I recently found a copy of the rare horror movie ‘The Keep’ from 1983 and finally checked it out for the first time last night. I’ve wanted to see this one for a long time, mainly because of how damn awesome the movie’s cover/poster artwork is, the it’s VHS cover always stuck with from when I was a kid hanging around in the horror sections of the videos stores while my parents were distracted.
The Keep was directed by Michael Mann, who I’ve always loved for his 1986 movie Manhunter, which was the first big screen appearance of Hannibal Lecter. So it seems this particular movie has been kinda shoved under the rug as Mann has admitted that he’s not a big fan of it. At least not a fan of the cut that was theatrically released. Apparently his version of the movie was originally 210 minutes long! Whoah! Supposedly Paramount told him to edit it down to just two hours, that version still didn’t sit well with test audiences so they edited the movie down even further to a mere 96 minutes. Of course that’s one of the main reasons why the movie is admittedly pretty hard to make any real sense of. It’s a slow burn, but I knew that from the start, and knew it wasn’t really your typical horror movie. Instead I viewed it for what it really is, a surreal, dream like horror fantasy and it really works well as exactly that.
It’s based around a group of Nazis who are sent to guard an huge, old, mysterious fortress in a Romanian mountain pass. One of them releases an powerful force trapped within the walls while thinking they’ll discover some sort of treasure behind them. A weird stranger senses this from his home back in Greece and travels to the keep to try and destroy the sinister force. As Nazi soldiers are eliminated, a Jewish father / daughter duo who both have information on the secrets of the bizarre stronghold arrive on the scene to make sense of the ghostly happenings. It’s a cool set up, but it’s a bit hard to comprehend as it’s filled with plot holes and many unanswered questions, likely that’d been explored in the mega extended version.
It’s also more of an art film really than a horror flick at the end of the day. It’s filled with ripe, hazy dream like atmosphere from start to finish, it’s a visual treat with a mostly quiet pace to it. When the creature though arrives on the scene from the walls of the keep it does get pretty intense and the finale is filled with a ton of great sequences that surely must’ve influenced a modern film maker like Panos Cosmatos (Mandy, Beyond the Black Rainbow). There are some amazing set pieces here, most filled with creepy fog, a pretty impressive hulk of a monster and some really excellent special fx work to behold as well. It certainly excels in it’s creation of a portal from another dimension spilling into our reality.
The cast also is pretty awesome as well, Scott Glenn, Gabriel Byrne and a much younger Ian Mckellan make this whole experience that much more enjoyable. Byrne plays a crazy Nazi and Mckellan shines as a sort of hero of the movie, being forced to work alongside the Nazis. Yeah folks, Ian was at one time “young” even though he’s still oddly kinda old even way back in 1983! I also have to mention the totally epic score from soundtrack legends Tangerine Dream, I gotta track the soundtrack down. The Keep was a delight to finally see after all these years, this movie desperately needs a re-release on blu-ray/dvd this time with the full 210 minutes of Mann’s vision!!
Here’s one of the most ridiculously excellent movies I’ve seen in a looooong time! The year 1990 brought us Jim “Chopping Mall” Wynorski’s high rise slasher flick Hard To Die. I was lucky enough to run into a copy of this one while out combing the thrift stores and came to find it’s actually a pretty rare little movie to discover in the wild on VHS. I was pretty sure what to expect from the box art, it was tagged as the female version of “Die Hard” but the movie is actually a sequel to ‘Sorority House Massacre 2’ and features that movies main “antagonist” (same actor) as well as one of the women from said sorority in the previous flick. It’s known also as “Sorority House Massacre 3” and “Tower of Terror” but the most perplexing thing is that it uses actual flashback scenes to explain it’s ridiculous “plot” from ‘Slumber Party Massacre’ rather than ‘Sorority House Massacre’ or even ‘Sorority House Massacre 2’. I know crazy huh? What gives?! I guess it had something to do with the director showing the movie to Roger Corman and him loving it so much that he insisted on utilizing scenes from ‘Slumber Party Massacre’, a movie he’d produced, to be tied to these fantastic Sorority House sequels.
