THANKSGIVING TERROR: The Last Thanksgiving (2020)

My brother and I used to have a ritual where we’d go to K-Mart, the only place open around our small town, and buy a game on Thanksgiving day. But now, so much is open on the holiday, it’s not fun. It’s kind of rough on the people who miss out on their family. I think a lot about restaurants that stay open over the big turkey day and well, this movie has a diner that remains open only to be attacked by cannibals.

Directed and written by Erick Lorinc, this is a movie that revels in blood and gore, as the cannibals punish those that don’t celebrate that first Thanksgiving in the proper way, showing up like The Strangers and killing everyone in their way.

Much like how cranberries add to the seasonal meal, this film delivers that most perfect of slasher desserts: Linnea Quigley.

This holiday, don’t go shopping until at least the next morning. Stay out of bistros. And just hide out with your family. Maybe show them this.

You can watch this on Tubi.

MVD BLU RAY RELEASE: Cinematographer (2020)

A fascinating look at the art of filmmaking, including stories and clips from the making of some of the greatest films of the 70’s and 80’s, Cinematographer focuses on Donald M. Morgan (Se7enStarman), who has worked with Robert Zemeckis, John Carpenter and Joseph Sargent. It also has an appearance by Owen Roizman, the man who helped shoot The French ConnectionThe Exorcist and Tootsie.

For a film geek, this is a near-perfect movie to just sit back and savor. Directed by Dan Asma, I came out of this really interested in the life of Morgan, a man who overcame addiction to become someone so important to the way that we see movies. His personal stories are so great as well, including a brutal tale about Carpenter. It was really emotional to hear the way that he spoke of working with some of the greats of Hollywood, as well as others explaining how they felt about him.

You can get this movie from MVD.

SLASHER MONTH: Blade the Iron Cross (2020)

We’re back to the Axis universe of these movies and psychic war journalist Elisa (Tania Fox) builds a telepathic link to Blade and together, they fight to stop the Germans from developing a Nazi death ray.

Directed by John Lechago and written by Brockton McKinney and Neal Marshall Stevens, this continues the ESP angle of the last three films while also getting in some walking dead Nazis. It was filmed live on the web so you could watch it as it was created.

I liked this, but at this point I’ve seen every single film in the series, so I’m going to keep watching them. The Axis universe has led to some halfway decent stories and I may have said several times already that I prefer the puppets to be on the right side of the war.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Kratt (2020)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This originally was on the site on October 23, 2021. It’s on the site again because now you can find it on your choice of digital and cable platforms, including iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, iNDemand and DISH, beginning October 11 from Red Water Entertainment.

Mia (Nora Merivoo) and Kevin (Harri Merivoo) — yes, the children of the director Rasmus Merivoo, but they do quite well — are staying with Grandma (Mari Lili) at her home in the country as their parents attend a retreat. Stuck without access to the web, the kids are entertained by their grandmother’s story of the kratt, a demonic creature that will do anything asked. And hey, if they find the instructions and decide to make their own, nothing will go wrong, right?

Rasmus Merivoo, the director and writer, said that “Kratt is a bloody story with no bad characters. A comedy that encourages you to worry less. A lesson on fear and what happens if you listen to it. A film for grownups and kids. A film not for the
faint-hearted, but part of a full-fledged life for the brave.”

Yep, pretty much.

I haven’t seen many — if any — films from Estonia, but hey this is pretty wild.

So what is a kratt? A part of Estonian folklore, the kratt is a creature made from hay or old household implements and then given life by giving three drops of blood to the devil. The flying demon must constantly be kept working, stealing and doing or it will turn on its master. The only way to stop a kratt is to give it an impossible task which will frustrate it to the point that it will burn itself up.

There are moments of sheer whimsy and fun here, as well as some moments that may not translate to American audiences all that well, but who cares? Don’t we watch foreign films to delight in the alien, the different and the strange?

FANTASTIC FEST 2022: Chaos Reigns Vol. 2

Even more shorts I watched at Fantastic Fest.

Gary Screams for You (2022): Gary (Cody McGlashan), a campus security guard, discovers his animalistic side when his obsession with a viral video leads him down a very dark path. The filmmakers have said that it’s “a cry for help, a love letter, a Greek tragedy, a superhero origin story, an ode to madness.” It’s also the spec for a potential full length movie as well.

