Tagged: v/h/s

VHS Verdict: 1990’s ‘Empire of the Dark’ is the Perfect Halloween Party Flick!

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!!

 

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VHS Verdict: ‘Wizard’s Curse’ 1992’s Bizarre Raunchy Kung Fu Horror Flick!!

I’ve been checking out a lot of 1980’s and 90’s foreign horror movies lately and the ones from Hong Kong are most definitely the most outrageous of them all. 1992’s ‘Wizard’s Curse’ is certainly proof of that, a mix of raunchy sex comedy, horror, fantasy and action all rolled into one big weird ball. A pair of “on the run” criminal lovers rumored to be practitioners of dark magic are hunted down by local police lead by a taoist priest. Using his own unique supernatural abilities he aids the cops, managing to personally slay them both. Soon after, a local cult leader resurrects their spirits into a one shared physical body, granting them superhuman powers & leaving them thirsting for human brains. They set out on a mission, to track down the priest for revenge and seeking to eat the brains of a virgin to gain ultimate powers of evil. This sets into motion a chase as the priest battles them to protect his daughter and the life of a tuff guy virgin cop who becomes entangled in the case.

Yeah it’s a weird one. It features Ching-Ying Lam better known for his role in the iconic ‘Mr. Vampire’ movies of the 1980’s as the even tempered ass kickin’ priest. The bad guy & girl share one body, change sexes at random & wear a totally 80’s leather clad outfit that’d make ‘The Terminator’ jealous. They rip though Hong Kong eating brains and murdering people with a huge glowing phallus, that’s used most of the time like a super powered snake like battering ram. There’s some really great 80’s style fx work going here, creepy moments and some frenetic action sequences keep Wizard’s curse moving at a brisk pace. Together (literally) they make a unique villain and the camera tricks utilized to make inhabit the same body are a lot of fun as well.

Ching-Ying Lam never disappoints with his kung fu either, he’s one of the best and there’s some incredibly fun supernatural kung fu battles to behold. However the movie is also entirely unsure of what it wants to be as it’s littered with sex & dick jokes when you least expect it. A lot of these Hong Kong horror movies of that era go lots of different directions and while it certainly makes things interesting this one could have really benefitted by keeping the raunchy comedy to a bare minimum. Also watching the movie with it’s rudimentary english subtitles leads me to believe the comedy may have played better if I’d have actually understood the language they’re speaking. My bad.

 

 At the end of the day though, I definitely do recommend ‘Wizard’s Curse’, if even just for it’s sheer absurdity alone. Though it was released in 1992 it feels one hundred percent 80’s. Lots of neon, cool clothing, real stunts and a ton of 80’s FX work make it a unique little movie that never gets sleepy. It’s also filled with plenty of non PC “comedy” mostly revolving around sex yet never ends up being overly offensive some how. I liked the role of the virgin too being the wise crackin’ cop instead of the priests daughter, who regularly spends her time dodging super creepy advance & ploys from mega douchey men. The movie’s finale is pretty fun too as the Taoist Priest is forced to team up with his hilarious ex-wife who’s also a bad ass magician. And of course the movie’s final moment gag hinges on an over the top sex joke. If you’re looking for an utterly odd hybrid horror movie check this one out, it’s got a lot of weird ass shit going for it, if that’s your cup of tea!

VHS Verdict: ‘976-EVIL 2’ Deserves Some Serious Love!

l’m BACK & I never saw this one coming: for some reason I decided it was time to finally check out ‘976-EVIL Part 2: The Astral Factor’, which I’ve literally been putting off for years & what a sweet little horror flick indeed! I like part two so much I’d say it’s definitely more fun than the original. There’s a big difference here in directorial duties, the first installment featured horror legend Robert “Freddy” Englund in the director’s chair for the first of only two times, while part 2 features Jim ‘Chopping Mall’ Wynorski. Yeah Wynorski being at the helm here immediately got me amped, as he’s done some pretty undeniably awesomely cheezy 80’s flicks besides just Chopping Mall. A few of my favorites like Return of the Swamp Thing, Hard To Die, Not of This Earth, Sorority House Massacre 2 & Deathstalker 2, so it’s no surprise really that 1991’s ‘976-EVIL 2’ delivers a similar formula only this time we find him playing the horror a bit more straight, at least in by his standards like he did in ‘Chopping Mall’.

We’ve got one of the the stars of the first movie back as well, Patrick O’Brien returns as ‘Spike’, who now roams the back roads of the USA ridin’ on his bad ass chopper, clad in tuff black leather. Yep a total “bad ass dude” for sure after the events of the last installment…That evil phone number is out there, still tormenting people randomly, calling pay phones & a college professor ends up the prime target of evil when he picks up! Soon the local college campus is being terrorized by a crazy supernatural slasher & a curious student named Robin decides to take on the case. Of course bad ass Spike rolls into town on his hog looking for trouble, meeting Robin and immediately decides to help her sleuth out the case. 

One of my favorite aspects of the ‘976-Evil 2’ is the villain played by Rod McCary, the evil professor uses astral projection to hunt down his victims. Most of the movie he’s locked up in the county jail and uses his creepy supernaturally powered astral body to do the damn dirty work! He also utilizes the ‘976-Evil hotline’ to mess up the college kids and all of it is a ton of fun to behold. The movie opening sequence sets the perfect tone of schlocky fun that rarely lets up throughout it’s run time making this one a nice lean cheezy supernatural adventure. 

It’s surprisingly solid (and admittedly stupid quite often) with some really fun, spooky 80’s style fx I just can’t seem to get enuff of, some fairly ambitious action sequences and some good ol’ explosions. There’s also an excellent sequence where a college girl gets sucked into her TV set and arrives on the scenes of It’s a Wonderful Life & Night of the Living Dead that makes the movie worth a watch alone. Also expect a ton of babes n’ beefcakes, even a super kick ass cameo sequence by an ultra sexy, sultry Brigitte Nielson!

 

If you’re a Wynorski fan and haven’t checked this out I highly recommend, if you’re just looking for a great party horror flick this one a damn good choice! Who’d a thunk it?!

 

 

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!!

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!

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!!

 

The Late Great Roddy Piper’s Mini H.P. Lovecraft Adventure!!

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!