Horror Film Review: Rockula (1990, dir. Luca Bercovici)


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I hate to say it, but I think Monster High is better than Rockula. For all of Monster High’s problems, stuff happened in it. This movie has some memorable characters and a funny setup, but then it just devolves into a series of musical numbers. Most are performed onstage so they have an in film context, but there is at least one that is done like you would expect from a music video. On the other hand, this does have Bo Diddley, Thomas Dolby, and Toni Basil in it. However, while we do see Diddley with his square guitar, never is Toni Basil dressed like a cheerleader and nor does Thomas Dolby become blinded by science.

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The film opens and we are introduced to our lead named Ralph (Dean Cameron). He lives with his mother Phoebe (Toni Basil). They are both vampires. We are also introduced to the Ralph in the mirror.

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In this movie, Ralph has another version of himself that is trapped inside every mirror he looks into. This is one of the highlights of the movie because his mirror self is quite funny. Like when he finds that a fun house mirror that stretches him out has increased more than just the length of his body.

Next we go to the exposition dump bar and learn about the setup of this film. Let me see if I can get this right. Sometime around the 17th century he met a girl named Mona and fell in love with her. But she had a boyfriend who was a pirate. Ralph and Mona were going to slip off and get married, but the boyfriend found out. Ralph and the boyfriend get in a fight. The boyfriend loses his sword and Mona gets killed by a hambone to the head. Ralph tried to save her, but since there were 20 pissed off pirates, he fled. Since she was killed before he could lose his virginity to her, she is now reincarnated every 22 years until they get it right. The day after the bartender tells us this story Ralph is going to meet Mona once again. And he unless he falls in love with her and saves her, a crazed pirate with a rhinestone peg leg will kill her on Halloween. Got that? Well, as you can imagine, Ralph is a little depressed. Or as Bo Diddley says.

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Oh, and the sun doesn’t do anything to Ralph. Also, he has a similar scheme to Robert Sean Leonard in My Best Friend Is A Vampire (1987). The Red Cross Blood Mobile makes deliveries to him. Crosses don’t do anything to him either. Basically take everything you know about vampires and throw it the window. Well, he can turn into a bat. Just not a very impressive one.

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All you really need to know is that he must lose his virginity to Mona otherwise a peg leg pirate will kill her leaving him sexless for another 22 years. Remember, this came out in 1990. The 1980’s were still going on in the heads of many people.

In short order, he runs into Mona. Mona is a singer. To be honest, I’m not sure how Thomas Dolby’s character is related to her other than that they are close and he sells really bizarre things for dead people.

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To win over Mona, Ralph becomes ROCKULA!

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Unfortunately, this did come out in 1990. So this happens to:

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That is Bo Diddley on the right doing what I really hope was the least dignified thing of his career. If there was worse, then I don’t want to see it.

I could stop here and say I don’t want to spoil the ending of Rockula so I have an excuse to stop writing. But who cares about the ending and you already know what happens, so here it goes. Thomas Dolby gets really jealous and Toni Basil helps him to become the pirate with the rhinestone peg leg.

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They duel, and Ralph wins. Dolby is knocked into a cryogenic pod that is conveniently there and drifts off to sleep thinking that a nine iron is an extension of his penis. No, seriously, the machine keeps telling him that as he drifts off to sleep.

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Ralph and Mona live happily ever after. But wait, there’s one loose end. What about the Ralph in the mirror? That Ralph breaks the mirror on his end and emerges as this.

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No explanation given for this at all. He just goes out on stage and sings while the credits roll. Who needs explanations? Ralph lost his virginity, Dolby will never be hyperactive again, Toni Basil is fine after getting hit by a hambone during the duel, and Bo Diddley is dead so he doesn’t have to worry about me reminding people this movie exists. Everyone’s happy.

Well, let’s leave Bo Diddley with a little dignity.

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Horror Trailer: Handjob Cabin


I don’t think anyone knew this horror film was even being made let alone being thought of being made. Well, it looks like someone thought it was a good idea and set about trying to do their own take on the “cabin in the woods” horror film.

Raimi did it with his first two Evil Dead films. Sean Cunningham took it to a campground level with the Friday the 13th series. Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard went all meta on it with the Cabin In the Woods.

Now, it’s Bennet Silverman’s turn on the seat with his interestingly titled Handjob Cabin.

