VINEGAR SYNDROME BLU RAY RELEASE: Vacation of Terror 1 and 2 (1989, 1991)

EDITOR’S NOTE: These first appeared on the site on June 21, 2020 and June 22, 2020. I love both of these movies so much and am so excited that Vinegar Syndrome is releasing them.

Both movies are newly scanned and restored in 4K from a 35mm original camera negative and a 35mm archival positive. There are also interviews with Gianella and Gabriela Hassel, composer, Eugenio Castillo, Carlos East Jr. and Ernesto East, and special effects artist Jorge Farfán. You need to order this double movie set from Vinegar Syndrome.

Vacaciones de Terror (1989): Let’s talk about family tradition. The Cardona family has it. Starting with the senior Rene Cardona, we got films like the brain-melting Santa Claus, Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy and Night of the Bloody Apes. His son would continue the journey with Night of 1000 CatsGuyana: Crime of the Century and Tintorera.

Starting with this film, Rene Cardona III would put his own spin on horror films. This movie feels like someone stayed up all night mainlining every single Amityville unconnected sequel — trust me, as I have done this — and then decided to make their own cover version before the booze wore off.

Way back in 1889, a witch had taken over a small Mexican town, but an inquisitor was able to use a sacred amulet to force her into the flames and save his village. When he tosses all of her belongings — including a cursed doll — into a well, he never dreamed that a little girl would find it a hundred years later and put her family through hell.

This movie has it all. Bleeding walls, refrigerators teeming with rats and no small amount of snakes and spiders. It also has Julio, the affable teen who hopes to save the family and the babysitter that he is in love with. He’s played by Pedro Fernandez, who is more than an actor, as he’s a TV show host and singer.

This movie has a great scene where the kids play with a toy car — which has possessed their father’s car — and try to push it into the fireplace. These are the reasons why I love movies like this, the small moments that make me realize just how little reality can intrude within.

If this ever came out on blu ray — and it totally should, because the DVD versions are out of print and are prohibitively expensive — I will add my critic byline to it: “If you thought Ghosthouse was completely inane and ridiculous, have I got an awesome movie for you!”

PS: This pairs nicely with Cathy’s Curse so you get a real North/South exploitation exorcism adventure.

Vacaciones de Terror 2 (1991): I was wondering if I could love the sequel as much as the original and I am here to tell you that I love this movie more than is humanly possible. Vacaciones de Terror is fun. The sequel, that also has the added title Diabolical Birthday? It might be the best movie I’ve watched this year.

The niece’s boyfriend from the first vacation — Julio (Pedro Fernández — is in his own adventure, helping the daughter of horror movie producer Roberto Mondragon (Joaquin Cordero, who was in Dr. Satan and El Gato) celebrate her birthday. Of course, the witch from the first movie and comes back, gets split in half and become a lizard-like monster while possessing everyone through an evil birthday cake that bleeds rivers of blood.

What would make this movie better? What if Mexican pop star Tatiana shows up and has a musical number? Yes, this happens. It makes the movie so much better than it has any right to be.

Pedro Galindo III took over the director’s chair from Rene Cardona III and honestly, he knocks it way out of the park. I mean, the witch is oozing sores all over the place and launching fireballs at people at a kid’s birthday party on Halloween while a longhaired singer and another singer do battle against her.

The moment that Tatianna — playing Mayra Mondragon — sings the song “Chicos,” I lost my mind. Seriously, my dog is a chihuahua and I think he must have some instinctive Mexican heritage because every single time I play this song — and trust, I’ve watched this movie double digits in the last few weeks — he goes absolutely loco.

There’s also a moment where Studio Mondragon has a Cocktail poster up and you wonder, “In the strange Mexican universe that is this film, did Roberto Mondragon produce a Tom Cruise movie? Or is so unprofessional that he has a poster of a movie he didn’t make up in his studio?”

Have you ever watched Troll 2 and wished, “I wish someone made this in Spanish and added musical numbers, but also crazier special effects and strange Mexican sorcery and baby dolls?” Have I got amazing news for you. This movie has all of that and so much more.

I went into Mexican Horror Week with the hopes of enjoying some films. I have somehow discovered a movie that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

APRIL MOVIE THON 2: Creating Rem Lazar (1989)

April 2: Forgotten Heroes — Share a superhero movie that no one knows but you.

Rem Lazar is not a comic book but man, he’s a hero and one that has obsessed me since I first saw him as part of the Found Footage Festival.

