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Who Can Kill a Child?

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 27 - 2011

Who Can Kill a Child? (1976)
Director: Narciso Ibáñez Serrador
Writers: Juan José Plans and Narciso Ibáñez Serrador
Starring: Lewis Fiander, Prunella Ransome and Antonio Iranzo

The Plot: A young English couple travel to Spain in order to get away from their worries. They seek some rest and relaxation, well away from their burdens and away from the world as they know it. However, what they find in Spain isn’t all that relaxing. Husband, Tom (Lewis Flander), has decided to take his pregnant wife, Evelyn (Prunella Ransome), to an island getaway that he once visited years before. However, when they arrive they find that this small town is uninhabited. An island of roughly two hundred living souls seems to have been completely deserted! As Tom and his wife begin searching the island for others, they notice a strange series of phone calls that keep popping up at the different locations that they stop into. Finally, after searching for hours, the group sees an elderly man with a cane from a distance. However, as they get closer to this gentleman, he is promptly killed by a little girl who quickly wanders up and beats the elderly man with his own cane. There is something VERY wrong with the children on this island. Now, Tom and Evelyn must find a way to travel back to their boat in order to leave the island… if they can get past these deranged children.

The Review
The killer child genre has been done to death, there’s no denying this. Ever since the original Village of the Damned, evil little kids have been a staple of the genre. The genre itself has been tackled in multiple ways, some good and some bad. More often than not, the movies generally follow a plot similar to this: Some group of parents are forced to contend with a singular evil child who carries with him/her a promise of evil. You can see this a million times over in films such as The Omen, The Good Son, Orphan and even Root of Evil, which was reviewed recently here on Varied Celluloid recently. However, few films have the audacity to take a page from Village of the Damned and pit a protagonist against a gang of evil children. This concept is sort of baffling, considering how cannibalistic the horror genre can be. There have been a few to step up to the plate throughout the years, though. Most notably titles such as Children of the Corn and Beware: Children at Play were infamous for using a group of children as their main villains, and upon doing so these films certainly antagonized a laundry list of parents. Yet, before those films were ever thought into existence, there was Who Can Kill a Child?. A Spanish horror film that looks less like Village of the Damned and more like Night of the Living Dead, the movie plays as a legitimately well made piece of horror cinema that challenges its audience in many good, and bad, ways.

When you feature content such as this, where children are viewed as the “villains” and must be murdered, you have to question the reasoning behind it. Do the filmmakers hope to simply acquire notoriety for doing something that few filmmakers would do, or is there a brain behind all of this exploitation? In the case of Who Can Kill a Child?, I firmly believe it is more of the former instead of the latter. A well crafted and suspense-filled film, this is a title that is done with a sense of style and expertise behind the lens. The first indicator of this comes in how the film opens. With a very morbid tone, the introduction features a graphic series of images presented from multiple scenes of real life carnage from multiple wars and famines. While these graphic images play out for us, a running count of the number of children killed during these horrible events is tallied up for the audience to read. A monotone narrator tells us bits of information about each atrocity and makes sure to point out just how children were affected during these awful segments of world history. This bizarre Mondo movie footage becomes even more unsettling as we hear a group of children hum a giddy little tune over the soundtrack. This musical accompaniment will become familiar to viewers, because it plays throughout the majority of the picture. Their laughter and humming almost seem to mock the atrocities that are demonstrated onscreen through this documentary footage. This terribly long sequence is graphic and really stresses the point of the film in a way that does actually grow tiring after the first several minutes. Finally, after an elongated period of time, the filmmakers cut away to a beach in Spain. The transition is very direct and not so subtle. We cut away from these images of famine and we find children who are plump and well fed, women who are obese and a general case of social malaise while we the audience know about these horrible things that are going on within the world. However, the filmmakers do not mean to simply point out how socially irresponsible humanity has grown. The filmmakers have far more intriguing concepts to throw in our direction.

