Ten Inch Hero (2007)

If you haven’t already guessed: this is another John Doe flick in our week-long tribute to his acting career. And even though John Doe brought us here — and does a great turn as a romantic lead — if he wasn’t here, I still would have loved this under-the-radar sleeper. The feature film writing debut for Lifetime and Hallmark movie scribe Betsy Morris, you may have watched SnowComing (2019), her most recent offering as result of its direction by Peter DeLuise — yes, son of Burt Reynolds’s buddy Dom (The Cannonball Run), and of the Stargate TV-verse.

And while Peter got me to watch Morris’s latest film and John got me to watch her first film, it was the fan base afforded to Elisabeth Harnois, Danneel (Harris) Ackles, and Jensen Ackles of TV’s One Tree Hill and Supernatural that got everyone else to watch.

It’s a simple story (with nicely-arced, complex characters) about the Empire Records-esque crew of Beach City Grill, a Santa Cruz sandwich shop owned by Trucker (John Doe), a surfing-hippie and de facto father to the staff of “not normal” twenty-somethings dealing with romantic issues and personal skeletons. Yes, even John Doe, who pines for Zo (Alice Krige of Sleepwalkers and Thor: The Dark World), the owner of a Wiccan store across the street. For me, it all comes across as a lighter, less dramatic inversion of one of my all-time favorite films, Inside Moves (1980), a post-Superman film by Richard Donner concerned with the employees and patrons of a local bar.

John Doe as a romantic? You bet, and he’s great at it.

Of course, as with most of the John Doe flicks we’ve watched this week, his character and its related subplot (well-written and buoyed by John’s heartfelt performance) are secondary to the youthful, female stars of the ensemble cast that also features Clea DuVall (Veep, Better Call Saul, and American Horror Story; John Carpenter’s Ghost of Mars).

Piper (Elisabeth Harnois) is a new-to-Santa Cruz artist searching for a lost family member and meets single dad Noah (Sean Patrick Flanery of Boondock Saints fame), Tish (Danneel Ackles) is a promiscuous temptress, Jen (Clea DuVall) is a humanitarian so shy, she searches for love on Net, and Priestly (a great Jensen Ackles), is a smarter-and-more-sensitive than-he-looks punk rocker who hides his insecurity through quips and off-the-cuff debates about Kurt Cobain and John Lennon.

To say anymore would be telling and ruin your experience of watching this charming, charismatic film. John scored himself a great role here, and you can enjoy it as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTV.

Yeah, this is my favorite John Doe performance of all the films this week. Yeah, Doe as Pat McGurn in Road House and his work here, as Trucker. Great stuff. Watch it.

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 publish music reviews and short stories on Medium.

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 27. 666: Beware the End is at Hand (2007)

DAY 27. ALKEBULAN: Watch something from the second largest continent.

Religious men try all ways to reach out to the unwashed. There were those that tried TV shows like Davey and Goliath. Jack Chick gave out billions of tracts. And then there are those like Ron Ormond and Estus Pirkle, whose If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? is a Herschell Gordon Lewis movie in ecclesiastical finery. Hal Lindsey, whose tabloid end times film The Late Great Planet Earth made me not sleep for most of the late 1970’s. Russ Doughten, whose apocalyptic saga that began with A Thief In the Night converted thousands. And pastor Kenneth Okonkwo, who seems to have inherited their willingness to go absolutely and wonderfully bonkers just to make you see the light.

Lucifer has sent his demons to Nigeria, impregnating a woman — in horrifying 1980’s direct to video gore detail — with the Antichrist, who ends up being a small child dressed in a bootleg Jordan jersey with glowing rainbow eyes.

Only Pastor Lazarus can stop him, as he and Pastor Chucks (Okonkwo) walk through the streets, screaming the word of God at real people like some Christian ministry version of Jackass while the demon child beats up homeless women and gets yelled at by his father before committing patricide, then engaging in Street Fighter style battle with the priest.

By the second film, gay sex is equated as always rape and often demonic possession and demons pay women $10,000 to lick their scabs. The demon child has also grown a horn and is able to leave the Mark of the Beast on the foreheads of anyone he touches.

Take it from someone who listened to Bob Larson’s Talk Back every single afternoon, this is the real deal. Everyone in this movie believes completely in what they are saying, despite having the effects budget of a trip to the grocery store. Imagine if the worst public access show decided to make a two-hour blockbuster and you have a good idea of what you’re about to watch.

