31 (2016)

Rob Zombie came up with the idea for 31 after reading a statistic that stated that Halloween is the “number one day of the year when people go missing” and walking through the Great American Nightmare and seeing chainsaw-carrying clowns. Or, you know, he just wanted to keep making Eaten Alive by 2007 Tobe Hooper and not 1977 Tobe Hooper.

Halloween 1976: Carnival workers Charly (Sheri Moon Zombie), Venus (Meg Foster), Panda (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs), Levon (Kevin Jackson) and Roscoe (Jeff Daniel Phillips) are traveling through the countryside when they get stopped by scarecrows and kidnapped to a compound where they will play the game of 31 for the pleasure of Sister Dragon (Judy Geeson), Sister Serpent (Jane Carr) and Father Napoleon-Horatio-Silas Murder (Malcolm McDowell). If you guessed The Most Dangerous Game, you’re right, played against facepainted clown-lookalikes such as Sick-Head (Pancho Moler), Psycho-Head (Lew Temple), Schizo-Head (David Ury), Death-Head (Torsten Voges), Sex-Head (E.G. Daily) and Doom-Head (Richard Brake). Ginger Lynn and Tracy Walter also appear as Cherry Bomb and Lucky Leo.

Brake’s the best thing in the movie, as he at least gets two speeches in. But man, for a movie that had not one but two crowd-funding campaigns, you would think that money would make this movie a little better. Of all Zombie’s movies, I found this the roughest, as it never really gets anywhere, despite being filled with sound, fury and a Kafka quote that just says, “See, I’m smart.”

It’s not.

In fact, there’s so much pandering to be cool. Look, there’s Malcolm McDowell, he was in a cool movie that’s still edgy! Look, I have Nosferantu playing on a screen! Hey — a body under the dining table reveal just like Rocky Horror! It’s the 70s, man. Everybody was saying the c word. Swearing is cool.

You know that guy that keeps telling you how amazing he is?

He’s this movie.

You can watch this on Tubi.

You can also hear how much I hated this movie mere minutes after I watched it right here.

Vigilante Diaries (2016)

Director Christopher Sesma has been cranking out direct to streaming action films. Co-writing this film with star Paul Sloan, the twosome got this story started as a web series and got seven episodes onto USA before it got canceled.

The Vigilante has been captured and a black ops team with Wolfman (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson) and Tex-Mex (Chavo Guerrero Jr.) as members has to rescue him. And then there’s a rescue of The Vigilante’s pregnant wife. And Jason Mewes is a filmmaker who got the world interested in The Vigilante. And then Armenian mobsters start shooting up the place. And then there are bombs all over the city. And then there’s the threat of Barrington (Michael Jai White) and Moreau (Michael Madsen). And hey — there’s Danny Trejo tending a bar straight out of Accident Man or Deadpool.

This movie feels like I got dropped into the fifth sequel and have no idea who anyone is but everyone else does. It also feels like a comic book adaptation for a book that has never been published and somehow we’re supposed to know who everyone is.

That said, I want to like this more than I did. I have a soft spot for it. Maybe you will too.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Sinister Squad (2016)

Directed and written by Jeremy M. Inman and a spin-off of his Avengers Grimm movie series, this movie finds Alice (Christina Licciardi, who plays the same role in Avengers Grimm: Time Wars) and her Looking Glass spy organization rounding up fairy tale heroes and villains like the Wicked Stepmother of Sleeping Beauty Carabosse (Fiona Rene), Piper (Isaac Reyes), Goldilocks (Piper Lindsay), Gelda the Queen of Hearts (Talia Davis), Bluebeard (Trae Ireland), the Big Bad Wolf (Joseph Harris), Hatter (Randall Yarbrough) and Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Joseph Moses) like Amanda Waller setting up convicts at Belll Reve.

The machinations of Rumpelstiltskin (Johnny Del Riaz) in the past movie — where he was played by Casper Van Dien — have allowed Death in a  ninja mask (Nick Principe) and his cult to run free on Earth. Kind of like, you know, Loki and Thanos somewhere else.

