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: Species (1995)

(I used to LOVE the shit out of this movie, so seems appropriate to be included in out #TBT offerings…Submitted, of course, by Mr. Goon-y Goon himself, Mr. Andrew Peters. Thanks for the mammaries, Kinky Ho-mie!! 😉 xoxo)

The ‘90s was an odd time for science fiction films. It’s like they couldn’t be made properly and nobody wanted them, but dammit, they were trying. Made on relatively modest budgets for what they were trying to achieve, the films themselves were over ambitious and may have missed the mark, but something about them was noteworthy. Films like The Lawnmower Man, Johnny Mnemonic or Mimic come to mind. When you look at those films, you would be shocked at what the special effects they were able to achieve or what stars they managed to rope into them. Of course, none of them were appreciated upon release, underperforming at the box office, but these kinds of flicks seem to be special to fans of this genre and have gained cult following. However, I think the best example of a smaller budgeted, overhyped (at the time) sci-fi film would be Species. Yeah, remember that movie? Unlike the other ones I mentioned, this actually performed fairly decent and I think we can chalk it up to two things…

Natasha Henstridge’s boobs. After this movie came out, this just became the “did you see Natasha Henstridge’s tits in that one movie” movie. It was all anyone talked about in school and I seem to recall one kid loaning a VHS copy to another kid and need it back by tomorrow before his dad noticed it was missing. Seriously, before rewatching Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray release, the only thing I could recall about this film is that she’s some alien chick and you see her boobs a lot. In fact, I seem to remember this being sold as a very dirty, nearly X rated flick because of the amount of nudity and sex in it. However upon this viewing, I found that although the film does contain those, they weren’t nearly as prominent as I had remembered and it focused more on a cool sci-fi story, even if it is a tad underdeveloped. Seeing as how the film made three times its budget back, I would say that selling the sex angle probably helped it.

Species centers around a young woman named Sil (who at this point in the film is played by a very young Michelle Williams), some sort of alien experiment that seems to be rapidly aging. Her life doesn’t seem as glorious as you may expect an alien visitor to have; she’s kept in a bubble and doesn’t seem to have a whole lot to do and now some Professor X looking dude with eyeliner named Fitch (Ben Kingsley) decides it’s a good idea to gas her. Luckily for her, unfortunately for them, the underestimate the strength of her prison and the efficiency of their security staff as she manages to escape and twists a hobo around backwards while on the run, all before boarding a train. Cardio is important, even if you have a train to catch.

While aboard the train, she pigs out on all kinds of junk food before doubling over in pain and with the magic of early ‘90s terrible CG, we’re able to see that something is growing inside her. She cocoons inside a train car and I really loved the practical effect in this scene. It reminded me of the ghosts from Silent Hill 4: The Room where the ghosts would touch the wall and that goop would grow or something out of a Resident Evil game. It’s was pulsating and oozing until it gives birth to a fully formed adult Sil, now played by Natasha Henstridge, who parades around her wonderful ta-tas in a dozen scenes. I also want to point out that every decades boobs seem different from the following decades. Do you know what I’m talking about? Look at ‘70s boobs compared to ‘80s boobs and compare them to ‘90s boobs. Natasha Henstridge had probably the best ‘90s boobs, hands down.

So, unfortunately the have to throw in this boring thing called plot instead of having Sil run around naked the whole time. Ben Kingsley hires team of scientists – or scientist type people – and some sort of mercenary hunter dude, Preston “Press” Lennox, played by a post Reservoir Dogs Michael Madsen, so he was in pretty decent shape and his voice hadn’t quite sounded like it had a bottle brush down it, but was a little quiet and gruff. And seriously, “Press” Lennox? You may as well name the dude Max Power or Slam Chunklift. He and the ‘too-hot-to-actually-be-a-doctor’ Dr. Laura Baker (Marg Helgenberger) seem to hit it off, but honestly I thought she was possibly the weakest character and the film must’ve thought so too, because they give her a sex scene with some nice side boob, but while this sex scene is intercut with Natasha Henstridge and Alfred Molina’s, you don’t really care. Yes, by the way, I did say Alfred Molina. I bet you thought you’d never see Doc Ock from Spider-Man 2 make his “Oh” face, did you? His character kinda becomes the poon hound outta nowhere in a scene when they go out drinking and I think it’s for exposition sake, because if you haven’t guessed already, the whole point to Sil’s rapid growth and obsession with sex is to mate and procreate.

Now the movie never states if it’s because her species are regular horndogs or if she’s trying to recreate her own kind, so to speak, but as the movie progresses it becomes more urgent that she to her that she bangs. I honestly think this may be the filmmakers way of taking a stab at the audience. It’s basically a cat and mouse type of movie at this point, but with plenty of nudity. To be fair, my summary makes this seem much more simplistic than it actually is. Sil’s quite the clever lady and even kidnaps a woman, cuts off her finger and burns her alive to escape, giving her just enough time to change her hair color and become the predator to her prey, the group of scientists that have been hunting her. She manages to turn the tables and the conclusion is a rather interesting mix of creative and very sexualized HR Giger designed practicals to some PS2 level CG. What I took from the conclusion is that I got to see a see a supermodel try and strangle Mr. Blonde with her nipples. Yup, they shoot out like snakes and wrap around his neck. Didn’t see that coming.

