Drive-In Friday: Dennis Devine Night

We’ve already taken a look at Double D’s best-promoted and best-known film — via the back of pulpy, ’80s monster mags — Dead Girls, and his latest, 30th film, Camp Blood 8 — each part of our respective “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week II” and our October “All Slasher Month” tributes. And, the best part, Dennis is a D-Town brother: yep, the land of Jim Morrison’s doppelganger from 1974, that wizard of “the D,” The Phantom of the Divine Comedy fame (no pun intended). Devine was born and raised in Detroit and graduated from Eastern Michigan University before heading to Los Angeles, graduating from Loyola Marymount University’s film school, and forming DJD Productions.

So, for this Drive-In Friday, lets load the projector with four more of Dennis Devine films. And not all of them are the horror films you expect them to be.

Movie 1: Fatal Images (1989)

Next to Dear Girls, this debut feature — produced for $10,000 and shot-on-Beta with Dead Girls’ Steve Jarvis — is my favorite of the Devine cannons and the Cinematrix imprint.

Starring Kay Schaber, Angela Eads, and Brian Chin from the later Dead Girls, they’re three of several people victimized by a Satanist-worshipping photographer-cum-serial killer who — instead of sealing his body in a doll, ala Chucky in Child’s Play (1988; 2019), Devine’s writing cohort, Mike Bowler (Hell Spa, Things, Things II, Club Dead, Amazon Warrior, Chain of Souls, Haunted), who spins an inventive change-up to the spiritual hocus pocus — commits suicide before the police can catch him, and seals his body inside a camera.

Years later, Amy Stuart (Lane Coyle who, in typical Devine fashion, never appeared in another film), an aspiring photographer who works for the town’s newspaper, purchases the vintage camera from a pawn shop staffed with a creepy, ulterior motive shopkeep — and everyone she photographs is tracked down and murdered by the killer’s spirit.

What helps this along is the effects that come courtesy of the iconic Gabe Bartalos, who worked on Dead Girls, as well as Frankenhooker, Spookies, Brain Damage, and the Fright Night, Basket Case, Leprechaun, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Gremlins and Watchers series. And don’t forget: Gabe’s in the directing business with Skinned Deep (2004) and Saint Bernard (2013).

You can watch Fatal Images as a free stream on You Tube. Do you need a more expansive, second look? Then check out Sam’s review of Fatal Images. It’s true! We love this film and Mr. Devine.

Movie 2: Things (1993)

“A horrific and sexy romp in the dark.”
— Joe Bob Briggs

Now, if that tag from the guru of Drive-In fodder on the VHS “big-box” doesn’t make you want to mail order this third effort from Dennis Devine, then nothing will. And yes . . . multiple titles alert . . . here are two movies carrying the “Things” title: the first is the infamous Canuxploitation-North of the Border Horror, Things (1989). And the three sequels from 1998 and 2017 to Devine’s film have nothing to do with the Canux one — or with each other — for that matter.

This “Things” is an anthology-portmanteau film in three parts: “The Box” directed and written by Devine,” “Thing in a Jar” written by Steve Jarvis and directed by Jay Woelfel, and the wrap-around/linking segment written by Mike Bowler and directed by Eugene James. All are film school friends and DJD cohorts, natch.

The segments come together as a woman kidnaps her husband’s mistress and tells the mistress two horror stories involving “evil things” — that’s all converged in a related, twist ending. And unlike the classic Amicus and Hammer omnibus flicks it homages, Things dispenses with the atmospheric-gothic angle of its Brit forefathers and goes straight for — the bountiful — guts n’ gore. The first tale concerns hookers who meet their fate to a cursed creature kept in a box; the second is about a woman haunted by is-it-real-or-nightmares “things” concerning her abusive husband.

You can watch Things on TubiTV. There’s no online copies of 2 or 3 (aka Deadly Tales, aka, Old Things) currently streaming online, but you can watch Things 4 on TubiTV. And again, DO NOT confuse this with the “North of the Border Horror” Things from 1989 . . . as that is a whole other “thing” to watch.

INTERMISSION: Short Film Time!

The Things about Things Sidebar: Battlestar Galactica fans know Jay Woelfel as the director of Richard Hatch’s failed 1999 BSG theatrical reboot with the short “pitch film” Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming that Universal rejected in lieu of the eventual SyFy Channel series. You can watch Hatch and Woelfel’s vision on You Tube. As you’ll see the, concept of “evolved Cylons” and the new Raiders design for the series was pinched from this version — and the most popular characters and actors returned.

