Southbound (2015)

Made by filmmakers who worked together on V/H/SSouthbound doesn’t always work, but at least its stories have a thematic tie to one another and a vision, unlike so many modern horror anthologies.

Radio Silence — Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett and Chad Villella– who made Ready or Not, V/H/S, and Devil’s Due directed the first segment, in which two men are pursued by demons down a highway as well as the demons of their past failures. “The Way Out” starts the film on a high note.

“Siren” continues the strangeness, as the three members of The White Tights wreck their van and are accosted by both hospitality and odd behavior in the homes they find in the aftermath. This segment effectively uses comic actors like Susan Burke and Dana Gould while the direction by Roxanne Benjamin (who wrote this with Burke) keeps the story moving.

“The Accident,” directed by David Bruckner, is one dark tale, in which a man is brought to a facility where he’s instructed in how to operate on Sadie, the character from the last story, who he hits with his car. He cannot save her and their instructions lead to her death; he’s haunted by their voices on the phone. The creatures from “The Way Out” keep showing up and haunting the characters.

One of the voices on the phone is Sandy, who leads us to a bar called The Trap and the story called “Jailbreak,” which is directed by Patrick Horvath. Beyond David Yow from the band The Jesus Lizard, this one is filled with demonic violence. However, it stumbles compared to the other segments.

“The Way In” is also by Radio Silence and shows us where the two main characters came from in the first story but not in any way that you’d expect. This one flips the narrative, showing us that perhaps everyone in this story is trapped in the same purgatory and on the way to hell, as well as featuring Larry Fessenden as the DJ whose voice intones that these people might just be making the same mistakes for eternity.

It’s no accident that Carnival of Souls — well, maybe the public domain status has a little to do with it — is playing at the beginning of this movie.

I was really opposed to this movie the first time I saw it, but after a few years — and the quick erosion in quality of horror anthologies — I’ve come around to liking it a lot more than I did the first time I saw it. Perhaps I’m the one trapped on the highway to hell, watching this again and again until I absolutely adore it?

SHARK WEAK: Mega Shark Versus Kolossus (2015)

Between Mega Shark, Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus, Mega Shark Versus CrocosaurusMega Shark Versus Mecha Shark and the rumored Mega Shark Versus Moby Dick, The Asylum has really gotten plenty of nautical miles out of the Mega Shark story.

Yet how can we explain the fact that Illeana Douglas appears in this movie as Dr. Alison Gray? I mean, Douglas is an incredible actress, but I guess everyone needs work. And yet she brings such gravitas to her role that you wonder, does she realize that she’s in a movie where an unearthed Cold War Russian giant robot battles a monstrous shark?

This was directed by Christopher Ray, who is also Christopher Douglas-Olen Ray, who is Fred’s son and now it all makes so much more sense. Hey — I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I wish there were more movies where soldiers fought to free mechanical monsters who can pick up a megalodon and throw it at a satellite that’s shooting a laser.

If you like your jetfighters as stock footage, your monsters rubbery yet made in CGI and great posters, well, this movie is for you. Actually, it’s for me, because this is exactly the kind of movie I revel in. If only we couldn’t find a secret Italian lab that has the robotic form of Bruno Mattei hidden away so that he could make so many more of these shark movies. Let’s Go Fund that!

You can watch this on Tubi.

SHARK WEAK: Raiders of the Lost Shark (2015)

Look, the title of this movie is incredible. It has no Raiders of the Lost Ark moments in it to pay off the name, but that’s totally a Jerry Gross-level title there.

This one’s a Brett Kelly movie and he’s the guy who made Ouija Shark and Jurassic Shark, so when it comes to shark movies with great titles that never really pay off, Brett is kind of your man. Here, he’s made the story of a prehistoric shark that gets into the waters of a small lake. It’s all fracking’s fault and the local swimmers must pay the price.

This may be the first Canada-set shark movie I’ve seen, so there’s that. I mean, it’s a shark that can fly and barks. If that sounds like something that you want for your own shark week, then by all means…

You can watch this on Tubi. Here’s to Wild Eye for continuing to come up with great posters and better titles for these movies.

The Slayers (2015)

Two cult members named Nigel and Job learn that a comet is about to destroy the world in just fourteen days, so they decide to go on a road trip. As their motorhome tours Scotland, they discover that vampires need to be stopped as part of God’s plan so that they can end their existence in good conscience.

The first full-length film by writer/director John Williams (who also has five acting parts), The Slayers in no way takes itself seriously and you should approach it with a sense of good humor. The comedy gets a bit ridiculous in here and it may go on a bit longer than it should, but you should find at least a good laugh or two.

I can honestly say that it’s the only end of the world vampire movie that I’ve seen, so that’s definitely something worth finding.

You can watch this on Tubi. Wild Eye has also released this on DVD (and were kind enough to send us a copy).

LEE MAJORS WEEK: Do You Believe? (2015)

Do You Believe? is kind of like Magnolia without the raining frogs, good music or characters that you actually worry and care about.

It’s the tale of a preacher who meets a street prophet who shakes him to the core.

And then you realize, hey, that street priest is Delroy Lindo and wow, the cast of this movie and the next thing you know, you’ve wasted an entire 115 minutes watching this.

The creators of God’s Not Dead got together a truly heavenly cast for this movie that’s kind of like Crash because it also has a car crash in it.

There’s Sean Astin as a kindly doctor, just holding out until he can get famous again when a monster from the Upside Down disembowels him! Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino! Alexa PenaVega from Spy Kids! Shark jumper Ted McGinley as that priest who has lost his faith! Cybill Shepherd, certainly in a place she never saw herself being in! Lee Majors, our reason for watching so many movies that we would have never watched if we weren’t doing a week of films in his honor! Brian Bosworth, who certainly deserves better! A rapper named Shwayze!

Look, I realize that a kid who grew up with apeirophobia — fear of eternity — and ouranophobia — fear of heaven — is not going to be the audience for this movie. Yet I know that Christian cinema can make astounding stuff like Ron Ormond’s films and A Thief In the Night. Why do contemporary Pure Flix movies play it so safe?

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 bandsaboutmovies.com and Sam Panico!