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’ve been flying through a ton of VHS tapes lately which can be a ton of fun and also a total drag sometimes! A lot of these old 80’s horror movies have pretty impressive VHS cover art, they look like they’re gonna be a lost fucking gem, however you truly just can’t judge a book by it’s cover, or in these particular cases, a movie. Anyway it’s always a gamble and sometimes you do indeed end up with a hidden gem or at least something that’s so damn stupid that it’s a thoroughly entertaining shiny cinematic terd. So here’s the verdict on some VHS tapes I’ve scored recently! CHECK IT!!
Nightmare at Bitter Creek (1988):
Here’s a little movie that turned out to be a ton of fun, we get a psycho killer/survival flick with instead of annoying teenagers, we’re treated to a group of middle age ladies on a camping excursion with a middle aged Tom Skerritt as their hard drinkin’ tuff guy guide. Oh and he also has this rad dog named “Buster” that everyone seems to be a bit too obsessed with. Anyway, they all head of into the woods of the Sierra Mountains, sounds like fun huh? Well there’s also a crazed group of Neo-nazi killers who’re hellbent on shooting everyone in sight roaming around the woods. This one’s got some pretty decent characters (Buster included), super breathtaking locations, creepy atmosphere and for a PG-13 flick a good amount of action & violence especially in it’s final act. Not entirely a horror movie, it’s still got enough going for it to please fans of the genre, I dug it for sure! Here’s the whole damn movie via Youtube:
Here’s another one that was a pretty fun time as well, especially if you like cheezy 80’s ski movies and also idiotic horror. I know I do! So yeah, this one is 80’s as hell, totally over the top fashion, big hair, bad ski moves on the slopes, bad editing, idiotic characters and even a wannabe “mystery” at it’s core. It’s also basically one quarter soft core porno as well, there’s a bunch of “steamy” sex scenes strewn about Iced’s messy story. It’s all in all a really stupidly entertaining watch, directed by Jeff Kwitney who also directed “Amok Train” aka “Beyond the Door III” from 1989 which I love. ‘Iced’ turned out to be a good ridiculous party movie filled to the brim with stupid shit and an opening credits scene that looks like it was put together by a high school AV club. In this case though instead of being a total bore this one delivered enough schlocky fun to make it a fully worth while view. If you like dumb movies, this one surely delivers – and that final scene is a total treat!
I was pretty excited to check this “horror” flick out when I ran across it, basically it’s about some mysterious tombs that are discovered in the catacombs beneath Rome that release an evil force and also stars Donald Pleasance! Sounds like a damn good time huh? Unfortunately this one is a total bore, lots of character development and bland dialogue for uninteresting characters and lots of roaming around in dim caverns. Like lots of it. At one point I decided to watch the movie on fast forward until FINALLY something happened at the end that seemed somewhat interesting, however I’ve already forgotten what it was. This ones a real winner, if you’re having a hard time falling asleep it’ll bore you into a serious slumber. Here’s the trailer, trust me it’s not as cool as they make it out to be..
Here’s a sweet little movie that’s a ton of fun if you’re not expecting a heck of a lot! Invader features a dude who works at an over the top tabloid paper reporting on weird stories who gets involved in a ‘wicked’ mysterious Alien conspiracy. The dude sneaks onto an air force base and witnesses some ultra secret super powered jet being tested and ends up paired with a bad ass military Captain when he’s caught there snoopin’ around. From this point on the movie features a pretty rad “buddy style” team up with the two and really from the start it’s totally entertaining albeit dumb sci-fi romp full of pretty ridiculous action sequences as well as some pretty surprising well timed comedy. I had zero expectations so perhaps that’s why this one seemed like such a fun time? Still there totally were some impressive yet cheezy fx work at hand and the “final boss” battle features some radical old school stop motion animation to look forward to as well! Gotta love it, check this out sometime if you’re looking for a entertaining cheez-filled early 90’s sci fi adventure!
