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Showing posts from 2017

Salvation, USA: A Not-Thrilling Thriller

Written by Bernie Van De Yacht and directed by Yacht and Brett Donowho, Salvation, USA is a thriller, sort of. It reminded me a lot of a Lifetime movie with a little sex and swearing. Until the finale, which gets all sorts of batshit violent and bloody. Ah, but advertising, eh? If you watch this movie after having seen the poster, you’ll end up wondering when the hell you’re going to see some violence, as violence is most clearly implied by the thing. And if you haven’t seen the poster, you’ll watch Salvation, USA and suddenly get weirded out when a pretty basic drama gets really freakin’ bloody by the end.

The movie concerns Vinnie (Ryan Donowho), a guy who seems passionate about fixing old stoves, restoring them to their former pristine states. But it’s all a ruse. Fixing the stoves is his launchpad for a long con. Donowho is a very charming actor, and so it’s not hard for the audience to be pretty damn hypnotized by his performance. We want to believe there’s good inside the guy. …

G Rated Horror: The Legend of Boggy Creek

The Legend of Boggy Creek was written by Earl E. Smith, but the whole thing represents the vision of director Charles B. Pierce. The story was pieced together from the tales of local residents from Fouke, Arkansas, some of whom appeared in Boggy Creek as themselves. The so-called Fouke Monster, basically a sasquatch, was a folk legend that residents claimed was real. Reports began to surface in newspaper articles around Arkansas in the early 70’s and they seized Smith’s imagination. He knew he had found the subject of his first feature film.

Pierce is an interesting character. A self-motivated guy with a ton of ambition, he worked as a weatherman and a children’s show host named Mayor Chuckles before starting his own advertising firm. He made commercials for all sorts of companies throughout Arkansas. The owner of a trucking company client loaned Pierce $100,000 to get started on shooting Boggy Creek. The film was an almost instant success in cheap movie theaters and drive-ins and it…

Holy Terror: Terribly Mundane

Holy Terror, a horror flick released on digital platforms like Amazon Video this month, proves that it’s pretty damn hard to write and direct an original exorcism movie. Not only is this film’s story muddled, but every idea is recycled from another, better movie.
The first two minutes or so are actually quite interesting. Cool visuals, with everything a pea-green or vibrant black color. A priest named Jacob (Scott Butler), a nun (Kristine DeBell), and another priest are performing an exorcism on some poor young girl when it goes wrong and she croaks. Jacob is so flustered by the experience that he questions his faith and leaves the church. Cool story, but it’s time to forget about Jacob for about thirty minutes while we get to know a not-at-all pleasant couple, Molly (Kelly Lynn Reiter) and Tom (Jesse Hlubik), who’ve just lost their kid partially because of Molly’s neglect. Weird stuff is going on at their house and, who knows, maybe their dead kid is coming back in the form of a ghost…

Don't Look in the Basement (There's a Plot Point Hiding)

The 1973 low budget grindhouse horror flick Don’t Look in the Basement is a prime example of movie logic concerning insane people. You take a character’s quirky defining trait, turn it up to eleven and viola, insanity! So here we have a soldier who thinks he’s still in Vietnam, a judge who only speaks in legal jargon and a nympho who only...well...you can see where this is going.

The insane are housed (literally, this is a farmhouse out in the county) alongside the doctors and nurses in an experimental treatment facility. There’s no locks on the doors and the staff refer to the patients as family. Not the best idea. Doctor R.D. Laing actually tried this in the 70’s in London and the patients ran amok and destroyed the buildings he’d rented. I have no idea whether director S.F. Brownrigg had ever heard of Laing, but I doubt it. He was a humble Texas exploitation filmmaker. The concept is used more as a way to make the “twist” ending work, although most people will see it coming from a …

Doing the Genre Mash: Silent Retreat

I hadn’t heard of the 2013 horror flick Silent Retreat until a DVD copy came with my Horror Block subscription. I love the surprises you find inside these weird mystery boxes. Silent Retreat was a neat surprise.
A low budget horror film written by Corey Brown and directed by Tricia Lee, it was the first feature film for both creators, and for some of the actors as well. However, Brown and Lee had collaborated on shorts together since the early 2000’s, so they definitely had a good amount of narrative and technical experience going into it. The movie never quite recovers from some script issues, but it’s a fun ride with plenty of talent and heart. It’s just that the first hour and final half hour feel like different movies. The first part is a neat character study about a camp for troubled girls which is actually a front for an organization that brainwashes the teenagers into being subservient housewives, and the second part is a gory creature-feature.
There are some interesting ideas in…

Boy Meets Chrome: Christine

Written by Bill Phillips from a novel by Stephen King and directed by John Carpenter, Christine, released in 1983, is a love story between a boy and his car. This time, however, the car is alive and quite possessive of her boy.

She’s an older lover, too. Christine, a red Plymouth Fury, is a disheveled twenty-one years old when eighteen year old Arnie (Keith Gordon) falls for her. She’s broken down, in a state of disrepair and decay. When his best friend Dennis (Dean Stockwell) drives Arnie home after their first day of school, Arnie sees her sitting in the yard of a house that’s just as dilapidated at the car. Arnie decides he’s going to fix her, make her run again.

This movie is all about sex, love, and obsession and the moral lines that get blurred when these things interact with each other. Christine begins as Arnie and Dennis drive around discussing sex. Dennis, a football player and quite an attractive young man, has clearly had plenty of it, while Arnie is still a virgin. Denni…

Wonderwall: Weirdo Psychedelic Time Capsule

Written by Guillermo Cabrera Infante from a story by GĂ©rard Brach and directed by Joe Massot, the 1968 film Wonderwall is about as psychedelic as it gets. Released a year after the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour film and using George Harrison as a composer, the movie wears its psychedelic credentials on its sleeve. A closeup of cells under a microscope in various Day-Glo colors sets the tone from the beginning. Soon after, we’re introduced to Jack MacGowran’s affable, bumbling scientist, the film’s protagonist.
You’d be forgiven if, like me, you roll your eyes at the choice of a scientist as a sort of avatar for the establishment, but, like me, you might be pleasantly surprised to learn that the objects of the scientist’s fascination, those people on the other side of his apartment that he can see through a hole in his wall, are actually drugged out dolts that really have no clue what they’re doing. But that revelation doesn’t come until we’re nearing the end and at first you might be …

Postcards from the Edge: Family, Artifice, Style, Humor

Written by the late Carrie Fisher, 1990’s Postcards from the Edge is a fun take on a unique mother-daughter relationship. In an interview with the Columbus Dispatch in 2012, Fisher claimed that the movie wasn’t autobiographical, but at times it’s hard to separate the fictional story of a drug addict actress and her famous mother from the real-life, sometimes rocky relationship between Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds. Directed by Mike Nichols, the legendary director behind The Graduate, Postcards from the Edge is a fun dark comedy with a touch of drama. In other words, perfect material for the director. The acting is loaded with A-list talent and, as such, is superb. Some actors, like Gene Hackman and Richard Dreyfuss, seem to have believed in the material so much that they took what amounts to glorified cameos to be in the movie, despite being top draws at the time. Dennis Quaid is perfect as a sleazy sex-maniac producer. And Meryl Streep was born to play Suzanne Vale, the daug…