Another Heaven (2000)

Tough old cop Inspector Tobitaga (Yoshio Harada) and young Inspector Manabu (Yosuke Eguchi) are on the case of brutal murders that start with a missing brain being found boiling in a stew and everything just gets weirder from there, because the killer can change bodies, so he or she can be anyone.

It’s a great idea — see The Hidden and Fallen — and this would be a much better movie with some trimming. I mean, 130 minutes is a long time and I apologize for my attention span, but I wanted a little more.

That said, the call girl killer for the first half of the film is quite sinister, packing plenty of murderous intensity into her small size. Between this and Audition, I imagine that Western boys who are obsessed with Japanese girls will always have horrible death in the back of their heads.

The Darkness Beyond (2000)

A copy of the Necronomicon — the fake book* that H.P. Lovecraft used for his book — has brought dark forces to our plane and allowed them to wage war against humanity within the bodies of their long-dead family and friends.

The Darkness Beyond — also known as L’altrove — was one I found on a list of Italian movies made after the days of Filmirage. Shot on digital video by director and writer Ivan Zuccon — who followed this with Unknown Beyond — this has a lot of style despite its budget and untrained cast. Zuccon has continuted making Lovecraft-themed movies like Colour from the Dark and Herbert West: Re-Animator.

Look — it’s not perfect. It’s not anywhere near the visions of Fulci or Bava, but I’m excited that Italian filmmakers — yeah, I realize that this is 22 years old, but Zuccon has a movie in production now — are still out there making movies.

*Two members of the Magickal Childe scene — a New York City book store that was the major focal point for American magic/magick from the 70’s until the 90’s — Khem Caigan (the Necronomicon‘s illustrator) and Alan Cabal claimed that the book is a known hoax. My theory has always been that Peter Levenda, an occult author who wrote the book Unholy Alliance, is Simon, as the copyright notice for this book is in his name.

The Prophecy 3: The Ascent (2000)

Joel Soisson didn’t just produce this one, he also wrote it, and worked with director Patrick Lussier (Dracula 2000Drive Angry) to wrap up the trilogy of The Prophecy but yeah, there were two more movies to go.

That said, this does a fine job of changing things up, as now Gabriel (Christopher Walken) is protecting the half-human, half-angel Danyael Rosales — the child ready to be born in the last movie — from Pyriel the Angel of Genocide who wants to destroy every one of the human monkeys.

There’s Steve Hytner showing up again as the coroner, who unleashes this astounding display of scriptwriting: “Look. I’ve had four gutted hermaphrodites burn to black pitch right under my nose. I’ve had one cop, my best friend, driven insane by the angels shrieking in his head…before somehow spontaneously combusting in a madhouse he had mistaken for a monastery. A pretty young woman, now dead, knocked up by a stranger who left her three months pregnant in only 48 hours. And just yesterday, a young man, allegedly her son, shot up six ways to sundown, crawled out of a drawer and waltzed out like Lazarus. So yeah. I’m pretty much open to a buffet of possibilities.”

While I wish that the series ended here, I get that the 90s demanded an endless release schedule of direct to video horror. I know that the temptation to keep these series going was high, so if there were five Prophecy movies, I guess that’s how it had to be.

Hellraiser: Inferno (2000)

Scott Derrickson makes movies that are way better than you’d expect when you first hear about them. He wrote Urban Legends: Final Cut, which is way better than it should be. He’s made several occult-related films that I’ve enjoyed, like The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Deliver Us from Evil, as well as Sinister and Sinister 2, two of the better movies that came in the wake of the Conjuring movies. Since then, he helmed the big budget Dr. Strange and is about to release The Black Phone, which looks great.

Hellraiser: Inferno was his first full-length movie as a director. He partnered with Paul Harris Boardman, who he has worked on several other films with, to write a script that Doug Bradley has said was not originally intended to be a Hellraiser film.

You know, by all rights I should hate this movie, but I loved it. It’s a neo noir within the universe of Hellraiser and that should be absolutely ridiculous — and it is at times — but it works. It’s like a direct-to-video Angel Heart with Pinhead as Lou Cypher and somehow, it just plain works.

