Haunts (1977)

A maniac is on the loose in your typical American small town. He is running around town in a ski mask, scissors in hand, raping (possibly) and killing (definitely) any woman he can get his hands on. Could it be the creepy new guy? Or the creepy butcher? Or the creepy uncle? Or how about that priest?

Meanwhile, Ingrid is on her inherited and completely isolated family farm, having bizarre cow milking-induced flashbacks while imagining that every man she sees is a psychotic murderer.

So in a way, Ingrid is sort of symbolic of how I felt watching this movie (right down to the bizarre flashbacks). You don't really know who to trust and at any given point in the movie you're pretty certain the killer could be pretty much any of the characters.

Part of this is because the town has no real infrastructure in place for dealing with murderers. Sure, you've got your small town sheriff and your wise doctor and some incompetent deputies and the town floozy. But everyone basically goes about their business like there isn't an insane murdered running around. Standard procedure here boils down to, "face all possible evidence with stoic denial." Even Ingrid's uncle knows this. When Ingrid comes home after narrowly escaping an attack, her clothes torn and bloody, her uncle uses the old, "it was probably a rabbit or a deer" explanation. At first I was confused and a little scared. "Is he discounting what she says happened, just because that's what you do in these kinds of movies?" Then I thought, "or.... is he suggesting that the killer is a rabbit and/or a deer?" and instead of being confused I was delighted. I chuckled a little bit but as the movie continued on I realized my first guess was right so I was a little disappointed.

I was pretty happy to find out that even after you are sure you've figured out who the killer is... well, you're probably right, but there is another little twist at the end you won't be able to predict unless you are really good at predicting things that are totally out of nowhere.

So, how about the more technical aspects of this movie. The sets, lighting, acting, effects, everything really are all roughly on the same level as a decent made-for-TV movie. The dialog is pretty natural sounding I guess, other than the "probably a rabbit or a deer" part I mentioned above.

Haunts has a pretty interesting atmosphere however. It's slow and deliberately paced and dare I say even a little boring. But it's also kind of moody and there are plenty of weird things to look out for. A lot of plot points get thrown at you and never really go anywhere. It could be an example of throwing it all at the wall to see what sticks, or it could be an expert method of making the audience (me) feel a little uneasy and unsure of things. I feel it worked pretty well.

Not as great as some of the other movies in the Chilling Classics set, but not as awful as the worst of the Sci-Fi Classics set, Haunts is a decent thriller with a great atmosphere.


The Atomic Brain (1964)

The little description on the sleeve for this DVD is pretty hilarious. "Somehow, atomic power is harnessed to transplant brains." There's another sentence or two on there, but the rest isn't as funny. That doesn't really explain much so I will try my best to help you out.

A miserable old wealthy woman hires a live-in brain surgeon to experiment with brain transplants. You see, she wants to have her brain put into the body of a beautiful young woman so she can continue to be rich and alive. However! There is a chance she could become a vampire or something, as our helpful narrator warns us at the beginning of the movie:

"Is the next step the transplantation of the human brain? Many scientists answer, 'yes.' But they pause and add a grim warning. For in the ancient folk legends tales are told of blood-sucking vampires, crawling out of graves to live on the bodies of helpless victims. Is man now doomed to produce a race of ever-living monstrosities?"

That's quite a leap to make but I'm no scientist so what do I know?

Other important characters include Victor (some guy that has become involved with the old woman so that he can get her money) and a few buxom ladies who are told they are being hired as servants but in reality are just being sized up for possible brain transplantation. As a result you get some pretty hilarious scenes of this old lady totally checking these babes out, even rejecting one because she has a birthmark on her shoulder! Most of the girls are pretty bothered by this though one of them doesn't seem to care and I swear to god actually says at one point, "I have the same measurements as Marilyn Monroe! *giggle*"

Meanwhile, there are some monsters hanging around. They are failed experiments of the doctor and they basically run around acting like animals (because they have animal brains). One monster hilariously has animal-like features, as though transplanting an animal brain into a human body would do that.