Director and writer Scott Zakarin may have gone on to create one of the first web series called The Spot, but I always thought that Rem Lazar was either a Christian kid video or something from one of those alien planets that was sent to our world and would always seem like we would never understand it. You know, like it was from Canada.

Ashley (Courtney Kernaghan) and Zack (Jonathan Goch) have the same imaginary friend, superhero Rem Lazar and they paint a mannequin to look just like him. And by just look like him, it looks like the deranged dreams of children left alone for too long.

Those fantasies come true and Rem Lazar (Jack Mulcahy, who was Frank in the first two Porky’s movies) comes to magical life — no hat like Frosty needed — and he’ll go away in a day unless they find his Quixotic Medallion. This will involve battling the frightening CGI video effect known as Vorock, who is played by Zakarin. Yet all they must do to best him is tell him how much they love him. Also: they must sing. Sing a lot.

This was also part of a list of movies that the essential Scarecrow Video was attempting to keep alive after the death of VHS. Nick Prueher of the Found Footage Festival said, “We first saw Creating Rem Lezar on VHS in a stranger’s living room in Denver at about 3 in the morning — ideal viewing conditions for this wonderfully strange artifact from the 80s. We thought it was religious at first — either that or Canadian — because something just seemed off. But it turns out it’s neither! It’s just a wholly original kids movie with catchy songs that are still in our heads years later.”

Now the Found Footage guys are part of re-releasing this movie in high definition for its 35th anniversary. It also has a 30-minute documentary on the making of this oddity with interviews from Mulcahy, Zakarin and composer Mark Mulé. It’s exclusively available on the Found Footage Festival web store.

If I am left to my own devices for long enough, I end up singing songs from this movie. After all, “When I’m dreaming, I’m dreaming of a dream.” You can’t argue with that kind of thinking.

Devil Worship: The Rise of Satanism (1989)

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can read another article about this movie here.

I grew up in the middle of the Satanic Panic, a time in which I would be sent to guidance counselors who worked with local priests and police to ensure that Satan would not take over our town and one assumes that Satan would come in through horror movies, heavy metal and role playing games. Five thousand bodies of unidentified kids were showing up every year, or so they said, and every police officer knew an occult expert they could call on. Most of them came to my church to meet us one on one.

My wife can’t always comprehend the contempt I have for the police, but between being a chubby skateboarder nerd and also being obsessed with gore, speed metal and religion, I grew up constantlyfeeling under surveillance in a small minded small town, a place where people still battle over the seperation of church and state and a mobile Nativity drives past the municpal building, a place where it can no longer be but parks long enough that everyone feels that God is pleased.

There are four types of Satantists or so we are led to believe: the dabblers who spray paint walls and knock over tombstones; the religious ones that are seldom in trouble; the dangerous non-trad ones and then there are the generational ones, like something out of Hammer movies that have worshipped the left hand path since they came to America.

Interestingly, black metal gets called out here — mainly they name Venom — while three years later the really scary moments of black metal itself would play out, the kind of murder and arson that this documentary can only dream of.

This comes from the world where He-Man was teaching children to embrace the dark arts — man, they should have watched Thundercats instead because that show is packed with occult themes — and Richard Ramirez loved AC/DC, so therefore anyone who listens to Back In Black could be a killing machine with a pentagram carved into their hand.

If you ever wondered, “How did we as a society get to the outlandish world of QAnon?” I am here to inform you that we have been there at least as long as I have been alive. This is a place where just because the Church of Satan — bonus points for the glance at the Temple of Set, started by U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Michael Aquino, a psychological warfare specialist — just so happened to exist. Man, did these guys pay royalties for just grabbing all that footage from Satanis? Isn’t stealing a sin?

In my hometown there were whispers of the pentagrams on the walls of the closed elementary school. It’s why we never got MTV — as a substiute we were given Hit Video USA, a Christian channel that edited the videos before they were played — until the early 90s. I’d say look how I turned out, but a quick glance at the stuff that I watch points to me still being headed to an eternity in Hades, huh?

You can watch this on YouTube.

The Dead Next Door (1989)

Written, produced and directed by J. R. Bookwalter, The Dead Next Door has some famous folks helping out, as Sam Raimi served as executive producer — The Master Cylinder — and Bruce Campbell dubbed the voices of Raimi and Commander Carpenter.

This took four years and about $125,000 to make. It’s not technically SOV, as it was shot on Super 8.

