Looking for a ridiculously entertaining Halloween “party movie” this year to watch with a group of friends and a few cold ones? Well look no further, ‘Empire of the Dark’ from 1990 is one helluva great time for a gang of rowdy cinefiles. It’s written, produced, edited & directed by it’s star, the highly unlikely action hero Steve Barkett! Yeah Barkett’s vision here is obviously to put himself smack dab in the middle of full on ridiculous, over the top action, horror, drama and ultra cheez’d out romance. As the true jack of all trades in front of and behind the camera Barkett admittedly has a certain undeniable charm about him, an almost vintage Shatner-esque way of moving through the mayhem. He’s certainly NOT your typical action hero, the slightly out of shape, sweatpants wearing, ass kicker doesn’t need to fit the mold as he’s clearly got enough passion in the project to prove all the naysayers wrong. At least he tries his damndest!
Everything about this movie is highly ambitious, as he clearly didn’t have a gigantic budget, he fully utilizes every trick in the book to attempt to make this one as epic looking as possible. Sometimes it actually works too, he’s got monster cult members, a huge stop motion/puppet demon and a few set pieces that have me scratching my head wondering just how the hell he pulled some of this all off at all. The plot too is pretty sweet as well, we’ve got heroic policeman (Steve Barkett of COURSE!) who steps through a time vortex to a different dimension to save the woman he loves (whom he was having an affair with) and her newborn baby from a “sinister” satanic cult.
He escapes the cult saving only the baby, leaving his lover behind to die and we flash forward 20 years later. Barkett is now an ex-cop master swordsman, who still longs for his past love. That doesn’t stop him from being quite the ladies man of course, Barkett has surely got some pick up lines that wouldn’t fly today. We follow him as he slowly becomes convinced his lost love is somehow still alive and that the sinister cult has indeed returned to wreck havoc in the small town. From this point on things get even more ridiculous in the most charmingly idiotic ways. Bad sword fights, a terrible training montage, “steamy” sex scenes, supernatural encounters and utterly moronic dialogue make this one the perfect Halloween party movie.
Barkett clearly had a solid vision for this little ridiculous adventure as it’s jammed packed with “interesting” characters, some surprisingly solid special fx for the time, babes, monsters and even some sweet gore. Barkett even goes the distance with the romance making sure his character has plenty of it on display as well as some solidly stupid attempts at drama. The whole thing is a giant damn ball of idiotic fun, a full on Steve Barkett vanity project that was a true pleasure to watch for the first time. If you’re a fan of stuff like ‘Troll 2’ or ‘The Room’ then you’ve got to hunt this one down, it’s a better great bad movie than both!! Grab a copy on dvd HERE!!
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!!
Here’s a pretty neat little modern throwback horror movie I took a chance on recently that turned out be quite a bit of fun. ‘Book of Monsters‘ is a low budget British creature feature that clearly makes it’s best attempt to harken back to the gory glory days of 80’s horror flicks like ‘Evil Dead 2’ & ‘Night of the Creeps’. It takes place on the main character, Sophie’s 18th birthday, when she reluctantly decides to throw a birthday party at her house. Her and her two friends are hardly the cool kids in school and aren’t even sure anyone will actually show up. To their surprise the birthday bash attracts a whole crew of unruly teens and even a few of the school bullies. Well it doesn’t take long before some weird supernatural shit goes down due to meddling with a necronomicon type of book. A full on bloodbath occurs when some creatures emerge from another dimension, invade her house and begin to slaughter the rowdy party guests. Sophie and her pals must band together to fend off the attack and protect their classmates from monster carnage.
It’s a simple story to follow and with a short run time of 84 minutes it’s a perfect party movie (literally) to watch on a Saturday nite with a gang of old school horror fans. One of it’s strongest parts is the protagonist Sophie, who’s a totally likable heroine who struggles with self esteem, teenage sexuality and the strange events of her past which tie into the supernatural events that occur. She’s also one of the only gay horror hero’s I can really recall seeing and they present this aspect of her character in a way that doesn’t feel fully forced into the narrative. Sure we got some bigoted bullies and typical teen jerks but those were always prevalent in the 80’s teen horror movies that likely inspired this one.
