Strawberry Estates (1997, 1999)

When someone tells you that The Blair Witch Project was the first found footage movie, they weren’t even the first in the 90s.

A parapsychology professor, his students and a psychic have locked themselves in the haunted Smith Garrett Building or Strawberry Estates. It’s one of the greatest challenges of psychics and parapsychologists and has become legendary. That’s because this is a place that really is packed with evil and there’s no way anyone is making it out alive.

The 1997 version had a different cast, which included Debbie Rochon and Tina Krause, but director and writer Ron Bonk went back and shot all of that all over again.

It’s long, there’s a lot of talking — I enjoyed the faith discussions more than you may — and there could be a lot of fat trimmed, but when it works, it works.

As you may know, I dislike most found footage movies, so the fact that I finished this 100-minute-long film speaks to the fact that it has something going for it.

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

Sixteen Tongues (1999)

The first time I wrestled in Japan, I took a handful of sleeping pills on a 19-hour flight and they never really kicked in, fighting in my gut with a glass bottle of Thailand Red Bull which laughs at that skinny can we have here and I was caught in a world between sleep and awake, knowing where I was but feeling like someone else was dragging me through airport lobbies, subway stations packed with singsong teenage girls trying to get dogs adopted and endless walking through the unfamiliar streets of Osaka until we ended at the Arrow Hotel, a place with a BGM button in my small room that only played two songs — the themes from The Godfather and Midnight Cowboy — and a TV that only played bukkake porn that had pixelated genitalia all static shafts spraying all over a woman whose face was anything but hidden.

Sixteen Tongues starts there and goes even further, giving me flashbacks that shock me into unreality, like at the end of Altered States when people start to de-evolve into VHS tracking noise before we knew what that was.

Director and writer Scooter McCrae creates worlds filled with menace and carnal overload and never more than this movie, a hotel where you have to pay to shut off the endless penetration on the TVs that never shut down, can never be unplugged, that just fluff you until you remember those screaming moments of first puberty overwhelming need with the adult realization that there’s truly nowhere to gain relief.

I always loved the Dark Brothers because back in the letters pages of Hustler people were enraged that someone had the effrontery to make a dirty movie that was nearly impossible to climax to. How dare someone put art in my smut? Or, in the case of this movie, smut in my art?

Adrian Torque (Crawford James, who improbably also played a cop on iCarly, so he’s done the alpha and omega of being a police officer on film, one supposes; he was also a security guard in The 6th Day) survived a bomb blast but maybe his mind and body didn’t. He has the sixteen tongues of everyone who died around him grafted to his skin and he can feel them all screaming inside his mind.

Ginny Chin-Chin (Jane Chase) is a cyborg good at making love and taking lives. She’s in a constant state of arousal thanks to the mad scientist she dreams of killing, a man who implanted a clitoris inside each of her eyes. Her lover — who hasn’t given her much in the way of relief in some time or maybe just days, who can even know — Alik Silens (Alice Liu) is a hacker obsessed with finding the man who killed her brother.

You know how everyone was making future tech movies in the 90s and 2000s and all of it felt dated instantly? When so many people filmed Phillip K. Dick movies and referenced William Gibson? Sixteen Tongues is at once the film they wanted to make and never could because sex is worse than death. For all everyone refers to movies as being like Cronenberg, I’m more amazed by this movie which is its own genre, its own world, its own influence.

I’ve read that this was based on the Merle Travis song “Sixteen Tons,” which goes “Some people say a man is made outta mud, a poor man’s made outta muscle and blood. Muscle and blood and skin and bones, a mind that’s a-weak and a back that’s strong.” The song came from the writer’s life, as his brother wrote to him and remarked, “You load sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt” while his coal miner father often would state, “I can’t afford to die. I owe my soul to the company store.” It’s a catchy song that’s fun to sing until you realize all these men were under the Earth digging and dying.

Also: Stark Raven from Shatter Dead showing up as a nun in latex, a character named Mistress Mummy and Tina Krause playing “Bear Handler” and sings you into seeing her dancing bear.

You can get this from Saturn’s Core, a Vinegar Syndrome partner label.