It’s funny to me that everyone remembers this movie for having Natasha Henstridge nude for the majority of it when she actually isn’t, but nobody seems to remember Mathilda May being butt nekkid in damn near every scene she’s in throughout Lifeforce. However, for being a sex symbol in what is ultimately a somewhat sleazy, sci-fi/horror film, Natasha Henstridge does put on quite a good show and I’m not just talking about her nude scenes. She’s just as scary as she is sexy and she doesn’t start out totally evil, but instead her instinct and need to procreate overwhelms her she becomes more viscous. She does this transition very well and as I’m typing that out, I also wonder if that was the filmmakers intent, to take another jab at the hormones of the male audience. Or I’ve been overthinking this film way too much. Another great performance I didn’t mention was Forest Whitaker’s character who is kinda clairvoyant, but very emotional when he senses what feelings the other person is feeling. He plays all ends of the emotional spectrum, really showing off his talent and it’s probably why the guy kept getting better and better work. Well, except for Battlefield Earth.

I mentioned earlier that Scream Factory has released Species in a two disc set with the film being a brand new 4K scan and to be fair, that’s probably why the early ‘90s CG looks as bad as it does. It wasn’t really meant to be seen in that kind of quality. The first disc is the movie itself with two separate audio commentary tracks, one of which includes Michael Madsen, Natasha Henstridge and director Roger Donaldson that I recommend checking out. The second disc is home to all of the special features, like the interviews and behind the scenes looks (which there are several extensive ones included), still galleries, trailers and the alternate ending. The main and brand new featurette, Afterbirth: The Evolution of Species is a great look at the pre to post production work on the film and worth watching.

I never disliked Species, but after viewing it this time around, I think I see it in a totally different light and have a newfound appreciation for it. It wasn’t the ultra sleazy, ultra gory taboo film I remembered it being. Sure, the film touches on sleaze, but it has some class and sexiness to it. Most importantly, it has an interesting story with characters worth investing in. It’s not the greatest sci-fi/horror film out there, but hopefully with this release it gets the respect it deserves. There were three sequels, but Species II is the only one that unites the cast and worth watching. Maybe we will see a newly transferred Blu-ray release of that in the near future?

Goon Review – House II: The Second Story

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

You don’t hear much about House II: The Second Story, so out of curiosity, I decided to see what the “professional” critics thought of it and jumped over to Rotten Tomatoes, because as we all know that’s where you go if you want opinions that matter. I’m actually shocked that this film holds a 0% rating currently on Rotten Tomatoes, based off nine reviews. A zero. Zilch. Nada. It’s not a bad film, at least not in the sense like a Transformers movie is, but I can see why people may dislike it; it very much steers away from the tone and satire the first film so brilliantly blended and is basically just a slapstick version of Indiana Jones with alternate dimensions. Hell, based on what I just said, that doesn’t sound too bad. I suspect that the watering down the horror elements and making it more zany and whacky is why critics didn’t seem to like it at all. Geez, it’s like they wanted a carbon copy of the first film, but with different actors… because that works so well with other franchises.

Okay, maybe they toned it down just a little too much, because despite that PG-13 rating it has (back when that meant something), House II is pretty much a kid’s movie. As I said, much of the horror is gone and mostly used for cheap and quick boo scares and the slapstick comedy is ramped up and the lead character is even given a whacky sidekick. Mix that in with a drinking elderly mummy from the Old West who speaks with a ‘oh-gee-shucks’ style and a cute puppy/caterpillar hybrid (yes, that is something that exists in this movie) and there ya go. The only thing I could think of that kept House II from getting a PG rating is the constant drinking going on in nearly every scene. There’s so much drinking in this movie that even my liver was killed by all the alcohol consumption.

Not taking place in the same house, but a different house (the movie is called House II, afterall). This time, it’s a rather large mansion that Jesse (Arye Gross… I don’t know, ‘ar ye’?) inherits, so he moves in along with his girlfriend Kate (Friday the 13th Part VII’s Lar Park Lincoln) along with his goofy friend Charlie (Jonathan Stark) and his wanna be popstar girlfriend Lana (Amy Yasbeck). I’m gonna talk about this subplot now, because at about halfway through the film the it’s dropped like a son dad is ashamed to talk about at Thanksgiving dinner. Kate is a record producer and Lana just so happens to be quite the singer, so Charlie and Lana are in hopes of getting her signed on to a record deal. Lucky for them, Kate’s boss (played by Bill Maher of all people) has the hots for her and listens to what she says and, well, that’s about it really. Once there is a misunderstanding with one of Jesse’s ex-girlfriends at a party about halfway through the movie, Bill Maher just puts his arms around the girls and escorts them and himself out of the movie. This is never really resolved, but then again it’s not really that interesting. Jesse and Kate barely share any screen time, so there’s no chemistry between the two. I also want to mention that it took me forever to recognize Jonathan Stark was the badass, undead Billy Cole in Fright Night!

The interesting stuff revolves around Jesse and Charlie’s misadventures once they learn about something called the crystal skull after seeing it in a photo with Jesse’s great-great grandfather also named Jesse (Royal Dano). Figuring the skull was probably buried with him, the two decide to go dig him up and find that he’s not only a mummy, but still very much alive. After Jesse reveals their connection and christian him with the nickname Gramps, they take him back to the house where they spend a good time in the basement shooting the shit, drinking some beers and hearing Old West stories. It’s a pretty charming scene and Jesse and Charlie seem so enthralled by Gramps’ stories. Upon seeing his own reflection, Gramps is heartbroken that the skull kept him alive, but did not restore his youth like he had hoped. I should also point out at this time that the skull’s powers are never fully disclosed, but just vaguely given. Very vaguely. I think the most descript explanation it’s given is along the lines of “it’s powerful.”

