2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 10: Mannequin Two: On the Move (1991)

DAY 10. PLASTIQUE VIVANT: Mannequins are creepy enough standing still but what happens when they come to life?

Stewart Raffill has made a diverse list of films over his career, directing everything from The Philadelphia ExperimentThe Ice PiratesTammy and the T-RexMac and Me and wrote Passenger 57. Let’s add this movie to the mix, which takes the first film and pretty much does it all over again, but this time inside Philadelphia’s Wanamaker’s department store.

It was produced by David Begelman, who embezzled thousands from Judy Garland before becoming an executive at Columbia Pictures. Actor Cliff Robertson noted that money had been paid to him from the studio that he didn’t receive at one point in 1977, which led to Begelman being let go and a rift within the studio itself. Begelman was more punished for lying about going to Yale on his bio than for stealing money; Roberston was blacklisted for years for speaking up. By 1980, he’d return to the job at MGM, where he lasted for two years and produced Fame and Poltergeist.

He then moved to Sherwood Productions, where he produced WarGames, Mr. Mom, Blame It On Rio and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, another movie that he scammed investors on by reporting inflated costs and pocketing the difference. After an investor pulled out, he started yet another production company where he made Mannequin, Weekend at Bernie’s, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Short Time and the movie we’re discussing right now. After failing to find funding to keep making movies, he became depressed and shot himself at Los Angeles’ Century Plaza Hotel.

A thousand years ago, Prince William (William Ragsdale, Fright Night) of the kingdom of Hauptmann-Koenig wanted to marry a peasant girl named Jessie (Kristy Swanson, the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer). However, his mother (Cynthia Harris, Mad About You) does not approve of the marriage and asks her sorcerer (Terry Kiser, Bernie himself) to turn her into a mannequin for a thousand years or until she finds love in a foreign land.

Ragsdale also plays Jason Williamson, a new window dresser at Prince & Company, a Philadelphia department store. This is unlike any store you’ve ever seen before, putting even the one from A Christmas Story to shame. It’s like a self-contained city and will have a huge reveal of the new windows, which will include a peasant girl mannequin that is, of course, Jessie. Once our hero removes her cursed necklace, he suddenly has a new love.

That said, they must deal with the machinations of Count Gunther Spretzle, the reincarnation of the sorcerer, who wants Jessie for his own. He also has an army of bodybuilders — Rolf, Egon and Arnold — who are as ineffective as it gets.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that Hollywood Montrose (Meshach Taylor) shows up again and pretty much looks at the camera and lets you in on the fact that this happening twice is absolutely ridiculous. Taylor also plays a doorman at a nightclub in the film.

If you watch this and say, “That pink convertible seems familiar,” well that’s because it’s the same one from Raffill’s Mac and Me.

The failure of this film killed off Begelman’s Gladden Entertainment, which led to the end of his life. If you can get past that, this movie is absolutely off the rails. It has no grounding in reality whatsoever, beyond the fact that a mannequin comes to life. I’ve seen it so many times — it’s a Becca favorite so it airs several times a year in the B&S About Movies household — and every time I wonder, did anyone watch this in the edit and laugh that no one had caught on to the fact that they were aliens that didn’t know how humans really behaved?

SLASHER MONTH: Scary Movie (1991)

No, not that movie. This movie.

Yes, 1991’s never-released until last year’s Scary Movie is straight outta Austin, Texas.

It’s all about a nerd named Warren (John Hawkes, Kenny Powers’ brother from Eastbound and Down) who winds up in a haunted house attraction, but is convinced that things are not what they seem. Just like this movie, which you’d think would be an end of the video rental idea movie and it ends up being a slapstick voyage into Bava lighting and slasher menace.

Hawks is awesome in this, somehow becoming a mix of Buster Keaton and John Lithgow in The Twilight Zone: The Movie as simply the act of going into a fake haunted barn is way more than his mind can endure. And once he reveals that the maze-like structure — all constructed from soundstages — contains a killer, he busts from his seams.

This is a low-budget affair, but any horror movie that uses The Butthole Surfers and ends with legendary Austin psychedelic performer Roky Erickson’s “I Walked With a Zombie” over the credits is one that you know I’m going to adore. And man, the killer’s mask is absolutely awesome looking.

You can order the AGFA blu ray of this from Diabolik DVD or watch it on Tubi.