There’s really no other movie-watching experience that can prepare you for this. Bouncy pop music plays alongside cheap flames that dance across cardboard visions of Hell while little kids smoke cigarettes. Also: a devil baby.

You know how you should build up to the really hard drugs? I recommend that if you haven’t watched enough religious films or handled snakes after drinking poison that you ease your way into this. Here’s the YouTube link, but trust me. This isn’t for everyone.

You can also download this from the Internet Archive.

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 26: Naked Fear (2007)

Day 26: Don’t Mess with Texas: Watch one set deep in the heart of Texas. (Okay, we cheated . . . it starts in Texas and ends up in the pancreas of Texas, aka New Mexico.)

Yes, Sam . . . this does, in fact, fit into our “Slasher Month” for October. Although, technically, this is more of a serial killer “stabber-impaler,” but more on that later. . . .

One of the wonderful aspects of writing for B&S About Movies (i.e. cleaning the grease pits and dumpster pad out back) — besides the movie-themed drink recipes acquired during our Saturday Night Drive-In Asylum Double Feature Watch Parties brought to you by Bill Van Ryn, the publisher of the quarterly Drive-In Asylum and webzine Groovy Doom — are the rabbit holes: those wonderful analog white rabbits that lead us into a strange and absurd celluloid universe of once unwanted and forgotten direct-to-video gems. The “rabbit hole” in this case began with our review of Dennis Devine’s second film, Dead Girls, and his most recent film, Camp Blood 8, which lead to our upcoming “Drive-In Friday: Dennis Devine Night” tribute where we reviewed Get the Girl starring Danielle De Luca.

And . . . are we really inside a rabbit hole . . . or is it the psychedelic experience of the libations flowing forth from the B&S Bar n’ Grill? Whow, dude. I just blew liver . . . and my mind. Nope. Your mind and your optics’ rods n’ cones processed that DVD box correctly.

Joe Mantegna of CBS-TV’s long-running Criminal Minds (aka Joey Zasa from Godfather III, Warren Beatty’s Bugsy, Stephen King’s Thinner, and, most importantly, one of the greatest faux-DJ’s to ever grace the silver screen, Ian the Shark from Airheads . . . oh, okay, yeah, and Fat Tony in The Simpsons) did an “Eric Roberts” (i.e., appear in few scenes to get a “name” on the box for marketing purposes) to help his ol’ buddy, Thom Eberhardt. (But Mantegna is in more scenes that the usual Eric Roberts gig (The Evil Inside Her). In fact, Naked Fear is third time Eberhardt and Mantegna worked together: their other films are (the really good) TV movie Face Down (1997), with Peter Riegert (Animal House) and Kelli Maroney (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Chopping Mall), and I Was a Teenage Faust (2002), with Robert Townsend (The Meteor Man).

And, as we’ve said many times before in the digital ethers of B&S About Movies, that “Eric Roberts” casting-marketing works: if I didn’t see Joe Mantegna on the box, I wouldn’t have clicked deeper into the film. But wait a sec . . . no, it can’t be? It is! That’s under-the-radar directing-favorite Thom Eberhardt of the video rental and HBO subscription-favorites Sole Survivor and Night of the Comet (with Kelli Maroney; it’s “all in the family,” after all).

We say “under the radar” not as an insult to Thom, as we believe his name should be as remembered-revered as Tobe Hooper (Lifeforce), William Sachs (Van Nuys Blvd.), and Jim Wynorksi (Forbidden World). You’ve watched more of Thom’s movies than you realize. He directed the always-awesome Sir Michael Caine as a drunken Sherlock Holmes in the comedy Without a Clue (1988), Keanu Reeves (alongside the recently convicted Lori “Aunt Becky” Loughlin) in The Night Before (1988; which Thom also wrote), and Gross Anatomy (1989) with Matthew Modine and Daphne Zuniga (The Dorm that Dripped Blood). But the biggest film of his directing career, that is, the best-distributed and best remembered — courtesy of its star, Kurt “Snake Plissken” Russell — is Captain Ron (1992). Oh, and we can’t forget Thom wrote Disney/Touchstone’s Honey, I Blew Up the Kid (1992).

“Ahem. Sam?”

“Yeah, R.D?”

“Since your Christmas Movie goofy ’round ‘ere, did you know that the guy who made Soul Survivor and Night of the Comet wrote a Christmas movie, All I Want for Christmas (1991)? December’s coming up . . . so put that on your review’s shortlist for December.

