Thursday, August 29, 2013

Movie Review: The Gruesome Twosome (1967)

Looks like my next Herschell Gordon Lewis experience came quicker than I expected, seeing as how a certain internet DVD service flat-out refuses to send me The Howling. It's been a "very long wait" for about two months now so I'm thinking I'm just going to have to buy it, though I don't recall liking it enough the first time for purchase. Anyway, I have to watch what they send me, and The Gruesome Twosome was next on the list. The Gruesome Twosome may have a fantastic title that I absolutely love saying, but it is a movie that does not live up to that title in the least. But it's still fucking awesome. Damn you, Herschell, and your terrible but strangely entertaining movies.

Young co-eds are disappearing in an unnamed college town and oddly enough, the perpetrator is kindly old Mrs. Pringle, who runs a local wig shop, and her mentally challenged son, Rodney. He kills and scalps the girls so mama can carry on with business, but now someone is catching on to them. Another nosy co-ed is determined to solve the mystery of the disappearances.

Holy crap, so many WTF scenes in this movie. And it starts right at the beginning. The opening scene before the credits is as odd as they come, consisting of two mannequin heads with wigs and cut-out construction paper faces basically talking about the plot of the movie about to start. I couldn't even hear what they were saying half the time because I was laughing so hard. Absolutely pointless filler? Indeed. Wonderful in its silliness? Undoubtedly. Oh, but the WTF was not even close to being over with this scene. Still plenty more to look forward to.

But... we have to introduce some kind of plot first. As the first real scene shows, Mrs. Pringle's operation goes something like this: she advertises a room for rent in her wig shop, a girl with a nice head of hair comes by inquiring about it, Pringle introduces her to her stuffed cat Napoleon (more on that later), then sends her into a room behind the wig shop where Rodney waits to attack and scalp. All the girls that we see meet this fate just sort of wander around without fighting back or anything so they kinda deserve to die for being so r-tarded.

Then we meet one of the most annoying characters ever, Kathy, the college girl who seems to be obsessed with solving mysteries - which we find out because several characters say something to that effect several times throughout the movie. Her boyfriend Dave has a habit of throwing a bitch fit every time Kathy says something that doesn't involve her tongue in his mouth so he instantly becomes the second most annoying character ever. Kathy only becomes involved with Pringle and Rodney because her friend Dawn is looking for a place off-campus, so we know that she's going to die and Kathy's going to go looking for her because she's nosy and annoying.

But honestly, screw the plot. I really just want to talk about the other WTF stuff. Case in point: Napoleon. The stuffed jaguar or whatever the hell it is in Mrs. Pringle's house that she talks to all the time. Of course it's probably there to add to the overall ridiculous nature and black comedy of the movie, but Mrs. Pringle herself pretty much takes care of most of that. Kudos to this actress for her commitment, as her comedic performance definitely made the movie a lot more bearable. Pringle shoots off these crazy lines full of wisdom and tropes, always asking affirmation from Napoleon. And nobody who encounters her has the heart to call her a crazy bitch. How nice.

More WTF occurs at the drive-in movie. Kathy and Dave are necking in the car, but the far more interesting part of this scene is the movie they are watching. I don't know what the hell kind of movie this is supposed to be. I am, however, interested in seeing the rest of it if there is more. The movie is a headless man and woman sitting at a dinner table (headless because the camera never fully shows their faces), and the woman is saying all kinds of clingy and womany shit to the man, Terrence, who only seems interested in the food on the table. He crushes the potato chips, scarfs a banana, takes a bit out of an apple, crushes a peach... not listening to anything the woman is saying (understandably, too). Lewis intercuts all this weird shit with shots of Kathy and Dave but for some reason this movie takes precedence in this scene - more filler is my only guess. Again, I could not stop laughing, especially when the woman started fondling her beer glass. Too fucking funny.

The whole thing ends rather unceremoniously when Douchey Dave brings the police to Pringle's house just as Kathy is about to get it from Rodney. She pokes him in the eye with a hat pin, they show his gooey eye in closeup and then... he dies. I don't really remember how. A short epilogue scene shows the wig shop closed and then there's a random shot of Napoleon to end it all. An hour and twelve minutes of pure WTF and nobody could have done it better than Herschell, I swear to goodness. This man is a genius of bad movies and I love him for it. Beyond "so bad it's good," The Gruesome Twosome is cinematic gold at its best... worst... it sucks, but it's awesome... you know what I mean.

