Gore | Varied Celluloid

Re-Animator

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 6 - 2012

Re-Animator (1985)
Director: Stuart Gordon
Writers: Stuart Gordon, William J. Norris, and Dennis Paoli
Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, and David Gale



The Plot: Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) is a young medical student who has recently transferred to Miskatonic University. Dan (Bruce Abbott) is a lovable young everyman who attends the same university and is studying to become an MD himself. He also has a girlfriend named Megan (Barbra Crampton) who he desperately loves, but she is the dean’s daughter and they are both waiting until graduation before contemplating marriage. When Dan puts out an advertisement for a new roommate, the last person he expects to take him up on this offer is the awkward new kid Herbert West. Yet, Herbert and Dan hit it off fairly well. Although Megan isn’t a big fan of West, the situation seems to be working out. That is until Dan finds out about Herbert Wests’ research. West believes that he can beat “brain death,” and he has a green solution that is supposed to help him get that job done. Unfortunately, as Dan gets roped into this quest to stop death, the two find themselves dealing with reanimated bodies that are becoming ruthlessly violent and powerful. With each experiment the two find themselves getting deeper and deeper into a dark world of trouble, but will they get out of this situation before something truly terrible takes place?


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Alien Opponent

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 21 - 2012

Alien Opponent (2010)
Director: Colin Theys
Writers: John Doolan
Starring: Jeremy London, “Rowndy” Roddy Piper, Adrienne LaValley, Ashley Bates, and Debra Jans



The Plot: When a young country wife is found cheating on her husband, the rich farmer husband proceeds to go ballistic. Unfortunately for him, he quickly catches a very bad case of “death.” You see, his trophy wife’s mother plants a hammer in the back of his cranium before he can dish out his own brand of southern justice. Looking at a massive inheritance, everything seems to be going right for this young trophy wife and her evil mother. However, things become complicated when an alien spacecraft crashes into their farm – and the body of the rich husband has come up missing. Seeing a nice alibi in this, and needing his body to claim the inheritance, this mother and daughter combo decide to stage a competition with their neighbors. They open up their land to any-and-all contestants who feel that they are able to both kill this monstrous alien (who they blame the murder on) and also retrieve this dead man’s body. This draws in a number of competitors, and ultimately leads to a number of dead bodies.

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Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except

Posted by Josh Samford On April - 16 - 2012

Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except (1985)
Director: Josh Becker
Writers: Josh Becker, Bruce Campbell, Sheldon Lettich, and Scott Spiegel
Starring: Brian Schulz, Robert Rickman, John Manfredi, Timothy Patrick Quill, and Sam Raimi



The Plot: Our story begins in the Vietnam war. After being battered several times while approaching a captured enemy territory, John Stryker finds himself as the highest ranking soldier in a platoon full of decent men. Stryker soon finds himself at odds with his new commander, who is relatively green when it comes to the battlefield. Not knowing the dangers of the area, this latest commanding officer sends Stryker and his team on a death march into enemy territory. Due to this erroneous mistake, Stryker is shot in the leg, but he is quickly carried off to safety by a fellow soldier. Stryker is then sent home, where he finds it difficult adjusting to normal life. He rekindles a relationship with his highschool sweetheart, and things do seem to be heading in a positive direction. Unfortunately, in this same rural area that Stryker now calls his home, a series of murderous home invasions have been committed. The perpetrators are part of a homicidal cult that are stationed within the woods, and it isn’t long before they target Stryker’s girlfriend. This proves to be a mistake by the cult, and that mistake is amplified when Stryker’s former squadmates come down to visit. With guns and ammo loaded up, Stryker is prepared to launch his own personal war against these lunatics.

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Slumber Party Massacre II

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 30 - 2011

Slumber Party Massacre II (1987)
Director: Deborah Brock
Writers: Deborah Brock
Starring: Crystal Bernard, Jennifer Rhodes and Kimberly McArthur



The Plot: Courtney (Crystal Bernard) is the younger sister of Valery, our protagonist in the first Slumber Party Massacre film. In the proceeding years after the events of the first film, Valerie has been locked away in a mental institution and Courtney has finally shed her tomboy phase. Courtney has been the perfect daughter in recent years and consistently does what her mother tells her to, however, she looks to finally break away and do something rebellious when her crush finally shows some mutual attraction. Courtney agrees to meet the young man at a special slumber party that her friends are hosting at a out of town beach home. As it turns out, things won’t be that simple for young Courtney. She finds herself having nightmarish visions of her sister being executed by a strange rock & roll murderer. This man in “greaser” attire carries with him a guitar fashioned to look like an electric drill, and he continually threatens Courtney. Once the kids arrive at this beach home, Courtney’s nightmarish visions quickly escalate to the point where she can barely distinguish her reality. As she drives her friends crazy, Courtney begins to doubt her own sanity. However, as it turns out, she isn’t crazy and her dreams become a frightening reality.

