’s sight. When the theater is rebuilt, Toto becomes the projectionist and Alfredo assists him.

After growing up, Salvatore falls for the young Elena Mendola, an experience that teaches him love but breaks his heart when she must move away and is forbidden to even write him. He has also started to make films of his own. Alfredo tells the young man that he must leave his hometown behind and devote himself to being an artist. He must never visit. He must never give in to nostalgia.

Now, thirty years later, Cinema Paradiso is being torn down to make a parking lot and the people of the town carry Alfredo’s coffin through the streets. The projectionist’s widow has something that the old man left for the filmmaker, though. All of the scenes of kissing, of lust, of love — all the moments that the clergy demanded destroyed — all survived to make one reel of romantic longing that Alfredo had kept for Salvatore for all these years. Watching this movie allows the now old Toto to make peace with where he came from.

The director’s cut of the film shows what happens when an older Salvator and Elena meet and the note that she had sent him decades ago, one that Alfredo had kept hidden inside Cinema Paradiso, all so that his friend could become a success.

Made in Bagheria, Sicily, Tornatore’s hometown, this film was inspired by the director’s childhood. He originally wanted it to be an obituary for traditional movie theatres and the movie industry.

The Arrow Video release of this film — on DVD, blu ray or UHD — is exactly as special as you’d hope that it would be. Beyond two high definition versions of the film (the 124-minute theatrical version and the 174-minute Director€’s Cut), there’s also commentary from Tornatore and Italian cinema expert critic Millicent Marcus, a 52-minute documentary on the director’s life, a making-of and even a feature about the kissing sequence where Tornatore discusses each clip and where it comes from.

If you love film, I don’t need to tell you that you must own this movie. You can get it from MVD.

 

Gakidama – The Demon Within (1988)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Herbert P. Caine is the pseudonym of a frustrated academic and genre movie fan in Pennsylvania. You can read his blog at https://imaginaryuniverseshpc.blogspot.com/.

Those of us who grew up in the 1980s and early 1990s will remember the Gremlins franchise fondly. It combined cute creatures (in the form of the mogwai Gizmo) with wanton destruction and low-level scares – everything a budding genre fan could want! Surely the Japanese, who brought us the Pokemon and Gamera series, came up with something just as innocent and child friendly…

Gakidama – The Demon Within is what you would get if you decided to remake Gremlins, but handed over the writing and direction to David Cronenberg. It is a piece of weirdness that could only come from Japan There are still mischievous little creatures, but they are about as cute as a den of rattlesnakes. The film follows a reporter specializing in paranormal phenomena who goes into the woods to get a picture of a will o’ the wisp, referred to in Japanese as a gakidama. All the while, he is followed by a mysterious man in black. After devouring a slab of beef and turning into a caterpillar, the will o’ the wisp manages to get inside the reporter’s body, giving him a massive appetite.

Unfortunately for our protagonist, which goes in must come out, resulting in him barfing up a grotesque fanged demon who looks nothing like a mogwai. The man in black comes in to catch the brute, but he unfortunately lets it escape. As the film progresses, we learn that vomiting up a gakidama gives you an insatiable craving to eat one. While the reporter and the man in black engage in these culinary pursuits, the reporter’s wife learns that the creature has a drive to be reborn again and again through human bodies, in a scene that removes any doubt about whether this film is intended for children.

Gakidama is an extremely good horror short. While clocking in at only fifty-four minutes, it is brimming with twisted concepts and gory scenes. The special effects are top-notch, having come from Tsubaraya Productions, the people who brought you Ultraman, in a rare adult-oriented outing. The scene where the reporter “gives birth” to the gakidama through his mouth is especially memorable. Meanwhile, the gakidama puppet is convincing in a way that the CGI effects of today simply cannot match.

The short also benefits from a superbly creepy atmosphere. The early scene in the woods is distinctly unnerving with its use of darkness, fog, and silhouettes. The film as a whole has a dark aesthetic, with the reporter’s house often being poorly lit, leaving all too many places for the creature to hide.

