Beginning with Failure. Scary Movie Challenge 2016 Part 1

2017. I think it’s safe to say that in the large scheme of things 2016 was a pretty rough year. It seemed to be the death of everything, our culture, our politics, the literal world. Things feel hopeless. I need to do something with my brain other than think about the BIG STUFF. At least until I’m able to dedicate time to actually do something about the state of the big stuff.

I’ve decided to restart my “Movie A Day” list. Let’s see if I make it past May before quitting. I am making no promises. The ultimate goal is to watch 365 new movies a year. As I get older, the odds of that happening become less and less. Still, movies are fun right? I’ll also be including TV Shows and whatever the fuck else I feel like writing about. I’ll try to stay away from current events.

New films will be in RED.

To start, I’m going to recap the scary movie challenge from 2016. Here’s the first bit.

Don’t worry, I don’t plan all these posts to be this long, just the scary movie catch-ups.

001 01/10 Evils Of The Night (1985) Blu-ray 2.5/5  Aliens are draining teenagers of their blood! This one is literally T&A and blood, with the emphasis on the former. There’s so much T&A that porn star Amber Lynn is cast in a bit part. Main cast of alien vampires is Tina Louise and Julie Newmar being lead by ancient John Carradine. It’s not very good, it’s more fun bad. Looks great though. (That is the Millennium Falcon you are seeing on the poster. Not featured in the film, sadly.)

002 01/10 Count Dracula’s Great Love (1973) Blu-ray 3.5/5   Paul Naschy is Dracula in this Spanish production. Typical “Dracula Needs Virgin Blood to Resurrect his girl” stuff, but it’s really well done with an atmosphere that reminded me of the Hammer Studio films. Gothic romance with some nice gore, lots to recommend and the Vinegar Syndrome blu-ray has it looking great.

003 01/10 Horror House on Highway Five (1985) Blu-ray 3/5   A killer in a Nixon mask, weird Nazi rocket science and students being hunted down. It barely makes sense, it might not make sense. It’s pretty much the definition of low budget psycho-tronic slasher. Vinegar Syndrome Blu looks good with some nice special features.

004 01/10 Salem’s Lot (1979) Blu-ray 4/5   I thought I had seen this one, but I was thinking of the Rob Lowe remake. Or I dreamed it. Anyways, this was excellent. It’s been way too long since I read the book to be able to tell how close it was, but it was fine all the same. Aside from some awkward edits where the commercial breaks are you wouldn’t think this was made for TV. A great balance of suspense and horror, with a fantastic cast. James Mason is always great to watch and Geoffrey Lewis steals every scene he’s in while Tobe Hooper keeps things moving. Recommended.

005 02/10 Hellbent (1988) Blu-ray 2.5/5   A punk rock deal with the devil for stardom film. By Richard Casey who directed “Horror House on Highway 5”, this one is more silly action/drama than horror. Good music, decent performances help but it’s still a near no-budget offering. The Vinegar Syndrome blu-ray looks great.

006 02/10 Doctor Butcher M.D. (1980) Blu-ray 4/5   A mad Doctor is doing terrible experiments in this Times Square classic. It’s more “Cannibal Holocaust” than “Mad Doctor” in that it’s a jungle picture, but boy does it deliver. Loved it, sleazy gory fun that you know you want. The blu-ray of this from Severin is spotless and feature packed, I’ll watch all those after the challenge. (UPDATE: The special features were as solid as I suspected)

007 02/10 Zombie Holocaust (1980) Blu-ray 3.5/5   The original film that turned into “Doctor Butcher”. It’s fine and while not much different, I liked the add-on bits to Doctor Butcher. Looks good on blu, but you can tell that Doctor Butcher got all the restoration love.

008 02/10 Carnival Of Souls (1962) Blu-ray 4/5   A woman survives a car accident to discover her life falling apart. Few films capture the nightmare life dreamscape as well as this one. It’s one of the few films where “less is more” actually works. I think this was my third time watching it, and it just keeps getting better. The Criterion blu-ray is definitive.

009 10/03 Black Sabbath (American Version)(1963) Blu-ray 3/5   First time watching this one after loving the Italian version last challenge. It’s good, but doesn’t compare. It’s missing the mood and style. Swapping around the stories is one thing, editing them is another. THE TELEPHONE becomes a clunky supernatural thriller instead of a proto-giallo, and none of the stories benefit from the music replacement which is jokey compared to the original. It’s also missing the fantastic Karloff closer! Italian version is a solid 4 stars.

