Film Review: Deathstalker III: The Warriors From Hell (1988)

Also known as: Deathstalker III: Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell (full title), Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell (alternate)
Release Date: 1988 (Mexico)
Directed by: Alfonso Corona
Written by: Howard R. Cohen
Music by: Israel Torres, Alejandro Rulfo
Cast: John Allen Nelson, Carla Herd, Thom Christopher, Terri Treas

Concorde-New Horizons, New Classics, Triana Films, 86 Minutes

Review:

“Potatoes are what we eat!” – Khorsa

I have never seen a Deathstalker movie that I have liked, so finding one that was featured in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is no surprise. And really, this is probably the worst film out of the four.

The movie starts with an evil barbarian horde pillaging a village because that’s how all these kinds of movies start. People die, a hero rises from the ashes and has to crush the evil. However, the evil is some short, scrawny, bald guy that wears giant furs and looks like the host of some swingers party that no one wants to be at. He’s like the guy that tried to bang his secretary to get revenge on his wife who is “disinterested in sex”, except the secretary wouldn’t touch him and quit her job and the dude just planted evidence to look like he had an affair because no one wants him: his wife, his secretary, the bears at the gay biker bar, no one.

The hero is no better. He spends the duration of the film’s 86 minutes trying out different accents, none of which work. He’s also just some pretty boy soap actor from Santa Barbara. All I remember from that show was the opening credits sequence, which made my Auntie Belle smile everyday like a fat kid with a coupon book to Chet’s Burger City.

Deathstalker III is just a long, awful, meaningless, mundane build up to a final showdown between a fur covered mid-life crisis having Saturn car salesman and a pretty boy trying out accents to woo ladies that would be more at home in a Chubbies advertisement than wielding a sword.

I remember actually renting this as a kid because I thought the video box art was incredibly f’n badass! That poster represents the movie in no way whatsoever. The only thing accurate about it is the swords. Yes, they exist in this movie but the hero certainly isn’t some Fabio-esque barbarian book cover model. In fact, the filmmakers should be sued by anyone that ever saw the video box on a shelf and wasted 99 cents on a lie. It’s like buying a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue with Heidi Klum on the cover, only to open it and see that all the other sexy bikini shots are of Rosie O’Donnell and Oprah Winfrey.

This is an appalling movie that must have been a cruel joke by the filmmakers involved. Even though Roger Corman is a producer, albeit uncredited, this is a blight on his name and he’s the King of B-movies.

This is a Z-movie, that’s how bad it is.

Deathstalker III: The Warriors From Hell can’t escape the clutches of the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 1 Stool: Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass).”

Film Review: Demon Knight (1995)

Also known as: Tales From the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight (complete title)
Release Date: January 13th, 1995
Directed by: Ernest R. Dickerson
Written by: Mark Bishop, Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris
Music by: Edward Shearmur
Cast: Billy Zane, William Sadler, Jada Pinkett, Brenda Bakke, C. C. H. Pounder, Thomas Haden Church, Dick Miller, John Schuck, Gary Farmer, Charles Fleischer, Chasey Lain, Traci Bingham, John Larroquette (cameo), John Kassir

EC Comics, Universal Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Fuck this cowboy shit! You fucking ho-dunk, po-dunk, well then there motherfuckers! All you had to do was give me the goddamn key! Then we could get on with our lives. [cuts his hand to make new creatures] Alright… this house is hereby… condemned…” – The Collector

As a horror loving kid in the ’80s, I used to watch the shit out of HBO’s Tales From the Crypt. So when the show ended but they turned to producing movies, I was saddened but also kind of stoked.

I saw Demon Knight when it first came out in my local theater and I even got a copy of it on VHS when it was released later that year. It has been a really long time since I’ve seen it, however. Actually, the last time I saw it was when I still had a working VCR. Seeing it now, I forgot how absolutely insane and fun this movie was.

The film is directed by Ernest Dickerson, who started his career doing the cinematography in Spike Lee’s earliest films. Before directing this, he was in the director’s chair for Juice and Surviving the Game, two films I really liked as a teen and still enjoy today. Dickerson was a young, up and coming filmmaker when he got this gig. I feel like his work on Demon Knight enriched his oeuvre.

