April 29: Drop A Bomb — Please share your favorite critical and financial flop with us!
The thirteenth and final X-Men movie before Disney took over the franchise, New Mutants feels like an orphan, a movie that had no chance and that kept coming up against a corporate buyout, COVID-19, three years of off and on production and reshoots.
For what it’s worth, Disney claimed they never saw any box office in this movie, a film that TheFaulty In Our Stars director Josh Boone and writer Knate Lee called “Stephen King meets John Hughes-style horror.” To be fair, Boone was a big fan of the original comics, remixing his own comic book using panels from the Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz era of New Mutants as a proof of concept for what a film trilogy could be. He even sent a copy to Sienkiewicz, who said that the director had it figured out and wasn’t just ripping off his work.
Boone also saw the film’s Demon Bear villain as one he had real emotional ties to, as he was Evangelical Southern Baptist parents: “…they believed in the rapture; they believed the devil was real; they believed in demons.” Another influence that made me laugh was A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, because if anything, that movie completely rips off the feel of the New Mutants comics, which came out four years before Craven’s movie.
The New Mutants who show up are Danielle Moonstar / Mirage, who is played by Blu Hunt and the film’s lead; Anya Taylor-Joy is Illyana Rasputin / Magik, the daughter of X-Man Colossus, yet the comic connections are downplayed; Maisie Williams (Arya Stark from Game of Thrones) is Rahne Sinclair / Wolfsbane; Henry Zaga is Roberto da Costa / Sunspot and Charlie Heaton (Jonathan Byers from Stranger Things) is Sam Guthrie / Cannonball. They’re guided by Dr. Cecilia Reyes (Alice Braga) yet trapped in a facility that they believe is provided by Professor X. The truth is much more sinister. Literally, as she’s working for the Essex Corporation, which is probably X-Men villain Mr. Sinister.
It feels like this movie had no chance, but I really liked it. I mean, Lockheed the dragon shows up, Magik’s Soulsword looks great and the horror story works. I wish the sequels — Warlock would be played by Sascha Baron Cohen and the Inferno storyline would be the third movie — had been made, but as Disney took over the property, no one seemed interested in the success of this movie.
April 24: Do You Like Tubi Originals? — I do. You should find one and write about it. Here’s a list to help.
Directed and written by Sunu Gonera, this is the story of Joshua (Charles Mnene) who dreams of a better life and tries to get there through BMX racing until his knee is destroyed. For some time, he lives in a shelter run by Mambo (Hakeem Kae-Kazim) before learning that it’s all a very Oliver Twist situation. He also falls for Olivia (Simona Brown), a dancer from a world of wealth that he has never known.
Made in Cape Town, South Africa, Riding With Sugar looks beautiful and has a story with plenty of heart, too. The idea that even a fellow refugee and a man who was once a professor in their home country of Zimbabwe could use Joshua makes this quite emotional. I really loved seeing a part of the world that is not well-represented in film and the use of color in this brings even more drama and power to an already strongly written and realized movie. It seems like it’s going to just be a crime movie from the way that it looks from the poster and description, but this film is about more than that.
In a small town in Texas, an annual endurance contest in which contestants have to keep their hands on the body of a new pickup truck may offer entertainment to spectators and the chance of a lifetime to participants, but things spiral out of control.
If you’ve seen Hands On a Hard Body, you know how these contests work. German director Bastian Günther takes that idea and turns it into an examination of several people and their reasons for this test of will.
The player destined to win seems to be Kyle (Joe Cole), an unemployed local with a young wife and baby daughter. He seems obsessed to get the Nissan truck to the point that he begins to lose his sanity. There’s also a churchgoing woman named Ruthie (Lynne Ashe) who has her Bible and fellow worshippers on her side. They are amongst the twenty people gathered by Maria Parsons (Carrie Preston), the happy go lucky divorcee who has been doing this contest for years, but has never had one turn out like this.