So I don't want to give away the ending but you know there are going to be some monsters attacking women, some harebrained science, and some exploitative violence. I was pretty pleased to see a little bit of shocking gore in this one... it was certainly unexpected. I won't give it away but let's just say that EYE didn't expect it. hahaha

What can I say? It's a scifi monster flick. It's not boring and talky like a lot of scifi movies from this era, and it's not a bad way to spend 64 minutes.

This movie was released under the alternate title of Monstrosity. I have to admit that I am partial to the title given on the DVD, The Atomic Brain. My rule of thumb has always been, "if given the option, go with the choice that is more atomic." So there you go. However, isn't that poster great (poster image downloaded from scificlassics)? BODIES FOR SALE! If I was around in 1964 I would definitely be buying tickets for this movie. Having watched it just now, I think I would have been satisfied.


Beast of the Yellow Night (1971)

A bandit on the run, Joseph Langdon, is about to meet his end in the sweaty jungles of Southeast Asia when he is approached by Satan in the form of a jolly chubby Fillipino guy and offered his life for his soul. He agrees, Satan empties a sack of meat on the ground and our movie begins!

Joseph's soul is funneled into the body of some asshole rich guy who was supposed to have died horribly. He has a gorgeous wife and all the money he needs but unfortunately for him he is basically an agent of Satan. He cannot be killed and basically runs around spreading wickedness and evil wherever he goes. Because Satan thinks mankind is too slow at that stuff (haha). Also, Joseph turns into a werewolf or something sort of randomly (mostly when his wife tries to seduce him) and he then has to go on murder sprees. So obviously this is a movie that works on multiple levels. You've got the "werewolf tearing up things" parts, the philosophic parts where Satan and Joseph have little discussions on whether or not Joseph is still a man (he is), and then the lame parts where Joseph is engaging in subtle duels of wit with his wife and his brother (not the same person).

Oh, you also have a lot of padding in the form of police detectives sitting at desks and endlessly discussing who or what could be killing all these people (I don't think it's giving much away to tell you that it's Joseph... you know... THE WEREWOLF GUY... who is committing the murders).

Overall I'd have to say that this movie is entertaining but could have been even better. As mentioned above there is a lot of padding. Sometimes the dialog is too clever for its own good (so much philosophizing!!) and thus sounds artificial. It's also kind of hard to follow the plot, mostly because two of the three most important characters have somewhat thick accents; a situation that is not helped by the audio quality on the disc I viewed.

But it's also just sort of hard to understand the motives of all these characters. Joseph is tired of his immortal existence and does some weird things, like vaguely suggesting to his brother that Mrs. Joseph secretly loves him and that he (the brother) should go find out what she thinks. It turns out that this is all a lie, but for what? To test the brother? To test the wife? Why does this guy care so much about a couple of people that he just met? Could it be just a game to him? Who cares? Not I!

Since this movie can be found in all those cheap public domain sets there's no reason not to check it out! Is that a recommendation? Probably.


Troll 2 (1990)

A young boy named Joshua and his kind of crazy family take a trip to the country to partake in some old-fashioned country livin'. Of all the places in the country they decided to go to the small town of Nilbog, population 26. Little do they know that Nilbog is not your typical hospitable small country town... as Joshua's dead Grandpa warns him, Nilbog is the kingdom of the GOBLINS!!

I almost don't have to review this movie. It's got its own little (actually sort of massive) cult following. People have described it as The Rocky Horror Picture Show of the 21st century. And there are in fact sold out show where people get up in front of the screen and act out the best parts of this movie. So there you go, pretty similar.

So I could review this movie like every other person on the planet and tell you how bad the acting is, how cheesy and unintentionally hilarious the whole thing is. But I won't do that because I legitimately enjoy this movie on many levels and yes, I even respect the work everyone put into it.

Troll 2 was meant to be a horror film for kids, like Gremlins or (for slightly older kids) Ghoulies. It's one of the few PG-13 horror films I can stand. Let me tell you this, if the current crop of PG-13 horror flicks were more like Troll 2 and less like The Grudge or what have you I would be going to the movies all the time.

