For tonight’s horror on TV, we have an episode of The Twilight Zone entitled The Fever. In this one, Franklin (Everett Sloane) and his wife Flora (Vivi Janiss) visit Las Vegas. Franklin detests gambling but, once he finds himself in Vegas, he finds himself being pursued by a slot machine that, literally, calls his name.
This episode was written by Rod Serling and directed by Robert Florey. (Reportedly, Serling wrote it after losing a good deal of money in Vegas.) It originally aired on January 29th, 1960.
I like this episode. Everett Sloane, who played the beloved Mr. Bernstein in Citizen Kane, gives a great performance and the taunting slot machine starts out as slightly ludicrous but then becomes genuinely menacing as the episode reaches its conclusion.
Packard Walsh (Nick Cassavetes) has a pretty good business going. He and his gang of “road pirates” patrol the Arizona desert. Whenever they spot a car that they want, they demand that the driver race for pink slips and they cheat to win. Through fear and intimidation, Packard rules the town of Brooks and not even Sheriff Loomis (Randy Quaid) can stop him.
Packard is obsessed with Keri Johnson (Sherilyn Fenn), who works as a carhop at Big Kay’s Burger. Packard considers Keri to be his property and even demands that she drink his blood so that they will be forever linked. Earlier, Packard and his gang killed Keri’s boyfriend, Jamie. When a new kid named Jake (played by Charlie Sheen) shows up in town, both Keri and Jamie’s brother (Matthew Barry) feel as if they know him from somewhere. Jake also has scars on his back the match Jamie’s wounds.
Shortly after Jake’s arrival, a mysterious black Turbo Interceptor appears on the roads. The unseen driver challenges each member of Packard’s gang to a race and then purposefully crashes into them. Whenever the Turbo explodes, it rematerializes somewhere nearby. When the driver does finally get out of the Turbo, it turns out that he’s covered in black leather armor and his face is hidden behind a black helmet.
According to Rughead (Clint Howard), the only member of Packard’s gang who did not take part in Jamie’s murder, the driver is “a wraith, man! A ghost, an evil spirit — and it ain’t cool!”
The Wraith is one of those films that always used to show up on TV when I was a kid. Thought it was often advertised as being a horror film, it’s actually an uncredited remake of High Plans Drifter with Clint Eastwood replaced by Charlie Sheen. Seen today, The Wraith is a major nostalgia trip. One of the fun things about watching the movie is ticking off all of the clichés that make this a definite 80s film, from the cars to the slang to the soundtrack. (It does not get more 80s than a soundtrack featuring both Billy Idol and Robert Palmer.) Packard’s gang is all made up of generic punk types. My favorite was Skank (David Sherrill), who had a mohawk and drank brake fluid.
Of course, the cars are the main appeal of The Wraith. All of the, are cool (even Rughead’s pickup truck) but the obvious star of the film is that black Turbo Interceptor. At its best, it rivals even Marty McFly’s DeLorean as the coolest car to show up in an 80s sci-fi film.
The Wraith may not be the greatest movie ever made but if you are into fast cars and Sherilyn Fenn at her loveliest, you should enjoy it.
I have to admit that there’s one very simple reason why I decided to watch and review the 1970 thriller/horror/softcore/sniper mayhem film, Zero In And Scream. And that reason was that the movie is only 63 minutes long. Seriously, when you’re writing for 7 different sites while working during the day and living during the night, there are times when you simply have to say, “That 4-hour epic from the Ukraine looks like it’s a great movie but I’ve only got time for an hour-long, low-budget excursion into cinematic obscurity.”
Zero In and Scream (and that’s great title, by the way) is about Mike (Michael Stearns). Mike has really impressive hair and a deep tan. (Perhaps the scariest part of this film comes when Mike undresses and we are confronted with his pasty white tan lines.) I was going to comment on the fact that Mike also spends a good deal of the film wearing a really ugly and really wide tie but then again, this movie was made in 1970, so I guess that’s to be expected.
Mike has some issues that go beyond questionable fashion choices. He simply cannot get a girlfriend. Maybe it’s because he’s an extremely moralistic jerk who says things like, “When a man climbs on top of a woman, she becomes ugly!” Or maybe it’s because he spends almost all of his spare time holding and stroking a very phallic rifle. Whenever Mike spots a couple making love, he shoots the man and allows the woman to remain pure.
Mike spends his spare time at the local strip club where, for reasons that aren’t quite clear, one of the dancers (Dawna Rae) decides that she likes this weirdo and she invites him to come to a party at her place. The party is tres decadent in a 1970 softcore sort of way so, as you can imagine, Mike freaks out.
Will Mike be able to control his homicidal urges? Will he listen to the radio reporter who, at one point, begs the killer to turn himself in because, “It’s obvious that you’re not in control of yourself!” Or will he just continue to just wander around with his rifle while having flashbacks?