Now onto the horror aspect of things, though I liked the movie, I’ve got to admit I’m a bit tired of the ‘evil book/necronomicon’ angle of things, it feels pretty played out and I kind of wish they’d have used a different reasoning for the summoning of the monsters. Hardly a complaint really as once things get going here it’s pretty fun & action packed. The monster & gore effects are pretty ambitious for the most part. For the budget they had to work with they deliver a fair share of cool practical fx work avoiding for the most part cgi entirely (if my memory serves me correctly). The monster designs are pretty good too, one looks a bit like it was ripped out of M. Knight Shyamalan’s the village, one’s like a standard slasher dude and the other is kind of like a “Natasha Henstridge” Species/cenobite type-o creature. They all do a decent amount of gory, goopy damage too & it’s all executed in a fairly cartoonish way so it could easily be digested by the light weight horror fans. Oh yeah some evil garden gnomes are thrown in as well, that with a little more budget could have been far more crowd pleasing- but still an “A” for effort. There’s lots of chainsaws and general ass kicking done by the three female leads and even though most Hollywood blockbusters are trying to currently shoehorn girl power into movies ‘Book of Monsters’ does it in a tasteful way that doesn’t feel like it’s blatantly pushing some agenda for brownie points.
If ‘Book of Monsters‘ had been released in 1987 it’d have been a bonafide cult classic, it’s a nice switch from all the shoddy CGI & digital blood of modern horror movies. It leaves the door open for a sequel and I think if it gets one with more cash behind it, there’s a possibility the second installment could very well end up as a modern day cult classic. For the meantime though I think the best crowd for ‘Book of Monsters’ are those who miss the glory days of 1980’s schlock, goofy gore & teen horror flicks!
I just had to do a post about this cool little short horror film most genre fans missed out on, it’s something I’ve been waiting years to check out, especially since it features the late great Rowdy Roddy Piper in the lead role! ‘Portal to Hell’ was one of Roddy Piper’s the last projects he filmed back in 2015 just before he sadly passed away. This crowd funded short was originally supposed to be the pitch for a feature film. Unfortunately that never happened for obvious reasons. At least we have this rad little 12 minute horror comedy which really should’ve been included in some sort of larger horror anthology feature film as I think it’d made for a sweet little installment.
I’ve always suspected Roddy would have made for a great “Ash” type horror hero and this could have been the spark that ignited that flame. For years I’d check to see if the short film had been released anywhere but never could find much info about it at all. The other day I randomly did a Youtube search and the whole thing popped up for all to see just nine months ago. On on minuscule budget, I think they did a great job with this little horror story and but I’m even more bummed Roddy wasn’t able to become the star of his own unique little horror franchise. If you’re a Lovecraft fan or just love Rowdy Roddy Piper you’ve gotta check this out! Spread this around, it should have way more than just 900 views!
1988’s ‘Magic of the Universe’ (Originally released as ‘Salamamgkero’ in 1986) is one HELL of a bizarre horror adventure! Shot in the Philippines and chock full of dark creepy tropical locations, you surely get a lot more than you bargained for with an odd film that clearly must have had a pretty decent budget to work with. The plot itself is pretty sweet & simple, a talented circus magician named Jamir while doing his seemingly routine disappearing act to an eager crowd, accidentally makes his assistant/daughter disappear not only into thin air but from our reality entirely.
Perplexed, Jamir decides to search for answers, heads off in search of a creepy, mysterious shaman whom he’s heard rumor of residing deep in a nearby forest. The Shaman mixes him up a concoction of some sort from the severed head of a monkey (some serious ‘Temple of Doom’ tones here) and then ventures into a danger filled alternate dimension, to try and rescue his lover & kid sidekick who also go missing shortly after his daughter does. I’m guessing the monkey brain drink (some sort of DMT type concentration) opened some sort of portal, enabling Jamir to cross over. Once on the “other side” he discovers his loved one are captives of a powerful witch named “Mikula” who’s got a huge, sweaty pulsating head and commands a grotesque army of freakish animal people minions, swamp monsters and a plethora of gooey, gross things that go bump in the night.
