VHS Verdict: 1985’s Lost Mexican Horror Gem ‘Cemetery of Terror’!!

I’ve been on the hunt lately for lost movie gems from the 1980’s and I’ve found that there’s really some pretty amazing films out there that most here in the USA never knew existed. One such is ‘Cemetery of Terror’ or as it’s known in Mexico ‘Cementerio del Terror’ that captures that perfect charm of classic 80’s B-movie horror. I think it’s so good, I’d put it up against some of the best the genre had to offer. Director Ruben Galindo Jr. crafted a sweet atmospheric horror flick that plays out like ‘The Goonies’ meets Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’ in a spooky Mexican cemetery. This supernatural slasher/zombie mash up’s got literally everything I love about 1980’s horror flicks. Cool characters, sweet 80’s fashion, a pretty impressive soundtrack, good gore and excellent sets! For a low budget horror movie Galindo truly shines with what he had to work with and it’s clear to see it as an unseen influence to current hits like ‘Stranger Things’. That classic 1980’s “Amblin kids in danger vibe” is definitely in full effect here.

 

The story goes something like this: 

Dr. Cardan (Hugo Stiglitz) is haunted by violent nightmares & suspects that a psychotic serial killer has figured out a way to cheat death, returning from the grave to continue his vicious spree of carnage. Local law enforcement refuses to accept his claims, but his hunch is taken more seriously when they find that a group of reckless teenagers pulled a Halloween prank, stealing the killer’s body from the morgue. When the teens recite an incantation from a mysterious book they discover in an abandoned mansion, it reanimates the corpse, along with all of the bodies from the nearby cemetery. All out undead mayhem ensues as a group of trick or treaters also wander into the deadly cemetery where the supernatural slasher roams looking for his next victim!

The graveyard itself looks like it was pulled out of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video (watch for the MJ tour jacket one of the kids sport) full of creepy trees, fog a plenty, spider webs galore and the look of the zombies are actually pretty amazing as well. The younger gang of kids who get involved in the mix are pretty awesome as well, they bring a sorta  “Monster Squad” type of feel to it and you’re never quite sure if they’re going to survive the night. Though it does have that lighter 80’s “kids in danger vibe” don’t mistake it for kiddie horror, it’s actually got some decent gore and the revived psycho is mean as hell.

More people here in the US need to check this one out, it appeared on a double feature dvd over a decade ago called ‘Crypt of Terror: Horror from South of the Border’ that’s now long out of print. You can still find copies on ebay & it even comes with one of Galindo’s later horror movies from 1989 called ‘Grave Robbers’ which is also awesome. You might also find it on youtube but I’m not sure it’s subtitled. Anyway Cemetery of Terror has put 80’s Mexican horror fully on my radar and I’m excited to track down more of Ruben Galindo Jr’s movies!!

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VHS Verdict: Roberta Findlay’s 1985 Grindhouse Shocker ‘Tenement’!

‘Tenement’ AKA ‘Game of Survival’ is the third movie from Roberta Findlay I’ve seen and so far she definitely knows how to serve up the grimy goods in true grindhouse flavor. Yeah, Roberta understood how to make a truly sleazy horror flick that’s for sure. Even though Tenement might be considered more of a low budget action/thriller, it’s got plenty of horror and gore to go around. Findlay surely didn’t give a damn if she offended anyone, even though this came out in ’85 it’s jam packed with scenes that you’d likely not see put to screen in 2019.

Playing off a bit like John Carpenter’s ‘Assault on Precinct 13’ except in a run down inner city apartment building, Tenement features a pretty diverse cast of characters who face off in a violent battle of life or death. The bad apples in this one look like they stepped right out of ‘The Warriors’ and are just about the meanest most over the top street gang put to film. These drugged out leather clad assholes are ready kill nearly anything in sight, and when one of the tenants of the apartment complex tires of them hanging around in the basement he calls the cops, all hell breaks loose. Just when the residents decide to throw a party in celebration of the gang’s arrest, they’re let loose into the night by police. Hellbent on revenge they head back to the “tenement” to get bloody revenge on each and everyone who lives within it’s sweaty spray painted walls.

