Song of the Vampire (2001)

Also known as Vampire Resurrection and appearing as “From the Grave” on the I, Vampire remix anthology, Song of the Vampire not only stars Subspecies heroine Denice Duff, but was directed by her as well.

You may be forgiven if you think it fits into the adventures of Radu Vladislas, but it only uses footage from the third movie. Instead, we meet Jonathan, a man who had to sacrifice his own soul and become a vampire in order to find his true love.

Meanwhile, a beautiful young woman, Victoria Thorn (Denice, of coure) dreams of a past time when she had a great love who was Jonathan. Their souls are forever intertwined, as they say at Hot Topic. Will she become a vampire for him?

Man, what favors or blackmail did they have on Geoffrey Lewis to get him to show up in this movie? I know actors have to work, but wow. And Julie Michaels from Point Break and Roadhouse? Is this the most stars a Full Moon movie has had?

Also — the boom mic shows up repeatedly and I could not be happy to see it getting work.

Stitches (2001)

Mrs. Albright (Elizabeth Ince, Grandmother Regina from Demon Wind and Mrs. Denton in Vice Academy 5) seems like such a sweet lady when she arrives to stay at a boarding house. However, it turns out that she’s a demon who uses desire against the other people staying there, stealing their skin to continue to build her skin suit and trapping their bodies inside a book as if they were paper dolls.

That’s because she’s made a bet with the devil that she can destroy the entire world. As the film ends, it seems like she’s going to make good on that claim.

Written and directed by Neal Marshall Stevens (who has forty-five writing credits at the time this was viewed, including Thir13en GhostsHead of the Family and Puppet Master: Axis Termination; he also was a creative consultant on the TV show Monsters), this was the original script for Witchouse, but that changed after the producers decided that they wanted to make a movie closer to Night of the Demons. Also, in true Full Moon style, this was shot on the same set as Ragdoll.

It has plenty of unsettling images — and sound design — in it, the least of which is when Mrs. Albright asks a man to unstitch the skin on her back to reveal her demonic form.

Stitches also is on the Full Moon compilation film Possessed under the title “Witches’ Dolls.”

You can watch this on Tubi.

Cradle of Fear (2001)

Do you like and/or know who Cradle of Filth is? Then you may/may not care about this movie, which features nearly everyone from the band’s Midian era lineup, as well as placing leader Dani Filth into a role that connects all of the stories.

It was written and directed by Alex Chandon, who had directed the band’s videos for “No Time to Cry” and “Her Ghost in the Fog.”

Things start with The Man (Filth) being attacked by two muggers before he turns things around and kills both of them. The stories are a mixed bag — that’s putting it lightly — generally involving goth-looking girls dying horribly, like a girl who sleeps with The Man and has a monster rip its way out of her womb and kill one of her friends.

Everything and every story is the fault of Kemper, the son of a Satanist who has been using his occult abilities to abduct and kill children while even now continuing his rampage through his son — The Man — from a mental ward.

There’s an amputee who can’t have sex with his wife until he kills his friend and takes his leg. Then his wife dies in a car crash and he kills himself. When the police arrive, The Man kills them both. That’s the whole story of that segment, which feels like an excuse to show amputee sex and the gore of a woman who has gone through a car window.

The cop who is trying to get to Kemper keeps hitting dead ends and even his son is caught up in this, growing obsessed with internet snuff chatrooms and ended up killed in one. He finally makes his way to the sanitarium, but even after he shoots The Man in the head, tentacles emerge from the wounds to end the movie.

You can see the Amicus influence in this, but it’s kinda like a Cradle of Filth song: long, overblown and yet still fun in parts. Your mileage, as they always say, may vary.

The Attic Expeditions (2001)

Released by Severin Films when they put out their horror anthology documentary Tales of the UncannyThe Attic Expeditions was a revelation to me. I was knocked out by its Asylum-influenced story of Trevor Blackburn, a man who may or may not have lost his mind.

The problems begin when he and his girlfriend Faith purchase a home together and find a chest in the attic. Inside, they discover a book of black magic that gives them great power through a series of rituals. As they work on learning how to gain more power, a ritual that combines their consciousnesses leads to her death.

