Goon Review: The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007)

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks you, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)


Found footage films, when done right, work well. Really well, as a matter of fact. Think of some of the better examples of the genre, like the granddaddy of found footage, Cannibal Holocaust. It’s a hard film to watch (and I mean this in an absolute good way). It’s vividly violent, shocking, perhaps appalling and will make feel uneasy. I think that’s something all good found footage films have in common. Take a look at others, like The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity or Lake Mungo, which is more of a mockumentary and shares a common style with the film we’ll be talking about. All are darkly toned and mood, chilling to watch and lead up to one punch of a moment.

The 2007 mockumentary style The Poughkeepsie Tapes has the honor of joining those films. It everything I described. It’s vivid with its violence, but sparing you on the gore, only showing you just enough to quickly turn your stomach before cutting away to the next scene, especially since the quality of the footage warps and degrades, fizzes and blurs at random. During the found footage scenes, you’re only the passenger to what you will see and I have to admit, it made me kinda uncomfortable, but that means the film is doing its job right. Only living about three and a half hours Northwest from Poughkeepsie, I naturally became interested when a friend brought over a bootleg VHS (please note that I do not condone bootlegging) and described it to me and popped it in. Surely I, especially with my grisly interests, would have heard about this infamous serial killer only a mere few hours from me. But now, it had me doubting my own reality, messing with my head before it even began and that is the sign of a damn good movie.

However, The Poughkeepsie Tapes isn’t a straight out, 100% found footage movie, it’s also a hard boiled, tabloid television inspired movie, like Hard Copy or 20/20. It’s actually pretty genius and it fills in those gaps that other found footage films fail to answer the glaring question that every single one of them is plagued with, “why are you filming?” Well, the person doing the filming is a sociopathic serial killer, so that’s why. That’s all the explanation and driving force you need behind it, no need to do any backstory or write yourself into a corner. We’re just seated along with this lunatic for the ride and off we go. We see what he wants us to see and it’s never pretty. The film will use these moments when the tension is riding high to cut to interview segments with various members of law enforcement, like FBI profilers or police officers and regular joes, like the victim’s families.

It all starts with a short walkthrough of the normal, suburban home the killer rented that reveals the closet where hundreds of tapes were discovered, upon which revealing we learn that several are missing and even the FBI agent in charge of watching them all wonders what is on them (I think this would be a cool sequel… The Missing Tapes!). He also remarks how for years those tapes kept him awake and that even his wife, who accidentally saw a tape, wouldn’t let him touch her for a year. Right away, the impression of this killer still remains years after he’s active. Things only get more gritty and chilling when we are introduced to his victim (at least on tape), a little girl, who was bludgeoned to death off camera and the clever use of audio. This sets the tone that anything within this film is possible. Even you haven’t shut it off yet from shock or disgust, things only get more absurd.

Possibly becoming bored, the FBI learns that the killer who calls himself ‘Ed’ in one of the tapes has been mapping routes to kill people, even going as far as toying with them by using sign language captured at a gas station surveillance camera, telling future authorities of where he will be dumping the bodies. But perhaps the most really upsetting part of the film is the abduction of a young woman named Cheryl, who he watches for an unknown period of time until he finally sneaks inside her house and tapes himself hiding in her closet. This scene is sure to make those of you afraid of the dark to check under your bed as well as in your closet. He eventually kidnaps her, ties up and tortures, even forcing her to kill other victims for him until she eventually gets Stockholm Syndrome. This is when we see the really theatrical side of Ed, using 1600’s Italian plague doctor mask and shouting at her that he’s her master and she’s his slave and will do his bidding. I know I’m not doing it great justice by describing it, but these scenes are incredibly hard to watch (again, in a very good way) and are shown in explicit detail to the point where you can see how someone would be driven so mad because of a tormentor. We even can see how Ed used the justice system against those who enforce it and a police officer is executed in his place. The film doesn’t go into great details about the court case or anything (probably a good idea avoiding over explaining anything), but you can see how a truly clever psychopath and gain the system.

I could go on and on with prime examples of scenes from this movie, but I would only be spoiling your enjoyment and I’ve already said far too much. This film is most effective with the less said about it. It’s full of surprises and I didn’t want to spoil a single one of them. Within The Poughkeepsie Tapes, you really get to know Ed and I can’t say that it’s a pleasure. He reminded me of both Henry and Otis from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, using multiple MO’s just as Henry would, but being outlandish and insane like Otis. Hell, this is the type of footage that Henry and Otis would have been watching. The fact that we never know what was driving him reminded me of Michael Myers or Leatherface and that’s the thing that made those guys scary; they just did these things because. It’s those kind of things that make you believe evil is real.

In this day and age where anything is possible, it’s mind blowing that this movie hasn’t seen a wide release until now thanks to Scream Factory, especially consider one of the producers was Patrick Lussier, who directed My Bloody Valentine and Drive Angry. Well, considering those films didn’t do so well, maybe that explains why it was never picked up for wide release. I touched on this was popular in the bootleg circuit, but still managed to stay out of the mainstream’s attention. It did do a few rounds at film circuits when it was released and I’ve heard it ran a very, very limited in theaters, although a few years ago in 2014 it was given a VOD release. But hey, it’s here now for mass consumption and viewing and I cannot stress it enough that you need to watch this movie immediately.


The Poughkeepsie Tapes is a rough and raw flick, capable of fooling some filmgoers. It’s hard to sit through and like Henry, it’s nothing something you could watch repeatedly, because it leaves you with a true taste of dark horror in your mouth. Director John Erick Dowdle made one of the greatest found footage movies ever, being genuinely creepy and unnerving and is sure to give you nightmares. I’m sure his next films will be even better! Wait… Quarantine? Uh, no, I’ll stick with Rec, thank you very much. Devil? Oh, God, no! As Above, So Below? More like, As Above, So Blows or As Above, So Below Average, amirite? Okay, so he hasn’t been able to follow it up with anything good. Well, he’s writing and directing the TV mini-series Waco and that looks pretty promising.

Goon Review: Jackals (2017)

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Sincere thanks and hugs, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)


I’ve always been a big fan of the ‘70s and ‘80s Satanic cult movies and home invasion flicks, so when Scream Factory (a company that I adore) began advertising their movie
Jackals, I was more than enthusiastic for it. Even though I’m not a fan of Saw VI or Saw 3D: The Final Chapter, I think director Kevin Greutert could bring elements of fright and gore to Jackals, especially considering he edited The Strangers. It seems like this would have been a homerun (if we are going to use sportsball analogies here), but unfortunately his filmmaking abilities were possibly hindered by working closely with studios and playing it safe that he didn’t know how to make a horror film that fans wanted or even what he wanted. Jackals is pretty cookie cutter as far as plot goes and the scares are predictably put in place by it and coming from the man who made two Saw movies, I expected more gore. I guess you could say my expectations were too high, but I would say that the film itself didn’t meet its expectations.

 

Jackals doesn’t exactly set the most promising tone with opening the film by literally mirroring the opening to John Carpenter’s Halloween. You’ve seen it, because it’s iconic and memorable. The camera acts as some malicious person’s POV moving through the house, putting on a mask of some kind and killing someone or in this case a few people. Now, I’m sure that in the eyes of the filmmakers’, this was paying homage to one of the most memorable horror movie scenes, but Jackals never revisits these characters. We never learn who they are, what their connection was, nothing. It could be removed entirely from the film and it wouldn’t have made a lick of difference in the story. This is like when horror films constantly tried to mimic the ending to Carrie, because, “hey, it worked with that movie, so it’ll work in ours!” without realizing there needs to be context behind it all. It feels so disingenuous. The film also takes place in the early ‘80s, not because it needs to, but I think the filmmakers wanted to give the film an “oldschool” vibe or possibly even remove any type of technology, like cellphones. Being a cult movie, I think it would have worked better set a decade earlier, but maybe that wasn’t in the budget.