Oh, Gramps also informs Jesse that the house has multiple portals to alternate dimensions and he now has to protect the skull from danger and all this other nonsense. Jesse doesn’t say anything, he just kinda accepts it and everything in every dimension must’ve noticed the rookie taking over, because they all start trying to nab the damn skull. Luckily Charlie just happened to bring a fucking Uzi and enter multiple dimensions, like a prehistoric one where they befriend a baby pterodactyl that even comes to live with them, because funny! They even rescue some virgin babe she not only becomes a Mayan sacrifice, but also because Jesse now needs a love interest. However, there is a darker force looming over them, willing to get the skull at any cost… the zombie corpse of a man named Slim, Gramps’ old rival. Slim gunned down Jesse’s parents at the very beginning of the film at an attempt to get the skull, now Jesse, Gramps and Charlie get some payback and protect the skull at all cost or Slim will take over the world… I guess? His plans are unclear, but it probably won’t be good.

By far, the best part of the movie comes in form of John Ratzenberger (this film’s Cheers’ cast member cameo) as an electrician who also happens to be an adventurer. Yeah, this is a full time gig for him, both the wiring in your house and the multiple dimensions, swashbuckling, rope swinging and treasure hunting. He’s so nonchalant about it and plays it very low key, like he’s seen it so many times that he’s no longer impressed by it. At the end of it, he hands the boys his business card, which feels very much like a potential spinoff I would still love to see. His performance is very hysterical and in his brief time on screen, you’ll want more of him and beg for his further adventures and honestly, that’s what House III should have been instead of the series trying to get back to its horror roots.

As like in House, House II also has a majority of impressive practical effects and a handful of not so good ones, the most impressive being the mummy or zombie makeup on Gramps and Slim. Gramps isn’t gross or decaying, but rather dried out looking fitting into his cowboy motif and hey, it won’t scare the kids. That’s left up to Slim’s design, which is decaying and much more darker and wetter looking, plus Megatron himself, Frank Welker, does the voice! The animal puppets, like the dog/caterpillar and the pterodactyl, are wide eyes and cute looking as opposed to looking like the monstrosities they actually would resemble to further indicate the movie’s intention to reach a younger audience. I know every kid would want a stuffed toy of the dog/caterpillar, but alas the marketing department screwed the pooch on that one, for lack of a better pun.

The film is paired with the first film in a double box set in the US (the UK got all four House films in their box set), House: Two Stories released by Arrow Video. Like the first film, House II is also a 2K remaster that looks absolutely fantastic, but also like the first film, doesn’t have much in the way of special features. There is a pretty indepth feature called It’s Getting Weirder!: The Making of House II: The Second Story featuring interviews with Ethan Wiley, Sean S. Cunningham, stars Arye Gross, Jonathan Stark, Lar Park Lincoln, and Devin DeVasquez, composer Harry Manfredini, special make-up and creature effects artists Chris Walas, Mike Smithson, visual effects supervisor Hoyt Yeatman, and stunt coordinator Kane Hodder. Writer-director Ethan Wiley and producer Sean S. Cunningham provide a new commentary and a theatrical trailer and a still gallery round it out. There’s also some stunning new artwork by Justin Osbourn.

House II: The Second Story is a comedy right from the get-go. I mean, look at the pun right in the title. The title not only implies humor, but adventure as well and that’s exactly what we get and is it a perfect combination of the two? I’m gonna have to say no, but I don’t think it’s terrible either. In fact, I think the majority of it is fun, but there are moments that are rather childish (backing up my argument that this was aimed towards children) or poorly paced moments that make it feel dragged out. The feeling that this was aimed at a more younger, more marketable audience and the seemingly loosely connected adventures gives the film a feeling like it’s a handful of episodes of a failed TV show in the late ‘80s strung together and re-released as a movie so the company can try and recoup some of the financial losses. Hell, even John Ratzenberger’s character felt like he was shoehorned in as an attempt at a spinoff. The funny thing is, if they actually went for the PG rating and released this as a kid’s movie, I have a feeling it would have been far more successful.

House II, while not as good as its predecessor, still has some merit and can be a feel good, fun adventure even if it does feel a little childish.The characters are likable and have great chemistry together and honestly, I wouldn’t have minded seeing more. I can’t say the same for the other two films that follow and un(?)fortunately, House III (aka The Horror Show) and House IV aren’t included in the US Arrow set, The Two Stories. However, if you’re a completist, you may wanna get the UK version of this set that includes all four films.

 

Goon Review: House (1986)

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, my Ho-use-lovin’ ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)

Where have all the good haunted house movies gone to, huh? I’m talking about the ones that are both fun and scary, the ones that are worth a laugh and a fright. Goes back to the old saying, “they just don’t make them like they used to.” I’m not complaining that all haunted house movies are bad, in fact some of them have been pretty darn good in the past few years, but they are horror rather than horror comedy. Well, unless you count those family friendly ones that occupy the Redbox that are neither scary nor funny. Admittedly, it’s a hard combination to juggle without getting too campy, but 1986’s House, while a little campy, nicely balances that fine line of horror and comedy.

Sean S. Cunningham, the producer of 1972’s The Last House on the Left and director of 1980’s Friday the 13th knows a thing or two about horror, so when he was attached to produce House, it may come off as puzzling to some since those films had such dark and serious tones. However, what people don’t know is that Roger Corman was an executive producer, so that could explain the camp factor. Staying with the Friday the 13th connection, Steve Miner, who had directed Friday the 13th Part 2 was at the helm directing a script by Fred Dekker (who would go on to make movies, like Monster Squad and Night of the Creeps) and Ethan Wiley, so this could explain why the movie nearly flawlessly handles the genres. You throw in Sean S. Cunningham’s buddy and composer Harry Manfredini and it’s safe to say that the film was in good hands. Of course, this was before Steve Miner directed terrible films, like Halloween: H20 or that abysmally insulting Day of the Dead remake, so this is before his decline when he was actually making good movies.