The thesis for the film seems incredibly deceptive at first. Within the previously mentioned introduction, I started to over think the main intentions for the movie. I thought maybe it asked of its audience, “what are we teaching our children?” This seemed to be strengthened by the introductory segment with its strong comparison to all of the imagery of overweight men, women, and children wandering the beach. I imagined that the film seemed to show that humanity influences its children with its own internal aggression and social irresponsibility, and who is to say what would happen if those children took up the same violent aggressions. Later on within the movie, scenes such as a child praying at church and kneeling at confession while another child serves as a priest might have shown the dichotomy of certain adults who speak peace but act in aggression. I thought, surely the main point couldn’t be as casual and seemingly dumb as “what if children simply went on a rampage and started killing grown folks?” But that is precisely what the movie presents to us. Perhaps ‘dumb’ is a bit harsh, considering Village of the Damned wasn’t far away from this concept, but Who Can Kill a Child takes its central premise and doesn’t offer a very sustainable main idea. In essence, what could have been a very confrontational piece of cinema that asked a multitude of societal questions instead becomes something that is deviously simplistic and works best as a general piece of escapism. You honestly can’t count its shallowness as a negative, but it did come across as a bit of wasted opportunity.

Although the concept behind the film certainly seems to hint at a lot of exploitation, the violence here is shown in a very tasteful way. Generally, the film is completely classy in almost all regards. In the first scene of onscreen violence, we are told by one of the central characters that an elderly man has just walked off screen and is somewhere located in an alley just out of reach of the peering eye of our camera. We never actually see the older man while he is alive, but before you know it a little girl runs up and rips his walking stick from his hand and starts beating him with it. All violence occurs off screen and despite it lacking any gore, the scene is relatively unnerving. The child is shown perpetrating this violence in a manner of utmost glee. The children themselves all seem as if they are in a state of hypnosis except for the few moments where the are shown perpetuating violence. The film offers little exposition in why these children act the way they do (there is a explanation for the general reason that all of this seems to happen, but it doesn’t cover the small details), but it remains quite creepy. The entire film seems to carry an air of creepiness to it. This is no doubt thanks to the brilliant cinematography and the amazing locations that the film was shot in. Taking place primarily in a locale that brings to life Island of Death, with its sandstone buildings and dirty roads between what look to be ancient homes, the movie isn’t exactly what one pictures when they think “horror” but it seems to work even better due to this reason. The film does a spectacular job of crafting something desolate and yet also claustrophobic. As the nightmare unfolds, this ghost town seems to tighten up around our central characters. Although I mentioned Island of Death, one could just as easily point to many of the sets from the spaghetti western genre. This comparison may be slightly more fair, considering the artistic beauty that surrounds the cinematography in Who Can Kill a Child.
Unfortunately, all is now kosher within the film for me. Aside from the relatively simplistic concept that I feel should have had a bit more depth, the film plays games with its audience in the worst ways. Although I usually find it easy to forgive horror movie actors doing stupid things in order to progress a story, there are moments within Who Can Kill a Child? where I found myself fighting back my eye rolling. When characters are being hunted down for their lives and they throw their guns to the ground, throw away knives, and scissors, all while fighting for survival, you are taken out of the experience a bit. When your characters no longer react like human beings, they become obvious chess pieces and the illusion is shattered to a degree. A girl can fall in the woods while running from Jason. Sure, that can happen. However, it is hard to believe that someone could throw away their only means of survival two or three times in a row.

The Conclusion
A solid piece of classic horror. This is one that I think splits audiences right down the middle. Some feel that it is schlock, some feel that it is a classic piece of cinema. I reside somewhere in the center. I certainly found myself frustrated at times, but the overall impact of the film was felt for me. It’s a solid piece of horror with great suspense and I would absolutely recommend it for horror fans. Is it essential? Probably not, but its definitely worth a look. I give it a solid three out of five.


Posted by Josh Samford On October - 27 - 2011
Review by Prof. Aglaophotis

Axe (1977)
Director: Frederick R. Friedel
Writers: Frederick R. Friedel
Starring: Leslie Lee, Jack Canon and Ray Green

The Plot: Our story begins with three criminals: Steele, Lomax and Billy. Steel and Lomax are two well-dressed violent thugs; while Steele is the leader and Lomax is the wheelman, Billy is just along for the ride. One night, after beating a man to death, the three take off to hide from the authorities until the heat blows over. They drive into the countryside and seek shelter in the farm house of Lisa and her grandfather. Lisa is a quiet teenage girl looking after her equally quiet wheelchair bound grandfather. The three men settle in with their trigger fingers ready. While a violence-shaken Billy clearly wants to escape from his cohorts, Lisa finds herself hiding behind lies and preparing for the worst as she tries to defend herself from the two violent men with her only moral support being her own twisted psyche.