 

Horror on TV: Buffy the Vampire Slayer 3.18 “Earshot”


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In this episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy gets infected with the blood of a demon and develops the ability to hear other people’s thoughts. Along with allowing her to discover that Xander is obsessed with sex (like she needed telepathy for that) and that Giles and her mom did it twice on the hood of a police car, it also allows her to discover that one of her classmates might be planning on doing something violent.

This is one of my favorites episodes of Buffy, largely because it uses the paranormal as a way to expose a very real issue and to explore everyone’s shared humanity. Plus, I’ve always felt that, even after playing Buffy and starring in the wonderful guilty pleasure Ringer, Sarah Michelle Gellar remains a sadly underrated actress. This episode features her at her best.

The Daily Horror Grindhouse: The Devil Times Five (dir by Sean MacGregor and David Sheldon)


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Initially released in 1974 and also known as Peopletoys, Tantrums, and The Horrible House on the Hill, Devil Times Five is one of a handful of films made about murderous children targeting and killing adults.  In the case of Devil Times Five, the children are five escapees from a mental hospital and the adults are a group of largely unlikable people who have gotten snowed in at a ski lodge.

(In a film like this, it helps that the victims are all too unlikable to really care about.)

When watching Devil Times Five, it helps to know a little something about what went on behind the scenes.  Apparently, original director Sean McGregor was fired when it turned out that, after several weeks of filming, he only had 38 minutes of usable footage.  Several weeks later, a second director, David Sheldon, was brought in to reshoot a good deal of the movie.  Unfortunately, by the time that Sheldon arrived, the majority of the cast had moved onto other projects and the main killer kid (Leif Garrett) had gotten his hair cut for another movie, meaning that he had to wear an ill-fitting wig for the reshoots.

And the end result is a truly weird movie, one that is full of odd continuity errors and strange scenes that were obviously only included to pad out the film’s running time.  Among the most obvious of the continuity errors is the insistence that the characters are snowed in despite the fact that there appears to be hardly any snow on the ground outside.  (This, of course, was largely due to the fact that the reshoots were done in sunny California.)  As for the padding, perhaps the most infamous example is the scene where the five children attack and beat to death their doctor.  This entire scene is shown in slow motion.  It lasts five minutes.

Seriously — and if you doubt me on this, be sure to read Stacie Ponder’s review of the film over on Final Girl — five minutes is a really long time.  It’s certainly a long time to watch someone get beat to death, especially when the scene is underlit and sepia-toned.  It starts out as disturbing but, after the 2nd minute or so, it just gets boring.  And then about 4 minutes in, you start to laugh because you’re just like, “How much longer can this crap go on?”  And then, at the 4:30 mark, you start to get bored again.  Around the 4:55 mark, I realized that I had forgotten who they were killing or why.  And then it was finally over.  Yay!

Incidentally, this is one of those films where, whenever one of the kids is going to kill someone, the kid suddenly starts moving in slow motion.  It was kind of like the music in Jaws.  If the kid picked up an axe but was still moving at normal speed, you knew not to worry.  But the minute that slow-mo started, you knew someone was about to die.

Of course, it takes a while to get around to the killings.  Devil Times Five clocked in at about 88 minutes.  I would guess that roughly 65 of those minutes were pure filler.  We spend a lot of time getting to know the adults at that ski lodge and, for the most part, they’re loathsome.  The oldest and grumpiest of them is even called Papa Doc, perhaps after the infamous Haitian dictator. (And let’s not even start on the film’s nominal hero, Rick, who has a pornstache, a comb over, and an extended nude scene.)  All of the adults spend a lot of time talking about their crumbling marriages and their dying dreams and it’s all very angsty for slasher film about a bunch of killer kids.  There’s even an extended cat fight between Julie (Joan McCall) and Lovely (Carolyn Staller), which involves a lot of rolling around on the floor while the 70s “wah wah” soundtrack plays in the background.

Once the killings do start, however, Devil Times Five actually starts to live up to its potential.  These are some mean little kids!  Once they start their rampage, we get axes in the back, spears to the throat, immolation, death by swing, and one really disturbing scene involving a bunch of bear traps. However, Devil Times Five is probably best known for the piranha scene.  You can legitimately wonder why someone would keep piranhas at a ski lodge but there’s still no denying that you don’t want to take a bath with them.

(Making the piranha scene all the more icky that the victim in the bathtub is played by the mother of two of the actors who played the killers.)