It didn’t hurt that Dickerson had an all-star cast in this thing. The two top roles went to William Sadler and Billy Zane. To be frank, this is still my favorite role that Zane has ever played. The film is rounded out by Jada Pinkett, Thomas Haden Church, C. C. H. Pounder, Dick Miller, Brenda Bakke and Roger Rabbit himself, Charles Fleischer. As a huge Dick Miller fanboy, I love him in this and he got his just desserts, at this point in his long career, as he gets to star opposite of a horde of big breasted naked ladies in his final scene.

This is a film that pulls no punches and just goes for it and that’s why it works so well, has held up nicely and is infinitely more fun and entertaining than 99 percent of modern horror. The demons are cool, Zane is cool, Sadler is cool, Dick Miller is Dick f’n Miller and this is just a bonkers movie in the greatest regard. In a lot of ways, Dickerson out Joe Dante’d Joe Dante.

I’m glad that I revisited this, which also has got me enthused about revisiting that other Tales From the Crypt movie, Bordello of Blood.

Film Review: Child’s Play 3 (1991)

Also known as: Chucky 3: El Muñeco Diabólico (Mexico), Chucky 3 (Germany)
Release Date: August 30th, 1991
Directed by: Jack Bender
Written by: Don Mancini
Based on: characters by Don Mancini
Music by: Cory Lerios, John D’Andrea
Cast: Justin Whalin, Perrey Reeves, Jeremy Sylvers, Brad Dourif, Andrew Robinson

Universal Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t fuck with the Chuck.” – Chucky

While there is a very slight variance in overall quality of the original Child’s Play trilogy of films, all three are pretty damn consistent and each has it’s own vibe. Plus, the sequels don’t just feel like rehashes of the original.

The thing that sets this one apart is that Andy is now 16 and enrolled in a military school, drastically changing the setting and opening the plot up for a myriad of new directions.

Chucky is resurrected because what is a Child’s Play movie without Chuck? He tracks down Andy to his military school but not before murdering the crap out of the CEO of the toy company that produces Good Guy Dolls.

However, Chucky meets the young boy Tyler. He realizes that he can tell Tyler his secret and take over his body instead of Andy’s. Although, Chucky still wants to murder Andy for being a total pain in the ass in the first two movies. So what we get here, is teenage Andy in a race against Chucky in an effort to save young Tyler’s soul.

This film gets really dark but the early Chucky movies showcased terror and dread over the humor that would take over the franchise after this film. There is a grisly garbage truck murder, some other really good kills and the big awesome moment where the teenagers playing war games don’t realize that Chucky switched out their paint rounds with real ammunition. We then get a great final encounter with Chucky in a carnival spookhouse.

I just love how dark and brooding this film seems. Sure, the first two films were also quite dark but this one just ups the ante atmospherically and it works. Plus, Brad Dourif just feels more at home in his Chucky role. His one liners are great but they don’t distract from the proceedings.

Film Review: Child’s Play 2 (1990)

Also known as: Chucky 2: El Muñeco Diabólico (Mexico), Chucky 2 – Die Mörderpuppe ist zurück (Germany), Brinquedo Assassino 2 (Brazil)
Release Date: November 9th, 1990
Directed by: John Lafia
Written by: Don Mancini
Based on: characters by Don Mancini
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Alex Vincent, Brad Dourif, Christine Elise, Jenny Agutter, Gerrit Graham, Grace Zabriskie, Beth Grant, Catherine Hicks (archive footage)

Universal Pictures, 84 Minutes

Review:

“Surprise! Did you miss me, Andy? I sure missed you. I told you. We were gonna be friends to the end. And now, it’s time to play… I’ve got a new game, sport: It’s called “Hide the Soul”. And guess what? You’re it!” – Chucky

Child’s Play 2 is my favorite film in the Chucky franchise. While the first is probably considered the superior film in quality, this is the one that I think is the perfect Chucky movie and back in the day, this chapter resonated with me the most. So let me get into why.