What follows, however, is actually rather unique as the driver of a pretty sweet muscle car, a young man named Justin, is beaten and abducted by two hooded figures in a van who take him to a remote cabin in the woods, who can’t help but wonder why in the hell didn’t the movie open with this? Immediately, I was intrigued and inquisiting what it could all be about, especially when we soon learn what it was all about. Turns out, these hooded kidnappers ain’t the bad guys. One is the father of the kid he just kicked the shit out of and the other is an ex-marine turned professional cult deprogrammer named Jimmy played by Stephen Dorff. Jimmy is by far the most interesting character in the film and has also made me consider my career choices. Think of him as like an exorcist but for people that have been brainwashed by a cult. The fact that he’s a marine never really plays into the story though, other to give him a gun for a moment and to give you the idea that he’s a badass, which he is. Stephen Dorff puts in a solid performance as he interrogates Justin using different methods from the tough love sell to using Justin’s family in an intervention.

Let’s talk about the family for a moment. You later learn that the parents are divorced, which you get the feeling they were seeing as the family is estranged. Nobody seems to get along, but they don’t quite hate each other. Everyone wants to blame the other person for what happened to Justin, but in reality nobody is to blame. The family dynamic is quite good and nearly everyone is given a chance to shine. The father, Andrew (Johnathan Schaech), blames himself and yet wants to make amends and when things get rough, he steps up without question and takes control. His brother Campbell (Nick Roux) seems like a selfish dickweed at first, but also steps up when he has, even though at times he seems brash and thickheaded, he just wants his brother back. However, Justin’s mother Kathy (Deborah Kara Unger from Silent Hill) is the stereotype alcoholic-mother-because-my-family-is-falling-apart and there’s nothing else to her. Deborah Kara Unger is completely wasted (I mean that in both ways) in her role and isn’t given much to do other than just be there. Justin’s girlfriend Samantha (Chelsea Ricketts) isn’t given much to do either other than try to be sympathetic to the audience because she had his baby. It isn’t until the end when she tries to separate herself from the cast, but even then it’s pretty predictable. Maybe somebody didn’t know how to write actual female characters, methinks.

This interesting family dynamic is brought to a halt and anything vaguely interesting is tossed out the window when Justin’s new “family” comes back to reclaim him. The usual stuff happens, like the power goes out and suddenly they are surrounded by a number of masked goons in the dark and this is when the movie decides to do exactly what other home invasion horror films before it have done. Stay tride and true to that formula! You wouldn’t want to do your own thing and make something that would stick out, now would you? Jimmy grabs his gun and runs outside chasing a masked figure only to be caught and never seem from again and this the point when I tell people exactly where Jackals went off the rails; the moment Stephen Dorff exits the movie. Of course the most useful character has to do something completely idiotic, otherwise he would have saved the day, although I do give some credit to the writing when Jimmy claims he underestimated them, making me think he let his macho male bravado get the best of him.

Rather than give this cult some personality, maybe some kind of background or even what the hell they worship, they are deduced down to the stock horror cliche of the masked mute villains that spend the majority of the time standing still, staring forward at a tired attempt of being scary. Sure, the cinematography is pretty, what with the cult members constantly being backlit by moonlight and surrounded by fog near the woods, but it’s not enough to sell them as menacing, especially since they get their asses kicked. A lot. There’s nothing to them. No substance, no real motivation outside of wanting a member back. The movie really could have benefited from a little bit of dialogue from them, perhaps with what they are a cult of or even some mindless, lunatic-esque mad rantings, but nothing. They are literally faceless, voiceless killers without motivation which can work in a Halloween type of movie, but the fact that they are a cult and out to reclaim one of their own, you almost need to have something behind these maniacs to make them appear as this all imposing force that are to be feared. For all we know it could be a My Little Pony cult. I’m sure those exist and are probably far more scary.

Andrew takes charge of his family for possibly the last time and they all begin to craft makeshift weapons (there’s that Saw influence) and defend their home. Knowing that they couldn’t make this the entire movie, there is some more turmoil within the family about whether or not they should give Justin back to the cult in exchange for their safety. I gotta say, that’s pretty realistic if you put yourself in that situation. Wouldn’t you consider, even if briefly, handing a loved one back over to a crazy cult if that meant they wouldn’t kill you?


Within Jackals, there was something special, but unfortunately it was never given a chance to shine. Rather than do its own thing, it decided to ape Halloween, The Purge and The Strangers, probably thinking that it would be an interesting mix. Director Kevin Greutert seemed to be too comfortable with what he knew instead of leaving his comfort zone, even briefly. I’m sure the intention from the filmmakers was to pay homage, but when you’re being derivative rather than paying respects, you kinda dropped the ball. Unfortunately, this wasn’t case, so what you get is a pretty predictable paint by numbers horror film. What are we coming to when even indie films are beginning to play it safe? There is enough potential here for a sequel, perhaps delving into the persona of the cult that was not even touched on in this movie. However, the parts of the movie that work actually work really well and draw you in as a viewer, but once the invasion happens it spoils any chance of developing those interesting ideas it started with.

Goon Review: Missing in Action (1984)

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, ya Goon-ie!! 😉 xoxo)

Chuck Norris, perhaps the genesis of what we now know as the meme, was the epitome of “man” in the rah-rah-America, chest thumping, gun shooting, shit ‘sploding, kick-a-man bad ass. He was the kind of man that if you shot him, he would clench up his butt cheeks and fart that bullet right out. Cannon Films recognized this popularity and exclusively signed Chuck to a multi-picture deal, thus bringing us some of the action movie staples that we grew up on in the ‘80s, war movies to be specific. The early ‘80s was a prime time to make Vietnam movies, seeing as how the war was still fresh in our minds, you could shoot them cheap and audiences would flock to them.

If there is one thing Golan and Globus knew how to do better than anyone, it was how to market their film to anyone. The men get plenty of explosions and the women get a number of scenes of Chuck Norris removing his shirt to reveal his ripped, hairy chest for no reason and wearing jeans so tight that any hipster would be envious. There was also a little something for the ladies; to see the sweat glisten off his chest on the hot Vietnam moonlit night, right before he roundhouse kicked a man out a window was worth the price of admission alone. These films from Cannon tended to be (as I heard them best called) B-movies on A-budgets.

Before we get started, Missing in Action and Missing in Action 2 were filmed back to back and Missing in Action is actually the second film in the franchise, believe it or not. However, Cannon felt that Missing in Action 2 was the stronger of the two movies and was released to theaters before the first film, so Missing in Action became a prequel, Missing in Action 2: The Beginning and Missing in Action 2 became Missing in Action. I probably over complicated that explanation, but this is the earliest example of something like this happening that I can think of. Oddly enough, the film very much mirrors the plot of Rambo: First Blood Part II, but Missing in Action was released one year prior. Is this where the idea for the plot of Rambo came from or is it just a coincidence?

Perhaps one of if not his most memorable role, Chuck Norris is Col. James Braddock; a Vietnam veteran who is being disgraced on national television because of his conspiracy theories about Vietnamese POW camps that still contain American prisoners. Braddock stares out of his window deep in thought, chugging an ice cold Bud while totally shirtless, watching the news as they argue whether or not there are American POWs still in Vietnam. Occasionally, he flips the channels to catch Spider-Man cartoons and I seriously thought the film was suddenly becoming a bad bootleg of it, because the shot just meanders for minutes on an episode. There may not seem like there was a purpose for this, but at the time Cannon Films was trying to get their Spider-Man flick off the ground that director Joseph Zito was attached to direct at one point and seeing as how he directed Missing in Action, it seemed like a fun connection.

