Black Past (1989)

Olaf Ittenbach did everything on this and stars as Thommy, whose family moves into a new house, upon which he discovers a cursed mirror and diary. Man, this is why I was glad my family never moved, because I was barely able to deal with the revelation that the family that lived in our house before kept one of their kids locked in one of the rooms upstairs so that no one would discover that they had had a mentally challenged child.

So anyways, this mirror and diary turn young master Thommy into a crazed killer and then, unrelated but we can assume that the wheels of fate and karma and movies have connected column A with column B, we soon watch his girlfriend Petra die in a car accident and then rise from the dead.

If you dug Olaf’s The Burning Moon then you’re going to love this. Spoiler warning: a cock gets nailed to a board and sprays a lot of blood. The more tender of the menfolk out there may want to skip that.

Warlock (1989)

Steve Miner is a secret success story, between directing Friday the 13th Part 2, Friday the 13th Part III, House and yeah, sure, Lake Placid and Halloween H20. Here, he’s working from a script from Pitch Black creator David Twohy and telling the story of a male witch who has come to our time to destroy our world for Satan. He’s blasted through a time portal and is followed by the witchhunter Giles Redferne (Richard E. Grant).

Julian Sands is that Warlock and man, the movie is great because of him, as well as some deft writing and a great cameo by Mary Woronov.

Satan has told the Warlock to reassemble The Grand Grimoire, a spell book separated into three pieces which can unmake Creation when united, because that seems like a good idea. In his way is not just Giles, but Kassandra (Lori Singer), a woman who the magician has rapidly aged.

If you watch this and think, “Man, that age makeup is horrible,” you’re not alone. Singer was allegedly hard to deal with and turned down the makeup of FX artist Carl Fullerton, despite it being fully tested and approved. On the day of shooting, she refused to be made up as a forty-year-old woman and would not wear any prosthetics, so Fullerton had to use stippling, shadowing and a gray wig. The sixty-year-old makeup needed prosthetics, which Singer agreed to, but refused to have any near her nose or eyes.

New World Pictures was suffered financial difficulties when this was made and that led to the movie being shelved for two years. It was released by Trimark and ended up making them some cash.

You can watch this on Tubi.

You know what blew my mind? There was a video game!

REPOST: Curse II: The Bite (1989)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This sequel article originally ran during our Junesploitation coverage on June 15, 2021

The only thing better than a sequel is one that’s in name only. That’s exactly what The Curse II: The Bite is all about. It’s really a movie called The Bite, which was directed by Fred Goodwin, who is really Frederico Prosperi, whose only other credit is producing the nature on the loose movie The Wild Beasts.

The film came to be after the success of The Curse. Producer Ovidio G. Assonitis and his company TriHoof Investments started making this film and another called The Train, which also became an in-name-only sequel as well called Beyond the Door III (AKA Amok Train).

Our heroes are young lovers Clark (J. Eddie Peck, the star of Lambada) and Lisa (Jill Schoelen, who is one of my favorite unheralded scream queens with roles in The StepfatherCutting ClassThe Phantom of the Opera, PopcornWhen a Stranger Calls Back and Chiller) whose cross-country trip has taken them right past an abandoned nuclear test site crawling with mutant snakes. Clark gets bit and starts to slowly mutate into a snake himself.

Luckily, Lisa has some help from a sheriff (Bo Svenson) and Harry Morton (Jamie Farr) a traveling salesman who is also a doctor of sorts. He tries to treat the snakebite and uses the wrong medication, which pushes the mutation further as he furtively seeks the couple out to save them as much as he’s trying to save himself from a malpractice lawsuit. Why is a traveling salesman also a doctor? That’s just how the world of this movie works.

Also, if you ever wanted to see a movie where Jamie Farr has conjugal relations with trucker women, come on down to Curse II: The Bite!

There are some great Screaming Mad George effects in this, as well as an astounding scene where Clark tries to use his hand in a Biblical manner on Lisa. His mutated snake hand. Man, I was screaming at the television! Stick with this movie because while it starts off slow, but it gets ooey, gooey and great by the end. And by great, the kind of great when Italian filmmakers are let loose in America. You know what I’m talking about.

This worked out so well that a movie called Panga became Curse III: Blood Sacrifice and Catacombs was retitled Curse IV: The Ultimate Sacrifice.

JOE D’AMATO WEEK: Blue Angel Cafe (1989)

You can say what you want about Joe D’Amato’s movies, but the guy knew a very important fact: if you get someone as talented as Enzo Sciotti to paint the poster to your film, people will want to see it.

