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Alien Space Avenger

Posted by JoshSamford 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.


At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul

Posted by JoshSamford On October - 30 - 2010

The Plot: Ze do Caixao (Coffin Joe, director and star José Mojica Marins) is a mortician who desperately wants a child to continue on with his name. Unfortunately his wife is barren and unable to provide such a child. Coffin Joe, who has no real moral compass, decides he will do what it takes to have his child and continue his blood. Ze has an affection for the young Terezinha, but she is Coffin Joe’s best friend’s (Antonio) girlfriend. When he makes his move on Terezinha, she is obviously disgusted but reminds him that he has his own wife waiting at home for him. This angers Joe, but he decides she is right and heads out to cure himself of his marriage. After chaining up his wife and forcing a poisonous spider to bite her, Joe is free to pursue Terezinha but he now has to deal with Antonio as well. As Coffin Joe begins his onslaught of terrible acts, he is reminded by the local gypsy woman that even though he may get away with these atrocities for now – at some point the souls of those he has done harm will come back, and at midnight they will surely take his soul!

The Review
I have been meaning to catch some of Coffin Joe’s (José Mojica Marins) work for the longest time, simply because of his rather odd name and the respect his work tends to get amongst fellow genre fans. I have many friends who have a great deal of respect for the man and I don’t mind jumping into some older material every now and then, so I figured this may be the very best time to check out Marins’ first and most successful turn as the memorable Coffin Joe! At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul is a strange mix of varying cultures, ideas and influences that all ultimately combine to make a very bizarre and dark piece of horror. The inspiration for the movie seems to lie in between the classier horror films that were prevalent at the time mixed along with the gore filled works of H.G. Lewis. Although the gore on display in At Midnight… is minuscule in comparison, one can’t help but double check the year of release. You can truly understand how such a film would have shocked and frightened away audiences in 1964, because there are still some effects that may actually leave you wincing.

Although it has traces of that burgeoning gory style of horror filmmaking (In fact, Blood Feast had only been released one year previous to this film so Marins may not have seen it), the majority of the film is made up of that naive and spooky atmosphere that you might find in many Universal monster movies. The film actually begins with two monologues spoken directly to the camera, as Coffin Joe ponders “what is existence?” while his voice is shrouded in a echo type of effect. After this we meet the gypsy/witch lady who will play a prominent role throughout the movie and she is actually more over the top than even Marins attempted. Her voice too is covered up with an echo-reverb effect and although this sequence is a bit on the cheesy side, I can picture the effect of watching the movie in a large theater with the sound amped up. Some times when an actor or an actress is so committed to their role and willing to simply play that “creepy” card, they can take it past the point of being over the top and come full circle right back to creepy and weird. I think much of what At Midnight… does correct, is based upon this principal.

The character of Coffin Joe is a walking example of this fact. Despite the film apparently taking place in modern times (I have no reason to believe it takes place any earlier than 63), Coffin Joe (or Ze, as everyone refers to him) wears the costume of a mortician from Transylvania circa 1745. The top hat, long fingernails and cape have become synonymous with José Mojica Marins who delves into the role as director/actor with much enthusiasm. On the outside looking in, the character at first seems so artificial that it becomes rather humorous. Who wears a cape in the first place? It is an article of clothing that serves no purpose other than the addition of style, but even at this point in fashion it seems incredibly outdated. There’s also the fact that at this point Coffin Joe has no size to him and rather than an intimidating force, he has the look of a nerdy computer programmer who happened to grow his beard out. Yet, when his eyes turn bloodshot and he feels pushed, the man turns into a monster of sorts. After these first few instances of seeing his rage unleashed, it becomes easier to see how everyone in this small town fears him.

The most interesting thing about the character of Coffin Joe, and this film in general, would probably be the religious ideas expressed throughout. This gives the film some kind of subtext and depth while watching as it seems to ultimately be about man, mortality and faith. Ze is a man who challenges all forms of faith and instead of focusing his attention towards anything that might be above himself, he instead apparently subscribes to a perverse vision of Nietzsche’s Superman concept, similar to that of the famed killers Leopold and Loeb. With no god or supernatural to cause him to question his own moral compass, he instead does whatever he wants and could care less who stands in his way. The film is ultimately about the battle between this cold and calculating reality that Coffin Joe lives in and the world of faith and the supernatural, that essentially all other characters live within. Although the ideas that the movie throws about can be clunky at times, it gives the film a third dimension and makes it that much more engaging.