And back to the show . . .

Movie 3: Curse of Pirate Death (2006)

It’s more goofy, ne’er-do-well college kids of the Scooby Doo variety heading off — not into the Norwegian Slasher Wood (as in Camp Blood 8) — but the ocean, Pirate’s Point in particular, as they research the myth of a centuries old killer, Abraham LeVoy, aka Pirate Death. And if they find his legendary treasure along the way, all the better for Shaggy and the Mystery Machine gang.

You’ve got — even though some are cut-a-ways or off-camera (ugh, damn budget) — a high kill count and lots of zombie-ghost pirate fighting that reminds of the great Amando de Ossorio’s third entry in his “Blind Dead” series, The Ghost Galleon (1974; the one with the living corpses of the Satan-worshiping Knights Templar hunting for human victims trapped on a 16th century galleon), but it’s definitely not as good as a de Ossorio flick (and what film is). Yeah, this one’s suffering from its ultra-low-budget that lends to sketchy cinematography and strained acting in places, but this has the usual Devine heart n’ soul with a mix of dark humor and horror that lends to its fun, snappy pace. Bottom line: If you want to see porn-provocateur Ron Jeremy (Boondock Saints/Overnight; also of Devine’s Night of the Dead from 2012) get a (cut-a-way) sword in the gut, this is your movie. If you want to see girls dressed as a sexy cop and German Beer Wench (Get that Bud Light chick outta ‘ere, I want a St. Pauli Girl!) stranded on an island dispatched by a dead pirate with guacamole smeared on his face, this is you movie.

One of the few Devine movies available through the service, you can rental-stream Curse of Pirate Death for a $1.99 on Amazon Prime. The DVD has a director-actor commentary track, along with a making of, gag reel, and meet the cast vignettes. The Amazon Prime stream offers a clip sample and You Tube offers a trailer via the film’s distributor, Brain Damage Films.

Movie 4: Get the Girl (2009)

Dennis Devine makes the jump from the pulpy lands of back-of-a-monster magazine-mail order SOVs to the streaming world of Netflix in this pretty obvious Judd Apatow-influencer. It concerns a geek (Adam Salandra of Devine’s Don’t Look in the Cellar) who masters Guitar Master (aka a chintzy Guitar Hero knock-off) to impress a sexy-brainless co-worker, much to the chagrin of his dowdy, co-worker gal pal. Guess which girl he gets. (Yeah, I’d want to “get the girl” with the ponytail and eye glasses, too.)

You can watch Get the Girl as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTV. Other films in the Devine comedy cannons include Kid Racer (2010; yep, go-carts), Dewitt & Maria (2010; a rom-com), Fat Planet (2013; aliens into food), and Baker & Dunn (2017; that also works as mystery thriller).


For you Devineites (Or is that Devineheads?) check out his TubiTV page to watch the horrors Don’t Look in the Cellar (2008), The Haunting of La Llorona (2019), and the comedy Fat Planet (2013).

We wanted to do Devine’s Vampires of Sorority Row (1999), Vampires on Sorority Row II (2000), and his campy-vamp comedy Vamps in the City (2010) for our recent “Vampire Week,” but were unable to locate online streaming copies for you to enjoy — free or otherwise. The same goes for the Reggie “Phantasm” Bannister-starring Sawblade (2010) for our “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week II,” about an extreme-metal band a trapped-in-a-haunted house-for-a-video shoot tale (i.e., Blood Tracks and Monster Dog).

You need more Dennis Devine? Check out this Spotify podcast (that streams on all apps, and browser PCs and Laps) courtesy of Inside Movies Galore in promotion of Devine’s latest film, Camp Blood 8. You can also catch the podcast on streaming provider, Anchor.


Write your own Drive-In Friday Feature! Contact us!

From the Shameless Plugs Department: Yeah, I wrote a couple of books about the 1974 mystery of the ghost of Jim Morrison, The Phantom. If you follow up with the You Tube page, you’ll find lots of rare, live and studio tracks from the Phantom’s Detroit-based band Walpurgis and Pendragon.

Is it Jim or just record company tomfoolery?

