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Wizard of Gore (2007)

Posted by On February - 3 - 2009


The Plot: Edmund Bigelow writes for his own magazine, a little ‘zine that focuses on the strange and the unusual. Ed travels through various seedy parts of town trying to find new forms of amusement to entertain his audience with. He finds just the perfect oddity in Montag the Magnificent. Montag has a show nightly in a seedy warehouse where only those privileged enough to have run into his personal geek (as in a man who bites the head off of chickens/rats) and been given a business card. The show is your average magician’s routine, until Montag brings a girl from the audience up on stage. In one instance he lays her behind a curtain of smoke and mirrors, then begins to saw her apart and pull out her intestines. Ed is struck in the audience and begins to leave along with everyone else – however, the lights come on and there the girl is back on stage as if nothing had ever happened. Ed is blown away, as is the audience and everyone leaves with the impression that Montag is simply one of the best illusionists they have ever seen. However, after repeat viewings of the show Ed’s bones are creaking and the girls in the show are all showing up dead in the exact same fashion that they were killed on stage. What is Montag’s secret and how dangerous will this become?


The Review After watching this remake of the original H.G. Lewis cult favorite, I decided to refresh my memory and read my previous review for the original film – which was written probably four years ago. It’s funny how memories change opinions, because I was sure that Wizard of Gore was one of the few Lewis flicks I generally liked – however, my words written when the film was fresh in mind helped remind me what was real and what was imagined (ooh! how apt of a description!). Wizard of Gore kind of epitomized Lewis’ filmic output. A revolving door plot that revisits sets, situations and characters over and over again simply to set up gory sequences of bloody horror – with some less than accomplished acting along the way. However, the films are usually goofy fun and a nice throwback to a previous era and good to check out just for nostalgic reasons, just my opinion mind you. However, the prospect of remaking the man’s films still hurts a little – even if I’m not the biggest Lewis fan. So, normally I would have been pretty apprehensive in approaching a Wizard of Gore remake, however one thing swayed my mind. Two words, four syllables: Crispin Glover. After seeing Crispin Glover in the lead as Montag, well, how could you NOT be interested in such a film?

Who knows exactly what is wrong with Crispin Glover, whether it’s all a comedic act (for further information, youtube search his music) and we’re all just pawns in his game, whether it’s the after effects of a lot of Hollywood partying and drug use or if he really is just that much of a free spirit that he’s above and beyond all logic. Still, the fact is the man signed on to a remake of an H.G. Lewis film and is cavorting alongside a few completely nude Suicide Girls. I was simply intrigued in what could have brought about this man’s interest (despite his being involved in some less than artistic cinematic works as of late ie: Epic Movie), and after seeing the film I’m still not sure what caught his eye. Not to say that this remake isn’t worth his effort or that Crispin isn’t absolutely great in the film – but it hardly seemed strange enough for me to imagine Glover getting completely behind it and yet here he is alongside Brad Dourif (who is probably the most intense actor Hollywood has forgotten) and a completely unrecognizable Jeffrey Combs. Being such a small film, you know it wasn’t simply a big pay day and yet here the film is with what can only be considered a group of cult-icon allstars. Three off-beat cinematic greats collaborating on a very small but very intriguing cult film; sounds good to me!

The rule of thumb for a cult film such as The Wizard of Gore would be that a remake is simply sacrilegious. However, and this is my opinion only, the original was a film that could have really used some work. A gory and disgusting splatter film that simply didn’t have the plot to sustain itself. Jeremy Kasten’s take on the film however retains some of the gore but focuses on a more hallucinogenic story driven horror story. It is a give and take scenario that unfortunately leaves behind the true legacy of H.G. Lewis – a filmmaker who may not have had the strongest approach to storytelling in film, but delivered bloody horror in ways that no one else dared to attempt. This re-telling is a much more cohesive take on the source material, that spices up a lot of the monotony that the original film had. Kip Pardue delivers a very creative performance in the lead role and is a bit of a question mark the entire length of the film. As previously mentioned, the biggest downfall I felt the original film had was its tendency to fall apart into continuous monotony as it would repeat itself over and over again. Kasten’s take on the film simply grows more and more alluring and sordid as we fall deeper into this quagmire of drug induced human wreckage. Fans of Lewis’ work may be disappointed by the film, I can’t deny. The lack of extreme gore in a film with the title “Wizard of Gore” is a let down, but I personally found the story to be much more engaging than the Lewis picture and the mix of retro/modern styles in a collage of beautiful camera work delivered a new and engaging film that surpassed the original. If only in terms of watch-ability.

