Friday, August 19, 2016

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

Banpaia Hantā Dī: Buraddorasuto (2000)

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When a young woman is abducted by a notoriously bloodthirsty vampire, her father hires a team of vampire bounty hunters to rescue her before she becomes a vampire herself, or kill her with dignity if she succumbed to the curse. As a backup should they fail, he also hires the famous half-vampire half-human bounty hunter known only as D.

I haven't seen the first Vampire Hunter D movie, nor have I read the books, but the story here is simple and straightforward and doesn't rely on an intimate knowledge of the series which is refreshing.

The simplicity of the story is this movie's greatest strength - because I wasn't sitting there desperately trying to parse out what the hell was going on and why, I could take the time to savour the other delights the movie had to offer.

Like the animation, which showcased a gorgeous blend of gothic architecture, and high-tech sci-fi elements, and rich natural backgrounds. Seriously, I think even if I turned the sound off and just watched this movie for the artwork I would have been happy.

The characters were well thought out and given plausible backstories and motives. They behaved rationally, and had a depth not often found in horror or fantasy flicks, especially the abductee girl. She could have been just like any other waify damsel in distress and it wouldn't have changed the dynamics of the movie a whole hell of a lot, but she wasn't, she was complex, going above and beyond my expectations. D and the other mercenary girl, even the vampire guy, are also interesting characters and as such I actually gave a shit about what happened.

My excitement about watching a movie with good characters was exacerbated by the similarities that movie Priest had to this movie. Even though Priest was loosely based on a comic series and had the same plot as The Searchers but with vampires, it could very easily have also been a live action remake of this movie, except that it was boring and predictable and the characters were terrible.

Another thing I liked about this movie was that it had a good old fashioned vampire because I for one am getting tired of all these new and improved vampires they keep coming out with. When I was a kid, vampires burned up in the sun, cast no reflection in mirrors, had noble titles, and were extremely difficult to kill, which is exactly what this movie's vampire, Baron Meier Link, delivers. As well, one of the characters is the old-school vampire Carmilla (if you're not familiar with horror fiction, Carmilla was the titular character of one of the first pieces of vampire literature ever written)

At the same time, the movie feeds my craving for weird and different monsters by featuring such innovative creatures a woman who can turn into trees, and a guy that lives in shadows.

Plus Bender plays like five different people in the English dub which is a nice treat.

The only qualm I had with the movie is that it does wander into the overly melodramatic which is difficult not to do in a vampire-romance I guess, but still. Like, D talks a lot about how ruthless and vicious this Meier Link is but all we get to see of him is a brooding, tortured romantic. Bram Stoker's Dracula already showed us that a man can be romantic as hell and also a throat-ripping vampire so I don't see much excuse for that. Also the abductee, while a good character, does have a bad case of "but daddy I love him" syndrome, which probably would have appealed to me ten years ago but does nothing for me now.

That being said, the movie is well written enough and has a good spattering of humour to keep the tragic love drama from getting overwhelming, and it all works out to be one of the best horror-scifi-fantasy-western-hardboiled-romance fusion movies I've seen.


Written and Directed by: Yoshiaki Kawajiri based on the novel Demon Deathchase by Hideyuki Kikuchi.  English Version Written by: Ellen Moore, Jack Fletcher.  Voices of: Andy Philpot, Mike McShane, John Rafter Lee, Pamela Adlon, Wendee Lee, John DiMaggio  (English Dub).

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sometimes They Come Back

Sometimes They Come Back (1991)

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A high school teacher (Tim Matheson) returns to the town where, as a child, he watched his brother get killed by greasers, and the greasers get run over by a train. Twenty seven years later and the greasers are back from the dead and thirsty for revenge. For some reason, they want revenge on the man and not the train, go figure. There's also something about how they have to recreate the events that lead to their death or else they'll go to hell or whatever.

