It's been a minute, but we have returned with genre goofiness from the Boot just for you, as promised. Does this mean we won't be doing an Italian-themed month of reviews in Wop-tober? Hardly the case. This mutt, a Joe D'Amato produced sequel to Umberto Lenzi's La Casa 3 aka/ Ghosthouse (1988), unrelated genre fare rebranded as "House" movies to coincide with Sam Raimi's legendary Evil Dead movies, which just so happen to have been distributed as La Casa and La Casa 2, respectively, in Italy, at the time. Laugh all you want, there were several more to come after this one. Vidmark unleashed it upon unsuspecting American home video enthusiasts as "Witchery" in 1988. I'm pleased to report that nothing works in this movie, from the direction, to the pacing, to the special effects, right on down to the acting. Buckle up...
"T' ain't a finer stewing onion in all of London than this!"
In my best estimation, it would seem that Gary (David Hasselhoff) is a horny, young photographer who's taken his writer/girlfriend Leslie (Leslie Cumming) to a remote Massachusetts island and a run-down resort hotel where she can research famous witch lights...or gates to Hell...or something paranormal or other, as it's incredibly difficult to anybody to understand most of her dialog. Hard to tell if she's drunk, handicapped, or just affecting the most puzzling portrayal ever committed to celluloid, on purpose. Either way, when she's not emotionlessly mumbling her lines and pacing the hallways, she's denying Gary access to the poontang like some kind of virgin. The hotel formerly belonged to an old German woman (Hildegard Knef) with an all-black wardrobe who may have turned her toes up decades earlier as the result of a potent witch hunt, as she was tragically pregnant with child (cue: slo-mo flopper out upstairs window). Only she seems to be still flitting mysteriously about the old place, and she's likely plotting a course for gruesome, bloody retribution, as these witch-types usually are.
"Dis is a message from Aquaman to yer pal Jeremy Wade. 'E sez knock it off or else."
Meanwhile, with Mater Rose (Annie Ross) having designs on buying the property, her Brooks clan is arriving with a pair of horny realtors (including Hasselhoff's then wife, sultry blonde soap opera star, Catherine Hickland) via boat to assess the purchase, restoration costs, etc. There's her husband Freddie (Bobby Chanpagne), and their two children, the adult Jane (Linda Blair), who's very pregnant and having weird visions, and bashful young Tommy (Michael Manchester), who looks authentically petrified to be in front of the camera. Naturally, things go sour in a hurry, and in a most graphically violent and innovative manner, if not always (okay, ever) a coherent one. The lady in black and her spinning jeweled pin unlock a very seventies tele-visual effect-laden doorway to another dimension, where taunting witch-bullies eat still-born fetus parts, old women get hung upside down in a roaring fireplace, unable to scream with their lips sewn shut, and puffy nippled virgins lose their hymen to a yuck mouthed, leering Satan. You can assuredly bet that Linda Blair's character will be possessed and lip syncing gibberish with a cock metal hair do before the end credits roll, as well. That's a given...
Bert was the last Cockney chimney sweep she'd ever cross...
With confusing and inept fare such as this being exported from Italy in the late eighties, it isn't hard to see that the earlier Golden Era for the genre was shrinking rapidly in the rear view mirror, and an inevitable flat line was on the horizon. Claudio Fragasso's La Casa 5 aka/ Beyond Darkness (1990), also produced by D'Amato, would come next. Nobody's any good in this one, with Leslie Cumming of Zombie 5: Killing Birds (1987) fame cementing her position as the worst on screen, scene after laughable scene, and perhaps Hasselhoff delivering the only cringe-less performance, albeit a pedestrian one. Despite the constant flow of negativity that's just been bellowing out of me concerning Witchery, and the inevitable single Wop I've got to lay upon it, you might just have a blast taking this one in with your buddies, if rotten fun is occasionally your fancy. You know what I'm saying. Scream Factory will be releasing it as a Blu-ray on a double bill with it's predecessor, Ghosthouse, in June, so look out for that.
"Rock and roll crazy naaaaaaaaht! You are the hero toniiiiiiiiiiiight!"