The film moves at a brisk pace and it’s not afraid to get ugly quick. There’s a shocking brutal scene of rape, beatings, drug overdoses, guttings and that’s just the damn start. As crazy as this sounds at the same time the production quality is pretty low, the acting often pretty flimsy/over the top and it’s all sorta hard to actually take seriously. That all being said, for a female film maker back in the 80’s (and especially today) it’s got more bite than most films of this genre made by men. The action and gore is pretty ambitious and luckily the blood here, looking basically like red paint, tames some of the it’s sheer brutality making it a bit more consumable for genre newbies. I really dug a lot of the characters as well, though some may seem a bit stereotyped but the protagonist, a grumpy loner bad ass hero named ‘Washington’ (a cool add to black horror heroes) gets the job done once the gang begins to wreck havoc on his turf, the tenement. It’s quite glorious actually once the surviving apartment tenants decide to band together and fight back, revenge is well served here for sure and it’s quite worth sitting through the earlier nastiness for some sweet revenge. Also never ever underestimate a pregnant woman in danger!

One of the best things about this mean little movie is the actual setting itself. The run down apartment building is a dirty gritty mess of a place. The perfect place for an inner city showdown to occur, with no help of course from the local police. A lot of Roberta Findlay’s movies, at least what I’ve seen so far, have this totally sleezy city vibe going on and it she works that angle quite well. When people bring up grindhouse films this one is actually the perfect example of the genre and for what it is this one’s easily one of the best out there. Her movies feel like they were made a decade earlier as well and have much more of of 70’s feel to them in look and style. A dark yet entertaining action packed urban battle that might not be the most digestible piece of cinema in 2019, but it’s surely something you likely won’t forget anytime soon!

‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ Brings back Edward Furlong as John Connor!!

One of more popular posts this year here at Universal Dork was one where I ask the question of the upcoming Terminator: Dark Fate, where the HELL is Edward Furlong?! The movie hyped as a direct sequel to T2 had two of the key players locked down with the return of Linda Hamilton and of course Arnold. However Eddy was NO where in sight. Yesterday at San Diego Comic Con though James Cameron confirmed some HUGE news for Terminator fans-Edward Furlong will be returning as John Connor!! The original John Connor, is the one missing piece to the nostalgic puzzle and now Edward will possibly get a second chance to shine. As most know, Furlong has had a LOT of troubles with drug addiction and has spent a lot of time recently in treatment. News lately though shows him looking a lot more more trim and in a much better frame of mind. Go Eddie!! It appears he’s cleaned up his act and just might get his ‘Robert Downey Jr’ moment this year. 

To be honest the first ‘Terminator: Date Fate’ trailer didn’t impress me, even though it seemed to be trying to pull hard on nostalgic heartstrings. It was full of sloppy CGI and had some oddly placed music that surely didn’t help to make it stand out from recent ‘phoned in’ blockbuster sequels. With the news of Furlong’s return however it just upped the ante for old school Terminator fans and given me a reason to get interested again. Now we can only speculate just what his role will be and how big. My guess, maybe he appears in the end of the movie, perhaps like Luke Skywalker in The Force Awakens?

Hopefully he’s utilized in a real way, there’s been rumors that John Connor will be dead in this new installment to make room for strong female characters to shine. I hope that’s not the reason why he might not have a larger role. I love strong female characters, but first and foremost let’s not make the same mistake the Star Wars sequel trilogy has made so far. Pushing the classic characters into the back ground so early on has been a major bummer for fans. People want the original characters to shine again because they still resonate with us and if they’re going to pass the torch to a younger or female generation do it the right way. Let’s see the originals get good quality screen time and work the new characters in slowly. I’m not holding my breath though because more often than not Hollywood has shown time and time again that when it comes to modern sequels to beloved movies they simply just don’t understand what the fans really want to see.

Anyway I’ve totally got my fingers crossed for Edward Furlong to make a big return to cinema and really hope they utilize the real John Connor in a truly memorable way. The original trio united! The news of Edward’s return has now put ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ fully back on my radar. My interest is peaking!! Here’s some new footage as well that was released at Comic Con! What do you think about it all?

Tarantino’s ‘Star Trek’: What True Trekkies Have Actually Been Longing For?!

I’ve had this discussion several times over the past year with fellow Star Trek fans, what most seem to fear is Quentin Tarantino getting his dirty mitts on the franchise! But like it or not, it seems Tarantino might actually be taking the reigns on the next movie, which has also been rumored to be his last film ever in the director’s chair. Most seem to fear he’s going to totally ruin Star Trek, planting over the top violence & F-bombs around every damn corner of the movie & if it’s ‘Rated R’ like he’s proposing, there’ll surely be some of that. It makes me wonder does Star Trek need to be rated R? Probably not, but if it is I’m pretty curious just what that would look like exactly. That all being said, I really don’t think he’d turn Star Trek suddenly into ‘Kill Bill’. I feel like Quentin just might actually be the right person for the job, especially if you’re longing for a classic Trek adventure ala The Original Series, The Next Generation or classic movies like ‘The Wrath of Khan’.