The whole romp is a giant, cheezy ass fever dream, full of fog, colorful yet dark sets draped in blue & pink lighting and of course some unsettling puppet creatures. One in particular is “Globo”, a weird ass gremlin type puppet with a tv screen for a stomach. Globo’s even featured in the opening credits as “himself” as they decided to show every actor in their role, with their characters names in the opening credits of the movie, something you’d expect normally at the very end. There’s so much weird shit going on here once Jamir heads off into the alternate dimension that whatever story it’s supposedly trying to tell becomes utterly lost, making the whole thing seem even more dreamlike with every minute that passes. There’s even a weird ass party / dance scene with a full band that curiously resembles GWAR in all their monster glory. I guess I’d say this flick also brings to mind a more demented & confusing version of ‘Labyrinth’ and I mean that in the best way possible. Also at a lean running time of 84 minutes the pace rarely lags, there’s easily enough eye candy to go around here to keep horror fans guessing what oddities will present themselves next onscreen. It’s main villain, (the witch Mikula) is pretty damn entertaining too, I never got tired at looking at her fleshy bulbous head bubbling and come the end of the movie you get some great gooey, 80’s style neon action in the final battle.
If you’re a fan of weird ass cinema ‘Magic of the Universe’ definitely won’t disappoint, it’s tropical, humid nightmarish sets are worth the price of admission alone. Director Tata Esteban is fully ambitious here with his grand horror fantasy vision, perhaps not the most easy to comprehend but hey, this is a perfect movie to check out with a few too many drinks & a gang of trashy cinefiles on a Saturday nite! No one will need to pay too much attention to plot either! It’s available to watch on Youtube or you can also hunt down the dvd version of the movie on a horror double feature! I’m certain there’s a VHS copy of this one out there somewhere still but it’s probably a challenge to track down. I watched this one from my Netflix DVD service (yeah, I still do that! For movies like this!) Check it out if you’re feelin’ crazy..
I for some damn reason checked out this shoddy sequel to the 1990 horror flick ‘Mirror Mirror’ the other night & the one surprise greater than anything this film could muster up was Mark “Incredible Hulk” Ruffalo in his first “real” movie appearance! So ‘Mirror Mirror 2: Raven Dance’ came out in 1994, though it really feels much more like a mid 80’s movie with it’s special fx work/plot. It starts off pretty strong actually, showing a lot of cheezy promise, that is if you’re a fan of low budget 80’s horror stuff. We’ve got creepy nuns in a convent along with a “terrifying” giant vintage mirror that’s some sort of portal to another dimension of evil. It emits that 80’s style energy electricity fx I love so much, all over the damn place turning a bunch of nuns into piles of burnt ash, it’s admittedly a pretty sweet opening making me for a second think I’d unearthed some sort of forgotten gem of a horror flick!
Well we then switch to “present day” 1994 where we meet a bad ass alternative rock band on tour, who seem to be channeling the Red Hot Chili Peppers and for some reason they’re rehearsing for a gig in town at the old church. There’s a random teenage girl there hanging out with them, who ends up being the main focus of the movie and of course the douchey band members can’t resist uncovering the giant haunted mirror & are sadly destroyed all too soon by the evil mirror’s supernatural energy blasts. I was hoping these idiots would be present most of the movie but alas…Anyway Roddy Mcdowell also stars in one of his most boring roles and the movie slogs along at a snail’s pace until Mark Rufflo emerges as some sort of “mysterious” character who might be evil but it also some sort of “sexy” love interest. That actually was pretty unexpected!
Throw in a weird crazed handyman, a useless subplot with a greedy stepsister trying to extort some big money from the main character and eventually about 30 seconds of a pretty cool monster, more energy bursts from the mirror and well….ah…ok…who gives a shit, let’s not waste anymore time trying to explain this crappy ass mess, so here’s Mark Ruffalo’s first movie appearance in this boring pile of shit waste of time horror flick!!
Yesterday we heard the news of master special effects artist / director John Carl Buechler’s passing & it reminded me once again of just how amazing his work in the industry was and just how many of the movies he was involved with have been a huge part of growing up. From cult classics like Troll, Dolls & The Dungeonmaster to arguably the best installment of Friday The 13th, Part VII: The New Blood to Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade, his work has brought me soooo much joy throughout my life as a movie maniac.
As one of the biggest fans of monster movies, he brought some of the best to the big and small screen. It led me to comb Youtube for some choice clips of his that feature some of my favorite creations of his. They just don’t make em’ like this anymore, Mr. Buechler you will be missed but your incredible creatures will live on forever, that is for sure…