This is based on one of Stephen King's less good stories and is even less good as a movie. The premise is interesting, and the whole thing about how the greasers have to kill a person in order to bring the next member of their crew back from the dead (they do so by killing buddy's students one by one and repopulating his classroom) is a good idea although it does beg the question of how the first one managed to come back. They sort of toy with the "maybe he's just going crazy" idea, although they didn't really commit to it that well, and the "I transferred up from Milford" thing is neat.

Plus I don't care what anybody else says, undead killer greasers are fun to watch. They have all the upsides of regular killer greasers without the drawback of themselves being killable. Plus they've got a sweet car. That being said, apart from being greasers, the angry dead in this movie are (much like the movie itself) really nothing special.

This movie is pretty much just a boring version of Pet Sematary. Like, if you thought that Pet Sematary was a good idea but the reanimated kid killing his parents was too deviant for you to handle, this is the movie for you. For the rest of us, though, it's just a run of the mill undead revenge movie where nothing interesting or frightening happens. Plus there's a nice dollop of weird christian bullshit to remind us all that while the dead are coming out of their graves and walking around, there is still a heaven and a hell and presumably a god who works in mysterious ways and what-not.

Furthermore, the ending turns the whole movie into a really obnoxious metaphor for grief. Spoilers lie ahead (although you can pretty much figure out everything that's going to happen in this movie within the first twenty minutes), but in the ending the guy manages to resurrect his dead brother to help him send the greasers to hell - putting his guilt over his brother's death where it belongs. The brother then asks buddy to come to Heaven with him, and buddy tells him basically "I can't because I have to stay here with my family but I'll always have you in my heart" or some other lame ass shit, thereby letting go of his grief and allowing him to move forward with his family rather than living in the past with his brother.

If there's one thing that turns my stomach it's when movies turn sadness into a tangible thing you can fight, because I always feel like I'm supposed to be learning something from it. Like, ohhhh, I'm supposed to fight my personal demons, jeez, why didn't I think of that. Fuck off.

Another thing that bothered me was the mechanics of the movie. As I mentioned before, how the first greaser managed to resurrect himself is still a mystery, although I like to think that the car was responsible. But also, like, why was all of this happening? I get that the teacher went back to his hometown and that made the greasers come back, okay, that makes sense to me. But why can't he just leave? His wife goes so far as to ask that in the movie and he's all like, "no, they'll find me wherever I go". But will they really? How will that stop them from going to hell? Because he has to face his grief.

This is a run of the mill Lesson movies, but the only lessons I learned from it are that if people try to rob you, you should just give them your money coz they might kill you, and that you should never park your car on a railroad track, both of which are things that I could have figured out on my own.


Directed by: Tom McLoughlin.  Written by: Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, based on a short story by Stephen King.  Starring: Tim Matheson, Brooke Adams, Robert Rusler, Robert Hy Gorman, William Sanderson.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

House 2

House II: The Second Story (1987)

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A young couple (Arye Gross & Lar Park Lincoln) move into his old family homestead after his parents died mysteriously. Their obnoxious friends (Jonathan Stark & Amy Yasbeck) come to stay with them, and one evening the men-folk decide to dig up buddy's great-grandfather's grave to see if this legendary Mayan crystal skull is in there. The great-grandfather (Royal Dano) is still alive in the form of a cowboy mummy and comes to live with them as well. Unfortunately, the crystal skull which is keeping the old man alive is also attracting the forces of evil (which take the forms of a stone age pro wrestler, a group of Mayan priests, and a different undead cowboy).

Yeah this movie really doesn't make a whole lot of sense. It's vaguely amusing in parts - like the bit with the eccentric electrician (John Ratzenberger) who also happens to be basically Indiana Jones - but it's all over the place, as though they took the worst things about House and decided to make a movie just about that.