Gary is an undiagnosed and unmedicated bipolar guy experiencing his first manic and psychotic episode. It’s also based on the creator’s real life experience. And I love the kind of hype that says that this movie is “a story about infinite realities, eternal life, total anarchy, becoming a god and what it means to be both human and inhuman.” 

Co-directed by Nolan Sordyl and Cody McGlashan, who also wrote the movie, this movie has more than one moment of absolute strangeness, which I completely endorse. Well made, too.

Godspeed (2021): Directed and written by Teddy Padilla (The Party Slasher, Ultra Violence) this has a man (Logan Miller, Escape Room) blackmailing a woman (Olivia Scott Welch, Fear Street) into teaching him her bank robbing secret. Well, he learns it, to his detriment. This is a really good looking film that, unlike so many shorts I’ve seen lately, has a beginning/middle/end and tells an incredibly rich and complete story in just ten minutes.

Where so many shorts are just test runs for longer movies that go on and on and never expand the feeling of the original, this is the perfect length and honestly couldn’t be improved with more time.

Good Boy (2022): Eros Vlahos has made a movie that I completely understand: a woman is hired to be a dog watcher and must deal with a Pomeranian who wants to kill everyone. Seriously, his tag says “A Normal Dog on one side and “Run” scrawled into the other. This film has some amazing angles, including one dog POV shot where he keeps nodding to the bowl of food that must be filled. You know, I live with a long haired chihuahua pomeranian chupacabra mix that I fear might kill me at any moment. So yeah, this movie reached me on a level that went beyond anything else I’ve seen in so long. This is what it’s like every day when my wife leaves, as a small dog stares at me and shakes and makes noises that sound straight out of a 70s Satanic movie.

Hairsucker (2022): Directed and written by Paddy Jessop and Michael Jones, this movie has somehow exceeded how disgusting I thought it would be and now, if I even think about it for a little more than a few seconds, I get physically sick which is a major accomplishment for a movie to make these days. Then again, I have to snake the shower every few months and man, I could use the creature from this, as long as I don’t wake up and it’s scalping me and getting blood all over the place.

This is really simple but man. It lives up to the title. Hair sucking. Who knew? And great, now I feel like I’m going to vomit again. Consider it high praise.

Hell Gig (2022): A struggling comedian tries to win a local standup competition, which sounds normal, but then we learn that she’s been infected by a demon who eats anyone she envies. And her best friend is also in the competition.

Gale is also a stand up, so obviously, she gets what this feels like in the real world. And hopefully she doesn’t have a demon in her.

Bruce Bundy, who plays Maeve, was Octavia in The Hunger Games movies, while Jamie Loftus, who has done a lot of comedy work, is Eli. Both work really well together and I love the idea of a demonic figure standing in for the natural feelings when our friends become successful.

Huella (2021): Directed and written by Gabriela Ortega, this gorgeous short has Daniela (Shakila Barrera) escaping from the drudgery of her work-from-home customer service agent job when the ghost of her grandmother (Denise Blasor) who makes her consider if the fleeting moments of dancing she does upon her rooftop are enough.

Generally, ghosts come to us in films to shock or attempt to hurt us. Not so here, in a movie whose name means “fingerprint.” Ghosts can hopefully shock us from our set lives and help us change the path of our lives. This movie only has fourteen minutes and yet does so much with them.

Kickstart My Heart (2022): Director and writer Kelsey Bollig survived a near-death experience to tell this story of, well, a near-death experience. Lilly (Emma Pasarow) must survive three levels of living hell to return from the near-dead which ends up looking like scenes from horror movies and Mortal Kombat, which I can totally endorse.

You have to love when someone tells an incredibly personal story and does it with fight scenes involving ninjas and demons. More people should follow the model that this film has set, but then again, this is so original and well-done, they’ll find themselves wanting in comparison.

The Last Queen of Earth (2020): In this world, Y2K really happened, so a farmer named Zebediah (Travis Farris) gets to live out his dream of wearing women’s clothes, which yeah, it’s going to upset everyone on every side and not win, but that’s the way the world works. I’ve seen people upset that it pretty much leans into everything people laugh at about guys dressing up like women and kind of makes it a joke, so yeah. Look, I write about Jess Franco movies so I’m not going to solve this issue. This movie looks really nice, has a good pace and Y2K actually ending humanity is a good idea.

