Film Review: The Devil’s Rejects (2005)

Also known as: House of 1000 Corpses 2, House of 2000 Corpses (working titles)
Release Date: July 22nd, 2005
Directed by: Rob Zombie
Written by: Rob Zombie
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon, Matthew McGrory, Ken Foree, William Forsythe, Leslie Easterbrook, E. G. Daily, Geoffrey Lewis, Priscilla Barnes, Kate Norby, Lew Temple, Danny Trejo, Diamond Dallas Page, Brian Posehn, Michael Berryman, P.J. Soles, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Mary Woronov, Tyler Mane, Tom Towles (cameo)

Cinelamda, Lionsgate, 109 Minutes

Review:

“I am the devil, and I am here to do the devil’s work.” – Otis Driftwood

This was a film that I had in constant rotation for a few years after it came out. It has been quite a long time since I’ve seen it, however.

Most of what I remember is that I love the characters of Captain Spaulding and Otis and that they made it a fun experience. Granted, I recently revisited House of 1000 Corpses, so I was reminded of my appreciation for these characters. But they are played by Sid Haig and Bill Moseley, so why wouldn’t they be fantastic?

In the years since this was released, I was disappointed every single time that Rob Zombie made a new movie. Each one seemed to get worse and he showed himself to be a one trick pony. In fact, I gave up and I think I’ve missed a couple of his pictures now.

That being said, this is Rob Zombie’s best movie, as I assume that even the last couple don’t measure up, based off of what I’ve read about them.

This takes the world of House of 1000 Corpses, a decent homage to slashers and the “creepy family in the woods” shtick, and turns it into something else entirely. Where the first film feels like a combination of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th, this film is more like Natural Born Killers. This takes the three main characters from the crazy killer family and puts them on the run from the law. And the law is led by a cop that turns out to be just as insane as the killers.

The most interesting thing about this picture is that it flips the script on the bad guys. The ones who tortured and murdered countless people end up in the victim’s chair when the sadistic cop finally has them in his possession. The hunters become the hunted and really, this is a film full of nothing but shitty people doing shitty things to one another. But it is still a neat little experiment to experience.

Sid Haig and Bill Moseley really take their game to a whole new level here and both were fantastic, charismatic and entertaining. Unfortunately, Sheri Moon, Rob Zombie’s wife that he always puts front in center in all of his movies, is pretty terrible. She sort of just exists to be some psychotic eye candy that spends more time showing her butt to the camera than doing anything worthwhile. I’ve also always found her voice to be annoying. Sorry, she just sticks out like a sore thumb in the worst way possible in everything that she is in. This film is no different.

One things this film does well, is it utilizes a lot of old school horror legends in good ways. The characters played by Ken Foree and Michael Berryman are entertaining and add a lot of depth to the film, as just following the three main characters starts to wear thin. Foree really comes in at the right time, diverting some attention away.

The film also has a cool bounty hunter duo played by Danny Trejo and Dallas Page. I liked them a lot and actually wish they got some sort of spin off. They had good chemistry, were enjoyable in their roles and probably have some other stories worth telling.

The most impressive performance, however, was by William Forsythe, who played the psycho sheriff hell bent on revenge against the killer family that murdered his brother in the previous movie. Forsythe was sick and twisted but had a badge and police force to back him up.

The Devil’s Rejects is far from a perfect film but it is better than House of 1000 Corpses and certainly a lot more polished than that film was.

Apparently a sequel is coming, even though the family gets gunned down in the final moments. I’m not looking forward to it though, as this was a good ending to the story and Zombie’s track record since this picture has been terrible.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Its predecessor House of 1000 Corpses.

Film Review: TerrorVision (1986)

Release Date: February 14th, 1986
Directed by: Ted Nicolaou
Written by: Charles Band, Ted Nicolaou
Music by: Richard Band, The Fibonaccis
Cast: Diane Franklin, Gerrit Graham, Mary Woronov, Chad Allen, Jonathan Gries, Jennifer Richards, Alejandro Rey, Bert Remsen

Empire Pictures, 83 Minutes

Review:

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, war stories and monster movies are educational. They’re survival-oriented. They always neutralize the enemy in the end.” – Grampa Putterman

TerrorVision is a strange but enchanting and hilarious body of work. It’s the type of film that could really only come out of the 1980s. It stars Mary Woronov and Gerrit Graham, who both also appeared in Chopping Mall the same year. Both actors have a solid cult following and for good reason, they knew how to pick the right kind of movies that had the sort of elements that would eventually turn them into cult pictures.

The film also stars Diane Franklin, Chad Allen of Our House fame and a young Jonathan Gries, in what may be my favorite role he’s ever played.

The film kicks off with an opening scene on an alien world that uses very obvious miniatures and models that immediately lets you know that the film has no budget but it is going to be a real homage to the special effects style of the 1950s and 1960s. It also directly references its influences by showcasing old sci-fi films of that classic era throughout this movie.