Let’s face the facts folks, the JJ Abrams ‘Star Trek’ stuff was fun (at least the first and third movies in the trilogy), but it felt way more like ‘The Fast & The Furious’ than an actual Trek adventure. The classic Star Trek/Next Generation stuff had a much different vibe than these fluffy, bloated CGI spectacles we’ve been recently served up. The classic stuff most often explored a more cerebral side of science fiction story telling. Sure even in ‘The Original Series’ there was great humor and a certain degree of spectacle, but the stories almost always had something interesting to say and often times left you thinking. This side of the Star Trek storytelling, in my opinion, has been seriously missing in these modern attempts. So hear me out, think of what era of film Tarantino truly loves beyond anything else, it’s all of the stuff from the 60’s & 70s. I’m certain he spent some serious time neck deep in those original Star Trek episodes and absolutely adored the banter between Kirk, Spock, Bones and the crew. Their witty conversations on the original series actually remind me in many ways of the dialogue Tarantino serves up in his own films. I can easily picture his influence on Chris Pine’s Kirk, Zachary Quinto’s Spock & Karl Urban’s McCoy fitting perfectly in spirit with the original series in a way we’ve yet to see for this latest cast.

Tarantino thrives in the vintage era of filmmaking that Star Trek was first introduced in, he gets it and it’s obvious that it’s all a huge influence on pretty much everything he’s ever done. Almost all of his movies are a callback to that exact era when Star Trek was first originally thriving. The grindhouse movies and tv of the 60’s and 70’s is exactly what fuels Quentin’s entire soul. It’s why I think just maybe people are wrong to fear Tarantino taking on Star Trek. If you’re a fan of the classic stuff, then there’s honestly probably not a better person to be grabbing the ‘Trek’ bull by the horns and putting it back on course to it’s true roots. Quentin would likely serve us up a more compelling, thought provoking science fiction story to digest as well. He never delivers the predictable Hollywood fare. I don’t see his film making style at all being just a giant CGI spectacle. He’s never been into that. I trust he’s not going to work with a flimsy script either, especially if it is indeed planned to be his final movie. His films have always had more dimensions to them than the average generic summer blockbuster.

I think he’s got the wit, the understanding of what made the original material great & the vision to blend it all into a package that feels classic while at the same time something Trekkies have never quite seen before in a Star Trek film. To me “Tarantino Star Trek” really makes sense. I’m just not interested in seeing another mindless, bloated blockbuster of a Star Trek film again. Let’s go back to what made the series stand out from the herd. In order to do that it really needs someone who understands the franchise and isn’t just trying to make a boat load of quick cash off the masses. Star Trek needs a different style of film maker this time around, that’s certainly clear and I think taking a chance on Quentin is as good a bet as any to give the franchise a bold boost into new territory…  

VHS Verdict: ‘Riki-Oh’ Director’s ‘THE CAT’ from 1991 is Equally Bonkers!

I finally after years of searching, got a copy of the highly elusive, lost Hong Kong Horror / Sci-fi flick from 1991! If you’ve ever seen the director’s previous movie ‘Riki-Oh: The Story of Riki’ then you’ve got a decent idea of what you’re in for here. Lam Ngai Kai, the cult director at the helm here ended his wild and truly weird film making run with this crazy gem and then completely disappeared, likely completely satisfied with the truly bonkers back catalog of films he left behind.

‘The Cat’ is the perfect finale to his cult legacy as well, the only problem is, it’s a damn hard one to track down unless you search it down on Youtube and can find decent a version with subtitles, I’m not a big fan of the film quality that turns up there for many of these “lost” movies. But sometimes it’s the only way to check these rare flicks out. Filmed back to back with ‘Riki-Oh’, this one again is a short, sweet briskly paced, frenetic adventure with a runtime just under 80 minutes.

