Wednesday
Nov142012

Overweight 18th-Century Zombies Resurrect The Missing Link: CURSE OF THE BLUE LIGHTS (1988) Review

Magnum Entertainment and I don’t exactly have a very good relationship. Magnum was a home video company in the eighties, and it seems (to me at least) that they went out of their way to release the worst of the worst of eighties horror movies. Sure, they did release classics like Bad Taste, Nail Gun Massacre, Suspiria, Zombie, and a few more, but with films like Goodnight, God Bless, The Night after Halloween, and With Friends Like These stinking up their catalogue, who can disagree? Now we have another ultra-low-budget movie that few people have heard of that was released by Magnum called Curse of the Blue Lights. And, me being the buffoon that I am, I decided to give it a spin. Sheetar help me.

CURSE OF THE BLUE LIGHTS (1988)

Review

A group of teens in a small Colorado town head up to Blue Lights, the local make-out place, one night to engage in typical hormonal activities. However, their lovemaking is interrupted when they see two mysterious blue lights floating in the distance. Being the idiots that they are, they decide to investigate and find what they think is a large statue of a bizarre creature buried near the riverbank, as well as an ancient medallion. The teens take the medallion, and when they attempt to show the local police the statue, it has disappeared! It turns out an undead monster named Loath and his two minions are planning to resurrect the Muldoon Man, the long-lost missing link, using the medallion. In order to prevent the destruction of humanity at the hands of this malevolent creature, the young adults must battle Loath’s army of zombies and prevent the Muldoon Man from taking the world!

Well, that certainly sounds original, doesn’t it? Well, it actually took me awhile to figure out what movie Curse of the Blue Lights molds itself after: Phantasm! Sure, the specifics are different, but both movies feature young adults discovering something strange going on at the local cemetery, and in the end they must fight the leader and his evil undead minions. There’s also a scene here where the teens go visit a witch that’s reminiscent of when Mike went to visit a psychic in Phantasm. Other than those a few minor instances (Loath does say “Boy” at one point), the two are very different, and I was surprised how original the plot of Curse of the Blue Lights was.

Well, what do you know…Magnum did right with this one. Yeah, it’s as low-budget as you’d expect, but this is one of those instances where the miniscule budget adds to the charm of the film rather than detract from it (for the most part). I really do get the feeling that the filmmakers put their heart and soul into this project, and while it may not have sizable production values, good acting, or any sort of scares, I still enjoy it for what it is. All the actors were pretty bad and under-acted to the extreme, with the exception of the actress who played the witch, who was the complete opposite, as she had one of the worst cases of overacting I have ever seen. Then again, maybe it just seemed like that when compared to the other actors. Then there’s the actor who played one of Loath’s minions, whose dialogue delivery sounded like Ben Stiller’s in Tropic Thunder when he went “full-retard.” The characters are likable enough, but due to rather bland dialogue, really aren’t very interesting or memorable.

Maybe the strongest part about Curse of the Blue Lights, and its most prominent advertising point, is the gore and make-up effects. They were done by Mark Sisson (who did some of the effects for A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master that same year) and they do look pretty good for a low-budget cheesefest. Part of the ritual to resurrect the Muldoon Man is dissolving some people, so we get to see dead bodies slowly dissolve, and it’s great. When we do see the Muldoon Man in all his glory, he basically looks just like a rubber monster from any campy Corman monster movie you’ve ever seen. It’s a terrible effect, but massively enjoyable.

Of course, the film does have its so-bad-it’s-good charms. The acting contributes heavily to the hilarity at hand here, as well as the line delivery and how Loath and his minions always speak with a lisp due to the fake teeth they have to wear. Then there’s the climactic sword battle between Loath and one of the teens, which is easily the worst sword battle anyone has ever seen. They both move very slowly to make sure they hit their marks, and it’s all set to this ridiculous synthesizer score that sounds like a low-budget family movie reject score. Yes, I know; it’s brilliant.

