Monday
Feb252013

Movie Trailer Monday: THE FREEWAY MANIAC (1989)

Here's an interesting one from the Cannon Group. The Freeway Maniac is a pretty fun movie marred by some seriously horrendous editing. It's not as action-packed as the trailer makes it out to seem, but with a body count around 25 and some creative deaths, it's hard not to like it for something. And the guy doing the voiceover voiced Optimus Prime, FYI.

Monday
Feb182013

Movie Trailer Monday: SLAUGHTERHOUSE ROCK (1987)

I was a little dispapointed when I first saw Slaughterhouse Rock becuase I had seen the trailer and was blown away by it. The movie itself is good fun, but the trailer made it out to be much more. The trailer uses a wicked blue filter sadly absent in the actual film, and most of the best scenes (aside from an awesome head-punch) are in it. Just check it out:

Sunday
Feb172013

Franco February: HITCH-HIKE (1977) Review

Franco February carries on, and this time, we’re heading back to Italy for some sleazy exploitation fare that features not one, but two cult film stars! Nero co-stars in this flick with the late David Hess, who’s probably most notable for playing Krug in the original The Last House on the Left a ton of other sleazy rapists in the seventies and early eighties (though I love him as the camp owner in 1987’s Bodycount). Hitch-Hike is an interesting film, but not for Hess (he plays the character you expect him to play); for Nero. Just why is that? Based on the plot, you’d think this role would be right up his alley, but no.

HITCH-HIKE (1977) Review

Walter (Nero) and Eve (Corinne Clery) are a married Italian couple on the outs who are vacationing in America in Nevada. The two come across a hitchhiker named Adam (Hess) and they stop to pick him up. Unfortunately, they discover that Adam is one of three people who robbed a bank and he’s heading to Mexico with all the loot. What follows is a non-stop terror ride filled with violence and humiliation as the three head to Mexico, but Adam has severely underestimated his captives…

I had a clear idea of what I was expecting when I watched Hitch-Hike, and it definitely wasn’t this. After reading the plot, you probably think you know exactly what road this movie will go down, and trust me; it’s not what you think. Actually, for good eighty-odd minutes, it plays out exactly the way you expect it to until it veers completely in the opposite direction. I’ll attempt to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but this is definitely one odd duck in the Nero catalogue. This is probably his most involved performance that I’ve seen, even if his character is nigh identical to the one in The Fifth Cord (an alcoholic reporter, only much more so). David Hess is, well, David Hess and Corinne Clery is great alongside the two. Aside from a few incidental characters that come and go, those three take up all of the runtime and do a great job (even with some iffy dubbing, but that is to be expected).

Now, Hitch-Hike is an Italian movie that’s almost completely dialogue-driven. Most of the writing is pretty good and the character dynamics are great, but there are definitely some corny lines (mostly from Hess, as the writer seemed to go out of his way to make him an over-the-top bad guy). It’s based on a novel called The Violence and the Fury, which I haven’t read, so I can’t really vouch for the movie’s faithfulness. They did do a good job adapting it, since it doesn’t all feel like several plot points compressed into 100-minutes the way The Fifth Cord did. When action and violence does occur, it’s fantastic. The shootings are bloody, the car crashes are extravagant, and the fistfights are amazing (the first one between Nero and Hess actually got my adrenaline pumping due to its feeling of raw realism and the way it was shot). The score by Ennio Morricone is effective in its simplicity and bodes well with a thriller like this.

However, I really don’t know whether to praise the movie for its change in direction at the end or to hate it for it. I had a clear image of where the movie was going in my head and I liked where it was going, then something happened and that image was shattered. After the movie ended, I was bitterly disappointed it hadn’t gone the way I thought it would, but after thinking about it a while, I’m unsure. I might have preferred to go the stereotypical route, but the movie has almost a perfect ending this way. Some of the heavy dialogue scenes can be a major bore, and a lot of the movie isn’t terribly eventful. Things do perk up with the introduction of the two scorned robbers Adam ditched and Adam wanting Walter to write a book about him, but aside from a few chases and fights, it’s all just build-up to a climax that’s actually kind of disappointing (the twist was really good, though). There’s also an obligatory uncomfortable rape scene while Walter watches that cements Hess’s character as just a terrible person.

I’m not a big fan of Hitch-Hike, but I can say that this is one exploitation movie that will stick with you. It’s not horrifically violent or sleazy, but the twist at the end is incredible. It’s also a role one wouldn’t commonly associate Nero with. While in The Fifth Cord he’s an alcoholic but still likable at the end of the day, here, he’s an unlikable clod who does nothing but instigate fights between himself and his wife. Nero looks like he had fun acting like a drunken buffoon, and Hess is Hess. The car chases are good, the stunts are good, the character interactions are surprisingly good, and the twist is memorable. Blue Underground gave it a nice DVD release with the trailer and interviews with the three stars. Usually with something like Enter the Ninja or even Django, you know before you watch whether or not you’ll enjoy it. With this one, I’d say find some way of previewing it before blindly buying.

The Verdict: Hitch-Hike is a sleazy, sometimes-violent exploitation thriller that’s a lot smarter than it has any right to be; maybe a little too smart. Certainly worth a viewing, but I can’t guarantee you’ll love it.