Subspecies (1991)

Ted Nicolaou wrote and directed five of these movies — you better believe we have the box set and action figure — starting in 1991 for Full Moon. These look way better than 90’s rental films, because they were shot on location in Romania — the first American film to ever be filmed there — and have incredible looking stop-motion and rod puppet techniques for the subspecies creatures.

Three college students — Mara (Irina Movila), Michelle (Laura Mae Tate) and Lillian (Michelle McBride) have traveled to Prejmer, Romania to study folklore. There, they meet another student named Stefan (Michael Watson) who claims to be studying nocturnal animals, but in truth has been battling his evil brother Radu (Anders Hove, who has been in every single one of these movies other than Vampire Journals).

How did we get here? Why does Radu look so beastly and his brother so much like a human? Well, their father King Vladislas (Angus Scrimm!) was seduced by a sorceress, so they’re really only half-brothers.

Radu killed their father so that he could control the Bloodstone, which drips the blood of the saints. How a vampire can hold onto a holy relic is a point of conjecture we’re best not asking.

Anyhow, Radu — who was named after Vlad the Impaler’s brother Radu the Handsome — turns Mara and Lillian into vampires, but Stefan already loves Michelle, so he works to free her friends. By the end, he chops off Radu’s head and has to turn his love so that she can survive.

Luckily, Radu’s minions are already working on bringing him back to life, otherwise I have no idea what the next movies on this box set are all about.

Speaking of his minions, which are created from Radu’s blood, they weren’t always stop-motion. The original plan was to film local Romanian talent in rubber suits on oversized sets, but then David W. Allen — who worked on several of the Full Moon films — took that footage and added in bluescreen puppets to improve the look of this film.

The Swedish black metal band Marduk’s song “Nightwing” is a cover of this movie’s theme and is all about Radu: “And the mantel of power should be shouldered by the firstborn / The one who craves evil and all kinds of human feelings scorn / He who drank his father’s blood and leaves his foes ripped and torn / And which the king halls up high since long forlorn.”

You can watch this on Tubi.

Howling VI: The Freaks (1991)

The movie begins with a child runs through the woods being chased by a werewolf which corners and kills her. All that’s left is a teddy bear which we soon see being held by a drifter named Ian Richards as he tries to get a ride. He gets a job helping to rebuild a church, but by the time the full moon comes back, he’s soon captured by them.

Oh man — The Howling series of films has brought us here to the sixth movie of several films that rarely, if ever, tie together. Are you ready?

This film adds a sideshow angle, complete with Deep Roy — Teeny Weeny from The NeverEnding Story, Fellini from Flash Gordon, the Tin Man in Return to Oz, all of the Oompa Loompas from the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Tim Burton film — and a vampire leader of the circus battling the entire town of Canton Bluff.

Director Hope Perello also made the Full Moon kid movie Pet Shop and a drama entitled St. Patrick’s Day.

So how does this all tie in? Mary Lou from The Rebirth has a brief, non-speaking part as an audience member at the beginning of the film. They actually explain this in the next installment, New Moon Rising.

You can watch this on Tubi.

It’s a Complex World (1991)

Uh-oh. The studio copywriters are name dropping hit films on the VHS sleeves again. This can’t be good. Wayne’s World? This is Spinal Tap? The Rocky Horror Picture Show? Say what? Bill & Ted’ s Excellent Adventure? The Blues Brothers? Repo Man? Monty friggin’ Python? Surely, you jest, ye stoned public relations copywriter.

Yeah, I fear this is going be Zoo Radio all over again, with its claims of “. . . if you like Porky’s and Animal House. . . .” Yeah, you better strap in, Elwood. This review is going off the friggin’ rails, B&S About Movies style! It’s time for everything you wanted to know about It’s a Complex World . . . but were afraid to ask. . . .

VHS image courtesy of mcknight138/eBay

So, did you know there were two rock ‘n’ roll flicks shot in Providence, Rhode Island? True story.

The first was A Matter of Degrees (1990)—a movie that, courtesy of the oft-seen Prism Video imprint (and Atlantic Records involvement in its production), received decent distribution and was somewhat easy to find on home video shelves. We say “somewhat” because, even with multiple (in my case, three) mom n’ pop video store memberships stuffed in the wallet (and yes, three more from the mega and regional chains of Blockbuster Video, 10,0001 Monster Video, and Video Ave.), most of us didn’t see that beloved (but failed) college radio drama as a rental during its initial year of release—but as an alt-rock artifact excavated by-chance during one of our triangulating-by-phone book home video store excursions on the asphalt rivers. (I eventually came to score two used copies: one I kept; the other was birthday-gifted—along with a CD copy of the soundtrack.)