The Greatest American Hero star William Katt plays Roger Cobb, a writer who has a few issues (hey, you wouldn’t be a writer if you didn’t, right?). For starters, his kid suddenly vanished one day in the swimming pool and he couldn’t hold it together, so his hot actress wife, Sandy Sinclair (Kay Lenz) leaves him. Then his nutty aunt Elizabeth hangs herself in a big ol’ spooky mansion, the very one where his kid went missing. Roger inherits the house and decides to move in, because what better place to write his book based on his Vietnam experiences than a house he already has numerous traumatic connections with? After all, good writers pull from real life tragedies, but I think he may be overdoing it here. When he’s not pretending he’s throwing big parties while on the phone with his ex-wife, he’s possibly hallucinating his dead aunt marching around the house. So if he’s not seeing dead people, he’s dressing up in his old combat gear to try and having Vietnam flashbacks. I assure you, Roger isn’t crazy, but the film is setting up a rather interesting piece of character development that would be considered ahead of its time.

Norm from Cheers (George Wendt) is his neighbor Harold who stops by to play the comic relief, otherwise we’d have a very down trodden Vietnam metaphor movie on our hands. He may provide us, the audience, with laughs, but he tends to get on Roger’s nerves when he isn’t providing beer or snacks. More often than not, Harold is a distraction from Roger’s writing at convenient times, like when he’s having some serious Vietnam flashbacks about some big ox of a soldier name Ben (Richard Moll). After Ben was wounded in combat, Roger couldn’t bring himself to finish Ben off, so he was subsequently dragged away by the enemy and tortured for weeks. It something that seems to haunt him, but now that haunting may seem to be manifesting physically as one night a monster pops out of the closet and claws at Roger’s torso! Knowing nobody will believe him, he knows that he will need evidence, but only makes himself look nuttier than a Payday in the process, wiring and rigging a number of cameras to go off right when he pulls a string and does the Pete Townsend powerslides on his knees out the front door and then reality kicks him hard in the nards as he’s just sitting there with Harold staring at him. Awkward.

Nobody believes poor Roger that some pugnacious hauntings are happening. Not Harold, not Sandy. Nobody. Could it all be in Roger’s head? That’s what you along with the other characters are starting to think at this point and it’s probably the most brilliant aspect of this movie. Long before it had a name it could be identified with, House was ahead of its time and was bringing attention to PTSD. I have to commend William Katt’s performance, because he really brings emotion of someone losing their grip on reality to the forefront here. As he pleads with Harold or whoever that the monsters are real, beads of sweat roll down his face, his voice cracks and you can see and hear the desperation that he just wants someone to believe him. Even when he is by himself being chased around the house by the specters, you start to wonder if it really is all in his head or if it’s happening. When he imagines his ex-wife stopping by and turning into a weird, blobbish, twisted version of her, he shoots it only to see it may really be his wife, you figure he’s definitely lost it and he killed someone. He breaks down in tears, but all is not as it seems as the monster rears its ugly head once again and this time, he cuts it up and buries it. The scene goes from being boo-scary, to horrifying (in the sense that he may have murdered a person) to funny, so the film wants to not only play with tone, but to also play with your expectations.

Not giving up, Roger is determined to make someone believe him and who better than Harold? After finally witnessing some sort of ghoul, Harold fails at helping Roger who is dragged into the closet and teleported to what looks like the Vietnam war where he comes across his missing son, but that’s not the only one. It seems like a familiar face, as rotten and decayed as it may not be, but familiar nonetheless, was responsible for kidnapping his son and now it wants revenge. Roger is now pitted against an old frenemy as he battles for his son and possibly his own sanity and really if you look at it like the events are all happening in Roger’s head, the film still works as a drama comedy instead of a horror comedy. I think that’s one of the best things about House, is that no matter how you perceive it, the film still works as that genre. Regardless of what was actually happening, it’s still about Roger’s struggle with the effects of war and coping with the loss of his son. It also just happens to be about spoopy ghosts.

Some of these ghosts are downright ghastly, like the closet monster with its many arms or the monster version of his ex-wife that has a high pitched, distorted voice that makes me feel uncomfortable, while others… eh, not so much. The two children monsters that come out of the chimney look dreadful in the wrong way. Their mouths and eyes don’t move, they look cheap and rubbery. In the midst of this fun film with great creature effects, you get these two that looks like the budget ran out, so they had to run to the Halloween store and get some cheap costumes. They aren’t prominently displayed on screen or featured very long, so it’s not very troublesome, but for the brief period of time they are on screen they can be an eyesore. Perhaps the best looking makeup effect is that of Ben all zomb-i-fied. Basically, take the look of Jason from Friday the 13th Part VII and slap some Vietnam garb on on Bull from Night Court and there ya go. He has exposed bones and organs, he looks dusty yet slimey, it’s absolutely fantastic looking.

Some of these effects may look less impressive on the new 2K restoration from Arrow Video. While the film itself looks marvelous, what with edges being sharp and colors being bright and vivid, it suffers a bit from looking too good. Often there were times you could see the faults in the makeup or prosthetics, like being able to see actor Richard Moll’s mouth painted black behind the false teeth of zombie Ben. It’s a minor nitpick and didn’t ruin my experience of the film. If anything, I was happy to finally view the film nice and clean for the first time, seeing as the only viewing experience I’ve ever had is my old VHS copy. The audio commentary by director Steve Miner, producer Sean S. Cunningham, actor William Katt and screenwriter Ethan Wiley is a good listen, providing some insight and memories on the making of the movie. Speaking of making the movie, there’s a great feature included called Ding Dong, You’re Dead! The Making of House that includes interviews with Steve Miner, Sean S. Cunningham, Ethan Wiley, story creator Fred Dekker, stars William Katt, Kay Lenz, and George Wendt, composer Harry Manfredini, special make-up and creature effects artists Barney Burman, Brian Wade, James Belohovek, Shannon Shea, Kirk Thatcher, and Bill Sturgeon, special paintings artists Richard Hescox and William Stout, and stunt coordinator Kane Hodder. Trailers and a still gallery round out the features.

