Winterbeast (1992)

Winterbeast is less of a movie and more of a film that feels like it came from another much darker version of our universe, like a VHS tape that was found in a store and someone played it and it was too much for them and it killed them, then the police found it and it caused a few of them to lose their faith in God and they’re all in a sanitarium somewhere writing all over their faces, then the government got involved and one guy snuck the tape out but his son accidentally returned it to a mom and pop rental shop that rented it out so many times that they started making bootleg copies to keep up with the demand and here we are.

Sergeant Whitman (Tim R. Morgan) and Forest Ranger Stillman (Mike Magri) have just spent the first ten minutes of this movie talking about all the mutilated bodies around the Wild Goose Lodge. Instead of the plot, this is where you’ll start to wonder why Whitman talks so close to everyone. In nearly every scene, nearly every time he talks, he’s within kissing distance of every person he speaks to, a moment topped only when three characters stand shoulder to shoulder, the camera gives a little dutch angle, they all look to the horizon and speak one at a time in a way that can’t be a conversation.

Someone has opened the Native American gate to hell — not to be confused with the traditional Italian gate to hell — and our heroes have to figure out how to put it back together. Standing in their way is Dave Sheldon (Bob Harlow), the owner of the lodge, who is given to red and plaid suits and screaming like a New England skinnier clone of Harvey Fierstein. Then, he goes wild in a scene that really I fear I don’t have the words for, slapping dead women in the face, shoving his digits into their neck wounds, dancing to strange otherworldly music and caressing other dead bodies he’s arranged around the room. It’s a big leap from someone who has been the Mayor Larry Vaughn character up until now to wildly doing some kind of vogue-like dance to “Oh Dear! What Can the Matter Be.”

It took six years, three video formats and ten grand to make this movie or so they say. I don’t think Winterbeast was made. I think it escaped. I can’t explain a movie that has multiple monsters that don’t match — demonic humans, stop motion things out of The Gate, a gigantic chicken that nearly devours Stillman, a murderous totem pole covered in skeletal bodies, a skull bursts out of a man’s chest for no reason, Sheldon wearing a mask and dancing — as well as moments where the camera lingers forever on a chicken coop or someone driving while synth just drones away.

There’s also a moment when the investigation of the box of Native American medicine man Charlie Perkins (Charlie Majka) finds not just a monster tooth, but also a dildo and not a single person mentions it.

Director and writer Christopher Thies made one movie and this is it and it’s so much more than enough. Does he have too much creativity or audacity? And how dare someone name a movie Winterbeast and it takes place in the autumn? Why would you do that? How is there so much plaid in one movie?

You know Evil Dead straight up ripped off Equinox and everyone is too polite to say something about it? This movie gets the stop motion part of those films and then says, “What if we just had a man’s head burst into flames for no reason at all?” Also, there’s a theory that the totem pole and Indian skull were ripped off from Dokken’s “Burning Like a Flame” video, which makes way too much sense.

Nothing in this movie matches. It never seems to end as in every ending there is a new beginning, which feels like a painted sign that someone puts up on their wall as if they have any idea what it means. I can come to you and say that I have no idea what Winterbeast means but also that I loved every single second of it.

It also has music by Michael Perilstein, who scored The Deadly Spawn.

Vinegar Syndrome released this on their Home Grown Horrors Volume One box set along with Fatal Exam and Beyond Dream’s Door, two movies that also push your mind into places it is not ready for.

ARROW BLU RAY RELEASE: Betty (1992)

Based on the novel by Georges Simenon, Betty is, well, about Betty (Marie Trintignant), a young alcoholic woman whose affairs cause her to be removed from her family and not allowed to see her two children. One night in a bar, she meets Laure (Stéphane Audran), who takes her in, gives her a luxury hotel room and the opportunity to tell her story within a series of flashbacks.

