THE RECKONING [Beyond Fest Film Review]

Neil (DOG SOLDIERS, THE DESCENT) Marshall’s latest film is set in 1665 England. The plague is still active, as are Withcfinder Generals, and witch trials. Grace (Charlotte Kirk) and Joseph (Joe Anderson) have a newborn and work the land they lease. Joseph takes a trip into town for work, and drops by the local pub for a quick ale afterwards. This decision sees him infected with the plague and, to save Grace and their child from the same fate, he hangs himself outside the family home.

With Joseph gone, the Landlord calls upon Grace to let her know he still expects the full rent on time. When he later returns he’s shocked to see her give her her late husband’s wedding ring as three months worth of rent. When he balks she attempts to give him her wedding ring to cover her for a total of six months. This leads to the Landlord deciding he’s rather “take the rent in trade”, and he begins to assault her. Grace fights back, and the Landlord is sent packing while warning her she’s not heard the last about this.

Stopping at the pub to “lick his wounds” he begins to spout falsehoods about Grace, and question what really happened to Joseph. If he truly had the plague both Grace and the child should have perished. If Joseph didn’t have the sickness, maybe Grace bewitched him into the noose that took his life. After reminding most everyone in the pub that he’s their landlord the group begin to drum up false accusations against grace.

These accusations see Grace attacked, taken into custody along with her baby, and brings Withcfinder General Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee) to town to find the “truth” about Joseph’s demise and Grace. From here the film turns into part torture-porn, and part revenge-porn. These are two horror sub-genres I don’t care for, so THE RECKONING was a struggle for me to endure.

I can say that Sean Pertwee was chewing scenery, in the best way possible, as Moorcroft. However, there’s not much else that I can praise the film for. At nearly 2 hours it was far too long, and the script (co written by Edward Evers-Swindell, Charlotte Kirk, and Neil Marshall) didn’t bring anything new to the witch/witch trials sub-genre. If you don’t have the same opinion on torture-porn or revenge-porn as I do, this movie could possibly work for you. For me…I can’t recommend the film, and it’s not one I’ll look to revisit.

THE DARK AND THE WICKED [Beyond Fest Film Review]

By: Joe Meyers 8/7/20

Writer/Director Bryan (THE STRANGERS, THE MONSTER) Bertino is back with a film about siblings Louise (Marin Ireland) and Michael (Michael Abbot Jr.) returning to the family farm for the week to help their Mother (Julie Oliver-Touchstone) with their terminally ill Father (Michael Zagst). It becomes quickly, and abundantly, clear the kids don’t return home very often and that their mother doesn’t want them there.

Bryan Bertino wastes no time dropping us into the thick of things. A horrible incident with Mother leads to the kids finding her diary. In it they find page after page of her taking about something evil out there coming for their Father. His nurse (Lynn Andrews) tells Louise her Mother had changed recently, began sitting next to her Father and talking, but it was as if she was speaking to someone else and not him. Louise becomes convinced their Mother kept telling them not to come so she could save them from the clutches of whatever she was talking to.

Louise and Michael both begin to see and hear things, and this is where Bryan’s script really grabs ahold of you and doesn’t let go. The sense of dread that falls over the farm is palpable. It is in fact, dark, wicked, and unrelenting as each new night raises the stakes until the kids decide they should have their Father transported to a hospital, so they could leave the farm. The evil entity haunting the farm, of course, has other plans for the siblings and those around them. 

The performances, especially by Marin Ireland, are impressive and gut-wrenching. Xander Berkeley as a Priest has a small but extremely memorable role as well. Bryan Bertino’s script is viciously efficient and cuts right to the bone. His directing masterfully places you in the middle of the horrendous events, won’t let you go, and forces you to watch the unspeakable events that unfold. This movie is bleak with a capital B, and it so very in my wheelhouse. I rarely have nightmares after watching horror films, and I have to admit I bolted out of sleep a little past 3:00 a.m. this morning because of the movie.

With THE STRANGERS it was all about “What happens if the evil gets inside?” Here the question is “What happens if the evil is already inside?” THE DARK AND THE WICKED will be available via VOD as of 11/6/2020, and I can’t wait to own it, and watch again. I have a good feeling I’ll be talking much more about this film when we do our top horror films of 2020 in a few months.