Look, if you can’t get Clive Barker, just get Craig Sheffer from Nightbreed. I admire that logic. He plays a detective obsessed with rescuing a child yet he’s often at odds with the way that he handles cases, the strange visions in his head and the therapist he’s forced to visit.

This sequel is the find of this sequel week. Seriously, give it a chance. If it wasn’t the fifth Hellraiser and had more than $50,000 for special effects, lots more people would be discussing it.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Ricky 6 (2000)

Producer, writer and director Peter Filardi is a name you know by way of his writing and producing the critically-mixed but box-office successful horror, Flatliners (1990), and the better critically-received and even more box-office successful, The Craft (1996). So, after writing a film about the near-death experience and witchcraft-pursuing teenage girls, it made sense that Filardi, for his third feature film, would tap the myth and legend of drugs, satanism, and murder in the upper class town of Northport, Long Island, in 1984 perpetrated by Ricky Kasso. (In the film: we are in the upscale enclave of Harmony.)

The life and ongoing influence of Ricky Kasso, an American teenager who murdered his friend, Gary Lauwers, along the windswept, Long Island Sound shores are examined at length in Jesse P. Pollack soon-to-be-released documentary The Acid King (2021). In the pages of B&S About Movies, we discussed Kasso’s exploits — and the dangers of the media-driven and religious-opportunistic “Satanic Panic” movement of the ’80s — with our review of River’s Edge (1986). Prior to Filardi’s nonfiction take on the material, Jim Van Bebber (Deadbeat at Dawn) released the short film, My Sweet Satan (1994). The first full-length feature film attempt at bringing Ricky Kasso’s exploits to the big screen was the more fictionalized, Black Circle Boys (1998).

The new 2021 documentary on Ricky Kasso, at B&S About Movies.

Courtesy of the success of his first two productions, Orion Pictures (ironical releasing the 1978 juvenile delinquency classic, Over the Edge) gave Peter Filardi the opportunity to direct his first feature film: one that garnered two nominations for “Best International Film” at the 2000 Fantasia Film Festival and 2001 Fantasporto Festival — while winning the “Audience Prize” at the Fantasia Festival. It is also to be noted that the cinematographer, here, is three-time Academy Award-nominated Rodrigo Prieto, who received those nods for his work on Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (2005) and Martin Scorsese’s Silence (2016) and The Irishman (2019). Prieto also lensed Eminem’s 8 Mile (2002) and Scorese’s The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) and is the winner of four Ariels (Mexico’s Oscars).

As with Black Circle Boys: David St. Clair’s since discredited, best-selling paperback, Say You Love Satan (1987), fueled Filardi’s more fact-based tale. Then, the film — appropriately filmed in the geographically-similar St. George, New Brunswick, Canada — vanished. Never commercially released by the studio, outside of a smattering of horror-centric film festival showings, the film went, appropriately enough, underground, and came to find a cult audience as a bootlegged VHS and DVD. (There are rumors that DVD copies (generic or “work print” DVD-r rips, or consumer-grade packaged DVDs?) were given to the cast and crew upon the film’s completion. As of 2017, the film began appearing online through fans’ video-sharing accounts and torrent sites.)

So what went wrong?

When are you dudes, finally, going to make a decent movie about me . . . and get the facts, straight?

Well, the film’s closing disclaimer telling us that “some parts of the film were fictionalized, with many names changed and some characters invented” is disconcerting, but what biographical film — regardless of studio or budget — hasn’t taken those narrative liberties?

One Letterboxd reviewer compares Ricky 6 as the WB’s Dawson’s Creek meets River’s Edge (comparisons to a Katie Holmes TV series isn’t a good sign). Another user compares it as Richard Linklater’s ’70s stoner-comedy classic Dazed and Confused meets Lords of Chaos (never a film so anticipated has so disappointed me).

So what do we have here: just another forgotten, ’90s teen-horror romp or a dark, true crime film? For this reviewer: the latter. If anything, the inferior — and more fictionalized Kasso account in Black Circle Boys — is the tenny-bopper misfire.

