March 9th, 2009

AMERICAN SCARY (2006) ***

I missed out on the whole local television market Horror Movie Host craze but I always had a blast watching cable TV’s Joe Bob Briggs’ Drive-In Theater, Commander USA’s Groovy Movies, and Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Luckily, there are a lot of people who do remember the good old days of local horror movie hosts and they were kind enough to give their two cents worth on the phenomenon for this documentary.  You get to see interviews from such hosts like Vampira (the late Maila Nurmi, who was also in Plan 9 from Outer Space), Zacherle (who had a cameo in Frankenhooker), “Chilly” Billy Cardille (who had a small role in Night of the Living Dead), Count Gore De Vol, and many more.  The most time is spent on the reigning king of Cleveland horror hosts, Ghoulardi (Ernie Anderson, father of director Paul Thomas Anderson).

 

Most of the interviews and old footage is great to see but I was a little disappointed by the film’s structure.  There is no strong narrative and a lot of the interviews ramble on too long.  I was particularly grieved to see that no time was spent on either Commander USA or Joe Bob (who are both interviewed at least), although I understand because they were nationally syndicated.  MST3K is also discussed (for about a minute that is) and die hard Misties will be glad to know that series creator Joel Hodgson is interviewed as well. 

 

While it may not be the final word on Horror Movie Hosts, American Scary sure is a lot of fun that makes for a brisk walk down memory lane to a simpler time where late night TV meant fun; not infomercials.

CONTINENTAL DIVIDE (1981) *

Nowadays it’s generally accepted that former Saturday Night Live cast members make shitty movies, but this was the first (and last) cinematic turd from John Belushi.  While everyone hates on 1941, I still kinda dug it, even though it was long and disjointed.  That film’s director Steven Spielberg also produced this flick (it was the first film under his Amblin banner) and although the ‘Berg has definitely produced worse, it was a sign of crap to come.

 

Belushi plays a fat dumb reporter from Chicago who wears a stupid hat that goes to the Rockies to do a story on a butch chick (Blair Brown) who has a thing for eagles.  Predictably, they fall in love and have a bunch of sex on a train.  (You only get to see ONE brief side shot of her nipple though.)

 

The script was written by Lawrence Kasdan, the man who wrote The Empire Strikes Back.  What he was smoking when he wrote this, I don’t know.  Basically Belushi climbs mountains, eats, gets injured, sleeps, falls in love, and writes for two hours.  None of this is funny in the least and the love story angle is palpable at best.  And don’t even get me started on the dumb subplot concerning a horny mountain man either.  The two leads have ZERO chemistry together and they are totally lost in Kasdan’s idiotic script. 

 

Belushi died the next year of a drug overdose.  (It’s certainly apparent that he was on something during this movie.)  Thankfully, the overdose prevented him from making any more shitty movies like this one.

STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER (1975) **

Andrea Bianchi, the man who directed Burial Ground, the best Italian zombie movie ever made, was at the helm of this so-so giallo starring Edwige (Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key) Fenech.  After a pregnant model dies during a back alley abortion, a psycho in a motorcycle helmet starts running around murdering anyone associated with her.  Thankfully for the audience, most of the victims are all hot naked Italian chicks.

 

I’m a big fan of Italian giallos so this flick went down pretty smooth, despite the erratic pacing and sluggish beginning.  I also have a particular weakness for movies in which the killer wears a motorcycle helmet (Night School, Nail Gun Massacre, etc.), so it was easy for me to forgive this flick for its many trespasses.  The highlight of the flick comes when the killer stalks his victim while she’s totally nude for a good four minutes or so.  It’s not quite up there with the similar scene from My Bloody Valentine 3-D, but it comes pretty close.

 

Yes, the stalking scenes where the killer (who has a running water fetish) preys upon naked chicks are pretty awesome but everything in between is more or less a waste of celluloid.  It also doesn’t help that all of the murders are nearly identical (the killer just stabs people in their abdomen) and that one of the victims is a tubby guy with a hairy back.  That’s okay though because any movie that ends with a comic scene of the hero putting it in his girlfriend’s ass so he won’t get her pregnant is alright by me.

VENOM (1982) **

Klaus Kinski gets a slutty maid (Susan George) and a sweaty chauffeur (Oliver Reed) to help kidnap a privileged brat.  Naturally things go wrong when the chauffeur blows away a policeman and soon enough, there are swarms of cops surrounding the place.  To make matters worse, the boy is a snake freak and due to a mix-up at the pet store (!!!), instead of bringing home a harmless house snake, he got a black mamba.  (“The most poisonous snake in the world!”)  And that sucker is on the loose!

 

This set-up seems pretty novel, especially watching this flick in an age where The Sci-Fi Channel has pretty much ruined Killer Snake Movies for good.  I mean you got the pissy kidnappers trapped in the house.  The cops are outside, the poisonous snake is inside.  Sounds intense doesn’t it?  As it turns out… the answer is no; not really.

 

What it all boils down to is that Venom suffers from a lot of boring hostage negotiation scenes and a decided lack of a body count.  Don’t get me wrong, when the snake attacks, its damn good times.  I particularly liked the scene where it repeatedly bit Susan George in the face.  The piece de resistance though comes when the slimy sucker crawls up Oliver Reed’s pant leg.  Yowsers.  Unfortunately, these scenes are few and far between.

 

I did like the cast.  Kinski plays things very low key (which is highly unusual for old Klaus) but his performance is quite effective nevertheless.  Reed is also good as he chews the scenery like crazy (I liked the way he called the kid a “Cheeky little bastard!” over and over again) and George seems to be having a good time as well.  The real star of the flick is the black mamba.  Too bad he’s just a supporting character though. 

 

This was a troubled production and it shows.  Original director Tobe (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) Hooper was fired after two weeks of filming and all of his footage was scrapped.  Piers (Blood on Satan’s Claw) Haggard was then brought in to reshoot the film.  I really think that if Tobe had his way, he would’ve cranked up the suspense and made a really intense flick.  I guess we’ll never know.  Oh well.

BRAIN TWISTERS (1991) *

Here’s a ripe slice of early 90’s Sci-Fi crap.  A smarmy college professor is doing research where he puts stupid students into his sensory depravation chamber and makes them watch a bunch of cheesy computer generated images (it looks like scrambled porn) that makes them go bonkers and kill people until they eventually commit suicide.  One guy hangs his girlfriend with a towel before he cracks and jumps out the window.  Another girl has a freak out while in a car wash (the suds turns to blood) and then murders her boyfriend at a costume party later that night.  Then a slutty chick uses her Lee Press-On Nails to Freddy Krueger a couple people to death. 

 

Brain Twisters consists of about 2% plot, 3% of credits, and 95% of cinematic beating-around-the-bush.  The death scenes certainly liven things up, but gore is half-assed (it’s PG-13, so what was I expecting) and the computer effects are horrendous.  Since the kills are relatively bloodless and none of the ladies in the cast has the good sense to get naked, there’s really little to recommend about this flick, except to see some horribly dated 90’s fashions.  (God, I know I’m getting old when I see some jackass in a shitty movie from the 90’s wearing a leather vest over top a white T-Shirt and I start reminiscing about my high school wardrobe.) 

 

The dumb cop on the case gets the best line of the movie when he says, “He’s got a lot of brains all right… and they’re all in his lab!”