Prof. Aglaophotis | Varied Celluloid - Page 2

Severed Arm, The

Posted by Josh Samford On July - 28 - 2011
Review contributed by Prof. Aglaophotis

The Severed Arm (1973)
Director: Thomas S. Alderman
Writers: Thomas S. Alderman, Larry Alexander, Kelly Estill, Darrel Presnell and Marc B. Ray
Starring: Deborah Walley, Paul Carr, David G. Cannon and Marvin Kaplan

The Plot: Jeff Ashton just received a rather bizarre gift in the mail: a severed arm! The message immediately reminds him of what happened five years ago, when he and his five middle aged buddies went on a mining vacation in order to dig for some rock samples. Thanks to one of the bumbling fellows though, the trip resulted in disaster as the shaft caved in with the six men inside with little water and hardly any food. After two weeks pass, the men can no longer continue without sustenance and they slowly resort to cannibalism. They sever the right arm of their friend Ted, only for a rescue team to come to their aide seconds after the deed was done. So all five men swore to secrecy, never to let anyone know what they did and claim the amputation was a result of the cave-in… but Ted said he’d never forget it, even after being hospitalized and institutionalized later. Jeff gathers his old pals together to remind them of the secret and how the truth would affect their long progressing careers. As the reunion finishes however, one of Jeff’s pals, Dr. Sanders, gets attacked, resulting in his right arm getting amputated. Jeff and his detective friend Mark now have little time to protect the others while trying to find Ted’s location and stop the traumatized mad man.

The Review
There are many sad things that can happen in a good Horror movie. The Severed Arm might not be original to begin with, as the premise sounds mysteriously familiar, but it has a good twist to it amidst various mediocre aspects. On the technical side, the production was clearly a few thousand dollars short of being passable.

Night shots are barely visible and the direction of the camera isn’t always set straight. The darkness obscures a lot of the action that is key to the scene’s atmosphere, thus the film’s lucidity is based on natural and in-room light, but even then it doesn’t work. There’s an attack scene where a man falls down a stair case, but the scene is so dark and the camera focuses so little on the event, and the victim’s screaming, that it almost looks like the guy tripped over the cameraman.

As a matter of fact, every death scene in the movie is awkwardly shot. Every time someone gets attacked, the camera always focuses on the actor’s face and the murder weapon at awkward angles; maybe this is to induce panic, but it just made the scenes look silly. Perhaps the best death scene in the whole movie is ruined because the scene is too dark. Another surprising death scene in an elevator is also botched by wretched camera angles and quick cuts. Although the lighting and direction is not entirely the attack scene’s fault: the worst of the death scenes has to be the one where a character is attacked, faints and the scene cuts away practically to the next day.

Yet, the movie makes-up for its technical flaws in its writing and some of its acting. The dialogue between Jeff and Mark is competent and direct enough to really hook me into their situation, and both characters are acted pretty well. For awhile I was actually buying the trouble these men had gotten themselves into, how they were going to handle it and the problems they faced along the way. Then of course there was the comic relief character, late night radio DJ, ‘Mad Man’ Herman. Played by comedic Brooklyn actor Marvin Kaplan, every one of Herman’s lines made my eyes roll so often I thought they’d fall out. He’s not painfully unfunny, (I mean I’ve heard worse in Horror movies) and the character is played pretty well, he’s just not funny at all despite the movie playing him up to be funny.

I was surprised to hear the familiar strains of the late Phillan Bishop here, the same musician who gave us the creepy scores to Messiah of Evil and Kiss of the Tarantula. His work here isn’t too bad, but it’s not the best the man has done (that would be either one of the two aforementioned movies). There are some creepy tracks in the beginning of the movie like when the arm gets shipped out, the cave flashback or any scene with Ted stalking our main characters. Unfortunately, the rest of the music sounds like someone playing through the BGM mode of a cruddy Sega Genesis game! It doesn’t get too embarrassing until thirty minutes in: there’s a driving scene that is followed by such an indescribably goofy electronic score that I can’t even begin to say how inappropriate the song is in this movie. It felt like the director didn’t care what kind of music accompanied the filler scenes.

And yet, despite these mixed factors, the twist and finale weren’t half bad at all. Now it might be easy to guess if you’re into Murder Mysteries, but of the films of that genre I’ve seen this twist actually took me by surprise a little. If anything I feel there should’ve been a buzzsaw; no, I won’t elucidate on that, you’ll just have to see the movie yourself to see what I mean.