010 10/03 Cat In The Brain (1990) Blu-ray 3.5/5   Lucio Fulci directs this one and stars as himself. Playing a director who fears he is losing his mind after making so many gory horror films, this one is pretty much a non-stop greatest hits of gore scenes. There’s not much else to say, I’m giving it a higher rating than it probably deserves, but I had fun with it and it delivered the gory goods.

011 10/04 Blue Sunshine (1977) Blu-ray 3.5/5   People are losing their hair and going on murderous rampages! It’s way better than that sentence makes it sound. An LSD based thriller more than all out horror, it manages to work really well. Zalman King of “Red Shoe Diaries” infamy is the star, and he’s not a great leading man but gets the job done. This is the second film I’ve seen him star in, and he just doesn’t have much personality but still manages to be pretty good. Weird. Anyway, the new blu-ray from Filmcentrix is gorgeous and packed with extras. If you buy it from their site you get all sorts of physical goodies. This is their first dip into non-porn (they previously did amazing work restoring “Opening Of Misty Beethoven” and “Barbara Broadcast” on blu-ray under their home banner of Distribpix) and it shows the same care and attention. I wish they would be more prolific, but it’s a one man show and that one man is doing the big work. I’ll watch the extras after the challenge. (UPDATE: The extras were fantastic.)

012 10/05 Planet of the Vampires (1965) Blu-ray 4/5   Mario Bava does sci-fi, at least for the first 15 minutes or so. A pair of spaceships are investigating a distress signal on a planet. Once in orbit, they’re forced to land, get hit with “space madness” and find that they’re very bodies are at risk of being taken over. Clearly an inspiration for “Alien”, Bava makes this cheapie work by pouring on the colours and atmosphere to create a genuinely creepy suspense film. I really need to pick up more Bava, every film of his I’ve seen is a gem.

013 10/05 The Sinful Dwarf (1973) Bluray 3/5   Olaf the dwarf and his mom run a boarding house that fronts for a sex slave and heroin ring. This Danish film is as grimy and sleazy as it’s reputation has absolutely earned. Reminded me a bit of “Blood Sucking Freaks”, only not as fun and with none of the crazy over the top gore. Still a sleazy trip to take, the hardcore inserts make it even more gruelling. Good stuff though in that it successfully does what it was aiming for. For Eurotrash/sleaze fans only, everyone else will want to stay away.

014 10/06 Hillbilly’s In A Haunted House (1967) DVR 1.5/5   A couple of country singers on the way to a jamboree in Nashville stop over night at a haunted house. Only it’s not a haunted house, it’s a secret base for spies. Ferlin Husky and the country folk have the personality of grass growing and old horror stars John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr. and Basil Rathbone can’t elevate the material. One whole star is given to the fact that Merle Haggard gets to perform two songs. Otherwise this one was a piece of shit.

015 10/07 Village of the Damned (1995) Blu-ray 3/5   John Carpenter updates the 1960 classic. Tells the same story and over does it a bit in typical remake fashion. Christopher Reeves is good as the lead, my main problem were the kids. The acting was fine, but why dress them the same as the 60’s version if you’re not doing a period picture? Anyway, it’s not the worst thing Carpenter has done and good enough to keep you entertained for 90 minutes.

016 10/07 Tenebrae (1982) Blu-ray 3.5/5   An American writer doing press in Rome gets involved with murders when a maniac starts to copy his book. I enjoyed this one. Argento is doing a giallo as opposed to the supernatural stuff I’m more familiar with and the film really works. The only thing I didn’t care for was the music. Too 80’s synth that I thought cheapened the production instead of enhancing it.

017 10/08 Body Bags (1993) Blu-ray 3.5/5   Anthology film, original pitched for TV. John Carpenter directs two stories, Tobe Hooper gets one. All of them are actually really good. Carpenter is a fun horror host in the EC Comics tradition, none of the stories look extra cheap and all of the stories are packed with fun horror cameos from directors and what not. Good stuff.

018 10/08 Deadly Blessing (1981) Blu-ray 3/5   A religious community comes under suspicion after a tractor accident leaves a woman widowed. Wes Craven is doing some interesting stuff in this one, but the real highlight is the bathtub scene that will get reused to better results in Nightmare On Elm Street. Not a bad film by any means, just a case of Craven having done better.