“Hmmm. Lauren Becall, Leslie Neilson. Interesting . . . I’m on it.”

Anyway, sadly, Thom drifted away from mainstream Hollywood courtesy of the negative reviews for Captain Ron — and the $22.5 million gross against its $24 million budget. (Personally, and in spite of Martin Short’s camera-mugging, I liked it; come on, it had Kurt Russell in another eye patch!) At that point, Thom transitioned into low-budgeted TV movies — with Twice Upon a Time, Ratz, and the aforementioned Face Down and I Was A Teenaged Faust — with Naked Fear being his last feature film, to date. But, as you can tell by the title, there’s nudity in this one, full-frontal nudity (of the non-sexual nature), so this one’s strictly a direct-to-video release (I’ve never come across it on subscription cable). In fact, that “nudity” aspect is pushed to the forefront in its overseas release. So, if ‘ol Joe doesn’t inspire you . . . it’s all in the marketing.

Geeze, did John Howard of Spine (1986) fame make this? Did the art deparment at 4-Play Video, Inc. and Xeon, Ltd. design the box?

Okay, so . . . now for the Halloween-cum-October theme month-cum-slasher purpose behind this review. And, no. While you may think this is all influenced by Cornel Wilde’s (Sharks’ Treasure) The Naked Prey (1965), which had its roots in the 1924 short-story by Richard Connell, which became the 1932 film of the same name, The Most Dangerous Game, and Robert Sheckley’s grandfather of sci-fi “death sport” films, the Italian-made The 10th Victim (1965), based on his 1953 short story, The Seventh Victim, you’d be wrong. In fact, another variant of Connell’s novel — with its production also inspired by a serial killer we’re about to discuss — is 1994’s Surviving the Game, a present-day variant starring Ice-T as a kidnapped homeless man hunted on preserve by Gary Busey and the late Rutger Hauer.

So, in our last week’s reviews for Black Circle Boys (and this month’s upcoming reviews for Deadbeat by Dawn and River’s Edge; search for ’em) we discussed the real-life serial killer/murders that inspired those films. And in the case of Naked Fear, screenwriter Christine Vasquez used the exploits of the “Butcher Baker,” aka Robert Christian Hansen (he was a baker-by-trade, learned from his father), who, between 1971 and 1983, abducted, raped, and murdered at least seventeen women (mostly prostitutes) in and around Anchorage, Alaska. His modus operandi: he flew them out to (he was a licensed bush pilot) and dumped many of them into the wilderness and hunted them down with a semi-automatic rifle and a knife — and he kept their jewelry as mementos. He was also an avid hunter who excelled at archery (which carried over into the movie) — and took up arson. Sentenced to 461 years and a life sentence without the possibility of parole, Hansen died in prison, in 2014.

So, yes. While you’ve seen the “human death sport” plot many times before, such as the sci-fi variant Predator or the in recent, controversial-flop The Hunt (or the recent mocksploitation knock-off American Hunt), and all of the celluloid grandchildren born that we discuss in our review of Elio Petri’s aforementioned The 10th Victim, you’ve never seen the “human hunt” done so effectively on a small budget. Yes, it’s inherently better than American Hunt, which attests to Thom Eberhardt’s directorial skill set.

Danielle De Luca (also of 2011’s worth-the-watch Grizzly Flats with Judd Nelson, 2009’s pretty cool, award-nominated horror based on The Donner Party, Necrosis, and the Dennis Devine rom-com DeWitt & Maria), who’s very good here in her physically-demanding role, stars as the new-in-town Diane Kelper. Also new to town is recently hired sheriff deputy Dwight Terry (Arron Shiver of George Clooney’s The Men Who Stare at Goats, and as Dean O’Banion in the awesome Boardwalk Empire with Steve Buscemi, and Billy Barnes in AMC’s Longmire), a big city disgraced cop.

Deputy Terry, of course, wants the hell out of Podunk, New Mexico, and sees career redemption in the town’s recent rash of missing women — and ulterior-motive driven Sheriff Tom Burke (Joe Mantegna) wants Duputy Terry to back off the case. Of course the Sheriff does . . . and no one in the town cares, either; the missing are (in a nice subtextual turn-of-the-script) just strippers, prostitutes, or drifters that are just as worthless as the deer that’s killed for sport in these parts; the girls are, like the deer, are just “meat” after all.