BAD HAIR [Beyond Fest 2020 Film Review]

By: Joe Meyers 10/6/20

Writer/Director Justin Simien brings us the story of an ambitious assistant, Anna Bludso (Elle Lorraine), at a music television station in 1989 doing everything it takes to get ahead when her job is in jeopardy. This desire to move up the corporate ladder leads her to get a weave when her new boss, Zora (Vanessa Williams), tells Anna her look isn’t up to par for the music channels new “brand.” Zora gives her a card to the place she uses for her hair, and Anna eventually visits to get a weave. Unknown to her, the hair used for these weaves are “special” and just may have a mind of its own…as well as a taste for blood.

I have to say the scene where Anna gets the weave put on at Virgie’s, by Virgie herself (Laverne Cox), is one of the most terrifying and intense moments of the film. The scene is shot as slasher, every move seems menacing, and every moment seems to be killing Anna. Armed with her new look Anna climbs out of being on thin ice with her job to becoming associate producer on the overhaul of the music channel.

Anna quickly discovers the weave is “alive”, through several horrible incidents. While this film is billed as a horror-comedy, it really leaned into horror most of the time. The more out of control her hair becomes, the more her life begins to spiral out of control. Searching for answers finds Anna researching the myth of the Moss Haired Lady with the help of her academic uncle (Blair Underwood).

I found BAD HAIR to be a Hell of a fun ride. The cast is great, there’s so many people who are in this I didn’t even get to mention, and the mythology used to explain the sentient, evil hair was interesting. I did a quick search to see if the myth of the Moss Haired Woman was some that already existed or if it was created by Justin Simien. So far, I’ve not found anything on the tale. While there were comedic moments, it wasn’t a packed with comedy as the premise may suggest. So, keep that in mind going in. This isn’t some silly, horror parody. I also would have liked a deeper dive into the social commentary of the beauty standards black women face in life and in the workforce (please seek out reviews and articles about this film written by black women for a far better perspective on the social commentary, and really real world implications they deal with on a daily basis, than I can provide as a cis, white male). While it’s touched upon here, it’s not explored much further once the bloodshed begins. BAD HAIR will debut on Hulu on 10/23/20, and I’ll be watching it again for certain.

What In The Hell Is Chris, I mean, Joe Watching Now? MANTANGO (aka ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE)

By Joe Meyers

“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a mushroom trip…”

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A little over a year ago I was at a get-together with my girlfriend’s family, and found myself in a conversation with a lovely, horror loving couple, Ed and Toni. At some point Ed asked me if I’d ever seen ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE, and went on to say it was basically the horror version (possibly part inspiration?) of GILLIAN’S ISLAND. To say I was immediately curious about the film would be an understatement. I loved GILLIAN’S ISLAND as a kid, and I would often come up with horror scenarios for the characters after watching episodes.

It took me some time after my chat with Ed and Toni before seeing MANTANGO (aka ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE), but it was worth the wait. This 1963 film was written by Takeshi Kimura, directed by the legendary Ishirō Honda, and was loosely based on William H. Hodgson’s short story, “The Voice in the Night.” Starring Akira Kubo, Kumi Mizuno, Kenji Sahara, Hiroshi Tachikawa, and Yoshio Tsuchiy the movie really is about a trip on a yacht that wrecks off the shore of a seemingly deserted island…and yes, the characters feature a skipper, his mate, a professor, a wealthy man, and a celebrity among others.

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As the group makes their way across the island they discover vast growths of strange mushrooms, and eventually come across a shipwreck on the shore. Exploring this ship they find evidence that whoever had been onboard was likely conducting nuclear experiments, possibly the cause of the mutated mushrooms. The longer they’re on the island to more certain individuals begin to unravel. At first they all agree to not eat the mushrooms, but as food is in sort supply some fail to keep that promise. The result is distrust between the members of the group and, once the mushrooms begin to alter the mind and body, upgrades to terror and paranoia. Honda always said the film was about drug addiction, and how people can loose themselves in their addiction. That social commentary does come across in the script, however, the DOCTOR WHO-like make up effects for the Mushroom People has this film far more memorable as a 1960’s slow burn, monster movie to me.

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I enjoyed the movie, but I’d actually love to see an update of this plot idea. While MANTANGO is beyond tame by today’s standards, I think a reimagining/remake could really ratchet up the body horror. Using modern practical and visual effects, as the mutated ‘shrooms take over from the inside out, it could be as dramatic a difference as John Carpenter’s THE THING was from THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD. If you’d like to take the (longer than three hour) tour with these castaways over a 90 minute runtime as well, you can currently find the film listed as ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE on Amazon Prime.