That said, this is the kind of D’Amato movie that fascinates me, as it stars Tara Buckman, an actress who has obsessed me since Night Killer, in a movie that’s at once closer to reality than that movie and also still so far away from the world that you and I live in.

Shot in Virginia — I assume right around when the aforementioned Mattei movie was made — Buckman plays Angie, a cabaret singer who steals the heart of Raymond Derek, a rich man with political aspirations, a gorgeous wife and a path toward the upper one percent. Their love takes it all away, yet when she fights for him, he reacts in the most pompous and entitled way possible. Truly, she is too good for him, even if she’s the traditional bad girl.

Look, this is a movie so confident of its sexiness that Laura Gemser shows up and keeps her clothes on. And also one so in love with its theme song that Buckman sings it four times.

I kind of love that you expect Buckman’s character to just be someone out to get the money out of our lead protagonist, but she’s better than everyone else in this movie put together, willing to use her body to keep her man going, selling every bit of herself and still remaining strong and whole in a world where everyone else is a compromised individual.

Yeah, alright, I get a lot out of Joe D’Amato movies. Perhaps more than you do. You may just watch this and laugh and say, “What a piece of junk.” I invite you to see the world through more positive eyes, a place where a softcore movie by a jaded porn-making hack can teach you a lesson in life.

WATCH THE SERIES: Eleven Days, Eleven Nights

You have to hand it to Joe D’Amato. Most people would just make one ripoff of 9 and 1/2 Weeks. Instead, Joe stretches his series of three films out to 33 days, which is a little under 5 weeks or around half as much time as its inspiration and there’s some goofy logic to that.

Actually it’s seven movies I learned after writing this, so that means that Joe hit 77 days, or 11 more than the 66 days of 9 1/2 weeks, so the numerology all works out, right?

While Adrian Lyne had Sarah Kernochan, Zalman King and Patricia Louisianna Knop to write his screenplay, Joe makes due with the team of Rossella Drudi and Claudio Fragasso for the first film. And what a film it is.

Eleven Days, Eleven Nights (1988): Sarah Asproon (Jessica Moore AKA Luciana Ottaviani AKA Gilda Germano, who also appears in Sodoma’s GhostConvent of Sinners and Top Model) is writing a book about her last one hundred lovers, but she’s only had ninety-nine. Then she meets Michael on a boat and despite the fact that he’s about to get married (Mary Sellers plays his fiancee Helen and you’ve seen her in StagefrightGhosthouse and The Crawlers), she makes him agree that they will be lovers for — everybody yell out the title — eleven days and eleven nights.

There’s an actual budget to this film and it was shot in New Orleans, so it has an American feel, which is exactly what late 80s Italian movies were shooting for. There’s even a moment where the couple go see Stagefright in a theater and Michael falls asleep, waking up to Helen remarking, “What a beautiful film. So touching! So romantic!”

So yeah, this movie has a honey scene just like the film that inspired it, but I kind of like this one better. D’Amato is at his best when he’s shooting gorgeous women being gorgeous and Moore is, well, one of those reminders that there just might be a God somewhere. A reminder that there may not be is the acting by her co-star Joshua McDonald and the horrible ending where she tells him that he was just being used to be in her book but fell in love, so he bends her over, takes her roughly from behind and leaves her for his boring fiancee. For a film that spent most of its running time with a heroine in charge of her sexuality, this was massively upsetting.

The moral: Don’t look for Italian sexploitation movies to have good messages.

Eleven Days, Eleven Nights 2 (1991): D’Amato and Drudi reteamed for this sequel in name only, even though the character of Sarah comes back. Now she’s played by Kristine Rose and has been married and separated and given the new job of the executor of the estate of Lionel Durrington, one of her past lovers and the richest man in Louisiana.

Guess what? This is actually the third film in the series because Sarah was the lead character in Top Model, which is also listed in plenty of places as Eleven Days, Eleven Nights 2. Look — it wouldn’t be Italian movies if it wasn’t confusing.

There are four heirs and one after another, they all get with our heroine, who will determine which one is worthy of the money based on how good they are in bed, one supposes. Sonny is the only one with no interest in Sarah, even when she danced for him at a strip club, but that’s because his last girlfriend was abused in front of him by friend of the family Alfred, who is also trying to get the money.

Because Italian films really don’t care about how insane or twisted — actually, this is what they run toward not from — things get, Sarah disguises herself as Sonny’s old lover and goes to the impotence institute and gets a rise out of him.

By the end, she realizes that no one deserves the money, so she comes up with a plan. She’ll write a book about the family and its secrets while they split the $500 million with a mystery person. They quickly sign and yeah, the mystery guy is the man who was supposed to be dead and we have a happy ending. We also have Laura Gemser in the blink and you’ll miss it role of Sarah’s jogging publisher and Ruth Collins from Lurkers, Doom Asylum and Prime Evil show up.

