House of Secrets (2014)

Jeffrey Schenck has 220 — maybe more in the time it took me to write this — production credits on IMDB, including Panic In the SkiesHoneymoon with Mom and Ice Spiders. He wrote the story for this, which was developed into a screenplay by Michael Ciminera (Jersey Shore Shark Attack) and Richard Gnolfo (The Dog Who Saved Easter). It was directed by Fred Olen Ray and fits into his Lifetime style of directing.

Julie Manning (Bianca Lawson, Save the Last Dance) has finally divorced her abusive husband Sam (Neil Jackson, The King’s Man) and is moving on with her life, selling the dream home he made for them. Until it goes off the market, she’s living there and supervising Tyler (Brendan Fehr, Roswell) as he fixes it up. But someone seems to be breaking in and stalking her with hidden webcams. Is it Sam, Tyler or someone else? Is it her boss Rick (Paul Johansson)? The intern (Daniel Booko) with a grudge? Maybe police detective Morrison (Costas Mandylor, who played a cop in just about every Saw movie) can help figure it out.

Seeing as how Julie’s ex used to lock her in closets, you can bet that PTSD is going to come back before the end of the movie.

You can watch this on Tubi.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: Llámale Jess Redux (2014)

Fourteen years after Llámale Jess, director Carles Prats (who also made Drácula Barcelona, which tells the tale of how Jess Franco’s Count Dracula and Cuadecuc, Vampir were made at the same time, uniting the worlds of genre and arthouse) made a totally new edit of the documentary that he made about Franco and Lina Romay.

After an entire month of Franco film, this was a great little palate cleanser before my next month-long deep dive into another series of movies. Franco is quite sharp, telling stories about his history of directing, walking the camera through a children’s arcade and smoking pack after pack of cigarettes alongside Lina, who laughs and smiles along as he keeps talking. You can really feel the joy between the two of them, as well as the passion that Franco still felt for film.

Ah man — I watched more than a hundred Franco movies in a month. I’d never recommend anyone ever try that, but on the other hand, I feel that I’ve learned so much about not only genre films, but about love, loss and life.

Call Girl of Cthulhu (2014)

Directed by Chris LaMartina (WNUF Halloween SpecialWhat Happens Next Will Scare You) and co-written with JImmy George, Call Girl of Cthulu is all about a virginal young man named Carter (David Phillip Carollo) who is looking for the right girl, who he thinks is Riley (Melissa O’Brien), a prostitute with a strange birthmark on her right ass cheek.

It turns out that she’s being sought by the Church of Starry Wisdom, who see this as a sign that she will become the bride of the Elder God who exists beyond the wall of sleep, Cthulu. Can your protagonist find a way to find true love — or lust — without losing his mind to the tentacled thing that should not be?

Beyond being a love letter to H.P. Lovecraft, it’s also a movie that combines gore, sexploitation and a willingness to really go there. Would it be too far to have a golden shower that melts a man’s face clean off? Monstrous male genitals? Tentacle scenes? Watching this, I get the feeling that everyone in it is still finding makeup and goop and gunk all over themselves even years after they made it.

For a movie that starts light, it gets surprisingly dark, too. And emotional. I’m surprised how much I liked this movie, as I kept waiting for it to fall apart, but that’s when I realized that LaMartina and George being good at making movies is no accident.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Army of Frankensteins (2014)

Alan Jones used to work at a grocery store until he got fired by a boss he hates. A boss who he just caught kissing to the coworker he’s in love with. And then, you know, a mad scientist named Dr. Finski (John Ferguson, who is horror host Count Gregore) kidnaps him and takes his eyeball before sending him back to the Civil War with a bunch of Frankenstein’s Monsters.

In order to get back to his own time, Alan must hunt down all of the monsters that have passed through the time hole. But then Virginia, a former slave and a medic for the Union, explains to the original monster how her life has been a lot like his, which means that suddenly the Confederacy is up against a whole bunch of undead stitched together monsters.

Of course, they get a monster of their own and there’s even a gigantic cat that starts tearing off arms and killing soldiers left and right.