 

“What The Hell Is Chris Watching Now?” – FEMALE PRISONER SCORPION Film Series

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“Heav’n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn’d, Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d.”

– “The Mourning Bride” by William Congreve (Act III Scene 2) (1697)

Revenge films are a sub-genre that dances along the edge of horror, but they can often be found diving fully into horror as well. Another sub-genre that is also known to do just that are the “women in prison” exploitation films. The film series I am going to discuss this time around brings all these together in Female Prisoner Scorpion franchise out of Japan.

The four films series from Toei Company ran from 1972 to 1973 with Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (1972), Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (1972), Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable (1972), and Female Prisoner Scorpion: Grudge Song (1973). Actress Meiko Kaji played the lead role of Nami “Scorpion” Matsushima in all four films with Shunya Ito directing the first three and Yasuharu Hasebe directing the fourth. Based on the manga Scorpion by Toru Shinohara, the stories center around Nami who was wronged in the worst ways by her boyfriend, Sugimi, a corrupt narcotics detective. Set up and abused, Nami attempts to kill Sugimi in front of police headquarters and earns her trip to prison.

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In Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion, Nami is subjected to brutal abuse from both the guards and her fellow inmates. But never does she break, because Nami is a bad ass, filled with rage and driven by vengeance. Fueled by this rage and through clever manipulations of her tormentors, things get bloody and gruesome, with many of those said tormentors meeting a nasty end. Outside of the “standard” tortures that Nami is put through, the set piece punishment in this installment was the digging and refilling and redigging of an exceptionally large hole in the prison yard. Events evolving from this led to a riot and escape, allowing Nami to finish her acts of vengeance.

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Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 opens to Nami having been returned to prison and bound up in solitary confinement. But she can still move her head, and she has been holding a spoon in her mouth and grinding it down on the concrete floor to make a shank! Told you she’s a bad ass. The prison riot kicks off early in this one, permitting a larger group to escape and going on the run during a transfer. This one dips into the spiritual and metaphysical a bit when the group of escapees comes across the hut of an old woman who essentially foretells what crimes they committed and how each will meet their end . . . except for Nami. There is still vengeance to be meted out as the warden from the first film survived and continues to torture and torment Nami whenever and however he can. As the road trip continues, it literally gets on the road with the hijacking of a tourist bus that leads to a standoff with the police. The ending takes a bit of a surreal twist, but it works.

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Now third film, Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable, goes off in an odd but effective direction and adds in a bit of gothic horror and supernatural happenings. Yet again, Nami has escaped custody and is on the run. The first person to spot her is a prostitute in a cemetery . . . where Nami is trying to chew through the severed hand of the police detective that is still cuffed to her wrist. And that’s not even the most cringeworthy moment in this one! I don’t want to say much more than that, because I feel this is one you just need to jump into and go with. Just be prepared for the occasional head scratching and the “WTF?!?” reactions now and then.

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The final film, Female Prisoner Scorpion: Grudge Song, ended up being the weakest of the films for me, and I can chalk it up to a few reasons. The first being that while on the run (again!), Nami is found and aided by Kudo, a former student revolutionary who was tortured and maimed by the police. More than a third of the film focuses on him instead of on Nami, and it’s suppose to be her film. The second reason is the change in directors. Shunya Ito had a style in the first film that bordered on giallo to me, with his use of creative sets, bolded lighting, and quirky editing tricks. In each of the three films he directed, there was something technique-wise that caught my attention. Outside of one or two slightly trippy scenes in Grudge Song, Yasuharu Hasebe’s direction didn’t really do much for me. And a third thing! Even though Meiko Kaji could convey so much with a look that it allowed for keeping her dialogue to a minimum in the first three films, she had maybe four or five lines in the entirety of Grudge Song, and even those were used as internal monologue instead being spoken out loud.

Overall, it’s not a bad series of film if these are genres you like watching. If you are a fan of Japanese martial arts cinema of the early 1970s, you might recognize Meiko Kaji’s name from the legendary role she would go on to play shortly after this: Lady Snowblood. Like the theme from Lady Snowblood, theme song of this series will stick with you, too.

So, if my musings have piqued your interest, all four films are currently streaming on Shudder. What better way to pass the time in lock down than watching someone else in lock down?