For a movie about people getting naked, D’Amato has plenty of women in sweaters show up. I’m all for this.

Also: This has also been listed as The Web of Desire and Eleven Days, Eleven Nights Part 4 because Italian movies are wonderful and confusing.

Eleven Days, Eleven Nights 3 (1989): Also known as Pomeriggio caldo (Hot Afternoon), this film points to the genius that is D’Amato. Instead of just making a sexual thriller — trust me, it still has plenty of sex — he worked with writer David Resseguier — who has to be a pen name for someone — to create this downright weird story of heading to New Orleans and just fading into it.

Someone says, “This is a place that paralyzes you. You don’t fall in love with a person here, but rather you become grossly obsessed with the environment. It’s not like our world.”

That’s what this movie is about, as well as the fact that a young reporter has come to the French Quarter to write about Nora, a woman who just lost her husband to voodoo. He takes along his wife, who plays a game with him where he encourages men to try to bed her while having no real interest in her. This predictably backfires and she leaves him for a muscular voodoo man — I am not making this up — and he starts going insane realizing what he’s lost. And oh yeah — he also gets to bed Nora, which seems like a way better thing than pining for someone he never really cared about.

Every actor in this movie is horrible and wonderful, often within the same scene, and it has an odd pace and overall sadness that keeps it from being fully erotic, which is awesome when you think about it. The scenery is great and then Laura Gemser shows up just to dance at a voodoo ritual and all movies should have her show up and dance and then get back to the story. Every one of the Disney Star Wars movies would be incredible if the woman who is forever Black Emanuelle would show up and writhe in a sweaty frenzy and then wave goodbye.

Seriously, I fell in love with this movie, which is kind of like a sexier — well, is that movie even sexy? — The Beyond with no house but a much more erotic bathtub scene.

Top Model (1988): Remember when I said there was another Eleven Days, Eleven Nights 2?

This time around, Sarah (Jessica Moore from the first movie) is still writing, but she’s gone undercover as a call girl, which was suggested by her publisher Dorothy (Laura Gemser). Using the name Gloria, she quickly becomes the top girl — some would say the top model — until someone figures out her secret and begins blackmailing her, which makes no sense as she’s already famous for a book where she slept with a hundred men.

She’s also got a crush on an IT guy named Cliff who thinks that he might be gay. I mean, if Jessica Moore is all over you and you need to question it, I’m not stepping on any LGBTQ landmines by saying that yes, you are gay. It’s fine, it’s a great choice and it’s probably what Cliff ends up choosing as the couple is divorced by the time the second part two in this series comes around.

But hey — how about that theme song?

To prove that America is the most puritanical country there is, there was an R-rated Top Model version made just for U.S. cable with still scenes replacing the lovemaking in motion and any reference to Cliff perhaps being gay cut from the film.

Eleven Days, Eleven Nights 5: Dirty Love (1988): I mean, this movie is totally Joe D’Amarto making Dirty Dancing and casting Jeff Stryker and  Valentine Demy, who went from waitressing to lingerie model to D’Amato star while she was 17.

D’Amato also throws Fame and Flashdance into the ripoff magic blender and emerges with a movie that has the sex those movies were missing and so much more to spare. Demy plays Terry, who leaves behind a small town where her father wants to pick out her husband and doesn’t want her to dance, so Footloose too?

This movie packs in all the sleaze you imagine that a Joe D’Amato movie called Dirty Love should have. In a world where movies don’t live up to their names or posters, for the most part Joe outdid himself every time.

If you’re watching this and wondering, “Where have I seen Robert before?” He’s Aimee Mann’s jerk of a boyfriend in the ‘Til Tuesday video for “Voices Carry.”

Bonus points for Laura Gemser showing up as a masseuse (and the costume designer).

Eleven Days, Eleven Nights 6: The Labyrinth of Love (1993): Valerie (Monica Seller, Dangerous AttractionMadnessLegittima Vendetta) travels to Saigon to work for a family that she soon seduces. I mean, the whole family. The matriarch. The widower. The grandfather. The gay college student? All of them.

I have no idea why a movie set in the 1930s is in the Eleven Days, Eleven Nights series, but you know, I tend to forgive Joe D’Amato all manner of things. Even when a movie is slow when it should be red hot eroticism, I say things like, “That’s a nice shot” or “I mean, Joe did make Buio Omega.”