The last film that director Claude Chabrol and his former spouse Stéphane Audran (Audran was also married to the father of her co-star, Jean-Louis Trintignant) made together, it features a character deprived of the love of her husband, used as a womb to create children for a rich family and left to only feel through alcohol and sex. But behind her eyes and those bangs, is she trouble for anyone she comes into contact with?

Is this a realistic story of life? A horror movie without the supernatural? A formless movie with no plot instigated within a 1960s conversation between Simenon and Chabrol? All of those things and more? Watch and see.

Arrow Video’s Lies And Deceit: Five Films By Claude Chabrol collected five high definitions (1080p) blu ray versions of Cop Au Vin and Inspector Lavardin to Madame Bovary, Betty and Torment. Each movie has an introduction by film scholar Joël Magny and select scene commentaries by Chabrol. Additionally, there’s an 80-page collector’s booklet of new writing by film critics Martyn Conterio, Kat Ellinger, Philip Kemp and Sam Wigley, trailers and image galleries for each movie and limited edition packaging with newly commissioned artwork by Tony Stella.

Betty has new commentary by critic Kat Ellinger, as well as Betty, from Simenon to Chabrol, a new visual essay by French Cinema historian Ginette Vincendeau and a new interview with Ros Schwartz, the English translator of the Georges Simenon novel on which this movie is based.

You can order this set from MVD.

GREGORY DARK WEEK: Secret Games (1992)

The Dark Brothers were proud to say that porn was dead and they were here to change it.

They were purveyors of fine filth, as they also claimed.

And they made — well, Gregory Dark — made movies that are fascinatingly unerotic, movies that the mainstream adult industry didn’t understand, that predate the gonzo and internet era, that had the kind of fashion and art direction that wasn’t dated or a soap opera or a parody of a known movie.

And as for Gregory Dark, his life was one of constant reinvention, from earning his MFA from Stanford University, then doing graduate studies in film at New York University, then making a documentary on the adult industry that led to him immersing himself in it, while finding that he could reinvent himself into a whole new person, half of the Dark Brothers, a somehow even darker form of the already shady world of pornography.

Then he realized that there was a market for erotic thrillers that could be sold to video and cable, made for a more female audience, one that nearly always features strong women and feels like giallo, but instead of murder being the driving force, it’s always lovemaking, but incredibly unrealistic, fog-ridden, neon-drenched, sax-blaring sex that challenges the Jacuzzi in Showgirls for gymnastic horizontal dancing. Everyone has a perfect body and a perfect life, but everyone is miserable. Indeed, Dark told The Rialto Report that no one had a happy ending in these movies.

Dark was also counseled by a father figure who was a psyops psychological warfare expert and had a teacher who gave him a voice in his head so critical that he fought himself with every project. So when his adult films were so different that they changed the industry like soap bubbles inside a syringe full of heroin — seriously, listen to that interview The Rialto Report did — slowly but surely making the look, the feel and the madness of his scenes commonplace.

So where would Gregory Dark take mainstream?

Ironically, his films seem to feel like Michael Ninn, who would seem to be the exact opposite of his adult films. He mentioned that he’d consider how Ninn would compose shots and shoot the female form and that comes through in his softcore work.

The story is one as old as Lady Chatterley’s Lover or Emmanuelle. A housewife is bored and strays, but then learns that once she’s become an escort, her fantasy life doesn’t live up to what she’d hoped it would be. That’s simple. What isn’t is the style Dark shows in each scene and yeah, there’s little to no plot, but everyone looks fabulous, like the kind of drawings of humans we’d send to space so aliens would know just how proud we are of our bodies. Between Dalia Sheppard, Michele Brin, Vidal’s daughter Catya Sassoon, Monique Parent, Kelly Royce and Alison Armitage, this movie feels like a Patrick Nagel portrait come to life.

If Andy Sidaris presented us with the light side of free-spirited and innocent sex appeal, of course Gregory Dark must be his reverse. As women sit on lounges combing their hair and relaxing before another love scene, everyone looks absolutely stunning, so ideal that they even wear their high heels to bed but never sleep.