So, when you watch Troll 2 as an adult you have to sort of force yourself into the mindset of a little kid (not hard for me). Sort of like when you are watching The Neverending Story or Return to Oz. From the point of view of a little kid, I think Troll 2 is pretty terrifying. There are parts that are even a little creepy for an adult.

Troll 2 is pretty competent on most levels. I'd go so far to say that the direction is tight and the lighting is great. The acting... okay, the acting is bad. But again, look at it from the point of view of a kid. Kids are stunted emotionally and haven't had time to fully mature their feelings. The only things they understand are extremes... people yelling, people being scared, people laughing. The audience this movie was meant for simply wouldn't even appreciate excellent acting. So why spend the money on pros? Having said all that, the acting is not so bad that it actually detracts from the movie. For an example of that watch any Japanese movie made in the last 10 years or so.

Troll 2 also has a really cool script. There! I said it (actually, I wrote it, but saying "There! I wrote it!" sounds awkward)! I don't care what anyone says, there are some cool things going on in this movie. The goblins are vegetarians so before they can eat you they have to trick you into eating magic goo which turns you into a plant. The goblins even have their own little religion, and some kind of hierarchy, with a priest goblin near the top and a queen over all the other goblins. If you stop and think about it, a lot of thought was put into this kingdom of Nilbog.

Now, I could do the thing where I list off a bunch of hilarious moments from this movie but I won't do that either. Like Story of Ricky, Troll 2 is sort of a set piece movie and I would hate to ruin any of the fun by giving away my favorite parts. This is a great comparison, now that I think of it, because both movies are also the kinds of films where every minute seems to top the previous minute in terms of sheer wackiness. Troll 2 seriously never lets up. It's an awesome ride from T2-0 (the beginning of the movie) to T2-95 (the ending).

I will discuss, however, some things that people don't seem to go into in their reviews.

For example, we know that Troll 2 was meant for kids. Why then are there so many blatant sexual jokes? Why is there a scene where someone is seduced by an evil witch provocatively wielding a corn-on-the-cob?

We know that the script was written by Italians (always an extremely good sign, if you are familiar with Italian exploitation movies). How much of the awkward dialog is a result of this, and how much is a result of having a bunch of amateur American actors being directed by an Italian guy?

So, I suggest you give this movie a watch. Unlike most "good bad movies" it's not only fun if you are drunk. I've probably seen it about six times and I never get sick of it.


Day of the Panther (1988)

Jason Blade, expert martial artist and all-around tough guy, travels to Perth, Australia to avenge the murder of his partner. There are plenty of people in Perth for him to fight along the way and of course a nubile young lady to seduce. It takes about 90 minutes for him to resolve this situation to his liking, which is just perfect.

Now, before any of this can happen we get to watch his partner being killed in the line of duty. She basically is working undercover and gets attacked by some thugs wearing various festive Halloween masks. I didn't understand this part. She's trying to get away from these thugs but she also keeps jumping through walls screaming "HIIIIIII-YAAAAAH" at them. Finally she meets some guy that doesn't just stand there waiting for her to kick him so she just gives up and that's that.

Back to Blade. Jason Blade is an interesting character, mostly because his name is "Blade." You get a lot of scenes of people calling him this. The police chief tells him, "I want you out of this Blade!" and when Blade goes undercover the crime boss tells him, "You're sharp, Blade!" That last one is pretty clever, actually.

Of course there's got to be a love interest and she is awkwardly inserted into the movie. She's, like, the niece of, er, the other white guy that learned kung fu from the Chinese people. During one awesome scene she does a ridiculous "sexy dance" that only people in movies do. She does the sexy dance again later in the movie, but no one is around so it is ineffective.