Eleven Days, Eleven Nights 7: The House of Pleasure (1994): Lord Gregory Hutton (Nick Nicholson, who somehow was in both Apocalypse NowPlatoonThe Firebird ConspiracyWar Without EndSFX RetaliatorBorn on the Fourth of July and Beyond the Call of Duty, which means he either made up his IMDB listing or man, he’s been in the highest of the war movie highs and the lowest of the low) goes to the Far East on his honeymoon with his wife Eleanore. They stay on a silk farm and Eleanore falls for Lin, the young man of the house (Marc Gosálve, who is also in D’Amato’s China and Sex and Chinese Kamasutra).

This is one of those movies like Emmanuelle where a young wife finds her sexuality while her husband watches, but this has the technology of 1994, which means video cameras. And hey — Joe went to Asia to shoot this (along wih Tales of Red Chamber, China and SexThe Labyrinth of Love and Chinese Kamasutra), so there’s some production value.

For all the negativity heaped on the films of D’Amato, when he’s getting the opportunity to tell these simple stories and shoot beautiful women to some sexy sax, he always delivers. Are these movies essential watching? Or course not. Are they better than they should be? Definitely.

Thanks to Adrian on Letterboxd for transcribing the Eleven Days, Eleven Nights 3 quote above.

JOE D’AMATO WEEK: Deep Blood (1989)

EDITOR’S NOTE: How much do we love Joe D’Amato? The first line of this article, which originally appeared on December 21, 2018, is on the back of the box for Severin‘s blu ray release of this movie.

If you thought Joe D’Amato didn’t have a Jaws ripoff in him, then you don’t know Joe D’Amato. Or Federiko Slonisko. Or Michael Wotruba. Or David Hills. Or Kevin Mancuso. Or Joan Russell. Or Raf Donato, the name he used when he directed this.

Joe D’Amato had just as many names as he made movies. Born Aristide Massaccesi, he first became known as a cinematographer on films like What Have You Done to Solange? before directing his own films like Death Smiles on a Murderer, five Emanuelle films include the absolutely berserk Emanuelle and the Last CannibalsAntropophagusAbsurd, Endgame and literally hundreds more, as well as producing films by George Eastman, Michele Soavi, Umberto Lenzi, Lucio Fulci and Claudio Fragrasso.

This movie begins as we meet four boys, Miki, John, Jason and Alan, eating hotdogs on the beach with a Native American mystic who tells them the tale of the monstrous Wakan shark. The boys sign a blood oath that they will always be friends and help one another in times of danger.

Much like a Stephen King movie, the boys get together ten years later. However, Wakan shows up, kills John and starts randomly devouring just about everyone in his path. There’s a long extended sequence where a police chopper hovers over the guys’ boat, repeatedly saying “Go back to shore, you should be embarrassed of what you’ve done” that made me laugh so hard I fell off my couch.

If the scene of the shark blowing up at the end — sorry spoiler warning — looks familiar, it’s because D’Amato just recycled the effect from the end of The Last Shark. Yes, the Italian film industry is not above ripping itself off. Also, the effects team only built a shark head. The rest of the undersea footage comes from National Geographic.

The mystic angle adds a different take on a shark movie. And there are moments of sheer absurdity, like the sheriff being named Cody and not Brody, harpoons being shot into the cars of punkers and a fishing scene where it’s obvious that no one knows how to actually fish.

Joe D’Amato may not have delivered the Italian shark movie of my dreams, where George Eastman emerges from the inside of the shark eating its innards, but dammit if he didn’t try.

ARROW BLU RAY RELEASE: Phantom of the Mall (1989)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Phantom of the Mall originally ran on our site June 30, 2017 — way back in our first few weeks! Thankfully, this movie has finally come out thanks to Arrow Video and we’ve adjusted this article to discuss the new edition as well as why we liked the original. Check it out!

Before this whole internet thing and social media and everyone connected to a screen all the time era that we live in now, teenagers used to gather at a place called “the mall.” It contained everything they needed — a movie theater showing the latest entertainment, a place to buy media like audio cassettes and CDs and VHS tapes, clothing stores, even a full food court with their favorite foods. Yes, it was Amazon before Amazon, and people actually physically met one another. And it wasn’t always awesome, trust me, going to the mall every weekend could actually get pretty boring. That said — there wasn’t much else to do, unless you wanted to sit in front of the TV and watch Blood Sucking Freaks for the 90th time — but that’s just me.

As always, this movie was probably dreamed up in a room that looked like a Peruvian mountain, the air hazy with powder and only sound heard short toots on the drugs that had hours before been inside a balloon that was also inside someone’s asshole. Let’s not dwell — let’s look for that magic moment where a studio exec looks up, his perfect mullet and skin tone contrasting with the pure white haze of the room, upon which he opines, “You know, that Michael Crawford has been on Broadway doing Phantom of the Opera for awhile. But what if teenagers had their own Phantom? Where would he be?” Silence ensues, save for occasional nasal drip. After what seems like epochs, one lone voice rises above the tide: “At the mall. At the fucking mall.” The check is written. The film is made.

