Joshua and the Promised Land (2003)

Wow.

This film was created almost entirely over four years by one person, somehow named Jim Lion* and if you think God plays dice with the universe, well, I offer you this movie.

Joshua Carter and his guardian angel, Christopher Andrew Eugene Bozioni, escape the sadness of Joshua’s home life and go back to the Old Testament to relive the life of the real Joshua. Except that, you know, everyone is a lion and no one has paws, a tail or manes. They all look unfinished. They all look incredibly harrowing, to be be frank. I guess maybe the guardian angel is a wolf? And what’s with the narrator and floating demon purple blobs?

I mean, this is the kind of movie that interrupts combat to have a soldier use a mallet like a video game character and then reminds us, in the midst of all this fun, that Moses had to die in the desert because he struck a rock instead of speaking to it, so God told him that since he didn’t listen, he’d never see the promised land. Perhaps this needs to be better explained to children than by floating characters that aren’t properly synched to their dialogue. Also, Moses made his followers drink wet cement when he was mad at them, so perhaps that also needs some discussion with the little ones this is intended for.

What a fun trip Chris has taken Joshua on, one in which he faces death, learns how to kill other lion people, is alone for forty days and nights before wandering for forty years in an unforgiving desert before he finally goes home to cut a demon in half. Also: mass murder is justified by a child.

Despite the promise of an angel, Joshua is still late for dinner.

If you come to my house after the pandemic, you will be forced to watch this movie.

Until that happens, you can watch this on YouTube.

*There’s a Joshua and the Promised Land: Reanimated coming soon. I can’t wait.

The Glow (2003)

Jackie and Matt Lawrence (Portia de Rossi and Dean Cain) have moved into a fancy apartment with a view of Central Park thanks to the generosity of some older folks like the Januszes (Hal Linden and Dina Merill) and the Goodsteins (Joseph Campanella and Grace Zabriskie).

If we’ve learned anything from occult movies, it’s that you never trust old Hollywood. This applies to TV movies, so don’t trust Barney Miller, the evil socialite from Caddyshack II, a soap star and Sarah Palmer all that much either, because they’ll take your young body, suck out all the energy and keep themselves young.

This was directed by Craig R. Baxley, who also helmed Action JacksonStone Cold and I Come In Peace. He’s working from the words of Gary Sherman. Yeah — the very same director who made Poltergeist III, Death LineDead & BuriedWanted: Dead or AliveVice Squad and Lisa.

Hal Linden should be in more horror movies where he plays evil old men who steal souls. Someone has to say it.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

As much as I don’t like the Platinum Dunes era of remakes, I can admit that Marcus Nispel* is a good director and that it was cool that Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel served as co-producers, Daniel Pearl returned to be the cinematographer and John Larroquette reprised narration duties.

A big difference is that the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre only hints at the gore that the Sawyer family metes out. Here. bodies are slashed in half, people live agonizing moments after being impaled on hooks, faces get torn off and even Leatherface loses an arm.

August 18, 1973. Erin (Jessica Biel), Kemper (Eric Balfour) Morgan (Jonathan Tucker), Andy (Mike Vogel) and Pepper (Erica Leerhsen) have just bought two pounds of weed in Mexico and are on their way to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert when they make the same mistake as another set of teens by picking up a hitchhiker. However, this one is in shock and eventually pulls a gun from between her legs and blows her brains out.

That’s when this movie hit me in the face, as it slow motion had smoke coming from her mouth and pushed the camera out of the bloody hole in the back of their car. That blood, that broken glass, that death — they are no longer in our world of reality but trapped in the deepest, darkest and deadliest place in America.

Welcome to Texas.

Instead of giving us killers to identify with — or sympathize with, as other films in this series seem to do — Leatherface and the Sawyer clan are brutal and uncompromising killers who take what they want and operate with ruthless efficiency.

Meanwhile, this film looks absolutely stunning, with sweeping camera moves and probably the best use of that 2000s gunmetal blue color palette I’ve seen. Other movies try and fail at what this film does so well.

Plus, R. Lee Ermey seems to be having a blast here.

Here’s to growing up and giving movies more of a chance than casually dismissing them.

*To the director’s credit, he was against the idea of remaking the film and said that it was blasphemy to his longtime director of photography, Daniel Pearl. Pearl, however, had shot the original movie and wanted Nispel to direct the film so that he could start and end his career with the same movie. He also realized that if just copied the original movie shot-for-shot, there was no reason to make this movie. So he shot it like a traditional movie and not a documentary.

How weird is it that Pearl shot Chainsaw and Lionel Richie’s “Dancing on the Ceiling” and “Butterfly” for Mariah Carey?