Bonus points for the non-stop voyeur aspect, including a nun that is watching the watching in a continuing motif, and for using Billy Drago as a non-villain character.

GREGORY DARK WEEK: Undercover Heat (1992)

David Cole (Maxwell Caulfield) is a cop with married to Joanna (Shannon Whirry), who is frustrated by their sex life, which threatens to end their marriage. Then she finds out that he likes to watch and wants to watch her, so everything seems to go well. But this is an erotic thriller directed by Gregory Dark, so you know that things are going to go wrong.

Based on a real Florida — always Florida — case in which a cop and his wife taped her outcall dalliances with other men for money, this is at once an example of the male gaze and female empowerment through said male gaze, as Joanna finds herself getting exactly what she wants and her husband learns that maybe he just likes looking instead of actually doing anything.

Dark gets his best cast maybe ever — mainstream cast, that is — in this one, with Jan-Michael Vincent, David Carradine, John Saxon and U.S. Olympic athlete Mitch Gaylord (yes, the lead of American Tiger).

This movie casts Carradine as a strip club owner who gets the Coles to help him blackmail Jan-Michael and when the press gets wise, John Saxon, as their lawyer, has a defense that claims that Mrs. Cole became obsessed with carnal crimes because of a prescription drug side effect.

Yes, it’s completely stupid. But how many Cinemax late night movies have you made?

GREGORY DARK WEEK: Mirror Images (1992)

I mean, yes, we have seen this before. A woman changes identities with her identical twin sister, finally getting to sip from the fountain of the fantasies she’s kept hidden in her vanilla marriage, but if I’ve learned one thing from a week of Gregory Dark mainstream movies, it’s that dream life has a dark grey lining under every silver cloud.

Directed under the name Alexander Gregory Hippolyte, somehow this movie brings along Kenickie and J. Peterman into the world of Dark, a place usually occupied by Delia Sheppard (who plays both twins), Dominique Simone, Kelly Royce and Julie Strain, who somehow has the sheer level of universal appeal that allows her to straddle — seductively straddle at that — the light side of the softcore force that is Andy Sidaris and the darkest of the dark that is Gregory Dark.

Where Sidaris presents a world that only exists in Dallas, New Orleans, Hawaii or Savage Beach, places dominated by jacuzzis, men who can’t shoot and the occasional remote controlled weapon interrupting synth-driven touching, Dark’s world is one where the forbidden fruit bites back, where getting to live the filthy life of your darkest dreams ends up decimating your vanilla white picket fence life, but along the way you get silky lingerie, gorgeous framing and, yes, lots of saxophone. I’ve been discussing the usage of saxophone in these movies all week and the only person who loved sex and sax more was probably Lucio Fulci, who showed us just how a woman can really enjoy one in The Devil’s Honey.

Look, I know the internet has all the dirty filth you want, but why is no one making movies like this any more? I mean, a bunch of hacks ape giallo and everyone loses their mind over it and people add some neon and synth and everybody thinks they’re Carpenter. Be brave and try to make one of these movies. Maybe they don’t make them like this any more. And sadly, Julie Strain is gone and while I want her to find the eternal rest she deserves, I wouldn’t be sad to discover that she’s become a sexy ghost.

GREGORY DARK WEEK: Night Rhythms (1992)

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can check out an alternate viewpoint from R.D Francis in this article.

This movie is so not from our reality and that makes me love it so much. Imagine a world in which Nick West (Martin Hewitt) can put on a nightly radio show where he gets multiple female callers to have phone sex with him. And he’s very not so great at it, other than having a gravelly voice, but they instantly become jelly on the phone lines, telling him how horrible their husbands are and why only he truly understands them.

Then one night, Honey (Tracy Tweed, sister of Shannon) gets through to Nick, who decides to dial Radio Moscow with her live on the air while people listen because obviously, the FCC does not prosecute for obscenity in the world of Night Rhythems.

Nick ends up taking it to Honey so hard — there’s some choking — that they both pass out but she doesn’t wake up. She’s dead and several very horny women basically heard Nick kill her on the air with his lovemaking. Even he isn’t sure what happened.