Two Thousand Maniacs, be prepared to meet my DVD player very soon.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Indie Movie Review: They Will Outlive Us All (2013)

This has been one of the coolest things about having this blog - independent filmmakers and new authors send me their books and movies to review to help spread the word about their work. In return, I get to discover new entertainment that I might not otherwise have even known about. From "a gotta and two shearers" comes They Will Outlive Us All, a horror comedy that shows tremendous potential from all involved, and one that any horror fan can appreciate and enjoy.
Set in 2016, They Will Outlive Us All follows roommates Margot and Daniel as they try to escape the desolation that has become of New York City after a wave of devastating hurricanes by hiding out in their apartment, drinking booze and watching movies. Three strange deaths have occurred in their building and the arrival of an unwelcome visitor finally get them off their couch and fighting for their lives!

First of all, love the title. If you get the reference, then you should have a good idea as to what the movie is about. It's nice to see independent filmmakers do something outside the box for a feature instead of going with what's popular at the time. Forget zombies - let's do giant mutant cockroaches! You could even take it so far as to being a comment on the whole man's influence and on nature thing but we can leave that for another time.

One thing I was immensely impressed with in this movie was the acting by the two main characters. Many times in indie movies, the actors' performances can seem too forced, or they don't know how to talk and pause naturally. Nat Cassidy as Daniel and Jessi Gotta (also a producer and writer) as Margot had no problems at all acting like two roommates who know each other well and were incredibly comfortable and natural around each other. Their comedic timing and delivery had me laughing many times throughout, and the little quirks that the characters were given had a wonderful way of coming around at the end in both a funny and heartwarming way. By the climax, things become less about big roaches and more about the relationship between these two people, which I actually found to be really sweet.

Also impressive is the direction and camerawork which is fluid, artistic and at times quite inventive for the director having to film in such a small space (almost all the scenes are in Margot and Daniel's tiny Brooklyn apartment). There's one really nice day-to-night transition from the window and lots of different camera angles to keep the action and the story interesting and different in every scene. The lighting matches the apparent dark and depressing world that the characters live in, with tints of blue and green to make it look more bleak.

Whoever got the job of cockroach creating and puppeteering must have had a good time. The roaches (C.O.U.Ss - Cockroaches Of Unusual Size... absolutely love that) look pretty good for what they are, and the somewhat crude appearance of them actually adds a lot to the comedy element of the film. One of the best scenes is when Daniel traps the roach in a bag, it flails around for a bit while Margot tries to hit it with a baseball bat, and then it drags both of them down the hallway. I'm not so sure about it being able to be flushed down a toilet, but I guess they had to leave the big kill for the movie's climactic scene.

They Will Outlive Us All is a wonderfully shot and acted feature worthy of standing beside any other comedy horror out there. It's a tad short at only 73 minutes but that doesn't matter - I watched it twice after receiving it and thoroughly enjoyed it both times, actually wanting more by the time it was over. If you get the chance, don't miss seeing this one!

For more information on this movie and other productions the cast and crew are involved in, go to

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Movie Review: The Wizard of Gore (1970)

Michele, meet Herschell Gordon Lewis. Hersch, meet Michele. I think we'll be seeing each other again very soon. However, if you were planning to shock or unsettle me with The Wizard of Gore, you kinda failed a little bit, dude. I had an absolute  ball watching this movie, because while eyeball-squishing and other things of that nature in a movie would usually make me squirm and freak me out, this one had me laughing my ass off at pretty much every scene.

Montag the Magnificent is a great magician who is able to saw girls in half and shove swords down their throats and never harm them in the least. That is, until the volunteers leave the theater and suddenly drop dead in the same method as the trick they were involved in. A local television host and her boyfriend catch on to what is happening after Montag's shows and try to put a stop to it all.

As is so often with the case with low-budget horror movies, The Wizard of Gore is one where you really can't spend all your time watching it nitpicking about how shitty it is. Because it is shitty. I'm just going to be honest: The Wizard of Gore is in many ways technically a really bad movie. But I'm well used to that kind of thing by now so I didn't care and I just went with it. So glad I did, too, because it made it so easy to enjoy the hell out of this thing.

So it's a little confusing trying to figure out what is going on with Montag's tricks at the beginning. The first trick he does is sawing a woman in half with a chain saw. There's no box or anything over her, he just saws right through her stomach. The weird thing is when how the scene keeps cutting from her being all bloody with her guts hanging out to her being perfectly fine. Once I realized, though, that the audience was not completely freaking out like they should have been at seeing Montag play around with her intestines, I figured out that what they were seeing was the bloodless version of the act. Montag hypnotizes the volunteers and the rest of the audience so that don't see what he's actually doing up there. I guess the bloody version that we get to see is just Montag having his fun.

