The TSL’s Horror Drive-In Grindhouse: Attack of the Eye Creatures (dir by Larry Buchanan)


1965’s Attack of the Eye Creatures is an odd little movie.

It starts, as so many bad sci-fi movies do, with Peter Graves narrating about how the government has been keeping an eye on a flying saucers that’s apparently been hovering over the Earth for quite some time.  However, a quick visit to Project Visitor reveals that the soldiers assigned to protect us are more interested in using their monitoring equipment to spy on teenagers making out in their cars!

Agck!

EWWWWWW!

Total invasion of privacy!

Of course, what’s particularly sad about the whole thing is that you know that’s totally what would happen in real life as well.  Give a group of people the power to spy on anyone in the world?  Of course they’re going to end up spying on people fooling around in cars!  That’s one reason why Earth is just as doomed today as it was in 1966.

Anyway, the flying saucer does eventually land.  Unfortunately, our government is too incompetent to do anything about it.  The aliens inside turn out to be …. well, not that impressive.  For one thing, they don’t speak.  There are none of the grandiose threats to conquer the world that we’ve come to expect from aliens.  At the same time, we also don’t have to hear about how the rest of the universe is disappointed in us for polluting our planet and blowing each other up so that’s a good thing.  So often, intergalactic visitors can be so judgmental!  Anyway, these aliens are lumpy and gray and they’ve got several eyes.  They don’t really look that impressive.  Seriously, check this jerk out:

As I said, the government turns out to be pretty useless when it comes to battling the aliens and the local police are skeptical that any intergalactic visitors would bother to land in their crappy little town.  Fortunately, as always happens whenever the controlling legal authorities fail to do their job, there are teenagers and they’re willing to do what needs to be done to protect the world!

Of course, if Stan (John Ashley) and Susan (Cynthia Hull) are going to rally the troops against the aliens, they’re going to have to borrow someone’s phone.  That’s going to mean convincing the local old man to let them use his phone.  The old man, who has had enough of those crazy kids with all their kissing and the jazzy lingo, is more interested in using his shotgun to keep people off his lawn.

Meanwhile, two drunks decide that they want to get in on all this alien business.  They both later die and no one in the movie seems to care.  That’s just the type of movie that this is….

….and if it sounds familiar, that’s probably because you’ve seen the 1957 drive-in classic, Invasion of the Saucer Men!  Basically, in the mid-60s, American International Pictures commissioned Texas filmmaker Larry Buchanan to remake some of their most successful drive-in films.  Apparently, the plan was to sell them to television.  So, Buchanan took the script for Saucer Men, tossed in some scenes of the government spying on people (Buchanan was a noted conspiracy theorist who previously directed The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald), and called his film Attack Of the Eye Creatures!

Yet, while Invasion of the Saucer Men was a genuinely clever sci-fi satire, Attack of the Eye Creatures is done in by Buchanan’s inability to keep his story moving at a steady pace and it doesn’t help that the iconic Saucer Men have been replaced by men who appear to be wearing trash bags.  Attack of the Eye Creatures is an unfortunate remake and one that should be viewed only after you’ve watched Invasion of the Saucer Men and maybe every other public domain sci-fi film that’s currently on YouTube.

The Babysitter, Review by Case Wright


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The Babysitter, directed by McG- Lethal Weapon, Supernatural, Aim High, and Citizen Cane.  Ok fine, the last one was a bit of a fib, but he’s had an amazing career known for shows that are action heavy, pop, and have a lot of humor.  I did watch this one on the elliptical as a to refresh my memory, but I first watched it on a date night for a Netflix and Chill session.  The Babysitter was so fun; it doesn’t take itself seriously, until it has to.  Like Supernatural, the movie balances the horror with the character arcs to pull you into the story.  By the end, you genuinely care about how these characters end up.

Horror is often treated as the stepchild of film because people are attracted by the low budget/high profit payoff potential and think anyone can do it: so wrong.  In fact, there are times you have an immensely talented director, but he or she is not meant for this genre – see- https://unobtainium13.com/2018/10/01/all-the-boys-love-mandy-lane-aka-all-the-bland-love-blandy-lane-review-by-case-wright/

Also, writing horror can create masterpieces like 28 Days Later- https://unobtainium13.com/2016/10/24/28-days-later/ .  Horror screenwriters can also create misery-inducing steaming piles of terribleness for me or for whomever will have the excruciating experience of having to review it- see- https://unobtainium13.com/2016/11/20/channel-zero-welcome-home-season-1-ep-6-alt-title-so-very-boring/ In The Babysitter, Brian Duffield (Quarantine and soon to be released Vivian Hasn’t Been Herself Lately) delivers a fun popping script with fast moving acts, clear arcs, humor, gore, and clever buildups and payoffs.  I am looking forward to seeing the rest of his art and you should too!  The Babysitter is not in the Oscar worthy category of The Shining, but it is still brilliant because it succeeds in doing what is most important – it entertains.  You care about the protagonist and where he’s going and amazingly sometimes root a little for the villain because she is acted by the uber-talented Samara Weaving.