By then, that John Doe-starring flick (backed by the college rock sounds of Firehose and Miracle Legion) was a forgotten, dusty analog tchotchke stuffed on the shelf of an out-of-way video store sandwiched between a Target and smoothie joint that I happened upon that was having a going-out-business sale. To say I was the proverbial “kid in the candy store” that day is an understatement: I also scored copies of the “No False Metal” classics (but saw them as multiple-rentals) of Hard Rock Zombies, Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare, Rocktober Blood, Shock ‘em Dead, and Terror on Tour—and a copy of the never-seen, second “rock” film shot in Providence: It’s a Complex World.

As with that first Providence-shot flick, It’s a Complex World was a highly coveted rock ‘n’ roll tale lost in a morass of production and distribution snafus; a highly-sought after analog rumored-fable by VHS loving rock dogs (such as myself). Did this movie really exist, or was this another Rock ‘N’ Roll Hotel (1983): just another 3/4” inch tease that was never finished, never made it to home video shelves, and never aired on cable courtesy of USA Network (where all VHS B-Movie schlock went to die) and HBO?

Sadly, this “Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel” fable (okay, it’s a nightclub, but you get the idea) was a rock joint rife with anticipation that, once found, was a letdown (at least for me; some, in other quarters, love it . . . and so it goes).

Instead of those previously mentioned VHS rock ditties that lent themselves to multiple viewings (add The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Cannon’s wacked rock fable, The Apple, and Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise to the list), we ended up with another musical-snoozer ala Playing for Keeps, Scenes from the Goldmine, and Suffering Bastards (all rock club shenanigans flicks). Alas, I didn’t “check-in” to the FM Hilton: this was another Zoo Radio. I wasn’t staying at the hotel Breaking Glass: this was another piss-stained motel Splitz (1984; Robin Johnson from Times Square fronting an all-girl band) . . . or Joey (1985; about the comeback of faux ‘60s rocker Joey King and the Delsonics) or Immortal (1998; boring North Carolina rock-vampire horror). You know what I mean: Allan Moyle’s Pump Up the Volume (1990) was pirate radio gold; Ferd Sebastian’s On the Air Live with Captain Midnight (1979) was a dented, tarnished pewter ale stein crusted in barnacles. . . .

Snork—yes, that’s me yawning; shocking awake to a VCR blue screen, shaking the popcorn dust from my t-shirt and going to take a piss. . . .

Sorry, no offense is intended to the denizens of Providence who have (justified) fond memories of the film’s production and local theatre screenings. For me, It’s a Complex World was one of those chipped VHS Bric-à-bracs that you watch once for the anticipated-curiosity value—fooled into hoping you’re getting an inversion of Allan Arkush’s rock club flick, Get Crazy—and it’s shelved back into the collection as a dust magnet for the next pass of the Swiffer.

Yeah, uh, sorry, Mr. Copywriter. For this ain’t no Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.

Courtesy of Dangerous Minds.net

So, how did this movie come into being . . . and where did it go wrong?

Well, like most indie movies: out of desperation to make “something.” And it took five cooks to clankin’ the pasta pots. Five writers: screenwriter Dennis Maloney, along with director Jim Wolpaw, club owner Rich Lupo, producer Geoff Adams, and actor-musician-star Stanley Matis each offering their own ingredients to an all-too spicy, starchy pot. And the film had an additional, fifth producer, Charles Thompson, who probably dropped some bardin’ as well.

Anyway, in 1987, Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, a legendary, real life Providence rock club, was in danger of closing (to make way for a condo development). So owner Rich Lupo came up with an idea: let’s make a movie to commemorate the club’s demise and trash the joint!

And as luck would have it: Lupo’s head bartender and club manager, his ex-Brown University roommate, Jim Wolpaw, was a budding filmmaker who received a “Best Documentary, Short Subjects” Oscar nomination for his 1986 short Keats and His Nightingale: A Blind Date (several of his shorts and documentaries have since won prizes at a dozen film festivals worldwide). So the duo organized a benefit concert in July of 1987, booked the Young Adults, filmed it (thus creating their own, original stock footage; take that, Roger Corman!), then scripted “a plot” around the last night shenanigans of a club closing (just like Allan Arkush’s earlier Get Crazy from 1983 commemorating the closing of NYC’s Fillmore East).