Just a heads up here, O Woprophiles, as it's been a minute since we last examined any films. I really haven't sat down to watch too much lately, and the way I see it, I'll probably hold off until I've done so, again. Shouldn't be too long, though, so fret not, little droogs. Maybe I'll tackle a few more favorite lists if anybody's got a request. In the meantime, here's a few random thoughts I've had recently that I'll share with you.
When I sat down to add my thoughts on the latest wave of announced horror remakes, I caught myself slipping into old, familiar, snobbish territory, sharpening my tongue in anticipation of the outrageous elitist shit that would surely flow off of it once more. And I'm not even promising that it won't in the end. Knowing me, it probably will. Honestly though, let the remakes get made, all of them, every last one. Even when your expectations going in are set lower than an earthworm's icing bag, there's always the chance that somebody gets it right and produces this generation's equivalent of Carpenter's Thing. Unlikely, as the pungent stench of recent Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Black Christmas, The Fog, Wicker Man, Wolfman, and countless other failed genre remakes will confirm, but even if a hundred more rotten movies are produced, with profit solely in mind and no thought of art or creativity, it's still a hundred more rotten movies we can take the piss out of right here.
Speaking of rotten, I'll probably skip Jeepers Creepers 3 altogether unless they give director Victor Salva the chop. Some people don't seem to mind that the guy is a convicted nonce, citing other film buffs' love for Roman Polanski, another notorious kiddie fiddler, as reason enough to be excited for the upcoming movie, allegedly in pre-production at the time of this writing. Hell, Francis Ford Coppola is on the list of producers at this point. To each his own. Personally, I pass on both of their collective bodies of cinematic work if at all possible, but I'm only judge and jury over my own choices, nobody else's. Do what thou wilt.
The original Ghostbusters, which I went to see in the theaters upon release, was fucking stupid. Switching out the males in the lead roles for women won't make this new re-imagining any less stupid. No patriarchy, no male chauvinism, no sexism or institutionalized misogyny, the whole idea is just fucking insulting and ridiculous to begin with. The new trailer confirms my opinion.
I refuse to watch tv shows like Game of Thrones or Walking Dead (I caught the first season, it was good, and I left it at that, as fucking sick and tired of zombies as I was, even then). I regularly watch episodes from my numerous made-for-tv horror anthology box sets, and I try to catch a few episodes of Law and Order: SVU during the Saturday marathons on Antenna TV, as that show happens to be pretty cool. TV-wise, that's about it. Emilia Clarke is a pulse-raiser, to be sure, but I can't deal with the Ren Faire-level dialog at this point in my life, I just can't.
I'll confess to being a console peasant here. Picked up Mortal Kombat XL for my PS4 a few weeks ago, too. The draw of playing as Leatherface or the Xenomorph from Alien, or even Jason Voorhees, well, that's irresistible to a guy like me, who helped Yar get his Revenge all those years ago. I go back like a La-Z-Boy recliner, that's right. My gaming currently fluctuates from mild outbreaks to rabid marathons during creative droughts, and lately I've been immensely enjoying Godzilla, Witcher 3, Saints Row IV, GTA Online, and Madden '16 on the current gen system.
See you soon,
You need to treat yourself like number one, do you need to be reminded?
Fellow cult film fans, you're gonna want to pay attention to independent director William Hellfire, and his latest effort only serves to further cement that statement; it's an odd little movie, deceptively powerful despite its independent shortcomings, which are few, and exploitative roots, which run deep, and absolutely deserves to be on your "to watch" list, if you haven't seen it already. It's as much an arthouse film as it is a quality slice of exploitation, and I found my copy at f.y.e. (of all places) during a recent entertainment run, grabbing it when I recognized Hellfire's name near the top of the case. Your own personal hunt for it should begin there, if you've got one nearby. The compelling, often shocking tale goes something like this...
Who's policing photos over at Photobucket these days? Fucking Mennonites? Seriously.
Nadine (Erin Russ) is a drug-addled runaway teen prostitute, mostly posing for risque snapshots directed by opinionated perverts until she barely escapes a vice raid with her freedom, after giving an undercover cop a tug job. She returns home to find her fanatical mother, Delilah (Colleen Cohan), perched in front of the television set, mesmerized by the infomercials of Christian televangelists. Yeah, the squat doesn't sound half bad compared to this. Nadine, already suffering from withdrawal and visited by menacing shadows in the night, asks for some time to kick her habit and finally get her life straight. Delilah, on the other hand, is of the mindset that her daughter is possessed by demons from the pits of Hell, and that her unpredictable conduct can only be cured by the Good Book. Can I get a "Hallelujah!", brothers and sisters-ah!