Peter Filardi has never publicly spoken about the troubles shrouding his lone directing effort (it is, however, horror message boards-rumored the primary copyright holder on the film currently serves time in a South American prison). Filardi has since backed the modernized remakes and sequels to his two previous films, Flatliners and The Craft, as well as adapting Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot as a 2004, two-part mini-series. At press time, there’s no (online) insights from Filardi himself or the mainstream horror press to discover as to what went wrong on the production. Usually, even when a film fails at finding a theatrical release, it finds itself dumped into paid-cable channel rotation (refer back to the aforementioned Over the Edge, which became an oft-run HBO cult favorite in the early ’80s).

In addition to Orion Pictures, KatzSmith Productions — a shingle that later found solo success with their reboot adaptation of Stephen King’s It (2017), as well as Child’s Play (2019) — along with British Columbia-based Bron Studios — which later found acclaim with the DC franchise entry Joker (2019), as well as the “woke”-rebooted Candyman (2021) — backed the film. Three production companies on one film spells trouble. Then there’s those opening credits of six producers. And that the film was an American-Mexican-Canadian film production (chiefly by Terry G. Jones, Juan-Carlos Zapata, and William Vince, respectively). So, with that many fingers in the creative pie, rest assure: we’re dealing with a legal morass that not even the dark prince himself can escape.

The book that started it all . . . and not as “truthful” as we believed.

Vincent Kartheiser (who came to star on the WB’s Angel from 2002 to 2004 and Mad Men from 2007 to 2015; he’s now on the channel’s DC entry, Titans) stars as Kasso, aka Ricky Cowen (“Coven”; cows are a “graven image”), our drug-dealing Satan worshiper. Patrick Renna, who the many know as Hamilton “Ham” Porter in The Sandlot, thespin-shines in a dark, mature role as one of Cowen’s co-conspirators (Ollie, aka the real life Albert Quinones who turned state’s witness) who murders Tweasel (a one-and-done Richard M. Stuart), our drug-stealing, ersatz Gary Lauwers. The always spot-on reliable Kevin Gage (all the way back to Dee Snider’s Strangeland; devastating in David DeFalco’s controversial Chaos) is perfect is his small role as Pat Pagan, aka “Pagan Pat” Toussaint, who took a fatherly interest in Ricky — and introduced him to Satanism. (When police began questioning him in the murder — of which he had no part — he committed suicide-by-train. Since the narrative is voice-over driven by the film’s faux-Jimmy Troiano, the narrative never transitions to Pat’s perspective; so we’re “told” of the suicide.)

While the film ignores some historical accuracy for the sake of narrative and takes low-budgetary stabs at depicting our malcontents’ drug trips and Ricky eventually meeting Satan himself (in a fire-stern swamp inside a hollow tree trunk; backed by Disembowelment’s “Your Prophetic Throne of Ivory”), as well as a murder-intent Jesus in a supermarket, Peter Filardi, while not the most visually stunning director, is a serviceable one, nevertheless (most likely discouraged by the film’s legal boondoggling to never direct, again). He captures — unlike the previous Black Circle Boys — Ricky Kasso’s (in hindsight) heartbreaking, downward spiral of parental mental abuses, drug addiction, homelessness, and discovering a misguided solace in the occult.

Unlike Black Circle Boys, and as with River’s Edge: Filardi did right in supporting the discontent by bankrolling an era-appropriate soundtrack featuring “The Number of the Beast” by Iron Maiden, “Screaming in the Night” by Krokus (who also appeared on Mad Foxes), “Rainbow in the Dark” by Dio, “Street of Dreams” by Rainbow, and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division. Contrary to fan-opinions: “And the Cradle Will Rock” by Van Halen does not appear in the film; that familiar “Eddie” guitar riff is an effective, ersatz copy by Abel Ferrara’s go-to composer Joe Delia (Ms. 45 and Driller Killer). (Too bad there’s no AC/DC, Ricky’s favorite band, and some Metallica and Slayer in the frames. Ah, those licensing rights: which is why our faux-Ricky doesn’t wear any concert shirts. In reality: Ricky Kasso lived in concert tees and jerseys.)

