SLASHER MONTH: The Pumpkin Karver (2006)

You think you didn’t get along with your siblings? Jonathan and his sister Lynn have a major issue: he was pranked by her boyfriend Alex, who was dressed like a slasher and accidentally killed him. And not that Halloween is here, it. turns out that that man is back from the grave in a new and much more horrible way. I mean, the dude makes people walk backward into drills and pumpkin carves out their faces, so there’s that.

This movie was shot over two years and there wasn’t much time to get everything that was in the script shot. But director and co-writer Robert Mann (whose co-writer was Sheldon Silverstein, not The Giving Tree author but the producer of The Erotic Adventures of Robinson Crusoe) did everything from voiceover work to making the props and parts of the Halloween costumes to get it done.

For metal dudes, this movie is worth watching because Nergal from Behemoth shows up. You can watch it on Tubi.

Evil Bong (2006)

Man, I can make it through some rough films but I really feel like this is the bottom of the barrel and then several levels below that. Like, this is somehow a sub-Troma movie that I’m mad at myself for watching, upset that I’m writing about it and even more disturbed that there are so many sequels.

The Evil Bong is a sentient malevolent hookah that takes its smokers to The Bong World, which has strippers and Full Moon characters like Ooga Booga, The Gingerdead Man, Ivan Burroughs from Decadent Evil, Jack Attack from Demonic Toys and Jack Deth, as well as Bill Mosely and Tommy Chong.

One of the bouncers within Bong World is Sylvester “The Predator” Terkay, a former pro wrestler and MMA competitor who finished second in the 1992 NCAA Division I Heavyweight tournament, losing to future Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle by points.

I know that sometime, somewhere, I will force myself to watch Evil Bong 2: King Bong, Evil Bong 3D: The Wrath of Bong, Gingerdead Man vs. Evil Bong, Evil Bong 420, Evil Bong High-5!, Evil Bong 666, Evil Bong 777 and Weedjies!: Halloweed Night.

I’m already upset.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Return to Halloweentown (2006)

This is the only film in the Halloweentown series not to feature Kimberly J. Brown as Marnie. Brown herself has claimed that not only was she available, but she wanted to finish out the series. Instead, series creator Sheri Singer would just state that Disney and Brown’s camp couldn’t come to terms and make a deal work. That said, Joey Zimmerman, Debbie Reynolds, Judith Hoag and Lucas Grabeel did all come back for the film. Sophie, who was played by Emily Roeske in the previous Halloweentown installments, is mentioned but does not appear. It was directed by David Jackson, who also made the Yasmine Bleeth-starring The Lake.

Marnie decides that instead of college that she’ll attend Witch University in Halloweentown on a full scholarship. But when she starts classes, she learns that all they do is study Shakespeare and the history of magic. She makes a new friend — Aneese the Genie — while reconnecting with Ethan and running afoul of the Sinister Sisters, the daughters of Silas Sinister.

The reason why magic is no longer taught? It’s all Marnie’s fault. Witch University was originally established exclusively for warlocks and witches to learn how to use magic. But Marnie destroyed the portal between the worlds, most of the magical children went to college in the mortal realm.

There’s also the matter of a locked box in the dungeon of the school that only Marnie can open, with a sinister group called the Dominion working to force her to break open its seal. Once open, it allows the Sinister Sisters to control Halloweentown. As you can imagine, everything works out — this is a Disney Channel movie, not the usual Filmirage gorefests we watch around here and even sets up future tales.

Due to the recasting, most fans of this series kind of wish this movie never existed.

BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: The Jail: The Women’s Hell (2006)

When most Italian men get to be 75 years of age, they become kindly older men, their rough edges filed down and replaced with good humor and happiness. Bruno Mattei was not one of those men, because if you think his return to the women in prison genre would start pulling punches, you don’t know Vincent Dawn. Or David Hunt. Or Werner Knox.

The first moment in this movie would be the roughest in anyone else’s film. The warden of the prison hell on an Adian island asks for a woman to be released from the hole that she’s been in for a month. When the guards take her out, she’s already dead. She orders her to take twenty lashes anyway to the shock of everyone, even the hardened people guarding the prisoners. In another director’s hands, this would be enough. But we’re in the world of Mr. Mattei and that means we have to watch a dead body literally get the deceased horse treatment.