"Should I pop the tits tonight...or split the beaver?"
To further compound matters, Delilah calls upon the services of a wandering preacher (David Yow) to exorcise the evil spirits that she believes have a vice grip upon her daughter's eternal soul, paying him an extortionate fee for his services. At first, Nadine plays along with the preacher's archaic rituals, even feigning possession to keep her mother happy, but it isn't long before she realizes she may have committed a major faux pas in doing so, seeing as this particular preacher has a darker streak than anyone involved could have imagined. It all goes deliciously downhill from here, and I'm not about to spoil it for you.
You've got meeee tied up in love! (cue: 1984 Ted Nugent guitar solo)
Hellfire has directed countless films, most with very curious titles, indeed... like Orgasm Torture in Satan's Rape Clinic (2004), Duck! The Carbine High Massacre (1999), and I, Asphyxia: The Electric Cord Strangler III (2000). I'm gonna have to hunt down copies of some of these, for sure. Fans of Jesus Lizard will instantly recognize David Yow, who besides churning out alt rock for decades, is also an actor, director, and published author. A college buddy of mine was a huge Lizard fan. He's good here. You can find Erin Russ in things like Porkchop (2011) and The Bunnyman (2011). Colleen Cohan has appeared in The Green Monster (2009) and Mr. Hush (2010), among others. On the scale, Cross earns an impressive three Wops from me, seeing how much I enjoyed the damned thing, and all. Check it out for yourselves, you won't be disappointed.
"Six inches of cold water! Six inches of cold water! Six inches of cold water!"
Of the two genre films that cult director Jose' Ramon Larraz completed in 1974, the sapphic and graphic Vampyres is more well known, and thus, easier to come by, but it's his other, more subdued effort that year that we'll focus upon tonight here at the Wop. As the story goes, Symptoms was entered into the Cannes Film Festival that year, vanished and showed back up on British television very briefly in the eighties, and lived on as washed out-looking bootleg rips from the VHS days, with all original source materials allegedly missing or destroyed, at least until the folks at Mondo Macabro announced that they'd secured the negatives and a remastered special edition Blu-ray was scheduled for release this coming spring. The film stars Angela Pleasance, the eldest of Donald's five daughters, who has appeared in things like Hitler: His Last Ten Days (1973), From Beyond the Grave (1974), and The Godsend (1980), all while being a dead ringer for her father, a man who brought many memorable antagonists to the big screen during his own career.
In his new female disguise, Blofeld has taken to stroking a different type of pussy, indeed.
Anne (Lorna Heilbron) is invited to spend some time at a decaying, remote, old estate in the English countryside by her timid, reclusive friend, Helen (Angela Pleasence), an odd bird with an affinity for horticulture and paper doll cutting. She fancies burning them in the fireplace, directly afterwards. Might want to take note of that. The pixie-coiffed, chain smoking Anne has had a recent row with her beau, and volunteers to help rehabilitate her sheltered mate, despite her ambiguity towards the current whereabouts of her last live-in partner, Cora (Marie-Paule Mailleux), who may or may not be the spectral dame intently flitting around the swampy grounds in wisps of mysterious fog. The groundskeeper, Grady (Peter Vaughn), offers very little in the way of calming reassurance, creeping about and eyeballing the troubled woman from a distance.
Anne (Lorna Heilbron) brings Former Lee Warmer a midnight snack.
Extended periods of tedium lead Anne to venture out of her quarters after dark, seeking the source for eerie late night moans of despair, only to find the delicate mouse double-clicking her own mouse in her own chambers. Masturbation aside, there's still the matter of a mysterious locked door in said bedroom, that inevitably leads to attic filled with dark secrets. Don't they all, really? Her curiosity peaked, she investigates further, after a secret reconciliation with her boyfriend in town, which Helen has taken to look upon with disdain, having developed a bit of a crush on the old girl, in the process. She ascends to the attic, finding Cora's luggage neatly stored away in a corner. Didn't she leave earlier? If she's gone, why has she left her belongings behind...oh boy. I can see where this is all leading, and you can too, now, very soon, thanks to the thorough chappies at Mondo Macabro.