So yeah — in case you haven’t guessed it yet I absoutely loved this.

And I don’t really want to tell you any more other than I wish the end of this film and the sequel that it sets up happened. How did Frankenstein get on the face of the $5 bill? You have to watch the movie!

You can watch this on Tubi.

Heaven is Hell (2014)

Ten years ago, we embarked on a journey that would take us places, physically and emotionally, one that would change us as artists and people, forever. Two and a half years. Fifty-two shooting days. Freezing cold. Scorching heat. Metric tons of Little Caesars, potential tetanus, and good, good times.
The filmmakers

Shortly after dying in a car crash, Faith, a devout Christian, arrives in Heaven — only to find it a barren wasteland ravaged by an apocalyptic war, populated by otherworldly, demonic-creatrues, and ruled by Zerach, a treacherous arch angel who has overthrown Heaven and enslaved God.

Her faith in tatters, Faith joins Judas, Thomas, and a team of rogue Apostles. Together, they lock n’ load to find an exiled Jesus Christ and reclaim Heaven’s throne.

This film — as with my recent, rabbit-hole discoveries of Mayflower II and 2025: The World Enslaved by a Virus — is a pleasant streaming surprise: one made for a mere $40,000. And when you experience the scope of this action-comedy/horror-fantasy hybrid, you’ll come to appreciate the filmmaker’s abilities to squeeze the most of out their slight budget.

Looking over the resumes of Chicago-bred co-writers and directors Mike Meyer and Chris Sato, along with fellow co-writer Jason Kraynek, you’ll realize they’re a trio of experienced filmmakers — ones with a lot of miles between them via various shorts, web-series, and music videos. And it shows in the frames of this Chicago-shot Christploiter that takes those outlandish, Italian and Philippine, post-apocalyptic knockoff flicks of the ’80s to task: only this is so much better than a chintzy Bruno Mattei or Cirio H. Santiago joint*.

Those apoc-sloppers, of course, got their start with John Carpenter’s Escape from New York; it’s important to mention that iconic film, because the spirit of Carpenter’s own action-comedy/horror-fantasy hybrid, the purposefully hammy Big Trouble in Little China, permeates, here. Simply remove the martial arts exploitation and a insert a little exploitation of Christianity. And let’s not forget the writer of that film, D.W Richter, also gave us The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension — which spins in the same wheelhouse as Heaven is Hell.

Raging Angels: Another Christian-based film* with a sci-fi twist.

However, looking over the two, lone IMDb user reviews, Heaven is Hell is a film with no middle ground: Christians are offended, referring to it as being “atheist,” “Satanist,” and flat-out “anti-Christian.” Secularists appreciate and applaud the parody.

The same derision met Luis Buñuel’s (Simon the Desert) surrealistic, but not as parody-driven, The Milky Way (1969). The British-made Monty Python’s Life of Brian, itself offering us the concept of “an alternate-universe Jesus,” suffered the irritations of Christians and Catholics, even though Eric Idle and his cohorts insisted the film was a goof on organized, man-made religions — and not a spoof on Jesus or The Holy Bible, itself.

Such a film is Heaven is Hell, again: a film made for $40,000.

Putting any offensives one may have regarding the threading of Christianity and Catholicism beliefs through the eye of the apocalypse, aside: there is no denying this is a very well-made movie, with all of the respective film disciplines firing on all cylinders. The actors “get” their material (as did the cast of the recent, parody-excellent S**t & Champagne) and the movie is all the better for it. It’s unfortunate the joke that the “sequel” Heaven Was Hell: 2 Holy 4 Eva was coming soon . . . never had a punchline.

You can learn more about Heaven is Hell on their official Facebook page and watch the full movie as a free-stream on You Tube. You can also sample the trailer.

* Hey, we know our ’80s apoc joints. Check out our two-part, “Atomic Dust Bin” round up with links to over 100 films. We also explored “Christian Cinema of the ’70s” with links to over 40 films.

The Judas Project: More sci-fi with a biblical twist.

— R.D Francis writes for B&S About Movies.