Three new fish — prisoners 50-52 — are coming to this jungle hell. They’re Carol, who killed her pimp. Lisa, who was part of the wrong crowd. And finally, our heroine Jennifer (Yvette Yzon, who was in two other late Mattei films, Island of the Living Dead and Zombies: The Beginning), who we know won’t crack under pressure. Or high pressure hoses. Or whatever other horrifying things the mind of Mattei can bring.

Jim Gaines — who shows up in plenty of Mattei movies like Zombies: The BeginningIsland of the Living DeadRoboWar, both Strike Commando movies — plays the Governor of the island who runs a strip club, because I guess that’s the kind of business that thrives in a hellhole, and uses the girls as talent. If you don’t play along, they make you stand in a bamboo cage filled with corpses, so most of the ladies get on the pole.

During a huge party at the Governor’s club, the girls make a break for it, turning the film into The Most Dangerous Game slasher territory, yet it’s somehow some of the best-lensed stuff Bruno did. Life’s funny that way. Somehow, the Philippines were just made for the director.

That said — this movie is 100% not for anyone. Really, it’s filled with such repellant imagery that it goes into near parody territory. The House of the Lost Souls is not a place that anyone wants to go to and the film shows you all of it.

Somehow, someway, Bruno didn’t rip anything off in this other than every women in prison movie ever.

BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: The Tomb (2006)

Remember when there were a whole bunch of Brendan Fraser mummy movies? What if Bruno Mattei made his own version of those movies — using the name David Hunt — and filled it with all of the wonderful things that his movies are known for? Well, he did. He sure did.

Over the last few years of his career, Mattei began working with Giovanni “Gianni” Paolucci, who wrote and produced his films Dangerous AttractionSnuff KillerMondo CannibalIn the Land of the CannibalsThe Jail: The Women’s HellIsland of the Living DeadZombies: The BeginningCapriccio VenezianoPrivéBelle da Morire and the sequel to that film. Before working with Mattei, he also wrote and produced Antonio Margheriti’s The Ark of the Sun God and was the producer of Argento’s Dracula 3D (as well as the upcoming Antropophagus II, which will be directed by Dario Germani).

The amazing thing is that now that Bruno has moved on to digital video, he’s able to completely not just rip off movies — this is The Mummy right down to the bad guy who looks kinda sorta like Arnold Vosloo — he’s now able to even more easily copy and paste footage from other films directly into his own. Now, when a major Hollywood film takes a plot point, I get apoplectic. Yet when Matti outright takes entire scenes from other movies, I get overjoyed. Such are the weird ways of how I enjoy film.

That means that while Bruno takes the Titty Twister scenes that were a major part of From Dusk Till Dawn and films his own version, he is just as comfortable with directly taking footage from Army of Darkness and The Mummy and inserting them into The Tomb.

Somehow, the guide that a group of students is using to get through the Aztec pyramids is the reincarnation of an evil priestess and one of those students is the reincarnation of the girl who her lover never got to sacrifice because movie logic demands these things occur. Again, in any other movie, I’d roll my eyes, but I kind of demand these kinds of things from the Italian masters of beyond basement value movies.

Then, to show us all that Mattei does not care at all about the world of Hollywood, he outright takes footage from Raiders of the Lost Ark. I doubt Spielberg had any idea who Bruno Mattei was, but just the sheer “Che palle!” of Mattei brings a tear to my eye. Then, to top that, he also ripped off footage from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom!

This isn’t the best movie Bruno ever made — I cannot and will not answer that impossible inquiry — but damn if it isn’t a million times better than any mummy movie Hollywood has made said the black and white Universal days.

LEE MAJORS WEEK: The Witnessing of Angels (2006)

When I looked through the bionic eye of my Steve Austin figure at four years old, never did I think four decades later that I would be listening to Lee Majors narrate the story of Erik Estrada surviving a motorcycle accident thanks to an angel.

How can it get any better? What if Patrick Macnee also came on board and told us about his experiences with the seraphim and cherubim?