I don’t think House is overlooked, but I think some have forgotten about or others may think it’s just a jump scare horror film, which it is, but it’s more than that. House has a message, something to say about the then unnamed PTSD and how some Veterans are affected by it and struggle. It’s also a charming comedy with plenty of likable characters and funny moments. In the wrong hands, this film could have been a disaster. A lesser cast and crew would have failed at juggling all the themes and ideas, but luckily you had a handful of talented people treating it with care and having a lot of fun that translates on the screen. The film is an absolute riot. It’s witty, charming as well as being scary and funny. I can’t think of many other films that are able to do all of that as well House. The film is packaged here in the states along with its sequel, House II: The Second Story, in a neat little box called House: The Two Stories. Although the UK got all four House films in their boxset (I’m guessing the US couldn’t due to rights issues), I’m happy at least the first film got a proper Blu-ray treatment. Well, maybe the second film too.

Vinyl Review: Contra III: The Alien Wars

(Submited by Mr. Andrews Peters…Thank you, ho-rror ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)

The first Contra game released on the NES in 1987 was a huge hit and defined what we now know as side-scrolling shooting. Other games came along and tried to copy what it did, but they never got right what Contra did. It seems they could never get the simple controls, great imagery giving nod to action films of the Schwarzenegger and Stallone flicks, as well as HR Giger’s art and kick ass soundtrack that made the game so amazing. Sequels came and occasionally they would try something different, but always remained true to outstanding gameplay and soundtracks.

Mondo, who has been releasing some great video game soundtracks, like the Castlevania series and previous Contra titles, has just released Contra III: The Alien Wars to vinyl, moving up to the 16-bit era now and it is just as glorious as I remember it. And for some reason, 16-bit music sounds so fitting on vinyl to me. It must be that it brings me back to playing through this game during a summer when I was a young kid in Kansas. I remember it being around midnight and the aliens always creeped me out, but the music kept me going. It’s somewhat unlike the original game’s score, being a little more atmospheric, but at the same time it remains true to the fast drums, stinging synth military/action sound we’ve grown to love.

You can always count on Mondo to deliver some seriously talented art. Paul Mann depicts the classic red and blue clad Contra heroes, one looking concerned, the other with his war face is full on mad dog mode, in front of an explosion with a skull with beady eyes looming over it all. The bright and neon colors not only represent the ‘90s, but also how colorful the game is. When you open it to reveal the inside artwork, the war rages on with a full out action collage featuring aliens, robots, flying demons, helicopters, a city on fire… holy hell, this thing has a lot going on and with this single image, represents everything you love about this game.

The orchestrated score by Konami Kukeiha Club sounds magnificent on this 180 Gram Red & Blue Half & Half Camouflage, which I think is a nice tough as it represents the classic colors of Player 1 and Player 2. There is a blood splattered variant on white, so keep your eye out for that one. The tracks loop seamlessly, so it doesn’t feel like a short amount of notes being repeated tirelessly. If anything, the music is chaotic and full of energy that it’s sure to make your blood rush. The composers were taking full advantage of the Super Nintendo’s 16-bit capabilities and making it a much more dynamic score while remaining true to what the original started.

Aside from the first game, Contra III: The Alien Wars is my favorite soundtrack in the series and I’m so happy that Mondo has done it such great justice. Whether you’re a fan of the game or a fan of action/sci-fi soundtracks, I would highly recommend grabbing this one. It’s only $25 and can be picked up from Mondo’s store.

Goon Review: Cat in the Brain (1990)

Lucio Fulci left his mark in 1979 with Zombie, a film that many quickly dismissed as a Dawn of the Dead rip-off, but they would be wrong. It’s a cash-in, duh. Dawn of the Dead hit the scene hard and made an impact in the horror world. The imitators came out by the truck load and everyone wanted some of that sweet zombie cash, kinda like how it is today. Anyway, Fulci, although never fully getting the respect that he demanded, still made a name for himself that would sit along the likes of Dario Argento and Mario Bava. Having already done a few giallo and sexploitation films himself, he decided to venture further down this gory path in horror films and made other greats like City of the Living Dead, House by the Cemetery and what some consider his magnum opus The Beyond. Being labeled “The Godfather of Gore” (a nickname he shared with Herschell Gordon Lewis), he was targeted by critics as being sadistic. Crews often said he was unfair toward the women and his films were looked at by normal crows (you know, non horror fans) as being cruel and mean and that only a sick mind could create such a thing. What’s a director to do?

Take all the negative things people have ever said about you and make it into a joke. A dark, but hilarious joke. And it may be a joke that not everyone will get and that’s ok. For those of us that do, we get a good chuckle and it’s like we’re patting the director on the back and saying, “I feel ya.” For him, he gets to crook a little smile for his accomplishment. Those who ridiculed him and misjudged him are the butt of the joke without knowing it. Perhaps I am over analyzing what most look at as strange, gory horror film with comedic elements thrown in for good measure. But there are plenty of elements in Cat in the Brain that could be over analyzed. We won’t go into them all, but it may be a much deeper film in disguise. Could that mean we are the sickos, so desensitized to the violence that we don’t notice? See, there I go again.