Devil Times Five makes for a strange viewing experience.  It starts out as nothing but filler and then suddenly, almost out of nowhere, the entire film goes batshit crazy.  Devil Times Five has slipped into the public domain, so you can watch it for free on YouTube if you want.  But I suggest tracking down the Code Red DVD, which comes with a fascinating commentary track and an entertaining and candid interview with several members of the cast.

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Halloween Havoc!: THE ROBOT VS THE AZTEC MUMMY (1959)


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I first saw this movie when I was maybe 12 or 13 at a second-and-third run neighborhood theater. I remember thinking, “Boy, does this suck!”  After watching it again recently on TCM, my opinion hasn’t changed. THE ROBOT VS THE AZTEC MUMMY is a terrible film. Fortunately, I’m a connoisseur of terrible films, so I enjoyed it!

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The opening narration is Straight Outta Ed Wood (“How far can the human mind penetrate the mysteries of the great beyond…”) We meet Dr. Alamda (Roman Gay) and his wife Flora (Rosa Arenas, who’s kinda hot). They’ve gathered some scientists and the story unfolds in flashbacks. Actually, I think it’s more like stock footage from the previous two AZTEC MUMMY series entries (yes, this silliness was a series!) Flora is the reincarnation of Xochtl, an Aztec princess who had a forbidden love with a warrior. For this trespass, Xotchl had her heart cut out, and loverboy…

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Guilty Pleasure No. 27: Sex Decoy: Love Stings


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First off, a tweet from five years ago:

I cannot begin to put into words just how much I miss the Fox Reality Channel!  From 2005 until it went off the air in 2010, Fox Reality was the channel to go to if you wanted to watch some of television’s greatest guilty pleasures.  It was all reality tv all the time, a mix of original programming with reruns of shows like The Amazing Race, American Idol, Hell’s Kitchen, and about a hundred different dating shows.  Occasionally, they would devote an entire weekend to showing just one show and I have many fond memories of binge watching Paradise Hotel on Fox Reality.

Fox Reality also showed its share of cheap original programming as well, including today’s guilty pleasure.  If you were watching the Fox Reality Channel in 2009 (as I was and I have the tweets to prove it), there’s a good chance that you saw this commercial:

Now, of course, after seeing that commercial, you probably said, “Oh my God, I have to watch this show!  I mean, it says ‘sex’ right there in the title so it has to be good!”

So, you tuned into the Fox Reality Channel and, after sitting through the last 15 minutes of a rerun of The Rebel Billionaire: Richard Branson’s Quest For The Best, you watched Sex Decoy: Love Stings.

Fortunately, just in case you were unsure about what you were about to watch, the opening credits explained the whole concept behind this “reality” show:

All 8 episodes of Love Stings started out the same way, with Arizona P.I. Sandra Hope talking about how worried she is about her three daughters: Kashmir, Jasmine, and Xanadu.  It upsets Sandra that all three of them dislike her nerdy boyfriend and business partner, Tom.  It also upsets Sandra that all three of her daughters work as strippers whenever they are running low on funds.  (But, if Sandra is so worried about all of her daughters becoming strippers, why did she give them all stereotypical stripper names?  That’s what I’ve always wondered…)  Then the daughters show up and make fun of Tom and complain that Sandra doesn’t treat them like adults…

It’s probably around this time that you, the viewer, came to realize that Sex Decoy: Love Stings was obviously an attempt to create a hybrid of Cheaters and Keeping Up With The Kardashians.  Much like the Kardashians, Sex Decoy was obviously scripted.  However, Sandra and her daughters made Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, and even Kris look like Oscar-winning thespians by comparison.  Sandra, in particular, had an amazingly robotic voice.  Her dialogue and her interactions with Tom and her daughters were so lacking in emotion and spontaneity that they became odd portraits of existential dread.  And when Sandra robotically talked about how much money she made by exposing cheaters, it almost felt as if we were watching one of Jean-Luc Godard’s experimental attacks on capitalism.

Anyway, after each episode’s family crisis had been set up, we would then meet this week’s client and get around to exposing their mate as being a cheater.  This, of course, involved a lot of secret cameras and a sex decoy who would be brought in to seduce the cheater while the client watched in a nearby trailer.  (Often times, Sandra would use her own daughters as the decoy which was kind of icky.  A running subplot, throughout the series, was that Kashmir felt she was never properly used as a decoy and, as a result, would threaten to go back to stripping.)  The client, naturally, would often get very upset and eventually, the cheater would end up being confronted while the cameras rolled.

