Junesploitation: Kickboxer the Champion (1991)

June 5: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is 90s Action! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.

IFD has a website and yes, it’s near comical in how much they reveal and how they have never edited their many typos. I mean, this site is full of typos too — people email me about them all the time — but I am actively trying to clean them up.

Here’s what they had to say about Kickboxer the Champion: “A killer and a Trader must battle the odds in the name of honor and justice.

In Shanghai between the wars, one man, Kingsley, is determined to corner the opium trade for all of China by controlling the shipping routes. Boxer is an honest trader who stands in his way, Knowing that Boxer and his friend Richard are amateur kickboxers, Kingsley unleashes his champion, Bulldog on him.

Once Boxer has been eliminated all chaos breaks out in gangland, with crime bosses at each others throats and killers-for-hire assassinating all who oppose Kingsley. It is up to Boxer’s friend Richard to challenge Bulldog to a battle-to-the-death to ensure that justice is served.”

One person has reviewed this — to date — on Letterboxd and only 2 have seen it on IMDB. That’s incredible, because the ninja Godfrey Ho movies are packed with viewers. I guess he was right: you really should just make hundreds of ninja movies.

What is even more amazing is that this movie was edited together with new footage and also scenes from a movie made 17 years earlier — a record, defeating the previous champion, the 16 years different Terror, Sexo Y Brujeria — called Chu zu zuo shou di ren. It also has some recognizable people in it like Sing Chen and Carter Wong, who most American audiences recognize as Thunder from Big Trouble In Little China. Wayne Archer, who plays Kingsley, was also in Operation Condor and several other Godfrey Ho films.

At this point, Godfrey realized that every movie on the shelf in most video stores was saying kickboxer, so he probably made the right movie. It looks like an actual movie, but that’s not what I expect or demand from IFD movies. I want utter inanity and this doesn’t really give me that movie drug rush that I need. It does, however, have white dudes continually proving themselves to be the best fighters in the world, so if you do run a video store, file this under science fiction.

It does, however, make liberal and non-copyright-respecting use of the Psycho theme.

You can watch this on Tubi.

9 1/2 Ninjas! (1991)

You have to admire the sheer gumption to make a movie that fuses the worlds of ninjitsu and softcore, a world that Adrian Lyne could not have envisioned when he put some honey on the table and put “You Can Leave Your Hat On” on the boombox.

Directed by Aaron Barsky — perhaps the only man who could be an assistant director on such wildly disparate movies as When Harry Met SallyAtlas ShruggedFriday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan and Amityville II: The Possession — and written by Bill Counse and Don Pequignot  (who teamed up for American Cyborg: Steel Warrior) as well as John Morrissey, this movie has about two or three scenes that seem to come from 9 1/2 Weeks and then they kind of just say, “Well, that’s enough” and go off and make a different movie.

Land developer Gruber (Robert Fieldsteel, who somehow was in both John Cassavetes’ Love Streams and Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time) — yes, he looks just like Hans — is kicking Lisa Thorne (Andee Gray, who appeared in the movies Texas GodfatherDead Men Don’t Die and Vascetomy: A Delicate Matter) out of her apartment. That real estate renegade is also throwing out Joe Vogue (Michael Phenicie, Evil ObsessionLambadaCarnival of Souls) and sending ninjas his way. But Joe is also a ninja and he’s using the teachings of his mother Gladys (Magda Harout) to instruct his new love interest Lisa — yes, of course they hit it off — in the art of the ninja.

You know how Airplane!Top Secret and The Naked Gun movies work but the movies made by other directors and writers using the same actors never do? Imagine if they didn’t have those actors.

For some reason, there’s a subplot here where Lisa starts overeating and keeps gorging herself on food. I guess fat people are always funny, as are people addicted to eating because it gives them some limited control over an uncontrollable life. Maybe I shouldn’t look so deeply into a movie that brings together eroticism and silent killers, you know?

The most creative thing about this movie is its tagline: Twenty men couldn’t knock him out. But one woman might.

Oh yeah — Tiny Lister Jr. and Rance Howard — as a ninja negotiator, I admit that the idea of that screen credit is also pretty funny — as well as Kane Hodder and Gerald Okamura all show up. I think if you made a martial arts movie in the 80s or 90s, you had to hire Okamura or actual ninjas would kill your family.