Alright, Magnum, I still haven’t forgiven you for the pain I endured watching some of your titles, but at least you delivered with this movie. Unfortunately, I realized afterwards that there are two versions of Curse of the Blue Lights; a cut version and an uncut version. I haven’t seen that cut (yet), but this would explain a lot of the really awkward edits in the movie and while the gore present is great, the film did seem a little dry. Anyway, it’s a fun film no matter what version you have. I wouldn’t exactly say it’s for everyone, but fans of corny late-eighties monster movies should get a kick out of it (I know I did). It’s got really good gore, cool monsters (not as cool as in, say, Spookies or Neon Maniacs, but still neat), stereotypical (and very, very stupid) characters, a cheap synthesizer score (that actually works for the movie, in my opinion), some good camerawork (the opening scarecrow attack was surprisingly well shot), and the essential so-bad-it’s-good moments. It does get dull in some scenes where the dialogue seems to take over, but that’s a minor complaint.

The Verdict: Curse of the Blue Lights isn’t a good movie (at all), but it’s got lots of heart, it looked like the filmmakers were having fun, and at least it tries to do something original, and with some added-in gore and monsters, what more could you ask for?

Score: 8/10

Clips with a Hungarian dub. One of the funniest scenes in the movie occurs at about the 5:00 mark.

EDIT: A day after writing this, I have discovered that Curse of the Blue Lights is actually getting a DVD release in 2013 from the benevolent folks at Code Red DVD! Three cheers for them! For more information, click here:

http://codereddvdblog.blogspot.com/2012/11/code-red-dvd-for-2013.html

Tuesday
Nov062012

The Worst Horror Movie Of All Time: NIGHT OF HORROR (1981) Review

Hell, thy name is...

NIGHT OF HORROR (1981) Review

Four friends go out to the woods on vacation and encounter Confederate ghosts, who need them to properly bury the body of their friend so they can all rest in peace. Hoo-boy, get out the air freshener. 

Of course, leave it to the worst horror movie ever made to have the most generic title ever made (maybe even more generic than Blood Massacre). I usually don't use a definitive term like "worst" or "weirdest," because I know another movie is going to eventually come along and trump that title. However, I am POSITIVE there is no movie in existence worse than this one. This movie sucks. This movie blows. I would rather shoot myself in the foot than watch this again. EVER. I find it very hard to grasp just how incompetently made this movie is on all levels, and how it manages to suck every ounce of joy you may have in your body. What’s wrong with it? Let me count the ways:

1. The acting is terrible. None of these people could act their way out of an invisible box a mime is trapped in. Everyone is most likely reading the boring dialogue they have straight off the script. I can’t even go into specifics here, because everything is terrible. It sounds like they woke all the actors up at two in the morning to shoot these scenes, and I’m surprised none of them yawned while they were…ahem…”performing.”

2. The plot is TERRIBLE. I do love me some horror featuring undead or ghostly Confederates (Two Thousand Maniacs is phenomenal), but here’s what we get: a plot that sounds like it was conceived by R.L. Stine for a kindergarten picture book. I’m going to spoil this movie, but there’s really nothing to spoil because NOTHING HAPPENS. The “teens” (or whatever they’re supposed to be) arrive at the woods, one of them begins to see the Confederate ghosts, the others see the Confederate ghosts, the ghosts tell them to bury their friend, the group buries their friend, and they drive off. Fin. The end. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Why was this even made in the first place? What sort of vision did the director have that made him go out and make this? With the lower-than-a-home-movie budget, it obviously was never going to be a hit, so for this dude’s lasting impact on cinema, he chose to make THIS? My mind is on overload trying to figure out how this even exists!