The stop-motion creature effects are pretty good, but the things that they are effects of are really stupid. Like, okay, the two main characters find that one of the rooms is a portal to the stone age after aforementioned pro-wrestler crashes a Halloween party and steals the crystal skull. They follow him into the stone age and have to fight off stop-motion dinosaurs in a scene lifted from 1 Million Years BC. Only unlike 1 Million Years BC which was made in the 1960s, I'm pretty sure that by 1987 they knew that humans and dinosaurs did not live in the same time period which makes this movie annoying as fuck.

Also, there's a fucking dogerpillar, an animal invented for the sole purpose of annoying me. What the fuck.

The whole thing just feels like a really boring kids' movie the would've shown on the family channel in the 1990s, only the main character would have been ten instead of like thirty five. The characters are about as sharp as children, the cowboy-mummy grandpa being the worst offender. The main guys keep retrieving the crystal skull for him and he keeps losing it to other evil forces. Did I mention that the skull is the only reason he is still alive? You would think he would keep it somewhere safe. And every time he loses it, main guy is like "oh no, the skull got stolen, gramps will die if we don't get it back!" and it's like, man, gramps is 200 years old, his time is over.

I was seriously hoping the old man would get wasted (spoiler, he does, but not nearly soon enough) coz he's about as riveting as Grandpa Simpson. Yes, they found a way to make an undead mummy gunslinger boring. And now I've seen everything.

The ending - which I interpreted as the main character becoming his great grandfather - is terrible, a lazy cop-out, and really raises more questions than it answers. Did the house contain portals to other times or small pocket dimensions that look like other times (sort of like Indian in the Cupboard)? If the house burns down, which is implied, do the pocket dimensions collapse? If the house contains time-portals, what are the ramifications of the Idiot Friend leaving an Uzi in the Stone Age? Why was Bill Maher in the movie? These are questions that need answers.

Even the architecture of the house is really stupid. The outside is sort of a Queen Anne style spooky house, while the inside is half Victorian and half Aztec pyramid which does actually get explained but is still offensive to the eye.

Furthermore, it had nothing to do with the first House, really, except that it too was set in a house. Anyway, the only good thing about this movie was the title so my advice is to just read that, have a chuckle, and move on.


Written and Directed by: Ethan Wiley.  Story by: Fred Dekker.  Starring: Arye Gross, Jonathan Stark, Royal Dano, Lar Park Lincoln, Amy Yasbeck, John Ratzenberger, Bill Maher.

Friday, August 12, 2016

City of the Living Dead

Paura nella Città dei Morti Viventi (1980)

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A priest (Fabrizio Jovine) hangs himself in a cemetery and opens the gates of Hell. The dead begin rising from their graves, and manifesting as ghosts, and giving people weird visions in the town of Dunwich. It's up to a medium (Katriona MacColl), a journalist (Christopher George), a psychiatrist (Carlo de Majo), and his patient (Janet Agren) to figure out what happened and prevent hell on earth.

The premise of the movie is pretty interesting, deviating somewhat from the regular old "dead walk the earth for no good reason" or "virus turns everybody into zombies" cliches. The blend of witchcraft with heavy duty Christianity (the events of the movie were foretold in the Book of Enoch, which I had to look up) is different and cool.

The gore is extreme and gruesome - there's one scene in particular where a young woman (Daniela Doria) pukes up all of her organs, which alone makes the movie worth watching. You can actually watch the full scene here if you're curious and don't want to bother with the whole flick, it definitely not safe for work and I wouldn't recommend watching it while you're eating. Consider yourself informed.

Overall the movie isn't especially action heavy, relying mostly on atmosphere to create a great sense of impending doom. Between the strange but appealing cinematography, the unrelenting soundtrack, and the uncomfortable feeling that something just isn't right make for an intense and creepy experience.

Surprisingly, the characters were likable and believable enough that I felt genuine concern for their well-being by the end of the movie, which is a very unusual feat for a B movie such as this. I found myself actually feeling bad when two of the main characters got killed towards the end of the movie because it seemed like they just worked so damn hard to save the world. That contributes to the stressful feeling this movie elicits.

