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: 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).”

Film Review: The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies (1964)

Also known as: Diabolical Dr. Voodoo, The Incredibly Mixed Up Zombie, Cabaret der Zombies (Germany), The Incredibly Strange Creatures, Teenage Psycho Meets Bloody Mary (reissue title)
Release Date: February 10th, 1964 (Biddeford, Maine)
Directed by: Ray Dennis Steckler
Written by: Gene Pollock, Robert Silliphant, E. M. Kevke
Music by: Andre Brummer, Libby Quinn
Cast: Cash Flagg, Carolyn Brandt, Brett O’Hara, Atlas King, Sharon Walsh, Madison Clarke

Fairway International Pictures, 82 Minutes

Review:

“We’ve got twenty beautiful girls and only ten beautiful costumes!” – Barker

My god, man… this is one of the worst films that I have ever seen!

I’m not really sure what the hell happened in the elapsed time of me watching this film. There’s scantily clad girls dancing, a weird psychic lady with an unattractive mole and just some bizarre shit.

I feel like I got sucked into one of the long and drawn out hypnosis moments in the film because I blacked out for an unknown amount of time, only to wake up covered in blood and bird feathers. I don’t think it was effective hypnosis though, I just think it unlocked some insane part of my brain due to how absolutely atrocious this psychotic shit festival was.

This was featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. While I love that show, this is beneath them. Yes… something is beneath MST3K! In fact, I’m kind of mad at them for even resurrecting this pile of Sasquatch dung. It could have died a long time ago but they immortalized it.

There isn’t much to say about this other than to warn people away. But maybe I’ll use the time to list out five things that would be a better use of your time than watching this.

***Disclaimer: DO NOT actually do anything from this list. I am not responsible for you being a moron without a brain. So if you do these things and want to sue someone, sue your parents for raising a fuck up.***

  1. See how many pennies you can fit in your mouth.
  2. Throw darts at your foot.
  3. Kick a beehive and wait around for a second.
  4. Get ink for your quill by squeezing it out of a live octopus.
  5. Tell Brock Lesnar “wrestling is fake” to his face.

This thing really is friggin’ dreadful. That being said, it has to be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer. And the results read, “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.”

Film Review: Carnival of Souls (1962)

Also known as: Corridors of Evil (reissue)
Release Date: June 1st, 1962 (San Diego)
Directed by: Herk Harvey
Written by: Herk Harvey, John Clifford
Music by: Gene Moore
Cast: Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, Sidney Berger, Art Ellison

Herts-Lion International Corp., 80 Minutes (theatrical), 84 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“I don’t belong in the world.” – Mary Henry

Carnival of Souls was a film that I had heard others talk about for a long time but I never got to check it out until it started streaming on The Criterion Channel through FilmStruck. I had heard that it was a great inspiration to George A. Romero and David Lynch and after seeing it, it is hard not to see how it influenced them, as well as other directors.

It is sort of considered a zombie picture, even though it really isn’t. Ghoulish people do haunt Mary, the main character, throughout the film and a big horde of them chases her in the finale but they aren’t traditional zombies or what they would become a few years later with Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. These undead ghouls, however, certainly made a fine template to what Romero would give us.

Additionally, the look of realism, due to the use of guerrilla filmmaking tactics, would go on to inspire the look of Night of the Living Dead.

Carnival of Souls, despite its surrealism and fantastical elements, has a very real feeling to it. The camera is more fluid, there is a lot of movement and each shot isn’t over produced or the product of meticulous tweaking.

You can also see how the more surreal aspects of the film would inspire Lynch. At one point, in particular, when Mary is driving, a ghostly image is superimposed onto the passenger side window. There are also other surreal moments, many of which would feel at home in Lynch’s work.

The story follows Mary, the sole survivor of a car crash. Strange things happen to Mary as she moves on from the incident and tries to restart her life in a new location. There is a defunct carnival in the distance from her new home that calls to her. As the film moves on, we see strange characters appear to her. It all comes to a head when she can no longer outrun the strange happenings.

The film was shot in Kansas and in Utah, at the SaltAir Resort, which stood in for the carnival pavilion, the center of the story’s supernatural activity. The film was also made for just $33,000, which explains why the director had to go guerrilla to get some of his shots done. The financial limitations, however, are why this film looks so unique and would go on to show future indie filmmakers how to create a quality motion picture without using traditional means.