The Review
The original Slumber Party Massacre film was both everything that I expected as a fan of slasher films, but also shockingly generic for a film written and directed by women. The series has become quite well known for this fact over the years, and it is well known that the first entry into the series was intended to play out as a black comedy of sorts. However, knowing Roger Corman’s general hatred of horror/comedies, it isn’t surprising that the film inevitably became a much more conventional slasher feature. Although the first sequel, Slumber Party Massacre II, may also seem like your run of the mill slasher flick upon first glance, it is hardly that. Potentially the strangest serial killer film the world has ever seen, Slumber Party Massacre II demonstrates a knack for the surreal that I have rarely seen in this genre. This does inevitably lead to a film that is horribly disjointed, but the head scratching logic of the film is also one of its greatest asset.

Immediately, there seems to be something different about Slumber Party Massacre II. It doesn’t rush directly into the nudity in the same way that the first film did. The movie doesn’t outright present itself as a piece of pure exploitation sleaze, either. It instead goes after the sentimental angle, where Crystal Bernard (best known for her role on the television series Wings) is presented as the ultimate quiet and sincere “final” girl. The introduction of our main group of girls as a band is also certainly befitting of a slightly more mature group than was shown in our previous film. The girls are all slightly less antagonistic with one another than in the previous movie, and you generally get the idea early on that these filmmakers weren’t entirely interested in revisiting everything that the first movie did. However, they did manage to sneak in some requisite sexploitation. There’s an otherworldly topless dance sequence that seems to be totally a service towards Roger Corman and the fanboys, but the scene somehow manages to come across more puzzling than erotic. If you’re looking to see Crystal Bernard go topless, however, you may leave disappointed. The closest you’ll get to seeing her do anything suggestive is a fairly strange scene featuring the girls all sitting around eating corndogs, and the imagery seems to border on obscene in how phallic theses breaded pieces of meat seem to be.

Over the top is the best way to describe Slumber Party Massacre II. In every aspect, this is a movie that takes things to their utmost extreme. The gore is ramped up from the original, the overacting is almost on pace with a Troma production, and the driller killer in our movie is… well, how does one even describe him? Looking like a combination between Andrew Dice Clay and the lead guitarist for nearly any glam-rock band of the 1980s, the killer inevitably makes this movie the far fetched and utterly insane piece of cinema that it is. When he seems to escape the dream reality that he has apparently lived within during the first three quarters of the movie, he manages to spit out line after line of cheesy dialogue while killing off our teen stars. This third act plays out a lot better than the introductory sequences where we have to deal with Courtney having her delusional fantasies. The film essentially runs these bits into the ground in a PAINFULLY cliche manner. It really is the Michigan J. Frog effect to its most painfully obvious extent. While I respect that the filmmakers were trying to establish a “boy who cried wolf” atmosphere around the Courtney character, this doubt ultimately doesn’t have much of a payoff (other than causing the police to doubt Courtney). Instead, we find ourselves continually infuriated by the cliches that the film tries to bolster. Finally, when our Diceman look-a-like escapes into reality we are alleviated of the previous stupidity by watching the majority of these teens killed off.

The prospect of a dream becoming real is tackled by the film very late in the overall runtime, to be honest. It is such a bizarre and ridiculous concept for a series whose introductory title was so obviously based within reality. This isn’t the Nightmare on Elm Street series where the supernatural was a part of the norm, and it isn’t even a series with the longevity of Friday the 13th. If you remember, the Friday series didn’t really venture into the supernatural until the sixth film, and that was the only supernatural sequel that ever truly appeased the fans (Friday 7, 8, 9 and 10 were all duds). Still, Slumber Party Massacre isn’t dumb about how it plays with the surreal. The filmmakers establish some very nifty twists and turns that come about during the final ten minutes, and despite it seeming slightly tacked on, it still works to great effect. Like I always like to point out, if the filmmakers are deviating from genre conventions even by a little bit, they are doing a good job.


The Conclusion
The movie is absolutely bonkers, there’s no denying this fact. While I won’t argue that it is a better made movie than the original The Slumber Party Massacre, I don’t think there is any argument that this is the more entertaining movie. Although it is more fun, I still give it roughly the same score. A three out of five. I figure if you order the full Slumber Party Massacre collection from Shout! Factory, for these two movies alone you are getting your money’s worth. Definitely check it out.




Mystics in Bali

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 29 - 2011

Mystics in Bali (1981)
Director: H. Tjut Djalil
Writers: Jimmy Atmaja and Putra Mada
Starring: Ilona Agathe Bastian, Yos Santo and Sofia W.D.



The Plot: Catherine is a Western girl who is obsessed with black magic. She has previously learned Voodoo in Africa, but now that she is in Bali she is obsessed with learning the notorious Leak black magic. Leak is a form of magic that is so powerful that it allows its user to shapeshift into nearly anything they want. Cathy eventually meets Henthra, a local boy who she quickly starts up a relationship with. Henthra is soon talked into leading Catherine into the dark jungle so that she may meet a powerful Leak master! When Henthra and Catherine stumble off into the jungle, they do indeed meet a mysterious laughing woman who claims to be a Leak master. Catherine convinces the woman to allow her as a disciple, and before long the young Western girl is practicing the ancient black magic traditions of Bali. This Leak master, however, isn’t as nice as Catherine at first takes her to be. She has her own goals, and she intends to use the detached head of Catherine in order to do her bidding and bring her new life!