After winning a bar dance contest in her Texas hometown, the naive Diane is lured to this small, dusty New Mexico boomtown — where game hunting is its main industry — and discovers her “dancing job” is at a seedy strip club. The club’s owner and his agent promised Diane a dancing gig as a “stepping stone” to a prestigious job in Las Vegas — but not the one in Nevada, but in New Mexico, east of Santa Fe (“. . . there’s two? Shit!”). Then she comes to realize she’s been scammed into a twisted form of indentured servitude of no financial escape. So, to make ends meet, she takes up prostitution as side job — which also benefits her bosses and was always their endgame. Her first client is Colin Mandle (as with the discussed Robert Christian Hansen), a successful food industry owner, avid bowhunter, and bush pilot who spends his evenings in strip joints and beds prostitutes. And Diane wakes up naked and alone in the wilderness. The hunt begins.

To tell any more would be to give away the effective, twist ending of who the newest serial killer to emerge in these parts — “The Southwest Slayer” — really is.

The upside to Thom Eberhardt’s direction is that, while those overseas video boxes push the nudity angle, and Danielle De Luca is fully nude for a (short) portion of the movie, the nudity is neither gratuitous or offensive and is essential to the plot; even the torture Diane endures before “the hunt” is downplayed. So, in the hands of a lesser, low-budget provocateur, Naked Fear could have degraded into a pseudo-soft core porn film (see Spine; yes, that was “the point” of that film, but work with me, here; while it bears similarities to Richard Speck’s July 1966 Chicago murders of eight student nurses, the film was not based on those killings). So kudos to Thom, not only for keeping the nudity at bay, but for dialing back the graphic horror to create a tight, survivalist thriller. And De Luca wasn’t cast because of how she looks in the buff: she illcits sympathy in her role, and pulls out all of the stops when the hunt is on. I’d really like to see De Luca her rise out of direct-to-videodom into smaller, featured roles in mainstream productions, or pop up in a Law & Order: SVU or Blue Bloods (you know my fandom for those two series). Ditto for Arron Shiver, who recently turned up alongside Christian Bale and Matt Damon in Ford v Ferrari (2019).

Yes, the film is a little long on the hour forty minute side, but since this wasn’t intended as a TV movie — which would require an 80-minute cut to fit into a 40-minute, two hour commercial block – Eberhardt’s frames aren’t superfluous. Changes are, as with most domestic TV movies or direct-to-DVD productions, and with Mantenga’s name, Naked Fear most likely had a limited, foreign theatrical release; thus, the length works.

The only issue I had with the plotting of the film: the cliff scene. After a blow to the head with a pretty large rock and a 30-foot cliff fall, our killer pulls a “Jason Vorhees” and come back, again — sans head wound, blood, disorientation, and nary a broken bone. Eh, that’s how all movies of this type roll (i.e., the victim has a false sense of victory-redemption). But it’s excused, thanks to Christine Vasquez’s solid scripting, Thom’s directing, and good acting against-the-budget from all that keeps you gripped in fear — and shocked that the story, while it seems preposterous, is actually based in fact.

You can watch Naked Fear as an account log-in on You Tube or as a non-log in, free-with-ads stream on TubiTV. Parental Guidance is suggested as result of the nudity.

Thom Eberhardt and Christine Vasquez have recently reteamed for the currently in-development Los Wildcats del Norte. You can keep abreast of that production’s developments at their official Facebook page. Some of the other films that you’ve seen from Naked Prey‘s producer and distributor, CineTel Films, include 976-EVIL (1988), Class of 1999 II: The Substitute (1994), Christmas Icetastrophe (2014), and Nic Cage’s Kill Chain (2019).

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.

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 24: Devil Girl (2007)

Day 24: At the Gig: Something with live scenes.

I don’t want to hear it Sam. This one’s got a ’69 Chevelle muscle car, vamps, zoms, goo, blood, slashings, lesbian sex with devils, a crazy clown on a motorcycle, a Rob Zombie tie-in, and Satan-influenced rock. So, while it’s not a straight slasher per se, I’m posting it. I mean, shite dude. Every time I think I got one that’s a perfect fit for October’s “Slasher Month,” you’ve already reviewed it. Even grease bit scrubbers need a break at the B&S About Bar n’ Grill.