In the 80’s, Brian Bosworth was a big deal. A two time All-American with the Barry Switzer-coached Oklahoma Sooners, he wrote his autobiography during his first season with the Seattle Seahawks. Bosworth acted like a pro wrestler in real life, talking smack on the NCAA, publically claiming he would contain Bo Jackson (he didn’t) and trash talking John Elway so much that 10,000 Denver fans bought and wore “Ban the Boz” t-shirts. And those T-shirts? He manufactured and sold them.

Yep, Bosworth knew how to play the media game, even if his NFL career ended after three seasons. But what was next?

Acting. Of course! And the first film that Bosworth starred in was Stone Cold, a tough cop versus evil bikers epic.

Joe Huff (Bosworth) has been suspended for how rough he is on criminals. In fact, the film starts with him decimating several crooks that are robbing a supermarket. A government agent blackmails him into going undercover to stop a white supremacist biker gang, The Brotherhood.

The gang is led by Chains Cooper (Lance Henriksen, Near Dark), who is over the top insane. Just seeing the stuff the gang does in the opening montage will give you an idea of how amazing this film is going to be — they shotgun a priest through a stained glass window seconds into the start of the movie.

Joe becomes John Stone, but the rest of the gang doesn’t accept him. And his FBI contact Lance (Sam McMurray, Raising Arizona) is a germophobe and no help at all.

To finally be part of the gang, Joe/John has to kill a man. The FBI helps him fake the kill, but Chains’ top guy, Ice (William Forsythe, The Devil’s Rejects) still doesn’t believe in him. Luckily, a high-speed motorcycle chase leads to his death and our hero is in.

The gang has one goal: to kill DA Brent “The Whip” Whipperton, who has announced that he is going to become Governor of Mississippi and get tough on crime. They’ve stolen military weapons and plan on attacking the Supreme Court to save one of their own, the guy who killed that priest.

Joe/John falls in love with Nancy, Chains’ girl and offers her immunity if she cooperates. But then the man our hero had supposedly killed shows back up and the Brotherhood declares war on him. Chains takes the news that Nancy is cheating on him by shooting her, while he plans on putting a bomb on Joe/John’s body and dropping him from a helicopter onto the courthouse.

The gang manages to kill the DA, but our hero survives and kicks the snot out of Chains. Yet he is merciful and lets the man live. Bad idea — the villain grabs a gun and comes back for Joe/John, who is saved by Lance.

Stone Cold was originally going to be directed by Bruce Malmuth (Hard to KillNighthawks), but personal problems led to the backstory of Bosworth’s character being removed from the movie and Craig R. Baxley (Action JacksonI Come in Peace) taking over.

This movie is everything awesome about 80’s and 90’s action films and their cliches. Yet it’s even better, because you have Lance Henriksen writing all of his own dialogue, plenty of explosions, even more nudity, Bosworth’s impressive hair and outfits, and a fight scene between WWE’s one time heir apparent to Hulk Hogan, Tom Magee (seriously, he had a try out against Bret Hart that convinced everyone that he was going to be someone until everyone realized that Bret was the reason the match was so good) and Bosworth. And hey, how did Bosworth never get into pro wrestling, what with him coming from the same school as Steve “Dr. Death” Williams and being friends with Jim Ross?

I have no idea how this isn’t a movie that is treasured and celebrated by genre geeks, as is Patrick Swayze’s Road House. It’s such a time capsule of how one man captivated our attention and became a major star before disappearing.

This is an action movie that I bring up all the time when it comes to 90s action. More people should be losing their minds about it.

The Kino Lorber blu ray of Stone Cold has a brand new HD master from a 2K scan of the 35mm InterPositive; new interviews with the Boz, Henriksen, Arabella Holzbog and Sam McMurray; audio commenary by action film historians Mike Leeder and Arne Venema; and two newly masters 2K trailers.

