Raptor (2001)

Directed by Jim Wynorski, produced by Roger Corman and starring Eric Roberts and Corbin Bernsen, all based around the footage from the Carnosaur movies and new reaction shots? Man, if a movie has been made for the purpose of ending up on this site, it’s Raptor, which may as well be Carnosaur 4.

Sheriff Jim Tanner (Roberts, who has made a Faustian bargain with us where we must watch all of his movies if we want to keep our souls and blu ray collections) and his assistant Barbara investigate a series of mutilations which leads them to ex-military scientist Dr. Hyde (Bernsen) who is cloning dinosaurs.

I kind of love that film stock changes, lighting changes, dinosaurs change and everything looks completely put together with chewing gum and some masking tape. Yet the end fight — again ripping off Aliens — has Eric Roberts in a forklift battling a giant rubbery dinosaur and you know, these are the kind of moments where life ever so fleetingly makes sense.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Apocalypse: The Film Series (1998 – 2001)

We’ve mentioned this influential film series in the context of a few of our other reviews this week. And it is “influencial,” as it certainly had an effect on David. A.R. White and his Christian Apoc-science fiction adventures through his PureFlix shingle: his first was Six: The Mark Unleashed (2004), followed with The Moment After and Revelation Road franchises, In the Blink of an Eye, and Jerusalem Countdown. And the producers behind his debut film, TBN, Paul and Jan Crouch’s Trinity Broadcasting Network (through their son Matthew), jumped into the apoc frays with their own, The Omega Code (1999).

The Apocalypse franchise’s roots date to 1994, when the brothers LaLonde, Peter and Paul — inspired by Hollywood’s A-List glut of films concerned with the world’s post-apocalypse survival*, such as Waterworld (1995), Independence Day (1996), Escape from L.A. (1996), and The Postman (1997), along with the “Lucifer’s Hammer” one-two punch of Armageddon and Deep Impact (1998), and Peter Hyams’s End of Days (1999) — formed Cloud Ten Pictures in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, to self-fiance their own, wholesome, family-oriented “end times” Christian films.

The four-film box set that’s easily purchased — as well as the individual films — online at secular and faith-based sites.

As they should: God invented the apocalypse, after all, in The Book of Revelation in The Holy Bible. It’s just not fair that the Somdomites and Gomorrahites of Tinseltown have the secular market cornered on what rightful belongs to Christians in the first place. Estus Pirkle has whole films (If Footmen Tire You, The Burning Hell, and The Believer’s Heaven) based on the Christian belief that God-hating Communists will jam sharpened bamboo shoots through our ear canals, cut people down from trees onto buried pitch forks, and dump the bodies of those who will not deny the Christ, into freshly bulldozed mass graves. Oh, and the child stealing and indoctrination centers where children will praise Fidel Castro.

Hey, don’t be scared, ye philistine. For the LaLonde’s are not as bibically crazed as Pastor Pirkle and a bit more subtle in frightening you into believing. Sure, with the same, faithful vigor as Christian apoc-progenitor Donald W. Thompson with his A Thief in the Night tetralogy franchise, but only with A-List (well, let’s just say, better) production values backed, not by church volunteers and “saved” community theater actors: but by real, actual actors.

Oh, what a cast these movies have!

The LaLonde brothers’ films have nothing on the early Revelation-based apoc’ers Six-Hundred Sixty Six (1972), and the Gospel Films (studios) 1981 double-whammy of the non-sequels Early Warning and Years of the Beast. Oh, yes, ye B&S About Movies Sadducees: If the subject matter’s rhythm doesn’t get you, the off-the-A-to-B List thespians surely will.

Prior to delving into the feature films business, the LaLonde brothers produced their own television series: a syndicated series that dealt with the very subject matter of their films: This Week in Bible Prophecy. That lead to their creating a series of hour-long documentaries between 1994 and 1997: The Gospel of the Antichrist: Exposed, Final Warning: Economic Collapse and the Coming World Government, Startling Proofs: Does God Really Exist, Last Days: Hype or Hope?, and Racing to the End of Time. Courtesy of the ratings and retail response to those early products, it was time for a (low-budget) sci-fi thriller based on upon their TV/video teachings. That first film became Apocalypse (1998), which spawned the tetralogy franchise: Revelation, Tribulation, and Judgement.

So successful the franchise that, by the time of the release of third film and before the fourth film, Cloud Ten Pictures was able to option the very book that inspired their film series: the 1995 worldwide best-seller Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. Their 2000 – 2005 film trilogy based on that book series, which starred Kirk Cameron (Saving Christmas), culminated with a bigger-budgeted, crtically derided theatrical reboot, Left Behind (2014) with Nicolas Cage.

Okay, enough with the back stories. . . . Lets throw away the melon rind on the way to Eden and unpack the prophe-verse of Franco Macalousso and his deadly O.N.E. (One Earth Nation) squads. (In Donald W. Thompson’s franchise, it was known as U.N.I.T.E. – United Nations Imperium of Total Emergency, if you’re keeping an apoc track of the proceedings.)