If there’s anything else I can question about the movie, it’s the scene with the dog. There’s a moment near the end of the movie where Jeff is chasing after Ted up a sandy hillside and a dog runs in front of him completely out of nowhere! It would’ve made more sense if you could see the extra calling their dog off the set as a crew man pulled them off camera. Also, I think someone should’ve told the extras to snap it up a bit; during the flashback, Ted’s family sees their one-armed father/husband getting wheeled into an ambulance and their collective reaction is more dead than the starving spelunkers who amputated him!

The Conclusion
Overall, The Severed Arm isn’t too bad of a Horror movie. It’s impossible to call it a Murder Mystery, because we’re familiar with who the killer is, we just don’t know when he’ll strike. Yet, The Severed Arm feels like a Murder Mystery: intelligent and squeaky clean, perhaps too much so. Regardless, it won’t hurt to watch it.

Demon, The

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 14 - 2011

Review originally written by Prof. Aglaophotis

The Demon (1981)
Director: Percival Rubens
Writers: Percival Rubens
Starring: Jennifer Holmes, Cameron Mitchell and Craig Gardner

The Plot: This tale begins when a prowler breaks into the isolated Parker house, tying Mrs. Joan Parker up with a plastic bag over her head and running off with her fourteen year old daughter Emily. The father comes home in time to save his wife, but the prowler has his way with the daughter in the nearby forest. After days go by and the search for Emily fails, the Parkers hire retired Marine Colonel turned psychic Bill Carson who can identify the killer and find their daughter by using his telepathic powers. In the meantime, our bulky leather strapping killer picks up a ride, asphyxiates the driver and attempts to rape and murder unsuspecting young women. It seems the killer is trying to kill a sassy young kindergarten instructor named Mary, who lives with her cousin Jo who is trying to hook up with a flashy rich boy named Dean Turner. Col. Carson reveals two particular aspects about the killer: 1) he has a deadly obsession with random young women and 2) his faceless visage suggests that he is not human or is at least possessed by something evil. Knowing this and how every attempt to stop him fails with fatal results, will Mary have a chance to evade the killer once he comes for her?

The Review
When looking through obscure Slasher movies, you’ll often come across some generic titles to surprisingly entertaining Horror movies. There’s a genuine sense of reward you get when you pick up movies like Stage Fright, The Prowler, House on Sorority Row or even Joe D’Amato’s Horrible and find some creepy atmosphere or gut wrenching death scenes that make you wonder why they’re often ignored. Then there are the titles that sound generic but have no payoff to them. The ones that make you feel like an idiot after having watched it. The Demon is one of them.

I should be honest with you, dear reader, this movie doesn’t feature an actual demon; much like how the tag line to The Prey does not feature an axe wielding monster but instead a mutant beatnik played by the bad guy from Battle for Endor.

The easiest assessment would be the fact that our killer is simply possessed by a demon which is why he kills, but that information is hardly lucid in the movie itself. It is hard to say whether the killer is really a demon since there are times where we can clearly see the man’s face and hair, as well as times where he suddenly no longer wears a white Halloween (or Alice, Sweet Alice) mask and instead has white face paint on. ‘But why are you looking into this,’ you may be asking. ‘Why analyze the title and its connection to the movie?’ Why? Because that’s the only interesting thing about this movie. The Demon is a confusing, lagging, poorly shot crap-fest of an ‘80’s Slasher movie. The only demonic specification the poor chump carries is his propensity to grunt and growl and his nearly obscure distaste for midnight radio evangelists. I actually had a hard time re-watching this for a review. The structure of this failed ‘80’s Slasher Film is so broken that not even a modern day remake would fix it. This is one of those movies that you can clearly envision as a person, throwing its hands up in the air, shaking its head and failure and admitting “I just don’t know.”

We essentially follow three stories here one consisting of a brutally strong, strangulating, serial death-rapist, his plucky soon-to-be next victim’s cousin Jo and Cameron Mitchell. Rarely do these stories connect or represent any real conflict. Most of the Cameron Mitchell sections just consists of Cameron being a mysterious, but ineffective psychic as he occasionally sees the killer and how Mr. Parker wants to hunt the killer down. The Mary sections just consist of the build up to her young cousin Jo (rather than Mary), her life style and how it will be ruined once the killer finally attacks her.

The director seemed to have little idea how to make either story connect effectively, thus creating tension and conflict or make us care about any of the characters involved. Granted, some of the characters are well acted: Jennifer Holmes certainly breathes some life into the character, but despite all the screen credit she’s given, she’s given little screen time or dialogue compared to her heart struck cousin. Cameron Mitchell is pretty decent in the movie, too; he pulls the struggling psychic role off pretty well as he telepathically tries to track the killer by getting into his persona. However, it would’ve been better if he was the main character in the story and if he actually confronted the killer at one point. It would’ve felt more like a Halloween rip-off if he did, but at least HIS plot would’ve tied in with the the killer and even Mary’s plot! Plus, it’s kind of funny how he switches from being facetious to serious when he’s first introduced to the bereaved Parkers; maybe that explains why his story arc ends so abruptly and why a secondary character steals the best line in the movie.