019 10/09 Why Horror? (2014) Stolen 2/5   Documentary feature many horror legends and experts talking about why we crave horror films and what not. Except they don’t get as much time as filmmaker host Tal Zimmerman who makes this a personal film because he had a baby. I’m really starting to hate “documentaries” like this where the focus is the hosts journey. The only guy that can pull it off is Louis Theroux, and that’s because he’s perfected the art of stepping back to allow the subject to come through. This one annoyed the shit out of me. Who cares what John Carpenter or George Romero have to say when you can sit in an MRI and have your brain scanned while watching a movie. (Don’t get this Canadian stated on the MRI use in this one.) Skip it.

020 10/09 Sleepaway Camp (1983) Blu-ray 4/5   First time seeing this one. It’s a low budget “Friday The 13th” knock off, but a nasty little sucker where the kids get attacked instead of just the councillors. Also had a hell of a twist ending that plays perfectly. It rises above what it should be, which I doubt the sequels do.

021 10/09 Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988) Blu-ray 3.5/5   All the “Who done it?” stuff from the first one is out the door and they aged up the campers for nudity. It sends this one straight to typical slasher land, but it’s a pretty good slasher for what it is with an interesting enough bent in that the killer is pretty much the protagonist which is unusual. I’m sure it will all fall apart in the third one.

022 10/09 Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989) Blu-ray 3/5   This one is another drop in quality. It’s not terrible, and I still like the killer as protagonist angle. It’s just a bit plodding and too cheap to stand up to the other two.

023 10/10 Witchboard (1986) Blu-ray 2.5/5   It’s exactly what you think it is. People dick around with a Ouija board, piss off an evil spirit and blah blah blah. It’s about as good as this type of film could be, which isn’t very memorable. I think my brain flagged this one as being better due to Tawny Kittan being in it, which would of been a big deal in 1986. Not so big a deal these days.

024 10/10 Dolls (1987) Blu-ray 3/5   A family gets stranded and stay in a house with a pair of old people who make dolls. They come alive and attack them. This one has a kid in the lead which never impresses me. The doll effects are good and it’s interesting, but it’s not on the level of the better Stuart Gordon pictures.

025 10/10 Night Of The Demons (1988) Blu-ray 3/5   I thought I had seen this one, but I had it mixed up with the Argento “Demons”. Anyway, this one wasn’t too bad. A gaggle of 80’s kids decide to party down in a mortuary only to awaken evil spirits since the mortuary is possessed. It starts out wanting to be “Return of the Living Dead’ mixed with “Evil Dead” and is kind of annoying, but once it gets going it’s pretty good.

026 10/10 Der Todesking (1990) Bluray 3.5/5   This is Buttgereit’s follow up to the notorious “Nekromantic”. This one is as much an art film as opposed to a horror like his prior film. That said, it still manages to get it’s hooks in you and be pretty disturbing. Seven episodes, one for each day of the week, on the theme of suicide, each bridged with imagery of a rotting corpse. So yeah, not a fun movie, but a good one.

Whelp, that’s the first 10 days of October for the challenge. Revisiting this I realize this is about the worst way to watch films in a critical manner. Films that are getting worse reviews than they deserve due to being watched alongside films that are probably not as good as I rate them. I’m rating films higher for being more interesting compared to the more standard fair. Oh well, it is what it is and I’ll make the same mistakes during the 2017 challenge.

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Movie A Day! : 161-167 – “Invasion of the Bees”

Another week, another blog. I’ve managed to stick to my 3 times a week workout as discussed previously. It’s slow going, but good. The eating part isn’t going as well sadly. I feel the need to eat the snacks I own so you know, FAT! I’m off work the next couple of weeks, just a staycation. I had some plans, but I feel like scrapping them. I’m used to being alone and whenever I have time to myself I just hermit. It’s got to be depression right? I’m not SAD, but I’m not happy either. Just nothing. Let’s fill the void with movies! HUZZAH! I managed to watch two different movies largely about bees. Accidental theme week!