I have already mentioned it at this point, but the violence on display in At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul was certainly harsh for its time. A highly successful film in its native Brazil, where it is claimed to have been the very first local horror movie, people were likely intrigued simply by the onscreen debauchery that could not be found in any other place. Many of the special effects throughout are obviously hokey and bad, but there are a few really stand out moments. The most notable would be a sequence where Coffin Joe removes some poor guy’s fingers with a broken bottle! The scene caught me off guard, because I honestly didn’t expect it to be that graphic despite what I had read about the film previously. This scene would definitely be the goriest of all of the violent sequences, but there is also an eye removal scene later on in the movie that definitely fights for contention. Aside from those two bits of gore, the rest of the movie seems to focus on “violence” rather than “gore”. The savage beating and rape of a young woman by Coffin Joe, somewhere at the half way point, is far more disturbing and grotesque than these two gore sequences could ever dare be.

The Conclusion
At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul is certainly a movie worth owning, I can’t deny that. I’m glad to have picked it up and I’ll probably search out more of Coffin Joe’s work soon, but its not a movie I can recommend without some fare warning. These are not films that I would watch with an audience, because the camp could turn the experience into something completely different than what I experienced. I give the film a three out of five, due mainly to audience expectations, but I think that this is a film that could just as easily be a four out of five depending on my mood. Search this one out and enjoy a piece of classic horror film history!


Posted by JoshSamford On August - 5 - 2010
The Plot: Bob Berdella, a real life serial killer and the subject of this feature film, was a hidden menace within the Kansas City community. A homosexual man with homicidal tendencies, he took the lives of six men who he raped and tortured for weeks on end. Berdella is this story fleshed out, focusing primarily on the period that saw Bob Berdella at his most violent. We follow this odd character during the day where he looks after his own occult book/item store and we follow him at night where we see him try to socialize within the gay community where he hopes to find a new victim.

The Review
I found myself contacted a few short weeks ago by independent filmmaker Bill Taft who asked me to take a look at his indie feature: Berdella. Although I do not review as much independent film for Varied Celluloid as I do for RogueCinema, I have never been opposed to giving any film a fair shake. Berdella had a couple of key advantages going for it that immediately perked up my ears like a dog looking for a bone. First of all, it deals with a fairly obscure serial killer. I think the majority of horror fans are ultimately interested in the “serial killer” phenomenon. If one is interested in the macabre, then it is suffice to say that they are interested in those who live macabre lives. The second aspect that drew me towards the film was the interesting marketing. The artwork and posters for the film give it the appearance of being a grizzly shocker or at the very least a violent character study. I don’t want anyone to get their hopes up at this point however, a disgustingly violent gore film this is not. However, if one has the patience and the inclination to sit through a truly independent film – they might find something of interest here.

The real Bob Bordella was as interesting as most serial killers tend to be. The DVD for this film actually comes with a biography about the man as well as a time-line that describes his crimes and life. This very mundane man was, as they often seem to be, an exemplary citizen with a rough past who for the most part would not turn any heads on a day to day basis. Like most serial killers, his killings came about due to his intense sexual desires. A homosexual with a control disorder, his sadistic killings were the definition of cruel. The feature film Berdella looks to examine this character and delve into his psychotic mind, but they do it in an interesting way. Although it at times is not the most obvious point about the film, there appears to be a certain tongue-in-cheek quality that carries the film along. The comedy doesn’t come right up and bite you on the lip, but there are moments (mostly instigated by the character of Bob Berdella) where these tiny seeds of humor and entertainment seem to frolic and keep the film afloat. The filmmakers manage to keep this film as dark and bleak as the material certainly calls for it to be, but this character of Bob Berdella simply will not be contained in the mold of your average sociopath.

Played by Seth Correa, Bob Berdella comes across as a rather quirky and pathetic little creature who ultimately takes advantage of those around him who slip up and fall into his little games. The performance, while certainly not earth shattering, is interesting and different enough that I felt that he was able to carry the weight of the project. Giving his voice a slightly feminine quality, Correa plays the role without going over the top and making the character a stereotypical “queen”. The character walks the line between feminine and masculine, and could seem either orientation in a public setting. However, there is something slightly off about the way Correa brings Berdella to life, and I loved it. Donning a false-mustache that is as obvious as eye liner on Marilyn Manson, the character comes across as being utterly bizarre and out of his element at all times. In the same way that the beards were obviously fake in Cannibal: The Musical, I found it easy to forgive the cheap looking prosthetic due to how much it added to the quirky qualities of this character. While it may not be perfect, a lot of the enjoyment you will derive from the feature may very well come from these strange aesthetic choices.

