To Whom It May Concern (2015)

Anna, (Dawn Olivieri, Bright) is tired of life and looking to end it all, despite being young, gorgeous and, well, a mess. While planning her own funeral, she meets Sam (Wilmer Valderrama), the boyfriend of her neighbor who has been kicked out. She takes him in and suddenly she feels like life could be worth living. Yet just as he brings joy and comfort to her life, he’s also trying to move back in with his girlfriend.

Director Maru Boyer also made the documentary I Trust You to Kill Me, which told the story of Kiefer Sutherland helping a band as they tour Europe. He’s since made the TV movies Family Pictures and Tempting Fate.

Olivieri and Valderrama are quite good in this and have some great chemistry. While not the typical film that we watch around here, there’s definitely things to enjoy and learn from within this film.

To Whom It May Concern is now available on demand and digital from Global Digital Releasing.

Crumbs (2015)

Candy (Daniel Tadesse, who has worked with director Miguel Llansó on four different projects) is a small man under a large sky that is filled with a hovering spacecraft that surely must be dead as it hovers above. Yet since he was young, he dreamed of being on that ship.

Candy knows that the ship is alive again and he’s sick of being a collector of discarded ephemera, like all the late 20th century pop memorabilia he keeps finding. This is a world where a Ninja Turtle toy can be seen as a god, where Michael Jordan is worshipped as a deity.

Ethopian science fiction, set inside a pre-apocalypse country that looks like the end times already came, capped with a religious experience while watching the Turkish remake/remix/ripoff film Süpermen Dönüyor. Trust me — that’s all it took to make me adore this.

If you think this one is strange, well, get ready. Tadesse and Llansó followed it with Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway, which was recently released by Arrow Video. This movie is on the second disk of that release.

Man — who knew that on the other side of the world such astounding movies were being made? I’m excited to see what happens next.

Rust (2015)

Shot in the Asylum and Hotel Fear Haunted Houses in Las Vegas, Rust is the product of writer and director Joe Lujan. Starting as a short film, the murders of Travis McLennan have expanded across several films. Lujan has been invovled in several series of films, including Atelophobia (which even has a live-action escape room devoted to it) and a shared universe of comic books and films that started with The Immortal Wars.

Travis McLennan is played by Morlon Greenwood, who played for the Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders and the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League. He’s also a reggae artist, philanthropist and across several films, he’s essayed this role.

Three girls decide to check out an abandoned horror attraction, not realizing that the killer has taken up residence there. Corey Taylor, Taylor Kilgore and Lindsey Cruz play the ladies and they have also starred in several of the director’s films.

The DVD of this film features three different cuts of the film, including the original 38 minute short, a 75-minute cut from 2015, and the full-length version. That’s the one that I watched and while it has moments of great suspense, it also has some of the same issues of most recent slashers — long moments of just screaming in the dark. That said, I do like the way some of the shots were framed and set up, despite not understanding the slow motion effects that happen from time to time.

Yet as you may know, I do enjoy a good slasher, so it’s nice to see the attempt to create a new series.

This was sent to us by Wild Eye, who released the film on demand and on DVD. It’s also on Amazon Prime. They were kind enough to send us a copy, which has no bearing on our thoughts on this movie. You can learn more at the official site.

Orion: The Man Who Would Be King (2015)

Prior to the 1974 appearance of Capitol Records’ ambiguous, Jim Morrison doppelganger, aka The Phantom (Arthur Pendragon), the city of Detroit cultivated its first musical “Phantom” in 1966 with a faceless, Vox organ-inflected quintet out of Flint, Michigan, fronted by the perpetually sun glasses-clad (masked) Rudy Martinez, aka ? (Question Mark).

Scoring a local hit on Flint’s WTAC (home to the famed “Sherwood Forest” concerts in nearby Davison) and Detroit’s KCLW radio with “96 Tears,” Neil Bogart, then a 23-year-old sales manager for Cameo-Parkway Records (later of Buddah, and the founder of Casablanca and Boardwalk Records; see the careers of Kiss and Joan Jett), purchased the master tapes of ? and the Mysterians’ hit single, along with Bob Seger’s first singles, for national release in 1966.

However, Question Mark and the Mysterians was not the first rock band to experience chart success by concealing their identity.

In the early days of 1964 Beatlemania, an unknown American rock band with a catchy Beatlesque, Merseybeat single, “Roses Are Red (My Love),” found themselves packaged as the You Know Who Group—insinuating it could be a new single by the Beatles—and reached #43 on the U.S charts and #21 in Canada. Then, in 1965, a promising Canadian band became one of the biggest selling pop-rock groups of the early Seventies, in spite of their initial marketing under the same “mysterious” circumstances.