The Wizard of Gore isn’t going to be a picture that everyone will find themselves getting behind. It does have it’s own personality flaws as a film, and the general quirkiness of the movie will simply fall flat on some I suspect. However, horror fans who are willing to try something new and aren’t afraid of a film that may not show Lewis as much respect as a lot of my fellow horror afficianados would – then I would certainly recommend it to them. I feel awkward rating the film a four out of five, but I can’t deny it, I did enjoy this remake and think that there is an audience for it. Despite the average IMDB rating it currently has. So, if you’re at the videostore and looking for something interesting: pick this one up!



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Wizard Of Gore

Posted by On January - 15 - 2009
Plot Outline: Sherry Carson who runs some kind of public access
opinion show, takes in a viewing of Montag the Magnificent’s show one night with her boyfriend Jack. Montag, unlike many magicians, doesn’t rely on silly things like wooden boxes to saw his female volunteers, he does it out in the open for everyone to see! The woman whom he does this to walks away perfectly fine, but afterwards when she’s in a restaurant, the wounds suddenly appear on her and she dies. Sherry, unbeknownst to her that the woman died the same night, walks away impressed while Jack is convinced it’s all lame. Sherry even goes on to mention Montag on her tv show. She then tries to get an interview with Montag, but he isn’t interested, but does want her to view his next show. Somewhere around this time Jack is starting to piece things together when he sees the girl who was sawed in half dead in the newspaper. The same thing happens when Sherry and Jack take in the second show, Jack notifies the police, but only after Montag finally concedes to come on Sherry’s show but only to perform. Now, Sherry has no idea what to expect of Montag’s performance, or even Montag himself.


  

The Review: H.G. Lewis, a man loved by many and hated by many more. I’m not a Lewis fanboy or anything like that, but I have to admit from watching a few of his films, I definitely get a kick out of them. I’ve seen The Gore Gore Girls, Blood Feast and now this. So far, this has been the most disappointing. For those of you who haven’t experienced the works of Herschell Gordon Lewis and haven’t read up on him, this is basically what he is to me: Ed Wood with gore. That’s basically the man’s output in a nutshell. I believe (although don’t take me for my word) I read a review or an article about Lewis once where he was said to take his films very serious and doesn’t like being compared to Wood, but if the shoe fits… Sure, Lewis’ films are a bit more professional as far as production goes, but when it comes to getting a response from his actors, Wood and Lewis are on even ground. Both feature some of the most over the top acting you could ever see in a ‘serious’ film. Troma tries often to duplicate the formula, but usually adds a tongue in cheek quality that is vastly different from these two pioneers of bad cinema.

It’s hard pinpointing what really screws Wizard of Gore up, but if I were to name the thing that really got in the way of me being able to actually get into the film, it was the incredibly terrible plot. Lewis isn’t known for having Mammet-like scripts, but this was just ridiculous. For one thing, the whole story is fleshed out over 100 minutes and NEVER goes anywhere! In my review for Dead Next Door I mentioned how much I loved just sitting and watching a 80 minute horror film that pulls no punches, well Wizard of Gore is basically the opposite. It tags on twenty extra minutes and the time just crawls by because we just keep going in circles. The writer of the film must have just ran out of ideas after the first ten minutes because we spend the rest of the film going in the same loop. We somehow end up at the magicians show about four or so times, each time with him brutally killing some young woman who doesn’t seem to be able to speak. It gets tiresome after the third time or so. I had no problems sitting through Gore Gore Girls or Blood Feast, but Wizard was actually hard for me to bare. It was still fun though and I guess that’s what matters. Plenty of hilarious lines, and basically anytime the magician opens his mouth it’s completely classic. His lines about reality in the beginning had me howling. It’s just funny to see a guy in a cape yell philosophical garbage, but maybe that’s just me.