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Friday the 13th: Forty Years of Sex, Betsy, and Bacon

By Jenny

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Friday the 13th, the iconic godfather of the slasher film, turned forty this weekend. The fact that this movie is nearly as old as I am, and has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, is a big part of why I hold it so dearly. But this movie holds way more appeal to me than just the sentimental, so allow me to rhapsodize. This movie has it all-weed, snakes, sex, Kevin Bacon…what more can you ask for?

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Directed by Sean S. Cunningham, and made for a budget of $550,000, Friday the 13th was the 18th highest-grossing movie of 1980, and eventually went on to spawn one of the most iconic horror franchises in history. And while it was, and still is, beloved by horror fans, it had its detractors, including Gene Siskel, who loathed it so strongly that he spoiled the ending in his review, and the MPAA, who insisted the sequel have less gore, because they have no sense of adventure. It’s been said that the writer, Victor Miller, drew inspiration both from the stalwart Halloween and also the classic comedy Meatballs, which has a definite “two great tastes that taste great together!” vibe to it.

If you’ve never seen Friday the 13th (which, incidentally, is an issue you should remedy immediately, after reading and liking this post, of course), the movie starts with a serene night at Camp Crystal Lake in 1958, with songs being sung around the campfire. The children of the camp are sleeping in their cabins, which we know because we get an unsettling POV (and the first hint of Harry Manfredini’s deliciously minimalist score) of someone creeping through, watching them doze. Within minutes, the person has come upon a couple of counselors making out, and Willie Adams officially becomes the first victim in the franchise.

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(Annie, we hardly knew ya!)

Then we come to Friday the 13th in “the present day”, where would-be camp cook Annie (Robbi Morgan)  is trying to find a ride to Camp Crystal Lake. She hitches a ride with Enos, who gives us some solid exposition on the dark history of “Camp Blood.” Annie is one of my favorite characters in the franchise, even though our time with her is short, and her sweetness and joie de vivre make her bloody, untimely death all the more shocking. We also meet the rest of the counselors: Marcie (Jeannine Taylor), Jack (Kevin Bacon), Bill (Harry Crosby), Brenda (Laurie Bartram), Ned (Mark Nelson) and slightly creepy camp owner, Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer), who is infatuated by one of the most well-known final girls of all time, Alice (Adrienne King.) The Meatballs influence is clearly seen in the banter between the counselors, most notably so in the scene with Officer Dorf (Ron Millkie), who “ain’t gonna stand for no weirdness out here!”

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(Told you Steve was creepy)

We also get to meet the predecessor to sooooooo many horror movie doomsayers, Crazy Ralph (Walt Gorney), who assures them that they’re all doomed, which they totally are. He appears earlier in the movie, but really cements his place in Friday history with his jump scare appearance in the pantry. From there, there are sexy times aplenty, but also murders aplenty, because vengeance is mine, sayeth the mom.

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(Take note-strip Monopoly leads to untimely death)

What’s interesting about this movie is that, while its OG slasher, Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) loses her head at the hands of Alice at the end, this little movie ended up spawning not only a prolific amount of sequels, it also led to the creation of one of the most well-known horror icons of all time, the one and only Jason Voorhees, who appears as the avenged child in this film. Luckily for all of us, Jason’s vengeful streak is as strong as his mother’s, but also has a tinge of the supernatural to keep it interesting, the precursor of which we see in his inexplicable appearance (and pee your pants moment) at the end of this film. He wasn’t a very good swimmer, but he seemed to have gotten the hang of it in the scene with Alice.

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This is one of those rare movies that checks off all of the boxes for me, and always has. It’s got gore, it’s got a kickass score, it’s got sex, it’s got strong women, it’s got a creepy ghost/child, it’s got a plot twist-check, check check, check, check, check. I’ve seen it more times than I can count, yet I always get sucked into it, because it’s just such a fun ride. It’s also among the movies I consider “comfort food”-the movies I know so well and adore, and can throw on any time and end up in a better mood than when I started it.

So happy anniversary, Friday the 13th-you’ve slashed your way into our hearts and the public consciousness, and the world is a better, bloodier place for it!

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Friday Night at the Video Store: Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988)

By Joe Meyers

My father is the King of horror B-film lovers so I wasn’t shocked when he told me on the morning of September 14th, 1991, “I caught part of a movie called ‘Sorority Babes in the Bowl-O-Rama of Death’ last night, let’s head to the video store to rent it later today.” How do I know the exact date? Because what he caught was part of an UP ALL NIGHT with Rhonda Shear episode that aired Friday the 13th, on the USA Network, featuring MEATBALLS III and SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA.