Upon hearing Chad Allan & the Expressions’ cover of “Shakin’ All Over,” a pre-Beatles British Invasion hit by Johnny Kidd & the Pirates, Quality Records insinuated members of the Beatles and other popular British Invasion bands recorded the song as a “supergroup”—with a playful “Guess Who?” moniker (like the earlier Masked Marauders who had a hit with “I Can’t Get No Nookie“). As with Question Mark and the Mysterians, the gimmick worked. Forever known as the Guess Who, their first single reached number one in Canada, #22 in the U.S, and #27 in Australia. The success set the stage for their RCA Records debut, Wheatfield Soul, and its 1969, U.S Top Ten hit, “These Eyes.”

Jimmy “Orion” Ellis with Sun Records’ Shelby Singleton and Kiss during the 1977 Love Gun tour.

The gimmick of a mystery group was not unique to the late Sixties. All the above noted bands were preceded by another mystery singer—a Fifties rockabilly singer who also utilized the “Phantom” moniker: Jerry Lott.

Born in Mobile, Alabama, in 1938, Lott played country music until 1956; then Elvis Presley’s melding of country and “race records” took him in a new musical direction. This lead Lott to compose “Love Me,” recorded in 1958 at Gulf Coast Studios, located in Mobile, Alabama. National audiences discovered the song thanks crooner Pat Boone’s Cooga-Mooga Records. Based on the song’s Elvis sound-alike qualities, Pat Boone suggested the “Phantom” stage name to Lott to maximize the record’s marketing potential. Tragically, just as the record started to break, Lott’s car skid off a 600-foot mountainside outside of Spartanburg, South Carolina. The accident left Elvis’s first “phantom” paralyzed.

In the wake of Jim Morrison returning from the dead in 1974 as the Phantom and Canada’s Klaatu working the charts in 1977 as a phantom Beatles, it turned out Elvis Presley’s death—like Jim Morrison’s—was “faked.”

The idea for this second “phantom” Elvis birthed in the fictionalized pages of Gail Brewer Giorgio’s novel, Orion. Published prior to Presley’s August 1977 death—with a somewhat analogous storyline to Jim Morrison’s alleged The Bank of America of Louisiana tome (and predating P.F Kluge’s similarly-styled 1980 novel, Eddie and the Cruisers)—Giorgio’s novel concerned an Elvis-styled singer who faked his death to escape fame.

Under the Orion facade was Alabama-born Jimmy Ellis, a musician who knocked around the country-music business since 1964—blessed (or cursed) with a singing and speaking voice analogous to Elvis (as with Arthur Pendragon’s to Jim Morrison’s; listen to the Phantom’s backward poem, forwarded). After hearing an Ellis demo, Shelby Singleton, the then owner of Sun Records, Elvis Presley’s old recording home, pinched from Giorgio’s book (Giorgio was not complicit in Singleton’s marketing scheme) and created an Elvis doppelganger—Orion.

Adorning Ellis in Elvis-inspired capes and jumpsuits, then slapping on a pompadour wig and jeweled Lone Rangersque-mask (Jerry Lott wore a similar eye-mask), the “marketing” worked. Not only was Orion’s 1978 album, Reborn (You Tube/full album), embraced by radio and the Elvis-loving record-buying public, Giorgio’s book, once ignored, received renewed interest from those who believed the King was not only alive, but that Giorgio’s book was actually Elvis Presley’s memoirs thinly disguised as a fictional novel. In addition, as with the Guess Who and Question Mark and the Mysterians before him, Orion’s first singles entered the marketplace with a question mark (?) nom de plume to create a pre-release buzz for the full-length Orion album.

As with the Arthur Pendragon’s Jim Morrison-albatross, Jimmy Ellis suffered under his phantomesque yokes with a desire for everyone to see the real person under the mask. Sadly, the recognition Jimmy Ellis craved and deserved arrived too late. A failed 1998 robbery at his Alabama pawnshop resulted in his murder. He was unable to see his career preserved in the 2015 documentary, Orion: The Man Who Would Be King.

So goes the tales of the marketing hype with phantom rockers, ghostgroups and supergroups, as well as concept albums and rock operas, rock theatrics and ad-hoc studio supersessions—and, in most cases, their resulting lack of achieving commercial inroads. Unfortunately, there is more to rock ‘n’ roll than just the song in the business end of rock ‘n’ roll; it is about the packaging of the sights and sounds, of the images and marketing: for every Jim Morrison, there’s a Phantom. For every Knack, there’s a Nirvana.

And for every Elvis, there’s a Jimmy Ellis.

Orion: The Man Who Would Be King is readily available as a PPV and VOD in the online marketplace, and can be streamed at Amazon Prime and Vimeo on Demand.

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. You can find his books on the career of Arthur Pendragon—The Ghost of Jim Morrison, the Phantom of Detroit, and the Fates of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Tales from a Wizard: The Oral History of Walpurgis—as softcover and eBooks in the online marketplace at all eRetailers—including Amazon.