 

3. It’s…BORING. I enjoyed 1981’s Scream, which is supposed to be the most boring slasher ever. I enjoyed Berserker, which is basically teens walking through the woods for most of its runtime. I REALLY enjoyed Island of Blood, which is also supposed to be a huge bore. But you know what? None of those movies had a six-minute long scene of a van driving. Nothing else; just…a van…driving. None of those movies had a girl recite one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most boring poems in a monotone voice for three minutes. None of those movies had a ten-minute long Civil War battle scene that consisted of two sides firing cannons at each other and shooting with nothing else happening, all set to folk music. None of those movies had ghosts that talked as slow as possible and enunciated every word, and you still couldn’t understand them because of how raspy they are. None of those movies had a five-minute long scene in someone’s basement (made to look like a bar) where both actors talked (or, rather, mumbled) facing away from the camera. Then again, none of those movies are Night of Horror.

I’ve never seen a movie just do everything wrong. Usually, movies have some sort of redeeming characteristic, like good camerawork, a good score, good gore, or even if the filmmakers’ hearts are in the right place! Night of Horror does none of these things. It’s a strenuous exercise in sheer boredom with no good qualities whatsoever. No clever dialogue or writing, no gore, no deaths, no suspense (nor any attempts at building any), brief instances of atmosphere, monotone acting, and bad camerawork (through a good chunk of the film, a piece of black tape is stuck on the bottom part of the lens. Professional). It underachieves at everything, most of all entertainment. This somehow got a release on VHS with cool artwork, but don’t fall for it. That zombie on the front never makes an appearance. In it’s place are people in Confederate uniforms in shadows. Whoop-de-doo. Some wicked soul has posted this movie on YouTube, and if you really want to go for it, be my guest. Just remember the next time you’re at the water cooler and you’re about to mention how Nail Gun Massacre is the worst movie of all time, remember Night of Horror. And shut your mouth, because Nail Gun Massacre is amazing.

The Verdict: Night of Horror, you’ve certainly made your mark on cinema: a big racing stripe right on the underwear of film. Please don’t watch it.

Score: 1/10

Wednesday
Oct312012

Fred Olen Ray's At It Again: THE TOMB (1986) Review

Oh, Fred Olen Ray, you old devil, you. Why do your movies have so much potential? Scalps had a great premise, great gore effects, and a lean runtime, so how did it turn out to be the bona fide turd that it is today? All the right ingredients are in the batter but you don’t know how to work the oven. You just have to get me all excited by just showing me what awaits me with The Tomb, but do you deliver? With this much potential there’s no way you could fail…right?

 

THE TOMB (1986) Review

John Banning (David O’Hara) is a tomb raider who discovers a long-lost tomb in Egypt that was unearthed by an earthquake. He begins robbing it of its goods, and accidentally releases Queen Neratis (Michelle Bauer), a vampire. He escapes and makes it back to the States, where he sells the stolen relics to various scholars, including Dr. Howard Phillips (Cameron Mitchell). Unfortunately, Nefratis has followed him back from Egypt and forces him to tell her where her precious possessions are. She begins to bump off the historians one by one, leaving Phillips’s daughter Helen (Susan Stokey) and her newfound love interest David (Richard Hench) to stop her.

Well, Fred, you did it again. The first thirty minutes of The Tomb are great. In that timeframe, there are two title cards (in case you forgot the name of the movie in the span of three minutes), an explosion, a gunfight, a live musical number of “Tutti Fruitie” by an Egyptian themed band, fun credits, one cool vampire, a severed head, a torn throat, a bar fight, a chase set to a cheesy song, and Cameron Mitchell. After that, all aboard the slow train to Dullsville. Of all the films I’ve ever seen, this one has some of the greatest potential out of all of them. I mean, just look at this cast: Cameron Mitchell (Blood and Black Lace), John Carradine (Shock Waves), Michelle Bauer (Bloody Movie), and Sybil Danning (Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf)! It’s a like B-movie wet dream! Then there’s the artwork that depicts it as an action-packed thrill ride, and to top it off, the wonderful first half hour! What went wrong?

Ineptitude. The writing is bland and awful, the direction is severely lacking of any sort of style, and in the end, there’s really no point to this movie ever being made. Nothing memorable happens, and everything that gets set up to be great collapses in on itself like a house of cards in a sandstorm, and with just as much flavor. Most of the actors are just going through the motions, and with the dialogue they’re given, I really don’t blame them. Even Banning’s dialogue, which is supposed to be witty, falls very flat, and sadly, he’s the best character in this squat-and-push effort.