The story is about a suburban family of wacky characters and their obsession with their new satellite dish and television in general. An alien creature accidentally gets beamed into the satellite dish and is then able to escape the TV and eat the family.

One cool thing about the film, is that other than the few shots in the driveway, the film is shot entirely on an indoor set. The sky in the backyard is just a screen and just adds to the magical nature of the movie’s presentation. It’s supposed to look low budget and it succeeds in pulling this off while also having some impressive creature effects. You have to suspend disbelief and realize that this is a comedy and almost parody. It sort of exists in a similar vein to the ’80s version of Little Shop of Horrors.

All the characters are great and entertaining, especially all the bits with the swingers and then all the parts with Jonathan Gries’ O.D.

While this film has a good cult following, it still doesn’t get the recognition that it probably should.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: The 1986 remakes of Invaders From Mars and Little Shop of Horrors, as well as another film with Woronov and Graham in it, Chopping Mall. It also fits well with The StuffNight of the Creeps and The Video Dead.

Film Review: Chopping Mall (1986)

Also known as: Killbots (Belgium/original US theatrical title), Robot Assassins (Spain), Shopping (France/West Germany), Supermarket Horror (Italy), Terror In Park Plaza (Portugal), R.O.B.O.T. (working title)
Release Date: March 21st, 1986
Directed by: Jim Wynorski
Written by: Jim Wynorski, Steve Mitchell
Music by: Chuck Cirino
Cast: Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell, John Terlesky, Russell Todd, Karrie Emerson, Barbara Crampton, Suzee Slater, Nick Segal, Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, Dick Miller, Gerrit Graham

Concorde Pictures, 77 Minutes, 95 Minutes (original cut)

Review:

“Let’s send these fuckers a Rambo-gram.” – Rick

Chopping Mall is an unknown film that has grown a good cult following over the years. I saw it on VHS but not until the early ’90s. I’m not sure if it was readily available or distributed in the mid-’80s when it was originally released. It certainly didn’t play in a theater or drive-in near me because Southwest Florida in the ’80s was devoid of any real culture. Well, it still mostly is, thirty years later.

One cool thing about Chopping Mall is that its opening scene stars Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov as the Blands from Bartel’s 1982 movie Eating Raoul. It makes this a sort of crossover film. But then, Dick Miller also pops up as one of the many Walter Paisleys he’s played over the years. In any event, this had a lot of nods to the Roger Corman camp of talent but since his wife Julie was the producer, that makes sense.

The film also has a small role for Gerrit Graham, who popped up in horror movies a lot in the ’80s and ’90s. He even played the husband of Mary Woronov in TerrorVision. And then you also have Barbara Crampton of Re-Animator fame, as well as Kelli Maroney from Night of the Comet.

The premise of this film sees a bunch teens decide to camp out in the local mall overnight, as some of them work at the furniture store where there are beds. You know, so the teens can do that sex stuff that always sets off the monsters in an ’80s splatter picture. What the teens don’t know is that the mall has three robot security guards who have gone on the fritz. This is like Short Circuit if there were three Johnny 5s and they all had a thirst for teenage blood.

This is a really short film but it is full of action, solid practical effects, cheesy non-practical effects, bad acting, hokey ’80s dialogue and breasts. There is also a fantastic head explosion that is Scanners level awesome.

I love Chopping Mall and even though it has that cult following I mentioned, most people have no idea that this crazy gem of a movie even exists.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Night of the CometTerrorVisionThe StuffNight of the Creeps

Film Review: Death Race 2000 (1975)

Also known as: Frankensteins Todesrennen (Austria)
Release Date: April 27th, 1975
Directed by: Paul Bartel
Written by: Robert Thom, Charles Griffith
Based on: The Racer by Ib Melchior
Music by: Paul Chihara
Cast: David Carradine, Simone Griffeth, Sylvester Stallone, Sand McCallum, Louisa Moritz, Don Steele, Mary Woronov, Roberta Collins, Martin Kove, Joyce Jameson, Paul Bartel, Leslie McRae

New World Pictures, 80 Minutes

Review:

“As the cars roar into Pennsylvania, the cradle of liberty, it seems apparent that our citizens are staying off the streets, which may make scoring particularly difficult, even with this year’s rule changes. To recap those revisions: women are still worth 10 points more than men in all age brackets, but teenagers now rack up 40 points, and toddlers under 12 now rate a big 70 points. The big score: anyone, any sex, over 75 years old has been upped to 100 points.” – Harold

When Roger Corman stepped away from directing to start New World Pictures, it really opened the door for young filmmakers to usher in a new era of outside-the-box indie pictures. Paul Bartel was one of the premier guys to come out of the Corman camp and while he made a few really good films, none of them had as big of an impact on me as the super stylish and insane Death Race 2000.