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So, instead of discovering that hidden horror gem in the video store as we roamed the aisles, we began a trek to find this supposed cinematic horror masterpiece like it was The Holy Grail. Our stops at the video stores near us (this was the era where mom and pop shops still thrived alongside chain video stores, so we made many stops) proved unsuccessful. None of them had it on the shelf, and inquiries with the staff resulted in blank stares and “I’ve never heard of it before” replies. Dejected, but refusing to quit, we returned home where I was tasked with cracking open the phone book to call other video stores in the area.

Lucky for us an employee at a place I contacted looked the movie up in their VHS catalog, because he thought it “sounded cool.” Thankfully this is where the clerk gave me the correct title for the film, but followed that revelation up with bad news. They didn’t have it, although they could order it for us, BUT we’d have to pay roughly $80.00 for them to buy the VHS tape from their supplier. Surprisingly, usually not one with impulse buying control, my dad declined the offer. Armed with the actual title of the film I did hit pay dirt a few calls later at a mom and pop shop forty minutes away from us. Not only did they have the film, the tape was in, and they agreed to hold it for us.

Finally, back home with our VHS treasure, my pops and I settled in to view the David DeCoteau directed, and Sergei Hasenecz written (their only feature film writing credit), horror movie. It begins with three sad sacks, Calvin (Andras Jones), Jimmie (Hal Havins), and Keith (John Stewart Wilman) deciding to spy on the Tri-Delta sorority’s initiation ceremony.

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Tri-Delta members Babs (Robin Stille), Rhonda (Kathi O’Brech), and Frankie (Carla Baron) haze sorority pledges Taffy (Brinke Stevens) and Lisa (Michelle Bauer) by having them strip down, and lean over the couch for spankings with the sorority house paddle. This is followed by a little whipped cream action which, OF COURSE, leads to Taffy and Lisa needing a shower. The guys decide to sneak into the sorority house, adding breaking and entering to their “Peeping Tom” resume, to watch the ladies showering only to get caught in the act by the Tri-Deltas.

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As punishment (I guess?) Babs sends Calvin, Jimmie, and Keith with Taffy and Lisa on the final part of their initiation, breaking into the mall bowling alley to retrieve a bowling trophy. Bab’s father runs the mall so the Tri-Deltas are able to watch the heist attempt from monitors in the mall security office. The group successfully breaks in, only to find bad-ass biker chick, Spider (Linnea Quigley), already robbing the place. After some tense moments Spider helps them break into the trophy room, they retrieve their prize, and then all Hell breaks loose as the trophy is accidentally dropped…releasing an Imp (a puppet voiced by Michael David Sonye, better known as Dukey Flyswatter of the L.A. horror punk band Haunted Garage) who was trapped inside.

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The Imp, looking like the love child of Shrek and Donkey, offers to grant everyone present a wish. Naturally there’s a catch as we enter “be careful what you wish for” territory. In quick secession all the wishes begin to go wrong, some of the group are turned into “Uncle Impie’s” demon minions, and others are dispatched in various ways around the bowling alley until the climatic, final battle against the Imp concludes. I’m being vague, and super “wrap up-ity” here, as to not spoil the fun for any potential first time viewers.

Was this the VHS gold at the end of the video store rainbow my dad made it out to be? Debatable, to be sure, but sixteen-year-old me enjoyed it for the horror sleaze that it was. Forty five-year-old me, watching again last week for the first time since that September day in 1991, sure sees it as a trashy, horror nostalgia trip best enjoyed with fellow horror-loving  friends/family and COPIOUS amounts of beer and pizza. Besides, you can’t go wrong with the awesomeness that is Linnea Quigley. There’s a reason the episode of UP ALL NIGHT my father happened upon that Friday the 13th almost three decades ago is a fan favorite of the series.

Now, if you’re from the UK, you may be thinking this sounds exactly like a movie you’ve seen before, but it wasn’t called SORORITY BABES IN THE SILMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA. That’s because it was released on video there under another title…THE IMP. I have to say I prefer the US title. I mean, yes, it’s a mouthful but it lays everything out on front street. This movie is exactly what it sounds like…pure 80’s, low-budget, T&A horror cheese. If that’s in your Film-watching wheelhouse, then dive on in with the rest of us slimeballs.