Being less than an hour long, Gakidama does not offer much in the way of character development and features some notable plot holes, not the least being how the man in black tracks down those who are about to give birth to the little monsters. The creature’s life cycle is also somewhat difficult to figure out. Still, it is a grisly little outing worth tracking down.

Gakidama can be found on YouTube.

Party Line (1988)

This is the most 1988 movie that I have ever seen, one that is equal parts Cinemax After Dark semi-sleaze mixed with last gasp of celebrity, a late model slasher and even giallo-esque elements all with the gimmick of party lines, which before the interest used to dominate the late night airwaves, promising live sex chat for anyone. Oh man, if you could scrape this movie onto a mirror and do lines of it, I totally would.

Seth (Leif Garrett, who we can pretend is the kid from Devil Times Five grown up because, well, that’s totally the truth and that kid was a transvestite and this character is too, so let’s just pretend, OK?) and Angelina (Greta Blackburn, who played Lorraine, one of the aliens on V) are a brother and sister duo who hide out in their family’s Hollywood Hills mansion and use the party lines to lure people into having threeways with them and then slashing their throats with razor blades. Yes, incest and sex is violence and L.A. scum all in one glorious package.

But what if there was a bad boy cop? Oh, there is and his name is Detective Dan (Richard Hatch, who battled Cylons once upon a time). He’s under investigation for all his bad cop antics, but when his CHiP woman gets killed by Seth, he teams up with a psychologist (Shawn Weatherly, who knows a thing or two about cops, seeing as how she was in Police Academy 3: Back in Training) to take on the case.

This is the kind of movie where Detective Dan handcuffs a cokehead to a toilet before shoving his face into the urinal cake while two siblings sex murder a dude in the alley. Also, because this is a late 1980’s cop movie, the boss cop has to be a gruff older black guy and hey, Richard Roundtree is perfect for that role.

The guy who played Simmons in this, Terry McGovern, has a pretty interesting claim to fame. Sure, he was the voice of Launchpad McDuck. But he was also the guy who invented the word wookie. While making THX-1138 for George Lucas, they were riding in a car together and he shouted, “‘I think I ran over a Wookiee back there,” which made the future Star Wars director laugh so hard that the word — which McGovern invented — stuck in his head.

Director William Webb uses Garrett and Roundtree in a lot of his films, which include Delta Fever (which has Martin Landau and Wendi Jo Sperber in it) and The Banker (along with Teri Weigel and Robert Forester). This is the kind of movie that I’d be watching at 1:37 AM on a Friday when I was 16 years old, so in case you thought that I ever did anything productive with my life, you are sadly wrong. At least now I document my movie watching, I guess.

Oh man, I almost forgot that this teenage girl is coercing her friend into calling the party line too and then she goes to the cops and they make her call the party line while they listen to her basically have phone sex. So this movie riffs on I Saw What You Did, but there’s no Joan Crawford to make it better.

That nightclub also looks like it totally came out of a Rinse Dream movie.

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

The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (1988)

Griffin, a young boy in 14th century Cumbria is celebrated by the villagers because he is able to see visions that have protected them from the black death. But now, as other towns die around them, they are asking him to help dig a hole to the other side of the world. But what they find is a whole new Earth they never expected!

While melting and casting copper ore to build a gigantic cross to ask for God’s protection, the villagers make a hole that leads them to a ladder to 20th century New Zealand, which is the last place that you’d expect in a movie that has been set up to be an adventure in the past.

Much like The Wizard of Oz, the film stock changes to color as our adventurers find their way to our time, but despite being joined by the brave Connor, Griffin’s visions grow more grim.

Director Vincent Ward would go on to write Alien 3 and direct What Dreams May Come.

This is a really interesting, if off, taking on a medieval adventure. I’m interested to see what others think of this one, which you can watch on Tubi.

Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell (1988)

The third of four Deathstalker movies, following Rick Hill as the hero in Deathstalker* and John Terlesky taking over in Deathstalker II, this installment finds John Allen Nelson (Killer Klowns from Outer Space) taking over as the Deathstalker.