Lights. Camera. Sniff. Action.

On the eve of the opening of a new mall, a shadowy man steals a crossbow and kills a security guard. It’s hushed up, as so many people are losing their minds that such an amazing mall is open in their town. It’s probably only the eighth mall in Sharman Oaks )the movie was actually shot at the Sherman Oaks Galleria, Westfield Promenade and Valencia Studios), so this is big news.

Melody Austin (Kari Kennell Whitman, Playboy Playmate of the Month February, 1988) and Suzie (The Adventures of Ford Fairlaine and the girl at the craps table in Empire Records) are excited to get good jobs there. That’s when we learn that the killer is Eric (oh yeah, his name is in the subtitle, as if we’re supposed to know who Eric and why he wants revenge), Suzie’s supposedly dead boyfriend, who was lost in the fire that paved the way for the mall. Yep, his family wouldn’t sell and damn progress, now everyone is dead and Suzie has moved on, literally working for minimum wage on the ashes of the man she once had sex with in a room that oddly enough has a fireplace. I’ve been in plenty of houses — I’m not bragging, just stating fact — and I have never seen a teenager have a fireplace in their room before. Maybe it’s trust issues. Perhaps it’s just ridiculous.

To hide his face, Eric slices a mannequin head in half to form the traditional Phantom mask. Anyone that screws with Suzie dies, while he continues to leave her gifts — her favorite flowers, which triggers the above mentioned fireplace fornication flashback; playing her favorite song; even killing Justin (Tom Fridley, Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI), the owner of the mall’s annoying son when he tries to come on too strong to Melody.

Oh that owner of the mall? He’s played by Jonathan Goldsmith, the original Most Interesting Man in the World. Yes, even hyperbolic ad pitchmen had to pay the bills at some point. He’s aided and abetted by Morgan Fairchild, who plays Mayor Karen Wilton. Did you know that in the swinging 70s Morgan was held against her will on two separate occasions? Here she acts like she doesn’t know what’s going on until late in the picture — turns out she’s behind it all and pays the price by being lofting off the third level of the mall and impaled. It’s a wonderful death, as Frank Miller Batman would mutter under his breath.

This movie stars a lot of folks who have obviously written their own IMDB and Wikipedia pages. To wit — star of the show Derek Rydall’s wiki features in-depth accounts of the scripts he’s helped doctor (he’s worked with both Deepak Chopra and Nick Cage, truly the Alpha and Omega of direct to streaming filmmaking), he’s written two books and he had a near-death experience that he’d love to tell you more about. You should just leave this here, open a new window and read up on it.

Seriously, he invented his own religious laws out of that experience. I can be patient. You can go read this, my silly movie blog will be around and waiting for you.

You know who didn’t write their own Wikipage? Rob Estes, that’s who. The dude is known to every kid who watched USA in the 90s and 00s, because Silk Stalkings always followed Monday Night Raw. He was also in the 1998 movie Terror at the Mall, so if you plan on making a film about bad hombres at the mall, well, call Rob. Or his agent.

Oh yeah. Pauly Shore is in this, doing Pauly Shore things, acting as Pauly Shore. There was a time — oh, let’s call it 1989  to 1994 — when these things were allowed to go unpunished. I feel the same way about Mr. Shore as I do about Limp Bizkit (ironically, Pauly was in their videos for “N 2 Gether Now” and “Break Stuff”). My wife adores them all; I wish endless psoriasis on all of their mons pubises.

And there’s Ken Foree. He’s in this, sure. But this is not the nadir of his career, one that has spanned films like Death Spa and the woeful oeuvre of Rob Zombie. His appearance in Lords of Salem will make you want to take last week’s paycheck and send it to him in the hopes that he never need appear in such a film again. But I digress.

Eric finally realizes that Suzie is falling for Rob Estes, so he plants a bomb that will wipe out the whole mall, but not before he dispatches a piano player with a snake that bits his dick off and shoots the Most Interesting Man in the World with a flaming arrow into a very conveniently arranged wall of flammable containers. It’s the most 80s explosion, in a very 80s movie, complete with folks doing picture perfect flips to their death versus realistically falling.

Does it work? It depends on how old you are. Are you nostalgic for a simpler time when piano players would tickle the ivories for old ladies while everyone got school clothes at Chess King? Did you ever rock some Bugle Boys? Remember when Tiffany toured and played your mall? Then you’re going to love this.