And again, what made this so fascinating was the total inability of Sandra or her daughters to show any hint of human emotion.  The client would get upset and start yelling.  The cheater would try to talk his way out of it and occasionally beg for forgiveness.  Meanwhile, Sandra and the daughters would watch and say things like, “He.  Is.  A.  Cheater.”  It was almost as if they were aliens sent down to Earth to expose cheaters.

Each show would end with Sandra, Tom, and the daughters doing some sort of family activity.  Sandra would often brag that Sex Decoy was a family business but, being a robot, it always came out as, “After.  All.  We.  Are.  A.  Family.  Business.”

It was seriously just so strange to watch and that strangeness made it the epitome of a guilty pleasure.  Sadly, Fox Reality is gone but Sex Decoy lives on!  You can watch every episode on Hulu.  And, fortunately, there’s only 8 of them so, right when the novelty of the show starts to wear off, it’s over!

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Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly
  26. Project Greenlight

Horror Film Review: Delirium (dir by Lamberto Bava)


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“I warn you, the hate of a woman can be very bad!” 

— Dialogue from Delirium (1987

The 1987 Italian film Delirium is an odd combination of soapy melodrama and giallo horror.  Someone is murdering models and taking pictures of their corpses.  Some other people are plotting to take over a magazine.  Obscene phone calls are received.  Recorded taunts are heard.  Oh, and one unlucky model is attacked by a swarm of bees.

That’s right — Delirium is the first and probably the only giallo to feature bees used as a deadly weapon.

Gioia (Serena Grande) is a former prostitute-turned-model-turned-men’s-magazine-publisher.  When we first meet Gioia, she’s sitting out at her pool and watching a photo shoot.  Her neighbor — a teenage boy who is confined to a wheel chair — calls her.

“You make my member hard with desire!” he tells her, “It wants to penetrate your flower and explode!”

Gioia calmly tells him to stop bothering her and then hangs up on him.  And really, this scene pretty much establishes everything that we need to know about Gioia.  She is a successful businesswoman who is just as comfortable dealing with the pervert next door as she is making high power deals.  You think Donald Trump’s ruthless?  Well, he’s got nothing on Gioia!

The other thing that you notice about Gioia is that she has an extremely voluptuous figure.  There’s not a single scene that isn’t shot to emphasize that fact and yet, the unapologetic pride that Gioia (and actress Serena Grande) took in her body was actually very empowering and one of the better aspects of the film.  Far too often, movies associate being busty with either being stupid or slutty and women are told that they have to hide their figure to be taken seriously.  (Traditionally, in horror films, it seems like the bigger an actress’s cup size, the less likely she is to survive until the end of the film.)  Speaking as someone who shares Gioia’s struggle, I was happy to see a woman with big boobs being portrayed as both an intelligent businesswoman and a tough, strong survivor.

Gioia has more than just the pervert next door to deal with.  There’s also the fact that her models are being murdered and she’s receiving photos of their dead bodies in the mail.  Who is killing Gioia’s employees?  Could it be a rival publisher (played by Capucine)?  Could it be Gioia’s neurotic assistant (played by Daria Nicolodi)?  Could it be George Eastman, who plays Gioia’s former lover?  Actually, it’s made pretty clear that it’s not George Eastman, which is odd when you consider how many movies have featured Eastman as a killer.  (Eastman and Grandi also co-starred in the infamous cannibal epic Anthropophagus, in which Eastman was the killer and Grandi was the center of one of the most infamous scenes in the history of Italian horror.)  Or could the killer by the pervert next door?

As is typical of films in the giallo genre, most of the murders are filmed from the killer’s point of view.  What’s interesting is that, when the killer looks at his victims, he literally sees them as twisted monsters.  It’s a neat little technique that leads to scenes like this:

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Delirium was directed by Lamberto Bava, who has never quite gotten the attention that he deserves.  Despite the fact that he directed such classics as the two Demons films and A Blade In the Dark, I’ve always felt that Lamberto is often overshadowed by the achievements of his father, Mario Bava.  However, Lamberto Bava’s films are almost always entertaining when taken on their own terms.  Delirium may not reach the heights of A Blade In The Dark or even Demons but it’s still an entertaining giallo.  It’s perhaps not the film to use to introduce a newcomer to the genre but, those of us who are familiar with giallo, Delirium is an enjoyably crazed offering.

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