On the downside, apart from the vomiting girl, the revenants really weren't anything special. Yes, their reason for being on the earth rather than under it were different from the majority of zombie movies, but visually they were pretty much the same, and they behaved more or less like most ghouls.

The plot is not so great, it meanders around and gets sidetracked pretty regularly, switching randomly between lots of stuff happening and long dialogue heavy scenes. However, I feel that the arbitrary story line contributes to the surrealism and dread of the unknown that makes this movie great, and stresses the viewer out more. Really, this movie is about stressing you out either by repulsing you with gratuitous gore, or by grinding down your nerves with its unpredictable pacing. I was very stressed by the end so I think it did a pretty good job.

There's a scene in which one of the characters gets buried alive accidentally, which is one of my personal greatest fears. That got me stressed, and I stayed stressed for the entire rest of the movie.

The major problem with this movie is the ending. I did a little hunting on the internet after I finished watching in an attempt to figure out what the fuck that was supposed to be about. From what I can tell, the original ending got lost or destroyed (the way in which this happened varies) and the ending we see was slapped together in haste. There are a few interpretations of what it means (I'll let you look into that on your own), but to me, it means that the filmmakers were cheap and lazy and should have ended the movie seven seconds sooner. That's all it would have taken and it would have saved the movie.

As it is, the crappy ending casts a shadow of sloppiness over the whole thing. Otherwise, the movie is really well done, the payoff is just terrible though. So, if you do watch this movie, and I recommend that you do, just do yourself a favour and stop it as soon as the people crawl out of the crypt. You'll be happier that way, believe me.


Directed by: Lucio Fulci.  Written by: Lucio Fulci, Dardano Sacchetti.  Starring: Katriona MacColl, Christopher George, Carlo de Mejo, Janet Agren, Fabrizio Jovine, Luca Paisner, Antonella Interlenghi, Giovanni Lombardo Radice.

Friday, August 5, 2016


Dèmoni (1985)
Image Source: Wikipedia
A couple of young students (Natasha Covey and Paola Cozza) receive invitations to a movie screening from a mysterious stranger on the subway. The movie is about a mask either found or made by Nostradamus who turns whoever wears it into a murderous demon. Meanwhile, another attendee tries on a similar mask in the lobby and (spoiler alert!) turns into a murderous demon who can turn others into demons by scratching them. The moviegoers find themselves being horribly killed one by one in an attempt to fight off their demonically possessed friends.

This is a pretty cool idea for a movie - the movie within a movie idea is a nice device because it heightens the sense of impending terror as the characters get a little preview of what's about to happen to them and it gives us twice as much violent death as we deserve.

The makeup and special effects looked great. The demons were utterly repulsive with their long fingernails, bloodshot eyes, and mouths vomiting what looks like paint. The transformations from human to demon was fantastic as well, starting with oozing pustules and including a nice long shot where the victim's teeth fall out to make way for scary demon teeth.

The gore was fabulous and disgusting, with people getting their scalps ripped off and eyes dug out, all in the glorious, over the top detail only a vintage Italian gore film can truly capture, all set to 80s rock and roll, lovingly interspersed with the sweet sounds of Claudio Simonetti for whom I expressed my love in my review of Warriors of the Wasteland earlier this week. 

Plus there's sexy, old fashioned Italian punks running around and adding absolutely nothing to the plot but so much to the aesthetic of the movie. 

There's next to no explanation given for the events of the movie, beyond the secondhand allusions to Nostradamus, who I'm not an expert on by any means but I'm pretty sure never predicted the end of the world by demons. There's also a part where one of the characters says that the movie isn't evil but the theatre is, a statement which isn't expanded on. I'm not adverse to things happening just because but there's a lot of stuff going on in this movie that could have used an explanation. For example, why did the moviegoers find themselves walled inside the building after demons started doing demon stuff? Since the demons do eventually get out of the theatre (for no really good reason), the global effect of the demon infestation would have been the same whether or not the people had been trapped in the theatre.