The completed film—which took two-and-a-half months to shoot in 1987, then went through two years of post-production, reshoots, and legal wrangling—had an unprecedented four month run at Providence’s Cable Car Theatre, along with a two-month run in Boston and a one week run in New York City—garnering good reviews from the city’s local film critics.

Then its planned, national theatrical distribution with Hemdale (The Who’s Tommy, Escape from the Bronx, Turkey Shoot, River’s Edge, The Terminator, back-to-back Academy Award winners Platoon and The Last Emperor, The Terminator) went sour. While Wolpaw won the case and received a miniscule settlement, the film’s chances for a national release were over.

At that point, the film was turned over to Prism for a home video release. A film that would have programmed nicely amid the USA Network’s “Night Flight” rock programming block alongside Breaking Glass and Ladies and Gentleman: The Fabulous Stains, wasn’t forthcoming—and no HBO or Showtime showings, either. The last public theatre showing of the film was a 20th anniversary screening in 2010 on November 5 and 6 (four sold out showings) for a charity event held at Cable Car Theatre (Carolyn Forest for the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Foundation and in the name of producer Charlie Thompson for Advocates in Action). At that point, Wolpaw vanity-pressed a small lot of DVDs (with two cuts of the film; the rough cut and the video/theatrical cut) for sale through a since defunct website (that also benefited the same charities). But that was ten years ago and those limited-run DVDs are long since out of print.

Courtesy of the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame

For years, it was believed that (in the VHS wastelands outside of Providence, natch) the Young Adults were a faux band scripted for the movie; it turned out they were a real band, real enough that—it’s been said in the annals of Young Adults wikidom—at one time TV producer Lorne Michaels had the Rhode Island rock hopefuls on the short-list to be the house band for Saturday Night Live. Other YA factoids: future Talking Heads founder, David Byrne, auditioned for them. And Charles Rocket, who became a Saturday Night Live cast members and starred in the Farrelly’s Dumb and Dumber, was the lead singer in an early ’70s embryonic version of the Young Adults, the Fabulous Motels. And director Jim Wolpaw and the Young Adults worked together before: Showtime aired their 1978 half-hour documentary, Cobra Snake For A Necktie, with the band backing rock ‘n’ roll legend Bo Diddley. The nine-day sold-out stint was recorded on the Heartbreak’s stage during Diddley’s tour for his 1974 album, Big Bad Bo. (Of course it’s on You Tube! Isn’t everything on You Tube?)

Based on the Young Adults wacked out stage wares and the cheeky brand of Catskills-vaudevillian shtick by comically-dubbed co-lead singers Ruby Cheeks and Sport Fisher, it’s easy to believe that SNL rock-factoid. In fact, comparing the Young Adults to the ’70s San Francisco-era, pre-MTV stardom days of Fee Waybill and the Tubes is not far off the mark. One may say, because of the costuming, Adam and the Ants; but the Ants never recorded songs like “Christmas in Japan in July,” “Do the Heimlich,” “I Wanna Throw Up in the Back of a Limo-sine,” “Kill Yourself,” and “Meat Rampage,” did they? The Young Adults’ lone indie album recorded live at Lupo’s, 1987’s Helping Others, served as the film’s pseudo-soundtrack. Sadly, unlike with A Matter of Degrees, there was never an official soundtrack released to also showcase the music of the also appearing Beat Legends, Roomful of Blues, and Stanley Matis.

The plot, such as it is (less narrative story and more a series of variety show-styled vignettes), is another one of those dads-disappointed-with-his-rock-son flicks. In this case, Jeff Burgess is the manager of a Providence rock joint, The Heartbreak Hotel. A disappointment to his conservative, ex-CIA agent father-cum-Senator now running for the Presidency, Robert Burgess feels his son’s rock club will negatively affect his presidential campaign ambitions. (Hey, isn’t that the plot of 2003’s Malibu’s Most Wanted starring Jamie Kennedy?) So the future “Mr. President” hires revolutionaries to stage a terrorist bombing at the club . . . and his son dying in the chaos will garner him the sympathy vote. That’s politics.

Meanwhile, Providence’s corrupt Mayor (Rich Lupo himself), unaware that the Senator has his own nefarious plans, hires a Civil War-obsessed biker gang (led by wrestling legend Captain Lou Albano; the rock n’ wrestling flick Body Slam) to bust up the club and drive it out of business for a land deal. That’s politics.

Then there’s the disenfranchised Morris Brock (Providence comedian-musician Stanley Matis), an angry, disillusioned geeky singer of angry folk songs who desperately wants to get out from under his successful dead brother’s shadow. So he joins up with the terrorists. That’s proving those parents wrong—even if you gotta blow up the joint “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” style.