Director Michael Shumway also composes music for films, while writer Lex Hogan has worked as a script supervisor. I’d like the see what else they can both create.

Last Request (2022): Greg (Michael Greene) is on his death bed and requests that Even (Tim Casper), his high school bully who has turned his life around and become a man of God, comes and fulfills a very specific request: to listen to the angel that lives inside his rectum.

Yeah, this is a simple joke that you can see coming, but you have to admit that it’s pretty funny. The talent is great and director Daniel Thomas King, who co-wrote the script with Ryan Kindhal, has added the right tension to make it even more hilarious.

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (2020)

Yes, somehow this remake of the 1962 original totally got past me until I got an ad for it on Instagram. I wondered, why would someone make this movie again, but now that I’ve watched it, I think I have my answer.

The filmmakers say right on their site that this “is a surprisingly loving and faithful adaptation, utilizing much of the original film’s characters, scenes and dialogue.” That’s true — it’s incredibly close with some additional scenes that add plenty of humor to the film.

Bill (Patrick D. Green) is working in the lab with his father William (David Withers) and fiancee Jan (Rachael Perrell Fosket) when a patient dies on the table. Bill demands to work on the body and brings the man back to life.

Meanwhile, at the family cabin, Bill has been experimenting with his assistant Kurt (Jason Reynolds) on a variety of test subjects. Jan dies on the way there and soon, her head has been removed and kept alive, all while Bill remembers that he was once a man about town and uses his lothatio ways to seduce exotic dancers and use their bodies to give his fiancee hers back.

While bring a shot-for-shot remake of the original, this adds in scenes of Bill being overpowered by one of the sex workers he tries to knock out, lesbians sitting with him watching exotic dancers and commenting on how they have a better chance than him to get one of the girls and a revised ending — that uses the original titles — that shows us what happens after the lab burns.

Directed by Derek Carl and written by Hank Huffman from the original script by Joseph Green and Rex Carlton, this even has a music scene inspired by The Man With Two Brains.

Man — Joseph Green! He owned Joseph Green Pictures, a company so small that it was just him answering the phones and distributing a wild mix of movies which included everything from Jess Franco’s Kiss Me Monster and Two Undercover Angels to Claude Chabrol’s Pleasure Party, the kung fu movie From Bangkok with Orders to KillSomething Creeping in the DarkDeath Knocks TwiceThe Sicilian Connection, Luciano Ercoli’s Killer Cop and his own film, The Perils of P.K. What a crazy list of movies!

But anyways — this is a fun restaging of a public domain movie that you’ve probably watched more than once and probably on Mystery Science Theater 3000. I’ve always disliked that so many people make fun of it, because it has such a dark story at its heart of a man who causes a woman to lose her entire body yet she uses everything she has to get her revenge once he removes any physical agency that she had. There’s definitely so much subtext that it becomes text there. This flew by and entertained me. Isn’t that what movies are for?

You can watch this for free on Plex. You can learn more on the official webpage and Facebook page.

GENREBLAST FILM FESTIVAL: Sins of a Werewolf (2020)

The GenreBlast Film Festival is entering its sixth year of genre film goodness. A one-of-a-kind film experience created for both filmmakers and film lovers to celebrate genre filmmaking in an approachable environment, it has been described by Movie Maker Magazine as a “summer camp for filmmakers.”

Over the next few days, I’ll be reviewing several movies from this fest, based in the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Winchester, Virginia. This year, there are 14 feature films and 87 short films from all over the world. Weekend passes are only $65 and you can get them right here.

Sins of a Werewolf (2020): Father Donovan (Paul Kennedy) gets bit by a werewolf and must confront so many things, from the fact that his violence has brought more people back to mass, that he’s bitten a man’s penis off and that the only way to escape this curse is to lose his virginity.

Made in Ireland by director and writer David Prendeville, this also has a great performance by Lalor Roddy, who was Paddy Barrett in Grabbers. In this, he plays the older priest Father Fox, who is more concerned with the fact that Donovan is uncircumcised than him coming home naked and covered in blood.

Despite the short running time and low budget, this movie goes places where other werewolf movies fear to tread. It’s a blast and could easily be a full-length film.