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

SLASHER MONTH: Witchboard 2: The Devils Doorway (1993)

Ami Dolenz — yes, the daughter of Mickey — takes over for Tawney Kitaen here as the Ouija-based mayhem continues. Writer/director Kevin Tenney is also back to tell the tale of Paige, who is becoming possessed through the board, discovering the spirit of the woman who once lived in her new apartment.

Who was Susan Sidney, the woman obsessing her heroine, keeping her locked inside to paint numerous images of her? An innocent? An exotic dancer prostituting herself? And what happened to her? Well, it’s a good thing Mickey dates a cop!

Tenney actually did research into progressive entrapment, where the spirits contacted by the Ouija board would slowly take over the lives of those who came in contact with them. While he didn’t believe in the veracity of the occult, he did say that the whole thing seemed creepy.

It was pretty cool seeing horror fan and SNL alumnus Laraine Newman show up in this.

This is the only Witchboard movie to not be packed with nudity. That’s because Dolenz had a no-nudity clause. However, Republic Pictures’ foreign sales department — yep, that old excuse that international markets need nudity — pressures Tenney into pushing for her to disrobe. The director and thinks this is why they tried to keep him out of the third movie in the series.

Hey — a dude gets killed by a boiler room. That’s worth your time, right?

Words

Fire In the Sky (1993)

If you have ever had a nightmare of being abducted by aliens, maybe avoid this movie. It’s harrowing and has one of the most brutal alien encounters scenes I’ve ever seen in a film.

Based on Travis Walton’s book The Walton Experience, which describes a “this really happened” extraterrestrial encounter, this movie features D.B. Sweeney as the author and Robert Patrick plays his brother-in-law. It also may be the second time Henry Thomas met an alien, but trust me, this one doesn’t go as well.

November 5, 1975. Snowflake, Arizona,. Loggers Travis Walton (Sweeney), Mike Rogers (Patrick), Allan Dallis (Craig Sheffer, One Tree Hill), David Whitlock (Peter Berg, Very Bad Things), Greg Hayes (Thomas) and Bobby Cogdill (Bradley Gregg, Class of 1999) are out in the woods when a UFO blasts Walton away to, well, somewhere and the other men are accused of murder by Sheriff Blake Davis (Noble Willingham) and Lieutenant Frank Watters (James Garner).

However, Walton shows up alive days later, suffering from flashbacks to the nightmare that he has survived, one that no one believes. However, the filmmakers thought the real Walton’s story was boring, so they embellished. And by embellished, I mean they went into nightmare crazy world and made a movie that still scares me every time I watch it.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies (1993)

1993 was a weird time. I mean, 2020 is a weird time too, but I’ve often discussed the pre-millennial tension that the world was suffering from, as well as the pre-WWW explosion of zines and the output of Feral House, whose Apocalypse Culture was a bible for the many behaviors and trends of the coming end of the world. Little did we know we’d all be sitting in our houses watching TV and wearing paper masks. The armageddon that James Shelby Downard was leading to seemed a lot cooler, to be honest.

Jesus Christ Allin was given that named because his mother claimed that the Son of God visited her and said that he would be a great man. His brother Merle couldn’t pronounce that name, but could say it phonetically. Hence, GG Allin.

The boys’ father was, to be charitable, a maniac and an abusive religious nut who continually promised to kill them, even digging a grave for the family in the cellar. This makes more sense when you think of all the times that GG promised that he would kill himself on stage.

Oh man. I’m writing this in a bubble thinking that everyone knows who he is. And then I realize that Allin died 27 years ago, in a time where there was no true-crime culture and only weirdos were obsessed with John Wayne Gacy.

This is an oversimplification, but Allin’s stage shows were mainly him attempting a song and then terrorizing the audience. Sometimes that involved baiting them with words or threats of violence. Other times, he’d shit all over the stage, put the microphone up his ass and throw feces at people.

You know. Rock and roll.

Somehow, Todd Phillips — yes, the man who directed Joker — made this at NYU before a career that includes Old SchoolStarsky & Hutch and three The Hangover movies. I don’t say that in an elitist way. It’s just interesting to go from GG bloody and scat-strewn on stage screaming to yuks.

There’s no real point of view in this, but you’re either going in knowing who Allin was, or as a fan, or as someone with preconceived notions of whether or not what he was doing was art. In today’s culture, the lyrics and actions of Allin wouldn’t have made him the underground counterculture force that he was. He’d have been canceled long before. Yet for a time, there he was, literally screaming, pissing and shitting into the wind.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Extreme Justice (1993)

The magic of a Mark Lester movie is that they start with a typical set-up — Lou Diamond Philips is a young cop who becomes part of a vigilante unit — but ends up being way better than it seems like it could ever really be.