You can get this from Kino Lorber.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)

Directed by Michael Pressman (who is still directing episodes of Law and Order today, but also made Some Kind of HeroDoctor Detroit and The Great Texas Dynamite Chase) and written by Todd W. Langen, who also wrote the first film, the second Ninja Turtles movie toned down the violence, mostly removed the weapons from the turtle’s three fingered hands and was much more kid-like than the original. I mean, Vanilla Ice raps “Ninja Rap” at one point.

They also had twice the original budget and ended up — at the time — the second highest-grossing independent film ever behind the first movie.

Brian Tochi and Robbie Rist returned as Leo and Mike, while Adam Carl replaced Corey Feldman as Don and Laurie Faso replaced Josh Pais as Raph. Leo would now be played by Mark Caso, with Rob Tygner as the facial assistant and Larry Lam doing stunts. Mike was Michelan Sisti with Mak Wilson as the face and Nick Palma doing stunts. Don was Leif Tilden, with Rob Mills moving the face and Steven Ho doing the fighting. Raph was Kenn Troum with David Greenaway as the facial assistant and Hosung Pak did the stunts. He played Liu Kang in the first two Mortal Kombat games and was one of the fighters on WMAC Masters. Kevin Clash would return to voice and puppet Splinter with assistance from Rickey Boyd and Sue Dacre.

As Shredder died at the end of the last film, the Foot Clan would be led by Tatsu (Toshishiro Obata) before bringing their leader (François Chau replacing James Saito) back to life and transforming him into Super Shredder (wrestling genius Kevin Nash). They also gain two new mutants, an evil turtle named Tokka — Kurt Bryant in the suit with Rick Lyon animating the face and David Rowden doing stunts — and the wolf-like Rahzar — Mark Ginther in the costume with Gord Robertson animating the face and Hamilton Perkins doing the stunts. Both of these new villains were voiced by Frank Welker, who if you want an animal voiced in your movie or cartoon, you go to.

The new mutants were used instead of the cartoon’s Bebop and Rocksteady, who co-creator Peter Laird hated and said, “their constant one-note shtick in the first animated series was extremely annoying and silly to the point of being stupid.”

Paige Turco would replaced Judith Hoag as April O’Neil and Casey Jones doesn’t even show up.

Needless to say, I didn’t like this as much as the first, even if I love the look of the bad guys in the film.

What I do like is David Warner being in this as ooze expert Professor Jordan Perry and Ernie Reyes Jr. getting to be in the movie out of turtle costume. And yes, Tokka, Rahzar and Super Shredder are all amazing, but come on. Ninja rapping.

Bonus: Here is some artwork I did based on this movie.

CAULDRON FILMS RELEASES: Off Balance / Top Line / The Last Match (1988, 1991)

Cauldron Films has outdone themselves with three mind melting Italian blu ray releases. Do you need them? You fucking NEED them. In fact, I’m going to spend the rest of this post explaining to you in great detail why you need these movies.

You can get the bundle of all three from Cauldron.

Off Balance (AKA Phantom of Death) (1988): Ruggero Deodato, how I love you. I love that you somehow convinced a real actor, Michael York, to be in an insane film about a man getting progeria and murdering people left and right. I can get how you got Donald Pleasence. I can even sort of understand how you got Edwige Fenech. But Michael York?

York plays Robert Dominici, a pianist who suffers from that previously mentioned genetic condition that causes him to rapidly age, and by that, I mean that his face starts looking like Klaus Kinski at age 200. To make up for the bad hand he’s been dealt, he starts killing people, including targeting Inspector Datti ‘s (Pleasence) daughter Gloria (Antonella Ponziani).

Deodato would later say, “I did Phantom of Death because it was based on a true element — the idea of growing old. And I got to work with Michael York and Donald Pleasence.” He also threw in that the producer demanded Fenech, who was miscast. This is also one of the few movies where she isn’t dubbed, so you get to hear her real voice.

I have a real weakness for post 1980 giallo so this movie is like the sweetest Galatine milk candies.

This movie was written by Gianfranco Clerici and Vincenzo Mannino in the early 80s and became the start of The New York Ripper. According to Clerici, he and Mannino were offended by how their script was changed, so they kept editing it until giving it to Deodato. Several pieces of what Fulci used are in this movie, including York’s character disguising his voice and taunting the police.