Baskin (2015)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Roger Braden runs the Facebook group Valley Nightmares, which is all about the history of the films that played at the drive-ins and theaters in his home state of Kentucky. He’s a great guy and I’m excited to read his take on this movie.

Originally a short film that impressed, creator Can Evrenol was able to acquire around $350k and given the go ahead to expand on his story and make Baskin his feature film debut.

And what a debut it is.

Released in 2015 to various, high profile film festivals, it didn’t open wide in Turkey until January 1, 2016. Filmed over 28 nights in his native Istanbul, mostly without permits, Evrenol’s story is tension filled, dark and violent. It’s a film that I feel fits into the best of Clive Barker’s twisted universe, mixes in some Fulci, and expands on it.

Our story begins with a child awakening during a storm, he’s scared and goes to his mothers bedroom door, but there’s a lot of moaning and groaning going on in there so he moves on out into the house. As the storm crashes, a zombie-like arm reaches up behind some furniture and starts to reach for the boy. The boy runs back to his mother’s door, pounding on it and screaming “Mom” over and over.

Fade to black, the title and opening credits roll. We open on a rainy night at a hole in the wall diner, a five man police squad (Yes, one of the officers is that boy now) are swapping stories and having some disgusting looking food. Things escalate between them and the owner and a local, an officer goes to the bathroom and freaks out, then they load up in their big ass police van and leave. As our guys are traveling down the road, a song pops on the radio and they start singing, and dancing, to a song proclaiming “They’re not afraid.” Just as the song ends they get a radio dispatch that a police unit in a town called Inceagac has requested backup and they accept the call. Heading that way, our driver states that Inceagac is a bad place, despite having many Temples there. The journey gets weird, there is an accident, a flashback to their time in the diner, and an encounter with roadside locals that inform them that they have arrived in Inceagac. Despite the locals warnings, they proceed on foot to the nearby ruin of a building where the backup call came from. Seeing their fellow officers car, silent, but with lights flashing, they realize this was a police station in the distant past, with a very bad history.

And that’s the setup folks, because once our guys step into the building to find their fellow officers and to see what’s going on, this film goes completely insane. It’s been a weird flick so far, steadily building tension while you try to figure out where it’s going. But you’re not going to expect what happens from this point forward. Because our boys have stepped into one of the gates to Hell, or a Hellmouth, or whatever you want to call it (a shitstorm maybe?!) and this isn’t going to have a happy ending.

I hate “spoilers,” so I’m not going to get into much story detail from here on out. But as our guys continue to stumble forward, and try to escape, the depths of this Hell continue to get more tense, violent and weird. I’ve used the word “weird” several times in this piece, but I’m not sure if I’ve said it enough. Don’t believe me, wait until you meet “The Father,” played by first time actor Mehmet Cerrahoglu. This dude got the role simply because of the way he looks! And his setup and reveal is dreadful and horrifying!

This film hits all the checkmarks for me. Lighting, camerwork, story, acting, music, imagery… it all works. It’s bloody and violent, but there’s a lot left to the imagination, and that adds to the films overall tone. Evrenol does a fine job and mixes in some nice twists along the way, I especially love the final twist. This is very much a WTF movie. Multiple viewings reveal another angle (Se7en) that adds to the films enjoyment.

BASKIN streams everywhere, it’s on disc, I have the Scream Factory blu (which has the original short!) and I always watch it in Turkish! Many thanks to and Sam Panico!

Drive-In Friday: Brett Piper Night

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.

You can watch Queen Crab free-with-ads on TubiTv.

Movie 2: Muckman (2009)

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!

Movie 3: Outpost Earth (2019)

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.

Movie 4: Mysterious Planet (1982)

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*.

You can watch Mysterious Planet on You Tube.

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.

*ˣ Join us for our two-part Star Wars “Exploring: Before Stars Wars” and “Exploring: After Star Wars” featurettes overflowing with links to reviews of the films that inspired and were inspired by Star Wars.

ˣ* Sentient computers? Don’t forget to visit with four of sci-fi’s most-infamous artificial brains with our “Drive-In Friday: Computers Taking Over the World” featurette that posted on July 17th.

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

Furious 7 (2015)

While the three films took place in a pocket universe — yes, I have thought way too much about these movies — between 2 Fast 2 Furious and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo DriftFurious 7 was the first movie to make a step toward the future. However, it would have to do so without series star Paul Walker, whose death on November 30, 2013 would make this his last film.

After the tragedy, shooting was delayed for script rewrites. Walker’s brothers Caleb and Cody were used as stand-ins to complete his remaining scenes and this film served as the end of the story for Walker’s character, who retired from the family.