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Friday Night at the Video Store: Prom Night 2-Hello Mary Lou

By Jenny Duquette

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I know that time can get away from us in the Plague Times, but guess what? It’s Friday! And not just any Friday, but another Friday Night at the Video Store.

Tonight’s selection is one of the subgenre of movies that are sequels in name only-the movie was originally titled “The Haunting of Hamilton High,” a title which changed when the Samuel-Goldwyn Company bought it and thought it would be better marketed as a sequel to the Jamie Lee Curtis classic, Prom Night. I mean, because why not? The school name is the same, and the line, “It’s not who you go with, it’s who takes you home” is used in both movies, and Brock Simpson appeared in both, but beyond that there’s really no overlap.

The Los Angeles Times quite accurately called this movie “the Blue Velvet of high school horror movies,” which should really tell you that this movie is a very different animal than its predecessor. Hello Mary Lou has everything, managing to land on basically every taboo, from teen pregnancy to incest to a hint of demonic bestiality-it’s basically an afterschool special on PCP. Add to that possession, a badass fire stunt, and Michael Ironside and you’ve got 80’s horror magic. The cover art is so iconic that the band Falling in Reverse took it as inspiration for the cover of their album, “The Drug in Me is You,” with the lead singer’s ex-girlfriend playing the role of Mary Lou.

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This weird but wonderful movie starts off with a beautiful dark-haired girl going into the church to confess-she tells the priest that she has been impure with “many boys, many times.” The priest is horrified, but even more so when the girl tells him she “loved every minute of it.” This, ladies and gentlemen, is our introduction to Mary Lou Maloney.

The year is 1957, and Mary Lou (Lisa Schrage) is at the prom with her steady beau, Billy Nordham (Steve Atkins). Billy is clearly crazy about her, and gives her a beautiful ring. In return, she sends him off to get punch and sneaks off backstage with Buddy Cooper. The two are drinking and making out in the minute and a half it takes Billy to get punch, and Billy catches them, and overhears his beloved Mary Lou telling Buddy that she’s only with Billy because he’s good to her and his daddy is rich. When Billy confronts them, Buddy offers to let Billy smell his hand because it’s “as close as he’s going to get,” and then heads out to the prom with Mary Lou. Billy is understandably miffed, and happens to run into two kids with a stink bomb, and decides to get his revenge on his traitorous gal.

Mary Lou, to the surprise of no one, wins the title of Prom Queen, with Buddy at her side. In a coronation long enough to bore the Queen Mother, she finally gets the bejeweled crown on her head, and is aglow with the massive achievement of being hotter than her classmates, when Billy strikes. From the catwalk above, he lights the stink bomb and throws it on the stage. But the stink bomb doesn’t just stink up the stage and ruin Mary Lou’s moment-instead it rolls below her skirt and catches her dress, and subsequently Mary Lou, on fire. What follows is what was at the time the longest-running fire stunt in a movie, and the death glare to end all death glares as Mary Lou realizes Billy is responsible for the fire that winds up killing her.

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          (I think she’s mad.)

From there we travel thirty years into the future, to 1987, where Vicki Carpenter (Wendy Lyon) is preparing for her own prom. Sadly, her deeply religious mother thinks a prom gown is a waste of money, so Vicki winds up looking for a dress in the school prop room, where she finds a trunk with Mary Lou’s prom queen accessories, which were thankfully spared by the aforementioned slow-ass coronation. She takes them, which releases Mary Lou’s vengeful spirit. After Vicki leaves the cursed accessories in the art room, her friend Jess (Beth Gondek) ends up meeting an unfortunate yet artsy end after she makes the mistake of screwing with Mary Lou’s crown. This death is attributed to suicide from discovering she was pregnant, and is when shit starts getting real at Hamilton High.

Suddenly Vicki is having bizarre visions and confides in Buddy, who has become a priest. He realizes quickly that Mary Lou is back, and tries to warn Billy, who is now the school principal and also the father of Vicki’s boyfriend, Craig, played by The Artist Formerly Known As Justin Louis (Louis Ferreira).