The one person who can help Nick is Cinnamon (Deborah Driggs, the one-time wife of American Rickshaw star Mitch Gaylord), an ex-dancer that understands the world that Honey came from, a place where the criminal Vincent (David Carradine) controls the ladies on and off the stage of his club. The cops are on his trail, mainly Jackson, played by Sam J. Jones, but Nick also keeps scoring with the ladies, like Jamie “The Brat” Summers, Julie Strain, Kelly Royce, Kristine Rose (who is in Joe D’Amato’s Passion’s Flower and Eleven Days, Eleven Nights 2), Tamara Longly and Alicyn Sterling.

You may figure out the twist early, which is fine, because obviously, it’s Bridget (Delia Sheppard) as the person trying to go from being Nick’s producer to taking over the show. What is a shock is that Wally Pfister, who has been the cinematographer for Christopher Nolan’s films (as well as Amityville: A New Generation and several more movies for Dark).

It all adds up now. Every frame is filled with smoke, sax solos, neon and the need to make the kind of love that only exists in movies, where no one gets a sprain or kneels on someone’s hair or looks anything less than their absolute sexiest.

Gregory Dark knows what he’s doing. This is probably one of his better efforts, at least mainstream.

WATCH THE SERIES: Mr. Vampire

There are five Ricky Lau-directed Mr. Vampire movies — Mr. VampireMr. Vampire II, Mr. Vampire III, Mr. Vampire IV and Mr. Vampire 1992 (the only direct sequel) followed by several connected movies by other directors, such as Billy Chan and Leung Chung’s New Mr. Vampire (these first six movies will be the ones that we’ll be covering), Lam Ching-ying’s Vampire vs Vampire and Magic Cop (AKA Mr. Vampire 5), Chan’s Crazy Safari (also known as The Gods Must Be Crazy II), Andrew Lau’s The Ultimate Vampire, Wilson Tong’s The Musical Vampire, Wu Ma’s Exorcist Master, Wellson Chin’s The Era of Vampires and Juno Mak’s tribute to this series, Rigor Mortis. There are also two TV series: Vampire Expert and My Date with a Vampire.

All of these movies have the Chinese vampire in common. Called the jiangshi, these hopping corpses of Chinese folklore are as much zombies as they are vampires. They first appeared in Hong Kong cinema in Sammo Hung’s Encounters of the Spooky Kind.

Mr. Vampire (1985)

Master Kau (Lam Ching-ying) is pretty much Dr. Strange by way of Taoist priesthood, as he keeps control over the spirits and vampires of China from his large home, which is protected by many talismans and amulets, staffed by his students Man-Choi (Ricky Hui) and Chau-sang (Chin Siu-ho).

Master Yam hires Kau to move the burial site of his father to ensure prosperity for his family. However, the body looks near perfect, showing that it may be a vampire. Taking it home, Kau instructs his students to write all over the coffin with enchanted ink. They forget to do the bottom of the coffin, which means that the vampire escapes and murders his rich son, turning him into a jiangshi.

Wai (Billy Lau) is a policeman who is sure that Kau is responsible (he also has a grudge because a girl (Moon Lee) he likes has eyes for Kau), so he arrests him even as the vampire begins killing others. Kau’s students are tested by a vampire’s boat and also a seductive spirit, but when Master Yam becomes a fully vampiric demon, only the help of another Taoist priest named Four-Eyes (Anthony Chan) can save the day.

Based on stories producer Hung heard from his mother, this movie nearly tripled its budget at the box office. Just a warning — not just Italian movies have real animal violence. There’s a moment where a real snake is sliced apart instead of a fake one due to budget. The snake was used to make soup, but there’s no report on whether the chicken whose throat was cut on screen was used as stock after.

Golden Harvest tried to make an American version — Demon Hunters — with Yuen Wah playing Master Kau and American actors Jack Scalia and Michele Phillips (taking over from Tonya Roberts) were in Hong Kong to film scenes, but the movie was stopped after just a few weeks.