The characters are all painfully stupid, which is to be expected for this type of movie so I can't really fault it for that. But the demons are also stupid. Like, they jab the eyes out of a blind guy. What the fuck is that supposed to do? I mean, yeah, sure, it would hurt really really bad, but he's already blind so what's the point? Ripping somebody's tongue out would really hurt too and it would be more devastating than robbing somebody of a sense they already don't have.

Once the demons get going spreading their demonism, the movie turns into every zombie flick ever made only with "demons" instead of "zombies" (they act remarkably similar). They're fast moving and psychotically violent so they're more fun than the average zombie but still, the mechanics are the same. 

Furthermore, once the main guy (Urbano Barberini) hit his stride, ripping off his sleeves and chopping demons up with a sword, I realized that this was pretty much just Evil Dead but less clever and without the inconvenience of filming in the woods.

Finally, the ending dragged on way too long in order to set up a sequel (of which, I might add, there were eight), when really it could have ended right after the last guy and gal escape the theatre and find that (spoiler) the world is overrun with demons. It goes on like nine minutes after that which is way too long.

Anyway, this movie isn't bad, but it's nothing special and not something I would recommend going out of your way to watch. If you've seen Dawn of the Dead and Evil Dead and can use your imagination to picture them in a movie theatre, you've pretty much seen this movie. That being said, if you're a fan of non stop gratuitous gore with little to no plot, this is worth a gander and is actually available on youtube so you don't have to work that hard.


Directed by: Lamberto Bava.  Written by: Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava, Franco Ferrini, Dardano Sacchetti.  Starring: Urbano Barberini, Natasha Hovey, Geretta Giancarlo, Paola Cozza, Nicoletta Elmi, Michele Soavi, Alex Serra. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


House (1986)

Famous horror author Roger Cobb (William Katt) inherits a spooky old house after his spooky old aunt hangs herself in it. He had previously suspected that the house may be haunted when his young son disappeared without a trace from its swimming pool a few years before - turns out that the house is sort of sentient and evil and inhabited by otherworldly creatures and also the ghost of one of his dead 'Nam buddies.

I was surprised that this movie was as good as it was. It was well written and funny without being a full tilt horror comedy, just sort of utilizing the ridiculousness of the situation.

The character development was good, particularly the character of the neighbour (George Wendt) - there's a scene where he steals buddy's address book, I figured it was because he was a creepy stalker or whatever but actually he just wants to call buddy's erstwhile wife to let her know that her former husband is having some mental problems. He's actually concerned. It's nice.

They also delved fairly deeply into Roger Cobb's character to make his descent into possible insanity more convincing. The fact that he's a horror fiction writer actually gets brought up when he starts seeing demonic entities in his closet, it's not just something the writers did to make it easier for other writers to identify with the character. His acting is also pretty convincing so that's good.

The fact that the house is not necessarily haunted but rather straight up evil is sort of Lovecraftian, as are the creatures that crawl out of the evil Narnia in the closets and medicine cabinets and pools and so on, which makes the whole movie more appealing. A little Lovecraft goes a long way into making a movie seem more interesting.

Plus the idea of a house that hates people and makes them go crazy and kill themselves, like Shirley Jackson's Hill House, or to a shittier extent, the hotel room in 1408,  is pretty cool anyway.

So this movie starts out with a pretty neat idea and, like the foundation of a house, builds a pretty solid story on that idea. But then my house metaphor and the movie itself fall apart towards the end. The problem with this movie is that there is waaaaaaay too much stuff going on. The guy is living in an evil house that killed his aunt, cool, he's also suffering PTSD while trying to write a memoir of his experiences in Vietnam, and investigating the mysterious disappearance of his son, and trying to fend off the weird lumpy creatures that live in his closet, and trying to nail the hot blonde neighbour lady, and possibly going crazy.