Meanwhile, Vicki is becoming less well-adjusted by the second, and ends up in detention after slapping the bitchy prom queen nominee, Kelly Hennenlotter (Terri Hawkes.) That detention, more specifically when Vicki gets pulled into the suddenly liquid chalkboard, marks the complete possession of Vicki Carpenter, and also marks where things get completely nutty, as Vicki/Mary Lou kicks off her murderous rampage with Father Buddy, storming the confessional and stabbing him with a crucifix, after revealing that she was pretty pissed off about not getting “fucking wings” after she died.

As Vicki Lou Who goes from an 80’s virginal teenager to a trampy 50’s vixen, her friends and family are more than a little confused by the change. Her best friend Monica (Beverley Hendry) confronts the possessed Vicki in the locker room (80’s gratuitous nudity time), and Vicki telekinetically smashes her in the lockers (watch the goo in this scene-it’s gross and pretty awesome.) Then she basically tries to kill anyone who is even remotely in her way, because she will not be denied the glory of being Prom Queen this time.

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Billy realizes Buddy was right after Vicki/Mary Lou pays him a visit and gives him a chaste lapdance basically, and all hell breaks loose. Vicki and her demon carousel horse get oddly acquainted, and she tries to seduce her father, which is uncomfortable for everyone involved. And after Carrie-ing her mom through the front door, it’s time for prom!

While Mary Lou crossed the line between the dead and the living to become prom queen, Kelly crossed the line between prom queen and blowjob queen, and gives Josh some motivation to change the tally to make her the winner instead of Vicki. But Mary Lou is having none of that, and electrocutes Josh (another pretty cool, if dated, scene) to regain her title. But as she’s getting ready to accept her hard-won crown, Billy shoots her. Take just a moment and appreciate how fucked up it would be for the other students to see their principal shoot the prom queen, no really. The shooting prompts Mary Lou to emerge, going from chest burster to charred remains, to hottie with a revenge kink.

Before Mary Lou can send Craig into a vortex to the Underworld (yeah, not making that up), Billy shows up and places the crown on Mary Lou’s head and kisses her, which apparently was all Mary Lou needed to be set free, and be at peace, and everyone lives happily ever after…or do they?

This movie is a wild ride, and if you like ghostly possession stories, Very Special Episodes, or interspecies erotica, this weird flick might just be for you.

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“What The Hell Is Chris Watching Now?” – ROBO VAMPIRE (1988)

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Every now and then, you come across a title in your streaming platform scrolling, and it just jumps out at you. Or in this case, hops out at you.

Godfrey Ho’s (aka Joe Livingstone) 1988 opus, Robo Vampire, just sounded like cheesy, low-budget fun, and the poster even leans into that vibe fairly hard. The core concepts of this production just make you giggle and ask, “Wait, what??”

As simply put as I can, American heroin smugglers in south east Asia get tired of the repeated run ins with “Tom, the anti-drug agent” and his team, so they hire a Daoist priest to train jiangshi (“Chinese hopping vampires”) to fight those darn anti-drug agents.

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Are you still with me? Tom and most of his team are killed in their first encounter with the jiangshi. After literally 3 seconds of mourning from his commanders, one asks to use Tom’s corpse for his android experiments. Thus, Tom is resurrected as “Robo Warrior” to continue the fight against the vicious smugglers and their vampires. Keep in mind that “Robo Warrior” is one of the worst RoboCop knock offs you will ever witness. But wait! There’s more!

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In an effort to counter Robo Warrior, the Daoist raises a vampire beast. Or at least a vampire in a gorilla mask. The raising of this creature is not without difficulty as its ghost witch (or witch ghost?) lover interrupts the ritual and battles the Daoist as two of the American drug smugglers stand around watching. One of strongest powers of the witch ghost (or ghost witch?) is being able to spew out a crap load of exposition in under 3 minutes.

Often, I use closed captioning just to not miss dialogue. But one of favorite things now is how the CC interprets sounds or actions on the screen. Anytime it says <squelching sounds> during a movie, I know great things are happening on screen! Robo Vampire brought a new level to the experience for me with <mystic whooshing>, <frightened groaning>, and <monstrous wailing/yelling> during the fight scene between the Daoist, the witch ghost (or ghost witch?), and the vampire beast. And just when I thought it couldn’t be topped? They dropped this cherry on my sundae: <intense mystic whooshing>!