The only thing most horror fans are going to care about is the gore, and from what I can gather, this is indeed Lewis’ goriest film. The chainsaw murder and the spike to the head deaths are both equally fake looking but also quite grotesque. The spike to the head bit started out laughable but near the end where he is ripping out the girls eyes I felt slightly grossed out. Not to the verge of vomiting or turning my head, but I’ve got a thing for eye gore that bothers me. These two alone are the sole reason to see the film. They both look pretty cheesy, but this is Lewis, what do you expect? I hate when I see reviewers who talk about how cheesy the FX are in films like this, I always feel like asking ‘why are you watching something like this then?’, so if you’re bothered by obvious dummy heads being decapitated, then this obviously isn’t something you should look up. The rest of the death scenes were fairly average for me, except for the final bit of gore which I won’t spoil here. So, there’s a lot of gore yes, but it’s all tied together by a plot strand no thicker than the hair off the top of my head. They obviously just wanted something to showcase lots of gore, and although that isn’t a bad thing in my book it still could have used some work. Especially in the editing department… especially in the editing department!

Not only is the film slow as molasses, the editor also must have been taking acid with the writer (what is up with that ending?) because he was definitely out of it if he didn’t see all the obvious mistakes and just complete absurdities within. For one, it was about halfway through the film before I realized that during the murders we’re supposed to be seeing things as they’re really happening (as in the magician playing with the girl’s intestines) and from the audiences eyes where there isn’t any real violence going on. At least that’s what I think was happening. To tell the truth I’m not completely sure. I thought it would have been odd that the audience stayed in place as a girl is sawed in half and then has her intestines played with in front of them. Then there are the quick jumps in the editing process that are just plain bizarre. I’ll keep this as spoiler free as possible, but in one scene we see a dead woman lying on the ground with a man’s pants legs in front of the camera but then there’s a strange jump cut to the SAME exact shot but without the pants leg in front of the camera. It was either a complete mistake or the strangest little edit I’ve ever seen. One last little note on the writing. After the second death, don’t you think the cops would have been able to establish the fact that both girls went to the same magician right before dying? That just seems like average detective work, I don’t see why they would need this LOSER to help them out. Ahh, but these are just the obvious complaints about the film. Sure, it’s bad. In fact, it’s terrible, but it’s funny and it’s entertaining. You’ll either love it, hate it or just not care enough to even form an opinion but any which way, you’ve been forewarned.

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Night of the Demons 2

Posted by On January - 11 - 2009


The Plot: Angela and the demons of Hullhouse may have been put on hold temporarily at the end of the original Night of the Demons, but that hasn’t stopped her spirit from haunting the house and devouring anyone who wanders by. In the time just after the events of the original film, Angela’s sister Mouse has been sent off to a very strict catholic school where she, like her sister, doesn’t really fit in. However Mouse isn’t quite as outgoing, and becomes the butt of everyone’s jokes. One joke goes a little too far when one of these supposed “friends” ends up forcing Mouse into their car and taking her to another Halloween party at Hullhouse. Now the evil spirits are about to be riled up once again, and these kids are up for the (last) night of their lives.





The Review: Well, Angela is back once again in the series that just couldn’t stay dead. The brilliantly titled Night of the Demons 2 takes up the mantle where the last film left off, in terms of story and direction as well. Once again, we’re not talking about a horror film that defied the rules here – Night of the Demons 2 simply plays by them, and how much you’re bound to enjoy the film is based generally off how big a horror geek you tend to be. Horror geeks are a more forgiving lot than the average film goer. We deal in convention and were raised on all the cliches of the genre, so when it comes to flicks like Night of the Demons 2 – the only things one can really judge the film on are the few original moments it introduces and whether or not at the end of its running time you are entertained. With Night 2, well, one is left simply feeling ‘meh’.