Braddock comes out of hiding and heads to Vietnam to get some face time with the press and although the Vietnamese government has “witnesses” that claim there are no POWs, he knows otherwise. With the aid of a female reporter whose name escapes me because she matters so little, he uses her as a cover (under the covers) to sneak about a general’s compound to squeeze out some information from General Tran, who you might recognize as Cassandra’s father from Wayne’s World 2. After scaring the shit out of the guy, General Tran coughs up some info on the whereabouts of the prisoners, Chuck escapes a bunch of guards and says goodbye to his female reporter friend and so do we, because she’s not seen or heard from again. I’m certain her only purpose as basically the only female in the movie with a speaking role was to provide some really good side-boob. There are other women in the film, but they are pretty much just topless set pieces. Like I said, Golan and Globus knew how to exploit anything.

His journey continues further into Vietnam, thwarting scumbags that are out to stop him, usually by roundhouse kicking them into or out of things, like windows, walls, you name it. Braddock teams up with an old army buddy, Jack Tucker (M. Emmet Walsh) to help him get what he needs… firepower. And poon, if he wanted, but Braddock ain’t got no time for the pussy. Tuck, on the other hand, practically buries himself in it. Can’t say I blame the man, seeing as he’s afraid to go back into the warzone, but if I him I would be far more concerned with amount of STDs he’s probably contracted. You could wring out his underwear into a beaker and create a new virus.

The two buddies head down river in a sweet, kevlar coated pontoon boat mounted with an M-60 machine gun to continue their search. Needless to say, it’s not going to be easy, especially when there are too many bad guys for Chuck to karate chop or roundhouse kick. Good thing he brought and arsenal with him. After all, you want to see shit get blown up real good, don’t you. The film is odd when it comes to this. The action is either kind of lacking a punch, for lack of a pun, or it is way over the top. For example, when Braddock props a grenade on his jeep, so when the enemy jeep rams it, it explodes. It looks like someone threw a handful of dirt at the thing as people jumped away in all directions. But then you have moments where a camp explodes and Joseph Zito captures it from like four different angles and you watch it from every single one as this things erupts into a giant fireball. Most of the gunfire is reduced to Chuck just spraying a machine gun in all directions as guys fall over, so nothing to comment on that, other than it’s usually to get the body count up. It’s as if they sunk all of their money into a few action scenes and forgot that there were more. Chuck can’t karate kick his way out of all of them!

Saying that Missing in Action is a product of its era is an understatement. It very much spoke to an early ‘80s, post Vietnam when there was a strong sense of American pride, bitter from losing a controversial war. Much like Rambo: First Blood Part II, audiences were given a disgraced war hero given a chance at redemption, so he plunges into the depths of his formal Hell to rescue some POWs. Needless to say, Rambo is much better looking and better made film, but it also had about $42 million dollars more to spend. Given for what it is, Missing in Action is a pretty decent action flick that gives you exactly what you want; a brooding hero with a vendetta and a mission and nothing is going to stop him. The film isn’t necessarily non-stop action, taking breathers occasionally to develop plot, but when it does that the scene usually ends with a group of bad guys bursting into the room to either get drop kicked or blown away. Both are done well and you totally buy Chuck as war hero Braddock, but the film isn’t the best display of what a leading man Chuck Norris can be, as he doesn’t have a massive amount of dialogue and his fight scenes are usually over quick and he’s often paired with people that know how to fight back or take a licking.

Not taking anything away from the film, because it’s an absolute blast and with or without nostalgia, it’s a prime example of ‘80s action exploitation films, but I don’t believe it holds up as well as most of us remember. Sure, Chuck Norris is bad ass as Braddock, there’s plenty of shootouts and explosions, American pride for sale and what not, but it feels a bit like Rambo-lite. Again, not taking anything away from the film and certainly not the performances, because these characters are fun as hell, but it’s not as grand as I recall. That’s a side effect with most Cannon movies, seeing as they were made cheap and on the fly. Of course being younger when we first viewed these, they are going to seem much larger than life, but thirty years later, you can definitely see the weaknesses of them. However, that doesn’t affect the long lasting staying power of these movies and that’s what Cannon (unintentionally?) did; made fun as hell flicks that get some mileage and Missing in Action is a ton of fun.

Goon Review: The Resurrected (1991)

(Submitted by his Goon-y Greatness, Mr. Andrew Peters…Thank you, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)

The works of H.P. Lovecraft have been adapted (or at the very least, influenced) many, many times over the years across numerous mediums, most notably video games and movies. I’m sure the Stuart Gordon/Brian Yuzna Re-Animator films or From Beyond come to mind and arguably the most stylish and better adaptations, even if they aren’t fairly accurate. They are modern re-tellings of the source material, but there was a time in the early ‘90s when it felt like there were a handful of H.P. Lovecraft films that came out direct video and kinda fell into the void of forgotten films.

It’s not the fault of the films by any stretch of the imagination, but I believe the blame can be (at least mostly) blamed at the feet of the distributors who seemed to get cold feet when it comes to releasing these films. They don’t seem to want to put the money into making these films, yet except big returns and they can’t quite seem to decide if they want it to be PG-13 or R. Although an example like Necronomicon: Book of the Dead is pretty hard R, The Resurrected comes to mind when I think of a missed opportunity and can’t quite seem to decide what it wants to be. On one end, you have the late and talented Dan O’Bannon directing, but you can’t help to feel he was held back. They hire the guy who wrote a draft of Alien and has other phenomenal writing credits, such as Return of the Living Dead, and essentially shackle him down from doing what he wants. The gore is – or was at the time this film was released – not necessarily tame, but definitely dialed down, the same could be said about the language. The Resurrected has a bit of a case of mistaken identity that it’s too tame for something that would be a theatrical release, but perhaps too much for a TV movie, so it should be no surprise that this was a direct to video release.

Still, for being strapped down to an operating table, The Resurrected still manages to be fun and has that early DTV charm that works in its favor. The thing is shot like a made for TV movie, but has higher ambitions even if the budget won’t allow it. This also plays into the cast and their performances, most notably Chris Sarandon who chew so much goddamn scenery that I’m surprised he didn’t turn into a rat and eat all of the dry wall. His performance as the antagonist is cheeky fun and the same could be said for Jane Sibbett who seems to be putting a PS1 era Resident Evil performance (and I mean that in a good way), but unfortunately not for the lead John Terry, who took me til the end of the film for me to recognize that he was Lt. Lockhart in Full Metal Jacket. Now, I think the man is a terrific actor, I just feel like he was wrong for the part. He’s not quite sleepwalking through his role, but feels subdued and that could be because of the confused narrative of the film. And that ‘90s mullet he’s rocking. Get out of here with that nonsense.

The Resurrected sees John Terry as John March, a private detective that’s been hired by Claire Ward (Jane Sibbett) to investigate her husband, Charles (Chris Sarandon), who has been conducting experiments out of his home and eventually out to an old farmhouse where you can assume only the kookiest of mad scientist shenanigans happen. Charles has been becoming increasingly obsessed with his ancestor Joseph Curwen and eventually Charles quits coming home altogether. This is where John March comes in, who upon his investigation, find that Joseph Curwen had been trying to raise the dead and wouldn’t you know it, Charles is acting rather change. Like, he’s talking like he’s from a previous century and his teeth look like burnt pieces of corn. Yes, what is happening is that obvious, so this mystery isn’t so much of a mystery as it is a race to what you already know and for a movie that clocks in at about an hour and forty-five minutes, it can seem at times like it’s going to take a while.

