Girl with a Straight Razor (2021)

She wakes. She walks. She kills.

At night, a woman (Ali Chappell) puts on her red overcoat and black gloves, reaches for a straight razor and heads out into the blackness to kill, baby, kill. And when she returns, she seemingly communicates with death herself (Thea Munster) who drives her to commit more acts of death and self-harm.

As each night ends, the viewer learns more about the life of this killer, a woman divorced from an abusive man, unable to see the daughter that she loves.

Directed, written, shot and even set decorated — with Chappell — by Chris Alexander, this is a film that is at once giallo and then an art piece, fitting somewhere between the two worlds way better than a much higher budgeted film like Amer can dream of doing. Yet unlike so many of the films within this genre, the emphasis is less on the murders and more on the pre and post states of the murderer.

I can see where some would see this as pretentious arty nonsense, but I love it. This is the movie that puts us into the mindset of the giallo killer while knowing nothing of the victims. They are just there to be grist for the mill, flesh for the flash of the blade, mannequins to do violence upon so that we can return to that room, the place where it seems that time stops and also stops making sense.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Three films of Chris Alexander

EDITOR’S NOTE: As I’ll be exploring the films of Chris Alexander this week, I wanted to share a few of his other movies that have been on the site before. You can learn more about the director at his official site.

Parasite Lady (2023): Chris Alexander has been making movies for Full Moon for a bit and I dug Necropolis: Legion — yes, it can never live up to the insanity of Necropolis, but it sure tries — as well as his Scream of the Blind Dead. He also made two other vampire movies, Space Vampire and Queen of Blood, which looks and feels like Jean Rollin and I have no complaints about that.

Arrielle Edwards plays the lead, a redhead pale vision that wanders the hallways of a hotel room and the tourist traps of Niagra Falls looking for victims. The first film I’ve seen from Full Moon’s Delirium Films label, this is the kind of movie that people are going to find on Tubi and get enraged about because nothing happens. It’s also the kind of movie that lunatics — like, you guessed it, me — are going to fall in love with, because not only does it feel like Rollin, but it feels like the last ten movies of Jess Franco, films that he shot in a meeting room in a hotel, with gorgeous women rolling around to music. Except this has sounds that seem like they come from not just underwater but somewhere in the dimension a few thousand doors away. Also: please know that me invoking the name of Franco is no slight; it’s the kind of honor I would not bestow upon many. Some people use the feel of Jess and brag about it. It takes a certain bravery to completely live in the nothing happens but everything goes down madness.

Alexander referred to it as the “next feminine, fevered, fluid-filled dream-state existential exploitation” that he’s making. It also has ties to past films, as Thea Munster is Lady Death from Girl With a Straight Razor. And Kate Gabriele and Ali Chappell are also strong in the cast. It’s like Alexander is assembling a company of players willing to go all the way into the darkness — and neon light — for his films. I also applaud this.

A dreamy movie filled with snow, carnivals and long nails that slice into milky white necks, all while distorted sounds and fuzzed out tones play. And just 42 minutes? Was this made just for me?

You can watch this on Tubi.

Scream of the Blind Dead (2021): Director, writer and musician Chris Alexander has taken what most remember from the Blind Dead films — synth-driven slow motion moments of a gorgeous woman being chased through the Spanish countryside by undead Knights Templar — and turned it into forty minutes of fright for Betty (Ali Chappell) who runs through the Canadian countryside in an attempt to avoid a Knight played by Thea Munster.

Imagine if Amando de Ossorio loaned out his creatures to Jess Rollin while allowing Jess Franco to shoot the Sapphic flashback scene of our heroine. As a nice addition for Eurohorror fans, Lone Fleming   (Tombs of the Blind DeadReturn of the Blind DeadIt Happened at Nightmare Inn) is the voice that speaks over the film.

This isn’t a movie that I’d recommend to people who haven’t fallen in love with the Blind Dead or European horror where there’s no attempt at all in creating a story, just a mood that endlessly loops into your brain. This isn’t perfect but it gets the idea right. I’d love to see more of what Alexander can do in this definitely acquired taste of a genre.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Necropolis: Legion (2019): Necropolis is one of my favorite late 80s direct to video movies probably ever. How else can I do anything but become obsessed by a movie in which an evil witch — who looks like Tianna Collins or Lois Ayres — eats human brains to give the proper nutrition to her demon babies through her six breasts?

There’s no way that this movie can live up to that one, trust me.