Mr. Vampire 2 (1986)

This film is more about a vampire family than continuing the story of the first movie, despite being directed by Ricky Lau and bringing back female star Moon Lee and Lam Ching-ying.

Archaeologist Kwok Tun-Wong (Chung Fat) and his students have found not just one jiangshi but a mother, father and their son, all kept still because of the magical talismans on their foreheads. Intending to sell the boy on the black market — who would want a child hopping vampire is a question we may not be able to answer — the talismans are removed and Dr. Lam Ching-ying (yes, Lam Ching-ying used his real name for the role), his potential son-in-law Yen (Yuen Biao) and his daughter Gigi (Lee) must stop the plague of the vampires.

Mr. Vampire 3 (1987)

Uncle Ming (Richard Ng) isn’t a great Tao priest like Uncle Nine (Lam Ching-ying), but like an HK version of The Frighteners, he has help from two ghosts. Big and Small Pai. He comes to a small town where supernatural bandits are ruling the night, all led by the evil — I mean, with a name like this, she should be malificent — Devil Lady (Wong Yuk Waan).

This movie has a first for me — evil spirits trapped in wine jars and then friend in hot oil. This is definitely closer to the spirit of the original film, which made fans pretty happy. Also, a witch with a skull inside her hair and a Sammo Hung cameo as a waiter!

If you’re used to the pace of American movies, you may want to drink plenty of Red Bull or Bang before starting this one.

Mr. Vampire 4 (1988)

Four-eyed Taoist (Anthony Chan) and Buddhist Master Yat-yau (Wu Ma) are neighbors, but engaged in a sort of humorous war of words, pranks and ideologies with each other. As a convoy passes their homes — including a vampire that is soon hit with lightning and becomes super powerful — they must put aside their dislike and work together.

You may miss Lam Ching Ying, who for the first time isn’t the lead in a Mr. Vampire sequel. There’s nearly an hour, however, where the two leads try to destroy one another with not a hopping bloodsucker in sight. So while the stereotypical gay character isn’t fun at all, there’s still the knowledge you’ll gain, like eating garlic to defeat a curse.

Mr. Vampire 1992 (1992)

After three sequels, it’s finally time to make an actual sequel to Mr. Vampire, with Master Kau (Lam Ching-ying), Man-choi (Ricky Hui) and Chau-sang (Chin Siu-ho) all coming back.   What a wild story they’ve been brought back for, as the soul of an aborted fetus lives within a statue before seeking to take over the fetus that is growing within Mai Kei-lin (Wuki Kwan), the one-time love of Master Kau.

There’s also The General (Billy Lau), Mai Kei-lin’s husband, who is bit by his vampire father and seeks to escape his curse with the help of Kau.

Also — this is a comedy.

What’s most amazing — to me — is that I found my copy of this in my small Western Pennsylvania hometown, in the literal sticks, an all-region DVD that I can only assume came from a foreign exchange student at one of the local small colleges, as there were several other similar films. $1 later and my movie room has hopping vampires on the shelves.

New Mr. Vampire (1987)

Don’t confuse this New Mr Vampire with Mr. Vampire 1992. This installment was directed by Billy Chan and has Chung Fat and Huang Ha as rival brothers Master Chin and Master Wu, with Chin Siu-ho (playing Hsiao Hau Chien) and Lu Fang (known as Tai-Fa) as their disciples.

This is my least favorite of the jiangshi movies I’ve seen, except for the fact that the filmmakers seem intent on making John Carpenter pay for taking so many Hong Kong movie mythos for Big Trouble in Little China by outright stealing music from Halloween and Escape from New York.

Are you willing to take a journey into the world of Chinese vampires? Let us know what you find. Remember, if you get bit, just take a bath in rice milk, then grind down their fangs or drink their blood to heal yourself.