Now in an asylum, Dr. Ek (Jeffrey Combs) and Dr. Coffee (Ted Raimi) hope to use the book of black magic to cure all mental illness, but Trevor can barely remember his past and has no idea where it is. Dr. Ek then sends Trevor to be rehabilitated at The House of Love, a recovery facility seemingly in the command of Dr. Thalama (Wendy Robie, The People Under the Stairs) that is really Trevor’s old home. The goal is to make him find the book and use actors, their stories and fake murders to make him wake up and turn over the occult reference.

Dead people come back to life, drugs and surgery are used on our protagonist and all of these things make him go even deeper into fantasy until there are multiple versions of himself and Faith all working on finding the black book.

Originally intended to be the fourth film in the Witchcraft series, this film stands on its own, featuring really good performances — Seth Green is awesome in this — and the only downside is the alt rock soundtrack that was forced on the film by its producers. Sadly, this film — despite being picked up by Blockbuster — doesn’t get the kind of publicity other lesser horror anthologies get.

This movie is made even better by the fact that Alice Cooper shows up.

You can get this from Severin and watch this on Tubi.

Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge (2001)

Mary Lambert once directed music videos — Janet Jackson’s “Control” and five videos for Madonna including “Borderline,” “Like a Virgin,” “Material Girl,” “La Isla Bonita” and “Like a Prayer” — before making Pet Sematary. And yes, she went on to make a Disney Channel movie, as well as Mega Python vs. Gatoroid.

It’s been two years since we last saw Marnie (Kimberly J. Brown), who has spent the time learning magic from her grandmother Aggie (Debbie Reynolds) in Halloweentown. While hosting a mortal neighborhood Halloween party in our universe, Marnie tries to impress new neighbor Kal (Daniel Kountz) by showing off Aggie’s magically-hidden room. Before you can say plot device, Aggie notices something wrong with the portal between our worlds, sending her back to Halloweentown.

It turns out that Kal is really the son of Kalabar — didn’t see that coming with that name, huh? — and he’s cast a Gray Spell over the entire realm, making the magically colorful world of Halloweentown boring. Meanwhile, he’s turning Earth into a monster-filled nightmare.

To save the day, the barriers between Halloweentown and our world must be destroyed. But at what cost? Oh, if there were only a third film. There is? And I’m going to write about it this week? Man, this magic has me flummoxed.

As for horror fans, Judith Hoag wears the Silver Shamrock witch mask from Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Here’s hoping she takes it off before the commercial plays.

Mind Rage (2001)

A serial killer’s trail of dead bodies leads to the haunting past of two brothers and one woman’s love for both of them. But you know what will make you watch this?

The cast! You’ve got Max Gail, Charles Hallahan, Tippi Hedren and Dennis Christopher, which is way better than you’d expect for a small budget film.

This movie was made at some point in the 90s and wouldn’t be released until 2001. That shouldn’t stop you from watching this, which feels kind of like an American giallo, which is not a bad thing. I mean, a serial killer is taunting a schoolteacher, who has a cop half-brother and a new lover who looks exactly like every one of the victims and his mother, who died mysteriously.

You can get this from Wild Eye Releasing or watch it on Tubi.

Electric Dragon 80.000 V (2001)

Gakuryū Ishii made Burst City and if that were not enough of an attack on the senses, he made this film, the story of Dragon Eye Morrison (Tadanobu Asano, the incredible Kakihara from Ichi the Killer), who was given electroshock therapy as a child which now gives him the ability to conduct electricity, which he sometimes uses in his job as a reptile investigator and guitar player. But now, another man — Thunderbolt Buddha (Masatoshi Nagase, Mystery Train) — also has those powers but uses them to go after gangsters. Inevitably, the two must meet and battle one another.

Most amazingly, this movie is narrated by Masakatsu Funaki, who was the best native star of Pancrase, an early MMA legend and still an active pro wrestler.

A black and white film bursting with attitude, noise and chaos, this is what a comic book film should look like. You know how some movies seem cool? This is what being cool is all about.

Iron Monkey (1993 HK/2001 U.S.)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a ghostwriter of personal memoirs for Story Terrace London and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn

I saw Iron Monkey for the first time during its 2001 U.S. release.