Deathstalker once saved the wizard Nicias (Mexican telenovella actor Aarón Hernán) and as such, they now travel to villages where the old man tells the future. At one such place, a hooded woman reveals herself to be the Princess Carissa (Carla Sands, who was appointed the U.S. Ambrassador to Denmark in 2017), who knows of a magical stone that can combine with the one Nicias alrady has to reveal the secret city of Arandor. All they have to do is battle the evil sorcerer Troxartes (Thom Christopher, Hawk from Buck Rogers) to get it. That shouldn’t be so bad, right?

That’s when Makut and his men attack. Nicias teleports to safety while Deathstalker must battle his way out. Carissa? Yeah, she doesn’t make it. If you haven’t seen the other films, Deathstalker screws up spectacularly quite often, unlike Conan, whose movies he’s cashing in on. He heads off to the home country of Troxartes, meeting with Carissa’s twin Princess Elizena and being chased by Makut, who has brought back all of Deathstalker’s deceased enemies from beyond the grave.

Oh yeah — he also meets a local girl named Marinda who he beds in less time than it will take for you to read this review. There’s also an undead warrior named Gragas who remembers that he died honorably against Deathstalker (they can’t mean Oghris from the first movie, right? Why do I remember Deathstalker cannon better than the people who made these movies?) and reveals that all the dead souls are trapped doing the bidding of their master.

Of course, there are three stones needed, not just one. And yes, there’s no way Marinda or any of the bad guys are going to survive. You know who is? Deathstalker. He just gets on his horse and rides away after decimating the lives of everyone around him, like the Hyborian Jessica Fletcher.

It’s worth mentioning that unlike all of the other films in this series, this does not use stock footage of the other Deathstalker films. It does, however, take liberally from Corman’s The Raven. It also takes the soundtrack** from Battle Beyond the Stars, just like so many Corman productions. There’s even an IMDB list that has taken stock of all the movies Corman made that reuse bits and pieces of that film, so I guess he was a green filmmaker back before that was a thing.

This is the kind of junk food film that goes well on a cold and rainy Saturday. It was written by Howard R. Cohen, who also brought us The Unholy RollersSaturday the 14thSaturday the 14th Strikes BackStrykerBarbarian Queen II and episodes of both Rainbow Brite and The Care Bears.

You can watch the MST3K verson of this on Tubi or the unriffed version on YouTube.

*Hill would come back for the fourth movie, 1991’s Deathstalker IV: Match of Titans. It is my job to know these things.

**It also outright rips off Brian Eno’s prophecy theme from Dune.

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: Robo Vampire (1988)

Have you ever wondered what a hybrid of John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China (1986; a bigger hit in the Pacific Rim territories than in the U.S.) and Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop (1987) would look like?

Welcome to this Pacific Rim exploitation oddity that out-cheaps the crowned King we hail that is Cirio H. Santiago (Demon of Paradise, Fighting Mad, Firecracker, The Sisterhood, Stryker, Wheels of Fire) and his crowned prince, Jun Gallardo (Desert Warrior).

Robo Vampire is one of the 150 films from the joint ouvre of director Joe Livingstone and screenwriter Willie Palmer, aka Godfrey Ho; he, the master of B-movie Hong Kong action disasters, he, the master of the “cut-and-paste” technique with a finesse and skill that leads one to wonder how in the hell he got a job teaching filmmaking — to others — at Hong Kong Polytech. But, as with Roger Corman, during his 25 years of making genre films in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Philippines, Ho’s mostly Z-grade movies never lost a dime.

And like Corman and Santiago before him, Ho was a stock footage recycling fetishist that not only cannibalized his own films, but the films of others. Not content with endlessly patching one of his own movies into another to create a “new” movie (or two or three), he’d purchase unfinished and unreleased Asian, Chinese, Filipino, and Thai films, then add Caucasian actors to appeal to the Euro and American home video markets, and, through dubbing and voice-overs, assemble a “plot” with the barest of coherence — you know, like when Niels Rasmussen took William Chang’s Calamity of Snakes and churned out The Serpent Warriors as “John Howard” (nope, again: not the John Howard of Spine fame).