There are some good ideas here — Bluebeard uses his knives to kill women and trap them inside the blades which he calls his wives, the whole idea of a group of fantasy villains joining up, Carabosse being a cannibal witch — but the budget hurts this, as does the same warehouse I’ve seen in nearly every Asylum mockbuster.

I’d love to see them do a comic book of this, as drawings have no budget.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues (2016)

Dynamite Entertainment, who published the Red Sonja comic books at the time, collaborated with animation studio Shout! Factory to produce this motion comic, which takes the script of Gail Simone and the original art of Walter Geovani and Jenny Frison, then adds small bits of motion that can kind of, sort of be called a cartoon. It’s kind of like the way Grantray-Lawrence Animation did The Marvel Super Heroes in the 60s with a bit more tech.

If you’ve only seen the live-action Red Sonja, this is closer to the comic book version of the She-Devil with a Sword. Our heroine (Misty Lee, the magician wife of animator Paul Dini) comes back to a kingdom to pay back the blood debt to the king who freed her from the slave pit, but finds herself battling Annisia, a woman who she once considered her sister.

While the animation is rough and this wouldn’t be the story I’d introduce new readers to when it comes to Red Sonja, it’s nice to see this character getting any media mentions after decades of a rumored film.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Prey (2016)

Released in the U.S. as Uncaged, this movie was directed and written by Dick Maas, the man behind The LiftAmsterdamned and Sint. Taking place in the architecture of Amsterdam, Prey unleashes a gigantic lion that takes no prisoners.

On the trail of this 450-pound mountain lion are Detective Olaf Brinkers (Rienus Krul) and forensic veterinarian Lizzy (Sophie van Winden), all while a reporter named Maarten (Pieter Derks) and Dave the cameraman (Julian Looman) follow them, with Dave having just as much interest in winning over Lizzy as he does catching the cat. Maybe he’s more interested in the girl, to be perfectly honest.

After police chief Zalmberg (Theo Pont) has his cousin die spectacular trying to capture the lion, he hires famous hunter Jack DelaRue (Mark Frost) who just so happens to be Lizzy’s ex.

There was no way that this could be filmed with a real lion as wildlife is prohibited in the Amsterdam city area. There’s a mix of an animatronic lion in the close ups and a CGI one in the rest of the movie. It’s not perfect, but there are some thrilling scenes, as the ending with the lion trying to claw through a windshield to get to Lizzy is really intense.

Also, if you’re expecting a non-gory animal attack movie, you may have not seen any of Maas’ movies.

You can watch this on Shudder.

Blood Claws (2016)

Somehow, within 55 minutes, a zookeeper comes to town to battle an escaped black panther and a band plays in a red-lit club for more than one song. You also don’t see the panther until the very end and yes, it’s stock footage, and yes, you should have expected that.

When you do have the panther in the movie, everything is from his POV, which is an effective way to keep the budget down.

That said, this movie has so much padding I’m shocked that it isn’t going to its first high school dance. There’s a really long sequence of someone drawing by the lake and it has little or nothing to do with the plot. I mean, maybe you’d like a hangout film where everyone just chills, but there’s a panther on the loose.

Dustin Ferguson does know how to make stuff on budget and get content out there though.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Junesploitation 2022: Blood on Méliès’ Moon (2016)

June 26: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is free! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.

Man, Luigi Cozzi. StarcrashContaminationPaganini Horror, Cannon’s Hercules, his remix of GodzillaSinbad of the Seven Seas, the remix remake ripoff weirdness that is Demons 6 De Profundis, The Killer Must Kill Again, writing Four Flies on Grey Velvet and even just being a fan of film and running Argento’s Profondo Rosso store and museum — I just love the man. Like, I wish I could buy him dinner and drinks and just pick his brain for hours about the history of film.

I think this is as close as I’m going to get.