Much the same as the first film, we’re dealt a variety of cliche characters we’ve all seen in various other slashers and supernatural horrors before a million times including the jocks, the idiotic boyfriend, the leather jacket wrapped bad boy, the mousy girl with dark premonitions about the future, the cheerleader blonde and of course the geek. Everything is cut and dry in the world of Night of the Demons, and this second continuation of the series doesn’t look to stray too far off the beaten path. As you can tell by the plot synopsis, the twenty minute introduction at the catholic school kind of sets the film up to wander down conventionally the same path as the first of the series, but thankfully things do take on a different twist as the kids actually get to leave Hullhouse and instead are locked away at the school with Angela and her cronies unleashed with devastating fury.

The character of Mouse, sister to Angela, is an interesting addition to the series even though I suspect most would find her annoying. She’s a little whiny, a little cute and at the very least more interesting than the majority of characters. Letting the kids actually leave Hullhouse was what really saved the film though. While the film built up and with the kids actually arriving there with much of the same set-up going on, such as the painting of pentagrams on the wall and a satanic ritual set to take place, but when the kids actually escape from the outside wall it at least gave the film some sort of unexpected drama. Not enough to make this sequal better than the first, but enough to actually warrant seeing it in my opinion. One of the better holdovers from the first however is the use of great physical FX, including one of the most amazing breast shots of all time. Well you see, these aren’t just ordinary boobies, we’re talking boobies that through the genius of latex FX work – turn into hands before your very eyes and reach out and grab some hapless victim. That, my friends, is the glory of low budget horror pre-CGI.

The addition of comedy within the series is a bit of a mixed bag here. The first film really played out like your average horror of the time would, with maybe some light humor sprinkled throughout but nothing that distracted from the scenes that were supposed to be “scary”. This sequel however wants to take the series into a more “horror-comedy” direction, but unfortunately due to the way it is all put together the horror-comedy only seems to come into play during the very last half of the film due to Angela, as a physical entity, being introduced so late in the movie. Her character takes on a VERY Freddy Krueger-ish style of reeling off one-liners and ripping out the occasional pun or bit of physical comedy. There’s a lot of Evil Dead style camerawork (also present in the first film, but taken to a different degree here) and even what could only be a reference to those films in a scene showing a nun gathering her armor like Ash in the second Evil Dead when he crafted his chainsaw arm. So, the comedy is both good and bad but I suppose is more welcome than it is a distraction, even if I don’t agree with the use of one-liners before a kill within the horror genre.

As I stated earlier, with flicks like this it all comes down to just how much new content there is and how much of the same old-same old is on display. For my buck, I thought Night of the Demons was a lesser film than the original in most respects. It took the tongue in cheek comedy of the first film and completely ran with it in a very hit or miss direction; but thankfully didn’t ruin the film with inept schtick. The gore and violence were actually a step up I found and think that in the end the best compliment you can give it is that it’s a very imaginitive sequel that opens up the borders that the original film set upon itself by limiting the number of sets. It simply feels more like a horror-comedy-adventure though, and it takes away some of the power that the film had. Ultimately, these films are as formulaic and by the books as you would expect but there’s a certain amount of fun that can be derived from pure genre fans. I don’t think most will see it and have their minds blown, but there’s a good time to be had if you’re up for it. It recieves the same rating as the original, a three out of five. Not a very high rating, but there’s entertainment value here if nothing else.



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My Name Is Bruce

Posted by On December - 11 - 2008
The Plot: After a group of teenagers partying around a cemetery accidentally break the chains that have held Guan Di, an ancient Chinese spirit and protector of Tofu, he is let loose and takes aim at any mortal beings remotely close to his graveyard. The surviving teen, who is also a major Horror movie fan, only knows one person to call: Bruce Campbell. The horror hero of the Evil Dead series, who is in all actuality a very bitter b-movie actor fed up with his particular role in the universe. When the teen shows up at Bruce’s trailer, he’s a little drunk but knows better than to run away with one of his crazed fans – however, he isn’t smart or sober enough to see the kidnapping that is coming his way. When he awakens from the trunk of the teenagers car, he comes to the conclusion that this must all be the birthday present that his manager had talked about just days before. So Campbell decides to roll with the punches, that is until he discovers that *gulp* Guan Di is actually real!