Upon discovering this, John March just kind of accepts it. He seems rather indifferent, but I think that’s the laid back acting style of John Terry seeping through. His crack assistant Lonnie, who I think is supposed to offer the comic relief, but it often falls flat, and even Claire don’t believe him. That is, until they discover a hatch in the old farmhouse that leads to Joseph Curwen’s secret catacombs, sorta like his own personal Batcave. There’s all kinds of weird beakers and tubes with science-y liquids and human remains… some of which seem to be up and walking around. Suddenly, the film breaks into a really weak zombie flick seeing as how there’s only a handful of creatures. Normally, I wouldn’t mind a slow burn, but the majority of this movie is them beating around the bush and trying to solve something you figured out in the first fifteen minutes. This leads John March to confront Joseph Curwen, where you get to see him tear off an orderly’s head with ease as it shoots out blood and that’s not a bad thing.

Right away, the big problem I had with the film was the old fashioned noir setting and storytelling in this contemporary film. When done right it can work (think of something like Sin City), but maybe it’s the writing or as I mentioned the way this movie is shot, it doesn’t work. John March narrates the events occasionally and the film is told in a flashback form that doesn’t mesh a ‘40s mystery style with a low budget ‘90s gore flick. Throw in some over the top performances and it feels more like a spoof that it does an homage. I was genuinely surprised to learn that this was originally slated for a theatrical release, but the releasing company’s bankruptcy halted that and The Resurrected was then sent DTV, which I feel is a better fit and most likely found more of an audience.

Another negative the film has going against was the number of cliches and The Resurrected is a repeat offender. It tries the same cliches again and again, like it truly believes at some point they just might work. Apparently, the film was taken away from director Dan O’Bannon during editing and he completely disowned this movie and honestly speaking, you can kinda tell. It doesn’t quite live up to the type of quality that’s usually associated with his name. As someone who puts his work out there for others to see, I can respect where he’s coming from, but I don’t think the movie was that bad. Sure, it had it’s share of problems and never lived up to its full potential, but I think it has a charm and is kind of fun.

Speaking of fun, there are a few clever creature designs that do look pretty decent… at first, but the more the camera lingers on them, the more it starts to look like a rubber puppet. Most of the gore happens off screen and you just take a look at the aftermath, as if they had the budget to show it, but not show it happening or perhaps they thought it built mood and suspense (spoiler, it doesn’t). There is the aforementioned head ripping scene that I thought was pretty cool and impressive for the budget, but outside of that the film doesn’t offer much to look at. Even the cinematography is pretty dull and is shot like a TV movie and I even assumed it was at times, but occasionally swearing proved otherwise. It’s not a prime example of either a well adapted H.P. Lovecraft story or the excellent work of Dan O’Bannon, but that doesn’t stop it from trying and that shows, making this film pretty decent and giving it a sense that care was put into making this. I would say check it out for some low budget, ‘90s DTV fun.

Goon Review – Resident Evil: Revelations

(Submitted by his Goon-y Greatness, Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)

Resident Evil jumped the shark long, long ago past the point that the story lines are convoluted and downright stupid and the characters act like they were born without brain stems, making the most idiotic decisions anything person could ever make all for the sake of moving the story along. Resident Evil: Revelations is the epitome of that.

I think this game is supposed to take place before Resident Evil 5, seeing as Chris and Jill are partners, but I’ll try to sum up the plot of Revelations; So, the game begins with Jill and her new partner, Parker, looking for Chris and his new partner, Jessica, but it turns out Chris and Jessica are looking for Jill and Parker, but neither party knows exactly where the other one is and is always one step behind… and these are the people that are committed to stopping bio-terrorism across the world.

Well, if this is the best and brightest, we’re fucked.

Of course, that crew looks like a bunch of Einstein’s when you compare them to BSAA’s bumbling pair of jackoffs, Keith and Jackass. For real. That guy’s name is Jackass. These two are basically the C-Squad when you know a mission is gonna fail, but you’re obligated to try anyway, you send them. They are so insipid and Jackass’ voice is like nails on a chalkboard. He’s always fumbling, tripping over something and dropping an important item or forgetting it. You have to wonder if it was like Police Academy when they were hired. Were the crime rates too high and the recruitments too low? I know, I’ve been arguing semantics for the last few paragraphs, but I want to impose the question; who is this game (or these multiple games) targeted at? The gore insists that it’s for adults, but the language is toned down and these characters are written to act so it’s slapstick type humor for a younger audience and the plot requires no thinking and a child could figure it out. Even the villains monologue about their evil plans.

This isn’t even going into all the backstabbing and obvious double crosses that you can expect from Resident Evil. Revelations takes place on a cruise ship, which at first admittedly sounds amazing. Zombies and other gross monsters aboard a luxury cruise ship, complete with a casino and swimming pool? Yes, please! This is going to be awesome! But slowly it dawns on you that none of this is actually really all that great. This setting is never used to its full potential. Also as the game progresses, you’ll most likely grow tired of the surrounding seeing as you’ll be backtracking through every section several times.

I enjoyed this game for the first hour, but then I began to notice the repetition and all of the unfavorable survival horror tropes (that began with the later entries in Resident Evil oddly enough), such as the overpowered boss battles, given you mass amounts of resources only to throw you in narrow hallways with far too many enemies (of which there is a very little variety of) just to dwindle down the resources you were just given, running around in circles with no clear direction and facing constant timers instead of allowing the player to explore the environment and become frightened to be in it. In a few words, I dislike Resident Evil: Revelations.

It’s a game that doesn’t fully understand the potential it had. You have a survival horror game that takes place on a cruise ship that offers up plenty of opportunities for scares and the use of claustrophobia, but instead it has you running back and forth doing predictable tasks. Like if you see an elevator, you know it’s not going to work. You’re gonna have to travel back to the other end, do a small, unchallenging puzzle and then travel back only to have something block you along the way. I can’t tell you how many times I saw the setup and groaned loudly. It becomes so tiresome and makes the game feel like a chore when you know what’s coming and you have no desire to play. It’s like taking the garbage bag out from the can and leaving it in the kitchen then going to work. I know I’m gonna have to take that out when I come home, I just don’t want to. The game often pits you against a timer or makes matters seem urgent, forcing you to rush through the areas instead of exploring them and figuring things out for yourself, regardless of the lack of puzzles that have been replaced with fetch quests. Some portions of the game take place under water, too. Yes, the cruise ship is sinking at some point and you’ll be deduced to rushing through areas faster as you don’t want to run out of breath, so once you get certain keys, you better be damn sure to backtrack to all those locked doors and get the goodies inside, because once this thing floods, there’s no going back.

But the two biggest offenders has to be the controls and, as always a problem in Capcom games, the piss poor AI. In the game, you work alongside a partner, but unlike Resident Evil: Revelations 2, you can’t switch and play as your partner to help you advance through a level or even for fun. Enemies will be surrounding you, bosses will be dominating you and your partner may… MAY… pop off a couple shots to help. They mostly stand around and do absolutely nothing. It boggles my mind that even back in 2012 that a game company so revered as Capcom would release a game with terrible AI. Then again, they did make Dead Rising which came out a few years prior and that has some of the worst AI I have ever experienced. The lesser of the two evils is the controls. The game is playable as in you can control it, but something about them doesn’t feel right. They feel a little… clunky, I guess is the word. I would often get hung up on objects, corners and especially on the edge of levels when underwater. Maybe it controlled better on the DS, but I can’t say the same for the PS4.

The one real positive thing I will say about it is that the Raid mode is a lot of fun. Just like with Revelations 2, the Raid mode stands out far better than the actual story mode. You can play Raid mode right from the start, but unfortunately you have to play the story mode to unlock more skins, levels and weapons. However, Resident Evil: Revelations 2 has been out for sometime on current-gen consoles and has a far superior Raid mode that is more refined (especially with the weapon upgrade system… and the game is far more fun), so that even doesn’t make the $20 price tag worth it. In fact, the stories aren’t at all related, so you could easily skip this game and pick up the sequel.