Midget Santas Are Our Superiors (2003)

All this movie has going for it is a great title, box art and idea. A creepy Santa doll is possessed, has an Irish accent and kills a whole bunch of people in the summer. All of the editing is done in-camera, the quality is the level of a birthday party shot by a drunken relative, everyone is probably drunk (I hope they are) and there’s a lot of blood. The effects are abysmal, given away by everyone ripping open their own blood packets, and the Santa attacks are kind of like Bruno Mattei throwing Rats onto Geretta Geretta.

It’s not good — it’s vehemently not good — but man, with that title, I had to enter the breach for you, my dearest readers. Consider it my holiday gift to you. Because I don’t feel like Christmas means anything anymore. I hate getting dark and dismal, but one look outside our doors will show you that this time when we’re all supposed to come together to celebrate good will toward men surely isn’t happening, so if I can bring some light into your life with a bunch of moronic kids abusing one another with a Santa figurine, then so be it. Ho, ho, ho.

You can watch this on YouTube.

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.

The Wife in the Window (2003)

I was thinking that this movie was worse than some of the sub-VCA adult films that I endured in my teens, back in the days before gonzo when every single porn had to actually have a story that you suffered through.

This all makes sense when watching this movie, because I could tell that Bill Fisher had done adult — he has a movie called His Cock Is a Monster on his IMDB list, after all — and his bio on that site says, “His drive for perfection is what keeps his TV, DVD and motion pictures selling. Coming from the “photography” world, he knows just how to get the shot that he wants. Extremely creative cinematography, excellent writing and great story ideas are why his films are so successful.” He also claims that Helmut Newton recognized his talent, so who are we to deny the story someone posts on their IMDB bio?

Originally known as The Woman In Apt 2C, Full Moon bought this and unleashed it on the world all over again, hiding it amongst the streaming movies they’ve sold to sites like Tubi and making this absolute piece of steaming dung smear itself all over my eyes and brain.

They compare it to Rear Window and yes, both of these movies — actually this is not even really a movie, so wrong already before you get started — have an injured man obsessed with the goings on next door.

But unlike those Caballero, Western Visuals and Coast to Coast movies of my past, the sex in this movie never really happens. It has all of the build that you expect from the form and then it just fades out. This is beyond even Cinemax After Dark — those movies are wonderful, thank you very much — level blandness. This is something that Full Moon is making money off of, despite how bad it is.

Nobody cares about this movie. I had to hunt down who was even in it and all I could find were the actresses Elita Sanders and Mara Kelle, who don’t list this movie on their IMDB page. That’s because it was part of another softcore effort, Erica’s Erotic Nights. That was directed by Francis Locke, who has sold the majority of his work to Full Moon, so this is all starting to make sense. He owned Torchlight Pictures, which released more than 200 erotic thrillers and adult dramas for cable television channels like HBO and Showtime like Bikini Time Machine.

Yet according to this article on The Schlock Pit, Torchlight was “the erotic subdivision of Full Moon that Charles Band had tasked the prolific auteur with overseeing.” Who would that filmmaker be? Oh yeah. David DeCoteau.

I should have known.

You can watch this — please don’t — on Tubi.

The Haunted Mansion (2003)

Originally opening at Disneyland in 1969, The Haunted Mansion was one of the last Disney theme park attractions overseen by Walt Disney himself. Two years later, a similar one opened in Walt Disney World. Originally it was going to be a run-down building, but Walt rejected the notion of a worn building in his brand new theme park. A trip to Winchester Mystery House — filled with straits to nowhere and doors that opened into brick walls — put Disney and his team on the right path.

The dark ride is one that has its own fans who obsess — and rightly so — over the history and multiple versions of the attraction. After Disney’s death in December 1966, the opening of the ride on August 12, 1969 finally brought numbers up to the theme park that has his name on it.

When you talk into the main room and hear the voice of Paul Frees intone, “When hinges creak in doorless chambers, and strange and frightening sounds echo through the halls, whenever candle lights flicker where the air is deathly still, that is the time when ghosts are present, practicing their terror with ghoulish delight…” you know that you’re in for a ride unlike anything else. I am notorious for not enjoying theme parks and I’ve gone through The Haunted Mansion multiple times.

Following Tower of Terror, Mission to Mars, The Country Bears and the Pirates of the Caribbean series, this would be the fifth Disney attraction to get a movie of its own. Written by David Berenbaum (ElfZoom) and directed by Rob Minkoff (the co-director of The Lion King), it opened to near-universal scorn.

The film stars Eddie Murphy as Jim Evers, who along with his wife Sara (Marsha Thomason) runs a real estate business. He barely has time for their kids Michael and Megan and even sells a house instead of meeting his wife for their anniversary. To make up for it, he suggests a vacation before the occupants of Louisiana’s Gracey Manor ask him and his wife to help sell their gigantic home.

The real reason they are summoned is that the lord of the manor, Master Edward Gracey (Nathaniel Parker) believes that Sara is the reincarnation of his long-dead wife Elizabeth. Yet for some reason, everyone else in the house — including Wallace Shawn as Ezra — is afraid of his butler Ramsley (Terence Stamp, who as always deserves better).