The Review: If you’ve been living under a rock for the past two decades, or if you’re just “too cool” for all of this cult cinema geeky madness – let me explain something to you. Bruce Campbell is the greatest American actor who has every been. Robert DeNiro? Wow, what did he do, get punched alot in Raging Bull? Did he ever lop the head off a rushing deadite or tell a woman plain face “give me some sugar, baby!”? He simply couldn’t. Don’t even get me started on Brando and how he would fair against the Evil Dead. If you haven’t got the point yet, Bruce Campbell’s fans can be a bit rabid. The reason for this is his portrayal of the character Ash in the Evil Dead trilogy, a series that may go down as one of the most important and beloved of the entire horror genre. What was once a cult phenomena with only an army of simple horror geeks at its disposal has turned into a legion of many due mainly to the fact that if a person is introduced to the Evil Dead films – nine times out of ten, they will love it just as much as you do. With films like that it’s hard to imagine how they became “cult” hits in the first place, but Army of Darkness in my opinion is that one piece of cinematic excellence that can build bridges between just about everybody. How could anyone dislike such a film?

My Name Is Bruce is an examination of that love and devotion that BC fans commonly have for their idol. Although written in a world that closely resembles our own, the character of Bruce Campbell is a much different version of who the true Campbell appears to be. Instead of the jovial and entertaining fellow who takes out so much time with his loyal fans and is continually cracking wise with them – he portrays himself here as a slobbering drunk, disillusioned by his own career and eaten alive by his own bitter attitude. This is where the heart of the film lies however, in crafting this ‘character’ version of Bruce Campbell – we are given a character who is in some ways similar to the character of Ash; but a much more down to earth and horrifyingly cowardice take on such a role. Where Ash was simply out for himself and looking after his own well being ahead of everyone else, the character of Bruce Campbell is without mincing words: a coward. A yellow bellied, chicken. His initial reaction to Guan Di is hilarious and all telling about this character, as he runs head-first into the woods trying to escape the monster after finding the villagers weren’t lying. The Campbell character becomes endearing based upon just how cowardly/shallow/self absorbed he is, and how far Bruce is able to take the role. One simply wonders where this character came from, and if he could be based on anything real.

The comedy can be hit or miss at times. There are bits where it seems Bruce is simply taking his schtick to the extreme – but these are always saved by the genuinely hilarious moments that are brilliantly played. I can’t go into it, but I nearly woke those in my house up with laughter during the concluding minutes of the film. Really funny stuff and if you weren’t a fan up until then, chances are it’ll prove to be the saving grace of the picture. Though I know not everyone will be as entertained with My Name is Bruce as I was. Truly, it is the definition of a “fan’s film”. From the Evil Dead references such as Ellen Sandweiss making a return once again as a character named “Cheryl”, Dan Hicks from Evil Dead II making a reference to his own character, Timothy Quill from Army of Darkness doing the same as well as playing Hicks’ life partner and a great bit demonstrating Bruce’s being direct opposite to Ash in terms of firearm knowledge. It doesn’t hurt not being able to spot these things but I won’t lie and say it isn’t a good portion of the fun. After all is said and done, I think My Name is Bruce stands firm by itself without these references – but really becomes something much stronger and entertaining with them.

My Name Is Bruce is definitely an Evil Dead fan’s wet dream, and it shows that Bruce even as he grows older in age still has all the qualities that have endeared him to fans the world over. I can’t promise everyone is going to be able to enjoy it like the geeks will. It is far from a perfect film, the shtick is bound to rub some in the audience wrong and at times it seems like Bruce is simply let loose with no restraint – but what can you expect from everyone’s favorite ham leading and directing himself? If you’re reading this and you’re familiar with Evil Dead 2/Army of Darkness, you’ll know one way or another whether this film intrigues you. Chances are it does, and what can I say, I loved it just as much as any geek could. Check it out.