“So, come on! Jump in the fi-yah!”: We review those heavy metal horror flicks of VHS ’80s yore with our “No False Metal Movies” featurette.

The rest of the capable, strong cast features Sabine Singh: in her feature film debut, you’ve seen her work in the U.S. teen soaps Charmed and Dawson’s Creek. Emmanuelle Chriqui rose through the thespin-ranks to co-star alongside Adam Sandler in You Don’t Mess with Zohan, as well as currently starring as Lana Lang in TV’s Superman & Lois; you’ve also seen her as a cast regular on HBO’s Entourage and the modern horror classic, Wrong Turn (2003). Chad Christ (the tale comes from his POV, so he provides the we-can-do-without narrative voice-over as Tommy Portelance, aka the real life Jimmy Troiano, also arrested in the murder) has since left the business, but is best remembered in the late ’90s alt-rock comedy, Jawbreaker. (Chriqui, in a promotional interview for Wrong Turn, briefly spoke about working on Ricky 6 in an issue (possibly June 2003; #223) of Fangoria.)

I loved The Craft and enjoyed Peter Filardi’s take on Salem’s Lot; let’s face it: adapting-compressing Stephen King isn’t an easy task. So, to my critical end: I enjoyed Filardi’s honesty in not only chronicling Ricky Kasso’s exploits, but speculating as to what was going on inside Kasso’s mind: did he really think he finally met Satan in the flesh? So, yes: I wished it all would have worked out for Peter Filardi, as it surely hurt to have his labor of love — his directing debut, no less — cast into legal limbos for now, 21 years. (The only time any parts of the film were officially seen came result of segments of Ricky 6 recycled as “reenactment” padding in the hour-long, 2000 Australian television documentary, Satan in the Suburbs.)

Now, that’s not to say Ricky 6 is a great film: but it’s not an awful film, either. Again, it’s a film where I appreciate Filardi’s serious take on the material — and his ability to work against a slight budget — when compared against the inferior, more comical, over-the-top acted, first feature-length take on Ricky Kasso’s life with Black Circle Boys. Now, before you hate on me for not raving about the film: As we spoke about in our review of Black Circle Boys: The appreciation of a film — whether it is good or bad, well-made or poorly made — is based in the age of the viewer; for film appreciation is of a time and place. So, if you were in middle school or just starting high school at the time Ricky 6 was released — as I was when the juvenile delinquency drama Over the Edge was released in 1979 — rewatching this film will warm the cockles as your own person “classic” film.

The Omen and all of the Italian and Spanish “Satanic Panic” ripoffs.

While Ricky 6 does result in one to reflect back on those dramatic, teenage misanthropes from Over the Edge (1978) and River’s Edge (1984), and the comical, retro-’70s counterpart of Dazed and Confused (1993), Filardi’s lone directing effort is not to the standards set by those classics. We certainly don’t want the brutality of say, the aforementioned David DeFalco’s controversial Chaos (2005), but we do want Atom Egoyan’s beautifully acted and production solid (but wholly unnecessary, in light of Joe Berlinger’s acclaimed, three-part Paradise Lost franchise) Devil’s Knot (2013; based on Mara Leveritt’s Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three). In fact, when considering Joe Berlinger — in what I thought was a fine, well-made, first fiction film for the documentarian — gave us the dramatic metafilm, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000), I believe he would bring us a definitive Ricky Kasso narrative film.

It’s also too bad that Joseph Gordon-Levitt has aged-out to play Ricky Kasso; if you’ve seen his work in the Metallica soundtrack-backed Hesher (2010), you know what I mean — but Joe would give us one hell of a Pagan Pat. Thinking about Over the Edge: Again, Vincent Kartheiser is mighty fine (maybe a little too soft, clean n’ cute as some have said), here: but can you see Matt Dillon as Ricky Kasso and Micheal Kramer as Jimmy Troiano, as they, instead of tossing him in the lake: kill the narc drug-dealing Tip? Yeah, Over the Edge with a “Satanic Panic” backstory: that’s the Ricky Kasso theater ticket, right there.