Beyond Giovanni Lombardo Radice and Marino Mase showing up, this movie is notable because Pleasence is pretty much playing Dr. Loomis’ Italian cousin, ranting and raving as he stalks a ninja-like York through the streets of Venice, yelling the word bastard over and over again. All this scene needs is Jack Sayer in his truck, rumbling up smelling of booze and lamenting, “You’re huntin’ it, ain’t ya? Yeah, you’re huntin’ it, all right.”

The new Cauldron Films blu ray release of Off Balance is limited to 1500 copies and the film itself has a 2K restoration from the original negative. Extras include one of the final interviews with Deodato, commentary with film historians Eugenio Ercolani and Troy Howarth, Italian and English trailers, a CD of the Pino Donaggio soundtrack, a double-sided poster, a slipcase with artwork by Eric Adrian Lee and a reversible wrap with alternate artwork.

Top Line (AKA Alien Termintor) (1988): Man, was Nello Rossati dating Franco Nero’s daughter or something? Not only did he get him into this movie, but a year later he would be the person — well, his pseudonym Ted Archer did, but you get the point — to finally get him to come back to his most famous role in Django Strikes Again. He also made the giallo La gatta in calore (assistant directed by Lamberto Bava and shot by Aristide Massaccesi!), a Napoleon-sploitation film called Bona parte di Paolina, a sex comedy called The Sensuous Nurse with Ursula Andress and Jack Palance, the poliziotteschi Don’t Touch the Children!, another sex comedy called Io zombo, tu zombi, lei zomba about four zombies running a hotel, a giallo-esque film named Le mani di una donna sola in which a lesbian countess seduces married women until insane asylum escapees chop her hands off, and an I Spit On Your Grave revengeomatic called Fuga scabrosamente pericolosa that stars Andy Sidaris villain Rodrigo Obregón.

Needless to say, I’m a fan.

Ted Angelo (Nero) starts the movie off literally telling a woman that he’s too tired to make love. Is this the great hero of Italian cinema? He seems exhausted throughout but it works; he’s a writer fallen on hard times and harder drinking. He’s supposed to be writing a book on pre-Columbian civilizations, but he’s falling deeper and deeper into depression and drunken days to the point that he’s fired by his publisher — and ex-wife — Maureen De Havilland (Miss World 1977 Mary Stävin, who by this point had already appeared in Adam Ant’s “Strip” video, Octopussy and A View to a Kill, as well as releasing the exercise album Shape Up and Dance with footballer George Best).

It seems like Ted’s luck is changing when he’s shown a ton of writings that came from a shipwreck of Spanish conquistadores. Except that the ship isn’t on the bottom of the ocean. It’s in a cave. And maybe that luck’s bad, because everyone connected with the ship, like art dealer Alonso Quintero (Willian Berger) is dying under mysterious circumstances. And oh yeah. That shipwreck in a cave is also inside a UFO.

The only real good luck that Ted gets is when an art historian and friend of Quintero named June (Deborah Barrymore, who is not related to Drew, but is instead of the daughter of Roger Moore and Italian actress Luisa Mattioli) helps him out.

What follows is a delirious descent into madness to the point that if you told me this was all a drug trip, I’d believe you. First, Ted is almost run over by former Nazi Heinrich Holzmann (George Kennedy, who is only in the movie for this one scene), then the camera crew he hires ends up being CIA spooks who want to murder him, then the KGB gets involved and then things get really weird.

Ted gets the idea that Maureen has the kind of connections that can save him and June. As they wait for her, a cyborg Rodrigo Obregón attacks them and only stops when he’s hit by a bull. He gets torn apart and sounds like he’s trying to say the words to “Humpty Dumpty” and man, I literallyjumped aout of my chair in the middle of the night I was so excited. He looks like Johnny Craig drew him!

Somehow, the movie then decides to top itself as another Rodrigo Obregón cyborg that looks exactly the same shows up with Maureen, who removes her skin to show us that she’s one of the aliens that have been on Earth for twelve thousand years and now are in control of most countries and multinational corporations.

At this point, is there any hope for any of us?