Settling into my seat, I knew relatively nothing about it other than it was considered a modern classic Kung Fu film. When I realized it was about young Wong Fei Hung it was like opening a surprise gift. Being a big fan of Once Upon a Time in China with Jet Li and being familiar with the long, rich cinematic history of the character in HK movies made Iron Monkey even more enjoyable than it would have been otherwise.

I patiently waited for the Wong Fei Hung theme music to kick in. When it never did, I realized it was because the film had been re-scored for the American release. The cinematic equivalent of watching a James Bond film without the classic theme. That being said, the music in this version was actually pretty good when compared with some of the criminal hack jobs Miramax perpetrated on to other Asian films in the ‘90s. Quentin Tarantino’s name in the credits no doubt had something to do with the overall respect shown here. That it was given a wide release in North America with subtitles is a glorious thing.

Iron Monkey tells the story of a Dr. (Yu Rong Guang) who dons a mask during his off-time to steal riches from corrupt village officials and give the money to the poor. When a pre-teen Wong Fei Hung (played in the grand Cantonese tradition by a female – Angie Tsang) and his legendary father Wong Kai-Ying (Donnie Yen) come to town, it makes for one of the best Kung Fu movies I’ve ever seen. Each fight is better than the last and the final battle, which takes place mostly on top of wooden poles over a burning fire is truly a thing of beauty. Younger audiences will be familiar with Donnie’s amazing fighting techniques from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The equally talented Yen Shi-Kwan (Iron Robe Yim from OUATIC) plays the main baddie.

Every time I read a discussion centered on this film, everyone always goes on and on about Yuen Woo-Ping. He is indeed a brilliant artist. However, I feel just as much of the credit for the success of Iron Monkey should go to Producer/Writer Tsui Hark. I have viewed other films from roughly the same time period of both men and have to say that I have consistently enjoyed Tsui Hark’s body of work more than Yuen Woo-Ping’s. Iron Monkey is a great collaboration and should be viewed by all who are even the slightest bit curious about Kung Fu films.

Donnie Darko (2001)

Don’t ask me how, but I’ve somehow never seen Donnie Darko. Now, thanks to the 4K re-release from Arrow, I’ve really fixed that. I mean, we all know how I feel about Southland Tales, so it’s high time that I get this one crossed off the list.

Richard Kelly had graduated from film school and started writing his first scripts when he got the idea of a jet engine falling onto a house. Even though he was an unproven director, Kelly insisted that he make the film himself, struggling to get funding until Drew Barrymore’s Flower Films produced it.

The film came and went without much notice outside of critics, as a movie with part of a plane crashing into a house being released a month after 9/11 — not to mention Donnie shooting a gun so close after Colombine — didn’t seem like something audiences would want to see. Yet Kelly’s vision — he wanted an “ambitious, personal, and nostalgic” look back at the 80’s before everyone was doing that — finally found an audience as it was reissued.

It’s not an easy movie to wade through and that’s pretty much why it’s so beloved by the people who discovered it.

On October 2, 1988, the Middlesex, Virginia bedroom of Donald J. “Donnie” Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is destroyed by a jet engine. As for Donnie, he has been sleepwalking and speaking to a monstrous rabbit named Frank who informs him that the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds. He begins to follow Frank’s instructions, which often involve destruction and mayhem.

How else do you escape a small town where infomercial pitchmen’s words are taken as religion and teachers are either fired for being individuals or become wrapped up in their own power? There’s also a former nun turned author, once named Roberta Sparrow but now called Grandma Death, who whispers to Donnie that “Every living creature on Earth dies alone.”

Frank’s instructions grow darker, including setting the home of the inspirational speaker — Patrick Swayze! — ablaze, which reveals that the man is a child molester. And Donnie begins to fall for Gretchen Ross (Jena Malone), who is in town to escape from her brutal stepfather. But as a cycle of violence begins to continually spiral out of control, Donnie realizes that the only way to stop the end of the world is to change the flow of time.

But man, that’s just one of the many ways you can take this movie. In the foreword to The Donnie Darko Book, Jake Gyllenhaal wrote, “What is Donnie Darko about? I have no idea.” Even Kelly admits that the film needs Cliffs Notes.