The Review
I sometimes wonder if the days of the Herschell Gordon-Lewis/Drive-In Horror movies should have really died out. I know I’m not the only person who appreciates such styles of film, and I know others in the modern day have emulated the ‘70’s Drive-In Horror movies as well. However, there’s this rare Gothic feel to some of those movies I haven’t seen in what feels like forever; the kind of rural, psychological atmosphere that is captured with the help of a creepy, yet attractive, Southern State home and an equally creepy and attractive lead female. Such an atmosphere is captured in movies like Kiss of the Tarantula, Don’t Open the Door and today’s film, the surprisingly brutal Axe. Unfortunately, while present, the atmosphere is quickly lost due to the poor writing and editing choices… and the fact that this is a ‘70’s Drive-In Horror film.

Axe is a functional, yet oddly arranged movie that has a fittingly dark, bleak personality. Our main characters consist of three criminals who eventually meet up with our heroine, Lisa, and the events that transpire before and during the encounters makes for some top-notch exploitation. The movie opens with what can only be described as a Mafia style Gay Bashing, which is shocking in itself but is intensified given the build-up and well-shot brutality of it all. I have to say, Axe has its share of subtle but disturbing, and sometimes even vile, imagery. There’s one part where Lisa slaughters a chicken and she keeps its headless body near the sink for a really long time. The last shot we see of that sink, after the mess Lisa makes out of it, is enough to make me cringe just thinking about it. The director really played up the dark grittiness within the movie, and I honestly can’t help but commend him for it. This guy took his characters, found his actors, looked at the settings and said: “How can I make this movie disturbing as Hell?” The characters in the movie are all pretty memorable too, especially considering how sadistic they are.

What I love about the main character Lisa is that we don’t get into her back story. There’s a lot of unknown stuff about her, like why she’s alone with her grandfather, how she makes a living in the house (I’ll bet she lives off of grandpa’s Veteran/retirement pay), where her parents are, why she’s so messed up or what drove her that way. Lisa is one big mystery, and it makes her a scary presence here as intended. Played by little known actress Leslie Lee, Lisa is played convincingly enough as a responsible, but clearly insane, girl in a bleak mundane world. There’s only one instance where we remotely get into Lisa’s perspective and it’s probably the best, yet oddest, scene in the movie. The scene I am speaking of shows her locking herself in the bathroom, and just staring at herself in the mirror.

The characters of Steele and Lomax are very entertaining, and both are surprisingly well acted. The two are violent, well dressed, heavy smoking, perverted bastards who bring chaos with them everywhere they go. Now, a bad actor could make these villains seem cartoonish, and their actions would simply seem like feeble excuses for the audience to hate them. Jack Canon and Ray Green on the other hand come across as genuinely intimidating thugs and disgusting criminals, yet they manage to be lively characters in the process. They kind of remind me of the two thugs at the beginning of Cronenberg’s A History of Violence.

Billy, on the other hand… well, he’s no Junior Stillo. Played by the movie’s director, Billy is supposed to be the gentle thug starting out fresh in a life of vague crime, and not liking it much. However, it’s hard to sympathize with the kid: He shows very little emotion and despite trying to sound concerned ends up sounding bored throughout the movie. He has some physical range, but he doesn’t do much beyond sitting around. It’s like watching James Franco play a heartfelt, family-first scientist; the character depth is there, the actor just isn’t selling it. Maybe if the actor was younger it would be more effective, or maybe it’s the beard matched with that silly afro wig, dunno. I will say though, Billy is his most convincing as a character near the end of the movie when he finds out what happened to one of his cohorts. It’s a realistic verbal moment correlated to a mental breakdown I always like to see in Horror movies and the director plays it fairly well.