The movie is so wildly obsessed with Mary’s cousin Jo and her relationship with Dean that the segments involving them get old fast; we spend several minutes watching these lame-brains getting to know each other through wine drinking, boat rowing and photo shootings. Ordinarily, I’d say these two characters are the build-up and the character development found in any good Horror movie. Unfortunately, these characters aren’t interesting! Sure, Dean has a back story and he’s acted fairly well, but he’s no different than Robert Taylor from the French in Action TV series (in kidding, they practically have the same back story… and why I remember that series so well I don’t know*)!! By the time the movie focuses on Jennifer Holmes’ character, there’s a very brief sense of fear and dread, but not enough to really care whether she makes it out all right.

The movie is flawed on a technical basis, too. The music consists of a relentless string quartet that goes to unbearably high pitches during the jump scares. There are rare moments where the soundtrack works, mostly in the Cameron Mitchell scenes or when Mary finally confronts the killer in the end. The lighting in the movie is quite horrible as the only real good lighting is natural light; some shots in the film were far too dark to notice any details. I kept adjusting the screen to the brightest notch on the gamut during nighttime and day-for-night scenes and I still had to squint in order to see anything. You may notice there’s very little shots of intensity or murder in the shots I picked. Don’t get me wrong, I managed to see a few shots that looked decent like close-ups of the killers claw-gloves, but because the lighting is so murky in the indoor scenes I couldn’t get a good enough shot without editing it. There are some continuity errors here and there, but nothing out-right hilarious, just confusing. There are moments where the killer is supposed to be wearing a plaster Last House on Dead End Street Mask but it’ll change to white face paint. There’s one scene near the end where Dean and Jo are in bed to which Jo says Dean has to leave, but the next scene shows them frolicking in the pool. Like I said, the continuity isn’t good, but it’s not hilariously bad, either.

Probably the biggest goof in the whole movie is when someone who has all ready been in contact with the police finds the killer and several other people know about this. So when the person gets inevitably killed by the killer… why doesn’t anyone take the initiative to get the police involved?? Seriously, the character finds the killer’s location, the killer offs him, dumps his body right where he’s staying and it’s found the next morning… What the Hell, are the police in South Africa really that dense?! After that character’s body is found, the killer stays there, too! The people who knew about the character’s going there could have easily sent more police there!! Why’d it take so long for someone in the movie to find Emily’s body? Was it just an excuse for the director to use that classic skeleton wearing a wig effect?

I will be a little fair to this movie, though: it’s not THE worst ‘80’s Slasher I’ve seen; it is ONE OF the worst ‘80’s Slasher movies out there, but it’s slightly better than The Prey. Unlike The Prey, The Demon has a few moments of intensity, mainly when Mr. Parker hunts the killer down and when Mary defends herself from the killer. In fact, the last five minutes of this movie are the most intense as Mary and the killer play a game of cat and mouse and the final scene itself is surprisingly inventive. The Demon also has its share of T&A which, again, makes it better than The Prey; Compared to another ‘80’s Slasher directed by and starring people involved in the Adult Film industry about horny young adults in the woods that featured no nudity whatsoever, The Demon certainly has the upper hand.

The Conclusion
I won’t kid you, though, The Demon is not an obscure movie tracking down, not even for Cameron Mitchell fans. I honestly can’t re-watch this movie without taking a break halfway through. I’m sure it had potential somewhere and somehow, but it certainly didn’t go very far and in short deserves to stay there.

Stinger: “Did your Extra Sensory Perception prepare you for THIS?”

*: Oh, wait, I know why I remember French in Action so well: Valérie Allain! Yuum!

The Prey – Review by Prof. Aglaophotis

Posted by Josh Samford On August - 4 - 2010
Sorry the brief lack of updates everybody! I had the content ready last week, but I found myself rather busy! Better late than never I suppose! So here comes a great contributed review from our good friend Prof. Aglaophotis. He dissects this piece of eighties trash as only the professor really could! Check it out!

The Plot: Something isn’t right at the North Point, Keen Wild, Colorado; someone… or something is going around killing campers in grisly ways. However, the bodies of the victims are never found, so they’re reported as disappearances. That is until a group of van driving teenage campers ride in to spend some fun times in the wilderness. It is here that the killer/creature/humanoid starts to take their lives. The forest rangers finally take notice of the missing campers and act upon the disappearances. But as the campers move on without their friends and they finally do come across our killer, they will eventually discover the killer’s motivation and a bizarre demise may await those who learn of its secret…






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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.