Halloween On Hulu 2016 : “Infernal”


Trash Film Guru

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What happens when you cross Paranormal Activity with The Omen? Nothing good, I assure you —

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So, yeah. writer/director Bryan Coyne has offered up another low-budget indie “found footage” horror flick to largely bored and indifferent audiences with 2015’s risible Infernal, the story of  hastily-married couple (she got knocked up, he popped the question, and they’ve never really gotten along since) Nathan (played by Andy Ostroff) and Sophia (Heather Adair), who are raising a possible demon-child named Imogene (Alyssa Koerner) and documenting the whole thing on home video. We’ve been down this road before —

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The problems here are too numerous to count, but let’s just skim over the basics so you know what you won’t be getting into provided you take my advice and blow this sorry flick off : both parents are thoroughly unlikable and can’t seem to get through a sentence without saying “fuck” three times…

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Halloween Havoc!: Bela Lugosi in CHANDU THE MAGICIAN (Fox 1932)


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Thrills! Chills! Romance! Action! CHANDU THE MAGICIAN plays like a Saturday matinée serial aimed directly at the kiddie crowd. Based on a popular radio series, the film is pretty antiquated seen today, its saving graces being the special effects wizardry of co-director William Cameron Menzies and the deliciously evil Bela Lugosi as the megalomaniacal villain Roxor.

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The movie kicks off with the banging of a gong and an offscreen narrator ominously intoning “Chan-du the Magician”. A hand is used to wipe the screen credits, the first of Menzies’ many filmic tricks. We’re taken inside a temple where Frank Chandler, aka Chandu, has spent three years learning the ancient secrets of the mystic arts (move over, Dr. Strange!). He’s a yogi now, master of the hypnotic eye and astral projection, and demonstrates his prowess by performing the old Indian rope trick and walking through fire. His mentor bids him to “go…

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Halloween On Hulu 2016 : “Haunting Of Cellblock 11”


Trash Film Guru

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Every October for the past few years I’ve done a little something called “Netflix Halloween” that surveys a random sampling of the horror flicks available on America’s purportedly favorite streaming service, and every year I’ve noticed the same thing : the pickin’s are getting slimmer and slimmer on Netflix all the time for horror fans. This year I finally decided to break the mold, quit scraping the bottom of the barrel, and jump ship over to Hulu for the Halloween season, and whaddya know? They have a shit-ton more to choose from, and lots of it is stuff that I’ve never even heard of, much less seen — which, believe you me, takes some doing.

Sufficiently chuffed to find some films to review that you won’t see covered on many other movie blogs, I dove right in with just a couple of ground rules in mind : everything I’ll be…

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Horror On TV: Tales From the Crypt 2.2 “The Switch”


Tonight’s excursion in televised horror comes the second season of HBO’s Tale From The Crypt.  Originally broadcast on April 21st, 1990, The Switch tells the story of an elderly millionaire (William Hickey) who is desperately in love with a younger woman (Kelly Preston).  When she tells him that she’s looking for a younger man, he goes to extreme lengths to become that younger man.

The episode was directed by Arnold Schwarzenegger and features good work from both William Hickey and Kelly Preston.  And, of course, the whole story ends with a sardonic twist that, once again, reminds the viewers that the universe is just as random and meaningless as Werner Herzog says it is.

Enjoy!

The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: The Erotic Nights of the Living Dead (dir by Aristide Massaccesi)


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It is too a real movie!

Yes, I know that The Erotic Nights of the Living Dead sounds like something that someone made up but the movie totally exists and you probably won’t be surprised to know that it really doesn’t live up to the brilliance of the name.  There is a lot sex but most of it involves a really unattractive guy with a mustache and a perm that makes him look like he should be a part of Anchorman‘s Channel 5 Action News Team so it’s debatable how erotic it is.  The living dead do show up and, let’s give credit where credit is due, the zombie effects are undeniably well done.  They really do look like the dead come back to life.  However, none of the zombies are particularly sexual.  There is a ghost who, in close-up, castrates a man while giving him a blow job but, since she’s a ghost, it’s debatable whether or not she can truly be considered one of the living dead.  Finally, the title promises us “nights of the living dead” but it’s really more of an evening of the living dead.

Details matter.

Released in 1980, The Erotic Nights of the Living Dead was directed by Aristide Massaccesi, a filmmaker who was better known by the name Joe D’Amato.  D’Amato had a deserved reputation for directing some of the sleaziest Italian exploitation flicks of all time, though he also directed one of my personal favorites, Beyond the Darkness.  (For the record, Joe D’Amato was not the only alias used by Massaccesi.  Over the course of his long career, he was credited under at least 43 different names.  Also, for the record, I’ve read several interviews from people who worked with Massaccesi and, without fail, all of them have reported that he was one of the nicest and most generous people that one could hope to work with during the Italian horror boom of the 1980s.)