Anyway, it’s all “Tails, Horns and Rock n’ Roll” according to the multiple-art work DVD covers of this low-budget, hallucinatory joyride crossing Quentin Tarantino’s From Dusk ‘Til Dawn with the film works of alternative rocker Rob Zombie — House of a 1000 Corpses, in particular. The caveat: If you’re not into non-linear storylines with a dreamlike-psychedelic vibe and cackling clowns, you’ll be pissed. But if you have an appreciation for a low-budget filmmakers and actors giving it their all and shooting for something a little bit different, then you’ll enjoy getting lost in this desert purgatory where nothing is as it seems.

After the death of her father, Fay, a small town girl, aimlessly hits the road in her mechanic pop’s cherish ’69 Chevelle, leading an Easy Rider existence (less the existentialism) as she searches for meaning and purpose. One of those “searches” result in a drag race that blows her engine and strands her along the desert asphalts of Route 66. To raise the funds to repair her car, she takes a job stripping in a dusty town’s night club (in a dominatrix outfit, natch). Her life quickly descends a film noir spiral as she raped by a someone in a leather mask, she stalked by a neurotic, drug abusing clown, deals with a creepy motel clerk of the Bates Hotel variety, a skeleton-ratting, bible-thumpin’ preacher with secrets to hid, and a sexy-strippin’, red-skinned lesbian devil (sporting great, head-to-toe red make-up, complete with horns and a pointy tale) who drives a classic T-Bird.

But is it any of this real? Is it all just a recreational drug fantasy? Or has Faye made her last stop in a purgatory stop-over to hell?

What this one has going for it: Awesome, unsigned-cum-indie-cum-pseudo local-cum-underground metal courtesy of the Los Angeles metal band the UV’s—featuring “Blare N. Bitch” of L.A rockers Betty Blowtorch—as the strip club band (again, know your Tarantino). The soundtrack also feature several songs by Scum of the Earth, a band formed by Mike Riggs, who served as a member of Rob Zombie’s solo band for the albums Hellbilly Deluxe and The Sinister Urge, and John Tempesta of Testament (now I know you remember their ‘80s MTV Headbanger’s Ball hit “Over the Wall”).

And, if you’re a radio dork like me, you’ll remember the American TV series WKRP In Cincinnati featured another Scum of the Earth — a fictitious band portrayed by ex-Silverhead leader Michael Des Barres and his band late ‘70s band Detective (Episode 104, if you want to search for it).

Devil Girl is the feature film writing and directing debut for upstate New York filmmaker Howie Askins who, like us kiddies frolicking the wilds of Allegheny Country, likes his comic books, dusk till dawn drive-in movies, and metal music. He’s since released his second feature, Evidence (2012), a POV found-footage romp about a camping trip gone wrong. Based on its 40 critic and 60-plus user reviews on the IMDb and its 3 out of 5 stars review based on 132 Amazon users, the horror-mystery mixed with sci-if received solid distribution, is easy to find, and worth dropping the .99 cents to watch it on Amazon Prime. It definitely has a nice twist beyond the usual POV-Blair Witch norms. Unfortunately, Devil Girl is currently unavailable on Amazon Prime and no other streams are available, but DVDs are easily found in the online marketplace.

I know. I know. Go scrub the grease pit. . . .

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

SLASHER MONTH: Possession: Until Death Do You Part (1987)

Canada, I love you. Seriously, you have made so many crazy slashers that you’ve won my heart. And just when I think I’ve seen them all, I find this 1987 rarity that features a killer named Frankie who kidnaps women, forces them to dress up like his mother and then stores their used up dead bodies in a closet. But now that he’s found — and lost — Madeline (Melissa Martin, Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan) thanks to dear old mom, he decides to commit matricide and take off into the night looking for the one that got away.

This ones comes to us from Lloyd Simandi — whose resume is packed with wonderful junk like Empire of Ash films, Chained Heat IIMedieval Fleshpots 2: Hot Wenches and Forbidden Rage: White Slave Secrets — and Michael Mazo, who also directed Empire of Ash III. In case you’re wondering who did Empire of Ash II, the secret is that these guys were so scumtastic that they just released the first film all over again as the second one.

For all the scenes of women soaping up in the shower — seriously, this movie must have employed a 35,000 gallon hot water heater to ensure all those showers remained piping hot — there is also a scene of women going to the male strip club. And everyone chasing the killer. And the killer chasing them back. And, perhaps most amazingly, the killer stabbing a woman and then using the same knife to slice up some pizza.