In the case of Robo Vampire, it all begins with Ho’s 1987 action film, Devil’s Dynamite, which, after the “success” of Robo Vampire, became, Robo Vampire 2: Devil’s Dynamite (1990). But, if you’re keeping track, Robo Vampire itself features footage from Devil’s Dynamite. So it’s the same film . . . but it’s a sequel . . . and it’s not. And it’s confusing as hell to figure which is the chicken and which is the friggin’ egg . . . or if we have three films or two films — with one film simply retitled to make it look like three films.

Anyway, Devil’s Dynamite is a straight forward good guys vs. bad drug gang movie that owes it debt to John Carpenter: It concerns a top secret agent, aka “The Shadow Warrior,” sent to stop a drug smuggling operation in The Golden Triangle. But a drug lord burnt a voodoo doll and chanted a spell in a crypt that revived a hoard of bloodthirsty, hoping vampires (yes, they hop like bunny rabbits)* that shoot flesh-eating smoke n’ sparks from their hands to defend the operation. And apparently, the once long-sleeping vampires are the stuff of legend, as kids at a birthday party play a sick version of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey — with the blindfolded birthday girl being chased by a kid pretending he’s one of the hoping vampires.

Then Verhoeven had to go and make Robocop.

So Devil’s Dynamite is recut into a story about Tom Wilde, a murdered narcotics agent given a second chance via an experiment that transforms him into a cyborg. His mission: rescue Sophie, a beautiful undercover agent (from the first film) kidnapped by the evil drug lord, Mr. Young, and his hoard of hoping, somersaulting-and-back flipping vampires.

Then Robo Vampire had to go and make bank.

So, Robo Vampire and Devil’s Dynamite are recut again — with a whole new “Robo Cop” costume (because the other cheapo suit probably fell apart in the first film) — as Robo Vampire 2: Devil’s Dynamite. At least that’s what we think is going on here. So it goes in the world of the cheap-jack Indonesian cinema we love at B&S About Movies.

You can watch Robo Vampire and Robo Vampire 2: Devil’s Dynamite on You Tube and have your own copy of Robo Vampire as part of the Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion Box Set. Wait . . . what’s this? Godfrey’s oeuvre — well, 36 of them, including Robo Vampire — have been digitized for TubiTV? How many films can you watch with the words “Ninja,” “Snake,” “Dragon,” and “Thunderbolt” in them? When it’s Godfrey Ho . . A LOT!

* We can take a poke at Willie Palmer, aka Godfrey Ho, and joke about bunny vampires; however, those vamp-rabbits aren’t from cinematic ineptitude: they’re from Chinese legend: the Qing Dynasty legends of the Jiangshi (meaning “hard or “stiff”), which first appeared in print 1789 through the literary visions of writer Ji Xiaolan. Director Yeung Kung-Leung was the first to bring the Jiangshi to the big screen with 1936’s Midnight Vampire.

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

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: Top Line (1988)

We can blame this Italian hodgepodge waste bucket of influences — shot and theatrically released under the title of Alien Terminator, becoming Top Line for video — on George Lucas and Steven Spielberg for giving us their joint jungle-sci-fi Indiana Jones adventures. Oh, and James Cameron for The Terminator. And once you toss in a dash of John Carpenter’s They Live, a soupçon Ron Howard’s Cocoon, and a pinch of Robert Zemeckis’s Romancing the Stone, you’ll know why we don’t revere the resume of Ted Archer, aka Nello Rossati, with the same vigor we give his fellow Italians Lewis Coates, aka Luigi Cozzi, and Al Bradley, aka Alfonso Brescia, in the digitized pages of B&S About Movies.

Warning: Scene on the VHS sleeve may vary from the actual movie

I mean, you know how gaga for giallo and poliziotteschi genre films we are in this neck of the Allegheny wilds . . . and we never reviewed La gatta in calore, aka The Cat in Heat (1972; the worst of the Argento imitators), and I figli non si toccano!, aka Don’t Touch the Children (1978; the clunkiest of the Death WishMagnum Force clones). So what does that tell you?

It tells you that this isn’t a tribute to the science fiction B-movies of the 1950s — like the Lucas-Spielbergian film it’s thieving: it tells you this is an insult to the science fiction B-movies of the 1950s it is thieving. For it is a celluloid larceny that would give Glen “Larceny” Larson pause.