Yes, this is a movie where a gorgeous Swedish woman takes off all of her epidermis — of course we see her breasts, this is an Italian movie — to reveal that she’s a lizard alien that fulfills the worries of David Icke, then she vomits slime all over herself and tries to kill Franco Nero with her giant tongue.

If you told me this was an actual alien, I would believe you.

The first few times I’ve tried to watch this, I couldn’t get into it. It was too slow and felt too downbeat with Nero’s character feeling hopeless. So don’t be like me. I beg you, stick with this for an hour. Just an hour, because it’s not bad. I mean, yes, Franco Nero survives a car chase by throwing eggs, but it’s just slow, not badly made.

But the last thirty minutes make it all worth it.

When you get there, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

This is a movie all about the foreplay and then when it’s time to get to the actual sex, it’s the weirdest and best Penthouse Forum sex you’ve ever had and you feel like there’s no way that it happened and no one will ever believe you.

Also: Franco Nero screams almost every line and I respect that.

Also also: This is like a budget They Live by people who never saw that movie.

Also also also: This ends with Franco Nero living in a Cannibal Holocaust paradise and a song that sounds like something Disney characters would sing to.

The new Cauldron Films blu ray release of Top Line is limited to 1500 copies and the film itself has a 2K restoration from the original negative. Extras include interviews with Nero and Ercolani, a featurette on the alien theories of the film by parapolitics researcher Robert Skvarla and an in-depth audio commentary by film historian Eric Zaldivar including audio interviews from cast members, Deborah Moore and Robert Redcross, as well as additional insight on Italian cult films with actors Brett Halsey and Richard Harrison. There’s also a booklet, a double-sided poster and a high quality slipcase with artwork by Ghanaian artist Farika in conjunction with Deadly Prey Gallery.

The Last Match (1991): Often, I refer to movies as having an all-star cast, which is really a misnomer. After all, what I consider A-list talent certainly does not fit the rest of the world. The Last Match, however, has the very definition of what I consider an all-star cast. Let’s take a look at the lineup:

Ernest Borgnine: Amongst the 211 credits Mr. Borgnine amassed on his IMDB list, none other have him leading a football team against an unnamed Caribbean island to save his assistant coach’s little girl. He was, however, in four Dirty Dozen movies and The Wild Bunch, not to mention playing Coach Vince Lombardi in a TV movie. One assumes that he took this role to get away from his wife Tova and her incessant cosmetics shilling. 

Charles Napier: As the American consul in this movie, Napier cuts a familiar path, which he set after appearing in the monster hit Rambo: First Blood Part II. For him, it was either playing bureaucrats or cops, thankless roles that he always brought a little something extra to. The exception to his typecasting is when he played Baxter Wolfe, the man who rocks Susan Lakes’ loins in the beyond essential Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

Henry Silva: If you need a dependable jerk and you have the budget of, well, an Italian movie about a football team that also does military operations, call Mr. Silva. He admirably performed the role of the heel — or antihero at other times in movies like Megaforce, Battle of the Godfathers, Cry of a Prostitute (in which he plays the Yojimbo role but in a mafia film; he also pushes Barbara Bouchet’s face inside a dead pig’s carcass while making love to her and he’s the good guy), Escape from the Bronx and so many more movies.

Martin Balsam: Perhaps best known for Psycho, Balsam shows up in all manner of movies that keep me up at 4 AM on nights when I know work will come sooner than I fear. He’s so interested in acting up a storm in this movie that he is visibly reading off cue cards.

They’ve all joined up for a movie that finds the coach’s daughter get Midnight Express-ed as drugs are thrown in her bag at the airport on the way home from a vacation with her hapless jerk of a boyfriend. At least he’s smart enough to call assistant coach Cliff Gaylor (Oliver Tobias), the father of the daughter whose life he has just ruined. And luckily for this film, Tobias was in a movie called Operation Nam nearly a decade before, which meant that they could recycle footage of him in combat. He also was The Stud and serviced Joan Collins, so he has my eternal jealousy going for him, too.