 

Goon Review: The Walking Dead – A New Frontier Episode 5 – From the Gallows

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)

Well, it’s been a long journey, but it’s finally come to end. The Walking Dead: A New Frontier wraps up in its final episode, From The Gallows, and along the way we’ve gotten to know the new protagonist, Javi, quite well. We’ve watched his relationships take shape with all the characters and if you’re like me, I chose for Javi to be caring and thoughtful towards others, especially those in his group. He’s been guiding Gabe on the right path as a father figure, even though for the most part, Gabe has been the prototypical angsty, brooding teenager with daddy issues. By this point, Gabe has actually matured past the point of annoying and is making some wise decisions and most importantly, sticking up for himself against David. I gotta hand it to my parenting skills.

From The Gallows is probably the most emotional and strongest episode of the game or at the very least on par with the first episode, including a moment that could be more emotional than Mariana’s death back in the first episode. Being the conclusion to A New Frontier, while not having the strongest plot in the series, does wrap things up in a more positive light (at least in my playthrough). Yes, no matter how bad things seemed to get in the faces of his adversaries, I never allowed Javi to walk down a dark path or allowed him to take revenge or act out of violence or become selfish no matter how hard he was pushed. In the event of an apocalypse, there needs to be some kind of hope, regardless of how far fetched or negative the situation may be and it was actually heart warming to see everything come together in a positive way. Usually, The Walking Dead games end on grim, depressing notes, but with A New Frontier there was a lot of hope and happiness. This episode isn’t without its choices, those moments you know aren’t going to end well or even having to make a decision between one thing or another, but for the most part, you’ll get the ending you that you set out to get.

For me, I just wanted to stop seeing cartoonishly portrayed power struggles, people versus people in a zombie apocalypse. It’s like all of a sudden during a catastrophe, people degrade to being brainless cavemen and begin hitting each other over the head with clubs for ownership of food and women. I dunno, maybe that’s accurate once they don’t have access to their Twitter accounts. Anyway, shit had really hit the fan in the previous episode if you recall. Tripp (or Ava depending on your decision) just got executed, Kate ran the truck into the wall which then caused Richmond to become overrun with zombies and Joan’s crew were in a firefight with Javi and his people. This makes an excellent way to open the episode, right in the middle of the action. Unfortunately, it’s about the only action in From The Gallows, but it’s memorable and manages to still be intense. Hell, it even manages to do an ol’ swaperoo. Remember how Kate ran that truck into the wall, as I just mentioned? Well, David and Javi spot a walker in the same clothes and are in total disbelief when all of a sudden, Kate comes out of nowhere and kills it. Gotcha! I was actually glad to see Kate alive, because even though they had finally admitted their feelings for each other and to tell David, they hadn’t yet and so I didn’t feel like that situation was yet a closed book.

The opportunity to tell David comes later, but for now our characters have to deal with Richmond being completely overrun with zombies. Sadly, that’s also the weakest part of this episode; whether or not to save Richmond or to bail. That’s primarily the focus here and the reason it doesn’t really work on an emotional level is because we don’t give a rat’s fuzzy ass (that’s something I heard my dad say when I was a kid when he was yelling at me and I started laughing) about anyone from Richmond. Everyone who we’ve encountered from there has been a total dickhead or a murderous sumbitch, so the actually feeling of wanting to save those people just isn’t there, but you know Javi. He’s the beacon of light in this mess or whatever, so of course my purpose is going to help these people. David, however, feels that they should all leave and I actually agreed with his reasoning. He has his family back, he’s now amended things with Clem, so why keep everyone at risk and just move on?

This also comes after Ava (if she’s still alive in your game) supposedly meets her end. They brush past it likes it’s nothing that I thought I should bring it up, because I’m not sure what I’m supposed to feel or what the game wanted me to take from it. After trying to cross a chasm and helping Javi, she’s pulled down by a zombie, but we never see her fall all the way or hit bottom. Everyone just goes, “aw, man… oh, well,” and moves on. She was such a cool character and for her to exit in such an underwhelming way, I realized she was really a missed opportunity. Something could’ve really been developed with her character, but I’ll never know.

 

This is where the game’s only real, but big choice comes in. This is where the big divide in your ending will be and we see who you’ve really become. You can flee with David or stay with Kate. Kate believes they should stay and help everyone, help clear out the zombies and seeing that I’ve been shaping Javi to be a decent person and to guide others to do the same, I agreed with her and the time finally came; the time to tell David about their feelings.Seeing as how he’s a brash and angry man, he didn’t take the news to well and begins to beat the shit out of Javi, but I, as Javi, made a promise that I would be the best man and take care of people. This is arguably the most emotional scene ever since we saw Mariana get shot in the head as you can continuously tell David that you love him no matter what as he continues to pummel you. Or you can fight back. Your choice. At the end, he takes off with Gabe and Clementine agrees to chase after them while you head back with Kate to save Richmond. That involves a bulldozer and pressing a random button to shoot zombies. It’s not very exciting.

And then literally like a knight in shining armor on a horse, Jesus reappears with his crew, cutting off the heads of zombies and helping the people of Richmond. A guy with long hair and a beard that sounds like Christian Slater doing an impression of Jack Nicholson coming back to save the people… seems like a pretty thin allegory. Not much really happens after that. Not that the episode wanders off or dwindles away, but at this point I guess everything that needed to said has been said. Final respects are paid, we catch up with the survivors in your group (including Conrad, who regardless of being shot in the head during the second episode seems to have made peace with the loss of his loved one). For me, it was nice to see Kate and Javi as a family with Gabe and plans to have another. They are finally feeling at home for the first time in a long time and are able to move on, because of your guidance. While not the strongest episode, it has very strong moments and seeing everything pay off was totally worth it. I thought the second season of The Walking Dead was alright, but I felt it fell into the the trap of pandering to the audience, aping the TV show and giving its audience exactly what they want and Michonne was just pointless and boring, so to have A New Frontier be entertaining, pretty emotional and have characters you cared about for the first time since the first season makes the game totally worth playing.

With Clem riding off into the sunset on her own mission, I can only hope she finds what she’s been looking for, but more importantly is able to finally able to settle down someplace and feel at home. I think we’ve seen the last of Javi, I feel like his story has already been told and things wrapped up rather nicely for him (well, as nice as they can in this situation). Another season (and I believe final) has been announced and I really, really hope that everything works out for poor Clementine. But I guess that’s up to me.

Goon Review: Contra Soundtrack

(Submitted by His Goon-y Greatness, Mr. Andrew Peters…Much obliged, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxox)

Contra has the honor of being the first video game that left it’s opening screen impressed in my head. Everyone remembers the title card coming in from the right to the left as those few notes jingled and finally exploded when you pressed start (after frantically trying to enter the thirty lives code, of course). Immediately, you’re dropped into a jungle warzone, one that might remind you of Predator with the beat of the music synced perfectly with the action as you worked your way through HR Giger inspired levels and enemies.

Mondo’s recent release of Contra is one for the collection, without a doubt. There’s no considering it, if you’ve played the game or know anything about Nintendo, you need to grab this iconic soundtrack. Side A is the classic NES soundtrack you’ve come to know and love, starting with the aforementioned Title Card track and then creating a creepy mood with the Introduction before setting the action pace with the Area 1: Jungle track (I know, catchy track titles). This is the one we all know and love the most, I think, because of how many times you dropped into that beginning level when starting the game. Not only that, it also rocks more than most other NES tracks out there. My favorite track was always Area 6: Energy Zone which combines both the run and gun action and the creeping terror. Plus, that name is just perfectly ‘80s, it should have been a club somewhere.