Party Hard (2020)

Chandler (Hunter Bolton) has left Columbia, South Carolina to move to Charleston, but he hasn’t left his friendship with Jules (Brian Forbes) and Ty (Ty Rowe) behind nor his past mistakes, like Lauren (Giulia Marie Dalbec), the ex he can’t get over. The only thing to do is go home, drink as much as possible and perhaps find new love with Lily (Amy Brower).

Directed by William Nicholas Clay and written by Stephen T. Canada, the majority of this movie takes place in bars along with plenty of opportunity to hear from local bands. Your willingness to enjoy this film will depend on how much you enjoy movies that are literally in your face — the camera always feels way too close — and how much you love bar hopping. Perhaps I’m too old, but it all feels rather loud and exhausting and the conversations that ensue never feel meaningful. I started having that feeling of ennui as this film reached the halfway point, like I wanted to make a quick exit and text people later that I wasn’t feeling well when all I wanted to do was go home and drink my already paid for and therefore much cheaper liquor alone and away from the senseless din.

That said, this is a document in the time and life of a city and the people making it. And it was made for $6,000, so that’s a testiment to their already burgeoning skill. Maybe they’re not out for a night on the town that I want to be part of but I can’t deny their abilities and I’d love to see what they plan on doing next.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Denkraum (2020)

Alex (Manuel Melluso) works and pretty much lives in a room full of monitors which show the lives of many other people. He’s getting over the loss of his partner Alice (Alba Barbullushi) who has just left him, so in order to escape his despair, he creates a social network he calls the Denkraum. But instead of posting cute animal photos, memes and political diatribes, this online  meet-up is all about confronting what people fear.

The language of this film is distortion, both in audio and visual forms, as well as chat bubbles that drive the narrative. It’s a disorienting narrative that doesn’t look like any other movie that I’ve seen, which is a definite plus. This is definitely not a film that everyone will enjoy, as it pushes itself toward a surreal look and feel, but for those willing to get into it, it has some gorgeous visuals and vignettes as Alex looks into the world around him through those screens as the Denkraum seems to evolve into a self-aware network.

There’s also a religious cult that the movie gives glimpses of before letting them take over the story by the end, as well as end of the world conspiracies, murder and plenty of sexualized violence. It kind of feels like doomscrolling after the drugs kick in and finding yourself unable to stop.

Director and writer Luca Paris also made two shorts, The Stain and Vampires – They Never Sleep at Night. This is his first full-length movie.

The Bloody Man (2020)

Directed by Daniel Benedict (Bunni), who co-wrote the script with Casi Clark (they also worked on a short called Fall of Grayskull), The Bloody Man is an attempt to bring back the warm and gushy feelings of 80s horror. It stars Tuesday Knight (Kristen Parker in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master) and Lisa Wilcox (Alice Johnson in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master and A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child) to help you make that connection.

After the death of his mother, Sam (David Daniel) is having issues with his family, his friends, the bullies at his school, and most of all, the horrific Bloody Man, the comic book character that sustains him through bullying. In fact, his mother (Wilcox) gave him a Bloody Man action figure the very day she died in a car accident.

He also has to deal with Kim (Knight), his new stepmother, who he believes is slowly becoming possessed by his comic book antihero, an event that brings together his fractured family.

Between lengthy comic book animatics and plotting that keeps reminding us that Sam is being bullied at home and in school more than several times, the film drags at times. The closing — where the Bloody Man begins to imitate others — has some good tension, but it takes around two hours (!) to get there. That said, it’s fun seeing all the 80s toys and AEW/ROH wrestler Brian Cage as a copyright skirting He-Man character in a brief cameo (probably pulled from the aforementioned Fall of Grayskull short).

The Hold Steady may have sung, “I’ve survived the 80’s one time already and I don’t recall it all that fondly,” but it seems that so many films want to live in the past — trust me, I get it, slashers after 1983 are really hard for me to hold in any regard — versus moving toward the future. And the more you make a teen horror film with synth and blue/red gel lighting — well, at least on the poster — the more you’re going to get compared to Stranger Things than The Monster Squad.

That said — I did like The Lost Boys reference by calling the brothers Sam and Michael. With some pruning toward how much is in here, this would be a fine feature. As it is now, it’s not bad, but it does drag a bit before redeeming itself with a fun conclusion.

The Bloody Man is available on digital and VOD platforms now with a DVD release coming later in the year from Wild Eye.