Who could dream up a movie like this? Oh, only Larry Ludman, but we see through that fake name and know that it’s Fabrizio De Angelis steering this ship, the maker of beloved trash such as Killer Crocodile, five Karate Warrior movies and three Thunder movies that star the beloved Mark Gregory as a stiff legged Native American warrior who pretty much cosplays as Rambo. And don’t forget — this is the man who produced Zombi, The House by the Cemetery, The Beyond and New York Ripper!

In this outing, he’s relying on Cannibal Holocaust scribe Gianfranco Clerici and House on the Edge of the Park writer Vincenzo Mannino to get the job done. For some reason, despite this being an Italian exploitation movie, we never see the coach’s daughter in jail. Instead, we’re treated to what seems like Borgnine in a totally different movie than everyone else, barking orders into his headphones as if he was commanding the team in a playoff game. 

To make matters even more psychotic, the football players show up in full uniform instead of, you know, commando gear. One wonders, by showing up in such conspicuous costumes, how could they avoid an international incident? This is my lesson to you, if you’re a nascent Italian scumtastic cinema viewer: shut off your brain, because these movies don’t have plot holes. They’d have to have actual plots for that to be possible. 

I say this with the fondest of feelings, because you haven’t lived until you witness a football player dropkick a grenade into a helicopter. Supposedly this was written by Gary Kent for Bo Svenson, who sold the script to De Angelis unbeknownst to the stuntman until years later. It was originally about a soccer team!

Former Buffalo Bills QB Jim Kelly* is in this, which amuses me to no end, as does the ending, where — spoiler warning — Borgnine coaches the team from beyond the grave!

You know how conservative folks have quit watching the NFL as of late? This is the movie to bring ‘em back, a film where the offensive line has fully automatic machine guns and refuses to kneel for anything. No matter what your politics, I think we can all agree on one thing: no matter how dumb an idea seems, Italian cinema always tries to pull it off. 

*Other pros include Florida State and arena football player Bart Schuchts and USFL player Mark Rush, as well as Dolphins Jim Jensen, Mike Kozlowsky, Elmer Bailey and Jim Kiick. It’s kind of astounding that at one point, these players could just end up in a movie without the NFL knowing. This would never happen today.

The new Cauldron Films blu ray release of The Last Match is limited to 1500 copies and the film itself has a 2K restoration from the original negative. Extras include an interview with special effects artist Roberto Ricci; American Actors in a Declining Italian Cinema, a minidoc by EUROCRIME! director Mike Malloy; Understanding the Cobra, a video essay by Italian film expert Eugenio Ercolani and commentary by Italian exploitation movie critic Michael A. Martinez. You also get a trailer, an image gallery, a booklet with writings from Jacob Knight and David Zuzelo, a double-sided poster, a high quality slipcase featuring original artwork and a reversible Blu-ray wrap with alternate artwork.

The Refrigerator (1991)

I found this movie while looking for Attack of the Killer Refrigerator and man, it’s wild. Steve and Eileen Bateman (Dave Simonds and Julia McNeal) have moved into a new place in New York City and as he works endless hours and she dreams of being on stage, the icebox in their kitchen shows them visions, whether they are future victims in Steve’s case or unborn children in Eileen’s.

Meanwhile, a plumber working on their apartment, Juan (Angel Caban), works on scenes with Eileen and warns her that the appliance is a gateway to Hell.

This took director Nicholas Jacobs — who also worked on The Adventures of Pete and Pete, the original MTV Jon Stewart show and You Wrote It, You Watch It — four years to make. He wrote it with Christopher Oldcorn and Phillip Dolin, who went on to direct B Movie.

It feels like everyone is working out their issues on film, because Eileen isn’t all that great of a wife, complaining about Steve no longer being fun, all while he’s killing himself to make a life for them. But she has her issues too, as her mother used to threaten to kill herself every single day and now that she’s been through therapy, she wants to reconnect with her daughter who can’t find the strength to forgive her.

Maybe it was never about a killer fridge.

Maybe it was about how alone we all truly are.

HauntedWeen (1991)

Bowling Green, Kentucky in 1991. Some may have been drinking all weekend, but Doug Robertson and his crew were making a slasher film, ten years or more after the boom. But that — and the lack of budget — don’t matter. Because HauntedWeen has heart. And intestines. And blood. And, well, you get it.