Hey! Elvis isn’t going to let his namesake rock club be destroyed! So, from beyond the grave (by voice only; he’s not actually in the film, like in Quentin Tarantino’s True Romance; he doesn’t show up like Hendrix did in the the doppelganger Rock ‘N’ Roll Hotel) “The King” reaches out by phone to Beatlegends, a Beatles tribute band on the bill, and discloses some secrets about John Lennon—and warnings of what’s about to happen to the club.

The rock ‘n’ roll is also provided by blues rockers NRBQ (“12 Bar Blues” and their new wave radio hit “Me and the Boys” appear in the film), who do coke in the bathroom (they also appeared on the soundtracks to Tuff Turf and Sean S. Cunningham’s Spring Break). Also appearing on screen and the “soundtrack” are the New England bands (why Providence’s rock denizens love this movie) Roomful of Blues and Beat Legends. And get this: New Jersey neighbors the Smithereens (appeared on the soundtrack to Albert Pyun’s 1987 juvenile delinquency flick Dangerously Close with “Blood and Roses”) worked as extras getting snookered at the bar (but none of their songs are in the film).

VHS image courtesy of mcknight138/eBay

And proving that all actors have to start somewhere: Peter Gerty and Becca Lish, who starred as part of Lou Albano’s biker gang, are still thespin’ in 2020. You’ve seen Gerty as a regular and guest star in Dick Wolf’s NBC-TV productions Homicide: Life on the Street and the Law & Order franchise. HBO and Showtime subscribers seen him as a cast member on The Wire and Brotherhood, and most recently on Ray Donovan (starring Liev Schreiber), but you’ll definitely remember Gerty as Mall Security Chief Brooks from Paul Mart: Mall Cop among his hundred-plus credits. Providence-based actor Becca Lish got her start in A Matter of Degrees and worked her way up to recent roles in TV’s Law & Order, Younger, and the rebooted Murphy Brown, in addition to voice work on several Disney series.

Cinematographer Denis Maloney is also still going strong in 2020; among his hundred-plus credits are the Witchcraft series (based on the 1988 original; remember the witch with six-breasts? Or was it eight!), Cyber Bandits (1995; Adam Ant), Liberty Stands Still (2002; Wesley Snipes), the Farrelly Brother’s There’s Something About Mary, as well as several, recent Lifetime movies (none with our beloved Eric Roberts, at least not yet!).

The Young Adults’ Ruby Cheeks went on to have a cameo in the Farrelly Brothers’ later Rhode Island-based picture, Jim Carrey’s Me, Myself and Irene.

. . . Now, let’s clear up the Seinfeld rumors that one of “George Costanza’s bosses” appeared in the film: it’s true! Daniel von Bargen (Mr. Kruger from Kruger Industrial Smoothing) stars as the terrorist group’s leader, Malcom.

Say what? There’s no freebie online VHS rips? Oh, well. And since those 2010 DVDs are out-of-print and there’s no official streams (not even as a with-ads stream on TubiTV?), all we have to share with you are the trailer, along with the opening title credits sequence and a clip of the Young Adults on stage in the film.

Ugh, this really is Rock ‘N’ Roll Hotel all over again! When will we ever see the full film?

You can learn more about the catalog of the Young Adults on their Discogs page and a wealth of their tunes are preserved on the You Tube page of Flamingo Land. We’ve also found three of Stanley Matis’s “geek folk” tunes: “New Jersey” (which he performed in the film), and three later tunes: “Buster Christ,” “Empire Review,” and “Frugal Duck.” And the Roomful of Blues album that I remember the most—that got some notice on the more adventurous new wave-oriented radio stations—was their second album, 1979’s Let’s Have a Party, which is on You Tube. (Remember Jack Mack and the Heart Attack in Tuff Turf? Well, it’s cool like that.) You can also learn more about the Rhode Island music scene via the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame You Tube page and website.

Forget Cleveland! Providence Rocks!

Oh, and since It’s a Complex World (somewhat) qualifies as a Box Office Failure, be sure to check out our recent, week long February tribute week to “Box Office Failures.” You need more rock bands flicks? Then check out our “Ten Bands Made Up for Movies (and a whole lot more)” featurette.

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

Special thanks to Dangerous Minds.net, Dr. Bristol’s Prescription blog, Providence Daily Dose, Providence Monthly Online, Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame, and Spectacle Theatre NY for their efforts in preserving this rock flick obscurity, which assisted in the preparation of this review.