Just because we can. And the fact that Sergio Martino can’t sue us because Hands of Steel was, itself, a ripoff.

It tells you that not even the very cool Franco Nero (of the superb giallo The Fifth Chord and equally cool spaghetti western Keoma) and the always reliable George Kennedy (who was obviously on hard times, considering he did this and the possessed cat-on-a-boat romp Uninvited in the same year) can’t save this jungle-sci-fi adventure. It tells you that not even the plastic cyborgs, the rubbery-gooey extraterrestrials, and awfully-dubbed Nazis can save it. (Okay, we’ll give Rossati-Archer bonus points for the somewhat decent cyborg and the alien make-ups. Ah, but he loses them for dubbing George Kennedy with one of the worst faux-German accents, aka accidents, in cinematic history.)

And what is a “top line” and what does a “top line” have to do with the movie? (Damned if I know. My attention span was FUBAR’d by the proceedings and I was too lazy to rewind to find out.) Why ditch the more exploitative Alien Terminator? Best guess: Blame it on the always-changing-their-minds producers: “We want Alien . . . wait, we want The Terminator . . . wait, turn the lead into an Indian Jones-type character. And dupe renters into thinking they’re getting a romantic, Bogey and Becall adventure, so ditch the aliens and cyborgs. Hey, can we have him runaround barefoot like Bruce Willis?

Argh!!!!

Franco Nero plays Angelo, a washed-up writer living in Cartagena, Colombia, whose search for conquistador gold leads him to a mountain cave where he uncovers a 15th century Spanish galleon inside the hull of a UFO. (Okay, it’s not a bad set, actually; but the VHS-to-digital prints of the film that circulate are so muddy, the “majesty,” if any, is lost). Yes. You heard me right: a galleon inside a UFO, inside a cave, behind fake rock “door,” inside mountain, in the middle of the Columbian jungle.

And you thought Ruggero Deodato’s Raiders of Atlantis was an “epic adventure beyond that rivals Rambo* and Mad Max**.” Think again. And you thought Michele Massimo Tarantini bait-and-switched you with the no-actual-dinosaurs-appear-in-this-movie Massacre in Dinosaur Valley. That’s right. Think again — provided this movie didn’t already compromise your cerebral cortex.

So how did Angie-boy end up here? Cue the bitchy ex-wife-who’s-also-my-publisher-boss trope (Octopussy-era bond girl Mary Stavin, who didn’t fare any better in the inept radio-slasher Open House). Then cue the Aztec dagger Angie discovers that he can sell and save his ass. And cue the bodies that start dropping like flies because Angie found the dagger. (Or was it the cave: don’t care.) And George Kennedy as the troped (blink-and-miss), cackling Nazi antiques dealer after him because of the dagger. And the KGB that are after the Nazis, who are after Angie, because they want the dagger. And the aliens . . . who send in a cyborg (Rodrigo Obregon of a bunch of Andy Sidaris movies?!) adorned with curly hair, an unbuttoned David Hasselhoff red shirt, and a hunk of plastic stuck on his face that comes complete with a whirring eyeball).

Watch out for the bull!!!

Oh, and speaking of James Bond: Nero hooks up with his own Kate Capshaw in Deborah Barrymore, aka Deborah Moore, aka Roger Moore’s daughter (who actually made it into the Oscar-winning Chapin . . . but also did Warriors of the Apocalypse for Manila-flick purveyor Bobby A. Suarez of They Call Her . . . Cleopatra Wong fame). Oh, and how deep is the rip-offness of it all: Nero looses his shoes John McClane-style in the jungle as he runs from the bad guys so, you know, you think that you’re watching a Die Hard clone because the Romancing the Stone cover gag didn’t work.

And you know what? This friggin’ mess is one of those analog gems that makes us bow before the VHS-to-digital altars of Mill Creek Entertainment. So take off your shoes, strap on a popcorn bag, and watch this one on You Tube. Ah, the caveat: The print is pretty washed out and I have a feeling the Mill Creek version may not be much better. But that’s how it goes in the wilds of the lawless, analog public domains. For not every movie deserves a 4K Blu restoration. But it deserves to be packed amid 50 other lost water-bobbers to enjoy.