The end of the film gets beyond dark, but it’s left to the viewer to wonder if it’s happening or the flashback shows what really happened. But real life is just as bleak. 24 year old Richard Vega threw a garbage can through the window of a K-Mart next door, walked to the sporting goods section and stole a shotgun. He was stopped by police before he could leave, at which point he shot himself. He had consumed six energy drinks over the past several hours and seemed like the most driven of all the people trying to win.
The idea of people doing anything for a prize while everyone watches won’t go away, particularly as the elite and lower castes grow further apart in America. The truck salespeople have already made it; they’re not giving an opportunity to the twenty people fighting against exhaustion to stand next to a truck. They’re giving us a way to stare and watch people fall to pieces.
I’ve been waiting for this movie for three years. Principal photography began in New South Wales in early March 2020 — just when COVID-19 started — and wrapped that June. While it had a premiere in Sarasota, Florida on October 23, 2020, it was as if this movie were never made. That is, until RJLE bought the rights and released it in theaters this March, with plans for a blu ray in May and an eventual run on Shudder.
The first movie in this series to play theaters since 1993’s Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice — there are ten other movies in this series as well as the short film that predates them, Disciples of the Crow — none of the movies have ever lived up to the original Children of the Corn.
The town of Rylstone, Nebraska — well, Rylstone, Australia, but let’s go with what the movie tells us — is considered a government buyout for their failed corn. Robert (Callan Mulvey) plans on selling, but his daughter Boleyn (Elena Kampouris) argues it. Then there are the town’s children, led by Rylstone Children’s Home resident Eden (Kate Moyer), who come to the town meeting to weigh in before being laughed at by the grown-ups.
However, Eden speaks to He Who Walks, the demonic presence within the cornfield and soon the children of the small city have risen up and come at their parents with death in their hearts. Eden learned from an incident in your youth when Boyd (Rory Potter) emerged from the corn and killed every adult in the orphanage and when the cops unleashed halothane gas, all the kids died as well. Now, Bolelyn must figure out a way to stop the carnage when the kids go wild.
I kind of like how this film got in a message about herbicides and GMOs. There’s also a scene where Bolelyn’s beother Cecil (Jayden McGinlay) Cecil walks through town and notices just how much child abuse — not to mention his mother cheating on his dad — there is in this falling to pieces town. He joins Eden, as she claims the entity she serves will help them kill everyone.
While most of the important town leaders are placed in prison, the rest are led to a mass grave, gassed with that same halothane and then buried under dirt. It’s a really well-done and rough scene. Other than the shock ending that sets up — you know it — another sequel, things work pretty well in this, if still in the shadow of what came before.
The main reason I was excited for this was that it was directed and written by Kurt Wimmer, who wrote Sphere and the remake of The Thomas Crowne Affair before directing two wild early 2000s movies that showed off his riff on Hong Kong action called gun fu, Equilibrium and Ultraviolet.
The results? Not the worst film in the series and one that takes its own path away from the cult idea and presents more ecohorror. It’s an interesting idea and just ends up being an okay movie, but when you’re the 12th film in a series, okay sometimes is more than okay.
Vampus (Saturnino García, El Dia de la Bestia) digs graves up night for bodies that he opens at night and feeds the interned remains to his pet Toby. And when he’s not doing that, he’s telling stories of horror to you, the viewer. Each of the four horror stories in Vampus Horror Tales are directed by a different first time filmmaker with the wraparound directed by Víctor Matellano and co-writers Victoria Vázquez and Diego Arjona.
“La Boda” is directed and written by Manuel Martínez and is all about the bride Marta and the best man Santi finding themselves trapped in a basement as he attempts to get her to leave the groom at the altar. “Cumpleaños” directed by Erika Elizalde and written by Ignacio López has another couple, Arlin and Daniela trapped inside a carnival ride. “Segunda Cita,” directed and written by Isaac Berrocal, has the blind Margot (Erika Sanz) being menaced by Alex (Nacho Guerreros) on a date at his county house. “Linaje,” by director and writer Piter Moreira, has Marcos (Federico Repetto) dealing with keeping his newly vampiric wife (Vicky Jorge) hidden and fed during a pandemic created by tainted hot dogs.
