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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bad Dreams (1988)

This review is late as I decided to scrap the review I was going to post due to circumstances beyond anyone's control. Actor Richard Lynch died last Tuesday at the age of 76, and I felt it only proper to do a review dedicated to his memory. In fact I received this film in the mail just last wednesday which happens to be the day his death was officially confirmed to the public. It was a creepy experience to open this package and find this tape in with another one I had bought (it was a surprise bonus thrown in unbeknownst to me) and turned out to also be a pretty creepy movie too. Win/win situation.


This trailer gives away two of the grosser bits of gore in this movie. The hand impalement was a bit too much for me and I had to purposefully blur my vision and squirm around and moan a bit while it happened to make it through that few seconds of film. I hate shit to do with knives- they're sharp, pointy, and dangerous. But before I get side tracked even further I should probably give ou a rundown on what this movie is about. Be warned, there are maybe going to be some spoilers later on, but I will mark the section containing them beforehand so if you haven't seen this yet, it won't be ruined for you.

Plot synopsis: In the mid 1970's Cynthia (played by Jennifer Rubin, known for her roles in Nightmare On Elm Street 3, Screamers, etc.) narrowly escapes a group immolation (headed by cult leader Harris, played by Richard Lynch) and winds up in a coma for thirteen years. Awakening to the extreme bummer that is the late 1980's, she finds herself in a mental ward undergoing treatment for hallucinations she keeps having of the long dead Harris stalking her everywhere. A series of grisly deaths of other patients at the hospital uncovers something far more sinister than what she might have suspected.

This film seems to be ignored by most people, or simply derided. Much of this is due to some similarities (which are mostly on the surface if you really stop and think about it) with Nightmare On Elm Street 3. I think this is mainly due to the casting of Jennifer Rubin and the reliance of a mental health clinic for the main setting. That is pretty much where the similarities stop. I will get to that a little bit later though because it involves plot spoiling, so instead I will talk about the gore effects. Trade off? Anywhat, this movie has some simple yet extremely cringeworthy bits of gore in it. One of which you may have seen in the trailer if you are one of the people who reads my reviews as intended rather than skipping about willy nilly. 

As I said earlier a lot of it is to do with knives which I really hate when it is this realistic looking. The only thing that is really a shame is the effects in horror films of this era seldom match the film that accompanies them (this one I feel is an outstanding exception) leaving us with nothing more than lackluster films with good gory bits in between. This came after horror had mostly abandoned showing topless women running everywhere (breasts are great and all, but I want to watch a horror film not a nudie cutie reel), and there really wasn't much of a middle ground at this point of the 80's. The 1980's as most of you know is really the last gasp of consistently good horror movies. Major studios were all in on the act and as they usually do they start out doing some really ace stuff and then completely flood the market with trash so bad that true gems like this film get lost in the flotsam and jetsam of lame imitations. I know I got a little off track there but this is all stream of consciousness so go along with me on this. Back on point: The blood in this movie looks really real and it actually almost made me curl up into a ball because I was really grossed out.

This film begins with a really unexpected but awesome musical choice but ends with a VERY 1988 (read: shitty) musical choice. It was really disarming to hear The Electric Prunes play right at the beginning, and I really applaud the film makers for doing that. Unfortunately Sweet Child Of Mine by Guns N Roses was chosen for the end credits play out which dates this film more than the now hilarious fashion choices laden throughout. To give pause before I go on my short spoiler rant, here's that Electric Prunes track from the movie I like so much.



Don't you go and say I didn't give you fair warning now. I was mentioning how this film is often compared to Nightmare On Elm Street 3. I think the comparisons are all on the surface (I had already stated earlier), because the actual plot of the movie revolves around not a bullshit serial killer who attacks you in your slumber after making a would be witty pun but is about drug induced hallucination. Harris isn't actually killing anyone, he only appears in Cynthia's mind. It's the head of the clinic that is doing everything, not some would be emo dude in a striped sweater. Another difference would be that this movie unlike NOES 3 is actually pretty good.