Carnival of Souls might not be a fully appreciated classic but it is a mother figure to many beloved directors’ early films and for opening the door to new techniques and a visual style that would be adopted by countless filmmakers after this picture’s release.

This is a film that displays an uncanny level of craftsmanship and raw talent on many levels. It is also better acted than a picture like this typically is. And ultimately, it is pretty damn significant when understanding what it paved the way for.

Video Game Review: Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (NES)

Sometimes great things get a really bad rap. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest gets a horrendously bad rap and frankly, it’s a damn fine game!

Years ago, the Angry Nintendo Nerd, now better known as the Angry Video Game Nerd, trashed this epic classic in his first video. People took his video to heart and adopted his sentiment as their own. Then again, maybe video games are really hard for that guy and his viewers.

You see, the biggest criticism of this game is how hard it is. Honestly, it is difficult but it isn’t unbeatable. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun and a serious challenge, more so than any other Castlevania game I have played. That challenge is why I love it so much.

Another season I love the game is the freedom of it compared to Castlevania I and III. Those games made you follow a map, from level to level with a big baddie to fight at the end. I love those games too but Simon’s Quest allowed you to explore the world you were in. You could bounce around however you wanted, similar to how Zelda II was. Sure, you had to complete certain tasks and unlock new areas to explore but for the time, this was pure freedom.

People also criticize the controls. I never had a problem with them. The game is pretty straightforward and the controls of the highly acclaimed first game, were pretty clunky… let’s be honest.

Full disclosure, I didn’t beat Simon’s Quest way back in the day, as it was a massive game and took a lot of time. You didn’t have infinite opportunities to save your games on the NES like you have nowadays. However, as soon as this was playable on an emulator, I crushed it. It was more time consuming than difficult. But beating it gave me a real sense of accomplishment that I don’t get from most games. The thing is, games today are too easy. Simon’s Quest didn’t have a difficulty setting.

The hate for this game is unwarranted, in my opinion. It has always been one of my favorite classic NES titles to fire up and play. I enjoy the game to this day and recently played through it again, in an effort to talk about it before this review.

Simon’s Quest is pure satisfaction, as far as I’m concerned.

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.

Film Review: The Cabin In the Woods (2012)

Release Date: March 9th, 2012 (SXSW)
Directed by: Drew Goddard
Written by: Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard
Music by: David Julyan
Cast: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Sigourney Weaver

Mutant Enemy Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists, Lionsgate, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Look, you guys just stay in the Rambler. I’ll get help. If I wipe out, I’ll fucking limp for help. But I’m coming back here. I’m coming back with cops and choppers and large fucking guns, and those things are going to pay… For Jules.” – Curt

I went into this picture blindly, which is definitely the best way to experience it. This is a movie that throws a hell of a lot of curveballs in the most awesome way possible. The less you know about it, the better. And to be completely honest, I am not a Joss Whedon fan but this was damn good and probably the best thing he’s ever done. Suck it, Firefly.

So what can I say about this film? I’d rather not spoil it for people, as I’m not that guy. Just know that it is never quite what you expect it to be and that it hits you with surprises, again and again.

The most notable actors in it are Chris Hemsworth a.k.a. Thor, Sigourney Weaver for a bit and Bradley Whitford, a favorite of mine since the 80s, alongside Richard Jenkins. I shouldn’t even get into what their roles are.

The film is not just Joss Whedon’s creation, it was co-written and directed by Drew Goddard. He’s been a busy guy with Marvel’s Daredevil series, as of late. He was also the director of the original Cloverfield and a major contributor to the TV series LostAliasBuffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. He even had a hand in The Martian and World War Z.

The Cabin In the Woods is a horror film that literally has everything in it. And I don’t say that using the words “literally” and “everything” lightly.

The only downside to this film is rewatching it. Now it is still good but you can only be caught off guard once and you already know what tricks are up Whedon’s and Goddard’s sleeves after the first viewing. Still, it is entertaining and a really cool and fresh take on a really tired formula.

In a lot of ways, The Cabin In the Woods kind of rewrote the book on “cabin in the woods” movies the same way Scream rewrote the book on slasher pictures.

This isn’t a great film by any means but it is a hell of a lot of fun and if you go into it knowing as little as possible, you’ll probably leave the experience very satisfied.

The trailer is below, as I always post a trailer. However, watching it may spoil too much. You have been warned.