Instead, this film seeks to be a reimagining of that tale. Satanic vampire sorceress Eva (Ali Chappell channeling Cinzia Monreale instead of acting as a punk rock devil woman) frightens the villagers of the past so much with her sex magick that they murder her inside her lair. A hundred or so years later, occult writer Lisa (Augie Duke) movies into that home and soon becomes the body with which Eva will return to our world.

Director Chris Alexander was the third editor-in-chief of Fangoria and the co-founder/editor of Delirium. You may have seen his other films, Queen of Blood or Female Werewolf. Working from a script by Brockton McKinney, who has worked on several other Full Moon efforts like Blade the Iron Cross and Weedjies: Halloweed Night, he puts together a decent enough film, but the love in my heart for the original is so strong. That said, the psychedelic visuals are strong in this and they didn’t skimp on the blood, the gore and the breasts with fangs in them, because isn’t that what Necropolis is known for? Even better, Lynn Lowry is always a welcome sight.

I want more of this story*, however, and here’s hoping that the end of this film isn’t the last that we see of Eva or Lisa. I’m usually one for less is more, but at sixty-one minutes, I found myself wanting more.

Necropolis: Legion isn’t going to replace the first movie and that’s fine. It’s still awesome to see someone else’s vision, much less knowing that someone other than me has seen the original movie.

*There’s also a comic book — available from Full Moon — that tells the origin of Eva.

You can watch this on Tubi.

It Knows You’re Alone (2021)

After finding an antique phone on a beach, Natalie (Brandy Dawley) begins getting calls from the unconnected phone and sees a woman in black (Ali Chappell, Parasite LadyNecropolis: Legion) haunting her within her home.

Seriously, since I was a kid, the idea of an unconnected phone ringing and having a voice on the other end has haunted me beyond all horrors.

The beach setting calls to mind the clock emerging vampires of Jess Rollin while the way this was filmed, like so much of director and writer Chris Alexander’s work, this recalls the videotape era of Jess Franco and I mean that with all the joy and goodness that it means to my brain. And because it seems like he’s shot everything around Ontario — you can see the abandoned ship La Grande Hermine in one moment — if Rollin gets the French coast and Franco hotel conference rooms in Spain, Alexander is lying claim to his own place to shoot microbudget movies that seem to exist in a shoegaze length of time, stretching themselves to just have visuals of women in and out of clothing and colors blurred together and music lulling you into the kind of mental state that I’ve only found while shotgunning beers through inhaled smoke and a handful of whatever pills someone found in a parking lot. Again, I say this with all the magical spark that I can bring to life with my fingers and a keyboard.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Pungo: A Witch’s Tale (2021)

I’m so happy that Phillip J. Cook keeps making movies. Basing this film on Grace Sherwood, the Witch of Pungo — a historical Virginia woman named Grace Sherwood who was thrown off a boat to see if she was a witch; she was a widow and midwife who neighbors claimed ruined crops and killed animals; Grace untied herself and rose to the surface proving she was a witch. She spent seven years in jail before living out the rest of her life. In 2006, Governor Tim Kaine declared that she was innocent — he takes that legend and creates a new fantasy world, just as he did in Despiser.

The story begins when astrophysicist Grace Sherwood (Cathryn Benson) movies into the home once owned by her ancestor, the historical Grace Sherwood and seeks handyman help from ex-Navy SEAL Bud Hays (Mark Hyde, who is himself an actual Navy SEAL vet and was also one of the Shadowmen and the jumper in Despiser) and fireman Sam Dixon (Matthew Sharpe). While they’re working on her house, Bud sees his dead daughter and Sam sees a mysterious woman. This is just the opening, as soon they take a Wizard of Oz type trip to another place where the witch version of Grace rules the world and even has gigantic tree creatures and an entire army ready to destroy anyone who keeps her from meeting her ancestor.

What Cook always gets right is that his budget is just enough for the effects, but he also knows that the things that don’t cost money — emotion, camera angles, characters that you care about — need to be in the movie. When we have those, we forgive when the effects aren’t perfect. Actually, in the world of his movies, I appreciate that they don’t feel like they’re from our world or from today’s cinema. They exist nearly in their own genre, movies that cost less than a car but take your imagination to so many places. I’ve thought back to this movie several times over the days and weeks since I watched it, remembering moments from it, thinking about the characters within it and wondering what happens next for them.

Sure, not all the plot threads add up and yeah, you may find a plot hole or two. But this is a handmade film. Overlook the cynical way that you usually watch movies and just sit back and let this film entertain you.

Cook has been making movies since it was a big deal to get them released on VHS or shown on the SciFi channel, before it was SyFy. The fact that he’s still making movies like this and controlling his own means of production is proof that good things can still happen in this world.

You can watch this on Tubi.

New York Ninja (2021)

New York Ninja was filmed in New York City in 1984. Don’t worry if you didn’t see it at your mom and pop video store, because its original distribution company 21st Century Distribution Corporation — before Menahem Golan was given the name — went bankrupt. Years later, the footage was acquired by Vinegar Syndrome, except they had no final script, audio or idea of what the movie was about. Thanks to new director — “re-director” — Kurtis M. Spieler, the movie came together, including new dialogue from an amazing cast.

Each film reel — six to eight hours in length — was put together to match what Spieler thought the film was meant to convey at the time. All he had was a shooting script that even mentioned a character named Detective Dolemite, who may have been planned to be played by Rudy Ray Moore. We may never know.

The cast is a literal who’s who of genre cinema:

Don “The Dragon” Wilson is the voice of John Liu, who is also the New York Ninja, and who is also the original director, writer and star of this film. He made three other vanity kung fu movies — Dragon BloodNinja In the Claws of the CIA and Zen Kwan Strikes Paris — that are all worth tracking down and watching.

Michael Berryman is the Plutonium Killer, which is where the majority of this movie’s effects budget went.

Linnea Quigley is Randi Rydell, John’s co-worker and love interest.

The cops on the case, Detective Jimmy Williams and Detective Janet Flores, are voiced by Body and Soul star Leon Isaac Kennedy and martial arts legend Cynthia Rothrock. And yes, that is Ginger Lynn’s voice as John’s wife!

The film starts with John finding out that his wife is pregnant. As he runs to work as part of a news crew, she sees another woman getting abducted. In moments, she’s dead and he’s decided to become a white ninja on rollerskates, keeping New York City safe.

If you thought the gangs in Italian post-apocalyptic movies were wild, well, the ones in New York Ninja challenge even Mexican cinema like La Venganza de Los Punks for how colorful the gang members can get. The Plutonium Killer also likes to expose himself to radiation before assaulting women, which is something I’ve never seen as a plot element before.

There are also people cashing in — kind of like the merchandise sales out of nowhere in Yeti Giant of the 20th Century — with people selling I Love The New York Ninja shirts. And there’s also a gang of precocious ninja kids who show up and save our hero every now and then.

I always wondered if another movie could make me feel as much joy as Miami Connection. This is it.

You can get the 35mm trailer from Vinegar Syndrome, as well as the movie itself on VHS and a comic book.

Plaga Zombie: American Invasion (2021)

The American sequel/remake of Plaga Zombie not only has the blessing Pablo Parés and Hernán Sáez, but they helped Garry Medeiros (who co-wroe the script with Cheryl LePan and Walter Rivero) to direct the movie. Instead of Bill Johnson, John West and Max Giggs, the American heroes are Nash Walker (Corey Spencer), Sam Samson (Matthew Hill), and Manny Distefano (Ben Tolosa) along with a mercenary named Kobra Guevara (Walter Rivero). But seeing as how Sam worships the wrestling of John West, there’s a good chance he’ll show up.

Twnety years after the events of the original trilogy, aliens rppear in New England where they introduce a new virus in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The government follows the same plans as Argentina, as they detach the city from the U.S. and send it floating into the ocean.

If you’ve seen the original films, there isn’t much here that will surprise you. That said, it has a total rainbow wave of zombies in color, shape, size and blood hue. It’s also unafraid to have shocking levels of gore, which makes me happy, because I was worried that it would back off a bit. Nope.

Writer and director Garry Mederios discovered the Plaga Zombie series after watching the Fangoria released DVD. He loved the movies so much that he contacted the filmmakers via e-mail and they became friends. He jokingly suggested making an American-based Plaga Zombie film and FARSA, who made the originals, loved the idea.

I’m here for another if they decide to make it.

You can watch this on Tubi.

SALEM HORROR FEST: In a Dark, Dark Room (2021)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This movie was watched as part of Salem Horror Fest.

V chorniy, chorniy kimnati is directed and written by Denis Sobolev and tells the story of Volt (Artur Novikov), Tomcat (Anton Sokol), and Petiunia (Illia Vyshnevetskyi), three teens explore an abandoned archaeological dig site of a pagan origin in their small hometown. Inside, they find an amulet and get the idea to start wishing upon it. Volt asks for what’s in his heart: he wants to want wild dogs tear his history teacher to bloody chunks.

The substitute teacher that replaces her, Gottlib (Rei Yeremii), is more than just someone able to teach a class. He’s been after this group of pagans for decades, swearing revenge for the curse they placed on his mother. And yes, while the three teens hide in the woods, ashamed and fascinated by their wishes, everyone learns that this small Ukranian town has been filled with witches for hundreds of years and that hasn’t changed.