Inspired by Spanish horror comics and movies of the past, this isn’t perfect — no anthology is — but I was overjoyed to see Paul Naschy (Ignacio López) make an appearance as well as Franco regular Antonio Mayans. I really loved the cannibalistic and dark humored Vampus way more than the stories he tells, which seem to rely on basic horror ideas instead of the self-aware nature of the bookend segments. That said, I like the choice to have everything in black and white. This is still much better — even as it is imperfect — than so many streaming anthologies.
Vampus Horror Tales is available on demand and on digital from Uncork’d Entertainment.
As a global war begins to burn itself out, a young filmmaker named Diane (Alexandra Slade) is trapped in a military bunker with the increasingly unhinged General Gore (Nick Young). That’s a simple explanation for this film’s plot but it gets much stranger than that sentence.
Director and writer Brian Patrick Butler has made something that lives up to its prophetic tagline: Just because you are saved, doesn’t mean you’re safe. This is neither all comedy or all horror or all political but all those things jammed into a cocktail of so many more ingredients, like body horror and the stated influences of Samuel Beckett, Jean-Paul Sartre, John Carpenter and David Cronenberg.
What starts in a bunker filled with dead bodies and ends up with the two diametrically opposed characters finally engaging in conflict, this movie gets absolutely wild and does so in a black and white look that is positively jarring and, of course, causes one to think of the Twilight Zone but here it’s a positive connection. Or propaganda films, which this movie goes out of its way to show the two sides of.
In just fifty minutes, this gets some big ideas out there and has two leads who are more than up to the task of the heavy dialogue they’ve been given. This is definitely worth watching, as is where Butler takes his career next.
I missed this when it first came out and I’ve always had it on my list, wondering what it was about. Once the sequel, Becky 2: The Wrath of Becky, I figured it was time to see a movie I lost track of during the pandemic.
I’ve gone on record saying that I’ve overcome all manner of violence in my life and never thought twice about it, but still remember mean things preteen girls would say decades ago. Becky (Lulu Wilson, who is great in everything she’s been in, including The Haunting of Hill House, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Annabelle: Creation and Deliver Us From Evil) is a young woman bullied in school and still struggling to get over the loss of her mother. Somehow, all that pain doesn’t come out as mean words but as the kind of violence usually reserved for male action stars.
Her father Jeff (Joel McHale) takes her to his cabin for the weekend in the hopes of reconnecting and getting her to like his new fiancee — well, that’s a surprise for her — Kayla (Amanda Brugel, Jason X) and her son Ty (Isaiah Rockcliffe). That doesn’t last long, as a gang of Neo-Nazis led by Dominick Lewis (an incredible Kevin James; the role was meant for Simon Pegg but wow, James is astounding) that includes Roman Hammond (James McDougall), Sonny Cole (Ryan McDonald) and the monstrous Wallace “Apex” Landham (Robert Maillet, who wrestled in WWE as Kurrgan) come to the home, kill one of the family’s two dogs and demand a key that Becky keeps in her treehouse fort. This McGuffin is said by Lewis to be part of his master plan that he’s spent a decade in jail putting together and that it will unlock everything for him and his people. He even has it tattooed on his body. And no, that key is never explained. It’s just the device that starts a 13-year-old girl on the path of bloody vengeance against a gang of men larger, tougher and more frightening — well, not for long — than her.
I was shocked by how hard this movie goes and loved every minute of it. I mean, did I think that I’d see a movie where a young girl goes Fulci on the King of Queens when it started? No, I was not. This movie is packed with grisly and imaginative doses of pure violence and kept me in the whole time, even if the opening and closing police moments are pointless. Yet when the movie gets to Wilson cosplaying First Blood, this movie doesn’t just sing. It screams its head off.