Against the wishes of some still alive humans, the government creates Zombie Squad 205, an anti-walking dead special task force after the undead start to take over the world. Raimi, Mercer, Kuller and crew head to Ohio –Bookwalter’s home — and battle a cult that wants to keep zombies alive because God told them to. That is, if they can get the team to stop watching Evil Dead and in action.

This movie came out as there were few zombie films and had so much hype. It’s a low budget but high talent love letter to Romero’s films, feeling very much a continuation of Day of the Dead. I’m not sure if fans wanted so much humor, but that’s what they got. It feels like a video game and I mean that in all the very best of ways.

It’s short, sweet and drowning in sheer gore, too.

You can watch this on Tubi or buy it from Makeflix.

The Lords of Magick (1989)

Ulrich (Mark Gauthier) and Michael (Jarrett Parker) are brothers from the age of warriors and sorcerers. They get arrested for witchcraft and kidnapping Princess Luna (Devon Pierce), a crime they have nothing to do with. The real enemy is Salatin (Brendan Dillon Jr.) who has escaped with Luna to another dimension — Beastmaster 2 alert, it’s Los Angeles — and get back home, except that Ulrich ends up turning evil. Sorry to spoil that, as it’s the most original part of this.

David Marsh directed, wrote, produced, edited and did the special effects for this and well, he had a vision. Did the vision live up to what was in his head? Who can say? He somehow made this with hardly any budget, thousands of ideas, a cast of unknowns and extras who came from the Society for Creative Anachronism.

There’s a lot of fog, some awesome zombies, wizards who show up in mirrors and two out of time wizards screaming at cars (and one of them excited about how much more attractive sex workers are in 1989 than where he comes from).

You can watch this on YouTube.

Halloween Party (1989)

I’ve extolled the virtues of SOV in that it’s the most democratic of all film formats — well, iPhone movies would be but no one makes them full length all that often and people today would rather make unboxing videos than get their friends together and make a goofy slasher movie — because for the first time, literally anyone could get a video camera and quickly shoot and edit the movie that was in their head. Even more than Super 8, which still demanded that you hand cut and edit film, the VCR changed the world of films. And due to the need for video stores to have products or — in the case of Halloween Party — public access stations allowing normal citizens to create programming, all manner of new voices got the opportunity to be seen.

Dave Skowronski is one of those voices. A teenager when this was made, this was part of The D.J.P. Halloween Special that aired on a Cheshire, Connecticut public access channel. Halloween Party is just part of that whole affair, as Skowronski hosted parody videos, an older movie he had made and even a “Monster Mash” video with the cast of Halloween Party.

What you get is a movie that has only the most tenuous of slasher set-ups — Becky is having a party and that old farmer that killed his family has risen from the grave — but it somehow combines a film that gives you an authentic time capsule of 1989 teenagers — farts and all — with a movie that loves Halloween so much that it Bruno Mattei-style lifts music from the first, fourth and fifth movie. Also: the arrangement of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” from 2001 and the theme from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes also show up, copyrights be damned.

Yet all is forgiven because the farmer has makeup that looks frankly horrifying and when combined with the darker hues and blurry quality of the video format appears even more sinister.

Everyone talks too fast. Most of them showed up probably for the chance to get free soda and Doritos at a suburban house party that was turned into the setting for this movie. There’s also a scene where two girls abuse one another vocally that reminds me that I’ve forgotten the dudes who knocked out my teeth in hockey or broke a bone in wrestling, but have never ever forgotten off-hand comments a mean fourth grade girl said to me.

At once a tribute to the power of the slasher, the joy of making any movie you want and an amber capture of the teenage years of 1989, Halloween Party is true magic.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Las Vegas Bloodbath (1989)

Directed, written and produced by David Schwartz, Las Vegas Bloodbath follows the storyline of so many SOV films, which seem to be indebted to Herschell Gordon Lewis movies that came out two decades before: man gets screwed over, man goes insane, man brutally murders women as the camera focuses on the gore.

Sam Butler returns to Las Vegas after a business deal and finds his wife Ruth in the arms of a cop whose gun he takes and kills both of them. He cuts off his wife’s head and goes off, stabbing sex workers in the face, pulling their legs off with a car, shooting a bartender, using a shovel on a gardener and then attacking the Beautiful Lady Oil Wrestlers at a bridal shower that starts with him tearing a baby out of the soon-to-be mother Barbara, then wiping out everyone else, bathing in their blood and then killing another police officer.