Apocalypse I: Caught In The Eye Of The Storm (1998)

Unlike the rest of the films in the series, we’re dealing with a list of no-name (Canadian) actors fronted by the “leads” of Leigh Lewis and Richard Nestor (that’s them, disembodied floating-headin’ the cover, by the way) and Sam Bornstein, each with limited-and-fades-away resumes; Leigh Lewis’s Helen Hannah character is the lone throughline of the series.

As with Kurt Cameron’s Cameron “Buck” Williams in the Left Behind trilogy, Helen Hannah and Bronson Pearl (Richard Nestor) are award-winning journalists who stumble into the deadly plans of Franco Macalousso (Sam Bornstein), the President of the European Union. When the prophesied Rapture occurs and throws the world into chaos, Macalousso proclaims himself the true Messiah and enforces his will upon the world.

You can watch this one Tubi. And we have to note that the video suggestions link to all three of Kirk Cameron’s Left Behind films and Casper Van Dien’s The Omega Code duet, if you’re up to the challenge.

Apocalypse II: Revelation (1999)

What a difference “three months” after the last film, makes: Satan has transformed Franco Macalousso into (wait, he is Satan) . . . Nick Mancuso, of Nightwing and Death Ship?

This time, the tale centers on the exploits of Thorold Stone, a counter-terrorism expert . . . played by Jeff Fahey of The Lawnmower Man? A non-believer hellbent to prove The Rapture is a conspiracy, he stumbles into an underground, Christian resistance movement led by Helen Hannah, from the first film. But since actress Leigh Lewis is way out of her thespin’ element, here: bring in (not much better) supermodel Carol Alt as part of the resistance.

Oh, and Alt’s character is blind. And the European Union, now ruling the world as One Nation Earth, watched John Carpenter secular They Live one too many times, since O.N.E distributes virtual reality headsets to everyone on Earth to celebrate the “Messiah’s Day of Wonders.”

So, to make sure you’re following along: Satan, and not aliens, are doing the VR brainwashing of the puny humans. You got that?

You can watch this on Tubi.

Apocalypse III: Tribulation (2000)

Well, okay . . . so we lost Jeff Fahey and Carol Alt. But we still get a little bit of Nick Mancuso . . . and gain a Gary Busey, a Margot Kidder, and a Howie Mandel. We also get just what we do not need: a non-linear timeline that splits in half across the events that happened before Apocalypse I . . . then we flash-foward — two years — after the events in Revelation, aka Apocalypse II, you got that?

No?

Hey, we feel you, because the plot is bat-crap crazy and all over the place. Gary Busey’s Tom Canbono — from what seems like another movie spliced in — stars as a bitter police detective battling a mysterious group of cloaked psychic warrior-assassins (no, we are not kiddding) after his wife, his sister and brother-in-law (Margot Kidder and a pre-bald/Van Dyked Howie Mandel). However, before Canbono can save them, the psychics take control of his car and cause him to crash. . . .

Then begins the “other” movie: Busey wakes up from a two-years coma to discover The Rapture has occurred, 95% of the world follows Nick Mancusco’s lead, and those who don’t allow themselves to be branded with a “666” on their head or right hand, in the grand tradition of all things Christian, are beheaded. (Yeah, Christians love their broadswords and guillotines in these movies.) As for the “third” movie cut into this mess: Leigh Lewis is pushed even further down the callsheets with her Christian resistance annoyances to expose Nick Mancusco as the Antichrist.

See? Told you it was bat-crap crazy — joke inferring Nick’s Nightwing — which I should be rewatching — instead of this, intended. Yeah, it sure is a long, hard fall from starring with Steven Seagal in 1992’s Under Seige, hey, Nick and Gary? Too bad Steven didn’t star in Jeff Fahey’s role for part deux to really give us something to QWERTY about.

You can watch this on Tubi. You just gotta: Busey battles psychic warriors!

Apocalypse IV: Judgement (2001)

First, we get a gaggle nobody-heard-of-them-or-seen-since Canucks making a Christian apocalypse film. Then we get an Antichrist ruling via virtual reality headsets forced onto Carol Alt by Nick Mancusco. Then we get psychic warrior-assassins after Gary Busey.

What could possibly be left, you ask?

How’s about Corbin Bernsen (The Dentist) and Jessica Steen (the aforementioned Armageddon) starring as a Christian-centric Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn in Adam’s Rib (1949) — itself remade as the romantic rom-com box office bomb Laws of Attraction (2004) starring Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore. Only they were battling divorce attorneys. And Tracy and Hepburn argued a case of women’s rights.

So, what are Bernsen and Steen arguing: a copyright infringement case on the VR headsets? Gary Busey’s malpractice suit? Perhaps a copyright infringement over stealing the plot from the Stephen King’s The Dead Zone in the last movie? (No, not 28 Days Later, that’s not until next year.)