Think movies getting delayed are a COVID-19 thing? The LA riots kept this out of theaters and it finally debuted on HBO all the way back in 1993.

The best thing about Lester’s films is that he knows how to cast. Sure, he’s pretty much remaking Magnum Force, but in addition to Phillips, he’s got a berserk Scott Glenn talking to a photo of his dead wife while pointing a gun at it, Yaphet Kotto dressing in what I can only assume are his own sartorial choices, former Solid Gold dancer and Teela actress Chelsea Field (yes, she’s also in Lester’s Commando, as well as PrisonDeath SpaDust Devil and Sleeping Dogs Lie, a movie that dares to team the drummer of Rage Against the Machine with Ed Asner), Andrew Divoff (The Djinn from Wishmaster!), Stephen Root (one of my all-time favorite character actors) and Ed Lauter (Death Wish 3).

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, the producers of this movie were the subject of intense surveillance by the Special Investigation Section during the making of the film. They used a real cop bar and the real logo of the cop group, but the SIS continues to earn a high-profile arrest record without incidents like this movie.

In any other movie, Phillips and Glenn’s battle would be the dramatic close, but here it’s out of control, with Glenn coldcocking our hero’s wife before getting launched through a plate glass window. I screamed at the TV I was so excited. You may do the same.

Colmillos, El Hombre Lobo (1993)

Rene Cardona III just wants to entertain you. His Vacaciones de Terror is well worth grabbing, as is this werewolf film that somehow combines a Paul Naschy-style wolfman style film with political commentary on the rich people of Mexico, mostly told through their obsession with horse racing.

Our hero Cristobal works at that horse racing track and after he gets attacked by a white-clad sorceress named Tara — cue the Naschy werewolf origins! — he steals a statue filled with expensive stones that he sells to win over rich girl Susana, who wears shoulder pads and power suits 14 years after Dynasty went off the air.

Some animal attacks are happening while all this romance is in the air and, of course, it’s our friend Cristobal doing the killing. This movie keeps on moving, is filled with fog and cave hideouts for evil female ghosts and has just enough bloodletting for the gorehounds out there.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Cronos (1993)

Guillermo del Toro somehow feels like he is one of us, a monster kid to be sure, but also one that has a Best Director and Best Picture Oscar on his shelf along with all the Aurora models and back issues of Famous Monsters. Actually, he owns two homes just for his collections, saying “As a kid, I dreamed of having a house with secret passages and a room where it rained 24 hours a day. The point of being over 40 is to fulfill the desires you’ve been harboring since you were 7.”

The themes of monsters being the heroes and the Catholicism of Mexico run deep within del Toro’s work. More than any filmmaker, I’d love to have a discussion with him. After all, his theory of why Fulci works so well — “He’s getting high on his own supply” — is so all-knowing that statement has informed so much of my writing.

Cronos tells the story of Jesus Gris (Argentine acting legend Federico Luppi, who also worked with Del Toro on The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth), an antiques dealer who is infected by a mechanical scarab that he has found in the base of an angelic statue.

This device was created by an alchemist who lived for nearly four hundred years, sustained by the blood of the living. Soon, Jesus has started to feel the kiss of youth once again, yet he must pay for it in, you guessed it, blood.

The alchemist is based on Fulcanelli, a French alchemist and esoteric author whose identity remains unknown (some believe that he was Jules Violle, a famous French physicist) and whose life and disappearance were popularized by the Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier book The Morning of the Magicians, which heralded the new age of the occult. This isn’t the only movie that deals with Fulcanelli. His book The Mystery of the Cathedrals informs the Michele Soavi movie The Church.

Dieter de la Guardia (Claudio Brook, Castle of Purity) has been looking for this device for decades, seeking statues of archangels as he knows that is where it lies. He sends his brutish nephew Angel (Ron Perlman, who would also freuently collaborate with del Toro) to get the device no matter what.

In the funeral home scene, look for Tito the Coroner and the funeral director, who also show up in Jorge Grau’s We Are What We Are.

Angel does exactly that, nearly beating the old man to death to get the device. Jesus wakes up in a mortuary and soon discovers that his skin burns in the sun.  Can he escape the curse that this device has put on his soul, save his granddaughter and escape the evil de la Guardia family? Time will tell.