Cameron Mitchell did alright in his role, John Carradine was pretty good (every time the camera was on him, there was a second or two pause before he started talking, which I found to be odd), Michelle Bauer was really bad, and Sybil Danning, in her two minutes of screen time as a femme fatale, was alright as well. The other actors, however, were atrocious. O’Hara did okay with the material he was given as Banning, even though his character is highly underused and only comes in at the beginning and end of the film. What a waste.

There are some good things hidden in here, though. The gore and make-up effects that we briefly see are good, and some of the bad moments are funny when they’re not grueling to sit through. The opening scene where Danning and O’Hara have it out along with several other men, as well as the fun opening credits with that catchy song, gave the film a strong start that the rest of it couldn’t match. Everything about The Tomb should be great. The dream cast, the great artwork, the promising beginning, and the good effects. Unfortunately, Olen Ray screws it all up. There’s almost no fun to be had save for a few scenes of goodness, but it’s hard to remember them over the suffocating stench of incompetent writing and directing. It took me a month to finish this movie, and there was hardly what I would call a reward at the end of the journey. I want to recommend this highly, but I can’t. This one pretty much deserves to rot in VHS hell, never to see the redeeming light of a DVD release. At least, we can only hope that much.

The Verdict: The Tomb sets up everything to be an exploitation glimpse of Heaven, but there’s no blood, no nudity, no real laughs, and just talking. Lots of talking. The good moments manage to shine through, so a hesitant recommend is in order. Just brace yourself before and don’t fall for Mr. Fred Olen Ray’s lies.

Score: 4/10

Wednesday
Oct242012

Finally, A Horror Movie Made For Eight Year Olds! SPOOKIES (1986) Review

Well, it's that time of year again. Halloween. I can't believe the holiday is a week away and I've barely posted anything about horror movies yet! Well, might as well start now. There are certain movies out there that are just perfect for Halloween. Halloween, Night of the Demons, Creepshow, all that good stuff. I don't know where Spookies ranks on that list, but rest assured, it's definitely got to be high up there!

 

SPOOKIES (1986) Review

Spookies has three sort of plot lines all going on a the same time: the first is an evil sorcerer (I guess), who lives in the basement of an old mansion and needs to drain the life force from several people to reanimate his long-dead but preserved wife. The second concerns a thirteen-year old boy who ran way from home because his parents forgot his birthday. He stumbles across the mansion, and is dispatched relatively quickly in an actually rather brutal way. The last one is about a group of partiers who arrive at the mansion and decide to head inside when it starts to rain. The evil sorcerer sends his monstrous minions to dispatch them one by one. Will any of the group survive? Or will they all die and the sorcerer's wife find new life? 

Like most cinematic messes, Spookies had a troubled production. Initially, the only plot there was was with the group of partiers getting trapped in the house. This is obvious, because if you just look at those scenes by themselves, they form a cohesive narrative. However, all that footage added up to a measly sixty-minutes, so they called in another director to add some pointless scenes with an evil sorcerer and some random kid, just to beef up the running time. While I quite enjoyed the scene with the kid, the other scenes were tedious to get through. This guy mainly just talks and talks and talks some more, and it goes nowhere.They also use this to (I guess) explain some of the occurrences that look like just something out of a haunted house movie. For example, they inter-cut a Ouija board scene with the pointer moving towards rather sinister answers with the old guy saying the answers and then the pointer movingtowards them. It's just too complicated for what could have been a really fun movie about possession in a haunted house (since one of the group gets possessed and I guess she calls upon the monsters, should you take out the added footage). However, we do get a great chase at the end with a large group of zombies, which is cool.