Back in 1970, Eddie Burber wasn’t old enough to work in his family’s spookhouse. He responded to this by luring a girl into the place and impaling her, which caused the Burber’s to pack up and disappear. Twenty years later and Eddie’s mom, who kept him safe and free from the cops Bad Ronald mothering style has died of a heart attack. And the beloved haunted house is now owned by the Sigma Pi fraterity, who plan on opening it back up.

If you said out loud, “Bad idea,” you know how these movies work.

Sure, there’s nearly an hour of the frat boys and their relationship and financial problems, but you’re a grown up now. You know that you don’t need the orgasmic release of slasher murders immediately and you can pace yourself. Maybe this movie asks you to pace yourself a bit longer, but go with it. Because by the time we get there, little kids are watching college boys die and cheering along, unaware that the death is all real. Movies like this and The Funhouse have made me never want to go to a scare house or haunted dark ride because I know for sure that there are real murderers everywhere. I also avoid Tourist Traps. After all, young people disappear every year.

Blood Symbol (1991)

Alright, I started this movie because I thought it was shot on video, only to learn that over the seven years it took to make (1984 to 1991), it went from 8mm to 16mm, giving it a distorted feeling as stock doesn’t always match. This actually took so long that there’s a BLOOD SYMBOL 1984-1991 REST IN PEACE credit at the end. The sound isn’t synched either, as it was shot without audio and the script changes were never tracked, so they had to guess what everyone was saying. It only adds to how strange this all appears, along with the fact that creative differences caused lead actress Micheline Richard to leave in the middle of filming, leaving all of her remaining scenes to be shot far away with a double whose face is never clear.

This Canadian microbudget film by co-directors and writers Maurice Devereaux and Tony Morello (who went on to make Slashers), this has a simple story: an undead monk named Olam (Richard Labelle) can remain immortal if he drinks the blood of college student Tracy Walker (Micheline Richard).

Where it gets beyond expectations is in the way it was shot: strobing moments, strong and confident handheld camera work, point of view stalking right out of Carpenter and incredible editing. It’s beyond a movie started in high school and sure, the plot is thin, but the work to make it happen is rich. There’s even a hint of giallo as Olam stalks his prey complete with black gloves, overcoat and fedora.

There’s also tons of footage of Tracy just doing things like going to class and playing softball, yet that “you are there” style of shooting makes this feel so much different than any other slasher. Sure, it’s creators were learning as they go, but they were definitely on to something.

You can watch this on YouTube.

APRIL MOVIE THON 2: The Owl (1991)

April 28: Alan Smithee — IMDB has 115 movies credited to the Alan Smithee pseudonym, which was created by the Directors Guild of America for use when a director doesn’t want their name on a movie.

Alex L’Hiboux (Adrian Paul, Highlander: The Series) — his last name is the owl, get it? — is a vigilante who is known as The Owl because he hasn’t slept since his wife and daughter were killed eight years ago. Thanks to a young girl named Lisa (Erika Flores), he takes on a case to find her father and reconnects with the policewoman who helped him on the night of the tragedy that changed his life, Danny Santerre (Patricia Charbonneau).

Originally broadcast as a television pilot on CBS from 10:45 p.m. to 11:45 p.m. on Saturday, August 3, 1991 — this is what we call burning off a pilot — this was a 48-minute episode. When it was released on home video, every single shot ever filmed was reused and padded to make it 84 minutes long. Director and writer Tom Holland asked for his name to be taken off the home video.

Brian Thomson, who plays the bartender who is The Owl’s frenemy, was the Night Slasher in Cobra, Bozworth in Fright Night 2 (which Holland did not work on) and Shao Khan in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.  Oh yeah, speaking of people in Cannon movies, Rick Zumwalt — Bull Hurley from Over the Top, Joshua in Penitentiary III and Boom Boom in Rockula — also shows up. And holy Canadian crap, there’s Alan Scarfe, the dad from Cathy’s Curse!

You know why people liked the Punisher back before his logo became a Nazi flag for cowards? Because you could have empathy for what he’s been through. The Owl seems like such a jerk that it’s hard to ever feel anything for him.

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.