Anyway!! I digress, ‘Hard to Die’ is a lot more fun & frantic than I’d expected, it features a group of lingerie shop employee babes who’re going in to work the graveyard shift, doing inventory in a mysterious high rise. They run into the creepy dude ‘Orville Ketchum’ from ‘Sorority House Massacre 2’ who’s now the after hours janitor at the building and he tells them all the freaky story from ‘Slumber Party Massacre’. The ladies of course are totally creeped out by the guy but then to make matters even worse someone delivers a strange package that contains a bizarre ancient box, of course they open that shit up and it sets forth an evil spirit (done via animated hand drawn cells which I love) that rushes out into the halls of the high rise.
Soon a sadistic killer begins picking people off one by one. About that time as well is when a small fire triggers the sprinkler system and the hot babes “regular” clothes (which are pretty damn skimpy as it is) get all wet. What to do about that you may ask? Well…get changed into the brand new line of dry lingerie they’re taking inventory on of course! But wait, you can’t do that unless you take a long hot shower right?! So yeah all the women take their turns in the soapy shower before spending the rest of the movie running away from an evil killer in lingerie and high heels.
I don’t wanna spoil that much more of this one, but there’s so much idiotic dialogue & downright moronic decisions made to enjoy here that you’ll wanna have plenty of booze and your best friends around to witness the spectacle of it all. There’s also a bit of a “shocking” twist ending as well and some unforgettable truly over the top action sequences to bath in. Like the title of this post says these ladies take no shit especially when they come across a collection of machine guns in the third act. Yeah lots of running around like Bruce Willis shooting shit up while in lingerie & high heels. This one is nonstop lunacy, people these days try and fail miserably to replicate movies like this, track this one down if you’re looking for a truly unique party flick-it delivers the damn goods and then some!!
I recently checked out a pretty sweet little horror anthology from 1985 called ‘Night Train to Terror’ on VHS and it did indeed deliver the goods, especially in that oh so ridiculously sweet 80’s way. It’s not always easy to find a decent horror anthology but this one had a certain charm about it especially with it’s rather ambitious special fx & visuals that really made it such a damn good time.
The movie certainly kicks off with a total bang as we’re thrust into a full blown dance party on a train, with crazy 80’s fashion, a super cheezed out band rockin’ performing a totally “rad” third rate pop song. Now that’s a train I want to reserve a seat on! Anyway, soon we realize that God and Satan are also on a train that’s flying through outer space and trying to determine who will live on the party train as it’s going to crash. This is where we see the frightening tales of evil materialize on screen as it sets the stage for the stories involving some of the more questionable passengers.
So what we’ve got here are a few cool tales of terror, what’s really interesting is these stories here are all apparently edited versions of different horror films: Death Wish Club, Cataclysm and an unfinished movie project with Richard Moll (of Night Court fame) called Scream Your Head Off. Yeah and if you’re for some reason a big Richard Moll fan you’ll be pleased to know he stars in two of the segments! Also while we’re on the hot topic of Richard Moll flicks, you’ve got to check out ‘The Dungeonmaster’ from 1984, which is easily one of the most ridiculously fun horror/Sci fi flicks of the 80s. So back to the Night Train, it would seem one reason why these segments work so well is that they’ve likely trimmed out all of the excess fat from these movies and got to get straight to the damn point. So many obscure 80’s horror flicks would be bonafide cult classics if they’d trim 20 or so minutes from their run times. That’s a fact!