Left Behind (2014)

What can we say that hasn’t been already said about this proselytizing pablum of propaganda — of what is now, four films, three of which starred self-righteous douchebaggin’ bible-banger Kirk Cameron (Saving Christmas*) — except that it is awful. And that believers, aka the fans of the film, will say that we who bash the film are “anti-Christians” who simply love to hate Christians. (It’s a “pagan conspiracy,” so says the Kirkster, ye whom, once he was “saved,” then turned his cheek to assure Julie McCullough was fired from TV’s Growing Pains, once her Playboy past came to light. Which is why we remember her work in Round Trip to Heaven and not ye work in Like Father Like Son and Listen to Me. Amen.)

No, ye believers. We hate Left Behind — in spite of the presence of the Cage — for it is just bad movie making, replete with bad, well . . . everything. Especially movies that have to explain the “timeline” of their production: that this version of Left Behind isn’t a remake of the first movie, but a reboot of the first movie, and it’s based on and not a direct adaptation of the first book of the 12 novels in the series, and does not follow the book’s chronology.

Argh! This is worse than a post-George Lucas Star Wars production with all of the plot explanations in its advanced press.

If you skimmed (there’s no other way to endure it) the first Kirk Cameron version, pretty much all of the same characters from Left Behind: The Movie (2000) are in play in 2014 version — except for the Antichrist character of Nicolae Carpathia (the only intriguing aspect of those films, courtesy of actor Gordon Currie). That’s because this reboot takes a more personal, subjective approach to chronicling the effects of the Rapture through the eyes of Cage and his family. This movie isn’t about the “why” it happened, but the “how” of the non-believers surviving the chaos.

What-the-F-This-Movie-ever! Why does this movie of vanishing bodies and piles of dirty laundry even exist?

Is the film’s purpose to spread the gospel? To save souls? To frighten you — as is the case with most Christploitation films (see If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? and The Burning Hell to get you started) — into believing?

Nope. It’s to satisfy a lawsuit. So much for Christians loving one another on a unified front to bring glory and praise to God. In the end, it’s all about the money, the -sploitation, if you will, always and forever. Amen.

It turns out Christian writer Tim LaHaye wasn’t too thrilled with the Kirk Cameron-starring films produced by end-time flick purveyors Cloud Ten Pictures, so he filed two lawsuits. Those suits, in turn, effectively stopped the production of the Kirk Cameron timeline (which needed to be stopped); a timeline that ended with the third film World at War (2005). And this $15 million Asylum/SyFy Channel-esque version with the Cage — which had plans for two more reboot-sequels; productions so desperate for financing in the backwash of the bad reviews and box office returns, Cloud Ten had to go an Indiegogo campaign route — is the end result. (Upon the demise of Cloud Ten Pictures, defunct in the legal backwash, that studio’s CEO, Paul LaLonde, incorporated Stoney Lake Entertainment, which ultimately produced this remake.)

Ah, the stench of the horseman that is greed.

I, therefore ye, proclaim thy film as a new form of -sploitation: Cageploitation, that is, films that exploit Nic Cage to bamboozle us into watching a film about vanishing bodies and piles of wrinkles clothes on a plane. And for not making Left Behind: The Animated Movie or its live action counterpart series for the PAX television network (also defunct, now ION), we thank . . . well, “someone” . . . as it would be crass to evoke the big guy upstairs.

So, sorry, Nic. We loves yahs and all, but in this case: we can’t be your isle-seat bitch, for you were made the bitch of the producing Brothers LaLonde Peter and Paul.

“I want this dirty laundry off my gosh-darn golly-jeepers plane!

* Sorry, Kirk. There was no “pagan conspiracy.” You ruined Christmas all on your own, buddy — along with 19 other films — as foretold in our “Ten Movies That Ruin Christmas” and “Ten More Christmas Movies To Ruin Your Holiday” featurettes.

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: Der Samurai (2014)

Jakob is a policeman in a village deep in the woods. Nothing ever happens, but then a wolf shows up, but it’s really a transvestite samurai and if you can accept that plot twist, you’re pretty much ready for whatever happens next.