The story of course is yet another truly weird one: an amorphous blob of tentacled evil, is set loose from somewhere in deep space down to the streets of Hong Kong. Meanwhile mild mannered adventure novelist Wisely, is given an odd tip from a friend who suspects something strange afoot at his normally quiet apartment complex, discovering his next door neighbors are a trio aliens from another planet being lead by their “pet” cat named ‘The General’. Stranded on Earth they’re intent on completing a mysterious secret mission. Soon Wisley’s stuck in a mind bending web of utter mayhem when he tracks down & befriends the alien trio, embarking on a horror drenched adventure to stop the evil alien blob from continuing it’s path of destruction.

The Cat’s got a lot going for it, especially if you’re a fan of gooey, fast moving horror movies like Evil Dead II & stuff like The Terminator and The Thing. It’s got sweet 80’s style special FX galore, “Cat vs Dog” fist fights, over the top gun play & a down right bizarre train wreck of a plot. I mean that in the best way possible and some of the way it comes off is likely do to the crude translation of the dialogue via subtitles. It’s got a few scenes that kinda just have to be seen to be believed, not nearly anywhere as gory as Riki-Oh, but surely a unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a movie before. Particularly a sequence where the intelligent alien cat “General” is pursued by Hong Kong’s most dangerous canine, a hulking mastiff, who’s been sent by Wisely to hunt him down. Dog & cat duke it out in a creepy junkyard while the ‘General’ the cat displays some incredible human fighting techniques and even sports an unbelievable wresting move right out of the WWF to end the whole damn confrontation!

There’s tons of colorful, gooey practical fx to marvel over as well, puppets, gore, stunts & that classic 80’s electricity used to pure perfection. Director Lam Ngai Kai truly revels in the absurdity of it all and clearly used his stunning fx spectacles as the center pieces for his films. Turning your mind off and simply enjoying the eye candy is the best approach to his movies. I’m stunned most only know his movie Riki-Oh, which is now a bonafide cult classic, when he’s got a trove of incredible movies that all rival it. Do yourself a favor and check out ‘The Seventh Curse’ & ‘The Ghost Snatchers’ from 1986, ‘The Peacock King’ from 1989 as well as ‘The Cat’ & ‘Riki Oh’ 9if you haven’t seen that one yet). All of these movies deserve a remastered official blu ray release dammit!! Until then I’ve got some extra boot VHS copies of the movie If you’re interested!!

 

Comic Cover of the Week: Vintage BEN GRIM!

The Thing was always one of my favorite superheroes, I just couldn’t get enough of this damn character. He was so freakin’ cool that besides being one of the mainstays in the Fantastic Four comics he also was the main character of ‘Marvel Two in One’ series (that started in the 70’s) and teamed up with pretty much every superhero to ever appear in the comics. There were some really really obscure team ups I’ve got to mention someday in another post. Well in 1983 I was beyond stoked as kid when John Byrne decided to give Ben Grim his very own solo series, it was one of my favorite things EVER (no pun intended)! Well issue #6 was always one of my favorite covers just ‘The Thing’ in all of his rocky glory in a simple black background. This issue itself utilized the blackness in quite an interesting way as well as he faced off against the Puppetmaster, this one drawn by the legend Ron Wilson and Brent Anderson is a true classic and shows that sometimes the best covers are sometimes the most simple!

5 Reasons Why Hollywood’s Summer Blockbuster Franchises are Failing!

So it’s no secret that the summer blockbusters of 2019 have been underperforming at the box office this year, unless you’re a Marvel movie there’s a good chance you just ain’t makin’ the boatloads of easy cash off of eager hungry consumers like you used to!! So far we’ve had some big flops and under performers in theaters this summer, Hellboy, X-men: Dark Phoenix, Men In Black International, Godzilla: King of The Monsters, Shaft and I’m sure a few more flops to come.

It almost seems that after the extravaganza of ‘Avengers: Endgame’ people just ain’t that impressed with what Hollywood’s a pushin’! So what the heck gives here? I’ve got 5 reasons why I think people just ain’t buyin’ what big ol’ Hollywood’s selling!

Bland, Soulless, Predictable & Safe Storytelling

One thing I’ve noticed over the recent years is that these big ass summer blockbusters don’t bring much new to the table, instead of setting trends they now play off of what’s trending on social media etc to try and ensure they make maximum profit. It’s clear to audiences that they’re being marketed to and a lot of the themes we see in current movies feel a bit forced into the narrative. The plot lines feel predictable & safe, being very careful not to push the boundaries. However, nobody likes to feel pandered to, especially just to make a quick buck. Today Hollywood blockbusters feel a bit too calculated, like a Mcdonald’s happy meal version of a movie. It tastes good for a moment but doesn’t provide much real nourishment. These huge movies need to set trends again and take more risks. Most of these stories being told on the big screen now follow a rigid formula, it’s time to shake things up a bit and develop some compelling content that will blow audiences minds & keep them thinking long after they leave the theater.