The cinematography isn’t too bad, as there are a lot of good shots and imagery. There are moments where the camera bobs too noticeably, however, and there are a lot of dark spots where the lighting fails to elucidate. The movie has an easy pace to it, but the flow is broken up by awkward editing choices. In one scene, Steele and Lomax are eating in the kitchen but Billy runs out. The two chase after him as he runs around the barn with some urgency in their actions. The next scene after that is of Billy and Lisa in the house, with Billy calmly apologizing to her. That scene is quickly followed by all five characters in the TV room. It would’ve been more efficient if they had simply faded out at the end of every scene to tell us that some time elapsed. It kind of reminds me of the transition in Hell of the Living Dead where Lt. Mike London’s squad jump from a completed mission in Spain to a parachuted jeep in New Guinea: new scene, just like that! It’s also funny how useless that scene is, because Billy’s clothes change color as he runs away!

I’ve called this movie violent, but it never goes as far as most Herschell Gordon Lewis movies. The gore effects really come down to just fake blood, off-screen hacking and one dead chicken. All of which is fine until we reach a scene that actually requires some gore effects, but instead we see a re-used shot of the now dead character from when he was being killed. And I’m not talking Tom Savini gore requisites here, that shot could have easily just been of the actor sticking his head out of fake blood and torn clothes! Also, I love how the back of a character’s neck is slashed with a knife, but it has the same affect as though the knife cut their throat. It’s especially funny how the slashed character screams multiple times in the middle of the night, and this brings NO attention to the sleeping criminals.

The soundtrack can be a little annoying at times due to its choice instruments. The title and main theme of the movie consist of some kind of flat wind instrument that gets painful to listen to, fast. In some cases, the instrument makes some of the subtly weird moments of the movie sour, like when Lisa is caring for her grandad. Sometimes even the most intense bongo drumming, or triangle tapping, sounds right, but is usually off cue. Overall though, the soundtrack manages to be effective throughout with its combined use of a rattling tambourine, thudding bongos and bass synth tone. An attempted rape scene is made especially hectic and frightening with the simultaneous clash of every instrument.

The only genuine problem I found with this movie is the abrupt and rather out of place ending. It comes up out of nowhere, offers no closure and only serves to raise more questions than the movie needs; in context, it feels like the kind of ending Coleman Francis would come up with. Hell, S.F. Brownrigg could write a better ending complete with all the lacking closure and lingering questions at the end. The movie itself is only 68 minutes long and the movie creeps past the sixty minute mark due to the extra long opening and ending credits. Was it really that hard to come up with a cohesive ending to this??

But oh, Axe just wouldn’t be complete without some extras, would it? Brought to us by Something Weird Video, the movie comes packed with theatrical trailers for the movie under its several alternate titles (the funniest has got to be the one for Lisa, Lisa) as well as trailers for other movies. Oddly enough, the movie also comes with two Archival Shorts, one of which you’d expect to see on MST3K. Also, this is a Double Feature DVD. Axe precedes a J.G. Patterson movie called The Electric Chair with a similar runtime as Axe. Now if this were any other collection of Short Films, such as on the 2-Disc Limited Edition of Driller Killer, I’d comment on them, but those movies didn’t last 80 minutes, nor did they feel like an eternity to watch. I’m going to have to review The Electric Chair another day… whoo.

The Conclusion
Honestly, you could do a lot worse than watching Axe, maybe even buying it: it’s pretty well shot, decently played, violent and even psychologically creepy at times. I’d recommend it over at least one modern movie released this year based off a classic ’70’s film franchise, but the null writing talent rears its ugly head too often to get a full, hearty recommendation.

Slumber Party Massacre, The

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 21 - 2011

The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
Director: Amy Jones
Writers: Rita Mae Brown
Starring: Michelle Michaels, Robin Stille, Michael Villella, and Debra Deliso.

The Plot: Taking place in a small American suburb, our story partially focuses on Trish (Michelle Michaels), a young teenager whose parents are leaving for the weekend, and she plans for a wild weekend party. Valerie (Robin Stille) is the new girl in town, who lives right across the street from Trish, and desperately wants to fit in. Unfortunately for her, Trish and her inner circle do not care much for the girl. So, when Trish is establishing her list of friends invited to her weekend slumber party, Valerie is left out in the cold. This works out fairly well for Valerie, however, because it turns out that a certain uninvited guest plans on ruining Trish’s slumber party. Russ Thorn (Michael Villella) is a lunatic psychopath who originally massacred a group of young people nearly twenty years before, and unknown to this group of young girls, Thorn is heading right in their direction. As Thorn picks off Trish’s neighbors, one by one, it is only a matter of time before he crashes the party for good. Will this group of young women survive his onslaught and will Valerie, the neighbor, make it to the party or survive by being the nerdy girl that no one likes?