The townspeople see Jakob as weak because he’s so polite, mild and young, an outsider in their home and the bikers that regularly take advantage of the village think even less of him. So Jacob sits at home and makes his miniature village and then sometimes, he takes bloody meat into the woods to give the wolf a meal and he feels a bond growing.

But is the wolf real? Is the samurai the wolf? Is Jakob supposed to watch, help or stop the wolf? Are they all parts of Jakob’s brain or are they all real? And most importantly, is this a slasher or a giallo?

Till Kleinert hasn’t made a movie since this. I don’t know if he ever has to again, because this is nearly perfect the first time out. But I sure hope he does.

You can watch this on Tubi.

SLASHER MONTH: Blood Widow (2014)

Someday, I’d like to make the movie that the poster for Blood Widow promises me, a movie in which a female killing machine that looks kind of like a ninja waits in the woods to kill twentysomething teenagers. I realize that that’s what happens in this movie, but the poster is a near-infinite integer of percentages better than the actual movie, which is numbing in its shot on digital video dullness.

This movie was directed by Jeremiah Buckhalt only a month after graduating from Full Sail University and he made it with the help of his fellow classmates and the faculty. So now I am going to feel bad for making fun of this movie and should stop now.

There’s another movie planned called Blood Widow Lives that I feel like my OCD will make me watch when it comes out. This one has a feel good story behind it and now I feel like I shouldn’t say how out and out fecund it is, so maybe I’ll either save my sadness for the next installment or feel better that it’s an improved movie.

The poster and the costume are still awesome, though.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Relentless Justice (2014)

We name drop David A. Prior often around the B&S About Movies’ worker hives, because, well, we dig ’em and bag o’ chips. If you’re not familiar David A.’s work, our reviews of The Silencer, aka Body Count, and the one-two punch of the apoc-adventures of John Tucker in Future Zone and Future Force (from our past April “Apoc Week”) will get you started. And we kid about our admiration of Dave’s three-dozen-plus strong resume: What David A. Prior movie that doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. And when you add Eric Roberts in a quickie name-on-the-box role, we are all in — and twice on Sundays. (And yes, we know that’s a bad joke, because, sadly, we did lose David A. Prior in August 2015, but in no way is that “joke” in disrespect. We love ’em around here at B&S, as we build upon adding more and more reviews of his films to the site.)

And here’s three of them. Yes. This review has Easter Eggs. Let’s crack ’em, shall we?

This time out, Dave keeps it low-key and stays away from the post-apoc, zombies, dragons, and war films of the past. This time, David A. goes “hicksplotation” with the dependable city-folks-run-afoul-of-the-country folks action plot — which was done best by the likes of John Boorman’s influential Deliverance that was, in turn, retro’d to a solid effect with Robert C. Hughes’s Hunter’s Blood. However, this time, instead of a group of fish-out-of-water dick-swingin’ city folk, the penile malcontents are the country folk — and one of them is the backwater town’s mayor (played to an evil-hammy perfection by Vernon “The Wez of Mad Max” Wells). And while there’s not a deeper, underlying social statement about America’s class structure that questions who is stronger in a battle of wills between primitive man vs. civilized man, à la Boorman’s Deliverance, the “change up” is that those backwoods lotharios — and one lotharioette, the mayor’s squeeze, natch — are bested by one woman: ex-Australian Intelligence Operative and MMA Fighter played by Leilani Sarelle, who also owns and operates her own martial arts gym.

Uh, oh.

So, how do you know Leliani Sarelle?

Well, remember when Tom Cruise got duped by his race crew with the stripper disguised as a Highway Patrol Officer in Days of Thunder? Oh, and in Basic Instinct: Leilani played Sharon Stone’s Catherine Tramell’s girlfriend. And yes: she got her start in our beloved Neon Maniacs! That’s Leliani Sarelle — and it’s nice to see her hard work pushed her into a well-earned leading role. Oh, and trivia alert: Leliani is part of the Clooney family and hung out with the famous George of the clan (she even appeared on TV’s Roseanne when George was on that series) by way of her marriage to Miguel Ferrer, the son of Jose Ferrer, by way of George’s Aunt Rosemary, the famed ’40s and ’50s singer. Oh, and let’s not forget: keep your eyes open for Lisa Langlois from Class of 1984, Deadly Eyes, Happy Birthday to Me, and Phobia.