Courtesy of Hyaena Gallery; original news source of images, unknown.

In the end: Ozzy Osbourne didn’t “recruit” Ricky Kasso no more than Judas Priest convinced — via “subliminal messages” — James Vance and Raymond Belknap, nor did Ozzy “brainwash” John McCollum — to commit suicide. Nor did Ozzy’s “Bark at the Moon” brainwash James Jollimore to commit multiple murder.

Ricky Kasso was a powerless, verbally and physically (non-sexual) abused child also bullied in school who found solace in drugs at an early age as an escape. He was on the cosine of metal illness. His “model” parents kicked him out of the house to live as a vagabond in the woods, friend’s houses, garages, and harbored, Long Island boats. No one took responsibility for Ricky: not his parents, teachers, or doctors. They all failed him. Then they blamed “Satan” to cover up their mistakes. Now, that doesn’t justify what Ricky did (and let’s not turn him into a Masonesque-cum-Mafiso, anti-folk hero); however, as with Ronald DeFeo, Jr.’s multiple murder in suburban Amityville, Long Island, New York, in November 1974: DeFeo simply wanted to cover up his theft of a large sum of family money. Ricky was out for revenge on a drug theft. Both incidents — as with the victimization of Judas Priest and Ozzy Osbourne — were blown out of proportion in the pages of the since discredited books Say You Love Satan by David St. Clair and Jay Anson’s “true story,” The Amityville Horror.

Satan, indeed. Eh, Tipper Gore needed something to bide her time to keep her out of Al’s hair. Nancy Reagan had drugs: Tipper had Satan: “Just Say No!”. For kickstarting the “Satanic Panic” craze of the ’80s, Tipper, we thank you. . . .

Meanwhile, on the Pacific Northwest side of the country, existed Ricky Kasso’s doppelganger. The “Devil’s rock ‘n’ roll” also got hold of him: he picked up a guitar instead of knife. And for a brief time, Kurt Cobain, unlike Ricky Kasso, became infamous for his musical talents . . . but just as suddenly and shockingly, both burnt out in similar fashion. . . .

The critically-derided Australian TV documentary from 2000.

Regardless of my brevity-lacking, critical sidebaring: Ricky 6 is worth your watch as you delve into the twisted mind of Ricky “The Acid King” Kasso — so as to complement your rental stream of the upcoming The Acid King. Hey, after that documentary’s debut, it just may inspire another film on the sad life of Richard Kasso. It’s “never say never” in Hollywood.

If Ricky 6 is your first exposure to Ricky Kasso’s infamy, you can cut through the books and the films with two, well-written, truncated-quick reads of the true events: Emily Thompson of the Morbidology podcast (August 2018) and Gina Dimuro of All That Is Interesting (October 2020). Another definitive read on the true events is Dave Breslin’s timely “Kids in the Dark” published by the Rolling Stone in November 1984. Again, we discuss Ricky Kasso — and the “Satanic Panic” craze of the ’80s — at B&S About Movies in our reviews of River’s Edge, Black Circle Boys, and Deadbeat at Dawn.

— You can watch rips of Ricky 6 on You Tube HERE and HERE and HERE. The caveat is that they’re all muddy rips from those bootlegged DVDs or probably downloaded from torrent sites. Pick which one works best for your viewing pleasure.

— You can also stream a six-part upload of Satan in the Suburbs on You Tube.

— In addition to supplementing your watch of Ricky 6 with The Acid King, you can also watch two direct-from-television-to-video releases from the “Christian Scare” industry of the ’80s we’ve reviewed: Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames and Devil Worship: The Rise of Satanism.

— You can enjoy Peter Filardi’s newest horror streaming series, Chapelwaite — based on Stephen King’s short story, “Jerusalem’s Lot” — on EPIX. The 2021 Adrien Brody-starring series was co-created and written by Peter’s brother, screenwriter Jason Filardi (Steve Martin’s Bringing Down the House; the Zac Efron-starring 17 Again).

Need more movies never issued on DVD? Check out our “10 Movies Never Released on DVD” 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 and publishes musical journalism explorations and interviews, as well as horror short stories, on Medium.