Making late night jam sandwiches leads to the arrival of jam sandwiches (see: slang).
I should also mention Angela has shown up more recently in Scorsese's Gangs of New York (2002), though I haven't picked her out in all the times I've viewed it yet, sadly. Giovanni Lombardo Radice, I singled out immediately. Go figure. You've probably noticed Peter Vaughn in things like Ken Russell's Savage Messiah (1972), Peckinpah's Straw Dogs (1971), and more recently, BBC's Doc Martin series. I look forward to revisiting this one when the new release drops, as I'm sure the improved quality will intensify an impactful feeling of claustrophobia and atmosphere that one can only hint upon in a ghosty, washed out vhs dub like mine. The shitty print and sometimes painfully slow build to this effort force me to lay a median deuce upon it, though I surely enjoyed it, already a fan of the Larraz films I've seen to date. Check it out!
No need to drive this one crazy, she's already there.
Tonight, we return to Bigfoot country for another recent genre effort featuring everybody's favorite elusive and mysterious wood booger (more or less...). That it's also another found fooage flick a la Blair Witch Project (1999) and sixteen million consequent clones of the shoestring budget variety shouldn't sway you from checking it out, at least once, as I'm here to tell you that it was pretty entertaining despite the obviously meager foundation, and I'm confident that you might just just come away with similar feelings to mine about it, after all, even if screening it may not sway you one way or the other on such a famed and folkloric creature's existence in the end.
"This must be where your mother tried to claw her way in last night..."
We meet Sean (Drew Rausch), who besides being a sort of poor man's Tom Cruise, is an independent filmmaker looking to bounce back from a prior nervous breakdown with a reality show pitch involving an internet-famous cryptozoologist named Drybeck (Frank Ashmore) who boasts of possessing undeniable physical evidence of Bigfoot's existence: a dead body. Sean has assembled a patchwork film crew consisting of Darryl (Rich McDonald), his trusty cameraman, Robyn (Ashley Wood), his producer/spiritualist/former squeeze, and Keven (Noah Weisburg), the impromptu sound man forced into action when his first choice, Curtis turns him down, repeatedly reminding him that black people don't camp or fare well out in the woods, especially when looking for Bigfoot. Homie don't play dat Gigantopithecus sheee-iiit.
"There's a fuckload of nitrites in this sample. I think Bigfoot has a urinary tract infection."
After collecting his seventy-five thousand dollar fee from Sean (significantly less than Hillary's 225,000 speaking fee, y'know), Drybeck blindfolds the crew, confiscates their cellies, and drives them off to a remote cabin in the middle of the woods where things quickly take a turn for the familiar: the 'Squatch hunter dramatically weaves a few campfire tales and abruptly splits on the film crew with the only ride out after something takes out the electrified fence around the perimeter, scratches up the exterior of the joint, and even pisses on it (!) that evening. Do our heroes unanimously decide to recoup their losses and hike back to their vehicle immediately? Of fucking course not. Keep those cameras rolling, no matter what. Sean goes cinematic dictator with dollar signs in his eyes, Robin burns candles in the forest and goes New Age, Keven plays the neurotic Jew card and abandons his co-workers, and Darryl keeps a-filming, as his share of the profits increases by the minute. Do you smell a twist ending in the works? Because I sure do...
Keven (Noah Weisburg) immediately regrets agreeing to an adult bris.
If you're looking for an impressive 'Squatch suit on display here, you're fucking sunk, matey. Instead, director Corey Grant gives you a much more authentic feeling cryptid experience, peppered with "blink and you'll miss it" glimpses of large hairy shadows darting across the background, camouflaged eye shine, oversized footprints in the mud, sinister growls in the dark...more substantial than anything these "professional" crypto-goobers have been able to turn up in the last forty or so years researching in the field, when you think about it. Like I said earlier, pretty entertaining for budget-restrained genre fare, enough so to merit a pair of Wops on the scale. If this all sounds like your cuppa, give it a look for yourselves.