According to Dan Kois’ Everything you were afraid to ask about Donnie Darko, the movie takes place in a parallel universe, which exists only during the 28 days — it also took 28 days to film the movie — of the film. The main idea is that Donnie must erase the Tangent Universe — and die as a result — in order to save reality.

Roberta Sparrow’s book The Philosophy of Time Travel exists, if not only in the world of the film, then also on the website that went with the movie and the director’s cut. In it, she writes, “If a Tangent Universe occurs, it will be highly unstable, sustaining itself for no longer than several weeks. Eventually it will collapse upon itself, forming a black hole within the Primary Universe capable of destroying all existence.”

Or is it about Donnie being a paranoid schizophrenic? That solution is up to you.

Or you could see it as the fact that Gretchen and Frank — the human being dressed as the rabbit  that Donnie shoots and not yet the rabbit — are dead as the result of knowing Donnie and they lead him into this situation to gain super powers and send the engine back in time, saving themselves at the cost of his life.

Also — the web site had information about the characters that perhaps belonged in the movie. After the events of the universe being righted, Jim Cunningham would kill himself, realizing what a horrible person he was. Roberta Sparrow would die in December of 1988. And although  Dr. Monnitoff would eventually marry Ms. Pomeroy, he would die under mysterious circumstances in 1999. She would send his copy of The Philosophy of Time Travel to the Library of Congress.

So why does Donnie smile before lying down to seemingly die? In my opinion, he’s no longer dying alone. He has connected better with his parents, found a first love and finally become not a disaffected youth but the secret hero who saves everything at the cost of his own life. That’s not just the kind of story that gets remembered. It’s the kind that becomes a cult movie.

I’m glad I finally watched this.

The 4K UHD Arrow Video release of Donnie Darko is pretty much exactly as amazing as you’d expect a release from this label to be. The set includes new 4K restorations of both the Theatrical Cut and the Director’s Cut from the original camera negatives by Arrow Films, supervised and approved by director Richard Kelly and cinematographer Steven Poster, plus a 100-page hardcover book featuring writing by Nathan Rabin, Anton Bitel and Jamie Graham, an in-depth interview with Richard Kelly, an introduction by Jake Gyllenhaal and contemporary coverage, illustrated with original stills and promotional materials. As if that’s not enough, there’s also a double-sided poster with art by Luke Preece, six double-sided collector’s postcards and multiple audio commentary tracks and documentaries on the film. Still not enough? You also get The Goodbye Place, a Kelly short film, twenty deleted and alternate scenes, trailers, a music video and, well, beyond much more. You can get it directly from Arrow.

Despite the fact that we live in a world with less physical releases, the ones that do come out are made for film lovers like, well, you and me. If you love this film, you owe it to yourself to own this.

Antitrust (2001)

Also called Conspiracy.com and Startup — yes, these are the most nineties titles ever — Antitrust shows what I always expected from those way too cool-looking corporations. I once worked in an ad agency that had a sliding board and that thing was only used by guests. We’d all been hurt on it and knew better.

After creating a startup called Skullbocks, Stanford graduate Milo Hoffman (Ryan Phillipe) is recruited by NURV (Never Underestimate Radical Vision) CEO Gary Winston (Tim Robbins). The job comes with a ton of pay, an insane office and complete creative control. Before you can say dot com boom, Hoffman and his girlfriend Alice (Claire Forlani, who if born a few decades sooner could have been a giallo queen) move to Portland to start their future.

The funny thing is this company wanted Hoffman so bad, they invented this girlfriend just for him. Oh the 2000’s, when hackers were played by attractive people and had attractive problems! And when the company starts investigating Rachel Leigh Cook, well, our hero must make a choice over the big Bill Gates billions — we all know who Robbins is playing — or going back to hanging out in a sweatsock smelling room with his buddies.

You know how sexy this movie was? The film heavily features Linux and its community, even having Miguel de Icaza and Scott McNealy show up in the trailers. Man, this movie is all about open source! Are you panting and breathing hard yet, teenagers? How about if I tell you that actor’s names in the beginning are all HTML code from their IMDB profiles?

Why not live 2001 all over again and check out the Antitrust website?