To start, we know who and what Chucky is. In this film, he comes back to life and just goes for it. No waiting, no building of suspense for 45 minutes, just pure unadulterated Chucky, ready to kill anyone standing between him and his “best friend” Andy (Alex Vincent). And why? Because he needs young Andy’s body before his soul is permanently trapped in his doll form.

The true highlight of this film though, is the big grand finale in the Good Guy Doll toy factory. We get to see our surviving heroes run through mazes of dolls that look like Chucky. We get to see the heroes crawl through industrial machinery and try to outwit the pint-sized plastic killer. We also get to see Chucky get run through the ringer like never before and really, he’s never got his ass kicked quite like this again. Andy and his older foster sister Kyle (Christine Elise) make a formidable duo. I’m actually really glad that they are now both back in the franchise, two and a half decades later.

As a guy that has seen a shit ton of horror movies, the finale in Child’s Play 2 is one of the best final battles I’ve ever seen in the horror genre. Although, the county fair showdown in Child’s Play 3 is also pretty damn good.

I also like the casting in this film. The foster parents were Jenny Agutter, who I adored in An American Werewolf In London and Logan’s Run, and Gerrit Graham, who always makes me smile, even when he’s sort of just a snarky douche. I loved him in TerrorVision and C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud, as well as his multiple appearances in the Star Trek franchise. Then you have Beth Grant, who is always perfect, in a small role as an elementary school teacher that gets in Chucky’s way.

Child’s Play 2 is the peak of the original trilogy of films for me, back before the franchise got a lot more comedic with 1998’s Bride of Chucky. It’s a perfect Child’s Play film and has Chucky at his brutal best where he still gets in some funny one-liners without the film being overtly funny and still having a good amount of actual terror in it. And there is just something about that Chucky-Andy relationship that almost makes the Andy films feel like the only ones that actually matter.

Film Review: The Beyond (1981)

Also known as: …E tu vivrai nel terrore! L’aldilà (original Italian), Seven Doors of Death (US cut version)
Release Date: April 22nd, 1981 (West Germany)
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Written by: Dardano Sacchetti, Lucio Fulci, Giorgio Mariuzzo
Music by: Fabio Frizzi
Cast: Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale, Antoine Saint-John

Fulvia Film, 88 Minutes

Review:

“Woe be unto him who opens one of the seven gateways to Hell, because through that gateway, evil will invade the world.” – Emily [reading from the book Eibon]

Lucio Fulci is considered by many to be an Italian master of horror.  While I generally like his films, I would rank him behind both Bavas and Dario Argento. Still, that is really good company to keep.

I’m not a huge fan of this outing, however. The Beyond or Seven Doors of Death, has gained a nice cult following since it’s release nearly 40 years ago but compared to Fulci’s more famous Zombi, I think it’s pretty weak.

The story follows a woman who inherits a hotel in the bayous of Louisiana. The hotel sits on one of the seven gates of Hell. So obviously, some evil shit has to happen.

Being Italian horror, one would expect a colorful and vibrant color palate but Fulci didn’t really employ the giallo look like most of his Italian colleagues. This film is dark, gritty but kind of dull from a visual standpoint.

The story isn’t exciting or original and this type of movie has been done dozens of times over and much better. It’s not awful but it doesn’t offer up much outside of some gross out moments and quick scares.

Fulci, coming off of Zombi and it’s famous gory eye mutilation scene, tries to tap that well again multiple times here. There are a few gross out spots similar to that Zombi scene but none of them are as effective and if you are familiar with Fucli’s work, you kind of just think to yourself, “Oh, this again…”

Fulci also has a blind character that gets betrayed by a beloved seeing eye dog. This was a concept and idea that Dario Argento did in Suspiria, four years earlier.

In a lot of ways, this film feels like Lucio Fulci emulating things he likes from older films, as opposed to digging deep and giving us something better, which he was capable of. But it feels like this was just made to try and make a quick buck on the heels of his success with Zombi.