The film is about a transcontinental race from New York City to Los Angeles, a race where the drivers earn points for killing human targets. The more offensive the target, the higher the points. So babies and old people are prime meat for the sadistic drivers and their high octane killing machines.

The movie takes place in a not-too-distant future where society has kind of evolved similar to those more modern Purge movies. America is a fascist state and this grand motor race is patriotic. Those who die, as victims of the drivers, are considered heroes and their sacrifices usually come with rewards for their loved ones.

Within this severely screwed up America is a group of rebels who are trying to end the race and overthrow the sick and twisted president in an effort to reestablish an America that is closer to what the Founding Fathers fought for. There is a lot of political and social commentary sprinkled in throughout the film and it almost exists as a response to the American government’s expansion into the world and its quest for occupation and control. It makes sense that this was made at the tail end of the Vietnam War.

The film stars David Carradine as Frankenstein, the most elite of all the racers. He is a literal living legend but he has his own ideas on the race and his government’s politics, which play out subtly as the film progresses, leading to a big rebellious crescendo at the end.

The rest of the cast is rounded out by a very young Sylvester Stallone, who was a year away from Rocky fame, as well as Paul Bartel’s favorite collaborator, Mary Woronov. We also get Roberta Collins, who spent a large part of her career in exploitation films, a young Martin Kove, a decade before becoming the iconic John Kreese from The Karate Kid films, Joyce Jameson, who was a part of a lot of Corman’s ’60s horror productions, Don Steele, a charismatic and over the top shock jock from the ’70s, as well as two beautiful ladies: Simone Griffeth and Louisa Moritz, both of whom play navigators to the two top drivers. Paul Bartel even has a small cameo as Frankenstein’s doctor when the iconic racer is first introduced in the film.

One thing that makes this picture work so well, is that it is a tongue in cheek critique on the government and society but it doesn’t beat you over the head because of how ridiculous and stylized everything in the film is. Every character is more or less a caricature, every car has some sort of bizarre and hokey gimmick and things are so over the top and goofy that you don’t find yourself buried in serious subject matter. And maybe the political statements are sort of lost in this circus of a film but the sentiment seems pretty clear, even if it’s not fine tuned enough to be specific.

Bartel would follow this up with another action car picture for Roger Corman called Cannonball. That one also starred David Carradine and is enjoyable but it doesn’t stick out in quite the same way Death Race 2000 does.

This would also spawn a horrible remake that had even worse sequels. Eventually, a true sequel to this was made called Death Race 2050. I haven’t seen that one yet but I plan to give it a watch in the very near future.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Any Paul Bartel directed film but most notable Cannonball!

Documentary Review: That Guy Dick Miller (2014)

Release Date: March 7th, 2014 (SXSW)
Directed by: Elijah Drenner
Music by: Jason Brandt
Cast: Dick Miller, Lainie Miller, Gilbert Adler, Allan Arkush, Julie Corman, Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Fred Dekker, William Sadler, Robert Picardo, Ernest R. Dickerson, Corey Feldman, Robert Forster, Zach Galligan, Jonathan Haze, Jack Hill, Leonard Maltin, John Sayles, Mary Woronov

Autumn Rose Productions, End Films, 91 Minutes

Review:

If you don’t know who Dick Miller is or at least recognize his face, you were probably born after the year 2000. Even then, if you’ve ever watched a film before that time, you have most likely seen him at one point or a dozen.

Dick Miller was in everything from the 1950s through the 1990s. No, seriously, he was. Well, at least it seemed like he was in everything. The man has 180 credits to his name according to IMDb. Growing up in the ’80s, I saw him pop up a few times a year in the coolest movies of the time. The one that will always stand out the most for me was his part in Gremlins, which was the first time I remember seeing him. Every time I saw Mr. Miller after that was always a nice treat.

As I got older and went back and watched older films, especially when I found a love for Roger Corman’s pictures, I started to experience a younger and hip Dick Miller. He started his career in a lot of those early Roger Corman pictures and that association would serve him well, as all the young directors who rose to prominence, who were influenced by Corman, started hiring Miller for their films.

This documentary goes back and shows Miller’s early life, how he made the connection with Corman and how his career blossomed in unseen ways because of it. I love that it goes through his long history in films and interviews a lot of the people who were there alongside him. It also talks to the directors who hired him and have a love for his work.

Dick Miller is a guy that deserves some sort of lifetime achievement award for his contributions to the films he was a part of. He was a mainstay in Hollywood for decades and if he was in a movie it sort of legitimized it as cool. It didn’t matter when he got older either, as he took over the screen in his cameos in a lot of Joe Dante’s pictures.