The Review
The Slumber Party Massacre is the introductory film in the famed slasher series of the same name, which was notable for being directed and created entirely by women. Originally written as a form of feminist satire on a genre that can easily be seen as one of the most misogynist sections of the horror universe, the film itself actually plays out a bit more straight forward than one might expect. A prime example of the Roger Corman school of filmmaking, Slumber Party Massacre delivers all of the cheap thrills that one might expect from the slasher film genre but never gets tied down much in terms of depth or content. Although, this does not necessarily make it a bad film. Occasionally, cinema needs a film that is wholly dedicated to its genre and delivers with a steadfast and unwavering hand. That is precisely what Amy Jones’ film does, it delivers everything that made this genre as popular as it was during the eighties. There is a promise from this movie, right from the start, and it is made directly to any potential viewer. It is the same promise made with any slasher movie. You are guaranteed blood, profanity, and nudity. This turns out to be a promise that Slumber Party Massacre holds up to without fail.

Despite a feminist genesis, Slumber Party Massacre does not shy away from the use of rituals that we expect of any 1980s slasher film. There will be boobs, there will be blood, and the final girl concept will be firmly left in place. However, right from the start, it is the quirkiness of the entire project that inevitably gives it its own unique voice amidst a sea of very similar slashers. Slumber Party Massacre is a film that is filled to the brim with exploitative imagery, but at the same time it does manage to speak to women and make light of some genre stereotypes. The movie seems to poke fun at the irrational competition between women and the general games that are played during youth. Men, thankfully, are not all shown to be evil as one might expect from a “feminist” horror film, but the movie doesn’t pull any punches either. Men are shown thinking with their libido in moments where women are actually dying just feet behind them. Yet, it’s a naive sort of ignorance and is quite correctly asserted to be the ignorance of youth, which is a ignorance that seemingly all the characters in this film suffer from.

Director Amy Jones establishes herself here in making a genuinely effective slasher film. Although it often falls directly into genre pastiche, there are moments throughout where the filmmaker shows off her talent in crafting a taut horror film. Throughout the movie, the use of shadow and darkness plays a large role in establishing the scares that the movie delivers. Although there is very little in the movie that comes across as “otherworldly” in terms of atmosphere, this manipulation of darkness makes up for a lot of that. Throughout the movie there are multiple sequences that take place in the garage, just outside of the home that our story plays out in, and more often than not there’s usually only a few rays of light bleeding into this room. Some of the creepiest moments in the film usually happen on this location and the audience can really feel that impending darkness as it completely surrounds these characters. Aside from this, the entire film really looks tremendous to have been such a low budget affair.

The violence, one of the main draws for any slasher film during the 1980s, is most certainly a factor within Slumber Party Massacre. Although the movie never reaches the levels of gore that one might expect from a movie featuring a “driller killer,” it does manage to produce a great deal of gory fun. The body count is an integral part of any slasher from this era, and Slumber Party Massacre generally does not disappoint. With decapitations and drill-induced murders aplenty, the movie establishes itself as a genuine slasher by stacking up at least twelve bodies. While the violence is certainly an aspect that should draw in most viewers, the subtle, yet sharply sarcastic, humor that surrounds the movie is perhaps its most endearing legacy. The comedy is toned down from what the script apparently contained, but there’s still a taste of biting satire that runs througout the movie. Before the self-awareness of Scream, there were films such as Slumber Party Massacre that pointed out the inherit silliness of the genre without going over the top and deviating from the scares.

The Conclusion
Although I feel that I may not have the love for the film that many fans do, I certainly had a good time with it. The scares are effective, the gore is welcome, and the satirical look at the slasher genre is very welcome indeed. However, this is a relatively routine piece of slasher cinema. It is commendable that the film may be the first movie to make light of the fact that the knife (or in this case, drill) of our killer is something that can be taken as a phallic symbol, but generally speaking you’ve seen this film many times before. Still, it is a strong enough production to warrant a high three out of five rating. It is definitely a film worth checking out, especially if you’re looking for a slightly different look as the slasher genre.