Nope to all.

Nick Mancusco — yes, he actually stuck around for three installment of this utter non-sense — is now, officially, the Antichrist and he’s “suing” Helen Hannah — yes, the out-of-her-thespian element Canadian actress Leigh Lewis is still hanging around, making us wish Carol Alt’s hot blind chick signed for the sequel — for her crimes against humanity. Corbin Bernsen is the troped, milquetoast attorney assigned to kangaroo-court our fair jounalist-turned-Christian revolutionist. Jessica Steen is his bitchy, natch, ex-wife prosecutor assigned by Nick Mancusco to railroad the leftover 5% from the last film that haven’t accepted the Mark.

Hey, wait. Mr. T is on the box! What’s he doing, here? We’ll, he’s spliced in from another movie: he’s heading up The D-Team to break Hannah from prison. Does he use one of those nifty VR headsets to pull it off?

Ugh, I just don’t care, anymore. And how come all of these Christian apoc flicks never end with Brother J showing up, in this case, to beat down Nick Mancusco? At least Estus Pirkle — his sharpened bamboo and mass graves, be damned — wrapped it up and took us upstairs to The Believer’s Heaven, while Tim Ormond has Christ arriving on white horseback with a band of angels in The Second Coming.

The Supreme Court vs. The Supreme Being. Let the Trial Begin,” so says the box copy.

No. Just let this all end. Please. I believe! I believe! I won’t accept the Mark. Anything to makes these movies, stop.

* Hey, we known what we are talking about: we’re self-proclaimed apocalypse experts! So check out these featurettes rounding up all of our reviews of apoc’ers from the ’50s through the ’80s:

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

MILL CREEK BLU RAY RELEASE: Josie and the Pussycats (2001)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally watched this movie on July 20, 2020, but now that Mill Creek has released a 20th anniversary edition blu ray, we figured now was a good time to come back to it. 

Two decades after its release, this movie still rings true, a beacon in the world of pop that says so much.

Beyond featuring the film on blu ray, it also comes with commentary by directors Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont and producer Marc Platt, a behind the scenes feature, deleted scenes and music videos for Josie and the Pussycats “3 Small Words” and Dujour’s “Backdoor Lover” and “Around the World.”

You can check out Mill Creek’s information page and order Josie and the Pussycars from Deep Discount

Who would expect that a big budget movie based on an Archie Comic and Hanna-Barbera cartoon would end up being a movie so willing to bite the hand that feeds and presents a world where the world of pop music is all one giant conspiracy to sell you things? While it’s selling you things, of course.

Yet despite being savaged by critics back and bombing at the box office at the start of this century, this movie feels more relevant today than nearly anything else that played theaters in 2001. It’s skewering of consumerism is, if anything, even more relevant today. And man, the songs are catchy.

Josie McCoy (Rachael Leigh Cook), Melody Valentine (Tara Reid) and Valerie Brown (Rosario Dawson) are the Pussycats, who have been selected to replace DuJour, the latest and hottest band, but also one who have learned that this is all a big scam on the kids. They pay the price when their plane goes down over Riverdale.

Now, Wyatt Frame (Alan Cumming) and Fiona (Parker Posey) have promised the one world government that her new band won’t need to be killed via drug overdose and will get the job done — or else Carson Daly will wipe them out on the set of Total Request Live.

There are so many products placed in this movie that it becomes virtual overload, yet none of them were paid for by the actual companies. They were all placed there by the filmmakers and there are around 73 different products in this movie.

Those songs I mentioned — that’s Kay Hanley from Letters to Cleo singing — make this movie even better.

Deborah Kaplan (who is married to Breckin Meyer, who has a cameo in this movie) and Harry Elfont wrote and directed this movie. They’ve worked together on plenty of other films, including A Very Brady SequelCan’t Hardly WaitThe Flintstones in Viva Rock VegasSurviving ChristmasMade of Honor and Leap Year. However, this would be the last movie they’d direct.

SLASHER MONTH: Slashers (2001)

$la$her$ is a Japanese game show that invites contestants to win millions of dollars if — and that’s a big of — they can survive being hunted down by Preacherman, Chainsaw Charlie and Dr. Ripper. During the show, all crimes are legal, but everyone must remain motionless during commercial breaks.

For the first time ever, the show is inviting six American contestants — Megan, Devon, Michael, Rick, Rebecca and Brenda — each with their own reasons for completing. For example, Megan only wanted to be on the show to protest its existence. Brenda wants to be an actress. Devon is an ex-Marine. Rebecca is an adrenaline junkie who has just learned that she has MS. And it turns out that one of them is the Bible Doll Killer and wants to have a spectacular death.

Looking cheaper than most TV it imitates — they really should have hired some people who have shot pro wrestling to give this the right look — Slashers has a great idea at its heart. If the execution isn’t exactly perfect, well, at least there’s a scene where a man cuts his own head off.

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.