I love Italian horror and have been watching them since my teen years, when I first discovered the work of Dario Argento and Mario Bava. This just doesn’t measure up to the greats and it doesn’t even measure up to Fulci when he’s on his A-game.

Film Review: Marked For Death (1990)

Also known as: Screwface (working title)
Release Date: October 5th, 1990
Directed by: Dwight H. Little
Written by: Michael Grais, Mark Victor
Music by: James Newton Howard
Cast: Steven Seagal, Joanna Pacula, Keith David, Danny Trejo, Danielle Harris, Kevin Dunn

Steamroller Productions, 20th Century Fox, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Look upon this madman! Him dead and him don’t even know it!” – Screwface

I’ll be honest, I was never really a Steven Seagal fan. I didn’t dislike him, however. But when I was younger, I was more into Jean-Claude Van Damme because BloodsportKickboxer and Lionheart were just better pictures than anything Seagal put out. However, I did remember liking the one where he fought evil voodoo Jamaicans. So I figured that I would revisit it, all these years later.

Marked For Death isn’t a good movie but it is a passable 1990ish action film. It’s high octane, balls to the wall and well, it features awesome evil voodoo Jamiacans. It also features one of my favorite badasses, not Seagal but Keith David, who will always have a special place in my heart for They Live and The Thing.

The film also features a young Danielle Harris, a still unknown Danny Trejo and a small part by a guy who is in a ton of movies I love, Kevin Dunn.

The story sees a DEA agent come to the realization that he has become just as bad as the criminals he tries to bring down. He quits his job and returns home to decompress. However, his town is overrun by Jamaican drug dealers. Seagal then gets caught up in it and makes it his personal mission to act as a rogue agent and take these bad guys down.

The leader of the baddies is a scary looking voodoo practitioner named Screwface. The guy is legit scary and one of the coolest action movie villains of the era.

There’s guns, explosions, voodoo and all sorts of sinister voodoo trickery. The last act of the film sees Seagal and Keith David track Screwface back to Jamaica for a final showdown. But we get two final showdowns because of some of that sinister voodoo trickery.

Marked For Death is certainly watchable and I’ll be honest, it’s kind of fun. This is the best of the early Seagal movies, as far as I remember, but I’ll probably rework my way through them, as it’s been awhile since I’ve indulged in Mr. Seagal’s flicks.

Film Review: Kung Fu Zombie (1981)

Also known as: Wu long tian shi zhao ji gui (original Chinese title), Zombie 9 (Turkmenistan)
Release Date: October 1st, 1981 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Hwa I Hung
Written by: Hwa I Hung
Cast: Billy Chong, Chan Lau, Chang Tao, Cheng Ka Ying, Kwon Young Moon, Pak Sha Lik, Shum Yan Chi

The Eternal Film Company, 96 Minutes

Review:

I kind of just randomly came across this title while looking for kung fu movies with a horror flair to them. Granted, it does have both martial arts fighting and a horror element but it was just really baffling to watch and made little to no sense.

Granted, the problems with the version of this film that I saw could be due to bad dubbing on the part of the English speakers who translated this picture. Still, the movie is so bizarre and weird that it is mostly a distraction. Keep in mind that I’m a guy that usually looks for the bizarre and relishes in it, especially in movies.

None of what was in this picture really resonated with me, though. The make up and special effects were exceptionally bad. Even though this obviously had very little in the terms of a budget, I’ve seen better effects work in films that have had even less than what this film had to work with. Practical effects in the ’80s were truly an art form and true effects masters could actually make chicken salad with chicken shit. Although in this film, they just squeezed as much shit out of the chickens as possible and then just tossed it around the set recklessly.

I guess the fight choreography is okay but honestly, it still felt half assed. Billy Chong is an accomplished martial arts actor and even though he gave it his best with the material, as it was given, this still felt severely beneath his level of talent.

This is an incredibly cheap looking movie that barely tries to do anything with its interesting premise. I was pretty let down and know that I will never have the urge to want to revisit this.

All things considered, Kung Fu Zombie has to be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 1 Stool: Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass).”