Spaghetti Western Alert: Franco Nero reteamed with director Nello Rossati in the 1986 “comeback” Western, the critical and commercial bomb Django Strikes Again. We reviewed that, and about two-dozen others (including Nero’s 1966 turn in Django), during our “Spaghetti Westerns Week” that ran from Sunday, August 16, to Saturday, August 22.

Movie Theme Drink Alert: Hey, Sam! I can mix drinks based on movies, too! I give you the Top Line Terminator:

  • 1 ounce coconut rum
  • 1 ounce vodka
  • 1/2 ounce blue curacao
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice

The blue curacao, when mixed with the other liquids, will turn green — like an alien. Enjoy!

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

* Check out our “Sylvester Stallone” week of reviews.
** Check out our two-part “Atomic Dust Bin” tributes to the Mad Max-inspired cycle of films.

SLASHER MONTH: Hack-O-Lantern (1988)

I’ve had Hack-O-Lantern on my list for years, always meaning to get to it. The cover spoke to me for some reason, but I never got to it. Luckily, Joe Bob Briggs selected it for his Halloween Hideaway and I realized that this movie is exactly what I love most in films. It’s made by foreigh filmmakers chasing a trend that have no idea what they’re doing or the new culture they’re part of  — see The Last American Virgin — while bringing in their native ideas of what does work, which in this case would be Jag Mundhra bringing Bollywood to Hollywood, filling this film with musical numbers and comedy, while learning that to sell it to even more foreign markets, particularly Japan with their fascination with bare pubic regions*, which means hiring adult video stars.

I’m nearly delirious with film geek happiness.

Hy Pyke doesn’t just chew the scenery in this as Grandpa Drindle. He practically treats this film like a buffet. Perhaps you remember him as the bus driver in Lemora or from Slithis? Well he was positively restrained in those movies, as here he’s the old man leader of a backwoods Satanic cult that has knocked up his daughter Amanda (Katina Garner, who was Mother Speed, the leader of the rollerskating nuns in Roller Blade, a movie that strangely enough is even more bonkers than this one) with one boy named Tommy (Gregory Scott Cummins, who is also in Phantom of the Mall and Click the Calendar Girl Killer, as well as appearing in all kinds of TV to this day, like It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia), a juiced up thirty year old who is supposed to be eighteen. That’s who the devil wants to lead the cult, but then there are also two other siblings, a cop named Jeff and nice girl Vera (Carla Baron, NecromancerSorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama and a former Joe Bob mail girl).

Grandpa’s goal is to do everything he can to ensure that Tommy ends up making the ritual on Halloween night, which is celebrated with music from The Mercenaries and comedy. All Tommy wants to do is dream of metal bands like D.C. La Croix and have rough sex with his pentagram tattooed girlfriend Nora (Angel Rush, who the more astute — and perverted among you — may recognize as adult video legend Jeanna Fine, at this point in-between her transformation from blonde bombshell to short haired brunette butch ballbreaker goddess). Grandpa takes care of that by stabbing her in the head with a pitchform (but not before a lengthy scene of full frontal nudity).

And so it goes — with Tommy in his basement lifting weights, keeping his multicolored and candle festooned Satanic altar lit and hanging posters of Dead-End Drive-In and Killian’s Irish Red (a beer that has semeed to disappear). There’s also sex on a grave, dead boyfriends, dancing Satanic rituals and bad guys who have confused the symbol for “I love you” (which I learned from Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka) for the devil’s horns.

This is exactly the kind of movie that 16-year-olds in the video era were looking for, a film where Jeanna Fine makes a bloody mary at 3 in the afternoon before lounging back nude and telling a killer not to bruise her up like last time, punctuated with never signed hair metal bands, laser beans and a shower scene for every female character.

Mundhra would sadly die in 2011, but not before he left behind thirty one movies, including Open HouseThe Jigsaw Murders Shades of Gray and Night Eyes, which was the movie that pretty much invented Cinemax After Dark.