 

I have to admit… I totally forgot this was an arcade game, but for a very good reason; not many people played it once the Nintendo version was out there. To be honest, the reason I don’t recall the arcade version is because I found the NES version to be superior in every way, especially with the music. This is one exceptionally rare cases where the Nintendo soundtrack is better than the arcade version. Yes, Contra’s NES music is better than its arcade counterpart. I know it’s hard to believe, but when you listen to Side B of the vinyl, which is the same tracks in the same order with the exception of Track 2: Introduction missing and Track 12: Ranking as a new addition, you will hear the difference. Now, one of these will work better for you and I’m sure for most of you it will be the Nintendo version. The arcade version is actually something more of a cleaner, perhaps a bit more clear Genesis version, what with a very metallic sound and tin clanks. You could argue that better represents the game, but for me, nothing will compare to the NES version.

With Mondo, the artwork is just as important as the actual soundtrack itself. Afterall, it’s all about presentation and Mondo usually always nails it. Usually. Eric Powell’s artwork on the cover is cool and kinda has a comic book style to it, showcasing the two heroes, Lance and Bill, albeit muted colors and to be honest, that’s the start of my disappointment with it. Contra is bright and colorful, full of Alien-esque creature designs and very little of that is present on the cover. Sure, the background behind the two muscle clad, gun toting protagonists shows a little bit of that, but there’s more negative space to be filled that should have been used with HR Giger imagery. It seems like halfway through creating an awesome cover, the artist ran out of time or just called it quits. Again, I’m not complaining about the quality, because I think it’s quite phenomenal, but underwhelming when you consider the source material.

The inside of the jacket is something that would jump at you out of your nightmares. Fold it open and the mother or queen, whatever it was called, dominates both sides and looking to be ready to jump out at you. I really like being able to see the sketchy pencil marks underneath the finished product, giving it a grittier look, but again, it’s just muted colors. Maybe I’m misremembering Contra, but the back cover shows maybe I’m not. That is more in line of what I’m talking about.

San Diego Comic Con goers had the option of getting an exclusive tri-color vinyl with red, orange and yellow, but personally I prefer the pressing that is available which is the classic blue and red. It represents the Player One and Player Two colors that dominated Nintendo games. It’s bright, vibrant and basic. It works so well.

I could go on forever about the Contra soundtrack, but then I would just be going in circles. For most of us that grew up with the arcade and Nintendo, this is one of the most definitive soundtracks to your childhood. I think it goes beyond playing into nostalgia… it’s just a kick-ass soundtrack that every collection needs.

Goon Review – The Zodiac Killer (1971)

Sometimes, the reason behind how or why a movie got made is far more interesting than the movie itself. Take, for instance, The Island of Dr. Moreau: Total trainwreck of a movie that started with blaming director Richard Stanley, an incredibly talented filmmaker, for any issue that arose (including monsoons that delayed production). Throw in a coke-fueled Val Kilmer who didn’t get along with Stanley and was pressuring the studio to replace him, mixed in with a no fucks left to give Marlon Brando who refused to learn his lines and was constantly making script changes. The film actually has a documentary that’s longer than the film and far more interesting. It’s such childish bullshit and so insane that you have to wonder how shit gets made sometimes. And then you have 1971’s The Zodiac Killer that was actually made in attempt to catch the actual Zodiac Killer.

Sounds crazy, right? Well, desperate times call for desperate measures and apparently the Zodiac was something of a cinephile, so it was so crazy that it just might work. But alas, it did not, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The plan was to get him into the theaters by making a movie about him and premiere it at the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco, which was rented out by director Tom Hanson. With Kawasaki sponsoring the event offering a prize to the lucky theater goer who could answer the question, “I believe the Zodiac kills because…” on a card. However, a team of experts would be analyzing the handwriting on the cards to that of the Zodiac’s and snatch them in the lobby. Pretty ballsy and clever plan, but maybe the Zodiac was smarter.

Again, the making of this movie would be far more entertaining than the actual movie itself. The actual film is more or less just a series of random events. You could argue that’s how the murders seemed, but the film makes an odd choice of giving the Zodiac an identity part way through the movie. The film then switches over to following him around as he goes about his day, attempts a little murder and then to the police or reporters trying to catch him. It’s not a bad idea, except the Zodiac’s identity was never discovered, so this ‘based on a true story’ story now becomes majorly fictionalized. It wasn’t like they used a possible suspect as the Zodiac in the film, but a totally random made up guy. You have to wonder if it was done to anger the Zodiac in hopes of drawing him out, but from my research, he never even attempted to contact the filmmakers.

Regardless of the subject matter, this isn’t a serious movie (or at least that’s what the tone is trying to tell me), but rather a madhouse hippie romp that’s light on the gore, yet still has a layer of filth like an early Frank Henenlotter film would have. Satanic hippie driven violence, like I Drink Your Blood and bad b-movie sexy go-go shlock, like The Girl in Gold Boots are easily comparable… and more entertaining. Not to say there’s nothing to take away from The Zodiac Killer, given that it wasn’t a big budget picture. The performances, while not the greatest in the world, aren’t half bad and actually go hand in hand with the cheesy tone.

The beginning of the film focuses on an old, dumpy, balding white guy named Grover (honestly, a pretty fitting name). Grover likes to put on a wig and lie to women about being a businessman to get some random strange. The movie depicts this man as a sexy, irresistible poon hound with a knack for violence and a revolver. Of course, any viewer automatically recognizes someone like this as a red herring, especially when moments later we see a man burying a rabbit under a giant cross. This man is Jerry, Grover’s friend, and he isn’t given much to do until Grover makes an exit at the halfway point in the movie, when he rushes over to his ex-wife’s house, makes some threats, waves a gun at the cops exclaiming that he’s the Zodiac Killer and is instantly gunned down and splashes his fat, dead corpse into the pool.

Now Jerry steps into the spotlight of the film, talking to his pet rabbits that are all named after Zodiac signs. In case you didn’t catch onto the fact that he’s the killer, he then begins chanting to an altar about his “slaves,” which are his murdered victims that would accompany him to his after life. After that, there really isn’t much of significance going on. Well, nothing that would really be called a story, but rather random reenacted murders to move the scenes along and pad out a run time. The film does seem to try and accurately portray what happened at the murder scenes, at least when there was a survivor to recall the event. Other times when there was no survivor, the movie just makes up what they think happened and that discredits the true story angle more, especially considering there isn’t much proof that those murders were done by the Zodiac. I know, this isn’t the first film based on a true story to make things up, but this was all still going on at the time.

More murders happen, the cops don’t seem to have any clues, and then the movie decides it needs to give the Zodiac some motivation towards the end when he confronts his father in a mental institution as he cries out for attention like a baby. At this point, I don’t think they cared about accuracy of who the Zodiac was, but rather were looking to rustle his feathers by calling him a whiny bitch. He then storms outside and pushes a man in a stretcher down a hill and then a flight of stairs. I know he’s trying to kill the guy, because he’s cackling the whole time like a Looney Tunes villain, but even the guy on the stretcher looks like he’s having a blast. Nothing but a big ol’ smile. Then the movie ends on Jerry strolling down the street, narrating that he will continue to kill while laughing to himself…You know know, typical bad guy stuff.