2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 23: The Mummy Theme Park (2000)

23. DEPT. OF INDUSTRY & LABOR: A story based on doing a job. Speaking of jobs, yours ain’t finished yet, 8 days to go!

I used to worry that I would run out of berserk Italian movies, especially when the 1990s give way to the 2000s but that shows what I know, because The Mummy Theme Park — the jobs in this movie would be theme park owner, photographer and model in case you wonder — is one of the most baffling, weird, wonderful and just plain strange movies that I’ve seen.

Alvaro Passeri has only directed five movies*, including PlanktonFlight to HellThe Golden Grain and Psychovision. His animation skills — he worked on Cinema ParadisoThe Shark HunterThe Wild BeastsAtlantis Interceptors and more — really come in handy here because this is a movie that sees its low budget and says, “We can do more.”

An earthquake reveals the underground City of the Dead in Egypt and Sheik El Sahid get the somewhat bright and probably more deranged idea to take all of the mummies and fit them with animatronics and turn them into a Jurassic Park in the sands. He wants it to be a big deal, so he calls over photographer Daniel Flynn (Adam O’Neil) and his co-worker Julie (Holly Laningham) to take photos of the place, which as far as I can tell is one room with mirrors and miniatures and all manner of in-camera and in-post special effects working as hard as they can and then some to make this movie look bigger than it is while also looking cheap while also appearing to be one of the most charming movies I’ve ever seen. It’s neon, it’s glitter, it’s robot mummies, it’s insane.

And yet, this isn’t a movie made goofy on purpose. It’s deliriously sure of itself and yet unaware of what it is at the same time and that’s the combination that I love more than any other when it comes to weird movies.

Can the flash of a camera bring mummies back to life? Are women’s breasts the only thing that can stop them? Will heads get torn off? Will someone puke up everything inside them? Can a chase scene go on forever? Will there be long scenes of fashion that pad the running time? Will there be a model train that goes through a sphinx? Is there also an evil sorceress? Will the sheik’s harem fight against one another and will one of them also be a hologram? Will there be a souvenir shop that has pharaoh heads that spit out beer?

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.

I mean, this is the kind of movie where a dude gets his head sliced in half and the results look like those cutaway pages in encyclopedias we all used to obsess over. And for that reason and so many others, this is perfect. Man, I’m still processing this movie. I keep reading reviews laughing about how cheap this movie looks and we should be so lucky to have this in our lives.

You can watch this on Tubi.

*Under that name, that is. There’s also the rumor that he’s Massimiliano Cerchi, the name under which he’s directed seventeen movies including The Penthouse that came out this year. Unless there are two directors and special effects guys who have the same name and I’ve been surprised before and if you do the math, Cerchi was making those movies when he was eight. IMDB used to have them as the same person and now they’re separated, so perhaps…who can say!?!

2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 19: Zora the Vampire (2000)

19. CAN’T YOU HEAR ME KNOCKIN’?: When you let an unexpected guest in, you may be in for a long night.

You know who you should never let in? Vampires.

Count Dracula is sick of Romanian blood, so he leaves for a country that he knows from television: Italy.

That’s a lot different than the comic book this was based on, Zora the Vampire, in which 19th-century aristocrat Zora Pabst becomes possessed by the spirit of Dracula and suddenly has a lust for blood and, well, sex. Instead of Catherine Deneuve, who inspired the look of Zora in the comic books, here she’s played by Micaela Ramazzotti and is an artist who is not all that upset about Dracula being in love with her.

The Manetti Bros. directed this and I’ve seen it described as an “unfortunate experience” for them. Luckily, it seems like they’ve recovered quite well, as they’ve made movies in the science fiction, musical comedy and horror genres. Their latest movie is a new version of Diabolik, which I’m looking forward to seeing.

The movie Zora is a strange thing. Imagine if someone made Barbarella as a children’s film. But hey — I’m just excited to see any new horror movies made in Italy.

SLASHER MONTH: Bruiser (2000)

For all the times that George Romero did so much with so little, there are just as many times that he did so little with so much.