Alien Space Avenger

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 15 - 2011

Alien Space Avenger (1989)
Director: Richard W. Haines
Writers: Leslie Delano, Brad Dunker, Kay Gelfman, Richard W. Haines and Clyde Lynwood Sawyer
Starring: Robert Prichard, Michael McCleery and Gina Mastrogiacomo

The Plot: Four escaped alien convicts come to earth and inhabit the bodies of four youths in 1939. After slaughtering a bar room full of locals, they notice that an Agent (intergalactic police officer of some sort) has tracked them down, so they decide to hide underground inside of their spaceship with their new human bodies. They ultimately hide out for fifty years and wait until a construction crew accidentally uncovers their ship. Once awakened, this group immediately starts to hunt down and kill as many humans as it takes to find some uranium in order to power up their spaceship. At the same time that this bloodbath is taking place, we discover Derek (Michael McCleery) who is the writer of a comic book known as Alien Space Avenger. He has been working very hard to please his editor, but no matter how many ideas he comes up with none seem good enough. Derek’s girlfriend is getting fed up with his constant obsession with this comic book and has even threatened to leave him. When Derek’s eyes eventually stumble upon our strange group of aliens from the past, he decides that their retro fashion would make for interesting villains in his comic book. So, art starts to imitate life as Derek writes these four rogue aliens into his comic book. The book soon captures the attention of these aliens, however, and they make it their personal goal to track him down and kill anyone involved in the Alien Space Avenger franchise!

The Review
With a title like Alien Space Avenger, how could any self respecting horror or science fiction junkie dare say no? It’s the sort of title that immediately jumps out for any fan of the strange and unusual. The title itself is so absurdly terrible that one imagines the content being even more preposterous. What is in a name? Other than a ton of money and marketing? Surely this movie could not be nearly as silly as the title might suggest, right? Wrong. It is infinitely more silly. All I definitively knew about Alien Space Avenger before sitting down to watch it was that it had a terrible title, featured alien terrorists coming to earth in a plot geared towards destruction, and it seemed totally applicable for our Halloween Horror festivities. It turns out that I was right, because this is a movie that definitely endears itself towards the horror audience. Although it most assuredly steps into the boundaries of science fiction, Alien Space Avenger keeps one foot firmly planted in the world of horror cinema. Featuring ample breasts and buckets of blood, Alien Space Avenger continually goes for the lowest common denominator. When doing so, they actually manage to create a fairly fun and watchable b-movie.

Despite the awful title and what would seem like a lack of budget, Alien Space Avenger manages to establish itself very early on as a movie with at least some money and creativity behind it. Although the introductory shots of outer space might fool you, considering the spaceships have the realistic depth of a Lego set, the movie quickly sets itself apart from the majority of low budget sci-fi/horror titles out there. The first twenty minutes or so of the film is actually set in the year 1939, where we get to meet our main antagonists. Doing this, while showing the center of a bustling pre-WW2 town, would seem nearly impossible for the majority of independent filmmakers out there simply due to the costumes alone. However, filmmaker Richard W. Haines manages to pull it off and includes costumes, sets, and even cars from the era. All of which helps to create a convincing version of 1939. This section of the film is actually quite impressive. That they could have pulled this off within the confines of a restricted budget says a lot about the creativity of the filmmakers and their perseverance to get this done. However, once these character step foot into the 1980s, we are instead treated to rather banal contemporary horror-comedy of sorts.

There are numerous logical gaps during the course of the film that simply can’t be forgiven. While I don’t want to seem as if I am shooting fish in a barrel, I feel that something definitely needs to be said. There are simple anachronisms that should definitely be mentioned. The biggest that I noticed was during one of the earliest scenes that sees our leading man appearing nude in one shot, but then obviously wearing pants in the next. Usually these things slip by me, but in the two or three cut-away shots, it is readily apparent that Derek is either nude below the waist or obviously wearing pants. After three or four cuts, with his pants magically disappearing and reappearing, I simply shook my head and wondered what I had got myself into. Another problem that I found myself struggling with was the amount of “human” knowledge that these aliens seemed to have. Although many questions are haphazardly answered right near the tail end of the movie, the audience is left struggling with many questions throughout such as: how do the aliens even speak English once they take over their human forms? The first thing out of Rex’s mouth is “we need to get into town”, but how do these aliens know what a town is? How do they know that this planet even has “town” establishments? Real problems arise when our lead villains step out from their time capsule and arrive in the modern day, but the movie somehow becomes a “fish out of water” story, despite the fact that these “fish” aren’t even from our planet. You can forgive almost all of these idiosyncrasies by saying “well, it’s supposed to be a comedy”, but in reality even a comedy should have some sort of basic intelligence behind it.

