Monami is a transfer student with a secret and a burning need for Mizushima. As Japanese women share chocolate to show their love, a piece of the candy with her blood in it has brought him into her world of vampires, while his jilted girlfriend Keiko pays the price by accidentally dying, then coming back as an undead creature still in love with him.
That description is a poor — and oh so quick way — to explain to you the insanity that this movie has within it. Starting with a knife battle between zombies and our heroes and expanding to include a Kabuki mad scientist who works alongside the school nurse — who has eyeballs embedded in her breasts — who creates the Frankenstein Girl; Japanese girl cultures like Lolitas and Ganguro; a wrist-cutting competition; and finally the Tokyo Tower being used to create a near-indestructible creature seeking revenge.
Yoshihiro Nishimura, who directed Tokyo Gore Police, and Naoyuki Tomomatsu, who made the Lust of the Dead series, combined efforts to make this film, based on a manga (where the title characters never met).
Also — on the subject of Ganguro, it was a “fashion trend among young Japanese women that started in the mid-1990s, distinguished by a dark tan and contrasting make-up liberally applied by fashionistas.” The first tour I went to Japan, I was shocked to see so many young girls basically wearing blackface. Then again, it is also influenced by kabuki and noh dress, as well as the yamanba mountain witch. It’s a really strange look and while this movie takes things way further than they are in reality in so many ways, the look of the girls in this is actually pretty close to the trends that it’s parodying.
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.
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.
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, The Phantom. If you follow up with the You Tube page, you’ll find lots of rare, live and studio tracks from the Phantom’s Detroit-based band Walpurgis and Pendragon.
We briefly touched upon this feature film writing and directing debut by Scott D. Rosenbaum during our tribute week of reviews to the works of Mark L. Lester and his 2010 rock flick, Groupie.
The connection came courtesy of Tayrn Manning, who stars in this indie rock flick alongside the always awesome Peter Fonda (of Easy Rider; here, he is the wise ex-rocker, natch), along with Jason Ritter (the son of Three’s Company John, as the troubled rocker) and Lucas Haas (of Last Days, here as the intrepid journalist).
The inclusion of Fonda is no accident: This is a “road movie” where the legends of the “27 Club” meets Eddie and the Cruisers — only with a dramatic arc and production quality that rises it to the level of Almost Famous (based on the downfall of Humble Pie) and British-made Still Crazy (based on the ’80s Animals reunion) — in tale about a a gothic-rocker (with a heavy Cobain influence) whose sophomore album for his band The Lost Soulz flops; he returns to his hometown to make amends (i.e., suck up) with the incognito-music teacher responsible for writing the songs for the first album.
Lead actors Kevin Zegers (Damian Daalgard in TV’s Gossip Girl and Mel in AMC’s Fear of the Walking Dead) and Jason Ritter star and provide the vocals to the original songs “Turn Me On,” “Sweet Rock Candy,” “Without You,” and “Lonely Planet Boy.” The soundtrack also features atmospheric songs by Nirvana, Aerosmith, Violent Femmes, and Jane’s Addiction. Both are stunning in their dual-duties.
The script displays Rosenbaum’s keen knowledge of the Grateful Dead: Lukas Haas portrays a rock journalist named “Clifton Hanger,” which was the name late Grateful Dead keyboardist Brent Myland used when checking into hotels. Peter Fonda appears as road manager “August West,” which is a character in the Grateful Dead song, “Wharf Rat.” Making his acting debut: blues great Pinetop Perkins.
You can also find this in the overseas marketplace under the title, Coda, which also serves as the title for the 2005 short film in which this is based. Sorry, no freebies on this one, kids. You can check it out as a VOD on Amazon Prime (where it pulls 4 to 5 stars and a 91% approval), Apple iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and You Tube Movies.
Yes, somehow I am on my sixth Saw movie in the same day. Seriously, people, I’ve made it through all The Howling films, The Twilight Saga and numerous Jess Franco movies, but nothing has tested my resolve quite like these movies.
Kevin Greutert made his debut directing this and would also made the next film, Saw 3D — yes, I understand that that would be the seventh film and not the third, but when you have more sequels in front of the name of your name than most studios release in a year, you don’t care about things like that.
Greutert will not be returning for Saw IX in 2020, the first time in the series that he’s not had any involvement in since the franchise began in 2004.
Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) has become Jigsaw and unlike his mentor, he has no compassion toward his victims. I mean, Jigsaw also cut off the feet and heads of his victims, but come on, he kind of loved them, right?
Of course, he has one more test for Hoffman, which ends up locking his head in a reverse bear trap, thanks to his wife Jill Tuck (Betsey Russell). Of course he escapes. How would we have Saw Whatever Number afterward? I fully realize Tobin Bell’s character died movies ago and he keeps showing up as well.
They gave this movie $11 million in budget and it turned out $68.2 million worldwide. It’s the same model studios have always used with genre films. They’re movies that they don’t like to talk about, but they provide the fuel that allows them to make the movies that they want the world to really know about.
That said, of all of these movies, I liked this one, as it puts Jigsaw against people who prey on their fellow humans, taking out a predatory insurance company. Where can they go after this? Well, we have two movies left this week — and of course, another Saw coming later this year — so we’ll find out.
Written by Eric Bress (Final Destination 2) and directed by David R. Ellis (who also worked on that film, as well as Snakes On a Plane), this was both the best performing and worst-reviewed of all the Final Destination films. Instead of being called Final Destination 4, they were with a name that made it seem like it may not be a sequel, which it isn’t.
Eight years after the disasters of Flight 180, the Route 23 pileup and the Devil’s Flight, a group of teens are at the McKinley Speedway when one of them has a premonition. You may have a similar one if you’ve seen even one of these films.
This one adds 3D to the equation, which really would have made more sense in the third movie. Tony Todd’s absence in this movie really takes things down. At least the opening credits replaying all of the kills from the last three movies is pretty cool.
Like all of the films in the series, there are references to horror actors and directors. The first movie used Lon Chaney, George Waggner, Tod Browning, F.W. Murnau, Max Schreck, Val Lewton, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Don Siegel and Alfred Hitchcock. The second had names that paid tribute to Roger Corman, John Carpenter and Robert Dix. And in the third, Benjamin Christensen, Edgar G. Ulmer, Herschell Gordon Lewis, George A. Romero, Robert Wise, Karl Freund and Victor Halperin. Seeing as how they used up nearly everyone across three previous films, this one pays tribute to Dan O’Bannon, Sean S. Cunningham, Andy Milligan and Jim Wynorski.
I can also tell you that the movie in this movie, Love Lies Dying, is really the end of The Long Kiss Goodnight with music from Dark City.
How does one get the werewolf fever? What are the symptoms? Is there testing for it? Should we wear a face mask around those that have it? These are all important questions, so I’ll give you one answer: do not eat any werewolf meat.
Donny the delivery boy is the low man on the Kingburger Drive-In totem pole. Yet when he’s bit by a strange animal while out delivering burgers, he finally has a chance at revenge.
Look, you’re only going to give an hour of your life to watch Brian and Mark Singleton’s labor of lupine love. Brian wrote and directed it, while Mark produced it and plays Ronny, Donny and the Werewolf. How can he fight himself? Well, you’ll just have to watch this.
The Kingburger Drive-In is an actual drive-thru restaurant in Renfrew, Ontario. It might not have a website or Facebook page, but it does have a 4.8 out of 5 score on Facebook and 4.5 on Google reviews, so they must be pretty decent. I mean, just watching this, I could see how those kids on the way to the Grand Canyon were dying to, pardon the pun, wolf down some of those burgers.
New Hampshire’s Brett Piper is a self-made screenwriter, director, and special effects artist who shoots most of his films in Pennsylvania, most notably in the western and northwestern counties of Cambria and Tioga County. He’s also a self-professed purveyor of “schlock” who eschews modern CGI for “old school” special effects, such as matte paintings, miniatures, and stop-motion animation.
And we, the staff of B&S About Movies, love Piper for it: For if Piper had been around during the regional era of Drive-in exploitation, we’d be warmed by the crackle of a speaker hanging on our car window. We’d rent every one of his VHS ditties from the ‘80s home video shelves, warmed by the cathode ray tube’s glow.
Piper’s resume is extensive, there’s a lot to watch: he’s directed 18 films, wrote 19, and created special effects for 22 films—for his own films as well as the films of his frequent brothers-in-arms collaborator, Mark Polonia (Empire of the Apes).