Young folks — you are the reason why 25% of all the malls are closing in the US in the next five years and I’ll never be able to physically go into an FYI store again. It’s enough to make me want to emulate Eric, but I’d have nowhere to go. What could I do, send Snapchats of my burned up forehead and threaten you with cyber bullying?

One last bit of IMDB interest. I just love this trivia, which makes little to no sense:

The mall in this movie was actually based on a real mall, the Kirkgate Shopping Mall in Bradford, England. Owing to a dispute with security officers, the Kirkgate Mall refused to be acknowledged in the end credits.

This mall looks no different than any other mall. And if those guards get out of hand, they should just shoot ’em with a crossbow. This movie has taught me how well this works. But watch out for that one guard. You know the one. Weird sunglasses. One earring. Likes to tell you that he set your old boyfriend’s house on fire and poured gasoline all over you, too.

The Arrow Video limited edition set features not just one or two but three versions of this movie: the Original Theatrical Cut, TV Cut and bonus Integral Fan Cut, which combines footage from both the Original Theatrical and TV Cuts for the ultimate Phantom of the Mall experience!

There are also two brand new audio commentaries, one with director Richard Friedman, moderated by filmmaker Michael Felsher and another with disc producer Ewan Cant and film historian/author Amanda Reyes. Plus — a new making-of doc, an interview with Joe Escalante of The Vandals, alternative and deleted scenes, trailers, the script and an image gallery.

But wait — as they said back in the day — there’s more! You also get a 60-page fully-illustrated perfect-bound book featuring new writing by Daniel Budnik and Amanda Reyes, a large fold-out double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn (who also did the package art) and six postcard-sized lobby card reproductions.

You can get the entire astounding package from Diabolik DVD or MVD.

You can also stream this movie on the Arrow player. Visit ARROW to start your 30-day free trial. Subscriptions are available for $4.99 monthly or $49.99 yearly. ARROW is available in the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland on the following Apps/devices: Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc), Apple TV & iOS devices, Android TV and mobile devices, Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc), and on all web browsers at https://www.arrow-player.com.

Satanic Attraction (1989) and Ritual of Death (1990)

Well . . . after Sam dug up a Halloween-inspired review of Nick Millard’s obscure Satan’s Black Wedding (1976), I decided to answer the challenge with this Fauzi Mansur low-budget obscurity: an awfully-dubbed mess about Fernanda, an underground radio disc jockey who coos her self-composed tales of the macabre — after one to many viewings of Dario Argento’s Tenebre (1982), well, maybe Michele Soavi’s Stage Fright (1987), sans the books or the stage and a radio studio, instead (and a chintzy one, at that). And as with any Italian or Indonesian horror: You need a love interest-detective of the John Saxon variety on the case: we have one, and he has a sexual relationship with our hot, blonde radio jock.

Okay, so Fernie’s tales of Satanists to serial killers are either: Based on her dreams. Or premonitions of future events. Or her psychic connection to the killer. Regardless: either she’s in the mind of the killer, or he in hers, as it inspires a rash of killings that duplicate her radio tales. Her current story is a continuing tale about a group of Satanists attempting to sacrifice two teenagers. The brother escapes: he goes on to use ritualistic murder to resurrect his sister, Sara. Hey, who is that creepy blonde girl always showing up around the killings? Who is that witch with the purple guacamole face? You mean it’s not the brother, but the sister all along? Yeah, he has an incestuous, “Satanic Attraction” for his little sis. What’s that, Scooby? Why it’s the radio station owner? Those damn, pesky kids ruining the ritual!

Oy! This movie.

Brazilian filmmaker Fauzi Mansur wrote and directed his first film in 1969 and made a total of 41 films (mostly soap opera-styled sexploitation flicks known as “pornochachada” in its homeland), two of which made it to U.S. shores via home video: Incesto (1976) and Sadismo (1983). The first deals in a Giallo-styled noir concerning a family’s manor on a secluded lagoon; the latter with a rash of sexually perverted murders plaguing a city. Those films were issued on VHS as result of Mansur’s final two, American-inspired slashers making it to U.S. VHS shores: Satanic Attraction, and its loose companion film, Ritual of Death — after one too many viewings of Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm (1979).