Yep, Night Train has got a lot to offer in it’s spooky entries, but don’t expect shit to make a heckuva lot of sense. The stories are actually kinda confusing, probably because they’ve been majorly butchered to pieces. That being said, there’s some cool shit going on, there’s one about a dude who drugs women, then kills them only to collect their organs. There’s a ton of nudity and some gore and of course Richard Moll shows up. The next segment’s about a freaky ass death club, whose members are obsessed with near death experiences, not the “out of body” stuff but like putting themselves into elaborate death traps to see if they can survive it. This one’s also pretty damn confusing, but there’s some cool ass traps and a rad killer insect that they let out of a bottle to fly around them at a dinner table..oh yeah and then some killer big hungry monster bugs! Lastly the third one was fucking fantastic, It had some weird ass Nazi guy who never ages, you guessed it…more Richard Moll, monsters a plenty and a totally excellent stop-motion animation creature sequence. This one’s story is super confusing as well, or maybe i’m just stupid, but it doesn’t really matter because it’s all 80’s gory goodness. I’d say just drink some booze and smoke a joint before watching, as it’s not there to wow anyone with a well crafted story that’s for sure!
So check this one out if you’re in the mood for a sweet 1980’s horror party flick, it delivers on all levels and you really don’t have to pay much attention to what’s going on, just sit back and enjoy the goofy ambition of it all…
Damn! I’ve been scoring some excellent VHS tapes lately and even better is the fact that they’re movies I’ve never heard of before. Being a huge fan of 80’s creature features I was delighted to run across this total gem of a flick. Not to be confused with ‘Metamorphosis’ by George Eastman which also came out in 1990, ‘Metamorphosis: The Alien Factor’ is an inspiring special fx laden monster movie for fans of movies like The 80’s ‘Blob’, ‘The Thing’ & of course ‘The Deadly Spawn’. This movie is actually the unofficial sequel to 1983’s ‘The Deadly Spawn’ being produced by Ted Bohus who was responsible for both movies. Turns out he produced two home run horror movies as Metamorphosis is just as good if not in some ways even better than The Deadly Spawn.
The movie’s plot is quite simple, a scientist is researching some strange mutant creatures from another planet in lab and accidentally stabs one of them in the head with a syringe. The pissed off mutant bites his hand, escapes, the scientist quickly begins to metamorphosize into a slimy mass of grotesque flesh & eventually mutates into a huge creature that kills a security guard. Well it’s not long before the security guard’s two daughters and one of their geeky horny boyfriends are all up on the scene to figure out just what happened to their dear ol’ dad. They sneak into the research facility and crazy monster mayhem ensues. This one’s a ton of fun, sure it’s got some pretty bad acting, unintentionally goofy dialogue and may have about 15 minutes too much of bland character development but the whole thing is littered with crazy creatures and plenty o’ gooey gore.
The monsters are the main attraction here and they’re beautifully created via puppetry, animatronics and even a hefty dose of stop motion animation. It really is a great sequel to The Deadly Spawn and the main monster does indeed share an even enough similarity to the creatures of it’s predecessor. These two movies would make a great double feature especially for those who’re looking for an underrated gem of a monster movie and plenty of gross out schlocky gore.
The last 30 minutes of the movie definitely amps up the monster mayhem to eleven and though some of the first two acts can begin to only slightly drag with perhaps trying a bit too hard at crafting a “compelling” story once the shit truly hits the fan it’s totally worth the wait. Like ‘The Deadly Spawn’ this also one has quite a gigantic closing sequence that firmly cements ‘Metamorphosis: The Alien Factor’ into the list of the the best monster movies of the late 80’s/90s. Check it out!
One of the most wild & unpredictable filmmakers of all time hands down has got to be Hong Kong’s Lam Ngai Kai aka Lam Nai-choi, Most well known for his mega cult classic ‘RIKI-OH/The Story of Riki’ it’s clear this guy is, in my opinion one of the most underrated directors in the horror genre. Imagine if Sam Raimi made movies as consistently awesome as the Evil Dead trilogy, well that’s a good way to sum up this guy’s catalogue of crazy ass films. I’ve been fully surprised at how many people love ‘Riki-Oh’ yet aren’t familiar with anything else this guy’s done.