The film literally opens with a cat in a brain. Fulci’s brain to be exact, as he’s typing away at his typewriter, coming up with gory demises for characters, because as we all know this is the only thing horror directors think about. Oh, that’s right… Fucli not only wrote and directed this piece, but he stars in it as well! The film then cuts to a scene from one of his other films, Touch of Death (another great dark comedy horror film) wherein a man is cannibalizing a woman. Fulci seems to be thinking about this while shooting his new film and continues to think about it even more when he tries to order at a restaraunt. The thought of consuming steak tartare repulses him and he leaves. His appetite now gone, he heads home only to be continuously haunted by visions of violence. His neighbor cutting wood with a chainsaw soon becomes blood soaked and coming after Fulci, as the director takes an axe to red paint cans. Is our good director losing it his mind?

Have no fear, Dr. Egon Shwarz is here! Having recently attacked a female journalist, tearing off her clothes and nearly sodomizing her because of a scene he recently filmed for a nazisploitation film, Fulci checks in to the local shrink to get to the bottom of it. However, Dr. Shwarz has plans of his own. With Fulci in a hypnotic state, the doctor tells Fulci that all of the violence he sees in his head he will believe not only that it’s real, but that he is also committing it. Geez, what a dick! And all because he is having marital problems and hates women! Hey, wait a sec… could this be a parody of how people are seeing Fulci? Perhaps. Either way, the plot has gone into full gear and the madness is about to begin. With Fulci not being the patsy, Dr. Schwarz manages to take a number of victims while wearing crazy eyes and the creepiest grin you will ever see. A decapitated hooker is found near the set on a night that Fulci walked home, but that’s not the only case. More and more bodies turn up near the set and Fulci begins to vividly hallucinate more frequently and much more extreme. Is he really losing his mind and committing the murders or is it the doctor? Well, it’s not so much of a mystery as it is a joke.

So, is all the footage from his other films part of the joke, because the Italians were notorious for reusing footage from other movies to pad out run time and save money? Well, you make that decision. The film also includes a lot of aforementioned gore and some nudity that may seem like it was inserted pointlessly, like when Fulci is staring out his window and he seems a woman in leggings topless and feeling herself. Along with the murders of women, Fulci was possibly taking jabs at everyone calling him misogynistic. You know, I’ve been going on about Fulci in the lead role and have yet to comment on how good his performance really is. Of course, the English dubbing is, well, it’s what you expect from Italian horror films. Let’s leave it at that.

Previously available on DVD, Grindhouse Releasing has released it on Blu-ray for the really sick horror fans out there. The first thing I noticed is that the film has a somewhat softness to it and to be honest, I didn’t notice a big – or any – difference in video quality from the DVD. Not to turn you off from this release seeing as it has plenty to offer. The slip cover is cool and glows in the dark and the Blu-ray case itself is reversible. There are plenty of other features too, like in depth interviews with director Lucio Fulci and Brett Halsey (star of Touch of Death), the Italian theatrical trailer and best of all, in traditional Grindhouse Releasing fashion, a bonus CD soundtrack!
Your unfamiliar horror fans or average movie goers could argue that the film is part glorified clip show, using bits and pieces from some of his other works, Touch of Death and Ghosts of Sodom and the rest is typical misogyny from a sick and twisted old man, filled with nothing but grotesque violence toward women. They would be right, in their own sense, but I think they would be wrong. I would argue that it’s a clever, possibly misunderstood man satirizing himself for the sake of good humor and having a blast doing so. Either way you look at it, it’s a fun experiment and I think the humor and parody work where they are supposed to while the gore isn’t too extreme as his previous films, it is pretty over the top and possibly played for laughs. Cat in the Brain, also called Nightmare Concert, is a fun little experiment from Doctor Fulci that I would say won’t be entertaining to your average horror fan, but those of you looking for something a little more twisted, check this out.

Goon Review: Vamp (1986)

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, my wickedly awesome ho-rror ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)

Can we agree that vampires are horribly misrepresented nowadays? I could count how many decent vampire movies that came out since 2000 on one hand, even if I were missing a few fingers. After the ‘80s, vampires didn’t seem to work too well. During that decade, we saw too much of the fashion and pop culture making their way into these films, like the filmmakers wanted to “modernize” vampires. They also had this unnecessary trend of having one of the characters reiterate all of the vampire rules just incase you have comatosed since the beginning of vampire films and didn’t know what kind of creatures there were. In all seriousness, a lot of vampire movies I like come from the ‘80s, including Fright Night and Near Dark (which in my opinion is the best vampire movie). I didn’t include The Lost Boys, because personally I don’t like it and I know it has a huge following, but it just doesn’t do anything for me.

Somewhere in the middle of all those movies lies Vamp from 1986, a movie that was advertised to be much darker than it actually is. The first time I ever saw this movie, I was a little disappointed I didn’t get the movie that was sold to me and it was jarring to watch this sophomoric comedy that happened to have vampires and an albino gang. I didn’t know what the hell was going on, but slowly it began to grow on me somewhat. It’s not a bad film, but it’s not the greatest. It’s about as middle of the road as you can get. The humor doesn’t always work, it doesn’t offer anything to frighten you, it’s quite predictable, but visually it’s super stylish. There’s mood and atmosphere to accompany the style Vamp undeniably has. It’s be can cool, it’s a little sexy and it’s very much a product of the ‘80s vampire era.

Chris Makepeace and Robert Rusler play Keith and AJ (I’ll let you guess which one of the two plays the loveable asshole), two young college studs that are trying to find just the right fraternity to join and not just any old fraternity will do. They are looking to rub elbows with the rich and spoiled, so ya know, less college work for them. Offering to provide the frat with any service, and they do mean anything, the frat tasks them with getting a stripper for their party. Sounds like no problem for two resourceful, handsome gents… except between them, so after enlisting the help of rich kid Duncan, they head off to the dirtiest part of town. Duncan serves almost no purpose for the film other than to later try and the wool over your eyes, but it doesn’t work. He pretty much just drinks and regurgitates bad jokes, but hey, this Meatballs inspired vampire flick needs a cliched Asian character. Speaking of Meatballs, Chris Makepeace was also in that movie. Well, let’s move on.