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Night of the Demons

Posted by On December - 3 - 2008
[imdb]0093624[/imdb] The Plot: On Halloween night, a group of teenagers are about to make the worst decision of their lives. When Angela, the “weird” girl at school throws a Halloween party, some of the kids figure who better to spend the holiday with other than the weirdest goth chick at school? The party is to take place at a mansion, supposedly haunted, just a few minutes drive into the woods. Once there, and after some rigorous partying, Angela has the idea of going through a little incantation – and this my friends, is where bad things start happening. Soon enough a demonic curse is let loose upon this hapless group of teenagers and those who are lucky will die – those who aren’t will be replaced by a demonic being.





The Review: Ahh, the 1980’s. Who could ever forget them? Truthfully, I’m of the opinion that right now we’re pretty much reliving them. Pop music dominates the charts again, bad hairstyles are in vogue and the level of materialism that our society is experiencing is even beyond that of the eighties. Horror is even having a resurgence, so not all bad things are coming about! With all of this said though, there was something special and unique about the eighties. Something that brought us some truly immortal b-movies, such as the classic I present to you today: Night of the Demons. A film that featured the only box at the video store that actually scared me off as a child. The sight of that demon girl on the front cover and her devilish smile, even as a fan of Jason and Freddy at the time my own fear of that supernatural element was still just a bit too much for me to conquer at that young age. So here I am, probably sixteen or so years later – and I have stared down my own fears! Yeah, not too impressive for a twenty-something who has seen pretty much every horror great out there and a large portion of the very worst. Still, I am happy to report that Night of the Demons is about everything you could expect from a eighties possession horror!… which is to say, not a whole lot.

Night of the Demons works as a combination of The Evil Dead, Demons and Night of the Living Dead. It’s the same old scenario, youthful teenagers head out to a remote and spooky place (in this film, a haunted mansion, in others possibly a graveyard or morgue) and before long someone is going through a satanic ritual and demons are harvesting the souls of the living. This is about as standard as a group of teenagers converging on a location all to slowly be picked off one by one by a masked killer. So, yeah, if you’re as late to the game as I was – Night of the Demons isn’t going to blow your socks off with its originality or its fresh look on the genre. Still, we know the set up, we know what to expect – but how does it deliver? Well, not too bad. You come into films like these looking for a few things. Nostalgia is one, although not the greatest reason to look back on films like these. Everything is so very late-eighties to the point that it hurts. There are all the walking cliches one would expect, the tough guy with the New York sounding accent – the heft fellow that no one really likes and generally pushes them around. The leading woman, her boyfriend, his buddy the comic relief. All the favorites are here and it reminds you of that time when no one seemed to mind that they had already seen all of this done a million times. That or audiences were simply too blind to realize it. Now our audiences guffaw over ridiculously self-aware characters who all but know that they’re in a cheesy horror film, so what can you say, the times they change but people don’t.

The performances tend to be pretty standard for the genre, with few standouts. There’s Linnea Quigley, as beautiful as she ever has been and showing off a lot of her fantastic physique. Aside from Quigley, well, the girls are pretty (especially Jill Terashita, yowza!) and the guys are all party dudes looking for a good time. There’s not a lot of room for growth here. Still, the second and possibly most important thing that people come back to these films for; the violence, it’s very well done here. Although not a constant gore fest, there’s a decent amount of violence to be had and the latex demons created for the film are all top notch. Although not as scary as when I was a little kid, the demons really are very well made. I suppose at the end of the day what made the film stand out for me though, would be the conclusion – which although isn’t anything particularly earth shattering – who survives, who doesn’t and who turns their back on the side of good did turn out to be a bit surprising.

Night of the Demons really isn’t a great film, or a classic of the genre that if you miss you’re going to regret – but still, for those of us who saw that video cover featuring a demonic Angela staring at us with sharpened teeth, it’s definitely worth the watch. The film goes through peaks that break free from the monotony of the average, but overall it just is what it is. Another horror from the eighties with some decent blood, great FX and a few breast shots. Definitely a fun time waster but far from an essential.



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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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