The comedy itself is only what you would expect from a Troma feature, to be honest. There are lots of funny faces made in the movie, as well as plenty of over the top yelling. However, what Alien Space Avenger lacks in tact, wit, or a fresh sense of humor, it more than makes up for in its use of gore and violence. The bar-shootout during the first few minutes of the film sets the pace for the gore and violence that becomes the standard throughout the movie. The squib work done here is very well handled and is delightfully bloody. This is to be expected from the director of Class of Nuke ‘Em High, but the FX work here is slightly better than the traditional Troma variety. Throughout the movie we are treated to several sequences that witness the aliens having a limb blown off, only to regenerate by itself. This is usually done in the most grotesque way possible. Such scenes usually feature bloody limbs exploding forth from the tips of bloody nubs, not exactly the most pleasant thing ever to be sure. The movie never enters into full splatter territory though, but the gore that is here is well handled. Certainly enough that it will catch the eye of any wandering gorehound.

The Conclusion
A delightfully atrocious piece of b-movie mania, Alien Space Avenger is the perfect party movie to throw on when you’re trying to entertain guests. It may not be the very strangest piece of cinema that you can dig out of your closet, but it isn’t that far away from it. While I wouldn’t recommend it to serious horror movie fans, if you have a sense of humor then this might be worth giving a shot. I give it a solid three out of five. Despite the silliness, I did have a good time watching it and at just a hair under ninety minutes, this one really can’t hurt anything.

Blood Diner

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 14 - 2011

Blood Diner (1987)
Director: Jackie Kong
Writers: Michael Sonye
Starring: Rick Burks, Carl Crew and Roger Dauer

The Plot: Blood Diner is the classic story of two brothers and their devotion to their faith. Unfortunately, their faith is in allegiance to an ancient pagan god named Sheetar who requires a “blood buffer” in order to arise and destroy all of humanity. George (Carl Crew) and Michael Tutman (Rick Burks) were absorbed into this cult at an early age right before their crazy uncle was shot dead for committing a series of grisly murders. When George and Michael grow up, they take over in their uncle’s work and start up their own restaurant that specializes in Sheetar-prepared delicacies. Pining for his advice, the boys soon dig up their uncle’s body and remove his brain from his corpse. They speak some magic words and revive his spirit inside of this disembodied brain, which they place inside of a jar. With their dear uncle at the helm, this group looks to find as many “dirty” girls as they can and use them as sacrifices in order to wake Sheetar up from her slumber.

The Review
Although the eighties were potent with a large number of generic comedic-horror movies, there were definitely variations on the genre exposed during this period. The most notable of the era would be the slapstick black comedies produced by Sam Raimi with his Evil Dead series. These films influenced an entire army of filmmakers and completely changed the face of horror in many regards. Sam Raimi showed that you didn’t necessarily have to aspire to make the most terrifying film ever made in order to make a very good horror movie. Blood Diner is one of those films that certainly seemed inspired by this new wave of camp horror titles, but just how over the top it goes is far beyond what you might expect from it. Made as either a parody of H.G. Lewis’ Blood Feast or maybe an ode/unnoficial sequel to it, the origins of Blood Diner are a bit murky. However, what is understood is the content that we are given with the film. As broad a comedy as any one person is going to find, Blood Diner came around at just the right time and rode on a wave of very similar titles that all seemed to gather steam from one another. The west coast answer for the New York Splatter movement, Blood Diner is a ludicrous and brilliant piece of satirical horror that will either inspire ample amounts of love or a tremendous amount of hate from modern viewers.