The trio runs into an albino gang at a pitstop for some coffee and now I realized I wrote the words “albino gang.” The leader, who kinda looks like a Pablo Honey era Thom Yorke pulls a switchblade on them, but AJ’s also kind of a badass and turns the tables. The scene ends and the film carries on and as it progresses, it will be in the back of your mind and you won’t be able to help yourself and wonder, “what the hell did that have to do with anything?” The short answer is nothing. Not a goddamn thing other than to add an action scene later that could honestly be cut from the film and it would have no effect on the overall feature or maybe it was to pad out the run time. When it comes to things like this in films like this, neither answer would surprise me.

Somewhere in between classy and sleazy is the nightclub, ran by a slender man in a pink suit named Vic and his brute of an enforcer, Vlad, where they decide to find their stripper and the patrons and workers are also somewhere in between classy and sleazy. Actually, it’s very fitting with how I first described this movie. It’s like it wants to take inspiration from others, but never finds an identity of its own. An old acquaintance of Keith’s, a very cute and new wave looking girl named Allison played by Dedee Pfeiffer, recognizes him, but he can’t seem to recognize her. Honestly, how could you forget such a cute face like that? This is Dedee Pfeiffer at her cutest. She would go on to do a lot of TV show appearances, like Supernatural, but her real big credit would go to starring alongside the 2000 action flick, Billy Ray Cyrus starring vehicle, Radical Jack. It’s worth it to see Billy Ray Cyrus try and play an action star.

Now for the main event. A mysterious woman named Katrina (Grace Jones) takes the stage and performs a very ritualistic style dance that commands attention, although I’d have to say it’s the fell-asleep-with-product-in-my-hair hairstyle I couldn’t take my eyes off of. Being thoroughly impressed, AJ, unbeknownst to Keith, goes backstage to hire Katrina, but never comes back. Keith now starts to realize that there is some really weird stuff going on, like Vic snacking on crickets and everybody seems to be telling him that AJ ditched him. Something isn’t right here and as Keith keeps meddling, his questions are making him a target and soon he’s confronted by AJ who is telling him to relax and then reveals himself to be a vampire! But, ya know, not before going down the list of rules that makes you a vampire. As I said, a lot of vampire movies at this time had a character exposition dump all the vampire rules, because the filmmakers and studios thought we were idiots and had never seen or heard of vampires before. No matter what film it’s in, these scenes bring the movie to a screeching halt for me and it never fits in. Well, it only lasts several minutes before the two are forced to fight and Keith escapes to learn that the whole nightclub and most of the town are bloodsuckers!

At this point, it’s relatively paint by numbers without any surprises, although the film will still try to make you believe there may be. Keith tries to survive the night along with his new galpal Allison, but escaping seems much harder than it should be and the film does a great job at this point of making an open city feel closed off and isolated. Keith is even driven into the sewers for hiding after being confronted by the albino gang once again, which at this point feels like filler. They needed something to stretch out the run time, so they added a subplot with a bunch of violent, punk rock albinos. Come to think of it, albinos are fairly rare, so the fact that they all found each other and formed a gang is commendable.

I have to wonder if From Dusk Til Dawn would later take the idea of a strip club full of vampires. Just a thought that’s totally irrelevant. So anyway, Arrow Video presents Vamp in a brand new high definition digital transfer that looks quite remarkable. The film itself is lit with a lot of magentas and greens, almost like it’s a comic book and this new transfer helps those colors really pop out and it looks really beautiful. There are some other features included, like a brand new documentary called One of Those Nights that interviews the cast and crew as they recall making the film. There are some funny stories involved, so it’s absolutely worth a watch. Retro viewers might get a kick out the rehearsals video and blooper reel or even director Richard Wenk’s short film Dracula Bites the Big Apple.

Vamp may not be the best vampire movie or even the best college buddy comedy, but it’s not horrible in any way. It unfortunately misses the mark at mixing both genres and has noticeable filler, but thanks to great performances, special effects and likeable characters, it will be one of the better “teen vampire” movies to me.

Goon Review: Spasmo (1974)

(submitted by Andrew Peters…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie!! 🙂 xo)

Umberto Lenzi is probably most often remembered for his trashy gore flicks like Cannibal Ferox and Nightmare City, which may or may not be knock offs of something else. I say trashy in a good way, being filled with sleaze, sex and violence; three things none of us couldn’t live without. There has always been a certain madness to Lenzi’s works, something sinister and insane that makes them work, even if they aren’t very good (I’m looking at you, Ghosthouse). Spasmo, one of his earlier works before he really explored the depths of gore, is a prime example. It’s a film that is primarily about madness and a spiraling descent further and further into it.

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Spasmo is a rather different beast than your typical Lenzi films. It’s a Giallo that’s heavier on the crime element and storytelling than bloodshed. Those going into the film looking for a Giallo with a kill count by a leather gloved maniac are going to be sorely disappointed, but those looking for something that is going to surprisingly play against your expectations, whether that be good or bad in the end, will most likely come away with a pleasant viewing experience.

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Our protagonist, if that’s what you want to call him, Christian and his… um, girlfriend (it’s really unclear exactly what their relationship is to each other) find the blonde hair, blue eyed Barbara (played by Torso’s Suzy Kendall) lying on the beach. This is where the trouble quickly begins. Christian quickly charms her and is about to get it in her hotel room when a man in a suit barges into the bathroom and holds him at gunpoint. Christian grabs his arms and accidentally shoots this unknown man, which Barbara takes suspiciously well, but the two decide to feel. Barbara suggests a “friends” place where an older man and a woman just so happen to be. Christian swears they look familiar, but has to return to the scene of the crime, because of a gold chain he left behind. Upon returning, he discovers the body missing. Just what in the hell is going on? He returns to the others and begins to understand what is happening (but this doesn’t mean you will… not yet anyway) and not is all as it seems.