Duck! The Carbine High Massacre (1999)

Made just four months after the tragedy at Columbine High School, Duck! The Carbine High Massacre was made by William Helfire, who was on painkillers due to cancer pain, and Joey Smack on consumer-grade VHS cameras, a broadcast Super VHS camcorder, a standard handheld RCA and another unidentified camcorder for $3,000.

Hellfire said, “Like I don’t remember most of Duck!, I don’t remember…I shot all these films in a semi-subconscious, drugged-out, zombified state. I had no remorse nor regard for anything.”

Derwin (Hellfire) and Derick (Smack) are the not-so-disguised movie versions of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the real killers. These guys are trying to buy missiles with credit cards and get an idea to blow up the school from what may be an alien janitor.

Erin Brown — also known as Misty Mundae — explained why this movie was filmed by saying, “When those two kids snapped at Columbine High everyone in the Factory — Factory 2000 is the studio of sorts that Hellfire and Smack ran — was walking on clouds, excited, asking ourselves “Is this the shape of things to come? Is the machine finally breaking down to the point where our youth is beginning to exterminate each other at puberty?” We felt before it could be made into some All-American “family values” propaganda TV movie mini-series, we would produce it from the killers’ perspective and, of course, add the Factory’s manifesto into their logic. Everyone involved had found high school a tortuous and stifling environment so it wasn’t very difficult to imagine why the incident occurred. Then to see it replayed on the news again and again made the incident a prime target. The final outcome is a wonderful gut-splitting social satire.”

The scene where her Bible girl character is killed was so divisive that the cast and crew threatened to walk, thinking that the film had gone too far.

Speaking of going too far, Smack and William Hellfire were arrested for carrying real weapons on the grounds of an elementary school months after the shooting as the police ordered a copy of the film online. According to Hellfire, “The FBI was involved and discouraged any action noting it was only a movie’ but the local Ringwood police really wanted to get on TV. They were laughing and telling me not to worry that I was gonna be famous’ Judge laughed it out of court. We made the news for like two weeks straight. Nancy Grace made nasty faces at us. Fox News called us copy cat killers.”

For two guys who mainly made fetish-oriented horror movies for W.A.V.E Productions, this movie has a really heavy weight at the end as the two killers take one another out to escape this world. Now, I think this is a horribly made movie that is packed with too much filler and the aims of being edgy just to be edgy, yet there are also valid points made that high school doesn’t work and actually causes these events or at least doesn’t help the souls who short circuit and take out people.

You can be angry that this movie exists or you can be mad that 24 days into 2023, when I’m writng this, there have already been 36 mass shootings and not a single one, no hopes and prayers, have done anything to push people to come up with a solution or halt the raging erection that so many Americans have for owning guns.

Also: If exploitation cinema offends you, isn’t it doing it’s job?

You can get the Saturn’s Core blu ray of this movie from Vinegar Syndrome. You can also download it from the Internet Archive.

Detroit Rock Movie (1999)

No, not Detroit Rock CityDetroit Rock Movie was shot on video because filmmaker Benjamin Hernandez, said “We were kind of rushing to make that movie because we all felt that this whole garage-rock thing was about to become played out and this was going to fade. Amusingly enough, now people are starting to notice.”

Bands and personalities like 2 Star Tabernacle, the Volebeats, Brendan Benson and the White Stripes, the band most associated with the garage sound of 2000s Detroit, are all shown performing and then speaking right from the places where they live and practice. Sometimes, those are the same places.

Hernandez also appears in the White Stripes’ video for “Candy Coloured Blues.”

The quality of this is, as you can imagine, rough as it was shot on video, yet it’s a vital document of a scene that had not broken out and become something bigger. This was before the time that people even knew that Jack and Meg weren’t brother and sister, so it’s a way different era.

Depending on how much you like this time and music, you can check it out for yourself on the. Internet Archive.

Limbo (1999)

Tina Krause has appeared in more than a hundred sub-budget horror films, appearing in near-fetish gore movies for W.A.V.E. Productions and Seduction Cinema, starring in movies with titles such as Psycho Sisters, International Necktie StranglerThe Vegas Showgirl Strangler and Sorority Slaughter.