For the most part, Mike’s issues are just an excuse to get as many naked bodies on screen as possible, with a good deal of the film’s 63 minutes being taken up by a surprisingly well-shot underwater orgy scene. Zero In and Scream doesn’t really work as horror film or as a thriller but I’m still recommend it for all of my fellow history fanatics. Like many a worthy grindhouse film, Zero In and Scream is a time capsule of the era in which it was made. Until we get our hands on a time machine, films like this are as close as we will ever come to personally experiencing the 70s.
Add to that, Zero In and Scream is worth watching for its abrupt but clever final shot. It may not be a particularly good film but it has a great ending!
(In case you hadn’t already guessed, Zero In And Scream is available from Something Weird Video.)
I found this 2007 Canadian horror-comedy hybrid on The Movie Channel and stashed it in my DVR for future reference. After viewing it, I’m on the fence about recommending it. FIDO tells the tale of a 1950s world where a radioactive cloud from space caused the dead to rise. A great Zombie War was waged, and the ghouls were contained by Zomcon, an official government agency. Now the zombies are fitted with collars to control them and used as servants. The more feral ones are banished to “The Wild Zone”, outside the fences of cities.
The story focuses on young Timmy Robinson (K’Sun Ray), a lonely boy picked on at school by bullies. His mother Helen (Carrie Ann Moss) gets him a zombie companion (Billy Connelly). Timmy names the zombie Fido and the two bond, much to the chagrin of dad Bill (Dylan Baker). When Zomcon Head of Security Mr. Bottoms (Henry Czerny) moves…
Recently Lisa reviewed Jaws. You know what she did probably without knowing it? She reviewed Blades. Seriously, it’s the same movie. Watch this. I’m going to take the second paragraph of her review and make it about Blades.
I mean, seriously, what’s there to say about this film? Blades is one of those movies that no one has seen and everyone has seen. And, even if everyone hasn’t seen the film, chances are they can still tell you about it. They know it’s a movie about a giant lawnmower that attacks Tall Grass Country Club, just as a big golfing tournament is starting. They know the club owner refuses to close the course, because he doesn’t want to lose the television exposure. They know that the final half of the film is two guys and a girl (Robert North, Victoria Scott, and Jeremy Whelan) driving around a golf course in a van, searching for a lawnmower. And they certainly know that, whenever you hear the rumble of an engine, it means that someone is about to get attacked.
See, it’s the same damn movie! And it’s damn entertaining! The reason it works so well is that they play it straight. The scene where Jeremy Whelan, who plays the Robert Shaw character named Deke Slade, tells the story about his father dying at the hands of a lawnmower, it’s done with all the seriousness that Shaw told his shark story.
Also, Robert North, who plays the Roy Scheider character named Roy Kent, always appears genuinely concerned for the lives of the people on the golf course.
It’s been awhile since I watched Jaws, but I swear I remember a scene on par with the most ridiculous scene in this movie. That’s where they deputize a bunch of people who go out on a big hunt for the killer lawnmower and catch one. Then our heroes go and cut it open to find that it doesn’t have inside of it any body parts to indicate that it’s the right mower.
So you want to see the killer mower? Here it is near the end of the film.
How does it end? The same way of course. Explosives get placed on the lawnmower and Roy hits a golf ball onto it that triggers them. Boom!
I could have explained in more detail, but seriously it’s the same movie as Jaws. All you need to know is that yes, it does a good job and I think it’s worth watching. I honestly look at it less as a parody or a spoof of Jaws than an homage to it that shows how well that formula works.
One of my favorite things is in the credits. The very first credit you see is a solo card crediting the gaffer Scott Buckler. Before anyone else on the movie, the gaffer gets top billing.
At the end of the credits they hint at a sequel called Hedges about a killer chainsaw. After a guy leaves his chainsaw outside we see it appear to come alive. Then we get this.
The best part of this is you can easily watch it online. I’ve embedded it below. Enjoy!
So, like, whatever happened to good, old-fashioned, practical effects-based “creature features,” anyway?
That’s a question I find myself asking (to myself, I admit) every once in awhile, that’s for sure, but I won’t be doing it anymore after last night.
Why is that? Because last night I finally got around to checking out director Brett Simmons’ 2014 indie horror effort Animal on Netflix, and it proved to me that the genre I thought I was missing is, in fact, very much alive and well.
There’s nothing too terribly complicated on offer here, sure, but that’s a good thing — screenwriters Thommy Hutson and Catherine Trillo seem to have a definite checklist they’re working from, and as far as I’m concerned there’s absolutely no shame in that as long as you’re able to get all the boxes ticked off, which they most assuredly do with their story about a big ol’…
That’s our girl Jennifer Stone (Jessy Schram) doing Alicia Silverstone from Clueless (1995). In short order she gets a call from daddy who has the sad news that the family is basically bankrupt. Her father is played by Willie Aames who most people will probably remember as Bibleman or one of those short lived sitcoms he was on. I said basically because Hallmark does like to recycle things from earlier movies so…
she inherits a pumpkin farm like in Growing The Big One. Let’s introduce the boy since you know it’s a given that she falls in mud wearing expensive clothes.