That Guy Dick Miller is a pretty awesome documentary for fans who grew up watching this guy work. Even if you aren’t familiar with him, this is probably still enjoyable and will give you a solid appreciation for the man and the films he was a part of.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Other showbiz documentaries: Corman’s World and Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction.

Film Review: Hellhole (1985)

Also known as: Hell Hole (alternate spelling)
Release Date: April 26th, 1985
Directed by: Pierre De Moro
Written by: Aaron Butler (as Vincent Mongol), Lance Dickson, Mark Evan Schwartz
Music by: Jeff Sturges
Cast: Ray Sharkey, Judy Landers, Marjoe Gortner, Edy Williams, Mary Woronov, Terry Moore, Robert Z’Dar

Arkoff International Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

This is a film that I didn’t even know existed until recently. Somehow it evaded me in countless pillages of mom and pop video stores throughout the ’80s and ’90s. But it does have some people I like in it, so why not check it out?

The film sees a woman murdered by some crazed madman that looks like a middle aged punk rock mobster hybrid. Kind of hard to describe him but it’s the ’80s and this isn’t even a B-movie it’s more like a D-movie. Anyway, the woman’s daughter sees the murder, is then pursued and chased until she falls about ten feet and gets amnesia. She is then locked up in an insane asylum where they do crazy experiments that turn female patients into killer zombies. Also, the man that murdered her mother is there, working as an orderly.

In a lot of ways, this is an absolutely awful movie. However, it isn’t all a waste because it’s got some great character actors in it and frankly, it’s full of so much ’80s horror cheese that it should satisfy you, if that’s your thing.

The film has Mary Woronov, who was great in Death Race 2000Eating RaoulRock ‘n’ Roll High SchoolNight of the Comet and so many other B-movies. We also get Marjoe Gortner, who I enjoyed in Starcrash and as the villain in American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt. Then you have the “Maniac Cop” himself, Robert Z’Dar in an early role before he’d star in a slew of B-pictures, usually as a psycho killer… okay, always as a psycho killer. But he’s a guy with serious gravitas, a good presence and a chin that would make Bruce Campbell’s take a month off.

I’ll be honest though, there isn’t a whole lot here, apart from the cast, that is all that great. However, I was a bit surprised with how well it played out for what it is. At its core, it is a women in prison movie with a horror twist. There are boobs, lesbian stuff and whatnot. Sadly, there isn’t as much of it as you’d expect from this type of film. But hey, we get killer women prison zombies, so things balance out.

Hellhole isn’t a complete waste of time and it is only ninety minutes. If you didn’t get your fill of Woronov being a psycho in an operating room in Night of the Comet, then this should be up your alley.

Film Review: Night of the Comet (1984)

Release Date: November 16th, 1984
Directed by: Thom Eberhardt
Written by: Thom Eberhardt
Music by: David Richard Campbell
Cast: Robert Beltran, Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelli Maroney, Sharon Farrell, Mary Woronov, Geoffrey Lewis

Thomas Coleman and Michael Rosenblatt Productions, Film Development Fund, Atlantic Releasing Corporation, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Come on Hector, the MAC-10 submachine gun was practically designed for housewives.” – Regina Belmont

Catherine Mary Stewart had a massive year in 1984, between this picture and The Last Starfighter. Granted, this became more of a cult classic once it hit video store shelves unlike Starfighter, which did well in the theater and on video. In any event, Stewart was front and center in two great sci-fi films form that great year in cinema. I loved 1984 and its place in movie history and this picture is just one of many reasons why.

Night of the Comet also reunites Robert Beltran and Mary Woronov, who were two parts of the great trio from the cult classic comedy, Eating Raoul.

This is a zombie movie but it is also a teen comedy. Teen comedies were the best in the 1980s and the decade also gave us some real zombie classics. This was kind of like a perfect marriage of two genres that don’t traditionally go together. At least not back in 1984. In fact, this film would go on to inspire Joss Whedon in his creation of his most iconic character, Buffy Summers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame.

Catherine Mary Stewart and her onscreen sister, played by Kelli Maroney, were an awesome duo that kicked ass, carried machine guns and didn’t take any shit from anyone. Even when confronted by zombie stock boys in the mall, they never backed down. Granted, they got in over their heads, from time to time, but they survived to the end and even took out a crooked government agency in the process.

Robert Beltran was really good in this. He wasn’t the astute actor that he would become later but he was charismatic and kept the film moving forward in a lighthearted and witty way. I don’t think he gets enough credit for his contribution to this film, as most people love the two tough sisters that dominate the story.

This is a fun zombie movie and it shows a post-apocalyptic world as seen through the eyes of two teenage California girls. They compete for boys, go on shopping sprees and just want to have a good time even if 99 percent of the people around them have turned into red powder.

I love Night of the Comet. It has reached cult status but it still doesn’t get the overall recognition it deserves. It’s a film that is better than you’d expect it to be and there isn’t a whole lot one can pick apart.