David McKenzie, who directed this, used to use the name David L. Stanton to make action movies like Chill Factor, which has Paul Williams and — hey! — Patrick Macnee* in them. Or under his own name, TV documentaries and specials such as The International Magic AwardsThe Secret KGB Sex Files and for the last two years, the Emmy Awards.

So yeah. The Six Million Dollar Man, Ponch and John Steed talk about angels. So I watched that.

You can watch this on Tubi.

*He also made the made-for-TV movie Scrooge: A Christmas Carol with Macnee.

ANOTHER TAKE ON: Southland Tales (2006)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: We originally covered this movie all the way back on February 28, 2020, which feels like a million years ago. With the new Arrow Video release of this movie, it feels only right to watch it one more time.

Richard Kelly made Donnie Darko, a film that had a cult that is still obsessed with it, and then followed that movie with Southland Tales, which has, well, probably me still trying to figure it out.

Luckily, the new Arrow release has the 160-minute Cannes cut, which has about 15 minutes more footage than the original, which was one of my holy grails. Between that and a new documentary, It’s a Madcap World: The Making of an Unfinished Film, which has new interviews with Kelly and the crew of this movie, plus everything else in this set, I’d like to say that I’ve figured out more of this movie and have an answer as to what it all means, but let’s be honest. I’m not even sure Kelly is completely sure what this is all about.

Much like Boxer Santaros/Jericho Cane, the character played by Dwayne Johnson/The Rock, who has a script to a new movie The Power basically downloaded directly into his brain that isn’t just the best movie he’s ever considered, but also the way that the world will end, I think that either Kelly had his soul split in two by Fluid Karma or — most likely — had access to the best in drugs after the success of his first film.

The thing is, while so many people dismissed this movie as five years dated in the wake of 9/11, which inspired Kelly to rewrite his story in light of “some of the biggest issues that I think we’re facing right now …the increasing obsession with celebrity and how celebrity now intertwines with politics,” the fact that we are still in the end stage of having a celebrity in the White House who created a cult — not just a cult of personality — makes this film even more relevant in the last twelve months than it was for the past fifteen years.

Somehow, this film — which made $374,743 worldwide against a production budget of $17 million — still obsesses and confuses me long after I forget the latest movie that everyone can’t stop chatting about.

In our world of influencers and bubbles and a public who doesn’t understand the meanings of words like socialism and fascism — while at the same time our leaders on one side misrepresent what defunding means and the other side knows exactly the talking points to speak most directly to the blood and circuses heard of the easily swayed — Southland Tales feels like it really could be the world outside my door. Is it because it was so prescient? Or has life over the COVID-19 confined and protest filled year of 2020 moved reality to science fiction?

I don’t really recommend this movie to many people, because ten minutes in they’re going to realize that it feels like chapter four of a narrative that has already been going on without them — this is exactly what is happening, there were three graphic novels that begin the movie’s story that no one would ever know about or should have to read, but there you go — which never works for any movie other than the ones that I get all mental over.

Therefore, instead of a traditional narrative review — the one we did last year does that and you can refer to it right here if you’d like — I’m going to instead list off some of the questions in my head in the hopes that they will get answered by the universe (or Kelly is Google searching for himself, manages to make his way here and decides to bless me with whatever passes for answers).

Why is the neo-marxist porn-based conspiracy army — as well as USIDeath — staffed by nearly all actors with Saturday Night Live origins, like Amy Poehler, Jon Lovitz, Nora Dunn and Cheri Oteri?

How did the overdubs of Justin Timberlake, who plays Private Pilot Abilene, change the story that Kelly intended? Adam Lorincz, who commented on the original review, said that Kelly redubbed “only the parts when he doesn’t speak on-screen, we just hear his inner monologue, and keep the parts where he is actually speaking, resulting in a character that’s sometimes almost sage-like in it’s wisdom, other times an absolute douchebag.” What’s going on there?

Did Kelly just want to work with a collection of his favorite actors from movies? Like how do you get Wallace Shawn, Zelda Rubenstein and MIranda Richardson and throw them in a film with people like Christopher Lambert and Bai Ling? Building off the SNL question, why are there so many comedic actors — John Larroquette, Curtis Armstrong, Janeane Garofalo, Will Sasso — in this movie? Sure, Kelly has said that he “sought out actors that he felt had been pigeonholed and wanted to showcase their undiscovered talents,” but is there a deeper message to their casting?

What is the point of Kevin Smith’s legless veteran, Simon Theory?

Come to think of it, what is the point of why the zeppelin needs to be shot down and why Boxer has to be there and what the point of the dance number is, other than to entrance the audience of USIdent people so that they all stay and die?

Why is the soundtrack so stuck in mid-90’s — Jane’s Addiction, The Killers and Moby figure prominently — yet the rest of the movie not feel lost in time? I mean, even the chapters take their titles from songs from that time period: “Temptation Waits” is a Garbage song, “Memory Gospel” is a Moby song in the movie and “Wave of Mutilation” is by the Pixies.

Did he pay any of the artists or credit them for taking lyrics as words that the characters say? For example, the line “We saw the shadows of the morning light, the shadows of the evening sun until the shadows and light were one,” comes directly from Jane’s Addiction.

Does it make the movie make more or less sense when you know that The Power was not written whole-cloth by Boxer, but was written by Krysta and given to him after he’s found with his memory wiped away in the desert? Oh yeah — this is another fact that you’d only know if you read the comic books.

Why is Boxer’s other name — Jericho Cane — the same name as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character in End of Days?

I don’t have the answers. I do have the new blu ray set, which you can get from Arrow Video.

Legacy of Fear (2006)

Detective Jeanne Joyce (Teri Polo) watched her mother get murdered by a serial killer thirty years ago. Now, she’s still obsessed by the BPS (Bound, Photographed, Strangled )Killer*, a case that drove her father insane and was the whole reason why she became a cop. Yet when the murders start again, she’s not convinced it’s the same killer, even when he or she claims that Jeanna — who pushes away anyone and everyone around her — will be the last to die.

This is the kind of movie that is begging to be either a legit Hollywood film or a giallo, yet is constrained by being a Lifetime movie, so it can’t wallow in the sleaze like it should. However, you can also read that as an indictment of myself, a person who needs fashion, black gloves and a jazzy soundtrack to accompany my murder stories.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime.

*In no way is this killer related to the BTK (Bind, Tie, Kill) Killer, right?

Drive-In Friday: Dennis Devine Night

We’ve already taken a look at Double D’s best-promoted and best-known film — via the back of pulpy, ’80s monster mags — Dead Girls, and his latest, 30th film, Camp Blood 8 — each part of our respective “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week II” and our October “All Slasher Month” tributes. And, the best part, Dennis is a D-Town brother: yep, the land of Jim Morrison’s doppelganger from 1974, that wizard of “the D,” The Phantom of the Divine Comedy fame (no pun intended). Devine was born and raised in Detroit and graduated from Eastern Michigan University before heading to Los Angeles, graduating from Loyola Marymount University’s film school, and forming DJD Productions.

So, for this Drive-In Friday, lets load the projector with four more of Dennis Devine films. And not all of them are the horror films you expect them to be.

Movie 1: Fatal Images (1989)

Next to Dear Girls, this debut feature — produced for $10,000 and shot-on-Beta with Dead Girls’ Steve Jarvis — is my favorite of the Devine canons and the Cinematrix imprint.

Starring Kay Schaber, Angela Eads, and Brian Chin from the later Dead Girls, they’re three of several people victimized by a Satanist-worshipping photographer-cum-serial killer who — instead of sealing his body in a doll, ala Chucky in Child’s Play (1988; 2019), Devine’s writing cohort, Mike Bowler (Hell Spa, Things, Things II, Club Dead, Amazon Warrior, Chain of Souls, Haunted), who spins an inventive change-up to the spiritual hocus pocus — commits suicide before the police can catch him, and seals his body inside a camera.

Years later, Amy Stuart (Lane Coyle who, in typical Devine fashion, never appeared in another film), an aspiring photographer who works for the town’s newspaper, purchases the vintage camera from a pawn shop staffed with a creepy, ulterior motive shopkeep — and everyone she photographs is tracked down and murdered by the killer’s spirit.