Eventually, Ramsley threatens the children and forces Sara into marrying Gracey before her husband returns to save them all and reveal the truth of what happened on the day of Gracey’s wedding.

As interesting and exciting as the original ride is, the movie is pretty lifeless. In an odd choice, it’s based on Phantom Manor, the version of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland Resort Paris, instead of the more familiar versions of the attraction. It’s also funny that Eddie Murphy had a routine about how he’d leave a haunted house immediately when he was a young and vital standup comic, but by 2003, he was willing to sleepwalk through this film.

But hey! Jennifer Tilly is Madame Leota and that has to count for something!

Junesploitation 2021: Delta Delta Die (2003)

June 21: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is Julie Strain.

On January 10, 2021, our world got a whole lot worse when Julie Strain died. In everything she did — and look, not every movie is really all that great, but who cares — she exuded confidence, a spirit of fun and a knowing wink that said, “Just shut up and enjoy it.” So many kids my age had crushes on celebrities and I would just think, “Yeah, but she’s no Julie Strain.”

This movie has Julie, Brinke Stevens and Tiffany Shepis in it, which is really more than we deserve. It’s about a sorority led by Mother Fitch (Strain) called Delta Delta Pi that loves to eat human flesh because, well, who knows and who cares why. As they prepare for homecoming, a student tries to stop their evil acts, so she brings in one of their first member Rhonda Cooper (Brinke).

Julie’s half-sister Lizzy was also in this, so there’s that. I mean, you also get to see Julie dance covered in blood, as well as demand that people grind a man’s scrotum up. It’s not the greatest movie you’ve ever seen, but that’s totally the kind of movie that Julie would make better just by showing up. Except for the Andy Sidaris films she’s in. Those are like perfect with perfect on top.

Oh yeah — this movie also has full frontal dong. If that upsets you, please know that there are also scenes of tallywhackers being devoured and not in the raw. Please enjoy!

You can watch this on Tubi.

Drag Racing Week: Right On Track (2003)

Drag Racing Week Banner 1

Courtney and Erica Enders started drag racing as kids and Erica became the 2014, 2015 and 2019NHRA Pro Stock drag racing champion. This Disney Channel film tells the story about how they had to work harder — because they were women — than the men they raced against. Erica (Beverley Mitchell, Saw II) even quit for a while until she realized that racing was her dream.

Along with her sister Courtney (Brie Larson, Captain Marvel), they with the NHRA Junior Dragster national title and prove themselves.

While not the gritty story of Heart Like a Wheel, you get the idea of how much the girls sacrificed to become winners. Originally airing on the Disney Channel on March 21, 2003, this was directed by Duwayne Dunham, who edited and directed Twin Peaks, as well as the Disney movies Halloweentown, The Thirteenth Year, Ready to Run and Tiger Cruise.

Image courtesy of Vectezzy.

BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: Snuff Trap (2003)

Snuff Trap feels like Bruno Mattei finally got sick of making all those interchangeable softcore romance movies and said, “You know, I’m at my best when I have no filter.” Welcome back, Bruno. Or Pierre Le Blanc, as you’d like to be known as here.

After her daughter Lauren gets abducted, Michelle (Carlo Solaro, PaprikaTop Girl) must enter the nightmare world of an Italian scum cinema version of a Paul Schrader film. Yet beyond just simple pornography, there’s the danger of snuff films, which seems to make sense when you’re movie is called Snuff Trap. Or Snuff Killer. Or Snuff Killer – Death Live.

Actually, this movie is 8mm, except that no one’s mother thought that the best way to rescue her daughter from a porn ring is to become a prostitute herself. That’s because Michelle’s husband is a politician and he’d rather not have the scandal of a stepdaughter going dietro la porta verde.

Soon, our protagonist finds herself going up against the leader of the pornographer, who has the astounding name of Dr. Hades (Anita Auer) and her henchman Roy.

Oh man, from 2002 to 2007, Mattei was the last Italian filmmaker standing making good old fashion exploitation films. I’m a huge fan of his late career shot on video films, which sure, are total junk, but nearly everything Bruno did was very much the same way. Yet I have such a soft spot in my heart for him, out there in his late 70s making cannibal movies in the jungle and cutting and pasting plots and even big pieces of footage from Hollywood movies. One of those films has the entire budget equal to the total of every movie Bruno ever did and absolutely none of the fun and heart. In a perfect world, we would have figured out how to put the human brain into an eternal robot and I would have paid as much as I had into the Kickstarter to keep Bruno alive, making ripoffs of whatever he could make the most money from at the time.

I mean, who else would make a movie where the password to the snuff empire’s secret inner lair is bondage?

Bruno Mattei forever!