Cozzi originally came up with the idea — or at least the title — for Blood on Méliès’ Moon when he was working for Cannon in the 80s, but had no idea how it could be made. As much as we hate on modern technology, it did make this happen, as the Cozzi said that it was like when he “decided to become a publisher, until then, to publish a book you had to print at least one or two thousand copies. That meant a lot of money and often your storehouses were full of unsold copies. After the advent of digital, you could print even only thirty copies of a book and so I decided to start publishing books and novels.”

Let me try and summarize this absolutely berserk movie.

Inventor Louis Le Prince — a real artist could possibly have been the first person to shoot a movie of any length using a single lens camera and a strip of film; he also disappeared after boarding a train in September of 1890 on his way to demonstrate the camera, but there are theories that he was killed by Edison, disappeared to start a new life and celebrate his homosexuality where he would not be judged, that he committed suicide due to multiple failures or that his brother killed him to get their mother’s will. The case has never been solved — create a device that the Lumière Brothers would eventually call The Cinematographer.

Luigi Cozzi, playing himself, finds a book called The Roaming Universe that was left for him when Barbara (Barbara Magnolfi!) is killed by the statue of the Blood and Black Lace killer within Profondo Rosso’s Argento museum basement, a book that she received during a seance during which an old woman violently puked it into existence.

A man has also sent Cozzi a lamp fashioned after Le Voyage dans la Lune and claims that a shadow version of La Prince in the guise of a masked magician has left the doorway open to a dark dimension that will soon doom our reality using film as his weapon.

It’s a little like La rage du Démon, in that one of Méliès’ movies causes chaos, but it’s also a lot like a conspiracy tract you would have found in the 80s all Xeroxed and left in a payphone booth or a strange YouTube channel that at first you giggle about but then you say, “Well, that makes sense.” It’s baffling and brilliant and corny and silly all at the same time, a messy final message from an auteur who can’t help but be entertaining no matter what he does.

There’s also a trickster named Pierpoljakos (Philippe Beun-Garbe) who takes Cozzi through other dimensions, a severed head that can speak, Cozzi’s wife reacting to him telling her that he has to save the world by just rolling over and going back to sleep, Cozzi in fuzzy pajamas, Ben Cooper level masks, monsters and effects, as well as Lamberto Bava showing off his dad’s book collection, Dario Argento at an autograph signing and a nightmare that has critic Paolo Zelati claim that Cozzi is the Italian Ed Wood, which should upset him, but just ends up making him happy.

There’s also a discussion of the volcano sequence that Cozzi ripped off for Hercules and asks, “Did Cozzi choose the images or did the images choose him?” He also gets to fly on a rocket and when he lands, gets a smile from his own creation, Stella Starr from Starcrash.

This movie reminds me of the Profondo Rosso store itself, a cramped small place with a few books, some DVDs and goofy masks, all standing above a shrine to the genius that is Italian exploitation cinema in the catacombs below. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, it doesn’t have to and it’s wonderful.

I have in my office a Profondo Rosso mug and it’s one of my prized possessions. It’s like some alchemical object, something I hold and hope that the inspiration and madness and love of cinema that Cozzi has always had stays within me. I also am happy to report that when I mentioned his name to Caroline Munro, she lit up and said, “He really is the most wonderful man.”

You can get this movie directly from Profondo Rosso.

A Mother’s Revenge (2016)

Jennifer Clarke (Jamie Luner, All My ChildrenMelrose Place) already thinks that she’s finished her Lifetime movie, one in which she went overboard after being gaslit for decades by her horrible husband Richard (Jason-Shane Scott) and turned her life around, becoming an in-demand corporate exec while he’s married to a woman the same age as their daughter Katey (Audrey Whitby) and dealing with diapers. Yet she made the biggest mistake anyone in a movie can make. She grabbed the wrong suitcase, which brings the maniac named Conner (Steven Brand) into her life.

Also called An Accidental Switch and Killer Switch, this movie works because Steven Brand actually feels menacing and gets off some really sinister dialogue that makes this veer toward the weirdness that this needs more of. I realize it’s a Lifetime movie, but that doesn’t mean that a little bit of sleaze can’t come on down.