Sadly, Limbo is the only full-length movie that she directed and wrote.

Shot in an abandoned warehouse that Krause was living in, this is a non-linear journey to Hell that starts with its female lead killing a date and then breaking every wall there is as Krause escapes movies where she showed up to take showers and disrobe and instead gets down and gets weird. She’s able to push people back with just a thought while constantly speaking to an disembodied voice that keeps asking if people will forgive her for all she’s done. From there, we’re constantly moving, down dark hallways, past faceless faces, speeding on a highway to oblivion, blood, masks, glow in the dark paint, strobing lights, images covering images, so much screaming and always the darkness.

I’ve seen this movie compared to Lynch, but I truly believe that it’s the rare film that can somehow co-exist within the same legitamately unsettling cinematic world that The Last House On Dead End Street occupies.

It took Krause two years to make this and she went through losing two leads as she worked to make it real. It’s beyond intense and speaks to why I love SOV so much, because the consumer nature of the equipment made movies democratic, in that finally anyone, any gender, any place in the world could take what was in their head and make it a piece of content that you could hold, watch and disappear into.

You can watch this on Tubi or get the blu ray from AGFA.

Das komabrutale Duell (1999)

The Coma-Brutal Duel is one of two movies made by Heiko Fipper, along with Ostermontag or I Spit On Your Fucking Grave Bitch! If you think that you’ve seen everything there is to see when it comes to German ultragore shot on video movies, get ready.

Less a film than a series of shorts created between 1984 and 1999, this starts with Stephan Bandera losing his father to a drunk driver named John Eisentempler and enlisting an organized crime family to help him get revenge. It seems that the drunk driver won’t get any prison time, so Stephen pledges himself to the family and what follows is a calvalcade of carnage and human body destruction.

Only Heiko, the son of John, survives and just barely. He ends up in a coma that lasts ten years and walks into the sunset, only to be met by a still-alive Stephan and another bloody battle that takes out both of them.

He awakens, crucified, as the mob has their way with him while they bring Stephan back to life just as a zombie attacks. By the close, zombies are in nearly every scene as the leads continually battle over and over again until there can be only one alive.

Everyone was obviously having fun making this, no matter how tense some of the torture scenes get. How else can you explain characters scooping up their own brains, putting them back in their heads and getting back out to fight again? It’s like playing army in your old neighborhood where every wound magically heals except these ones send brown sprays of blood everywhere. It also has a mob made up of eight identical members, so at least it realizes how ridiculous it is, but those of a more delicate stomach may want to skip a movie that has a baby ripped out of a womb and stomped into oblivion.

Rot (1999)

Marcus Koch is probably best known for his effects work on movies like We Are Still Here, Frankenstein Created BikersThe Third Saturday In October V and Eminence Hill. Or maybe you know him from his directing work on American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock. Either way, he made this back in 1999 and for as grainy and rough as it is, it’s packed with so much worth watching.

Sarah (Tiffany Stinky) and Muzzy (Billly Scam) are just two punk rock kids trying to make it in hot, sticky Clearwater, Florida. Yet she’s been cheating on him for some time and not with anyone alive. That’s right — she’s been lying with men who keep on lying there, as she has a thing for the dead. The bad part? Well, the worst part? Dr. Robert Olsen (Joel D. Wynkoop), a former bioweapons engineer for Uncle Sam got fired and has been working in that same morgue and has been using the bodies to test ROT (Robert Olson Transmutation virus). Not only does she have it now, not only is she doomed to literally rot, but now she’s passed it on to her man.

For the first part of the movie, they react to their impending demise by partying, driving through their neighbor’s yards, setting things on fire and calling in bomb threats to the White House. Where this gets interesting is when the disease takes hold and the government has to send agents, along with members of the Illuminati, to control the situation and see if ROT can truly thin the herd.

This movie truly feels like no future as punks puke up blood after injecting heroin and formaldehyde just to stay alive for a few hours more, fighting in parking lots, slamming in pits, smearing each other with plasma and sweat and necrophobic disease as the neon lights beat down and insects buzz and the dark tracking of the video aesthetic doom them all.