Spookies is one of the few films I did not see as a child, yet I still get a sense of nostalgia from it. This is because the film feels as if it was written by me when I was very, very young. It's basically just a barrage of assorted monsters all crammed into a certain time frame, and that's the only reason to watch it. There's grim reapers, spider women, slimy gremlin-things, farting mud monsters (I'm telling you, their creative-consultant was an eight-year old!), and more. It feels like a feature-length version of some E.C. comics story, sense the plot is very thin and all they're interested in is the creatures. I must also add that the creature effects here are fantastic! There's a great transformation where a woman changes into a spider-type thing and sucks all the blood out of one poor fellow, all done to great effect. But then again, what else would you expect from John Dods (The Deadly Spawn)? There's very rarely a break from the creature-action, so I wasn't bored for a second during these scenes.

Unfortunately, the added-in footage nearly bored me to tears. The old crank (his name is Kreon, by the way) does eventually get his wife resurrected, and they continue to talk about how she wanted to just rest in peace and how she doesn't love him and crap like that. I think the director watched the dailies and said, "Damn, this is pathetic! Add in some zombies!" Of course, they did add in an extended zombie chase. And it was awesome. The rest of the time, however, consists of this guy talking to himself and the girl talking to him, and it sucked. The additional footage with the little kid, however, was actually creepy and almost becomes scary because his scenes epitomize childhood fears as he is chased by a werecat minion of Kreon, and this kid doesn't get away either. Oh no, this movie grows some balls by having little Billy get slashed across the face and buried alive. His sequences are very pointless and obviously filler, but they're actually some of the strongest scenes in this movie. 

The acting wasn't too bad, but there's no way the performances here are going to win any sort of awards. The characters are all stereotypical, with nearly all essentials: the tough guy, the serious guy, the prankster, etc. all make appearances, and most of them get dispatched in nearly bloodless fashion. That's right; there's nearly no gore whatsoever, and this brings the movie down a notch from the level where it could have (and should have) been. And finally, maybe my biggest complaint, is that this movie literally has no ending. I don't know if the original footage had an ending, but if it did, it was tossed out the window in the editing process. I mean, this movie literally just ends, with the lives of several characters just hanging in the balance! It's terrible! It brings to mind the conclusion of Neon Maniacs, but at least that movie ended with them out of their perilous situation! This oner ends with characters getting assaulted by monsters! I mean, come on!

While it may sound as if I'm really bashing Spookies, trust me, I really do like this movie. Why? I cannot say. The movie just has an earnest, nostalgic charm that I loved. I remember reading a Tales from the Crypt comic where two thieves broke into the Cryptkeeper's house and planned to rob it, but what happened was that they got lost in the basement and behind every door and every corner was a different type of monster. This movie feels very much like that story in that there's precious little plot to be scraped off the cutting room floor and they just tried to cram in as many monsters as possible, and I love that! it's just a giddy, goofy joy ride from start to finish with little-to-no downtime. In terms of genuinely good aspects, the movie sports fantastic atmosphere and a great opening/closing theme. The old, spooky mansion setting has been done to death (pun not intended), but hey, the classics never get old, especially when they're done well. It's probably just me, but I actually find the theme to be rather unnerving in a "this-sounds-innocent-but-there's-something-off-about-it" kind of way.

Spookies may not be the greatest horror movie ever made (nowhere close, actually), but I'll be damned if it isn't a fun movie. Yes, it does drag in places, and the ending is really disappointing, but those are minor flaws in this equation. And no matter how you put it, the outcome is always going to be that this is classic B-movie fun. It features fantastic creature effects, great atmosphere, and...well, what else do you want? It's a veritable mishmash of awesomeness crammed into a short timeframe. It's very unpredictable, considering this is one movie where anything can happen at anytime, and the plot is really shaky from start to finnish, and it doesn't even both throwing in any twists. If you want to see a perfect representation of the movie, just watch the trailer. It's a classic example of what you see is what you get. It's as straight-forward as they come, and I would say it's a perfect movie to show to your children to "set them on the right path," if you will. A path to the world of B-movies. Start the next generation right. Show 'em Spookies

The Verdict: Spookies is dumb fun with all kinds of weird monsters, but it drags in some spots.