What helps this along is the effects that come courtesy of the iconic Gabe Bartalos, who worked on Dead Girls, as well as Frankenhooker, Spookies, Brain Damage, and the Fright Night, Basket Case, Leprechaun, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Gremlins and Watchers series. And don’t forget: Gabe’s in the directing business with Skinned Deep (2004) and Saint Bernard (2013).

You can watch Fatal Images as a free stream on You Tube. Do you need a more expansive, second look? Then check out Sam’s review of Fatal Images. It’s true! We love this film and Mr. Devine.

Movie 2: Things (1993)

“A horrific and sexy romp in the dark.”
— Joe Bob Briggs

Now, if that tag from the guru of Drive-In fodder on the VHS “big-box” doesn’t make you want to mail order this third effort from Dennis Devine, then nothing will. And yes . . . multiple titles alert . . . here are two movies carrying the “Things” title: the first is the infamous Canuxploitation-North of the Border Horror, Things (1989). And the three sequels from 1998 and 2017 to Devine’s film have nothing to do with the Canux one — or with each other — for that matter.

This “Things” is an anthology-portmanteau film in three parts: “The Box” directed and written by Devine,” “Thing in a Jar” written by Steve Jarvis and directed by Jay Woelfel, and the wrap-around/linking segment written by Mike Bowler and directed by Eugene James. All are film school friends and DJD cohorts, natch.

The segments come together as a woman kidnaps her husband’s mistress and tells the mistress two horror stories involving “evil things” — that’s all converged in a related, twist ending. And unlike the classic Amicus and Hammer omnibus flicks it homages, Things dispenses with the atmospheric-gothic angle of its Brit forefathers and goes straight for — the bountiful — guts n’ gore. The first tale concerns hookers who meet their fate to a cursed creature kept in a box; the second is about a woman haunted by is-it-real-or-nightmares “things” concerning her abusive husband.

You can watch Things on TubiTV. There’s no online copies of 2 or 3 (aka Deadly Tales, aka, Old Things) currently streaming online, but you can watch Things 4 on TubiTV. And again, DO NOT confuse this with the “North of the Border Horror” Things from 1989 . . . as that is a whole other “thing” to watch.

INTERMISSION: Short Film Time!

The Things about Things Sidebar: Battlestar Galactica fans know Jay Woelfel as the director of Richard Hatch’s failed 1999 BSG theatrical reboot with the short “pitch film” Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming that Universal rejected in lieu of the eventual SyFy Channel series. You can watch Hatch and Woelfel’s vision on You Tube. As you’ll see the, concept of “evolved Cylons” and the new Raiders design for the series was pinched from this version — and the most popular characters and actors returned. Woelfel is still at it: he recently edited Art of the Dead (2019). We also reviewed his debut effort, Beyond Death’s Door, as part of our “Regional Horror Week.”

And back to the show . . .

Movie 3: Curse of Pirate Death (2006)

It’s more goofy, ne’er-do-well college kids of the Scooby Doo variety heading off — not into the Norwegian Slasher Wood (as in Camp Blood 8) — but the ocean, Pirate’s Point in particular, as they research the myth of a centuries old killer, Abraham LeVoy, aka Pirate Death. And if they find his legendary treasure along the way, all the better for Shaggy and the Mystery Machine gang.

You’ve got — even though some are cut-a-ways or off-camera (ugh, damn budget) — a high kill count and lots of zombie-ghost pirate fighting that reminds of the great Amando de Ossorio’s third entry in his “Blind Dead” series, The Ghost Galleon (1974; the one with the living corpses of the Satan-worshiping Knights Templar hunting for human victims trapped on a 16th century galleon), but it’s definitely not as good as a de Ossorio flick (and what film is). Yeah, this one’s suffering from its ultra-low-budget that lends to sketchy cinematography and strained acting in places, but this has the usual Devine heart n’ soul with a mix of dark humor and horror that lends to its fun, snappy pace. Bottom line: If you want to see porn-provocateur Ron Jeremy (Boondock Saints/Overnight; also of Devine’s Night of the Dead from 2012) get a (cut-a-way) sword in the gut, this is your movie. If you want to see girls dressed as a sexy cop and German Beer Wench (Get that Bud Light chick outta ‘ere, I want a St. Pauli Girl!) stranded on an island dispatched by a dead pirate with guacamole smeared on his face, this is you movie.