While I was watching this movie I began to feel nostalgic for the late 80s. Sure there were guns, but this was a time when the gun was used not so much as a means for firing a high velocity projectile into another person's body, but more as something you'd use to make people move around where you want them to go. Like a potentially deadly baton. True to history, Day of the Panther has lots of guns in it (okay, two) but they're used to just add a bit of urgency to the command, "Come with me, Blade."

There's a pretty awesome part at the end of the movie where someone gets thrown off of a cliff onto barbed wire. Just when I thought nothing could top that the cameraman helpfully (and very visibly) extends his hand to help the guy that just fell.

All in all Day of the Panther is an extremely enjoyable movie. It's fun in the "haw haw the music is so funny" way but it's also legitimately entertaining, even if it is just a bunch of kicky nonsense.


Twister's Revenge (1987)

Three retarded rednecks plot to steal a robot truck that they claim is worth a million dollars. When that doesn't work, they kidnap the woman who made the truck. So now it's up to the robot truck and the woman's husband to rescue her.

Have I found the perfect movie? Twister's Revenge is close. It's like a buddy movie mixed with LOVE DOES NOT COMPUTE robot hijinx and the Dukes of Hazzard. Here is a (partial!) list of things you will find in this movie:

- evil redneck getting kicked in the balls
- a robot truck
- people running around in fast forward mode while silly sped-up music plays
- a girl "computer expert" who says things like "the logarithmic AI subsystem is state of art" that completely and utterly stun her cowboy boyfriend, forcing him to admit "now honey, I'm just a cowboy"
- JAWS ripoff music
- crazy man hungry woman who says "man" like "MAY-AN" (you know, like in the cartoons... "It's a MAY-AN!!")
- a part where the robot truck chases one of the evil hillbillies into an outhouse, helpfully labeled "SHIT HOUSE!" in big block letters. Of course, robotruck crashes into the outhouse, forcing the hillbilly to jump into the cesspool under the structure.
- two shotgun fights

This movie is like a cornucopia of awful movie pleasure. The script is awful but not awful in the way that something like Alien Species is. Whereas that movie seemed like it was trying hard to be edgy and cool, Twister's Revenge is trying really hard to make you laugh and it just isn't working.

The acting runs the gamut from "hick with a New York accent" to the guy who says "...my caaaarrrr...." when his car is destroyed by robot truck.

Robot truck, conceptually, is pretty stupid. It drives around on his own, navigating obstacles and cracking robot jokes with his cowboy buddy and all the while I'm thinking, "why a monster truck?" I mean, obviously the draw of the movie is that there is a monster truck and there are obstacles for the monster truck to drive over in slow motion. But the AI aspect of the storyline never really blossoms into anything. I mean, sure, the robot/cowboy banter is legendary but other than that you could have a guy driving the truck and it would be pretty much the same movie. And this woman develops some kind of revolutionary AI and the first thing she thinks of is, "I should put this on a monster truck! Think of all the things it could drive over using SCIENCE!" Why not make a robot person or dog or something?

If I were to remake this movie, I would have it so that the cowboy would be driving the robot truck but they would crash into a (flaming) outhouse (because it's funnier that way). After making a sufficient number of comments about how stinky it is, robot truck would catch on fire and then explode! Of course the first person on the scene would be the woman that made robot truck so instead of notifying the police or whatever she would take both her boyfriend and the truck back to the lab and would have no choice but to put the man's brain into the truck!!! Then it would totally be like a buddy movie mixed with Robocop!!!


The Devil With Seven Faces (1971)

Some detective guy or something is hired sort of by this lady to do something or other and she has a twin sister who is identical in every way but hair color but she keeps saying things like "we are identical only physically" and she's being harassed by some mobsters that want her diamond and then there's this other guy who charms all the ladies and all of a sudden he's revealed to be a race car driver and the diamond is fake no wait it's real no wait here it is.

This is the impression I am left with after watching this movie. The Devil With Seven Faces is one of those movies where nothing really happens for 80 minutes and then there's some crazy plot twist and the movie is over.

It's not especially violent, though there are plenty of people getting shot and and scrunching their faces up while their hand shoots up to where the bullet hit them and staggering around for a few seconds before turning and falling on their backs.