Score: 6/10

Thursday
Feb142013

Happy Valentine's Day! HONEYMOON HORROR (1982) Review

Truth be told, I’m not the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day, but hey, at least we got some pretty good Valentine’s-themed horror movies out of it! There still isn’t a slasher for every holiday (to my knowledge), but I feel we have enough Christmas, Valentine’s, and God knows how many Halloween movies to make up for it. The obvious films turning the day of love into the day of horror are the great ’81 slasher My Bloody Valentine, its decent remake, and the underappreciated 2001 slasher Valentine, but for this occasion, I’ve decided to review something not exactly “Valentine’s Day” themed, but it’s romantic enough.

HONEYMOON HORROR (1982) Review

Jeff (Paul Iwanski) goes out fishing one day, and when he returns for his cigarettes, he finds his wife, Elaine (Cheryl Black) getting frisky with Jeff’s buddy Vic (Bob Wagner). He attacks Vic, but Elaine knocks him out, and as he falls, he knocks a candle off a table, which lights the place up. Vic and Elaine leave him there to die, and one year later, they’ve opened up Honeymoon Island: the ultimate lover’s paradise. Three newlyweds boat out to the island for a weekend of bliss, but once they arrive, they find they aren’t the only ones on the island; someone is watching. Someone is waiting. Then the first scream is heard, and the honeymoon is over, for someone has returned to claim vengeance for a crime long thought buried…

Forgive me if this review’s a little vague, for I watched Honeymoon Horror a few days ago and I seem to be struggling to remember most of it. But that’s the kind of movie Honeymoon Horror is. If Creepshow and The Thing are classics of 1982, Alone in the Dark and The Slayer are underrated gems, and Island of Blood and Girls Nite Out are just cheesy fun, than this is the residue left in their trail. There’s nothing new or remotely original about it, and it’s not executed with any sort of style or even too much sense of fun. The only attraction to it is the great title, some alright murders, a crispy killer two years before Mr. Krueger made his big screen debut, and one entertaining character. Considering all the pickings from 1982, that really isn’t a whole lot.

Like other slashers from the eighties (particularly the latter part of the decade), Honeymoon Horror has a nasty and destructive habit of dilly-dallying around too much when there should be something more exciting going on. The opening set up the events to follow well, but after the murder of four women about fifteen minutes in (three of which are offscreen and one is pretty cool), we then get a thirty-minute gap until the next killing. Ordinarily that wouldn’t be too bad as long as the characters are fun and there are some suspenseful scenes going on as well. Nope. We get bickering lovers talking about things the audience doesn’t care about whatsoever (I can’t really point anything out because I don’t remember) and every so often, a POV shot of the killer peeking at some people through tree branches. Exciting stuff, this is. Heck, Iced almost had an hour gap between murders and it was still more entertaining because of the characters. Then the murders actually begin again, and despite more blood, it’s still pretty boring. And despite a final body count of 9, it feels a whole lot lower just because of how spread apart some are and a lot are either offscreen or just let-downs. The end goes on entirely too long as well.

So with all those negatives, what in the world is good about Honeymoon Horror? Like I said two or three of the murders were either nicely gory or nicely set up, even without too much originality behind them. The island is probably my favorite setting ever for horror movies, and while this doesn’t have the isolated atmosphere commonly associated with that setting, the thought is nice. There are some unintentionally funny parts like one of the characters who’s obsessed with weight-lifting (“Don’t you want your husband to be Mr. America?”), the killer’s distasteful fashion sense (rocking the khaki) and his “heavy breathing (sounds like he’s scuba diving in a sea of mucus)”, and the burned effect when he is revealed, which looks like he got a face full of oatmeal. However, the one reason I’m not simply tossing this aside is the presence of the stereotypical fat sheriff. He serves as the comic relief and his scenes are funny just because of how over-the-top they made him. When he gets a call saying there’s a fire on Honeymoon Island, he responds by taking a big bite out of his sandwich and complains about how he never gets any sleep around the office (he could if he were watching this movie...)! And there’s not one scene where he doesn’t have his stogie in his mouth, even when he’s eating. He pretty much steals all the scenes he’s in and I wish he was featured more prominently.

I really don’t have the heart (ha ha) to recommend Honeymoon Horror to anyone, but on the other hand, I'd feel a little guilty if I told you to avoid it. Sure, it does have its fun moments, but as a whole, it’s just way too talky to do anyone any good. The thought of a Honeymoon-themed slasher on an island is nice, yet the filmmakers load the movie up with mostly boring and forgettable characters, bad writing, little gore, no surprises, and hardly any redeeming qualities. The movie never really develops any of the couples besides the main ones who own the island, and they’re completely unlikable for obvious reasons. I would say just watch it for the sheriff, but why should you when we’ve also got some great fat sheriffs in much-better fare like House of Death or Silent Madness? This is another one only available on VHS, but it is rumored that rentals of Honeymoon Horror earned Sony $22 million. It’s understandable, given the title and the artwork.

The Verdict: Despite the presence of some good-old early eighties hilarity and the presence of an ample-size sheriff, Honeymoon Horror really doesn’t succeed in doing anything special. Good for Valentine’s Day if you’re heartless and want to end your current relationship.

Score: 4/10

Monday
Feb112013

Movie Trailer Monday: PIECES (1982)

I like Pieces. It's a fun so-bad-it's-good romp with lots of gore, nudity, poorly delivered lines of dialogue, and a phenomenal ending. The trailer's not too shabby either, sporting two great taglines: "You don't have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre!" and "It's exactly what you think it is!"

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