The main issues most reviewers have had with this movie are that it takes big leaps back and forth in time which makes it seem quite disjointed. And, well, if you don’t speak Ukrainian, the subtitles aren’t going to help you at all.

That said, I enjoyed seeing a movie that doesn’t depend on being set in the past to be a folk horror film. The Ukraine is a country that so many of us have thought about and the idea of a long-forgotten horror being so close to Kyiv is incredibly intriguing. The lure of wishes fulfilled exists everywhere, in every time, and rarely leads to positive ends.

SALEM HORROR FEST: Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror(2021)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This movie was watched as part of Salem Horror Fest. You can still get a weekend pass for weekend two. Single tickets are also available. Here’s the program of what’s playing.

If you have even a passing interest in the world of folk horror, Kier-La Janisse’s exhaustive exploration — which clocks in at 3 hours and 14 minutes and could have been a thousand more if I had my way — is the film of a lifetime. From the unholy trinity that launched this trend on to screens — Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General, Piers Haggard’s Blood on Satan’s Claw and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man — all the way through British television and films around the world, this movie is quite literally the last word in what folk horror is, what it means and how it’s still part of the world of cinema today, perhaps more than ever before.

With more than fifty major names in the world of horror and horror writing — everyone from Amanda Reyes, Piers Haggard, Adam Scovell, Jeremy Dyson Samm Deighan, Kat Ellinger, Robert Eggars, Ian Oglivy, Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer and around forty more voices appear with great insights — there’s never been a more well-rounded approach to tackling a movie genre within a genre. This feels like the kind of film that I’ll be coming back to again and again.

Beyond the expected anchors of the genre, I was so excited to see lesser-known films get their due, like Alison’s Birthday (which is on the gigantic All the Haunts Be Ours box set that Severin is releasing), beDevilDark AugustEyes of Fire (also beng released by Severin), Grim Prarie TalesLemora (which seemingly has footage from the mysterious blu ray of the film that never materialized) and Zeder.

This is the kind of material that you want to pause, write down, make notes on and keep updating your Letterboxd while you watch it. This isn’t just a movie about films. This is a true celebration of the magical wonder hidden within the flickering image, an exploration of a genre of all the dark old things and a journey through how each country documents the unknown through their media.

There aren’t enough stars in the firmament out of ten to rate this one. You can preorder this film from Severin now or watch it on Shudder. You can also visit the film’s official site.

APRIL MOVIE THON 2: Tubi Exclusive: The Secrets of Christmas Revealed! (2021)

April 24: Do You Like Tubi Originals? — I do. You should find one and write about it. Here’s a list to help.

If you’ve watched any basic cable conspiracy or paranormal shows, you’re going to love this. It breaks down how Santa does everything he does as if it’s discussing the way the pyramids were built or how the Loch Ness Monster gets around.

From a Santa Zoom call with Santas all over the globe to a Mattel designer discussing how the toy company has a secret deal with the North Pole and an appearance by comic book artist Dean Haspiel, this may go on a bit too long, but when it works, it works. If you love Krampus, there’s plenty here about not just how they work together but what great friends they are.

Shout out to the Letterboxd reviewer who said, “So this movie is neoliberal propaganda.” Then, they went into how this movie is trying to normalize that by taking over Santa instead of just making him evil. I’m not sure if they’re kidding.

I watched this in April. That does not seem to be the time to watch anything cute about Christmas, but that’s the kind of writing I put out there, right?

You can watch this on Tubi.

Followers (2021)

Directed and written by Marcus Harben, this British found footage movie is all about Jonty (Harry Jarvis), who had a very public freakout on the reality show Brats of Belgravia and hasn’t really gotten hismelf all that together. He starts that return to popularity by moving into a home with Zauna (Loreece Harrison), Amber (Erin Austen) Pete (Daniel Cahill) and the ghost of Dawn (Jessica Webber), a 90s rave girl. Supposedly, they’re all college students, a fact ignored by campus therapist Becky Dunbar (Nina Wadia) who really just wants to be an internet star as much as the rest of them.

The thing is, Dawn is dangerous but she also brings tons of followers to each of them. So they keep her around, in spite of the fact that she could kill any or all of them.

I really liked how this kept showing each person’s channel and explained why the camera has to keep rolling — they need the money — as horrifying things happen all around them. While I haven’t been swayed to the need for influencers or found footage movies by Followers, it’s well made and there are several screenes that made me laugh, which is more than most of the progeny of the Blair Witch have ever done.

Followers is now available from Terror Films.