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’d never seen a Roberta Findlay movie before up until a few days ago, but I’m pretty damn stoked to check out more of her work in the horror genre for sure! ‘The Oracle’ is a sweet yet nasty little horror film from 1985 that took me pleasantly by surprise. It really looks more like it was filmed in the late 70’s, even the clothing styles and general quality of the film has a gritty and dirty grindhouse vibe to it that certainly amplifies the charm. Taking place in the seedy areas of NYC during Christmas time (yeah a new holiday horror flick for the books) Jennifer & her asinine hubby move to a new apartment once occupied by an elderly psychic woman and soon stumble upon her creepy ass ouija board ‘The Oracle’ that she often used to communicate with the spirit world.
Jennifer, hyped on her new place, throws a swingin’ housewarming bash and with everyone witnessing, uses “the oracle” to contact a angry spirit of murdered man who demands bloody revenge upon his killers. From that point on the ghostly presence relentlessly terrorizes her & tries to manipulate her into avenging his death. Eventually she complies, but soon the murderers (the dead dude’s ex-wife & greedy biz partner) become suspicious of her snooping, and they re-hire the psycho who’d carried out the vicious killing before to try and track down Jennifer.
There’s a lot to love here with this mean ass supernatural horror romp. it’s got some truly unique characters, a cool female heroine & the killer is equally interesting being a trans/lesbian villain who’s as nasty as they come for horror movie standard of the day back then. The movie doesn’t go out of it’s way to get the point across, but in today’s landscape I doubt that you could present the character at all in the light portrayed in The Oracle. Still it was interesting deviation from the evil traditionally male killers of the 70’s & 80’s. For the obviously low budget it has it makes great use of it’s big city locales & it’s charming, ambitious special fx work. Interestingly enough this film came out a full year before 80’s cult classic ‘WITCHBOARD’.
These two actually have very similar plots and while Witchboard remains the winner here as far as quality horror there’s definitely something awesome about Findlay’s attempt. It’s nastier and carries a sort of sleezy quality that genre fans of B-movies might actually appreciate more when all is said and done. There’s plenty of subpar acting going on here and decent amount of fairly impressive gore to be found. The end of course tries to go the distance with it’s limited FX budget and in my opinion delivers the goods via a sweet little supernatural encounter.
I’m quite curious to check out more of Findlay’s movies, from what I’ve read it seems she dabbled in directing “X-rated” stuff in the 1960’s, 70’s & 80’s before tackling the horror genre with this movie in ’85. I’m curious about her string of movies through the 80’s, her most popular being Tenement. If you’re a fan of trashy 80’s horror you just might dig The Oracle & now you’ve got an excuse to give this underrated gem a whirl during the holiday season too!
One thing I love are those weird ass toys of the 70’s & 80’s many of them long forgotten by most. Today I was thinking about a strange action figure line called ‘The Supernaturals’. This bizarre gang of monster toys from 1987 had a gimmick, a spooky 3-D hologram sticker attached to their bodies, often times the heads and torso that really created an incredibly creepy unmistakable look for these action figures. These dudes were pretty damn awesome, each one came with a mini comic book that explained origins of the ghosty heroes and villains.
They also had glow in the dark hands and weapons just to make them even spookier when the lights went out as well as spooktacular vehicles they used in battle. I had a few of these as a kid, they were truly bizarre and that’s one of the main reasons why this toy line was so short lived. Luckily someone was kind enough to upload these old commercials of them so they can truly live on forever!!!
Ever wonder what the other movies the guy who directed ‘Predator 2’ & ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street: 5’ did? No?! Well I found a great little movie from Jamaican born British director Stephen Hopkins from 1987 called ‘Dangerous Game’ that I had the pleasure of watching this New Years Eve. Something even better was that throughout the movie you could see it was clearly Christmas time, making this one a neat-o flick to watch during the holiday season as well. The premise is simple, a group of rowdy college kids are targeted by a full on corrupt, mentally unhinged cop one day near their campus. Things escalate when later the same cop follows them in what ends up a high speed chase and ends up losing his job after crashing his police motorcycle near the damn police station! This sends the crazy cop into a ballistic rage and when the college kids sneak into a huge department store to spend he night (cuz that’s what people did in the 80’s!) naturally he follows them in and hunts them all down!
This one’s a true pleasure to watch, it’s got some great teenage characters, one who’s like the Aussie version of Duckie from Pretty in Pink. These aren’t really your typical throw away annoying teens, which is always good for a movie like this when you’ve got a deranged killer on the prowl. It sucks to not give a shit if characters bite the dust cuz they’re annoying or have no personality or sometimes when you want the slasher to actually catch his prey! It does a damn fine job keeping you invested in the creepy ass game of cat and mouse that’s going on onscreen. It’s also got a great location going for it, the giant dark department store is a maze of 80’s awesomeness, with tons of Christmas trees, blinking x-mas lights and Christmas decorations scattered about. There’s also some super rad scenes up on the rooftops that are pretty stunning, the cinematographer does a great job all over in this film. The killer cop is played wonderfully by Steven Grives as he’s quite convincing as an unhinged force to be reckoned with. The movie’s got sweet action sequences as well going for it, some I gotta say, over the top in a great way, like a motorcycle chase inside the department store is total crowd pleaser for sure.
This one’s a great ozploitation 80’s flick that definitely deserves to be on more people’s radar. It’s a damn near perfect horror hybrid action movie that’s a ton of fun for people who’re fans of the 1980’s slasher genre. Though there’s not a ton of gore, there’s more than enough nail biting horror and suspense going on, it’s the more superior version of a similar American cult classic slasher flick ‘Hide and Go Shriek’ that came out a year later. Track this one down if you’re looking for something to add to next years holiday horror play list or just happen to love the 1980’s as much as I do!
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