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.

Final Caller (2020)

Roland Bennett (Douglas Epps) is like an unholy combination of Howard Stern and Art Bell, known for unleashing his venom on callers and staying up all night long which brings out the paranormal nuts. Before his show even goes on the air, his soon-to-be ex-wife Claire (Jane Plumberg) tries to get him to sign divorce papers, the big boss is listening in due to complaints and numerous calls from The Outsider (Jack McCord) sound like real murders live on the air.

It’s going to be one weird night.

Directed and written by Todd Sheets (Dreaming Purple NeonClownadoSorority Babes in the Dance-a-Thon of Death), Final Caller wastes little to no time as Roland, his producer Jessica (Rachel Lagen) and engineer Jason (Alexander Brotherton) discover that The Outsider isn’t just some prank talking about eight people every eight years on the eighth day of the eighth month. He’s really doing it and isn’t far away, either. After having his way with the detective (Antwoine Steele) the police send and the security guard (Dilynn Fawn Harvey) at the station, he makes his way to the studio.

There’s a lot of talking in this — Roland and The Outsider are nearly the same person, just one eviscerates callers on the air and the other kills women — and tons of up close and personal stabbing, slashing and bloodletting. Once the film moves into a stalk and slash within the radio station, it gets really intense and I honestly had no idea what would happen next, much less a real turn by one of the leads.

Nearly 40 years of making movies on a budget means that Sheets knows how to turn a three figure budget into a movie that looks much more expensive than that. This movie also has more gross-out gore than anything you’ll see for the rest of the year, delivering in a way that an old fashioned slasher should make you feel: it’s aberrant, mean spirited and makes you feel like you need to lie in the shower for some time afterward, unsure of what to do next. Or you know, watch it again.

Final Caller is available on digital and on DVD from Wild Eye Releasing.

Riki the Rhino (2020)

A young rhinoceros named Riki has his horn stolen and to get it back, he and Beni the duck must unite with several animals, learn new skills and avoid the poachers who don’t just want to steal the animals, but destroy their homes.

I enjoyed that even though Beni is the kind of duck who would make merch of his best friend and sell it to other animals, he’s still willing to lose all of his feathers to make a new horn for Riki.

Sumatran rhinos aren’t just the smallest of rhinoceroses, they’re the only Asian rhino with two horns and they’re also covered in fur. According to the World Wildlife Foundation, “While surviving in possibly greater numbers than the Javan rhino, Sumatran rhinos are more threatened due to habitat loss and fragmentation. The remaining animals survive in small, fragmented non-viable populations, and with limited possibilities to find each other to breed, its population decline continues. Just two captive females have reproduced in the last 15 years.”

This would be a good film for the young zoologist or conservationist in your family. The animation may not be as great as a Hollywood film, but it had so much heart even I enjoyed it.

Riki the Rhino was originally produced in South East Asia in the Indonesian language. For the UK release, Jennifer Castle and Paul Reynolds voiced Riki and Beni, with the script adapted by BAFTA-nominated Tim Clague and Danny Stack.

Riki the Rhino is available on DVD and digital platforms from Uncork’d Entertainment.

Thor: End of Days (2020)

You can’t copyright a thunder god, so while this isn’t a Marvel movie, it is a Thor movie and it puts the son of Odin (Max Aria) against Loki (Mike Milian). If you say, “That sounds a lot like 2015’s God of Thunder,” that’s because they’re the same movie.

Loki is in San Diego taking over people’s minds while Thor loses his memory and must remember why he’s on Earth and also how he showed up in a movie with a $1.5 million dollar budget.

This was directed and written by Thomas Shapiro and there was a review on IMDB that said, “Don’t trust the Shapiro family” that sounds pretty ominous.

There are also a lot of reviews calling this the worst movie ever and really just dunking all over the fake Odinson. Trust me, it’s not the nadir of film, but you can see it from there.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Chattanooga Film Festival: Argus (2020)

In this claymation short, a man discovers that the minutes and hours tick down at his mundane job, he is growing older and can’t stop it from happenig. Is there any purpose in his life? Or is he a cog turning toward oblivion?

Are all of our jobs just pushing the same red button over and over again? If I miss one paycheck, my life would tumble into a decline that I could never recover from, my rock I push up the hill rolling over and over me, grinding me into wet bones, as I struggle even now to make payments on bills that grow larger than the roof of my home.

So I get it. Even if I’m not made of clay and pushing a red button.

Chattanooga Film Festival: The Angst (2020)

Colin (Bernard David Jones) is being chased throughout the night by something invisible, something terrifying, something that won’t stop. The more that he runs, the more that he learns that confronting his greatest fear may mean confronting himself. Or maybe that really is some kind of demon behind him.

Director L. Gustavo Cooper started as a pro skater, moved into making skate videos and then advertising before making films. He was the second unit director on one of my favorite modern horror movies, Sinister 2, and also directed June, The Devil Incarnate and the upcoming Crawlspace. He also co-wrote the script to this short with Ben Powell.

It’s more a quick peek into a world, but there’s still plenty of talent on display.

You can watch the films of the Chattanooga Film Festiva for half price now until Wednesday. Get your badge right here.