161 07-14 Wings of Life (2011/2013?) 3.5/5

One of the jewels in the Disney crown, back when Walt still ran the show, was the TRUE-LIFE ADVENTURES series of feature films and shorts. Basically nature documentaries that told fun little stories of the animals depicted. What they may of lacked in hard science they more than made up for in entertainment and won the studio a slew of Oscars. All but abandoned, in the past 10 or so years Disney relaunched the series under the DISNEYNATURE banner, and every release has been really great. If you love the critters, and boy do I love critters, these dumb movies will have you squeeing all over the place, probably with tears in your eyes. This one wasn’t as good though. It looked like it was going to tell the story of bugs and butterflies and what not, and it does, but it’s all centered from the flowers point of view. Which is cool and novel, but it all gets a bit much in the narrative department and there’s never the tense, dangerous moments to really stir you up. That said, the photography is absolutely astonishing, and even the heavy handed environmental message (about the bee situation that actually is as dire and deserving of heavy handed attention as any ecological threat) makes it all work. It’s just no AFRICA CATS which has you going out of your mind watching lions raise their kittens. (All baby cat like things are kittens, I don’t care what anyone has to say about it.)

162 07-14 Ernie Kovacs: Take A Good Look (1959-1961) 4/5

This was a bonus disc included with the previously reviewd 6 disc set. It features nearly 3 hours of episodes from Kovacs TAKE A GOOD LOOK game show. It’s a panel show where three celebrities have to guess who a special guest is, based on three sets of clues. Kovacs had free range to produce the clues as skits, and you’ll never see more baffling surreal clues in a game show. It’s genuinely hilarious, and I could easily watch this 50 year old game show every day.

163 07-16 Zatoichi and the Doomed Man (1965) 3.5/5

Another fine installment. I think this one is film 11, so I’m not quite halfway through the initial series. This one see’s Zatoichi getting wrapped up in more yakuza troubles after being forced to help an innocent man sentenced to death. Not much more to say, the plot is a bit simpler than the previous one, but it’s still a fine film. The character continues to grow, he actively tries to avoid getting mixed up in all the intrigue, it’s pretty much a force of fate that guides him. The swordplay is typically excellent, this one featuring even longer takes of the flashing blade that genuinely makes things breathtakingly exciting. I’m going to continue to ration these to one a week, but I could easily binge watch this set.

164 07-19 Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973) 3/5

I think this one is a knock-off of “The Stepford Wives”, though it beat the film version of the book to the box office. It’s a pretty goofy Sci-Fi horror about a town where men are winding up dead after having sex, due to Bee Girls which behave like queen bees and fuck men to death. It’s pretty sleazy, with most of the exploitation tropes of the era on full display, which makes it a fun watch. I have to admit, I’d fall for a Bee Girl, they’re pretty fabulous with their big sunglasses on.

Buzzz Buzzz!

165 07-19 God Bless Ozzy Osbourne (2011) 3.5/5

After the success of THE OSBOURNES, Ozzy became a pop culture joke. This documentary, produced by his son Jack, helps put him back into context as one of the most successful singers in music. It covers all the basics as far as a documentary goes, from his poverty riddled childhood right up to this 60th birthday and finally celebrating sobriety. In fact, the whole thing is really about his struggle with addiction. Since I only knew the very basics of his story, I found this genuinely interesting.

166 07-19 Bijou (1972) 4/5

This was Wakefiled Poole’s follow up to his hit film BOYS IN THE SAND. This one too is a hardcore gay porn, but the step up in quality is massive. Where as BOYS was basically a loop carrier of 3 vignettes, this one has a proper plot. A construction worker witnesses a woman get hit by a car on his way home, and snatches her purse that falls at his feet. Once home, he discovers a ticket to “Bijou”, and goes there. This one is silent like his other pictures, but the level of craft is surprising considered it was largely shot in his own apartment. His skill as a theatrical producer really shines, as well as his use of in camera double exposures and what not. So instead of playing like a porno for the raincoat crowd, it really feels more at home as an art film since the mood and shots allow for different interpretations. For example; you’re never sure if the lead is straight or gay. It’s things like this that elevate it. As per usual, Vinegar Syndrome put this out looking beautiful with some nice extras, including an introduction and commentary by Poole that was interesting and informative.

167 07-20 Jackass Presents : Bad Grandpa (Extended Cut) 3.5/5

Liked this one in the theater, and really enjoyed revisiting is with the extended cut. Not much different between the two I don’t think, just scenes playing out a little longer so you get more ball sack. If you like Jackass, I’m sure you’ll like this. If you hate Jackass, then you should probably skip it.

There we are! Not a bad week of movie watching. I just got a load of Criterion releases in the mail as I was prepping this, so theirs a chance we might be seeing some fancier movies in next weeks round up. You will come back to see right? Remember to share and like this if you can. Maybe I can get rich with a popular blog? HA!

The End