The only big thing that there really is to talk about with this movie is the gore. Don't get your hopes up too much about the acting because you will be very, very disappointed in that regard. The only real passable actor that I found here was the woman playing Sherry, and the worst out of the whole bunch was her boyfriend Jack, who has more than a few moments of downright douchebaggery with his horrible line deliveries. But I digress. The name of the game here is of course gore, as the title tells us, and with all the things I'd been hearing about Lewis's famous gore over the years, I was excited to see what he had to offer me.

Like I said before, though the gore and violence is very over-the-top and bloody and has eyeballs being squished and brains pulled out of heads, it's all really hilarious shit. Should I have been disturbed by some of the stuff I was seeing? Probably. But when you watch somebody stick their fingers into the eye sockets of something that is VERY obviously a doll head, how can you take that even remotely seriously? The only really well done effect I saw out of the whole movie was the girl who was impaled in the stomach by the punch press. Lots of bright red blood and slimy guts were there for sure, but the way she was squirming around with the thing in her stomach was actually pretty awesome. 

The funniest part is probably when Montag is about to perform his biggest trick to date on Sherry's daytime TV show. He's going to light them all on fire and apparently nobody has any problem with either him doing that or doing it in the middle of a TV studio. Anyway. Montag's also hypnotized everybody in the studio and everybody watching at home, but Jack manages to avoid this and goes to the studio to rescue his girlfriend. Montag ends up in the fire himself and we get to see his head get burnt to a crisp. Everybody standing around, again, doesn't seem to have any problem with this. "His power must have died with him. Hm." There is a freaking corpse burning in a fire. Must just be the same old shit with these people or something.

The ending also had me laughing at the silliness of it all but I still didn't care by then. Sherry was also an "illusionist" of some kind and now she's fucking with Montag? Sure! I'm with you. The Wizard of Gore is without a doubt a fun splatter movie that is kind of exploitation, minus the boobs. The gore makes for some excellent gags that are probably not supposed to be as funny as I found them, but that's just how I am sometimes. The acting and directing quality is... below par, to be nice, however it's something that is easy to overlook when you're dealing with all the other ridiculousness. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Movie Review: Crawl (2011)

Well holy guacamole, where did this little movie come from? Australia, yes, but also from some mad genius after my own heart, because this movie kicked all kinds of ass. It was a random Netflix watch for me because the poster (not the one up there, though) made it look like some cheesy B-movie that I could waste time on, but it only took me about five minutes to realize that that was not going to be the situation here.

So what happens? Well, a bar owner hires a hit man to murder a business associate, and an innocent waitress gets caught in the middle when the hit man shows up at her house on the way out of town.

The biggest complaint I've read about this movie is that it is "slow." While that adjective might accurately describe other movies, I don't think it's the right one for Crawl. Crawl is more "methodical," I would say, and only "slow" if it fails to hook you in right away. Anybody with any kind of movie savvy will pick up on the influence of the Coen Brothers and Hitchcock with this methodical style. Not a rip-off of their style, mind you - the influence. It's easy to say that the filmmakers just ripped off Psycho and Blood Simple, but I say that if it worked there, it's gotta work here. And boy, does it ever. Each frame and scene is painstakingly laid out with real directorial skill, and the suspense scenes will have you on that cliched edge of your seat.

The music, and sometimes lack of music, is extremely helpful in conveying that suspense. At times it is only a few carefully repeated notes, and at times it is a jarring cacophony like the screeching violins from Psycho. Mostly, though, I'd say that silence serves the movie best for key scenes. As the waitress Marilyn investigates a creaking door in her house, the lack of music gives the audience no cues as to what to expect - a real scare or a fake out? Will the bad guy show up on the other end of the banging door or somewhere else? The way the movie revealed all of its surprises was something that I really enjoyed watching.

The movie's less than exciting pace is made up for by some scenes of real brutality. The murder at the beginning is of course only the beginning, as the situation gets exponentially worse. Crawl turns out to be quite a bloody piece by the end - there's a car crash, a bludgeoning, and most deliciously, an axe put to awesome use. The makeup work is realistic and gory, but nothing over-exaggerated just for the sake of being gory. Not that I ever have a problem with that - it just wouldn't have worked for this movie.

The hit man, or "The Stranger" as he is credited, is one of the best and oddest casting choices I've ever seen. He's an old Croatian, tall and skinny, dressed like a cowboy. He's the guy you'd probably see drinking coffee by himself at a diner or something. While we're talking Coen Brothers, I guess I'd be remiss not to compare him to Javier Bardem from No Country for Old Men. The Stranger is the same expressionless, emotionless killer as Bardem (minus the cool nail gun thing, of course), and his grandfatherly appearance is almost an excellent cover for what turns out to be a wholly unpredictable and calculating demeanor.