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Is it really a plot against Christian? But why? Could it be masterminded by Barbara? Or perhaps his brother? But for what gain? Could Christian be insane? Could they all be insane? Who the hell is dressing these mannequins up slutty and stabbing them with a switchblade? Believe it or not, all of those questions will be answered (yes, even that last one)!

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At first, it’s going to seem like Christian is nothing more than a completely inept doofus, incapable of making a single intelligent decision and playing in to everyone’s obvious ploy against him, but soon you realize he isn’t so dumb and playing into the set ups is a part of it as he begins altering the course of the plan as his craziness begins to come out. Also, this is when it starts to get really interesting and the obvious becomes not so obvious and the second guessing begins. The film dodges back and forth with the ideas of who is playing who and who is actually insane, when in the end, the answer makes everything clear.

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There are plenty of sleazy Euro-trash staples littered about in Spasmo, but not nearly as thick as something like Fulci’s Perversion Story. The film likes get inside your head at times, juggling your decisions back and forth with right and wrong. It’s a great mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end. As far as the Blu-ray goes, the quality of how it looks and sounds is alright at best. There is still a lot of noise and softness, but the colors look pretty decent. The audio seems really uneven and I found myself turning the volume up and down throughout most of the movie until I finally decided to put on subtitles. For those of you who do like your films aged like your cheese, there is an unrestored version available from the menu with the grit and grain and whatnot.

It’s a film that really plays into paranoia and the consequences it has on a particular character. It’s not a film about one man’s fall into madness, it’s about everyone’s.

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Goon Review: Madman (1982)

Continuing with our Great Ho-rror Campout-inspired Summertime Slasher series, here’s a fresh, new Goon Review to further inspire you to gore-ge yourself on s’mores. 😉 Madman has been remastered and released on Blu-Ray (oh what an age we live in, fiends!! :)), but here’s how the VHS version of this classic campfire tale rates on the scale of Goony Greatness…Take it away, Mr. A! 😉 xoxoxo

Gather around the campfire and let me tell you a tale, a tale about murder and revenge. It’s a legend that’s been told for years and was quite popular in the late 70’s/early 80’s about a maniac returning to his familiar camp ground and slaughtering anyone who dares trespass on it. I’m talking about Cropsey!

Wait, no that’s not who I meant, although the legend I wanted to tell you about was originally about the Cropsey murders tale, until our fated filmmakers learned there was a little horror flick called The Burning already in production, so they did a quick rewrite and… Madman jumped out of the bushes!

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It’s the last day at summer camp and the campers are gathered around the campfire with the counselors as head counselor Max tells the brutal tale of Madman Marz, who one day decided to kill his wife and kids and was consequently disfigured and hung by a lynch mob for his atrocity. However, his body was missing the next day and his screams can be heard from the woods, vowing to return and kill again if anyone says his name above a whisper… so the camp obnoxious kid, Richie, stands up and starts screaming his name, but hey, it’s all in good fun. They all call it a night and return to their cabin, where TP, another counselor, tries to get in the sack with Betsy (played by Dawn of the Dead’s Gaylen Ross), who isn’t having that! Well, at first.

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On the way back to the cabins, Richie notices something in the trees through the dark. He decides to sneak off to the old house to see what it could be. Max leaves to head in to town for supplies, and by supplies I mean to go drink beer, so TP volunteers to go looking for the little brat, but ends up at the business end of a noose. Now he is missing and the other counselors decide to split up and look for him and you know what that means! That’s right, they will be coming face to face… or should I saw axe to face with the legend himself, Madman Marz! Betsy begins growing suspicious of what’s happening and calls Max (instead of the police) to come back to camp for help, but she has a gut feeling he won’t make it on time.

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It’s up to Betsy to save the kids and take care of Marz once and for all, but can she do it? I think what happens will actually shock you. I know it did for me. I didn’t see that one coming.

I know it summed it up pretty quickly there and made it sound generic, but I left it vague intentionally for the reason that I want you to experience Madman for yourself. Of all the slasher films to come out of the boom in the early 80’s, Madman is at the top of my favorites. At a first glance, you can really see how it’s copy and paste of all the tropes and clichés, but once you actually see it, you will notice it’s more than that. For starters, the tale is pretty original itself. Once the filmmaker Joe Giannone found out there was already another Cropsey movie, he came up with his own original story and made that movie on a far less budget (less than half the budget of The Burning) and for being a lower budget film, everything looks spectacular.

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The film is dimly lit when outdoors, but it never reaches a point where it’s so dark, you have no idea what the hell you are looking at. The film makes excellent use of backlighting and it makes the characters pop in a real creepy way when they are outlined with the moonlight. Mixed in with the scenery of the dense outdoors and sheer blackness of night, this is one creepy looking picture. Speaking of creepy looking, the special effects are really well done and I have to say I was surprised by the level of gore in the film! For a lower budget film, these special effects make use of that budget and don’t skip on anything. Among some of glorious gore, you will witness a drunk cook getting his throat ripped out, not one, but two decapitations, multiple slashes and gashes and gallons of the pretty red stuff.

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Madman has a downright creepy vibe to the whole feel, seemingly almost realistic and that something is lurking in the darkness of your very own home, waiting to jump out at you. It’s one of the more atmospheric slasher films I’ve come across in my life and it remains one of my favorites, not only because it’s creepy and fun, but also because it’s a well told story with decent effects and brings back a lot of nostalgia to the good old days of summer camp.

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