It probably doesn’t help that he completely disappeared off the movie map in 1992 for unknown reasons. Perhaps he realized he’d unlikely ever be able to top the craziness of his back catalogue of bizarre flicks. I’d love to know what he’s up to today and what I’d love even more would be his return to filmmaking. There’s however, literally zero info on why he stopped his film career and what the dude’s been up to these days. That being said let’s take a quick look at some of his coolest flicks you may not have even known existed! First if you’ve never seen Riki-Oh from 1991 it’s easily one of the wildest action/horror hybrid movies out there and totally on par with the awesomeness of Evil Dead 2. It features some of the most over the top action/gore of all time:
Next is another equally crazy ass flick from 1986 called ‘The Seventh Curse‘ which is like Indiana Jones on acid fighting monsters and exploring some truly epic locations. It features Chow Young Fat in a small role and continues with totally frantic action sequences that never slows it’s pace right to the very end. A true hidden gem of a movie that many 80’s horror fans have completely missed out on over the years. Seek this out asap as it’s more proof this guy’s got chops on par with the likes of early Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi & Don Coscarelli.
Kai’s got more under his belt too if you want another horror adventure that’s a true spectacle to behold check out ‘The Peacock King‘ from 1988. A totally unique movie that’s also a full on FX extravaganza. This one literally utilizes nearly every 80’s special fx in the book, from stop motion monsters, to animatronic creatures etc. etc. etc. you name it, this movie will take you on tour of the bizarre set to a super fun, dark yet equally light hearted adventure. Check it out: Continue reading
Up until last night I’d never even heard of the HBO movie ‘Cast A Deadly Spell’ from 1991, but I was lucky enough to run across a VHS copy of this one recently. It immediately peaked my interest, the box had some quotes on it comparing it to ‘Ghostbusters’ & ‘Roger Rabbit’ with monsters instead of cartoons. Sign me up already! The movies a ton of fun and filled with some sweet totally 80’s style fx work as well as an equally impressive cast. It really perplexed me as to why I’d never even heard of this one as it’s something I would have totally dug back in ’91. Hey I think it’s better sometimes seeing a lost gem from way back in the modern era anyway…it takes me way back…
Anyway this cool movie stars Fred Ward as H.P. Lovecraft (seriously, how have I never heard of this movie?!) a private investigator, who hired to track down the legendary book, the Necronomicon. Lovecraft is one of the only people who’ve chosen not to use magic of any kind making his little quest all that much more difficult to accomplish. It’s a full on 40’s noir, placed in a time when witchcraft has been fully exposed to the general populace and things that go bump in the night are far more common than ever before. We’ve got a bunch of neat monsters, werewolves & zombies along the way as well as an awesome scene with some pesky gremlins by way of rad old school puppetry. Hell, we even get a random unicorn that enters the equation into this unique little horror noir comedy.
There’s some cool scenes as well that up the movie’s horror factor with some impressive unexpected gore. There’s weird super powered gangsters, voodoo priests and plenty of that classic style animatronic monster mayhem to behold here. It’s also got it’s fair share of comedy though too and it in ways really is a bit like a horror version of ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’. Director Martin Campell went on to direct more recent stuff like the god awful ‘Green Lantern’ movie and ‘Casino Royale’. Along side Ward is also Julianne Moore, Clancy Brown & David Warner which is a pretty star studded cast for just how relatively forgotten this movie is today.
The movie spawned a sequel as well in 1994 but I haven’t heard to many good things about that one. There’s never been an official DVD release of the movie, but it certainly deserves one. The movie is available to watch on Amazon and a few other online platforms, so if you’re looking for a little lost nostalgia this one’s a cool little forgotten gem of a movie…
Deck the halls people! I checked out the new Christmas thriller / horror flick “Better Watch Out” last night as I was beginning to crave me some holiday themed mayhem! I really had no idea just what to expect, but had heard this one had a few twists and turns under it’s belt and of course I love creepy Christmas movies so why the hell not kick off the holiday season with a possible bang. ‘Better Watch Out’ is indeed an interesting movie, especially because it of it’s clever mind game it plays at it’s nasty core. More thriller than horror, with it’s fair share comedy and seemingly lighthearted holiday seasoned set up.