Hot Daaayum! I’ve been swamped with work lately and totally unable to find the time to do some damn bloggin’ but now I’m back!! As you all may realize I love hunting for old vhs tapes, you just never know what the hell you’re going to find next as there’s seemingly a limitless supply of oddball movies from the 1970’s & 80’s out there waiting to be stumbled upon. Well while I was out hunting for cool shit for my vintage shop Hollywood Babylon in Portland, Oregon (shameless self promotion) I of course found a bunch of interesting vhs tapes as well. One such was an creepy looking movie from 1977 called “Whiskey Mountain”. You just never know what you’re going to get and when I searched online for info on this flick there really wasn’t much on the web about it, so I figure I’ll try and put this one on the map a little more.
Well this is actually a pretty weird little 70’s ‘hixploitation’ flick that surely fueled more modern movies like “Wrong Turn” & “Tucker & Dale vs Evil”. I checked out the trailer for this on youtube before viewing and it looked like something worth at the very least checkin out, yeah the trailer was full of some pretty frantic 70’s action sequences & a ton of cool ass over the top 70’s fashion. A little more research online made me even more intrigued as the director William Grefe also hlemed a truly bizarre movie I totally dig called “Impulse” that stars William Shatner in his most ridiculously psychotic over the top performance of his career. So yeah I was eager to see what this had to offer. Here’s a little snippet from ‘Impulse’ so you get the gist of what Shatner’s got going on…
With ‘Whiskey Mountain’ we’ve got full on action right from the start as we meet our two main cowboys who appear far too old to be participating in a crazy dirt bike motocross race, but more power to em! One of the lead actors Christopher George is somewhat of a horror icon starring in cult classics like “Mortuary”, “Graduation Day”, “City of the Living Dead” & “The Exterminator” so I was pretty curious what ol’ Whiskey Mountain might offer me. I realized from the box that the movie was rated PG though, so I wasn’t expecting things to get too twisted. Well these two motorbike riding Marlboro men and their girlfriend’s all head off on a road trip to find a place called…you guessed it..Whiskey Mountain, a place where the weird ass locals claim doesn’t exist, which clearly means it does! Supposedly there’s treasure up some where in those hills and our two lovely 70’s couples are on a quest to find it. Of course things get freaky pretty quick when the local hillbillies at the filling station try to make lewd advances at one of the women.
At this point we follow the couple’s journey into the mountains where they encounter raging forest fires, waterfalls and of course hillbillies who’re dead set on stealing women’s panties while the gang skinny dips of course. There’s a lot of time spent trekkin’ about in the woods but luckily the movie never seems to get boring as most of the settings and landscapes are actually pretty breathtaking. It for the most part has a pretty lighthearted tone, but things take a rather jarring dark turn suddenly when the group investigates a pot farm in a mountain cave. There’s some dark shit that occurs and the movie’s “PG” rating feels waaaaay outdated. There’s a totally chilling super uncomfortable scene involving a series of Polaroids that should have easily pushed this film to an R rating, but it quickly reminded me that ratings back then ain’t at all what they are today.
The movie shifts tones dramatically quite often in the last third actually, one minute we see the disturbing “PG Rated” Polaroid sexual assault sequence and then in the next the two main hero dude cowboys are having a blast kickin’ hillbilly ass with happy banjo jams courtesy of ‘The Charlie Daniel’s Band’ a blarin’! There’s some good shit in that finale too, more motocross mayhem, a bridge gets blown the fuck up and of course one of the hero cowboy dudes jumps across on his bad ass dirt bike after (with those happy banjo jams a blarin’ again)! Then the tone shifts again as one of our main characters kicks the bucket suddenly and then just when you think the remaining members of the crew are on to safety shit hits the fan in one final Shyamalanian 70’s twist!
So yeah I recommend hunting this one down, it’s an interesting one that’s for sure, as it shows just how much you could get away with in the late 70’s with a PG rating! I dig the poster/vhs box art too and as far as hillbilly horror goes if that’s your jam this one’s a gem….