Why have punk zombie movies — I’m counting this and Return of the Living Dead III and the moment Julie Walker says that she can’t feel her heart beating in her chest any more — done a better job of explaining the human cost of transforming into a corpse?

I’ve read so many times about how cheap and dark this is and that’s exactly why I like it so much. It feels like we are really there as two kids just fall to pieces with no one left to save them or ever put them back together. That tire through the brain is a mercy killing.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Zombio (1999)

SOV filmmaker is the same as Lucio Fulci fans — this movie is dedicated to the Italian director — and this movie feels like Zombi in Brazil because, well, that’s exactly what it’s supposed to be, even recreating the scenes of the dead coming back to life covered in moss and dirt.

There’s a couple — wealthy ecologists — stranded on an island — Matul, it has to be — when a cross-dressing serial killer — as an old lady and bringing along a potential victim — also makes his way there and a priestess commands the undead as they stumble through the jungle. Also these guys probably told the kitchen to keep the guts and put them in a doggy bag when they ordered their feijoada because those organs look suspiciously true to life.

I haven’t seen a Brazilian zombie movie yet, so now I feel there’s one more culture’s walking dead example that I can check off my passport.

Director and writer Petter Baiestorf is still making movies. He was also the creator of the 2013 sequel Zombio 2: Chimarrão Zombies.

You can get this from the Internet Archive.

American Pie (1999)

Just like slashers, the teenage sex comedy is in the lowest tier of film genres but one that Hollywood always returns to, then overdoes, then forgets all over again only to bring it back every few years. American Pie was a shocker hit, beating Wild Wild West in its first weekend, and so many movies followed in its wake like RoadtripEurotrip and National Lampoon’s Van Wilder before the cycle ended again, only to be repeated when Superbad came out.

That said, I saw this in the theater at an early screening and was shocked at how loud the audience was laughing. It felt good to just have something dumb up on the screen, even if the loss of virginity plot had been seen before. Yet much of its audience was too young for Porky’s and Animal House and by the time those once ribald movies were viewable for them, they could easily watch hardcore porn online. How would a sex comedy reach this new focus group?

By embracing them.

Brothers Paul and Chris Weitz also made Down to Earth and About a Boy together. Just like Bob Clark basing Porky’s on his life, Lemon Popsicle coming from Boaz Davidson’s (and Menahem Golan, probably) teenage hijinks and Fast Times at Ridgemont High from Cameron Crowe’s undercover time writing about high school for Rolling Stone, the Weitz brothers based this movie on what it was like to attend East Grand Rapids High School in Michigan. The script had the title Untitled Teenage Sex Comedy That Can Be Made For Under $10 Million That Most Readers Will Probably Hate But I Think You Will Love.

There are five friends that make up this story:

The inexperienced Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) who gives the film its name when he attempts to put the moves on a literal piece of pie. He also keeps screwing up his chance to lose his virginity to exchange student Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth).

Lacrosse player Chris “Oz” Ostreicher (Chris Klein) who joins the choir to find a girl and ends up falling for Heather (Mena Suvari).

Group leader Kevin Myers (Thomas Ian Nicholas) who just wants to have sex with his longtime girlfriend Vicky (Tara Reid).

The elitist and super smart Paul Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas).

The jock maniac Steven Stifler (Seann William Scott), the only of the group who has actually had sex.

The four boys make a pact that they will all lose their virginity — which is totally the theme of Blockers but also made way more politically correct — by the day after prom. The one thing I will say about this movie is that there’s a scene with Jim and Vicky that’s all about the woman’s pleasure being more important than the man’s, which is a pretty wild idea for 1999.

The really great thing is that this movie introduced people to actors they didn’t know or in the case of Jennifer Coolidge and Eugene Levy should have already known. Levy only signed on if he could ad lib all of his lines and by the end of the series was the only actor to be in all of these films (other than American Pie: Girls’ Rules). Alyson Hannigan was well-known from being on Buffy the Vampire Slayer but this was the role that she became known for for some time. Even Natasha Lyonne is in this (and amazing in nearly every moment, redeeming so much of the cringe moments).