This is the kind of movie that Twitter kids would today label as problematic and that my wife walks past and shakes her head, wondering why I always end up watching movies where everyone is either stupid, naked or stupid and naked.

You can watch this on YouTube.

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 5: Postal (2007)

DAY 5. GOING POSTAL: Something involving the postal service or shipping or getting a delivery. #savetheups

Isn’t it amazing that we have to fight to keep our postal service going? Honestly, every day that I wake up in 2020, indignity after indignity piles up until I can’t believe I’m not watching a horrible movie.

Clever segway into…

Speaking of horrible movies, Uwe Boll’s movies make back about 1% of their budget yet he keeps making them. I have no idea who their audience is. During this movie, I started to think that this is what John Waters’ films would have been like if he’d paid attention in school and never did drugs.

According to the director, the German fan club for the video game Postal contacted him, inspiring him to get in touch with Running with Scissors, the company who made the game. Boll started with the second game as his basis for this, but then decided to make the whole movie about his war with his critics — he regularly boxes them to prove that he’s tougher than them, which does not prove he’s a better director, but in the world of Boll I guess that’s a moral victory — and to show how the victims of terrorism are not heroes, but victims. This stance needs a storyteller that understands nuance, not someone who starts his film with terrorists abandoning their hijacking only for the passengers to accidentally send the plane into the World Trade Center.  This act alone guaranteed that this movie would play on barely any screens.

How soon is too soon? Pretty much any time, really.

You know how I say that people are often wasted in movies? This movie makes me judge the career choices and whether I even enjoyed any of these actors in the first place, retroactively cancelling nearly everything they’ve ever been in like some backwards in time career nuke.

I mean, I understand that Larry Thomas is only doing conventions — well, was — as the Soup Nazi, but does that make him a good Bin Laden? Did they have a photo of J.K. Simmons having sex with a farm animal to get him into this for under a minute? How did Dave Foley end up here? I mean, I often celebrate actors who went to Italy to make films when their star dimmed, but can a celestial body really grow this dark?

If you ever wanted John Cassavetes to come back from the dead to shake the shit out of someone, make it this time and make it Seymour Cassel, who really should know better. Everyone in this should. I should.

Verne Troyer gets assaulted by 1,000 monkeys to start the end of the world. That’s the TV Guide capsule review of this fecund ball of junk.

As for the challenge today, there’s not really any postal references here, other than the hero being called the Postal Dude, in some attempt to make this similar to the video game.

There are no peaks without valleys. Luckily, I have a new valley to place against all other films, a new absolute zero, a new bottom of the barrel several barrels below the previous barrel that I had once scraped.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I told you to. It’s beyond dreck, the kind of film that I would wipe my ass upon if I could find a physical copy of it. And I’m 1000% ready to do a barbed wire taipei glass death match with Boll if he wants it.

Stardust (2007)

Between directing Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, two Kingsmen movies and now this Neil Gaiman story, I think Matthew Vaughn likes comic books.

Here, he’s telling the story — with a huge ensemble cast — of Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox), who enters the magical Stormhold to retrieve a star for Victoria (Sienna Miller), the woman he loves. Yet inside it, he discovers a woman named Yvaine (Claire Danes) and runs afoul of the many princes of that country and the witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer).

I think the main lesson here is that if a woman asks you to get her a star before he agrees to marry you, your marriage is probably not going to be very good.

Vaughn has never been happy with how the film was sold, as the studio promised Lord of the Rings when this movie is much more The Princess Bride. That’s an apt description, as this has gone on to be well-regarded, the kind of movie that you’ll lay and watch if it comes on on a Sunday afternoon (not that we get that many lazy days around here any longer).

This has a sprawling cast — DeNiro is a cross-dressing space pirate! The Princes are Mark Strong, Jason Flemyng, Rupert Everett, Mark Heap, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Adam Buxton and David Walliams, a cast so big the love interests of five Bridget Jones movies! Peter O’Toole is the king! — and the script does a great job of condensing Gaiman’s expansive narrative down while adding new characters.

I have no horse in the fight between book and film, so if you do, perhaps you feel much differently. I just find this an entertaining film.

Head Case: Home Movies of a Serial Killer (2007)

Recently re-released by Wild Eye — who were kind enough to send us a copy — Head Case: Home Movies of a Serial Killer is the first in a series of found footage style that also includes Head Case: Last Days of a Serial Killer, Head Case: Post-Mortem, Head Cases: Serial Killers in the Delaware ValleyHead Case: The Lost Tapes and Head Case: Legacy.