If it weren’t for the subject matter of the actual Zodiac Killer and the zany bongos and horns blaring during the murder scenes, this would be a pretty boring movie. There isn’t much substance to the characters and even Jerry, the film’s Zodiac Killer, has little to do when he’s not killing random people. Most of the characters rarely interact with each other and when they do, it’s mostly arguing, especially coming from Grover. Grover at least gives the film some sleaze, as he’s always drinking, doing drugs and womanizing, so it makes the film feel like a drive-in staple. That’s another thing to the film’s credit, it does have some personality, even if it’s not well shot. As I said, it feels a bit sleazy, a bit trippy and definitely enhanced with that hippie music. I actually found it surprising it didn’t relish in the gore, going over the top and loading the screen up with its bright blood red, but it instead rarely shows gore. I don’t know if that was done out of respect for the victims and their families or if it was just a budgetary thing.

I will give credit to AGFA and Something Weird for restoring this film in 4K from the only surviving blow-up elements, even if it doesn’t look like 4K quality. But that’s alright. A film like this needs dirt and scratches to help with the grimey feel it has. Director Tom Hanson and producer Manny Nedwick provide an audio commentary as well as an interview and some trailers to round out the special features on the disc. There’s some liner notes and director interview from Temple of Shlock’s Chris Poggiali and some reversible cover artwork. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that there is a bonus film, Another Son of Sam from 1977, which was actually called Hostages and filmed in 1975, but changed the title when the film was being released around the same time the actual Summer of Sam killer was caught to capitalize on that. Nope, nothing sleazy there.

If you want to watch a really great movie about the Zodiac Killer, then watch Zodiac by David Fincher. It’s beautifully shot, colors are muted and yet they jump out at you and fit the tone of the scene. The characters are well acted and interesting enough to follow through a two and a half hour movie with and it makes the randomness of the murders and the unknown identity of the Zodiac feel like a frightening boogeyman. If you want the exact opposite of that, watch The Zodiac Killer. I will say that you won’t be bored, even if it’s not very well made. Or accurate.

Ho-stess’s PS- Here’s a sneaky peak at the Island of Dr. Moreau doc Goon mentioned. Highly rec adding this one to your #MustViewQueue. 🙂 xoxo

Goon Review – Madhouse (1981)

(Submited by our Ho-rror Ho-mie, Mr. Andrew W. Peters…Thanks, Madman Magee! 🙂 xoxo)

Ovidio G. Assonitis, like most Italian film directors, had a wide variety of films he’s directed, including the Jaws cash-in Tentacles and the Exorcist cash-in Beyond the Door. Hey, it’s Italy in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s and cash-ins or rip-offs were their thing. He’s also produced a number of films like Piranha II: The Spawning, The Curse, the excellent and often underrated The Visitor, as well as American Ninja 4 and 5. Needless to say the guy knows horror and he also knows movies, so I was psyched when Arrow released Madhouse, an overlooked slasher film from 1981, in a brand new 2K restoration.

However, upon revisiting it, I understood why it’s possibly overlooked. It’s not that I hated, in fact I’m probably one of the few people that rather enjoy it, but I can see why people might find it so underwhelming and that’s because, well, it is. It’s a well made movie and it does have a very interesting premise, but for an Italian made slasher flick, it’s actually kinda tame and falls into cliched trappings and then there’s the reveal of the killer… hoo boy, it’s pretty obvious from the get-go who the killer is and you really hope they don’t “go there,” but, yeah, they do. It’s not only that it’s painfully obvious, but there doesn’t seem to be a clear motivation and honestly it kinda dampers what they were setting up. I gotta say and sorry for sounding like a broken record, but for an Italian made slasher in the early ‘80s, this film feels kinda like it’s playing it safe.

I keep calling it a slasher flick when Italy was more commonly known for suspenseful giallos and while Madhouse toys around with the idea of being a giallo, it doesn’t commit to being one. The same can be said about it being more of a character drama between two twin sisters, one evil and the other good. There’s a fine variety of different ideas here, but the movie can’t seem to decide on which one it would rather be and ends up being a moderate, ho-hum horror flick and for being Italian produced film, a country known for reveling in gore, it’s pretty tame. I don’t know if this was due to budgetary problems or perhaps Ovidio G. Assonitis thought it would make his film more suspenseful and to his credit, it is wonderfully shot and full of dark shadows, so it at least has a very ominous mood.

It opens up interestingly enough; two young girls sit still and silently in blackness as the camera pans in until one starts smashing the other one’s face in with a rock. Alright, movie, you have my attention. I’m interested in finding out what that was about, but unfortunately, we never do. At least, not really. Fast forward years later and the girls are all grown up and you could say they took different paths. One grows up to be a school teacher for the deaf and a stone cold fox, Julia, played by Trish Everly. Who’s Trish Everly and what else has she been in? Exactly. According to IMDB, this is her only credit and she never forayed into the world of acting again which is a shame, because she puts in a terrific performance.

Her sister Mary, on the other hand, has been less fortunate, living her life in a mental institution with a skin disease that has left her disfigured. Talk about drawing the short stick. Mary is under close observation by Father James, a friend of the family who Julia refers to as Uncle. Father James seems a little too pleasant and a little off kilter, so if you know anything about slasher films, I’m sure you’ll be able to see what direction they are taking this character. About halfway through the film, after the reveal of the killer, his character takes quite a silly turn as he’s nonchalantly hauling a body bag into a basement and chasing Julia’s landlady around the her building, skipping and singing children’s nursery rhymes. It’s kind of a whiplash in tone of character and I’m assuming it’s because people are under the impression that just because children’s songs are in a horror movie that makes it’s creepy, but they forget it needs to have context. That’s not the case here. It seemingly comes out of nowhere and I found more puzzled instead of interested and laughed at this reveal. If anything, this dampens the Father character’s motivation for everything happening. In fact when questioned about it, he just giggles and spouts a nursery rhyme that has no bearing or meaning on the situation. It explains nothing or maybe it does. Either way, it doesn’t ever explain why he’s doing what he’s doing.

 

The big red herring or twist of events happens when Julia receives word that Mary has escaped the asylum just in time for their birthday. The birthday doesn’t really play into the main plot, but give a reason for something to happen (I guess), but it just echoes of desperation for the film to take place during a holiday or event to mirror something like Halloween. To the film’s credit, the slasher does have a very interesting weapon of choice; a rottweiler. Yeah, I bet you’d never see the day a slasher film uses an animal as their knife. I was worried for the dog’s health and safety when remembering this is an Italian production, but luckily Ovidio here takes the dog’s well being into consideration. You figure a dog tearing apart the victims would result in a blood bath and mangled body parts, but if there is one thing really disappointing about the film, it’s that it lacks gore. I know gore doesn’t make a horror film, but spectacularly bloody deaths in a slasher makes a better viewing. At most, it’s blood smeared all over someone’s face and the most shocking death in the movie, the death of Julie’s favorite student, takes place off screen, but there I actually feel it gives it more of a punch, especially when she has to break the news to the other students at school. It’s a scene, however, that involves the dog being put into a headlock by Julie and putting a power drill through it’s head that this film is most likely notorious for. Even with a noticeable puppet in use, it’s still a rough scene to watch listening to the dog squeal.

During the finale of the film, I couldn’t help but think of Happy Birthday to Me (a slasher film I like, but find it a tad overrated) and that may be because Madhouse feels like it’s borrowing from other popular slasher movies of that time rather than try to be something original or experimental. That’s kind of surprising for being an Italian horror film, in a way, because while they were more known for ripping a film off, they still took the idea in a wild direction and made it it’s own beast. This feels more of the American cash-in variety where it takes no risks and spends no money on the gore budget. To the film’s credit, it’s the finale where you see what is most likely the goriest moment in the movie where a character takes an axe to the back, spraying chunks of flesh and squirting blood. You can’t help but wonder why this approach wasn’t taken during the rest of the movie. Maybe Ovidio wanted to make not necessarily a classier horror film, but maybe a more suspenseful one with more dignity. It’s unfortunate that’s not what happened.