Sure, it’s a little bit incomprehensible: Again: Is a killer recreating Fernie’s stories? Are her “dreams” really dreams or a psychic connection to the killer? Are the stories of the past she tells, in fact, the past? Me, as a viewer: I think it has more to do with Mansur crafting a tale of gothic ambiguity (Edgar Allan Poe is name-dropped) than filmmaking incompetence to the incomprehensible. Sure, there’s a little too much chitty chat by soap operaish bad actors . . . and the awful English dub doesn’t help. Unfortunately, the dub doesn’t rise to the ADR-craze of those makes-Italian-Giallos-look-in-sync ditties of: “I want to take communion, but not in my mouth, but down in my ‘hoo-hoo,’ you dirty nun ‘boinker” and “When are you going to ‘screw’ your housekeeper,” from the frames of Germany’s Magdalena, Possessed by the Devil (1974). At least the absurdities are all of the “What the fuck, now?” variety of a Paul Naschy joint, such as Horror Rises from the Tomb. But hey, at least a goat head is used like a bar of soap . . . and razor blades flow like water. . . .

Yeah, the Giallo supernatural-to-American slasher gore is cheap, but when the slice n’ dice comes, it is very gory — in a goofy kind of way: Mansur’s style in Satanic Attraction takes me back to such India and Turkish delights as the shot-for-shot The Exorcist copy, Seytan (1974), the Italian cannibal rip of Savage Terror (1980), the Phantasm rip of Satan’s Slaves (1982), The Evil Dead clone that is Mystics in Bali (1981), and the dual A Nightmare on Elm Street buffets of Khooni Murdaa (1989) and Mahakaal (1993). Hey, its better than a ’60s Herschell Gordon Lewis bloody hell.

To think Phantasm had to make cuts to achieve an R-rating . . . and the sphere was questionable. Here, based on uptight ’80s standards, the clumsy gore of Satanic Attraction would have pulled a theatrical “X” on the big screen. That gore includes a masked killer who comes up under a woman laying face down in a garden hammock: he disembowels-by-sword. Two young lovers on a boat get the ol’ shish kabob — and the killer steals the woman’s body because, well, he needs her blood for that sibling resurrection ritual. Another victim is so high, she doesn’t realize the killer spiked her bar of soap with razor blades. Another girl comes to be kidnapped after discovering a severed pair feet standing in her backyard — and her husband’s body next to them.

Whatever. I’m remembering José Mojica Marins and his Brazilian, pre-Freddy “Coffin Joe” romps and Spain’s Bigas Luna with my VHS joys of Anguish and Ignacio F. Iquino’s Bloody Sect. So all is well.

I love this flick in all of its amateur ridiculousness. Trust me. Give this film a chance, as it comes with a nice, little twist. As did Commander Balok: You’ll relish it as much as I.

The ridiculousness continues . . . with an even deeper pinch of Soavi’s Stage Fright . . . along with Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1984) . . . and a soupcon of A Nightmare on Elm Street. This time, instead of a radio jock: we have an acting troupe that steals an Egyptian “Book of the Dead” with an intent to adapt it into a stage play. Brad, the auteur of the thespian travelers: he’s already a bit around the bend as he’s into Satanism and weird text that triggers hallucinations (an ancient Indian ritual under the bowls of a theater) as he scarfs on raw goat livers for lunch. So guess who is cast as The Executioner, the lead of the play?

Yeah, Brad’s been possessed by the book.

Now he is The Executioner, in full costume, hacking and slicing the thespian troupes as he unleashes goat heads, frogs, and a disgusting cases of acne (coping the “mirror scene” in Poltergeist (1982): only more puke-inducing). There’s a John Carpenter-styled gutting-by-claw hammer, a slicing-by-errant-train wheel (actually a large, stage-pully gear), a disembowelment-by-wind machine, and an eyeballs-floating-in-the-bathtub gag. Green goop oozes from faces and hands and there’s a nice face ripping. To what end: Well, Brad’s a ghost, you see, and he wants to return to the flesh — and the bad actors from Rio are all part of the reanimation process. Well, maybe it’s that old dude (a fat Tall Man) in the bowler hat triggering all this dreams-reality-hallucinations tomfoolery.

Yeah, there’s a reason for those “X” and “NR” ratings on the VHS slip cover: The blood is everywhere and it’s nice n’ juicy. The women are hot and the nudity is bountiful — even if they all act like hunks of driftwood — and the gore and the lighting is oh-so-’80s Italian Giallo. So all is well . . . even with a dub that’s worse than the one in Satanic Attraction, if you can believe that: Who was in charge of the ADR? Bill Rebane, with his “the-ac-tor-re-ads-in-this-fi-lm-dr-i-ve-yo-u-to-no-t-li-sten” actors’ emoting? And if you’ve seen a Rebane ditty, such as Invasion from Inner Earth (1974), you know what I mean (especially from Brad the Execution’s mom whom, at first, I thought was Diane Ladd!).