This is a movie that’s going to obsess me for a while, what with a basement that has a poster for Romero’s Season of the Witch with just the word witch on it, a mom who thinks she’s in either the 1950’s or the 1800’s but in no way the late 1980’s, a town that allows a Satanic gang to kill people at will, grandpa’s truck filled with pumpkins that never fall out despite him driving like an absolute maniac, Satanic garb that combines overall, flannel, capes and Ben Cooper-level masks and friends who put spiders in your bathtub and come on in when you’re fully nude like it’s no big deal.

Hack-O-Lantern is complete junk. Perfect complete junk, that is.

You can watch this on Shudder and grab the blu ray from Massacre Video.

*Thanks Joe Bob!

SLASHER MONTH: Hard Rock Nightmare (1988)

Dominick Brascia was Joey in Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, as well as writing and directing Evil Laugh and this film. He moved into radio and sadly died in 2018. But hey — he did three slashers, counting this one, so let’s take a look.

When John was a little kid, his grandfather would constantly tell him that he was a vampire, so he did what I would have as a child. He grabbed a stake and dropped that bloodsucker. Except, you know, his grandfather was just joking and as a result, John grew up in a mental hospital.

But hey, things worked out OK. Now he’s in a rock and roll band and once the cops tell him they’re too loud for the garage, he heads to the house his grandmother left him. That said, his bandmates are getting killed off one by one, possibly by a werewolf who was once his grandfather, so maybe things aren’t so great.

So I guess the Bad Boys are never going to make it, despite their willingness to sound more like Bryan Adams than you’d expect from a movie with hard rock in the title and wear women’s lingerie.

Actually, this movie is a lot like Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare, except you don’t get to see Thor fight a demon or drive around for 35 minutes. If I was making a scale of metal horror films, with Trick or Treat as the top of the scale, I’d probably use this as the bottom. It is also no Black Roses, Rocktober Blood or Blood Tracks, either.

You can watch this on YouTube.

SLASHER MONTH: Spellcaster (1988)

Charles Band bought a castle, Castello di Giove, to make movies in*, which gives this movie a great look. It’s so 1988 that it hurts, featuring an MTV-style channel that creates a contest where viewers will compete to find a $1 million dollar check hidden in the walls of the estate of the enigmatic Diablo (Adam Ant!), like some demented Willie Wonka or Amazing Kreskin trying to find his payday.

Let me tell you all right from the start, I absolutely love this movie.

This whole scheme has been created to help the career of music video vixen Cassandra Castle (Bunty Bailey, herself a music video girl with appearances in OMD’s “Talking Loud and Clear” and most famously in a-ha’s “Take On Me” and “The Sun Always Shines on TV,” as well as showing up in another Band film, Dolls) and VJ Rex (Richard Blade, who was a KROQ DJ and is now on Sirius XM’s First Wave channel).

Along with the heroic orphans from Cleveland named Jackie and Tom (Gail O’Grady and Harold Pruett), there’s also a moron from Jersey and several stuck up female contestants like Myrna, Teri and Yvette (Tricia Lind, Fright Night Part 2) who seem to be in this only to drive Tom insane.

The scheme is that Cassandra is holding the check so that she and Rex can split the money. But nobody counted on Diablo really being a spellcasting demon — hence the title — and killing off the contestants one by one.

Director Rafal Zielinski also made ScrewballsScrewballs IIScrewballs HotelRecruits and State Park, all video rental and cable favorites that I’ve watched more times than I’d care to admit.

One of the reasons this movie looks so good is because it was shot by Lucio Fulci’s regular DP, Sergio Salvati (ZombieContrabandThe PsychicCity of the Living DeadThe BeyondThe House by the Cemetery and many more films without the Godfather of Gore, including 1990: The Bronx WarriorsThunderThe Wax Mask and Ghoulies II). It’s also filled with imaginative FX, such as a room of zombies and a wooden chair that comes to life to kill off one of the contestants.

You can get this on blu ray from Vinegar Syndrome or watch it on Tubi.

*Castle FreakThe Pit and the PendulumNight of the SinnerMeridian and many more movies were shot in the castle.