The violence is likely to be a key issue for many who read this. The artwork for the film, which seems to scream out “torture” and “violence”, obviously declares some depraved content will be on display. However, that ultimately doesn’t prove to be the case. Although Berdella is most assuredly a violent film, it doesn’t load the audience down with gore. From their not being able to afford the FX or simply a conscious choice to avoid the exploitation in such an obviously sexual case, much of the violence is shown offscreen. There are still several choice moments where we see Berdella taking part in extremely brutal activities. Including the disposing of a body and a sequence involving a drill, some draino and a miniature axe!

Knowing the independent film world as I do I already knew what to expect in terms of acting and production, where some of you reading this may not. Although it does its best to hide its budgetary restraints, there is no slipping it past the audience that this is indeed a piece of independent film. The filmmakers did do a nice job in adding color, varied lighting and canted-angle photography, but the budget is obvious from the outset. Most of the actors are stilted in their delivery, due likely to inexperience, but there are a few actors who actually craft something out of their roles. It is a sad fact, but no-budget cinema does not offer the comforts of decorated cast members or high quality camera work. So, if you are a film-goer who criticizes the acting in big budget Hollywood features – this level of acting may come as a shock to you. However, if you have suffered through a few independent films then you likely already know what to expect.

The Conclusion
Although it has its issues, I did ultimately like Berdella. The filmmakers took what they had and they actually managed to deliver a dramatized version of this obscure murderer and they made it work. There are some facts that they shied away from, mostly in terms of the sexual mutilation and torture that Berdella put his victims through, but that is understandable as it would be difficult to find five male actors willing to strip nude and be demeaned for either no money at all or very little. This remains a seedy little number and a interesting watch if you run across it. You can read more about Berdella as well as order it from the official website at: BobBerdella.com

Amazonia: The Catherine Miles Story

Posted by JoshSamford On January - 26 - 2010
The Plot: Catherine Miles is a young English girl (who speaks with an American accent) who now finds herself on trial for a double homicide in the amazon. She had come to the Amazon in order to vacation with her mother and father. They rent a large boat in order to make it to another part of the jungle where they will be staying, but they are cut off by a tribe of natives. These natives aren’t the friendly kind who want to share either, these are the kind who kill without thinking. They slaughter Catherine’s parents and poison her with a dart that makes her immobile. She is then carried back to their village and sold at an auction where she then becomes slave to the highest bidder. The young warrior who actually killed Catherine’s parents offers to trade all of his weapons as well as his own freedom in order to own Catherine, but he is denied and another owner is chosen. This other owner tries to force himself on Catherine, who resists but is then beaten into submission. When the young warrior sees this, he challenges her owner to a battle and the two fight to the death. This young warrior wins and finally owns Catherine, but she refuses to give herself to him because of what he did to her parents. What happened to put young Catherine Miles on trial and what will become of her?

The Review
Although I consider myself to be a cannibal movie aficionado at this point, having seen almost everything the genre has to offer – I put off this unofficial sequel to Rugerro Deodatto’s classic Cannibal Holocaust for many years. That is no doubt due to a few bad reviews I read for it which accused it of being a cannibal movie in name only. So, for some reason I assumed this picture was just going to be a jungle survivor type of movie. Maybe the equivalent to a weak Jungle Holocaust. Well, after finally taking the plunge I’m happy to report that this sequel/ripoff actually delivers in the cannibal conventions. Far more than I could have hoped for. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s all that good. It simply means it deserves its place amongst other cannibal flicks such as Cannibal Ferox, Cannibal Terror and Eaten Alive. The definition of ”Good” in terms of Italian cannibal flicks is about as subjective a thing as you can possibly get though. Truthfully, I don’t know of any other Italian cannibal film I could recommend as a piece of quality filmmaking that isn’t named Cannibal Holocaust. They all appeal to the lowest common denominator in terms of their exploitation and some are so unbearable with the amount of violence and animal cruelty, that it’s kind of mind blowing that they were ever so popular with a mainstream audience. Apparently they were, otherwise we wouldn’t have twenty or so of them to slog through. When you go into a movie of this type, there are only a few things that you can hope for to make the viewing experience worthwhile. Such as a story that doesn’t steal tremendously from other films in the genre. Some sets that actually look like they are on location. A few interesting conventions, such as neat cinematography or a decent score. Brutal violence that doesn’t look too cheap. You’re picking at straws, but these are the things that actually make the majority of this subgenre worthwhile. Catherine Miles… is a cannibal picture that actually delivers on a few of these promises and marks one of the better outings in the genre that I’ve discovered in a while.