Georgina Haig as Marilyn (whose full name we find out from the credits is Marilyn Burns... hahaha) is also perfect casting for this role. Her big doe eyes fill the screen, her innocence in this crazy situation heightened by her good-girl blonde hair and cute little dress. She isn't given much by way of character development but that didn't bother me too much here, because this felt more to me like a situational movie rather than a character-driven one.

Crawl is a movie deserving of every word of praise on its poster up there. It is a very successful slow-burn thriller that will hopefully have most movie fans salivating over the awesome that oozes out of it. Definitely keep your eyes out for this one.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Movie Review: The Bay (2012)

With my Sons of Anarchy obsession temporarily satiated, I guess it's time for me to get back to my real job here. I have a backlog of watched movies that need reviews, a host of books that need to be read and reviewed, and of course the ever-growing Netflix queue that needs to be worked through. Good thing I've got vacation time coming up. I also had an almost-catastrophe with my computer a couple of days ago, but everything seems to be fine now. So let's get this shit going!

First up in my series of possibly shorter-than-usual reviews is the 2012 found footage movie The Bay. Ah yes, more found footage. I should maybe be sick of this little subgenre by now, but... nope! Still love it. And The Bay is happily a nice addition to all the other awesome movies like it.

A news reporter who was present at an ecological disaster outbreak in Claridge, Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay narrates the chaos as it unfolded on that fateful day, using all the professional and personal video footage that was confiscated by the government to cover up what happened.

The Bay offers horror fans a few welcome differences from what we are used to seeing in FF movies. The reporter, Donna Thompson, is Skyping with someone who is interviewing her about the 4th of July from hell in Chesapeake Bay for a documentary about the truth of the events. Donna is sort of the main character, but her narration also shows us the experiences of several other residents. It's nice to have more than one or two of the same cameramen to follow through the whole movie, as The Bay includes security footage, video phone footage, personal camcorders, police dashcam footage, and Skype conversations.

All these new shifts in point of view keep the story interesting and engaging, and the suspense heightened. The way they are all cut together lets the audience slowly get the truth, as everybody involved seems to have a little piece of the puzzle as to what is going on. The two scientists that are doing research on the water and the fish a few weeks before the 4th and the doctor at the local hospital talking to the CDC having probably the most interesting stories. The stuff with the police was a little random and not really related to the main story, though. And I really liked the choice of casting for all involved. Kristin Connolly was the only recognizable face to me (The Cabin in the Woods, FTW) but everybody looked just like they were supposed to - normal people in this quaint little seaside town. I love it when movies are cast like that.

The other difference with The Bay is that it is an infection story. It's not an infection that leads to zombiism, either, it's a true infection by a mutated parasite caused by all the (literal) shit that's been building up in the bay. The terror and fear from an outbreak like this is just as real for both the characters and the audience as it would be for zombies or a masked killer. This kind of story also gets us into the realm of body horror, which personally freaks me and grosses me out. There's plenty of nasty stuff for all to enjoy like bodies covered in disgusting boils, and those gross little bug-parasite things coming out of people's necks. I love it and I hate it at the same time.

My only real complaint is that the makeup on the people who had the nasty boils did not look all that realistic to me. They were too obviously makeup and looked kind of dried out to me when I thought boils and blisters were more... I don't know, liquidy.

Do I care about the film's not-so-subliminal message about humans fucking up the environment and stuff? Not really, but it's definitely there. The whole disaster is caused by a chicken farm dumping chicken poop into the water, the local officials covering up/ignoring early warning signs of impending doom, and bad water tests at a desalination plant. Poop and toxicity apparently make these little parasites, or isopods, grow rapidly inside the body and then they just eat their way out. I guess it's a good way to send the message about how it might be a bad idea to drink water that people dumped chicken poop into.

The Bay gets a solid thumbs up from this found footage lover. It's an interesting turn for director Barry Levinson, and gives me another reason to really fear nature. As if I needed that.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Trailer for Unearthed and Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary!

Argh, each new little piece of information I read about this Pet Sematary documentary just gets me more and more excited to see it! Now the filmmakers have released a trailer for Unearthed and Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary, which has been years in the making as they have done extensive research and interviews with I think just about everybody that was even remotely connected to the movie! That's love, friends, and you all should know that I have mad love for Pet Sematary. Getting to meet Denise Crosby and Mary Lambert at the convention a few months only solidified that love, and now I can't wait to see this doc and add it to my collection.

Here's a link to the Facebook page for the doc:

And here's the amazing trailer! Get excited, horror peeps.