That’s Brett Jarrett (Jesse Hutch). The pumpkin farm has been in his family for a long time. I honestly don’t remember how they own the farm, but don’t. Doesn’t matter anyways. The film is about her adapting to living in the country while finding a way to make it a successful business.
There are some side characters, and those actors do a decent job. The problem is that this film would have been fine if it had just been about her turning this otherwise unknown pumpkin farm into a profit center for her and his family. But of course it also has to be about them falling in love. That part never really comes together. I think the one user review on IMDb is reading too much into it seeing it as greed conquers all. It’s more like yet another Hallmark movie where the love story part is unnecessary and forced. It just doesn’t need to be there. I was fine watching her discover the old Jarrett family recipe and turn it into a big success. That part was fine. They just wasted their time with the romance part. And it can even send what I believe is an unintended message that the IMDb user picked up on.
This is one that isn’t terrible, but subpar enough that I really wouldn’t waste your time watching it. Watch Clueless, Funny Farm (1988), and Baby Boom (1987) instead. They do the rich girl comes down to earth, adjusting to quirky country life, and making the most of a sudden shift from city life to country life much better.
At least the computer screen was done well in this.
And some nice shots of the Harvest Moon. Even if it does look close enough to kill everyone with the tides.
As somebody whose college years are well behind them, I’m not quite sure what to make of the conflicting information I hear about the social scene on campus here in the not-so-early-anymore years of the 21st century. On the one hand, I’ve read a number of articles saying that the days of hard partying are pretty much over with thanks to dating apps like tinder that allow kids to hook up in minutes and have therefore pretty much nullified the need for large social gatherings in order to meet people of the opposite (or same) sex. Heck, I’ve even heard that the popularity of all these “instant dating” opportunities has put a fair number of bars out of business. On the other hand, though, there are movies like 2013’s +1 (also known by the alternate title of Shadow Walkers) that would seem to posit that not only is the…
One of the most often repeated stories about the tribes that live along the Amazon River is that, when they first met “civilized” explorers, they refused to have their pictures taken because they feared that that the camera would steal their souls.
Now, I’m not sure if I believe that story. It sounds like one of those stories that’s just a little bit too perfect and metaphorical. But, it’s still a neat idea because, when you think about, cameras really are fascinating devices. They literally freeze time and they produce images that are full of details that you might have originally missed.
To me, a camera with supernatural powers seems like the natural subject for a horror movie. Obviously, Italian director Francesco Gasperoni agreed with me because he directed Smile, a 2009 film about a camera with supernatural powers.
Smile deals with a group of European college students who are taking a road trip through Morocco. Our eight friends are all equally attractive, equally shallow, and equally destined for a bad end. Seriously, as soon as they first appear, driving through the desert in a jeep and doing bong hits, you know that they’re all doomed.
Clarissa (Harriet McMasters-Green) is determined to photograph the entire trip but, when her camera is stolen, she’s forced to search for a replacement. Luckily, she comes across a mysterious man (played by veteran actor Armand Assante) who is willing to give her an old camera. Of course, Clarissa accepts his offer and, needless to say, the camera is like totally cursed. It turns out that Assante is a former crime scene photographer and anyone who has his or her picture taken with the camera will subsequently die…
Smile is hardly a perfect film but I enjoyed it for what it was. The characters are just shallow enough that it’s not upsetting when they all start getting killed and Gasperoni makes good use of the desolate Moroccan setting. The idea of the haunted camera is a clever one and Assante is properly menacing. While the film might occasionally be somewhat predictable and the film’s plot is pretty much dependent upon every character doing the stupidest thing possible, the film does feature an effectively mean-spirited ending.
(Again, it helps that none of the characters in the film are all that likable.)
As much as I was hoping that it would be a throw back to the classic Italian horror films of Bava, Argento, and Fulci, Smile really can’t begin to compare. That said, Smile is entertaining for what it is. At the very least, it won’t steal your soul.
I should start things off with a confession. This is actually not the first time that I’ve shared Manos: The Hands of Fate here on the Shattered Lens. I previously shared it on October 8th of 2013 and I even used the exact same picture of Torgo.
However, Manos proved to be such a popular choice that I simply had to post it again. As I pointed out two years ago, Manos has a reputation for being one of the worst films ever made. And, honestly, who am I to disagree? However, it’s also a film that is so bad that it simply has to be seen.
By the way, everyone who watches Manos ends up making fun of Torgo, who was played by John Reynolds. What they may not know is that Reynolds committed suicide shortly after filming on Manos wrapped. So, as tempting at it may be to ridicule poor Mr. Reynolds’s performance, save your barbs for Torgo and leave John Reynolds alone.