So, with the film trivia is out of the way, let’s get on with the story . . . which throws back to the mother of all “death sport” stories: 1932’s The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell — which fueled the likes of the mother of “death sport” movies: 1965’s The 10th Victim by Elio Petri.

When Victoria De Vries’s (Sarelle) daughter goes off camping with her boyfriend (in flip-flops, no less) they head into the local redneck general store for a pee and a phone, because, well, out here, it’s the ol’ cellphone-don’t-work trope (that’s not a rip on David; all films are like that; batteries and alternators die on brand-new cars in the movies, too — they have to, or there’d be no story to tell). And, the city folk have a snippy attitude, natch — and well, little sis De Vries is pretty cute. So, with the town mayor, again, Vernon Wells, leading the charge — with one of his minions being David’s brother Ted (who’s been all of his brother’s films) — they head off into the woods for a little sumthin’ sumthin’ (wink, wink). And they slit the boyfriend’s throat, do the ol’ weigh-’em-down-with-rocks thing into the water and kidnap Victoria’s daughter.

So, the “sport” begins when our backwoods idiots — who have been doing this for years, thanks to the looks-the-other-way-corrupt Sheriff — learn, thanks to Vicki, Jr.’s jibber-jabber bragging about mom’s past, that mom would make for a nice “game piece” and lure her into the woods. This is a town where, when one of the general store rednecks tries to pull shite with Victoria, she kicks his ass instead of being raped — and she’s arrested and tossed in jail. But again: the Sheriff and the Mayor are stacking the chips on their little backwood’s “game field.”

In the end: It’s all very, very bad idea, Mr. Mayor: Victoria De Vries has a bigger “dick” than you.

And just when you think this will kick ass and take names with a nice feminist message — the story decides to take a little snooze in the tent . . . with talking and chitty-chatty . . . and grimacing and scowling hammy thespin’ . . . and nothing really “kicks ass” until the last half of the third and final act.

“Hey, where’s Eric Roberts in all of this?”

Well, his name-on-the-box scene is with Sherrie Rose (who made her debut in the apoc’er Cy Warrior, the teen comedy Summer Job, and made a pretty cool Easy Rider update with Me and Will). She’s the related/sister of the Mayor’s wife (we think; the whole scene is “out of the country” and looks like it’s cut-in from an entirely different movie and doesn’t make much sense), and makes a deal for Roberts to store his drug inventory . . . in the town where games pieces go to die. In his second scene, Eric actually appears — unlike in most of his flicks — with other principal cast members, in this case, Vernon Wells and Ted Prior. But again, what’s this all have to do with the “death sport” game plot? Nothing. We think, at first, that Eric is one of those gangsters of the Eli Roth-variety who’s into the Hostel “Elite Hunting Club,” but no. Again, it’s like Roberts and Rose dropped in from another flick, entirely. It literally feels like a “pad” for the film’s short running time. You need 10 more minutes of film to get the running time out to an hour and a half: call in Eric Roberts and we’ll make the scene “fit,” somehow.

Oh, and to level the playing field: Mark Rolston — who you know best as Private Drake in Aliens (and over 180-other movies) — is an ex-special forces op Major hired to take out the troublesome Victoria De Vries, who has proven harder to kill than expected. Like Roberts, Rolston’s not here that much, but, like Roberts, what little he’s here, he’s effective — as always. And when Rolston shows up, that’s when things really kick into gear — with a nice knife-through-the-mouth-into-the-tree kill and thumbs-diggin’-out-the-eyeballs kill. Oh, and it turns out Victoria knows the Major from a bungled Middle East mission op — and he took the gig with an ulterior motive: a good ol’ fashioned revenge kill for outing him on the mission to their joint superiors. Their fight scenes — choreographed by five-time world kickboxing champion Kathy Long as the film’s stunt coordinator — are the best parts of the film that more than make up for the lagging talking and yakity-yak first and second “set up” acts.