All of this stuff is really interesting and gives a depth not found in the average horror flick, but when it comes time to wrap the movie up it makes for a disorderly jumble. Pretty much everything gets resolved which is impressive, but isn't that satisfying. I could have done perfectly well without him finding his kid, or resolving his Vietnam guilt. As it is, it feels like they couldn't decide what they wanted the movie to be about so they kinda threw everything in there and ended up with plot salad.

This movie is good but not great 80s horror, good for an evening when you want to have a few laughs and see a few monsters but you find Stuart Gordon movies too scary.


Directed by: Steve Miner.  Written by: Ethan Wiley.  Starring: William Katt, George Wendt, Richard Moll, Kay Lenz, Mary Stavin.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Warriors of the Wasteland

I Nuovi Barbari (1983)

In a post apocalyptic wasteland, a gang of violent marauders called The Templars is going around murdering survivors of the nuclear war in an attempt to rid the earth of what's left of humanity. An equally violent dude named Scorpion (Giancarlo Prete) drives around the desert with his friends killing Templars and protecting innocent pilgrims.

If you can't tell from that brief synopsis, this movie is a painful, low budget rip-off of The Road Warrior. Only where Road Warrior is fun and fast paced, this movie is weird and boring.

The costumes are really lame - the main dude and the girl wear what look like sweaters from the Sears catalogue circa 1980, and the Templars wear rejected Star Wars storm trooper uniforms with huge shoulder pads. Scorpion's buddy (Fred Williamson) has kind of a cool garbage-armour thing going on, but it still looks like it would be horribly inefficient in the desert.

The cars are really stupid looking too, which is disappointing in a Road Warrior rip off. Scorpion's car has a big ol' bubble dome on the back and that is not cool whatsoever, and most of the other cars look like they were freshly made from cardboard and silver paint, unlike the dirty and worn-out looking cars in the Mad Max series.

Furthermore, there's this weird religious angle throughout the movie which didn't sit particularly well with me. Early on, one of the Templar dudes rips a bible in half, which tells you that they're godless heathens (!), and the people they're trying to kill are followers of some new age prophet who lead his people out of the ruins of the old world or some shit. It didn't really get into it enough to really make a point, it was just this annoying thing in the background.

The film is not without its merits. There aren't a lot of merits, but there are a few. The throbbing 80s synth soundtrack by Claudio Simonetti, keyboard player from Goblin, is pretty sweet - you can sample its sweetness on youtube here.

The main girl, Anna Kanakis, was pretty and had cool hair and make-up. Her character only shows up for like fifteen minutes though and basically she just bangs Scorpion and then he ditches her with some pilgrims so not much interesting going on there.

Fred Williamson is in this movie and he has a bow that shoots exploding arrows so, you know, that's pretty cool. Again, he sort of wanders in and out of the movie almost at random so not super interesting.

Speaking of exploding arrows, there are a bunch of decapitations which is always amusing to watch. Like pretty much every time somebody gets killed in this movie it's by decapitation. One person actually gets decapitated by the wheel of a car which was neat. The special effects weren't that good but the thought was there.

The only interesting point of the movie was a scene where Scorpion gets anally raped by the leader of the Templars (George Eastman), which is only worth noting because it's unusual in a movie that otherwise seems to celebrate conventional masculinity. It also feeds the whole "homosexuals are depraved and scary" thing which is dumb and boring, but at least having a super macho male hero getting sexually assaulted is sort of different.

Ultimately, though, this movie is pretty tedious for one about people driving around the desert killing each other, and not something I would recommend to those who value the hours in their day.


Directed by: Enzo G. Castellari.  Written by: Tito Carpi, Enzo G. Castellari.  Starring: Giancarlo Prete, Fred Williamson, George Eastman, Massimo Vanni, Venantino Venantini, Anna Kanakis, Giovanni Frezza.