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Now’s when we cut to the story of Ray being recruited by Chief Thompson to go and rescue Sophie the spy a group of gangsters and smugglers that captured her. And by “cut to,” I mean cut nearly an hour’s worth of footage from the 1984 Thai film Paa Lohgan into this one for all of the gang war and spy story stuff. Keyways to tell which is Paa Lohgan versus Robo Vampire when key characters aren’t on screen? Besides the visual difference in color grading of the film, all the Thai footage uses real guns with blanks. All the Chinese footage uses these weird barrel attachments that contain 5-6 firecrackers (that you can often see) that fire off in quick sequence.

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Okay. Some are bigger than firecrackers. . . . .

There are a couple scenes of old school “Chinese water torture” under a dripping faucet for Sophie that feel almost quaint now when you think of waterboarding. But it seems to work on her! Ray and Wendy face the same torture later with the same results.  But let’s get back to Robo Warrior and the hopping vampires.

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Careful! Sophie looks like she knows how to look like she knows karate!

A scene that I’ve found the most GIF worth, the jiangshi encircle Robo Warrior on a beach. Immune to most of his bullets, he goes hand to hand for a brief bit with limited results. He then summons his machine gun back into his hand like it’s fricking Mjolnir! This happens at least two other times in the movie, as well as his gun suddenly being able to shoot a rope of flames. Seriously. It’s a flaming rope strapped to the end of the gun!

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This movie was just bad in so many ways, from the acting, the dubbing, the effects, and beyond. Man was it fun to watch! The only part I found a bit objectional was a scene out of nowhere that had a woman cutting open the belly of a cow or oxen to stuff several bags of heroin in and sew it back up. Outside of that, Robo Vampire is just straight up laughable. Even the closed captioning made me laugh.

Kick back with a beverage of choice, some snacks, and a few friends (however social distancing permits), and just have a good laugh with this one. Heaven knows we can use a laugh or three right now.

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(On Amazon and YouTube)

What The Hell Is Chris Watching Now? – THE VELOCIPASTOR

(Holy hell! It’s been a year since I posted one of these?!? I swear, fright fans, that this will be coming out more often again as we continue to create more original content for our site.)

Have you ever had one of those nights where you just want something brainless, short, and funny to watch? A little while back, such a night made me finally dive into an indie micro-budget film that hooked me clear back with its “is-this-real-or-a-parody?” trailer: The Velocipastor!

As told by the writer-director, Brendan Steere, he tried to type “velociraptor” into his phone one day in film school, and autocorrect changed it to “Veloci Pastor.” Kind of weird how a seed gets planted sometimes, eh? Anyway, after a few funding hurdles, Steere secured an investor and $35,000 to make his film.

Clocking in at just 75 minutes and featuring not a single person you’ve probably ever heard of, The Velocipastor is just silly fun that pays homage to low-budget indie films but never taking itself too seriously. Most of the performances (many provided by friends and family members of Steere) are bad in the best way possible. Even the trained actors do a deliberately bad performance, and that makes it even better!

(**Minor Spoilers Ahead!**)

The plot of this film you never knew you needed to see revolves around young Pastor Doug Jones (Gregory James Cohan), who shortly after graduating from “priest college” witnesses his parents die in a fiery car explosion. … Or at least that’s what the placeholder card tells us on the screen. Seriously, this moment was the true hook for me. A brilliant yet hilarious way to save on the budget. It set the tone for me and let me know what to expect from here on out.

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Following this tragic event and the not-so consoling words from his mentor, Father Stewart (played by Daniel Steere, Brendan’s father), Doug travels to China. (Trust them, it’s China.) While there, he happens upon a woman wounded by ninjas (yes, we get ninjas, too) in a forest, and she gives him a dinosaur claw that passes the curse onto him. Now, when Doug gets angry, he turns into a velociraptor-sized dinosaur. Or at least a step up from the inflatable T-Rex costumes you see at Halloween.

As fate would have it, Doug is spotted by Carol (Alyssa Kempinski), a lady of the night, when he transforms and decapitates a mugger in the park. Carol then encourages Doug to use his powers for good and eliminate the criminal element in the town. From there, montages ensue, romance blooms, ninjas (like you’ve never seen) resurface, an exorcism is sort of attempted, and an out of left field Korean War flashback help progress the plot to a gloriously “WTF?!? LMAO!!” finale.

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I highly recommend checking this one out, fright fans. Go in with the only expectations of having some laughs, some gore, and a good time. It’s not often in this series I can genuinely say, “Go see this!”, and mean it with sincerity. So, go now, my children, and may the blessings of The Velocipastor be upon you.

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