Cinematic Politics & Social Media Movie Battles

Sure social media can be a cool way to connect with friends all over the world but it’s also caused a major political rift in movie fans, especially online. Everyone has a damn platform and everyone’s ready to state their opinion for the whole world to hear. The landscape of politics (here in the USA at least) is a gigantic mess, people are more than ready to call each other names and insult each others political beliefs any chance they can and then some. If you’ve noticed now there’re Youtube channels whose main focus is to tear down movies that they feel promote left leaning agendas and vice versa. Now we’ve got boycotts & petitions galore that are raging against movies from angry fans who think they’re promoting a threatening political views. We’ve got Hollywood directors & industry people arguing with angry fans on twitter about their movies and political leanings. When a movie’s released people immediately jump in to examine what side of the political spectrum it falls upon & then get bent out of shape about it on their social media platforms. Most claim they want to go to the movies to escape from the worries of today’s society, but people are so divided (and making good profit off that anger on their platforms) these days and I’m not seeing this trend dying down any time soon. At least until we get a new damn President!

Poorly Planned Franchise Reboots & Sequels

There’s a lot of bad, uninspired franchise sequels and reboots out there these days making their way into theaters. Hollywood is trying their hardest to capitalize off of nostalgia these days. It seems they think that if they simply slap say ‘Star Wars’ brand on a movie that it’s gonna mean butts in seats at the cinema. Not the case, people are clearly smarter these days when it comes to their choice of entertainment. Lots of franchises attempting to reboot with younger “hip” stars and leaving the old actors in the dust. I mean what really is ‘Men in Black’ without Will Smith? How about Star Wars with crusty old grumpy Luke Skywalker that barely lifts a finger in the movie? Or the Ghostbusters without any of the original characters starring in it to properly pass the torch? Hollywood is a bit clueless when it comes to how to execute these sequels, fans want to see a respectful portrayal of classic older characters who’re set to pass the torch to younger generation. Some of these reboots/sequels actually seem downright disrespectful to the original characters, sweeping them under the rug as quickly as possible to usher in the new characters. There needs to be a class taught to all of these clueless Hollywood executives on how to successfully pass the torch in a franchise. If you take a crap on a beloved franchise the fans of it will roast your ass on social media. The fans today have more power than ever and it’s a new angle that’s got Hollywood baffled.

Spectacle over Story

It’s kinda crazy now, almost every blockbuster movie franchise has been trying to set up a cinematic universe because they think they can reap the same benefits as the MCU does. However what most of these franchises get wrong is that they simply haven’t spent the time worldbuilding building the way Marvel has over the the last 10 plus years. Most of these failing franchises spend their movie’s runtime trying to set up the next sequels rather than telling a compelling story with top notch character development. Instead they simply litter the movie with a bunch of shiny, glossy CGI & flashy explosions convinced that lone is enough to entice movie goers to get all amped up for their planned spinoffs. Well listen up Hollywood, going to the theaters is expensive and people just aren’t as dumb as you seem to think they are, yeah we got options these days with all the streaming content out there. Movies better step it with their storytelling otherwise we’re gonna stay home! So many of these franchise are dumbed down to a level that just won’t entice the masses like they used to. We want original stories, not rehashed plots from previous movies in the franchise. Sure the spectacle can be fun, but there’s a certain over saturation of mind numbing movies out there now and yours better be more than just fluff. Stop trying to predict what the masses are going to eat up and spend some time writing stories we haven’t already heard. Most of the movies feel like they’ve been looking at what’s trending on twitter and writing a story around that. I’ll say it again, Hollywood needs to set the trends again rather than blindly trying to follow them.

 

Star Power Ain’t What it Used to Be

Back in the 1980’s blockbusters were a just as big a deal but they usually had one thing going for them that’s missing today-star power. People would rush to the movies just to see Stallone or Schwarzennegar do their thing. It was an event. Not so much today, the days of larger than life celebs has somehow died, putting one of the stars of say the Avengers franchise in one doesn’t automatically equally box office gold. I’m not sure what changed over the years but people are far less starstruck than ever before. This means Hollywood has got try even harder to put something out that feels fresh and original, a good cast is still important but it’s clearly NOT a deal breaker anymore.