While the murders by Wayne and Andrea Montgomery are similar to other serial kills — the IMDB page claims that there was some inspiration from Canadian serial killers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, they are unique fictional characters who have filmed every one of their murders. While this gives them a momento of each kill, it also seems like it gives the police plenty of evidence.

Wayne Montgomery (Paul McCloskey) is a normal guy. Well, you know, except for all the murder, which he uses to cope with the stresses of trying to live the American dream. He used to kill more often before he married his bossy wife Andrea (Barbara Lessin). Now, he’s decided to start all over again, bringing his wife along for the ride.

The entire project is fascinating, as there was no actual shooting script. There was a detailed treatment of the story, with extensive histories on the main character. However, the dialogue is completely improvised based on bullet points given to the actors at the start of each shooting day.

Anthony Spadaccini is the director of all of these films. While found footage is not my style, I can appreciate the volume of content he’s created with these characters. If it’s more your kind of thing, you’d do well to seek this film out. Horror fans will also be pleased to see Brinke Stevens in the cast as Wayne’s mother.

Head Case: Home Movies of a Serial Killer is now available on DVD and on demand. You can grab the DVD on the MVD site. It’s also on Amazon Prime. This was sent to us by Wild Eye, which has no bearing on our review.

The Diabolikal Super-Kriminal (2007)

If you’re as fascinated as I am with Killing — or Kilink — after this week of films, good news. This Italian-American documentary has plenty of great info on how these fumetti neri comics became such a sensation.

Unlike American comics, Killing was a live action photo comic, featuring a skeletal costume designed by Carlo Rambaldi and acted by Rosario Borelli (The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist). When the Italians stopped making the comic, the Turkish film industry kept on making films and the adventures of this anti-hero continues in Argentina until the 1980’s.

Satanik mostly goes up against other criminals, using his ability to disguise himself and darts filled with a substance he calls the green death, a poison straight out of the Amazon which kills people nice and slow. The only person who knows who is he really is would be his lover Dana and he constantly battles Inspector Mercier. If you’re thinking, “Hmm, sounds like Diabolik or Kriminal,” you’re not far off.

The thing is, while Diabolik got a movie made by Mario Bava and Kriminal got two movies by Umbero Lenzi, Kilink got some down and dirty Turkish films that pit him against all manner of heroes.

This comes from Cool French Comics. https://www.coolfrenchcomics.com/satanik.htm

Italian movie fans will be happy to see plenty of their favorites show up here, like Renato Baldini (I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death), John Benedy (Patrick Still Lives), Federico Boido (Planet of the Vampires), Gabriella Giorgelli (The Police Are Blundering In the Dark), Paul Muller (Barbed Wire Dolls) and even George Hilton!

I had a blast with this movie, but Turkish versions of Italian ripoff superheroes are pretty much the center of my Venn diagram, you know?

Currently, Mort Todd owns the rights to the character and has been making new adventures. You can check out the official site here.

Urban Legends: Ghosts of Goldfield (2007)

Sony sold the rights to the Urban Legend franchise and a fourth installment was planned, which would be this very film. Originally called Urban Legends: Goldfield Murders, the DVD sales of Urban Legends: Bloody Mary, Sony bought back the rights. That left this movie to be released as Ghosts of Goldfield.

Julie and her friends (which include Kellan Lutz, Emmett Cullen to those who enjoy Twilight) have set up their ghost chasing equipment in a hotel in the former mining town of Goldfield.

Supposedly, George Wingfield, the real-life owner of the hotel in that real-life town once had a relationship with a woman named Elisabeth Walker, who some claim was a prostitute and others a maid. When she became pregnant, he paid her to stay quiet but soon decided to get rid of her and her child. He chained her to a radiator and kept her fed until she died during childbirth, then threw the baby down a mine shaft. Visitors to the hotel report hearing her voice and the wails of her child.

Julie has a necklace that is a family heirloom which connects her to this tragedy. There’s also a bartender — hello, Roddy Piper — who for some reason is still alive decades later.

This film is, charitably, a mess. It would feel right at home in today’s shot for streaming found footage world of junk horror. Ed Winfield, its director, has one other credit: Oakland Raideretts Swimsuit Calendar Behind the Camera.

However, I am a completist, which means I had to watch it for you. My dream is that this keeps you from having to endure this poor entry in the franchise.