I mean, Peter Stormare is in this. And, strangely, The Misfits, so if you ever needed a point to connect Jerry Only to Kevin Bacon, this film will help. I mean, Tom Atkins is in this movie and I still struggled to remain awake.

I feel like I should honestly go back and watch this again, but so much of Romero’s post-Creepshow output leaves me incredibly cold. There’s definitely an Argento-like line between the films that work and the ones that should. There are some great ideas here — a man driven insane by corporate America has a face that turns blank white — but that’s it. There’s no real ending, there’s no real reason and no something extra to it. It’s perfunctory and if I never saw the credits, I’d have no idea Romero touched it.

There’s also an incredibly bad cover of Take On Me over the end credits and I just shook my head and it compounded the sad sense of loss that this movie instilled in me. Also, this was the first Romero movie not shot in Pittsburgh, but hey — plenty of local pro wrestlers are in it. So there’s that.

I just always got the feeling that Romero could do better and at some point, he just thought that he couldn’t. There’s absolutely no comparison between this and Martin. I mean, it’s certainly better than There’s Always Vanilla, but his Calgon commercials were more gripping than that film.

It’s probably super unfair for me to wish for greatness every time. I mean, the gulf between Dracula 3D and Tenebre is incalculable, too.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll like it better. It’s on Tubi.


Almost Blue (2000)

Yes, they were still making giallo in 2000 in Italy, as this Alex Infascelli-directed (he also made the giallo The Vanity Syrum and the great S Is for Stanley, a documentary about the relationship between Kubrick and his driver Emilio D’Alessandro) film tells the story of a serial killer called the Iguana, a serial killer who is constantly changing his appearance.

It helped that Sergio Donati was in the writing team of this, as he worked on The Weekend MurdersSlap the Monster on Page One and, yes, Orca. Actually, he has a really deep screenwriting career and I enjoyed the fact that this movie had some of the feel of the past while moving toward the future.

Much like Taking Lives — made four years later — the story is really about who the Iguana is at any time. Female profiler Grazia Negro (Lorenza Indovina) must work with a blind hacker (Claudio Santamaria) to discover who the killer — who takes his victim’s body jewelry and mutilates himself with it — is before he becomes someone new.

This may be very Seven in look, but hey — I’m just happy people remember the giallo. Almost Blue was based on the book by Carlo Lucarelli, who would go on to be one of the writers on Argento’s 2001 movie Sleepless.

The Dead Hate the Living! (2000)

Back in the magical days of the Kennywood Hollywood Video, a place that I dream of today, I’d always see this VHS box and it was kind of intimidating, which is a feat for a movie made in 2000. As a result, I never watched it until now.

Written and directed by Dave Parker, it starts with a scientist named Eibon — hello Lucio — recording a message to tell history that he has brought the dead back to life and now he plans on becoming one of them, which is poetic and all, but if you’re going to die just to come back to life, what are you living for? Doesn’t that sound like the lyrics from a Creed song?

Then a zombie solves this for him by breaking in and chowing down.

The movie shifts to a film crew breaking into the hospital — actually the leftover set from End of Days — where Eibon did his experiments and even using his corpse to make their horror movie, which seems like the kind of thing that would never happen, except you know, all the real skeletons in just about every movie ever.

By the end of this, Eibon has become a lord of the zombies and it turns out that they come from an entirely different dimension that two of the survivors end up in because, you know, that’s what would happen to Ash. Or Liza Merril and Dr. John McCabe.

If you’re not ready for the cavalcade of references — Fulci is name dropped more times than you can count on a severed hand — you may enjoy this. I mean, the bad guy even tells his zombie henchmen to “Make them die slowly.”

That said, this is a pretty decent film if not wholly original, but that’s just fine. I mean, every rollercoaster is based on another rollercoaster. Parker would go on to make The Hills Run RedThe Dead RebornIt Watches and the “Sweet Tooth” chapter in Tales of Halloween, as well as write, edit and even act in plenty more horror films.

On the Full Moon anthology The Dead Reborn, they repurposed this movie as “Zombie Apocalypse”  and it deserves way better than to be chopped down by 66% and made to fit into this sham.