Score: 7/10


Monday
Oct222012

It Has Been Found: THE HACKERS (1988) Review

Ah, the late-eighties. The magical time period when any schmuck with a camera, a few foolish friends, some ketchup, and lots of beer could make their own horror movie using a home movie camera, then have it distributed by some bottom-of-the-barrel distributor. What a great time period. Of course, now I always feel obligated to track down these chunks of garbage and watch them, and a lot of them are really hard to find! Case in point: The Hackers. No, not that nineties movie about the computer hackers! This is pure late-eighties dumpster material. Well, I finally managed to pull it out of the shadows and watch it so you don’t have to. Is it any good, you ask? Do you even need an answer?

THE HACKERS (1988) Review

 

The movie opens with a hitchhiker walking along a back road, when a jeep passes by, then…CHOP! Off goes his thumb! Turns out the jeep belongs to the Hackers, and one of them just sliced off that poor hitchhikers thumb with a hunting knife (what an asshole!). The Hackers are a family consisting of an old man, A.J. Hacker, and his two sons, Arnie and Eldon, who make a living by doing odd jobs around town (and doing them poorly, at that), and if you don’t pay up, they live up to their name. The three get hired to do some repair work around a rich person’s house, who has left for the weekend and left his friend to housesit. The Hackers begin tormenting her, until she’s forced to fight back in a brutal struggle to survive.

 

The Hackers, like most SOV movies, is one odd duck. It started off promising enough, with a funny opening and a killer theme song (yes, this movie has a theme song, further proving my theory that no matter what the budget, any movie can afford its own title song), but it slowly begins to go downhill from there. Fast-paced killing dissolves into father-sons bonding time, speeches on how the family will survive, trips to the playground (yes), and the taunting of a random woman on a rope bridge that goes nowhere. Thankfully, there are some fun kills peppered throughout (one fellow who insults the two gets his throat cut open with a beer mug).

 

The movie spends so much time following the family going around doing what amounts to nothing that what I assume is the driving plot (them terrorizing the girl in the house) seems like an afterthought. This is also one of the weakest parts of the movie, because it’s also very dull. It attempts to create suspense, yet doesn’t accomplish it in the slightest. It all ends with a terrible “Was it all a dream?” ending that is sure to induce a lengthy groan from even the stupidest film-viewer.

 

The acting wasn’t very good (nor did I expect it to be), but I’ve seen much, much worse in other SOV movies (believe me). There really aren’t any characters to root for either, because the Hackers are antagonists, and the girl is rushed into the story so fast it’s impossible to see her as a likable character. The gore effects were much better than I expected, though. There are a few pretty good severed heads and other forms of machete mayhem on display, but nothing too gutsy.

 

The world of SOV movies is like a sack full of poisonous snakes, with a few friendly ones casually thrown in. Every time you stick your hand in, you’re probably going to get bitten. But once in a while, you’ll get a good one. The Hackers is better than some SOV movies I’ve seen (Cannibal Campout, I’m looking at you), but it’s definitely one of the poisonous snakes. It starts off well, and gradually gets less and less fun as it continues until it hits the rock bottom of tedium. Yeah, there’s enough gore, bad music, and other nonsense to keep one entertained through most of the journey, but it’s just not enough. The Hackers was one of the hardest VHS tapes to find (only 3,000 tapes were produced), but I did, and I remembered that sometimes, movies languish in obscurity for a reason. However, if you’re hellbent on seeing this (God knows why), Camelot Studios, the company that released in the first place, have made it available on DVD to order from their site, as well as a movie poster (!). For more information, click here: http://www.camelotstudios.net/webapp/GetPage?pid=204

The Verdict: The Hackers does exactly what you’d expect from a 1988 SOV movie; nothing more, nothing less. If you’re into that, it’s worth a look, but don’t get angry if you’re not thrilled with the outcome.

Score: 4/10

Watch the unbelievably stupid playground scene: