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.

#MonsterMovieMonday: Song at Midnight (1937) – China’s Phantom of the Opera

Ho-wdy, Phantom Phans!

Just another #MonsterMonday here at Kinky Ho-rror. This week, we’re bringing you a phantom of a very different opera. From Paris to China, it’s time for a fright at the opera with Song at Midnight!

Perhaps the most underrated film we’ve ever featured on #MonsterMovieMondays, Song at Midnight is one of the best interpretations of Gaston LerouXXX;s Phantom of the Opera. It’s often called the first Chinese horror film and it is the first time an opera phantom was scarred by acid, a plot element that would be recycled for many future adaptations. While virtually unknown in North America, Song At Midnight seems to be a beloved classic in China. With four films and a TV series based on this movie, it’s clear that this particular Phantom won’t stay dead, even if he still dwells in the shadows.


Don’t eXXXpect any crashing chandeliers or Red Death appearances; this is an entirely different Phantom. An acting troupe arrives at a abandoned theater that is said to be haunted by the spectre of Song Danping, a famous opera singer. Sun Xiao-au, a young male singer hears the ghostly voice Song Danping, who takes Sun on as his protege. Donning an ominous black robe, Song appears before Sun and reveals the shocking truth of his past to the young performer.


Song at Midnight
combines romance, Universal-style ho-rror, and political themes to form a truly unique ’30s monster movie experience. Hauntingly beautiful and EXXXpressionistically eerie, Song at Midnight is perfect ho-rror fairy tale for those who love the Universal Gothics and are inclined to root for the monster. Filled with cl-ass-ic monster movie imagery, tragic monsters, ghostly happenings, and spookshow theatrics, this old-fashioned Gothic tale is perfect for the creepiest time of the year.

Plus, check out that Phantom! Ho-ly crap, that’s awesome!

Click on the boXXX below to experience the Song at Midnight:

Movie Review: Jeepers Creepers 3

(Full length review submitted by Mr. Anton Phibes…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie. I wasn’t gonna touch this one!! 😉 xoxo)

It’s quite difficult to discuss Jeepers Creepers 3 without mentioning director Victor Salva’s sordid past in some capacity. His actions have divided horror fans and cast a grim shadow on the popular franchise. However, For this review, I will separate the art from the artist. In no way do I condone Salva’s crime, but my opinion will be based solely on the film itself and not on its director. So, when divorced from its creator, is this film any good?

No. Not at all.

Jeepers Creepers 3 takes place after the final moments of the first film.  Brandon Smith reprises the role of Sgt. Tubbs, who joins forces with Sheriff Tashtego  (Stan Shaw) to hunt The Creeper (Jonathan Breck), a winged creature who feeds on human flesh every 23rd day of every 23rd Spring. The two cops eventually team up with Gaylen Brandon (Meg Foster), a half-mad woman who has a history with the creature. Will they succeed in killing the beast or will he feed again in another 23 years? Considering the recent talk of a potential fourth installment, I think you can guess the answer.

Stripped of its controversy, Jeepers Creepers 3 has very little to offer, save for a few unintentional chuckles.  There’s nothing clever, intriguing, frightening, or even weird about it. I’m generally not the kind to be overly critical of a creature feature, but there’s just nothing here. I wasn’t a huge fan of previous entries, but they weren’t quite this bad. And not a fun sort of bad, either. Jeepers Creepers 3 is awful in the most ordinary way. It borrows ideas and frights from other scare fare, but without any life or joy. It’s rare for me not to enjoy a monster-on-the-loose picture, but I’m afraid that this film wasn’t all that frightful.

If you’ve seen the other two films, this one offers nothing fresh or interesting. It teases an origin we never get to see and turns The Creeper’s truck into a Mario Kart-like abomination, but that’s about every new element it has to offer. Imagine a SyFy Channel reboot of the franchise and you’ll have a decent idea of what this film is like. There were a couple of shots I thought were wonderfully moody, but that’s hardly enough to recommend an entire movie. Even the acting, with the exceptional of the great Meg Foster, is blandly poor. Almost everything about this film is uninspired.

The Creeper, once a fairly intimidating force of supernatural evil, is played in a ridiculous manner that suggests camp, but feels out of place in a film that is otherwise pretty straight. Now, I don’t mind a cheeky monster, but it simply doesn’t work here. Even in his first big scene in the film, The Creeper kills all potential menace he might of had by literally wagging a finger at a victim. Apparently, The Creeper enjoys Twilight Zone: The Movie….

If you’re a die-hard fan of this franchise, you may get some amusement out of this film. There are those who’ve been clamoring for this film for over decade now. I’m not one of them, I sincerely hope that this film lives up to their expectations. But for those simply looking for a good monster movie about a man-eating creature that comes every 20-plus years, I suggest you see IT.  Heck, see IT again, if you’ve already seen it. You’ll probably get more out of a repeat viewing of that film than single viewing of this forgettable fright flick.

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.

Movie Review: Batman & Harley Quinn

(Seemed appropriate for #HarleyQuinnDay…Big thanks to Prince Adam for sharing his Bat-thoughts with us. 🙂 xoxo)

“Batman and Nightwing are forced to team with the Joker’s sometimes-girlfriend Harley Quinn to stop a global threat brought about by Poison Ivy and Jason Woodrue, the Floronic Man.” (Warner Brothers)

This movie had me the minute it was set in the style of Batman: The Animated Series, featuring the voices of Kevin Conroy as Batman and Loren Lester as Nightwing, The new addition to the Bat-Family, comes in the form of Melissa Rauch, of The Big Bang Theory fame, as Harley Quinn. To be honest, it was her casting that worried me. I though her name recognition from TBBT and the signature voice of her character, would take me out of the movie and be a hindrance to the character. However, Melissa was fantastic and except for one time when she screamed at someone in the film, did I recognize it was her and get pulled out of the film, otherwise the actress totally disappeared and all I saw and heard was Harley Quinn. Hearing Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester again, felt so right and sounded like the pitch perfect dynamic duo. It’s like they have been doing this for 25 years straight, with no time lapses in between. Giving a voice to Poison Ivy for this film was Paget Brewster. She was okay, but I don’t think she was distinctly Ivy enough. That’s not necessarily her fault though because, she only had one scene where she employs Ivy’s trademark seductive, hypnotic sexiness to get a man to do her bidding. Poison Ivy’s partner in crime n this feature is Jason Woodrue aka the Floronic Man. The inclusion of this villain fits, given Ivy’s involvement and I really like his inclusion, not because I’m a huge fan of the character but because, he’s never really used. Come to think of it, even amongst Batman’s heavy hitters, Poison Ivy was underused. Even when she featured in episodes of Batman: TAS. The Floronic Man is voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson. This actor voiced The Joker for four seasons on The Batman but never once did I hear The Joker in this performance, which speaks to his range and versatility. Though, his voice is tailor made for portraying a villain.

As for why Harley Quinn would help Batman and Nightwing, it’s because she’s trying to live her life on the straight and narrow. Especially, since she has separated from The Joker. However, due to her criminal past, no reputable organization would hire someone with a criminal past and record, as a psychiatrist. Though, she makes a point at hinting that late nigh risqué movie producers have shown interest. Instead, Harley take a job at a bar called Superbabes. The waitresses all dress up in skimpy superhero costumes and are often ogled and groped by male patrons. One night Harley is grabbed in the ass, flips the customer over a table and starts a bar fight before heading home. This whole time, Nightwing was tailing her, following her back to a rundown, abandoned apartment. Naturally, there is a scuffle and Harley Quinn not only holds her own against Nightwing but knocks him out. When he comes to, Nightwing realizes that he’s tied up. Harley, changing out of her costume is in her bra and panties. She begins being flirtatious with Nightwing, saying they both have something the other wants. Nightwing protests, in a half assed way, before admitting the idea of being with Harley does sound appealing, The lights go out, the costumes come off and the scene cuts away as the implied sex scene happens off screen. Some reactions online, have people up in arms, throwing a hissy fit over this scene. Firstly, some are calling the moment a glorified rape scene, given that he was tied up and at first refused Harley’s suggestion. If you actually rewatch the scene, you can see that it’s quite clear that Nightwing is more than agreeable to having sexual relations with Harley. Once Nightwing agrees, I view the ropes as some kinky, superhero/supervillain role-play type of scenario. Prior to that scene, when both characters were physically fighting, Harley Quinn was verbalizing that she was tired of people telling her what to be and assigning a label to her. For example, some see her as crazy, others see her only as a villain, while others still, view her as a sex object. She mentions, how she wants to be in control and determine who she is. While some see the sex scene as demeaning, only further objectifying Harley, I saw her initiating the flirtation, and being in control of that situation. I saw it as a moment of empowerment for Harley Quinn. That’s my take on the whole “controversy.”

As for why Nightwing was following Harley and not Batman? The Dark Knight was busy doing detective work, uncovering Poison Ivy and the Floronic Man’s diabolical scheme. Firstly, I love that this film focuses on Batman being a detective. To me, Batman: TAS and issues of Detective Comics, are the only two interpretations, that really key in on this aspect of his character. Speaking of our villains’ plan, it involve using samples of Alec Holland’s (Swamp Thing’s) blood, mixed with a chemical agent, that when dispersed, would turn the human population into plant like creatures, such as Floronic Man and Swamp Thing. I like that the evil plot is perfectly symbiotic with the overall goals and beliefs of our villains, unlike that time when Poison Ivy teamed up with Mr. Freeze in 1997, and their plans were in complete opposition and counterintuitive of each other. Back over at Team Batman, when the Caped Crusader rejoins Harley and Nightwing, he catches them in a compromising position. While he doesn’t say it outright, you can tell he is judgemental of what they did. Nightwing responds with; “Oh right, like you’ve never made out with a villain before.” I loved this line because, it’s a clever callback to Batman’s trysts with Catwoman and Talia al Ghul respectively. It also calls out Batman’s hypocrisy in this moment, but also speaks to the closeness and rapport between Batman and Nightwing, that Dick Grayson can speak to Bruce this way. With Harley assisting Batman and Nightwing, you knew humor would be a key feature of this film and it is. As the three drive in the Batmobile to find Ivy’s location, Harley complains that a burrito she ate earlier isn’t agreeing with her and they should pull over. Batman refuses and Harley retorts; you asked for it, before beginning to fire off some farts. Batman & Nightwing’s facial reactions are hilarious. Yes, I know getting laughs from farts is a bit cheap and childish, but in addition to her sexiness, Harley Quinn has always had a childishness about her, so it works. There’s also a scene where Batman calls the Justice League for potential backup. However, all the heavy hitters are off world, so Booster Gold starts naming a bunch of C and D list superheroes that could help out. As Booster Gold’s voice rattles off names through the intercom of the Batmobile, Harley Quinn and Nightwing shake their head no and make faces in disapproval, before ruffling papers to make it sound like their was static, before hanging up on Booster Gold. This was priceless and had me in stiches. Harley Quinn’s influence is clearly rubbing off on Nightwing. Harley takes Batman and Nightwing to a bar for supervillain henchmen, where she meets an informant, who has info on Poison Ivy’s location. To get info out of an informant, Harley has to sing karaoke. That’s not the fun part though, as Melissa Rauch unfortunately is a terrible singer. However, the henchmen featured at this bar, are ones featured in the Batman 66 TV series, specifically noticeable are Catwoman’s henchmen. They even buy Batman a glass of milk, as a nod to his drink of choice on the Adam West series.

When the unlikely trio finds Poison Ivy and Floronic Man, Harley Quinn pretends to double cross Batman and Nightwing, to gain their trust, However, when she pleads with Ivy to not go through with releasing this pathogen, Ivy realizes Harley lied to her. Even Batman tries to appeal to Poison Ivy’s humanity, pointing out that if she makes even one mistake with the formula, all of humanity will be wiped out. When she still doesn’t budge, Harley Quinn removes her mask and makeup, gives Ivy a “puppy dog” look and begins to cry, lamenting that she doesn’t want to die. Ivy can’t resist Harley crying and agrees not to release the toxin on humanity. She too now turns on the Floronic Man. While some may say Poison Ivy’s turn was too easy, I liked it! It really emphasises the close knit relationship and love that Harley and Ivy share. This is both emphasized in the comic books and animated series. There are a few things, that I didn’t like about this film. Aside from the fight scene between Harley Quinn and Nightwing, which was awesome, the action in this film is extremely limited. And when it is their, the film cuts away from it, When you see the henchman bar fight, you’ll know what I mean. Swamp Thing has a cameo in the third act, condemns Ivy & the Floronic Man for what they’ve done, but refuses to get in the fight. He doesn’t get involved because “It’s not his “fight.” What!? How is it not his fight? They tampered with his blood and what they plan to do, is going to alter The Green, the nature that Swamp Thing is sworn to protect. How is that not his fight? It made no sense. What a wasted cameo. Also, I was let down by the final battle with The Floronic Man and it stems (pun intended), from the reasons I just mentioned.

This film has key voice cast from Batman: The Animated Series, the animation style evokes later seasons of Batman: The Animated Series, which was rebranded The New Batman Adventures but one thing that is different is the tone. Sure, there is some dramatic story telling of the classic animated series, but this is more of a comedy set in that world. So prepare yourself for that but you know what, for me, it really works. I have never laughed so much while watching a DC Animated show, or movie. If you want a good laugh and 75 minutes of fun with characters you love, give this film a buy and a watch. Happy Batman/Harley Quinn Takeover Day everyone!

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.

IT (2017) Movie Review

(Submitted by our own Mr. Anton Phibes…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)

To say that expectations were high for 2017’s IT would be a grotesque understatement. Based on the best-selling Stephen King novel, the film is the second adaptation of the material, following the much beloved miniseries. Before even a single frame of this latest version came to be, a thunderous jolt of anticipation struck film-goers like a circus locomotive. Thousands of think pieces, fan art, and parodies sprouted up when the very first image of “IT” was released, and that goes doubly so for the trailer. IT was a bonafide cultural phenomena before it was projected on a single screen. Living up to such monstrous adaptations seems impossible, but does IT succeed?  With a big grease-painted grin, I’m very pleased to report that IT is every bit the monsterpiece we had hoped for.

Stephen King’s novel is a massive work of fiction told through narratives alternating between two timelines, so the film wisely adapts the half of the novel that focuses on the seven protagonists as kids. The film advances the setting from the 1950s to the late ’80s, but still maintains much of the source material. In the movie, Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), Beverly (Sophia Lillis), Richie (Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Mike (Chosen Jacobs) and Stan (Wyatt Oleff) are all social outcasts in their own way. United by their misfit status, they develop a tight-knit relationship and dub themselves the “Losers’ Club”. When a malevolent shape-shifting killer targets them, the unconventional heroes must conquer their fears to conquer “IT”.
IT is a lot like King’s Stand By Me, but with an eldritch abomination creeping about. It’s almost as much a coming-of-age story as it is a monster movie. Sure, the clown is a fright to behold, but the children are undeniably the heart of the story.  Their struggles, their quirks, and their interactions feel so very real that it’s easy to forget that these are actors reading from a script. They are the kind of “geeky” kids you may have known (or been) growing up, with all the flaws and idiosyncrasies that come with such children. All are incredibly lovable, making the horror (both otherworldly and mundane) that befalls them unbearable. Both their chemistry and individual charms are what elevate this film to greatness and achieve the impressive feat of making a film about a child-eating clown monster heartwarming.

Of course, even with an exceptional group of heroes, a monster movie still needs a credible monster… oh boy! does It succeed in that regard! Actor Bill Skarsgard had some big floppy shoes to fill after Tim Curry’s turn in the miniseries, but he works sorcery here as Pennywise, the clown form of “IT”.  Pennywise’s initial appearances in this film are almost inviting, but there’s always that sense that he’s plotting… and hungry. Even in his most clownishly charming moments, he can barely conceal his ghastly appetite. As the film progresses, Pennywise grows more and more demonic in a truly unsettling fashion. It’s the stuff of nightmares.


There’s been a lot of talk about whether or not the new “IT” is superior to the old one.The way I see it, Tim Curry and Bill Skarsgard are to Pennywise what Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee are to Dracula: two unique actors giving equally brilliant performances as the same monster. Bill Skarsgard’s interpretation is considerably different than Curry’s, but still magnificent in its own way. Curry was pretty darn funny as the hellish harlequin, giving him a comedic edge that makes his more violent moments genuinely shocking. Skarsgard had a more overtly diabolical quality that is still  quite effective. Regardless of which performance you prefer, I think most of us can agree that Bill Skarsgard is a worthy “IT” for a new generation. Bravo to both clowns!

Despite its cast of children, IT is a fairly disturbing movie with some wonderfully nasty bits. Some of the most beautifully wicked scares you’ll see in a big budget fright film are lurking in this film. From the gory to the surreal, there’s a shock here for every taste. There are even some scenes that have an old-fashioned Gothic flavor to them, most of which take place in what is perhaps the best “haunted house” set I’ve seen in years. If you like a wide variety of creepy things, IT’s the spook show for you.

With an already killer box office intake and fabulous reviews, there’s little doubt that a sequel based on the novel’s second half is on its way. In fact, there’s one teased at the very end of the film. While I’ll certainly miss the child actors, I have no doubt that the next one will be another sensational work of horror cinema. I look forward to seeing Pennywise dance again. As for this current installment, stop clowning around and see it as soon as you can! Beep Beep!

Movie Review: Death Note (2017)

(Ho-wdy, Ho-rror Ho-mies…Apologies for dropping the ball a bit around here for the last little bit. I had some personal matters to attend to, butt now I’m back in action and ready to make the spookening happen. 🙂 First up, a review of something near and dear to my cold, black heart…Death Note. This take on the new NetfliXXX adaptation presented by Mr. Anton Phibes…Thanks for the interesting input, Kinky Kolleague! 🙂 xoxo)

It’s a tired cliche to say that the pen is mightier than the sword, but that old chestnut is given new gravity in Adam Wingard’s Death Note, an American incarnation of the popular Japanese franchise. In the film, a few strokes of a pen etched within a most peculiar notebook are all it takes to kill anyone at anytime. Imbued with the abilities of a literal death god, the titular “Death Note” is the murder weapon to end all murder weapons: elegant, efficient, and damn-near impossible to trace. The notebook’s current owner uses its awesome power to purge the world of those he deems evil, resulting in an epic battle of wits between the wielder of the book and those who seek to stop him.

Since 2003, Death Note has been adapted many times over. Starting with the anime adaptation of the original manga, each interpretation retains the primary characters and certain scenes, but always tells its own version of the tale, with new twists and wrinkles. However, despite the many variations on the same story, it seems most adapters agree that the material is simply too much to tell one outing. The manga spawned 12 volumes, the anime series has 37 episodes, the Japanese live-action films gave its take in two films, and the live-action mini-series had 11 episodes. Regardless of the changes made, Death Note is still a massive story.
And that is where the problems begin. A story as sprawling as Death Note shouldn’t be confined to a little over 90 mins.  The picture feels rushed and overloaded, losing much of the power previous tellings had. What’s worse is that precious screen time is spent on paltry teen drama that exists in no other version. Instead of building up the rivalry between the murderous Light and the detective L that’s so central to the franchise, it places emphasis on a boring girlfriend character who would not be out of place in a Disney Channel movie. Much of the suspense is replaced with teen angst, questions on the nature of justice are tossed out for bland romance,  and the Light depicted here is more of an awkward teenager than a diabolical vigilante. The entire affair has the unfortunate quality of feeling like a man in an iron maiden: cramped and bloodless.

Despite these considerable flaws, I actually did find quite a bit to love here. Adam Wingard’s direction is superbly stylishly, with extraordinary color usage, some fun death scenes, and some truly moody moments. Light’s character is significantly neutered compared to previous takes, but Nate Wolff does an admirable job as this version of the character.  The other performances range from pretty good to downright excellent, with Lakeith Stanfield’s L and Willem Dafoe as the death god Ryuk emerging on top. Speaking of Ryuk, the effects used to bring him to life(?) are simply marvelous, giving him a Satanic grace and a perfectly demonic appearance.

Death Note is likely to disappoint fans of the source material, but may be of interest to those who love teen horror. There are moments that evoke the black magic of the franchise, but it’s best taken as on its own.  Wingard’s film is deeply flawed, but not without flashes of greatness. Perhaps if he makes that rumored sequel, Wingard will deliver a film that lives up to the both his own potential and that of the material. There’s still time to make us see the Light.

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