The Review
We here at Varied Celluloid have certainly shown an affection for Indonesia cinema in the past, and it was only a matter of time before we delved into their rich history for yet another dose of their special brand of genre-film insanity. Along with Lady Terminator and The Warrior, I have found myself in love with the crazy days of Indonesian exploitation. Mystics in Bali is yet another title to take the mythological superstitions that were prevalent within Indonesia in the past, and deliver upon these myths with a very unique modern twist to them. For Western eyes, these concepts of magic and sorcery are completely unknown due to the limited knowledge that most people have about Indonesia in general. Mystics in Bali thus seems even more foreign to any potential Western viewer. A strange and thoroughly puzzling piece of exploitation, Mystics in Bali attempts to craft a combination of “cutting edge” special FX (at least, for 1981) with some fairly gruesome horror-movie violence. A grotesque trip into the magical world of Indonesian horror stories, Mystics in Bali is something entirely different than what you have likely ever seen.

Based upon actual Indonesian rituals and magic, Mystics in Bali has a certain history behind it that may not be immediately visible to Western viewers. Thankfully Mondo Macabro, the folks responsible for the DVD release within North America, provide a small little text document dealing with the history of Leak (pronounce lee-ack) magic and its reputed powers. It is quite interesting to read about the potential powers of Leak magic, all of which seem to revolve around time consuming rituals, and then seeing them displayed on the full screen in a very speedy and unnatural series of events. This speed and delivery is part of the film’s major problem, unfortunately. Episodic at times, it is very difficult to keep up with the timeline that our story is supposed to take place in. It could have been a few days that young Catherine learned all that there is to learn about being a Leak master, but it might have also taken weeks. The film isn’t very clear in its narrative, which gives it a feeling of incoherence. While our guide to Leak magic obviously points out the time and dedication one would have to have in order to attain the powers of transformation, the film seems to show Catherine reaching this goal in potentially one or two days. Yet, this sort of cinematic ADD can also be seen as part of the film’s charm.

While there are many glorious aspects that make Mystics in Bali such a memorable movie, you really have to give it credit for the transformation sequences. Much like the majority of the special effects work seen here, the transformations are gloriously bad. The effects are of the cheap and homemade variety, which is weird to see in comparison to the overall quality of the production. Shot with an eye towards the stylish, Mystics in Bali actually looks very good in almost all facets. The jungle surroundings are brilliantly green, and the sets, which look cheap, are still lit very well and given a surreal tone within many scenes. All of these facts seem in direct confrontation to the utterly ridiculous special effects work that singlehandedly tries to undo all of the quality cinematography that the movie attempts to employ. The transformations, such as the pig and snake sequences, are done in a time lapse fashion that shows us the actresses having makeup piled on top of them little by little. There’s also a decent amount of, what appears to be at least, shot-on-home-video footage in the midst of the film. The quality of the footage seems to take a downward spiral and the two different film stocks are blatantly obvious.

Told in a nearly incompetent fashion, the narrative direction within the film is certainly a part of what makes it so special, but it also prevents it from being a complete classic in the “what the…” genre of cinema. Although being a little episodic, or out of touch with time, isn’t such a bad thing for a film that actually proves itself to be great in most regards. Mystics in Bali however doesn’t prove to be as “great” as something like The Stabilizer, which was gloriously over the top and found just the right pacing. Instead, Mystics in Bali takes its screen time and often wastes it in the wrong areas. Although the pacing isn’t horrible, the movie does seem to waste a great deal of its screen time on ridiculously long and boring scenes that work against its more fantastical sequences. A “favorite” bit of mine that illustrates this, would be the scene where the Leak master, who later becomes Catherine’s teacher, decides to hide in the bushes while Catherine dispenses blood for the witch to drink. The scene seems to drag on forever as the two separate parties debate the grounds for the inevitable training courtship. While a scene such as this one, which primarily shows our lead actors talking about nothing that adds to the overall narrative, seems to be given a great amount of screentime, the much more psychotic and humorous sequences where Catherine’s disembodied head goes on a rampage are given a much less attention. What would you, as a viewer, rather watch: a woman talking to a bush for eight minutes, or the detached head of a Western girl eating people? I know where my vote lies.


The Conclusion
Poor dubbing, silliness shown in all aspects, and a considerable amount of violence, that is what this movie proves. With this in mind, there’s no question that Mystics in Bali is absolutely worth searching out. I will not give it my vote for the best piece of Indonesian exploitation that I have ever seen, but it is certainly very enjoyable for its cheesiness. I give it a three out of five. If there had been a slightly more resilient pace within the film, I would have easily made it to a four. Regardless, a three is still a good score and I would certainly recommend it.




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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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