However, considering the corners, the disgusting corners the Italians would cut in their ’80s splatter fests: Is that goat head a prop or the real thing procured from a slaughterhouse? If that’s real goat head, kudos to pornochachada vet Vanessa Alves frolicking in that blood-filled bathtub with said head. I can hear Mansur say to Alves, “Not worry, sweetie. Is prop,” when it wasn’t. Remember Ruggero Deodato and the turtle?

As with Spain’s Bigas Luna and Ignacio F. Iquino seeing the U.S. slasher writing splattered on the wall: Fauzi Mansur took his shot and I think he did alright. He does not suck. So I’m campaigning for Arrow or Severin to double-disc these two Fauzi Mansur’s flicks and pull them out of grey market obscurity. In fact, pack all four of his U.S. VHS-distributed flicks in a nice box set with a biographic booklet.

But, hey. I’m the guy who raves about the slight, SOV-based resume of Wim Vink to the dismay of many a (conventional) horror fan. So what do I know? I’m just a schmuck in Pittsburgh writing film reviews in my mother’s basement jonesin’ for some raw livers and a glass of milk. Damn, this half-hood cowl is hot and making me itch. . . .

You can watch Satanic Attraction and Ritual of Death on You Tube.

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

The Sweet House of Horrors (1989)

If you read the description for this movie — a young couple who are murdered by a burglar return as ghosts to watch over their two young orphaned children and save their home — you may think, “Ah, a nice movie for the whole family.”

You may also ask who directed this. Well, good news. It’s Lucio Fulci, which means that the murder of the parents is so gory that it even gave me pause, and then the rest of the film is very family friendly and has numerous scenes of kids laughing and having a good time at the ghost antics. The dad’s head gets crushed and the mom’s eyeball pops out and oh Lucio, I love you so much. You can’t help but be you. Only you would make a horror movie for kids and have a man get run over by a truck and his intestines show up on the outside of his body.

Somehow, Fulci did show some restraint by having Cinzia Monreale in his movie and not having a dog tear her throat out with its teeth.

Sarah (Ilary Blasi) and Marco (Giuliano Gensini) don’t want to leave their house. And why should they, as their parents can make toys float and throw rotund men down the stairs, which will never not be funny and I’m a rotund man and feel that I can say that.

After all manner of attempts to get them to leave, the parents decide to put their essences into two small stones so that they can be with their children forever, which is as sweet as Fulci gets.

He follows this by having a spiritualist try to take those stones, which quickly melts his hand into a bloody stump of goo. The kids find this uproarious fun and laugh as they freeze for the credits.

Fulci spoke very positively on the two made for TV films made for the La case maledette series — the other is House of Clocks — telling Roberto Curti in Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1980-1989 that they were “Fantastic! Excellent filmmaking!” and “two of his best films he made!”

I kind of am on his side on this one. I mean, what other Fulci movie has a ghost shove a large man down the steps and kids dance and sing “Sausage is dead!”?

SLASHER MONTH: Phantom of the Opera (1989)

Could have been a Cannon!

Yes, this slasher take on the Gaston Leroux classic was going to be directed by Twins of Evil director John Hough and man, what a movie that would have been. That version was set in 1881, but the new movie — which was transferred to the 21st Century Film Corporation, which let’s be honest was just Menahem Golan’s severance package — was moved to the present day and seen as an opportunity to have a slasher franchise with a follow-up already planned The Phantom of the Opera 2: Terror in Manhattan.

That never made sequel is why this movie has an opening and close in modern day New York City. Supposedly, most of the ideas of that sequel show up in Dance Macabre.

The smart part of this film — which ended up being directed by Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers maker Dwight H. Little — is casting Jill Schoelen as our heroine, Christine.

In the beginning, she’s an opera singer seeking a unique audition song and her agent (Molly Shannon!) introduces her to Erik Destler’s “Don Juan Triumphant.” Never mind that Destler was a killer who may have also been responsible for the disappearance of another young opera singer. When she does use the song, a sandbank knocks her out, shatters a mirror and sends her back to 1885 and into the world of Destler.

Making things even stranger is the knowledge that Destler sold hissoul to the Devil in exchange for people losing his music. Of course, Satan gives him what he wants, but disfigures his face so that his music will be the only thing that people love him for; they will never see or hear him performing it.

Seeing as how this ended up in our slasher month, it earns its way there by having a Phantom that skins people alive and uses their skin to cover his own. He can also only be killed when his music is destroyed. And even when Christine comes back to our time, he will find a way to follow her.

I’ve always avoided this movie and after watching it, I can see the error of my ways. It’s not great — it’s a late 80s horror movie looking for a place to belong. But the makeup is great, Englund is having fun and Schoelen is always an engaging and perfect horror actress.