I have no idea why Universal Pictures sold their international rights and thought this movie wouldn’t be huge. The music is so of the time, the kids feel real for a mainstream movie and sex always sells. I mean, it sold enough to make eight sequels to this.

PITTSBURGH MADE: Night of the Living Dead: 30th Anniversary Edition (1999)

You have a lot of choices as to how you can watch Night of the Living Dead. The Criterion collection, the original, colorized, animated, deep faked, you name it, you have so many ways to drink in the 1968 classic. Except please, whatever you do, please please please stay away from this one.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary. Anchor Bay put out this version that has the original co-writer John A. Russo writing and directing all new scenes. You think ll the changes to the Star Wars films was horrible? Well, I’ve got news for you.

I’ve avoided this for years because, well, I kind of enjoy Russo’s films on their own and know that he probably shouldn’t meedle with a movie that yeah, he feels some ownership toward, but that he should not put his signature on someone else’s painting.

There’s also a new music score, re-editing and remastering of the film and you know — yes, the remaster helps, it looks better — but as much of a cliche as “if it’s not broke is,” some cliches are written because they’re true.

Patton Oswalt said it best: “I don’t give a **** where the stuff I love comes from, I just love the stuff I love!” I don’t need to know how William Hinzman’s cemetery zombie got there. It doesn’t add anything to the classic at all. I don’t need to know that he was a child molester when he was once alive. I don’t need to see new footage of Dan (Grant Kramer), Mike (Adam Knox) and guard Charlie (Scott Kerschbaumer) loading up the body. Nor do I need to know that the outbreak first happened at Beekman’s Diner, which is the location of the sequel to this, Children of the Dead.

Debbie Rochon also shows up as a therapist interviewing Reverend John Hicks (Scott Vladimir Licina, who also did the music for this and nearly died of a “heart stroke” while filming). Before all this, he opened Hinzman’s coffin so that Arthur (George Drennen) and Hilda Krantz (Julie Wallace), the parents of one of his victims, could spit into it. Then, in the midst of the zombies running wild, he gets bitten by Hinzman right in the face. And he survives!

What takes away from it even more is the new ending — which literally breaks the dread that happens when — spoiler warning for a movie made before I was born — Ben dies and we shockingly watch him burn. Now, there’s a new close with Rochon coming back to interview the now deranged priest who says that he was healed by Holy Water and that the dead are literally demons, thereby telling us exactly why the dead have returned.

There’s also a gory car crash and the undead naked woman is gone, which is funny, because Russo is the man who brought us Scream Queens Swimsuit Sensations and Scream Queen’s Naked Christmas.

Russo isn’t all to blame for the 17 new minutes. Hinzman was produced and edited, while originals Russell Streiner, Karl Hardman and Marilyn Eastman were all part of this too. They cut twenty minutes from the real movie for this new stuff. Can you even imagine? Well, it happened. And none of the footage matches.

On the commentary, Russo claims that this story is what Romero wanted to do in 1968 but didn’t have the budget. Who can say?

The April 19, 1999 Entertainment Weekly reported: “Director George Romero owns the copyright on the title of his cult horror phenomenon Night of the Living Dead – but that’s about it. For a special anniversary edition due this fall, the film’s writer, John Russo, gathered members of the 1968 ghoul-fest’s crew in Pittsburgh to film 15 minutes of new footage. So they dug up some original equipment and dressed cinematographer Bill Hinzman as “the Cemetary Zombie.”

Romero, busy with his upcoming project Resident Evil, opted instead to put his name on the 20th anniversary director’s cut of the sequel, 1979’s Dawn of the Dead, due April 27. “I didn’t want to touch Night of the Living Dead” Romero says of his $114,000 feature debut, to which Russo has added prologue, epilogue, and extra zombie footage.

Of the reanimated film, Hinzman says, “We looked at it as, had we the money in 1968, how would we have made it?” But there’s no bad blood between the team, who all live in Pittsburgh: A long-standing deal gives both Romero and Russo the right to do as they please with the film. And the director is the kind of guy who never says die. Of future Night visions, Romero says, “I’ll do the one for the millennium.””

Guess what? I’ve now seen Children of the Living Dead and I’m going to put you through that one soon.