Next time you’re in the airport and they ask if you’ve had your bag the whole time, make sure you did. You don’t want a killing machine stealing your child and killing your ex-husband who you hate — maybe you might — and making you confess over the phone that you’re a bad girl. Actually, maybe you do want all of that. So you know, set that bag down and see what kind of adventure creeps into your life.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Sniper: Special Ops (2016)

Segal and Van Dam — together for the first time.

Steven Seagal and…Rob Van Dam weed-loving pro wrestler.

Also this is not a Sniper sequel despite the story of Master Gunnery Sergeant Tom Beckett taking place over eight movies.

Seagal is Sergeant Jake Chandler, an expert sniper, one so good that he’s rarely — if ever — in the same shot with his co-stars, shot like Jamie Lee Curtis in an Activia commercial.

The rest of the team — Van Dam, Tim Abell, Jason Shane-Scott — have been given the goal of rescuing a U.S. Congressman who has been kidnapped by the Taliban.

While I’d love to believe the IMDB fact “In preparation for this role Steven Seagal at fast food for a year straight while living with a family in Wisconsin,” I do appreciate the silent warrior who has been watching Fred Olen Ray movies and posting their military inaccuracies on the site, such as  “The sniper rifle makes the “phew” sound typical for suppressed gunfire in movies. High-powered long-range rifles are impossible to fully suppress because the bullets travel at over twice the speed of sound and make a loud sonic “crack” as they travel downrange. Although the suppressed muzzle blast makes it difficult to ascertain the position of the shooter, combatants in the target area will still hear the rifle fire and realize they are being fired upon.”

That’s the kind of obsessive movie writing that I adore. If that’s you, please write for this site.

Segal is in this movie for ten minutes. You can understand him for about three of those minutes.

At the end of this movie, the NATO reporter (Charlene Amoia) along with the crew takes photos of each of the soldiers.

RVD does his pose as if a crowd of dissidents would soon shout “Whole F-N Show!”

I laughed for about forty minutes.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Catacomba (2016)

Beyond the fumetti neri, Italian vietati ai minori (prohibited to minors) comic books go beyond the violence and sex that showed up in 80s exploitation movies. There were titles such as VampirissimoJacula (a female seductress married to both a vampire and human), Maghella (a witch character who was translated into an unreleased 1974 movie by Francis Leroi starring Playboy Playmate Jennifer Liano), Lucifera (a demoness from the Middle Ages who torments men and woman alike), Biancaneve (the erotic Snow White which was made into 1976’s La principessa sul pisello, directed by Piero Regnoli (the writer of Cry of a Prostitute) that features Susanna Martinková and 1982’s Biancaneve & Co which was directed by Mario Bianchi (Satan’s Baby Doll) and starring Michela Miti), Vartan (a Native American heroine based on French singer Sylvia Vartan), Zora the Vampire (which was made into a film by the Menetti Bros) and Sukia (a female vampire based on Ornella Muti).

Lorenzo Lepori (Beyond the Omega) and Roberto Albanesi, who co-wrote the script with Antonio Tentori (Island of the Living Dead), have taken those horror comics and adapted them into this anthology, which is just as concerned with violence as it is with sex. It starts with a man waiting for a barber, so he sits down and starts to reach the Catcaomba comic book.

In “Evil Tree,” Tentori plays a man who meets two biker women under a tree where they take physical advantage of him before murdering him to bring Satan into our world. It’s not much of a story, but the effects by Davide Bracci (Mother of Tears) and Sergio Stivaletti (The Wax Mask, which he directed, as well Demons) make this better than average.

“Alien Lover” concerns a wife’s infidelity with a stab happy alien, a fact that her husband was not ready to confront.

“Una Messa Nera per Paganini” may bring to mind Paganini Horror, but it tells its own story about the composer and the discovery of several of his hidden scores. Perhaps the remembrance of that Cozzi film is because that movie also had Pascal Persiano in it.

“La Maschera della Morte Rossa” has assisted suicide, occult rituals, necrophobia and rebirth, so basically something for everyone in the family.

Imagine if Creepshow went harder. Trashier and bloodier, too.