Although it isn’t the bloodiest or goriest Cannibal flick I have had the chance to witness, there’s some fairly surprising gore in the early goings of Amazonia. The initial slaughter sequence is pretty brutal and the inevitable animal stock footage is enough to send any card carrying PETA member running for the exit. Although at one time I too had a great deal of resentment for animal death scenes in these movies, at this point I actually see it as a true staple of the genre. If there’s no stock footage of animals being eaten or killed, it really doesn’t pack that Italian cannibal film kind of vibe. Amazonia, for those who care, at least doesn’t feature humans slaughtering any animal prey. It’s all your basic stock footage kind of thing you might find on the Discovery Channel, so if you can handle that then I don’t think Amazonia is going to damage your psyche in too extreme of a manner. If you can get past the animal violence, Amazonia actually manages to pack a relatively interesting little story into it. It’s fairly clever the way it is written and turns out to be one of the more respectful entries in the genre. Respectful in that it’s competently made, has an interesting story structure and isn’t all murder, mayhem and sheer stupidity. Granted the story is a bit conventional and predictable at times, but believe it or not that’s actually better than what you can say for the majority of this subgenre. Amazonia is also one of the few cannibal flicks that apparently had a large enough budget that it could be shot on location instead of just a set, so the backdrops here actually look like the jungle which adds so much to the movie.

I’m sure the portrayal of the natives are insensitive and offensive to someone out there, after all the tribe is shown to be in amazement at Catherine for showing them how to make a splint. I’m sure in the many years that they’ve been alone in the jungle they might have figured as much for curing their broken bones – but what do I know of native tribes? Still, there’s at least some respect shown to these characters. They don’t ALL speak broken English, with some actual tribal speak thrown around throughout the duration of the movie. They also aren’t really shown to be complete butchers as at first it seems like they would be. It’s an interesting turn that some of the acts which come off as torturous at first are explained as simply rituals within their culture and thus not played up as sadistic. There’s even a rape scene that is interrupted due to our lead character being a virgin and that in their culture it’s taboo to take the virginity of a girl. Now, I won’t guarantee that everyone will feel the same but I thought the way the natives were shown was a fresh concept. Certainly for this genre and the culture that these movies were made in. At the end of the day though, I concede, this is just an exploitation movie. However, it isn’t entertaining to watch just for the gore and insanity.

The Conclusion
If you’re wondering about that secondary title you may have seen tossed around, Cannibal Holocaust II, it’s just a marketing ploy. The two movies really couldn’t be more different, but I will say that this movie certainly seems inspired by Deodato’s work. The way in which that film used the “found footage” to tell its story is very similar to this one in how it chooses to use Catherine Miles’ court testimony as a catalyst for the story. Believe it or not, the court scenes really aren’t pulled off that bad either. They’re a little shaky at first, due to so much dialogue taking place off screen, but I think they actually make the sequence of events stronger – unlike in Cannibal Holocaust where you’re always waiting for the New York scenes to just finish up. All told, Amazonia isn’t really anything mind blowing. It’s a decently made Cannibal flick, which is actually a surprise for the genre, but it probably won’t impress newcomers. I have to give it a three out of five. It’s solid and somewhat inspired, but still fairly ordinary in comparison to the grand-father of these movies: Cannibal Holocaust.

Bad Biology

Posted by JoshSamford On March - 19 - 2009

The Plot: Bad Biology tells the story of a young woman born with seven clits. That’s right, she has seven clitoris’, making her the world’s most easily stimulated woman. Able to get off from an early age without even trying, she has been stuck with this deformity and has felt a great deal of shame for her extraordinary circumstances. However, after losing her virginity she becomes a sexual creature that lives almost exclusively to feed the needs of her vagina. She shacks up with men on a nightly basis and has unprotected sex, which sometimes culminates in the homicide of her lover. She simply can’t help it as she finds herself writhing in sexual ecstasy. Immediately after intercourse however, she begins going through the process of pregnancy and within two hours goes into full labor – birthing out a blood covered freak-baby. Her life has become a bit repetitive as of late as she desperately feeds her need for love, but things change when she (while doing her job as a photographer) is shooting on location at a local mansion with a few hip hop artists. She meets with the owner of the house who at first seems like your average geek – but harbors a dark secret: his penis, quite literally, has a mind of its own. When a girl with seven clits finds a gentleman with a two foot penis with it’s own brain – what else is she to do? It’s love, but will these two be able to share their deformities with one another in time?

Continue reading “Bad Biology” »



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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.