It's also not particularly suspenseful. I admit I was bored with the movie and had trouble paying attention to it but it's the kind of suspense movie where basically everyone is secretly on the same side and yet want to kill each other so any suspense is ruined because it's just a bunch of secret backstabbing.

I'd like to say that the dialog was natural sounding but it really wasn't. You had the smooth guy flirting with the ladies with such classic lines as, "It's my job to save beautiful women" or whatever. Maybe back in 1971 that was pretty hot but nowadays that would just get you pepper sprayed or tasered, even if you did save the woman's life.

At one point my attention span collapsed into itself under the sheer mass of the boringness that is The Devil With Seven Faces, creating a black hole of apathy which was, speaking from a physics standpoint, impossible to get out of. Impossible I tell you! I had resigned myself to my fate, floating around in that black hole, my body reduced to it's most basic elements when I was saved by the sudden appearance of the heroine in some kind of Japanese cartoon wig?!?!?!

If there is an explanation for this in the movie I missed it. I assume it was to remain inconspicuous? You know, "Well, I know you said she'd be at the beach, but all I saw was this one woman in a giant blue wig just sitting there in the middle of everything. It seemed suspicious but the woman we're looking for is blond so obviously that wasn't her."

So I guess I really can't recommend this movie. The only good part is the wig and I took that picture up there for you so you really have no reason to watch the movie. You could just look at that picture for 90 minutes, or maybe look at the title screen first for the full effect.


Naked Massacre (1976)

Amidst the turmoil of civil war, an American Vietnam War veteran arrives in Ireland after being discharged from service. Things start out badly as a church he is sort of hanging out in gets blown up. Everyone knows that Vietnam War veterans are typically psychos, at least in exploitation movies. And with a title like Naked Massacre you know this isn't going to end well.

It just so happens that there is some kind of shared living arrangement with the nurses in this town. So you've got a house of young nurses just waiting to be massacred (the nurses not the house). Plus the crazy Vietnam war vet.

Now, I'm a simple man. I like when movie titles double as plot summaries. So that's a plus right away. It helps when I am trying to remember some obscure trashy movie I watched. "Which was the one where, like, there was a massacre? A massacre of naked ladies? A Naked Massacre, you might say?"

Like a lot of exploitation movies from the mid 70s Naked Massacre is gritty as hell and pulls no punches. The dialog is very natural and the performances are pretty realistic, which definitely helps create the hopeless atmosphere.

So I find it a little hard to be flippant when discussing this film. But I'll try, god help me I'll try.

On the one hand, Naked Massacre delivers the exploitation goods. The sheer amount of nudity is impressive and yes, there is quite a massacre.

On the other hand, as I watched this movie I found myself thinking, "oh, this kind of naked massacre." This is not your typical sleazy naked massacre, the kind where after watching it you want to go outside and enjoy life and get some project you've been working on for the longest time done. It's not the kind of naked massacre that would, say, make you want to go bake a cake or visit your folks or whatever. This is the kind of naked massacre where after watching the movie you sort of just want to sit in your dark room thinking about how much everything sucks and how people are so awful and wouldn't the world be better off if humans never existed and other such things.

There's no humor whatsoever, not even the kind of black humor they usually insert into movies like this to sort of lighten the mood a bit. Everything is bleak, from the pretty shocking church attack at the beginning, to the titular massacre, to the powerful ending.

There's even some kind of anti-violence message at the end where they sort of compare the random and senseless violence of the movie with the random and senseless violence of the war in Ireland.

Having said that, this is an excellent movie. Not only is it effectively brutal but you can watch it with other people and right after the movie is over and they all turn to you and look at you thinking you're some kind of pervert or psycho you can tell them, "don't you see? It's not about sleaze and misogynistic violence. It's really about how people who enjoy sleazy and violent movies are no better than the psychos who perpetrate these crimes in real life!" It helps if the people you are saying this to have a few drinks in them.