Co-directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion also made Cooties together, while writers Ruckus and Lane Skye were also behind The Devil to Pay and Rattle the Cage. Nick Morris, an executive producer, also worked on the script.
The Ronin Flix blu ray release of Becky has introductions from directors Jonathan Millet and Cary Murnion, a featurette about directing the film, interviews with McHale and Wilson, fan art, behind the scenes photos and commentary with Wilson and screenwriters Ruckus and Lane Skye. You can get it from Ronin Flix and MVD.
This movie was co-directed by Ross Snyder and William Hellfire, who worked for Gary Whitson, the founder of W.A.V.E. Productions, in the 90s and was astounded to learn in 2016 that his old boss was still making his strange films. He pitched him on the idea for this and Whitson gave him full access to all of his movies as well as the people who made — and still make — them on spec.
That’s right. If there’s a horror movie you want to see or more to the point, a death or struggling scene with an attractive actress, W.A.V.E. will film it for you with our their actresses, including Clancy McCauley, Debbie D., Laura Giglio, Deanna Demko, Pamela Sutch and Tina Krause, who all appear in the film.
If you have any love for SOV — I mean, this site just spent nearly three weeks on these movies, so if you’re reading this, you might — this has so may folks show up like Goregasm director High Gallagher, Tempe Video’s J.R. Bookwalter, the guys from Bleeding Skull and Lunchmeat and nearly everyone else associated with W.A.V.E.
There’s also great footage from old Chiller Theater conventions, Debbie D. on The Joe Franklin Show and most of the cast laughing about both the silliness of so many of the movies and the conditions that they were made under.
This movie has no judgment for the films that W.A.V.E. creates and is so good natured about movies that are basically just about women being stabbed, strangled, drowned and even devoured by a giant woman in Eaten Alive: A Tasteful Revenge. Instead, these sleazy movies seem to be made by a strange family of sorts that ended up creating outsider art, if outsider art made several films devoted to women in quicksand.
Man, instead of talking head horror docs that tell us everything we want to know about safe subjects, more people need to go all in on the dark alleys of the genre. This movie is incredible.
You can get this from Saturn’s Core, a partner label of Vinegar Syndrome. You can also watch it on Tubi.
In director and writer Keith Boynton’s The Scottish Play, Sydney (Tina Benko) decides to escape the big world of Hollywood by heading to New England and acting in a Shakespeare festival. She likes her leading man Hugh (Geraint Wyn Davies) and gets along with the director Adam (Peter Mark Kendall). And then she meets William Shakespeare himself (Will Brill), who reveals to her that the curse of Macbeth is all the fault of his ghost, as he was never happy with what he wrote. He’ll leave her production alone if she’s open to some rewrites, however.
If you told me that this would be a movie that I’d find fun, funny and charming before I saw it, I’d have called you a fool. But after watching it — actually I wouldn’t be that rude, but I wouldn’t expect to like this — I really fell for it. It’s a cute little concept, told well by a good cast and an interesting script.
I like the idea that someone from the outside — not knowing that the bard himself was writing the new version — would be upset that someone was messing with Macbeth. That’s the conflict that drives this film, as well as gives an actress the chance to meet the playwright that inspired so many stories of his own.
Deaf Crocodile Films — who released the amazing Solomon King on blu ray this year — has also released four feature films by acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Shahram Mokri on demand for U.S. audiences. The four films will be available on Amazon, iTunes and Projectr and tell the stories of aerial killers, kite flyers, vampires and arsonists who disappear into time. You can also buy the blu ray box set from Deaf Crocodile.