Double Trouble (1992)

God bless the Barbarian Brothers, Peter and David Paul, and God bless John Paragon, who worked on not just one but two of their movies (he wrote and directed Twin Sitters but only directed this). Here’s, he’s working from a script by Jeffrey Kerns, based on a story by Charles Osburn and Kurt Wimmer, who made the absolutely berserk movies EquilibriumUltraviolet and the Children of the Corn remake that came out in 2020 that nobody realized ever came out (he also wrote Salt, the Point Break remake, The Thomas Crowne Affair remake, Sphere and Law Abiding Citizen).

Peter Jade earns his living as a crook. David Jade is a Los Angeles cop. After the thief of a brother finds the key to opening a safe filled with diamonds, he gets targeted by criminal supervillain Philip Chamberlain (Roddy McDowall!).

The brothers are very Tango and Cash in this, as David wears jeans and Peter wears the finest of suits. Can they get it together and solve the mystery (and avenge the death of David’s partner?)?

The supporting cast in this is worth the price of admission. There’s Star Trek‘s James Doohan as Chief O’Brien. David Carradine as Mr. C, Peter’s prison burglar mentor. Billy Mumy of Lost in Space and “Fish Heads” fame as an assassin. Troy Donahue as a corrupt politician. And lots of other familiar faces like Tim Stack (Son of a Beach), Lewis Arquette (the father of that famous family), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs!), Lynne Marie Stewart (Miss Yvonne!) and video girl Bobbie Brown in a quick role as Peter’s girlfriend.

I have a major soft spot for the Barbarian Brothers. This movie moves quickly, offers plenty of harmless laughs and is kind of like empty calories. It’s not their best movie — I mean, it’s The Barbarians, hands down — but it’s still worth a view.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)

Anthony Hickox made both Waxwork movies, so that qualified him to take on the third trip to visit the Cenobites, which was necessary as the two films that had already come out were huge rental successes.

Series creator Clive Barker reprised his role as executive producer, though he was largely uninvolved until post-production, while Tony Randel at least contributed the story.

At the end of the last film, as Pinhead tried to reclaim his humanity, he finds himself split into his demonic form and as the limbo-trapped British Army Captain Elliot Spencer. As for Pinhead, he and the Lament Configuration remain within the Pillar of Souls that appeared as the last movie finished.

The pillar is bought as art by a club owner and when one of his sexual conquests is dragged into it and absorbed, Pinhead emerges and demands more blood. Without the influence of Spencer, Pinhead has become true evil and is using our reality for his own pleasure, which is against the regimented laws that the Cenobites live by.

Ashley Laurence returns for a cameo, as her Kirsty character explains the events of the previous films. And hey — Armored Saint plays the club!

Between the Barbie and CD Cenobites and the more American locale, this film suffers in comparison to the first two movies. That said, when viewed against what was to come, it ends up being pretty decent. The idea that Pinhead lost his faith in humanity after war rings true even many decades later.

You can watch this on Tubi.

JOE D’AMATO WEEK: A Woman’s Secret (1992)

Somehow, someway Joe D’Amato got Margaux Hemingway, Apollonia (yes, the female star of Purple Rain) and Dan McVicar (The Bold and the Beautiful) in one of his movies, had the budget to shoot in New Orleans and responded by delivering a film that has less sleaze than normal but still doesn’t skimp on the nudity that this movie promised to rental and cable viewers.

Ellen Foster (Hemingway) has watched her husband commit a murder and goes on the run. He sends a hitman after her in the guise of a journalist with whom she has a Mardi Gras affair with but of course, things are not as they seem.

If you spent your small Friday hours watching Cinemax or Showtime in the 90s, you know exactly the kind of movie that you’re getting into. That’s not a bad thing, as making these kind of movies was something that D’Amato could — and often did, seemingly — in his sleep. This time, he just has a more expensive cast.

Also the most attractive woman on the set — apologies to the lovely Ms. Hemmingway and Ms. Kotero — was Laura Gemser, off camera and designing the costumes that were just cast to the floo during the sex scenes.