So if you’re nostalgic for the works of Ray Harryhausen, but burnt out on repeat viewings of that stop-motion master’s works; if you’re burnt out on today’s green-motion tracking and After Effects computer-animated extravaganzas; if you want aliens cast well-made masks and full-body suits and actors emoting alongside in-camera effects, then the films of Brett Piper are just what the VOD streaming doctor ordered.
Ice up that Orange Crush and defoil that burger . . . five, four, three, two, one!
Movie 1: Queen Crab (2015)
We’ll start off our Friday Brett Piper festival with my favorite of his films: one with best character development, acting, and special effects—and one that we have not yet reviewed at B&S About Movies. While there’s a soupçon of Ray Harryhausen in the crab pot (ugh, sorry!), this is a full-on Bert I. Gordon homage to his (very loose) 1976 H.G Wells adaptation of Food of the Gods (with an honorable mention to the Robert Lansing-starring Island Claw from 1980).
What causes the crab to go “gigantic”? A little girl brings home Pee-wee, a baby pet crab from the lake behind her house—and feeds it grapes infused with her daddy-scientist’s plant growth hormone. After her parents die in a freak lab explosion and she’s adopted by her uncle-sheriff, Melissa grows up into a tough-as-nails teenager, aka Queen Crab, who serves as protector to Pee-wee and her clan of babies—complete with a psychic link. Shotguns n’ rednecks, tanks n’ planes (well, one of each) ensues as the misunderstood crustacean who, like King Kong before her, didn’t ask for any of this sci-fi ruckus.
And speaking of misunderstood: There’s poor little Melissa, stuck in the middle of the sticks of Crabbe County with no friends and parents that constantly bicker and ignore her. She’s practically a latchkey kid with only a crab as her friend. So, do we root for the crab? Damn straight. Kick ass, Pee-wee, for Melissa is Queen in this neck of the Pennsylvanian countryside.
When a TV producer’s (Piper acting-mainstay, ‘80s metal drummer-cum-actor Steve Diasparra; also of Amityville Death House, Amityville Exorcism, and Amityville Island*) career disintegrates on live TV when his report on a legendary backwoods demon haunting Pennsylvania’s Pine Creek Gorge is exposed as a fraud, he’s hell bent on redemption. When he convinces a cable TV mogul to back his quest, Mickey O’Hara heads back into the swamps with a sexy TV personality. Only, this time, there’s no need to “fake it” as the gooey, tentacled Muckman shows up—and he’s not only got the love jones for film crew member Billie Mulligan, Mucky’s brought along a tentacle sidekick of the Queen Crab variety.
Just a good ‘ol fashioned, campy monster romp from the analog days of old.
You can watch this as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTV.
The snack bar is open . . .Intermission!
Thank you, Vinegar Syndrome for honoring the works of Brett Piper! Now back to the show!
Have you ever wondered what would happen if Bert I. Gordon produced a Ray Harryhausen-directed mockbuster of Independence Day? Well, wonder no more with Brett Piper’s most recent, eighteenth and best-produced film of his resume. And, bonus: we also get a throwback to all of our beloved ‘80s Italian apocalypse flicks** in the bargin!
Blake is the resident Trash-cum-Parsifal (known your ‘80s apoc heroes!) who teams with Kay, a radiant, supermodel bow-hunter, to help a crusty elder scientist discover the key to save the Earth from the invading alien hoards and their otherworldly “hunting dogs” in the form of giant, stout lizards.
A fun, something fresh and new watch filled with the nostalgia that we love in our films.
You can watch Outpost Earth as a with-ads-stream on You Tube.
We confessed our perpetual love for this debut feature film from Brett Piper during our two-week December Star Wars blowout*ˣ in commemoration of the release of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker.
Pipers’s Star Wars-inspired take-off of Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island—by way of Ray Harryhausen’s classic 1961 film of the same name—concerns a “wretched hive of scum and villainy” band of mercenaries crash landing on an uncharted planet after a space battle. Adopting a jungle girl into their fold, they battle prehistoric snails and dragons as they make their way into a final showdown with the planet’s ancient ruler: a super-intelligent computer ˣ*.