Careless Crime (Jenayat-e Bi Deghat) (2020): Inspired by the Cinema Rex fire in 1978 that triggered the Iranian Revolution, this movie follows three different paths: arsonists planning the fire, the students at the cinema interacting with the employees of the theater and the characters on the screen of the movie that played that night. The crime that was committed that night was so horrible that it literally burns through the reality that unites these three storylines.
The night Cinema Rex burned — one of the biggest terrorist attacks in Iran for decades — The Deer was playing. Two women attempt to play that same film in the desert in another storyline as they come across soldiers who have discovered an unexploded munition from another conflict in the past.
The theme of carelessness is carried through by so many in this, as many of the terrorists believed that the audience would just rush out and be unharmed and their message would be heard. Yet the theater manager oversold tickets to the show and his greed is just as responsible for the deaths.
This is a movie that is historical beyond true crime while also telling of the world of film. It may get repetitive and a little long at two hours and twenty minutes, but wow, those last twenty minutes make up for it. You won’t just know about what happened. You will feel it.
Fish & Cat (Mahi Va Gorbeh) (2013): In the Caspian region, students have gathered for a kite-flying event during the winter solstice. Next to their camp is a small hut occupied by three cooks who work at a nearby restaurant, a place that serves human meat on the menu. Meanwhile, the space-time loop within this film both gives away the ending and also makes it seem suspenseful at the same time. And here’s one more thing that makes this break from the pack: The entire movie is one single 140-minute take.
Director Shahram Mokri said, “I like the paintings of Maurits Escher, where you can see a change in perspective in the same visual. In my film, I wanted to give a change in perspective of time in one single shot. So the idea for the film came from his paintings.”
Consider this an Iranian Texas Chainsaw Massacre, yet one where we don’t see the horror of cannibalism yet feel it even more, if that’s possible. What a wild film.
Ashkan, The Charmed Ring And Other Stories (Ashkan, Angoshtar-e Motebarek Va Dastan-haye Digar) (2008): Mokri’s first feature was a black and white comedy about fate that, yes, has the feel of Tarantino yet establishes the director’s own voice as it tells the tales of blind jewel thieves Shahrooz and Reza; Askhan, a man who can’t quite seem to commit suicide, some cops, some hitmen, a young couple who wants to run away to get married, the boy’s angry father, art dealers, two female morgue attendants and, oh yeah, a fish on the loose and a missing ring.
Beyond Tarantino, there are moments that feel like film noir and others that reference Jim Jarmusch. Remember when Crash or Magnolia or any of those post-Quentin movies where everyone’s connected seemed to be every other movie? Sure, this is like that, but it also has an episodic nature and fun edge that makes it stand out from also-rans like Eight Heads In a Duffle Bag.
I know that Mokri made shorts before this, but it’s pretty amazing that this was his first full-length movie.
Invasion (Hojoom)(2017): I can honestly say I’ve never seen another movie like this and it was absolutely astounding.
The sales copy for this describes it as “a science-fiction/detective/vampire story, with nods to stylized 1980s New Wave-era films like Liquid Sky” and yeah, that’s almost as close as I can come to figuring out how to explain it to you.
At some time somewhere in the future, teams of tattooed athletes play a never explained sport in a foreboding and dangerous stadium where a murder has already taken place. The police have been trying to reconstruct the crime over and over again, using the vampiric twin sister of the married man in his place. There’s also a way too long eclipse and a global pandemic happening all at the same time.
I mean, this movie also has the one shot technique of Fish & Cat while also looking like a grimy 70s science fiction horror movie — Thirst maybe? — along with way too much fog and the red-eyed, face-tattooed and androgynous female vampire Negar gliding through all of this. Did Ali kill her brother, his best friend Saman? What’s up with the way he poses in front of the mirror in the beginning? What’s up with all those no gender mixing warning signs? Were Saman and Negar the same person when it comes down to it or were they really just switching lives and souls? How can an Iranian film made in 2017 feel so much like Jean Rollin or Jess Franco?
And most importantly, why did it take me so long to find this? Absolutely essential.