The Erotic Nights of the Living Dead is really two bad films in one.  The first film features a land developer named John Wilson (Mark Shannon).  Wilson has purchased an island and wants to build a luxury hotel on the island.  However, he’s having some trouble convincing anyone with a boat to give him a ride out to his property.  It seems that the location has a bad reputation.  John finally convinces local boat captain and adventurer, Larry O’Hara (George Eastman), to take him to the island.  Accompanying them is Fiona (Dirce Funari) who is either John’s girlfriend or just didn’t have anything better to do.  (To be honest, it was kind of hard to follow.)  Before heading out for the island, John takes a long shower with two prostitutes and Larry languidly watches as a stripper does a dance that involves popping a champagne cork without using her hands.

The second movie involves the trip to the island.  It turns out that the island isn’t as deserted as Mark assumed.  There’s an old man with a massive bump on his head.  There’s also the man’s mysterious daughter, played by Laura Gemser who also starred in D’Amato’s Black Emanuelle films.  The old man and his daughter warn everyone that they should leave the island but, of course, people are stupid.

Anyway, there are two good things about The Erotic Nights of the Living Dead.  First off, the great George Eastman gets a lengthy scene in which he giggles like a madman and it’s fun to watch because Eastman truly throw himself into the performance.  Secondly, the arrival of the zombies is heralded by a mysterious black cat.  The cat has the most Hellish meow that you’ll ever hear but he’s a black cat so he’s cute.

In the end, though, the best thing about The Erotic Nights of the Living Dead is the title.

The Films of Dario Argento: Four Flies On Grey Velvet


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After the good but somewhat generic Cat o’Nine Tails, Dario Argento returned to form with his third film, 1971’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet.

It’s not particularly easy to describe the plot of Four Flies because, much like The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, the storyline is less important than the way that Argento tells it.  The film tells the story of Roberto Tobias (Michael Brandon), a drummer with an up-and-coming rock band in Rome.  In many ways, Roberto is a typical drummer.  He’s the guy who, even though he’s often obscured in the background, keeps things balanced.  He has a loving wife, Nina (Mimsy Farmer), a nice house, and worldly, politically woke friends who smoke weed and praise art.  Admittedly, one of those friends does tell a rather gruesome story about witnessing a beheading in Saudi Arabia which leads to Roberto having a reoccurring nightmare but otherwise, Roberto would appear to have a great life.

(Incidentally, Roberto’s nightmares are Argento at his best.)

So, why is this stable and easy-going guy suddenly being followed by a mysterious man in a suit?  And why, when Roberto confronts the man, does he discover that there’s yet another mysterious figure — this one wearing a mask — following him and taking pictures?

That’s the mystery that opens Four Flies on Grey Velvet but it’s not the only mystery to be found in the film.  In fact, this movie finds Argento at both his most macabre and his most playful.  At times, he literally seems to be seeing just how far he can push and how complicated he can make things before totally losing his audience.  The film may start with Roberto being followed and having nightmares but eventually, it comes to involve everything and everyone from Nina’s enigmatic cousin, Dalia (Francine Racette) to a beatnik named God (played by none other than spaghetti western mainstay, Bud Spencer) to a flamboyant private investigator (Jean-Pierre Marielle).  (By today’s standards, the portrayal of the gay detective has a few cringey moments but you have to remember that Four Flies On Grey Velvet was made in 1971.  It was nothing less than revolutionary for an Italian film of that era to portray an openly gay contemporary character in any type of positive light.)  To top it all off, the solution to the film’s main mystery is discovered through optography, the long-since discredited idea that an eye will “save” the last image seen before death.  It’s ludicrous but Argento pulls it off with a cheerfully over-the-top style that perfectly matches the film’s twisted plot.  After the toned down Cat o’Nine Tails, Four Flies was Argento’s way of reminding viewers of who he truly was as a filmmaker.

The film’s brilliant opening sets the tone for the entire film.  Watch it below and thank me later:

It’s rare that anyone every really discusses the acting in an Argento film.  Argento has himself admitted that he doesn’t worry much about actors and many of his films have been released in badly dubbed versions, which often makes it difficult to fairly judge any of the performances.  That said, Roberto Tobias is one of my favorite Argento protagonists and it’s all due to Michael Brandon’s performance.  Brandon makes Roberto into such a nice guy and does such a good job of capturing his descent into paranoia that it’s impossible not to get caught up in his story.  (I would even argue that the long-haired and politically concerned Roberto is almost an autobiographical stand-in for Argento himself.)  Though I can’t really explain why without running the risk of spoiling a major part of the movie, Mimsy Farmer is also excellent.  Reportedly, Argento originally wanted to cast Mia Farrow and you can imagine a post-Rosemary’s Baby pre-Woody Allen Farrow in the role.  But I’m glad that Argento couldn’t get her because Mimsy Farmer gives a close to perfect performance.

Four Flies was the third and final part of Argento’s “animal trailer,” and, at the time, Argento declared that Four Flies would also be his final giallo film.  He followed up Four Flies with The Four Days, a historical comedy that was considered to be such a failure that, after its release, Argento returned to the safety of the giallo genre and gave the world one of his greatest triumphs, Deep Red.  However, if The Four Days had been a success and Four Flies had been Argento’s final giallo film, it would have been a triumphant note to go out on.

Here’s the very misleading trailer that was used for Four Flies On Grey Velvet‘s American release.

And here’s the even more obscure European trailer!