Along with this being a new 2K transfer, Arrow also includes a new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues. That’s sort of confusing as to why they would have the people from a comedy/horror podcast do the commentary for the film rather than the original cast and crew when they were able to get new interviews with them. You can also check out the alternate opening if you’d like and the theatrical trailer. I think the show stealer in this whole package is the newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach. Seriously a talented artist and that’s one hell of a spooky cover.

It’s not boring, but rather predictable and subdued. It is at least pretty to look with some creepy cinematography and it doesn’t hurt that it was filmed in a supposed haunted house in Savannah, Georgia. It’s more upsetting seeing what this movie could have been and what it turned out to be instead of it being an actual bad movie. It showed so much promise with a murderous twin angle and the classic black leathered gloved giallos and the end result is so disappointing. It’s tolerable and worth watching for a typical ‘80s slasher, but don’t expect anything beyond that.

Goon Review: Cyberjack (AKA Virtual Assassin)

(Submitted by our Goon Reviewer, Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)

Well, the future didn’t quite turn out the way the ‘90s thought it would, did it? Computers, as advanced as they are, can’t quite do everything we thought they would do, especially make a computer virus biological and giving the host the ability to shoot it out of their eyes. Kinda missed the mark on that one just a bit. Black leather jackets with random pieces of plastic armor stapled to them didn’t quite become the fashion trend we expected them to, nor did using way too much hair gel and spiking it in random directions. You know what else didn’t work out? The cynical, snarky attitude of these movies that seemed to scream, “fuck you, grandpa! You’re too old and slow and we’re hip!” I don’t really know where I’m going with this and my segway isn’t really going to work the way I thought it was going to, but I think regardless of how bad these movies got, we always remembered them; Hackers, The Lawnmower Man, The Net, or any movie that featured someone frantically typing a keyboard spouting nonsense, really… I could go on.

And then there are the films we have forgotten, until you see them and then you wish you could forget all about them. Movies like Game Over, aka Maximum Surge and Cyberjack, aka Virtual Assassin (I can never tell which is more stupid’ the actual title or the alternate title), the latter of which I recently picked up at a pawn shop for sixty cents and no matter how many times I stick a fork in the light socket, I can’t short circuit my brain and burn the memory of this movie out of my head. I don’t know how else to explain how generically stupid it is, but this is one of those instances where that makes it more enjoyable. How else to explain it? Well the film is pretty much Die Hard mixed with every bad ‘90s cyberpunk movie, complete with bad wardrobes and goofy techno-babble and there isn’t really anything to comment on without making fun of it since it’s wildly ridiculous… so let’s just do that, shall we?

Michael Dudikoff, who must have been taking a break from “starring” in all those American Ninja movies, stars as ex-cop turned janitor, Nick James. Oddly enough, at no point does he shout at anyone, “I’m Nick James, bitch!” Can we pause for a second and ask the real question at matter here; does anything really star Michael Dudikoff? I mean, sure the guy kinda knows martial arts, but let’s face it… he’s kind of a weenie, with his prepubescent teen voice and his, erm, beautiful head of hair. Alright, so the guy may not quite be at the level of B-movies, but I would say at least C to higher grade of Z-movies.

Anyway, he’s the janitor at this high tech, super lab place that makes all kinds of techy, computery things. You know, the kind that doesn’t matter, because even for made up mumbo-jumbo it’s total bullshit. It’s here that a scientist, Dr. Royce and his way too hot daughter, Alex (Suki Kaiser), are developing some kind of a computer virus that is becoming too intelligent (I think, seeing as it’s kind of unclear) and is the first virus that can also become biological that will give the host supercomputer powers, I guess since it’s heavily foreshadowed that’s what will happen later. This calls the attention of an elite hacker terrorist group led by Brion James who sports a black leather jacket with shoulder pads that only could have existed in the ‘90s and created by Rob Liefeld and hair styled after Dragon Ball Z’s Gogeta. He and his goons storm the place and take it over, threatening to execute everyone inside if they don’t get control of the virus. But there is one slight oversight to their plan… their roster of employees fortunately doesn’t include the janitorial staff, which seems to only compose of one man. And that man is none other than Nick James, who is almost immediately discovered and shot in the arm, but luckily he’s a tough guy in a ‘90s action movie, so he just walks that shit off. He kinda just hides in a vent for a while and watches as some of the hostages get wasted and Alex’s father gets shot dead for trying to shutdown the virus. Come to think of it, he’s kind of a lousy hero.

He eventually does come out of hiding, take out some of the terrorists using gimmicks like a hologram where he uses multiple images of himself to outsmart a goon and sock him right in the nose. It’s a scene that tries to make the hologram scene from Total Recall more artsy, like 2001 with strobing lights that follow people running down a hallway. It actually makes the action scene a little confusing. Anyway, Nick finally gets a gun and mows down the stereotyped thugs, including the black guy who speaks with a Rastafarian accent, because his trait is that he’s the black guy. There’s also the wildman with bleach blonde hair named Numb who is constantly cackling madly to himself and intently staring at people and saying off putting, creepy things in an attempt to be, well, creepy, but he’s more annoying and I wish I could repeatedly kick him in the nuts until he’s crying so hard that he can no longer cry and make noise. He could not exit the movie fast enough. But that’s just me.

Finally, they break through the firewalls, hack the mainframe and Brion James hooks himself into the computer and uploads the virus into himself and, boy, do I feel stupid for writing all of that out. Brion James can now shoot green computer energy from his eyes and hack into things, like SWAT team members that are apparently androids and has them attack the police so he can make his escape. However, he didn’t count on the resilience and martial arts training of a computer engineering conglomerate’s janitorial custodian! The final confrontation is extremely flaccid. It’s like sex lasting only a few seconds and you’re like, “oh, that’s it?” But, you’re happy it’s just over. That’s this movie.

I did skip a few things, like how Brion James is the one who caused Nick to lose his job as a police officer, but once you see how lousy he was at his job, I would say that it was overdue or he was gonna be on his way out the door sooner or later. There’s also a subplot that involves a sportsball team (they never say which sport, but I would guess that it’s baseball) and Nick and Alex constantly make jokes about how their outfield sucks or whether or not this team won the big game, but it’s just trappings. Nick has also lost a lot of money betting on this team and owes some mobster a ton of money who eventually comes after him, but Nick runs away and then it’s dropped faster than Cannon Film’s Masters of the Universe 2. I think it was just a way to show off their pointless technology, like the CRT videophone.

You know what? Let’s talk about the technology for a second. In these type of movies, there is this needlessness to overly complicate something that is already fine and simple. Take for instance a security card you scan through a reader on a door. You swipe it, the reader accepts it, the door unlocks and you go through it. Simple and effective. Toward the beginning when Nick goes to work, he swipes his card and then a monitor in front of him has to display his own photo and personal information – which I’m sure he’s more than well aware enough of – and then it has to read it back to him. Why? Because, computers! And technology! Look at how advanced it is! Isn’t that more impressive than just swiping a goddamn card? It does give Michael Dudikoff the opportunity to throw out a one liner. Here’s a spoiler; it sucks.

First of all, how the hell did this movie cost two million dollars? I don’t even see half of that on screen, which is something that seems to be a staple of these movies; over expensive that doesn’t perform at the box office or goes straight to video and is almost immediately forgotten about. I mean, this is a film that doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry nor are there any reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. It seems that the whole world doesn’t know about this movie, so allow me to be one of the few to introduce you to this direct to video dreck. Sure, the plot is nothing more than a rip-off of one of the greatest action movies of all time, but the aesthetic of putting it in an overly complicated and silly cyberpunk world makes it fun simply for the aesthetic. And its overall badness.