The general style of Blood Diner is very reminiscent to the New York City trash films that seemed to pop up right around the late 1980s. Films like Street Trash, Basket Case and Slime City have all gone on to become cult-classics for their punk rock attitude and their horror-comedy sensibilities, but Blood Diner manages to follow in similar inspirations but also adds a very West Coast flair to the scene. Blood Diner packs that Los Angeles straight-to-video decadence that films like Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers also seemed to have. Every film mentioned thus far seems to have three things in common: violence, punk rock fashions/attitude, and very over the top humor. Similar to what Troma was becoming known for, Blood Diner doesn’t shy away from crude jokes or over exaggeration. Rubber faces are not only “allowed”, they are also encouraged in Blood Diner. The main difference between this film, and something like Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D., is that this film actually has a sense of wit behind the jokes. Sure, the jokes may be equally as crude, but they aren’t funny just because of their poor taste.

This movie is full of strange characters to go with its incredibly strange sense of humor. The rogues gallery of weird characters who are given an unexpected amount of screen time are part of the movies charm though. We have Vitamin C, who is essentially just some very large man who loves the food served at the Diner. He is continually beaten up by Michael (Rick Burks) throughout the movie, which makes you wonder why he would ever frequent such a diner in the first place. Michael himself is a fairly odd duck, now that I mention it. All we know about this character is that he loves professional wrestling and he absolutely loathes the pro-wrestler “Savage” Jimmy Hitler. Despite being a fairly small guy, Michael also dreams of one day stepping into the ring with Hitler. George, Michael’s slightly more sane brother, does the majority of the talking throughout the movie. This seems odd until you notice that Michael essentially acts like an ape for the majority of the picture. It is never explained why his character is so over the top and wild, despite being raised in the same household as his more reserved and seemingly normal brother. However, I like this fact and I like the dynmaic that it creates between these characters. In a more conventional film, George would be a “leading man” and he would come to his senses and tame his wild brother. Blood Diner is far from conventional, however. Finally, I have to comment on my favorite character. There’s this one character who hangs at every diner in town, throughout the entire movie, and he is OBVIOUSLY a prop dummy. Yes, a dummy. He is set at the counter and is given a voiceover that sounds a lot like a chipmunk. The fact that this character is blatantly fake is never once acknowledged. Not even when he is lifted into the sky and thrown across a diner during one sequence. Surreal and out of this world, this one character defines everything that is “right” about Blood Diner.
Despite this being a comedy, human life is really shown to have no worth in this movie. This comes back to the satirical side of the humor, as I think Kong and crew were looking to have some fun with the “why we love horror” debate and the world they created is one where everyone seems to know that they are in a horror movie. While “body count” movies were at the height of their popularity, Blood Diner definitely took things way over the top. During the opening twenty minutes we are treated to one of the most sensationalist killing sprees that I have ever seen. There are few things quite as monumentally brilliant as the “nude aerobics” scene which leads to this massive slaughter. It is exactly what it sounds like, with several young women dancing around doing aerobics while topless. Only instead of the workout ending with a towel and a shower, the girls are gunned down by our Sheetar-worshipping boys who don Ronald Reagan masks and assault the entire room with a machine gun. Without a doubt, it is an image that won’t soon be forgotten. The gore splattered room afterward might remind modern audiences of Takashi Miike’s Ichi the Killer, because this one actually gets nasty. The nude aerobics massacre is only the start of this crime spree, however. This quite literally takes place during the introduction of our two leading men and works as one of the first few moments where we get to know them for who they really are. Throughout the movie, the boys remain killing one person after another without thought or hesitation. Most of the time they don’t even have a valid reason for their murderous rage. There is a sequence that takes place outside of a nightclub that perfectly demonstrates this. The scene is a funny little distraction that features the boys sporting the worst eighties fashion possible. The boys start off finding it hard to get into the nightclub, so what do do expect that they should do? Debate with the door man? Discuss the issue sensibly? Duh, they throw the pipsqueak bouncer right onto the concrete, of course! Just as he hits the ground, a car with hydraulics comes jumping up and down in front of him and squashes his head in a very disgusting manner. This of course elicits nothing but laughter from all who are watching, which is so defiant to logic that you just have to sit back in awe while this goes down. It brings me back to the concept that maybe this movie takes place in a reality where everyone is aware of their horror movie surroundings, but instead of fighting the flow they just go with it.

The Conclusion
I really don’t think it will be a film that reaches all tastes and sensibilities, but for those of you with an open mind this one is too much fun to pass up. It is incredibly gory, supremely funny, and generally over the top in every way imaginable. Definitely score a copy if you haven’t seen it already.





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