Anyway . . . being a big David A. Prior fan — and being well-versed in his works via his Action International Pictures, and taking into consideration he got his start with the self-financed SOV-horror Sledgehammer in 1983 — Relentless Justice turns out to be a well-written, plot-twisty film that’s well-shot with decent direction and editing. And thinking back to Sledgehammer: the gore is vastly improved here. Overall, the film’s not great, when compared to other ’80s-actioners set in the woods — Arnie’s Commando and Sly’s First Blood — from which it takes its cues, but Relentless Justice isn’t awful, either.

Now, I know what you’re wondering: what happened to Eric Roberts’s drug stash? Did all the shite go down before the drug deal was done? Did the drugs ship to the town to be stored — and, when the Sheriff, the Mayor and their minions were all dead — did his Deputy, who turned her back and let Victoria kill the last man standing, aka the Sheriff, confiscate the drugs? There was a hint of a lesbian subtext, so did the female Deputy and Vicki hook up? Does Eric come back in a sequel? Does he go after Vicki, blaming her for losing his drug stash? Or does he go after the Deputy — who’s now the new Sheriff — and Vicki returns to kick ass, again? Does Sherrie Rose end up being the town’s new mayor?

Sadly, there was no sequel to tie that Eric Roberts loose end as, well, David passed away after the release of Relentess Justice — if there was even an intended sequel on the future adventures of Victoria De Vries.

Now, you may not know David A. as well as I, so if I tell you Relentless Justice feels a lot like his fourth feature film, Deadly Prey (1987), that’ll mean nothing. That film — starring Cameron Mitchell (Space Mutiny) with Troy Donahue (Shock ’em Dead) — also clips from The Most Dangerous Game, as a group of sadistic mercenaries kidnap people off the streets and set them loose on the grounds of their secret camp, so their “students” at the camp can learn how to track down and kill their prey.

See, how similar it is? And there’s one more bunny egg to crack.

Ted Prior’s Mike Danton from Deadly Prey returns in the 26-years-in-the-making sequel, The Deadliest Prey (2013). Nearly three decades after his abduction by the psychotic mercenaries from the first film, Danton, heads back to those Mobile, Alabama, backwater woods to stop the games that started up again — games backed by an Internet company that broadcasts the games on the web.

Are they any good?

Hell, yes! The first one from 1987 is your expected, cheap-but effective against-the-budget David A. Prior fun fest. The remake-cum-sequel stands tall to the quality of Relentless Justice — as it should: since both were shot back-to-back in the same neck of Mobile, Alabama, woods with the same crew — but the updated “dark web” angle is a nice update to the old story from 1987.

It saddens me David passed, as the quality of his films grew by leaps and bound since the likes of his ol’ David Carradine apoc-romps with the John Tucker adventures in Future Force and Future Zone. There’s were definitely some more solid films from David A. to be had.

You can watch Relentless Justice, Deadly Prey, and The Deadliest Prey on You Tube.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Berserkers (2014)

Originally a short called Meltdown, this film follows Hunter, a man who proposes to his girlfriend who turns him down, at which point his friends reveal to him just how horrible of a person she was. And then, as things happen, zombies attack. Then there’s a jump into the future and Hunter has become a much more capable man of action.

Set in Somerset, PA, this film follows in the tradition of zombie movies coming from Pittsburgh, Writer/producer/director and star Jacob O’Brien Mulliken was also in the movie Monongahela, which is about the hunt for a creature in the Mon river, which is about a half mile from our house.

I thought the effects for this were pretty solid, even if some of the IMDB comments savaged the entire film. Then again, most of those seem like they’re coming from Pittsburgh-based talent who are either upset that they were in the original short and not the remake or those that got screwed over in the process of making this movie. Actually, if you filmed that commentary page, you may have a better movie than this.

That said, you can watch this movie on Tubi or grab it from Wild Eye Releasing.