Sadly, all of the Cronos devices made for this movie were stolen when production was completed. They were never recovered, so the ones that del Toro owns today are just replicas.

This is a different take on vampires and announced del Toro to the world. Watch it and be stunned.

Trauma (1993)

One of two movies that Argento directed outside of Italy — Two Evil Eyes is the other — and he chose American writer T. E. D. Klein to write the script. Instead of the familiar Rome that we’ve seen in so many giallo, we’re in Minneapolis.

Tom Savini created the effects, but Argento decided to make the movie about more suspense and less blood and guys. He did invent the killer’s unique weapon, which the crew called the “Noose-o-Matic.”

Aura (Asia Argento, in a role based on her half-sister Dana, who sadly died in a scooter accident not long after this movie was made) escapes from the mental hospital where she’s under treatment for anorexia. She meets a man named David who lets her stay with him, but she’s soon taken back to the hospital. There, staff members keep getting decapitated by a killer named The Headhunter. And before you know it, her parents are killed as well, sending Aura and David after the real killers.

The actual murder plot here is pretty convoluted and that’s saying something for Argento. Props to him, though, for getting Piper Laurie in this as Aura’s psychic mother and Brad Dourif as a doctor with a past connected to the murders. He also got Frederick Forrest for this and for that, he and Laurie would sit and laugh at how bad they thought that the movie was during each day’s shoot.

Sadly, this movie is missing something. Could a score by Goblin instead of Pinal Donaggio have helped? More gore? Less recycling the past and more of a look toward the future? Or maybe a script that made more sense?

Still, it’s Argento, who has a great movie still in him. We hope for it and we look for it within every effort, hoping that this is the time that he delivers. Then again, how many directors have made at least three bonafide classic films and a few really close ones? I’ll watch everything he makes and keep that same hope.

Coneheads (1993)

Steve Barron directed the videos for Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and A-ha’s “Take On Me” before movies like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Electric Dreams. He’s in the chair here with Lorne Michaels producing this reimagining of the Remulakian family who has moved to Earth and changed their last names to Conehead.

If you saw the Coneheads animated special in 1983 — trust me, not many can say this — this is pretty much the same story. Beldar and Prymaat Conehead (Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtain), along with their daughter Connie (Michelle Burke, taking over for Laraine Newman), have acclimated to the Earth town known as Paramus, New Jersey. All Connie wants is to fall for Ronnie (Chris Farley), but her father forbids this from happening.

While that drama is unfolding, Michael McKean and David Spade play INS agents convinced that the Coneheads are illegal aliens. That joke is pretty much the extent of the joke. But hey, this movie has a great supporting cast, with Dave Thomas, Parker Posey, Joey Lauren Adams, Sinbad, Michael Richards, Eddie Griffin, Adam Sandler, Jason Alexander, Garrett Morris, Drew Carey, Kevin Nealon, Jan Hooks, Julia Sweeney, Ellen DeGeneres, Jon Lovitz, Tom Arnold and Tim Meadows all here. Larraine Newman also shows up for a bit as Laarta.

Wayne’s World 2 (1993)

Stephen Surjik, who directed the filmed segments of The Kids in the Hall, takes over for Penelope Spheeris, who claims that star Mike Myers blocked her from getting to make the sequel. Myers wanted Federico Fellini to direct. I have no idea if that was a joke or not.

As for Myers, he was already in trouble with Paramount Pictures boss Sherry Lansing. That’s because the original story for this movie had Wayne and Garth starting their own country in an update of the movie Passport to Pimlico. The film was well into pre-production — sets were being made — when Myers confessed that he was basing it on another movie. Lansing threatened to ruin the star’s life if he didn’t get a new script finished right away.

Jim Morrison and Sammy Davis Jr. meet Wayne in a dream and tell him to create a concert called Waynestock. Of course, Cassandra (Tia Carrere) and her band Crucial Taunt will play. And Wayne will marry her, if he can get through her father (James Hong, Big Trouble in Little China)and her manager Bobby Cahn (Christopher Walken).

Garth’s (Dana Carvey) line, “That was just like the first movie,” was taken out of the trailer. But this movie — rushed into production to capitalize on the success of the original — really does feel like more of the same. That’s not the worst thing, but if you have to make a choice of which to watch, go with the first film.

That said, any movie that has a Rip Taylor cameo in it can’t be all bad.