The bottom line: Brett Piper overflows with that same Tommy Wiseau-heart (The Room) and John Howard-tenacity (Spine) as he gives us a special, endearing quality with his films that’s absent from most—if not all—major studio offerings.
So strap on the popcorn bucket and ice up the Dr. Pepper and Doc Brown back to the Drive-In ‘70s with one of the greats of the retro-cinema. Keep ’em coming, Brett. We love ’em!
* We went nuts on Amityville and all of its sequels, rip-offs, and sidequels, etc. back in February with our “Exploring: Amityville” featurette. Uh, Sam? You’re the resident Amityville authority in this neck of Allegheny County. Time to get crackin’ on the newest, latest entry in the series: Amityville Island . . . and Amityville Hex, Witches of Amityville Academy, Amityville 1974, and Amityville Vibrator.
** Be sure to join us for our two-part September blowout as we explored the Italian and Philippine apocalypse of the ‘80s with our “Atomic Dust Bin” featurettes.
Finally, eight years after The Fast and The Furious we get a direct sequel. This time, Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) must work together again to avenge the murder of Toretto’s lover Letty Ortiz (Rodriguez) and apprehend drug lord Arturo Braga (John Ortiz).
It’s rare that a series of movies finally finds itself in the fourth installment, much less gets that many chances. But here you go — these movies really start becoming beloved right here.
Sung Kang shows up as Han Lue, Dominic’s right-hand man, bridging the last Japanese side of the franchise, while also introducing Gal Gadot as Gisele Yashar, a liaison for the evil Braga. Laz Alonso also shows up as Fenix Calderon, Braga’s right-hand man who murders Letty and sets this whole movie’s story arc in motion.
This movie paved the way — pardon the road pun — for the other movies in this series. In fact, it outgrossed The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift in its first weekend.
Of course, Letty wouldn’t stay gone long. But we’ll get to that soon enough.
I’ve seen giallo from all over the world, but this would be the first Hong Kong version I’ve ever seen. It was created by Julien Carbon and Laurent Courtiaud, whose Black Mask 2: City of Masks I had seen, but had not prepared me for this delicious offering.
It features Hong Kong starlet Carrie Ng (Naked Killer, Sex and Zen), who practically smolders the screen as Carrie Chan, a woman devoted to the sexual release of death and using her jade talons to render flesh into works of art.
During the reign of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, a torturer invented a special drug that paralyzed muscles yet increased the sensitivity of nerve endings. Sometimes he used this for erotic pleasures, but mostly it was used to extract pain from his victims. Yet he always wondered what the drug would be like for his own use, so he killed himself under its influence.
Now, the jade skull that contains this rare substance has been found by Catherine Trinquier (Frederique Bel, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec) and she sees it as a way to gain a fortune after murdering a lover to acquire this treasure.
Meanwhile, the demonic Carrie is staging a play all about the famed executioner while conducting her own psycho-sexual experimentations of pain and pleasure.
Known as Red Nights in the Western world, this movie has no slavish devotion to the 1970’s giallo style while somehow feeling that it could rightly take its place within it, uniting the world of the exploitation anti-heroines like Olga and Ilsa while at the same time dipping a green clawed digit into the respective private parts of the best parts of the works of Martino and Franco, pausing for a moment to be bathed in the lights of Argento and basking in the sounds of a Morricone.
There are moments when I was worried that this film would descend into the depths of torture porn, but it righted itself many times. This is why I watch films, to discover new and delirious highs. Consider this a must-watch.
Jouko Ahola, who was the World’s Strongest Man for 1997 and 1999, is Jacob van Oppen, a pro wrestler who is filled with unending rage that can only be sated by the song “Lili Mateen.” He’s managed by Prince Orsini, who has been taking him on a tour of small South American towns, doing shoot matches against local toughmen. Now, their journey has taken them to Santa Maria.
This town is starved for entertainment and strangely ready for this match, working with the duo to find a suitable opponent. The town’s newspaper thinks they know the secret to defeating this unbeatable pair, however.
This is an odd film, as it’s hard to place where the story takes place and even what year it’s happening in. I love the days of carnival wrestling, when worked and non-worked matches made money for fighters.
Whatever fighter can last three rounds with Oppen will win a thousand dollars. Yet he’s flat broke, seems sick and can’t stop coughing. How will he be able to defeat a local hero at this rate?