This movie also saw Justin Lin leaving and James Wan — who created the Insidious and Saw franchises — coming on board.

It also introduced new nemesis Deckard Shaw, brother of the last film’s final boss. He’s played by Jason Statham and he was so popular — and worked so well with Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs character — that he’d eventually turn good. I don’t know how, seeing as how it looked like he killed Han. This movie also introduces Kurt Russell as Mr. Nobody, a government agent who gives a mission to the team that brings them into conflict with Shaw, as well as Tony Jaa’s first English-speaking movie and an early role for Ronda Rousey, who made this at the same time as The Expendables 3.

The film ends with Dom and Brian going their separate ways, along with a series of clips of Walker’s character across the past several films. Yeah — it’s pretty emotional.

This film more than doubled the carnage — car-wise, that is — with 230 destroyed to make this.

I Am Thor (2015)

Last year, I saw a flyer for Thor, playing a really small bar in Monroeville, not far from my Pittsburgh home. I didn’t go, but after this, I kind of wish that I had.

Jon Mikl Thor was a Mr. USA and Mr. Canada that became a heavy metal vocalist and an actor who appeared in RecruitsZombie Nightmare and Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare, a film that begins with a van driving scene that may still be playing somewhere.

The thing I have learned about this movie is that no one cares about or believes in Thor more than Thor himself.

That said, you have to believe in yourself, even when the rest of the world doesn’t. Thor reminds me of several of the old pro wrestlers I’ve been around, assured that they didn’t make it in the big time because no one understood them or they were just too good and no one wanted the competition.

Ryan Wise and Alan Higbee spent fifteen years making this film, getting some truly astounding footage. It feels like they were embedded with the singer, getting footage that anyone other than him would feel was incredibly negative.

That said, I never felt horrible for Thor. He’s doing what he loves and it doesn’t matter if there are ten or a thousand people in the crowd. He’s always going to go full thundergod.

You can learn more at the official site and watch the movie on Tubi.

Theory of Obscurity (2015)

For four decades, the masked and mysterious sound and video collective known as The Residents have not just made music. Or art. But some form of commerce that creates art that feeds commerce with music. It’s complicated. So who is under the giant eyeball masks? What inspires those songs? And what makes fans get so obsessed that they end up creating their own bands inspired by the masked ones?

Luckily for viewers, The Residents’ management company, The Cryptic Corporation, gave the filmmakers unprecedented access, not only to the band’s video and audio archives, but to the musicians who have played with them before as well as a front-row seat on their 40th anniversary tour.

Members of Devo, Primus, Ween, Talking Heads and Pinback also appear, discussing how their bands and The Residents cross over with one another. The Residents — like the above bands and other sonic collectives like Negativland — have never existed to make music for everyone. But for those that are ready for their message, they have become auditory messiahs, inspiring not just fandom but further creation.

The Residents have always existed under N. Senada’s “Theory of Obscurity,” which states that “an artist can only produce pure art when the expectations and influences of the outside world are not taken into consideration.” His Theory of Phonetic Organization further states, “the musician should put the sounds first, building the music up from [them] rather than developing the music, then working down to the sounds that make it up.”

Some say N. Senada was a Bavarian composer. But then you realize: his name means “in himself nothing.” So while he may have been inspired by someone — perhaps Harry Partch or even Captain Beefheart, who inspired the masked ones in the way they did the same for so many — it seems that the man whose laws govern them was probably created by them too.

Like I said, it’s complicated. And I like it that way.

The Similars (2015)

If this movie is any indication, Isaac Ezban is a writer and director to watch. He was inspired by The Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life” and the color palette of 2009’s The Box, as this has a muted look that is unlike anything I’ve seen recently. It’s a movie that takes a somewhat silly conceit — every person in a bus station starts to look alike — and makes it amazingly taunt and shocking.

Ulises is stranded in a bus station during a rainstorm and the Tlatelolco riots of 1968. His wife is in Mexico City, ready to give birth and he must get there to see her. However, it seems like the storm is a worldwide phenomenon.

After speaking with Irene, the twosome decides to grab a taxi together. Ulises asks an old woman if she’d like to join them, but she angrily replies in a foreign language. At the same time, a cleaning lady demands that Rosa not leave before succumbing to an epileptic fit.

Meanwhile, as more people arrive, the man who runs the station screams that everything is Ulises’s fault before trying to kill him. And oh yeah — there’s a mysterious child named Igancio who must continually be shot up with sedatives.

At this point, the film reveals its crucial conceit: everyone begins to turn into Ulises, even the women, the magazines, the statues, everything has started to transform into him. Ignacio shows him a comic book about aliens who steal humanity’s individuality without them ever knowing. Somehow, the child has caused this comic book fiction to become fact.

I really don’t want to reveal much more, but suffice to say that this movie really stuck with me. I can’t wait to see what Ezban does next.