A doctor doing fucked up drug shit to less fortunates is the real story here, and to me it resonates further- into the medical community as a whole. How many doctors would rather treat a symptom than an actual cause by throwing pharmaceuticals at the issue than actually dealing with said cause of trouble? As someone who has had this happen repeatedly I can tell you that it happens quite a lot. While health care commentary is very likely not what the film makers had in mind, the magic of film brings these thoughts up to anyone who has their mind open to them.


Oh wait, the review is over too... whoops. I think you should go watch this movie if you haven't already. Just be prepared for the gross bit with a hand getting stabbed over and over with a syringe. Those things hurt period, and I didn't really need to see that.



Monday, June 11, 2012

California Axe Massacre AKA Axe (1977)

***********************************************************************************************************ANNOUNCEMENT: Apologies for having been away for so long, but after over a year straight of writing a review each week I was rapidly approaching burnout and had to take a break. We're back, and we're bad. ***********************************************************************************************************

I watch a lot of movies if you haven't guessed already. Seldom have I actually sat all the way through one that turned out to be such a raucous test of my undeniable patience. Usually I will just stop watching (because I could be spending my time watching good movies instead) or I get shitfaced drunk in order to make things passable, but this one was a gift from a friend and I was therefore obliged to sit all the way through it just so I could see what's what. I regret that decision.

Since trailers are often inconclusive I will do my best to tell you what this was about. The plot is pretty much a cookie-cutter run of the mill deal full not of "total terror" but total predictability. Several murdering psychos are rampaging about the land killing innocent folks they come across at will. They come across a nice country and home and get more than they bargained for after they rape Lisa who begins to ruthlessly kill each of these scumbags in turn.

The title of this film is really pretty bothersome to me. It actually has several of them- the two listed above and others such as the very weak "The Virgin Slaughter" to the much more whimsical (and frankly better in my opinion) "Lisa, Lisa". The title of the VHS seen above is obviously trying to capitalize on the success of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre which came out three years previous to this.

This was done by using the following formula:
1. Name of a state to indicate location
2. Name of implement primarily used to kill during feature
3. Use of the word 'massacre' to imply unwholesomely large entertainment value for those of     us on the exploitative viewing tip

I don't believe this was done by the folks who originally made the film though, as the trailer provided clearly illustrates. I believe it was done by the company releasing the video to try and squeeze more rentals out of what they knew was a pretty mediocre movie to start with. I do not have a way of doing screen grabs because if I did I could show you the lame insert done during the opening credits with the new title that is done in cable access quality to show you just what I mean. Trust me though, it is nothing to write about on a blog write home about.

The pacing of this film is somewhere between grass growing and a three toed sloth going at a full on charge. It is easily one of the most boring horror films I have ever had the patience to sit through. Yes, European horror is generally pretty slow moving plot wise, but that is generally because they are busy building atmosphere where this film is just plain insipid. It is also NOT European. I could have more fun watching a scab harden than I could watching this ever again. The running time is an overly generous 74 minutes. I feel like the movie could probably have skirted by with being only about half an hour long. The plot content in this movie is pretty thin so the amount of crap shoveled in to try to pad things out a bit really doesn't help anything.

Character development is next to zero- which is never really much of a problem with a film like this, but considering the fact that it also happens to be completely bereft of pretty much everything else an entertaining horror flick is supposed to have I am more than prepared to hold that against it. When my friend gave it to me (he already had a copy) a while back he said "it sucks". I really should have taken his warning to heart but what else was I going to do NOT watch it to see what the fuss is about? Merely saying something like this "sucks" is not enough for me sometimes, and as you can tell I can sufficiently measure its suck factor.

"At last... total terror!" whoever came up with that tagline obviously meant it to mean this was a film filled to the brim with and unbridled amount of terror. Instead: I think they might have been thinking about going to go get lunch after finishing up one last tagline before digging into a decadent submarine sandwich the size of a zeppelin. Maybe "Really... totally terrible" would have been a better and more accurate one. Most people would counter my claims about this movie by saying "then why don't you make a better movie?". Well I have to be perfectly honest and admit that if I did go do that it would probably resemble this one to some degree and because I know that for an almost definite fact I feel it's better I not invite such an abomination into this world.

What else more is there to say really?

Oh yeah,