Oh yeah, he also cuts a Jehovah’s Witness guy’s head off.

Imagine Maniac without any of the talent. Or more cocaine, if possible. But instead of the grimy world of New York at the end of the world, this is in Vegas, sunbaked city of sin transformed into a family destination but still a place where oil wrestling women have baby showers where women call one another bitch and whore and then have fashion shows for one another while drinking beer and eating donuts. You know, that sounds like a great day other than, you know, seeing a baby get tossed into the next room.

Do you want oil wrestling with your misogyny, this film stupidly asks, and certainly there are enough people who rented or bought this. Also: daytime whores, a line from the film, is the perfect band name.

The McPherson Tape (1989)

On the evening of October 8, 1983, the Van Heese family gathered to celebrate the birthday of 5-year-old Michelle. As the mother and her three sons Eric, Jason and Michael celebrated along with Eric’s wife Jamie and Jason’s girlfriend Renee, they soon had to solve a power outage. When the brothers went outside, they noticed a red light in the sky. And that’s when things went bad quickly, as red lights in the sky, an alien craft and even beings were recorded by Michael’s video camera.

Except, you know, this was all a found footage shot on video film by director and writer Dean Alioto, who used just $6,500 to make the film. The master tape burned in a warehouse fire shortly after being picked up for distribution, so this was a rare film for some time. In 2018, Alioto released the film on DVD and digital, then AGFA released a  blu ray that’s the best way to see this movie.

So many UFO lovers thought that this was real footage and the 1990s show Encounters even claimed that it was real footage. That’s because the bootlegs that were circulating had no credits. That’s where The McPherson Tape name comes from, as this was really named Alien Abduction. It was remade in 1998 as Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County.

The film feels a lot like the real life Kelly–Hopkinsville encounter — which I have also heard called the Hopkinsville Goblins Case — in which the communities of Kelly and Hopkinsville in Christian County, Kentucky battled several goblin-looking extraterrestrials. It’s one of one of the most significant and well-documented cases in the history of UFO incidents, even if the Air Force classified it as a hoax in Project Blue Book. Night Skies, which became E.T., and Critters were based on this story.

The Bloody Video Horror That Made Me Puke on My Aunt Gertrude (1989)

Kind of lost until Saturn’s Core reissued this on VHS a few years ago, this movie mixes both comedy and horror with dialogue that feels like it’s the first time that anyone has even seen the script. It concerns Video Magic clerk Ramon — there’s a poster for Goldengirl up like 12 years after that movie came out — whose boss Joe believes is a killer because one of the videos in their store has someone getting killed on tape. The real killer? Now he’s coming to take out Ramon.

Under the names John Bacchus and Zachary Snygg, this movie’s director has made stuff like The Erotic Witch ProjectPlay-Mate of the ApesThe Insatiable IronBabe and Beaster Day: Here Comes Peter Cottonhell. He’s still at it, too.

I’m sure his later movies are better. They have to be. This, however, is a bunch of teenagers grabbing a camera and trying to show you how hilarious they aren’t.

Yet somehow, as bad as the story and the dialogue is, the camerawork is inventive even on the lowest of budgets. It’s as if some teenagers overdosed on Sam Raimi and the Coen Brothers and that’s because that’s exactly what this is.

Violent Shit (1989)

Throughout Violent Shit, Violent Shit II: Mother Hold My Hand, Violent Shit III: Infantry of Doom, Nikos the Impaler, which was released in some countries as Violent Shit 4, and Karl vs. Axe, Andreas Schnaas has grown from making movies on the weekend with his friends and a camcorder to become known force in extreme horror.

Yet it all started here for so many. Twenty years before this film, Karl (Karl Inger) used a meatcleaver to end his mother’s abuse. Then, after years of prison life, he escapes into th woods and begins killing and eating his victims before realizing that all along he has been taught how to kill by demons. At this point, reality kind of stops and Karl crawls into the body of Jesus and then his skin begins to fall off, so he finally just rips himself to pieces, revealing a child covered in blood.

Will you like it? Are you prepared for a murderdrone dive ino absolutely nonsensical gory murder, punctuated by more murder, then followed by a demonic being that will definitely be hiding in my brain from now on and then, like I said, the killer disembowling a religious figure and then horrifyingly being born again. I always wonder if I should recommend things and what people will think of them when I do. So…you’re in this one alone.