Showdown In Little Tokyo (1991)

Mark Lester knows exactly what you want and gives it to you. Let me set a scene in this film for you: Brandon Lee, dressed in a natty suit, joins Dolph Lungren — who is dressed as if he walked straight off the set of a Data East beat ’em up —  to walk into a bar where old men are eating sushi off of nude models while two slightly less nude women fight sumo style atop tables. Meanwhile, on a stage that looks like the Fortress of Solitude, Tia Carrere sings “Slow Hand.”

To top that off, there’s a scene where evil Iron Claw Yakuza boss Funekei Yoshida (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) kills Angel by cutting her head off while engaging in foreplay as his underlings watch. And when they find her headless body? Yep. That’s the church from Prince of Darkness.

No movie has had meaner bad guys more worthy of being killed by two cooler cops. You have Chris Kenner (Dolph Lundgren), an American raised in Japan, teaming with Japanese/America Johnny Murata (Brandon Lee). While they hate one another at first, they soon become great partners and murder everyone who gets in their way to solve the case.

There’s also a bonkers scene where Kenner rescues Tia’s character from committing seppuku by tackling her through a plate glass window. There is no subtlety here.

Somehow, the Iron Claw has united the Crips, the Mexican gangs and the Hell’s Angels. And if you wondered, where is Professor Toru Tanaka? He’s right here.

This is a movie self-aware enough to have Brandon Lee’s character say, “You have the biggest dick I’ve ever seen on a man,” while also having the most over the top action sequences to ever be released straight to the shelves of your local video store and a body count of 58.

After being disappointed by Warner Brothers taking over this film and cutting eleven minutes, Lester started to finance and sell his movies himself to keep control over them. Good for him.

Pesadilla Fatale (1991)

Tatiana — a Mexican singer and actress who came to my attention for her magnificent rendition of “Chicos” in Vacation of Terror 2 — also made this film, where she plays a blind woman named Marisol whose father has been killed. Even worse, the killer is now after her.

Directed by René Cardona III (who made the original Vacation of Terror), this film features a killer with a Freddy-like glove of knives. He (or she) nearly kills Marisol with it in the beginning and continually uses it to get closer and closer to taking our heroine out.

There’s a lot of Marisol acting like she can’t see and stumbling around while the knife-gloved killer tries to end her life. She’s so perky and innocent and nice that you’ll be rooting for her — and this film — no matter what.

You can watch this on YouTube.

La Llorona (1991)

I found this one on Tubi and it’s directed by Cesar Miguel Rondon. Honestly, there’s not much info on this one, which came out 28 years before The Curse of La Llorona.

It’s shot on video and looks like a telenovela — not a bad thing — and concerns a fishing village named La Vela. There, Ismael lives with his wife Cayita and their son, but his weakness as a man finds him in bed with Carmelina, who has the power of witchcraft.

Not a single one of the three featured actors in this movie claim it on their IMDB pages. You have to love this simple description that Pongalo gives to this movie, totally spoiling so much of it: “One day, Ismael decides to return to the side of his wife and son. Carmelina invokes her powers and begins her revenge … Ismael dies.”

Whew. This isn’t the worst movie I’ve watched as of late, but it’s close.

You can watch this on Tubi.

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. Watch it for yourself.

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.

Dolly Dearest (1991)

Ed Gale played both Chuckie and Dolly Dearest. Knowing this fact has not helped me at all in my life, but perhaps it will bring better fortune to you.

Americans Elliot and Marilyn Wade (Sam Bottoms and Denise Crosby) take their kids Jessica and Jimmy (Candace Huston and Chris Demetral) to Mexico where father is about to run the doll factory, because that’s how things go in 1990’s direct to video — yes, it played one small theater run — movies.

Jessica soon bonds with Dolly Dearest and accidents start claiming the lives of everyone in the house. This is the kind of movie where an entire doll factory must be blown up to protect a child. That would be the type of movie that I completely endorse.

I’m also totally for any movie that features Rip Torn as an archaeologist who just spews exposition.

Dolly Dearest was directed by Maria Lease, who went from acting in movies like Love Camp 7 and Dracula vs. Frankenstein to being a script supervisor, editor, writer and director.

This movie is completely ridiculous, like some strange mash-up of Demonoid with Child’s Play. That’s the kind of magical thinking that we need more of.

You can finally get this on blu ray from Vinegar Syndrome.