One of the few Devine movies available through the service, you can rental-stream Curse of Pirate Death for a $1.99 on Amazon Prime. The DVD has a director-actor commentary track, along with a making of, gag reel, and meet the cast vignettes. The Amazon Prime stream offers a clip sample and You Tube offers a trailer via the film’s distributor, Brain Damage Films.

Movie 4: Get the Girl (2009)

Dennis Devine makes the jump from the pulpy lands of back-of-a-monster magazine-mail order SOVs to the streaming world of Netflix in this pretty obvious Judd Apatow-influencer. It concerns a geek (Adam Salandra of Devine’s Don’t Look in the Cellar) who masters Guitar Master (aka a chintzy Guitar Hero knock-off) to impress a sexy-brainless co-worker, much to the chagrin of his dowdy, co-worker gal pal. Guess which girl he gets. (Yeah, I’d want to “get the girl” with the ponytail and eye glasses, too.)

You can watch Get the Girl as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTV. Other films in the Devine comedy canons include Kid Racer (2010; yep, go-carts), Dewitt & Maria (2010; a rom-com), Fat Planet (2013; aliens into food), and Baker & Dunn (2017; that also works as mystery thriller).

For you Devineites (Or is that Devineheads?) check out his TubiTV page to watch the horrors Don’t Look in the Cellar (2008), The Haunting of La Llorona (2019), and the comedy Fat Planet (2013).

We wanted to do Devine’s Vampires of Sorority Row (1999), Vampires on Sorority Row II (2000), and his campy-vamp comedy Vamps in the City (2010) for our recent “Vampire Week,” but were unable to locate online streaming copies for you to enjoy — free or otherwise. The same goes for the Reggie “Phantasm” Bannister-starring Sawblade (2010) for our “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week II,” about an extreme-metal band a trapped-in-a-haunted house-for-a-video shoot tale (i.e., Blood Tracks and Monster Dog).

You need more Dennis Devine? Check out this Spotify podcast (that streams on all apps, and browser PCs and Laps) courtesy of Inside Movies Galore in promotion of Devine’s latest film, Camp Blood 8. You can also catch the podcast on streaming provider, Anchor.

From the Shameless Plugs Department: Yeah, I wrote a couple of books about the 1974 mystery of the ghost of Jim Morrison and the Phantom, with his Detroit-based band Walpurgis and Pendragon.

Is it Jim or just record company tomfoolery?

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 on Medium.

SLASHER MONTH: Hatchet (2006)

How much does Adam Green like slashers? He was in a band called Haddonfield. And he’s made four movies in the Hatchet series, as well as writing the Tommy Jarvis tapes in Friday the 13th: The Game.

Hatchet straddles the line between tribute to the past, humor and being a slasher that can stand on its own quite well. I was pleased to discover how much I loved every single one of these movies.

Victor Crowley was born when his father Thomas (both roles are played by slasher killer elite Kane Hodder) has a child with the nurse of his terminally ill wife, who curses the child. Born deformed in a difficult birth that claims the life of his mother, Thomas has raised the child as best he can when a prank causes a house fire and an accidental hatchet to the face kills the boy, who must now roam the New Orleans swamps as a ghost forever searching for his father and ready to kill anyone in his way.

Woe be to anyone who takes a tourist boat ride through the swamps on a night that Victor is out roaming, which is the perfect set-up for this type of film. I mean, how much more do you want to know?

Crowley is opposed by Marybeth Dunston (Tamara Feldman for the first film, to be followed by Danielle Harris in the others), who blames Crowley for the deaths of her father and brother.

The other thing this movie gets right is having Tony Todd in the cast. He elevates everything he’s ever been in and is a standout here as Rev. Zombie, who has been sued too many times to lead tours. He’ll become more essential in the second film. Actually, if you watch the first three movies together, they tell one big story, kind of like Halloween and Halloween 2. Robert Englund shows up as well, making this the second movie that Hodder, Todd and Englund all appear in (the other is The Wishmaster).

You can watch this on Tubi.