The film is basically Satanic Home Alone; in fact, they reference Home Alone in the film.  Cole, the protagonist, is a bullied awkward 12 year old with a heart of gold and no self-confidence.  Yes, I know that reads like a fairly common protagonist, but his nerdiness is so authentic and the dialogue is so real that you buy it.  Trust me, I’ve never led you wrong before.  Cole has a quasi-friend in the Girl Next Door- Melanie, but Cole’s true friend (seemingly) is Bee (Samara Weaving) his babysitter.  She genuinely likes movies and nerdy things just like Cole and we learn she was also an awkward teen herself prior to meeting Cole.

Bee seems to be perfect, but she is a satanic worshipper who wants to sacrifice one nerd, harvest some of Cole’s blood, and read from I guess the Necronomicon to be granted a wish of her choosing from Satan.  Then again, we all have our faults.  We get to see and not be told how close Bee and Cole have become over the years.  They love film and goofy dancing.  Cole stays up past his bedtime to spy on his beloved Bee to see what she is up to after he purportedly asleep.  Sadly, he watches Bee commit an over the top murder of a seduced nerd.  The deaths in this film are Final Destination awesomepants!  Watch The Babysitter just for the deaths alone! Bee has cohorts: Robbie Amell who is very good in this.  He plays the murderous jock expertly and if you’re so inclined he’s shirtless A LOT with aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaabs.  There’s also a lot of great humor with the somewhat bumbling satanic worshippers that are also out to get Cole and his sweet sweet AB Negative.

They need to harvest Cole’s blood to finish the evil wishing spell because he’s an obvious virgin, but he fights back.  It’s not corny like Home Alone; he mostly gets lucky or barely survives by finding weapons along the way- No booby traps.  The lack of traps and gags during the fight scenes keeps the story in the horror realm with the comedy sprinkled like a Mrs. Dash that doesn’t make you want to vomit.

There is a eventually a final battle between Bee and Cole.  She offers to make him part of the wish and live with him forever.  Now, I’m not saying he should’ve immediately taken her up on this offer. Maybe some negotiating would’ve been worthwhile, but really Cole…not even taking one beat to consider this pretty awesome offer.  I think that would’ve been fun as an alternate ending, but without fighting the final battle, Cole would not have realized his story arc as a true hero.  I have to admit if I were the 12 year old nerdy boy and Bee had made the same offer to me, I would have just been trying to figure out how many sock pairs I needed for our evil journey!

I want to make a special note here for the amazing performance of Samara Weaving.  She played the heck out of this role.  She could believably turn from evil to seductress to friend to good on a dime.  With the right opportunities, Samara Weaving will be the next Nicole Kidman!  Really!

Happy Horrorthon! Please check out my other stuff and tell your friends to read it as well!

Horror on TV: Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1.7 “The Devil’s Platform” (dir by Alan Baron)


Tonight’s episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker is a fun one!

In this episode, Kolchak investigates a series of mysterious deaths that seem to involve one very ambitious politician (played by Tom Skerritt).  Kolchak’s investigation leads him to believe that not only has the politician made a deal with the devil but that the politician also has the ability to transform himself into a killer dog!

Agck!

That’s Chicago-style politics for you,  I guess.

This episode originally aired on November 15th, 1974.

Enjoy!

Fair Warning : I’m About To Give You A “Lotta Lipp”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

At first glance, it seems crazy — why would any critic, in good conscience, recommend that you spend five bucks on a mini-comic that’s primarily taken up by a story concerning the cartoonist who drew it just walking around his neighborhood? “Join me as I take an aimless stroll” is an old autobio trope, to be sure, but by and large these types of exercises about — uhhhmmm — getting a little exercise are relegated to “backup feature” status, as well they probably ought to be. If you’re gonna make this type of yarn the backbone of your book, shit — it just stands to reason that you must not have too many actual ideas, right?

Conventional wisdom, however, quite often lives up to only the first part of its name, and this is another of those occasions, because August Lipp’s Lotta Lipp Comics #1 is probably the most…

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Book Review: The Beast Within by Edward Levy


Way back at the end of August, in anticipation of the TSL’s Horrorthon, I went down to my local Half-Price Books and I explored their collection of old horror paperbacks.  Among the books that I pulled off the shelf was the 1981 horror novel, The Beast Within by Edward Levy.

The book opens, in the 1920s, on the Arkansas farm of Henry Scruggs.  Henry is a cruel religious fanatic, one who views fornication as being such a sin that he refuses to even have sex with much younger wife, Sarah.  (Sarah, for her part, was practically sold to Henry by her father.)  One day, an Englishman named Connors shows up at the farm.  He’s a traveling bible salesman who specializes in seducing farm girls.  When he attempts to do just that to Sarah, they both end up getting caught by Henry.  Henry sets his wife on fire and then chains up Connors in the basement.  That’s where Connors spends the next 20 years, while Henry prays for his soul.

By the time Henry dies and Connors manages to escape, Connors is no longer human.  He’s been turned into a savage beast, who lives in the woods and eats anything that he comes across.  The beast eventually attempts to catch a snake and ends up getting a poisonous bite as a result.  However, before it dies, the Beast rapes Carolyn McCleary.

When Carolyn subsequently gives birth to a son named Michael, both she and her husband, Eli, convince themselves that Michael is Eli’s child, even though there’s no physical resemblance.  As a child, Michael has a terrible temper and is sometimes violent.  He has terrible dreams and sometimes wakes up covered in the blood of other animals.  After Eli and Carolyn are forced to resort to extreme measures to control Michael’s impulses, it seems as if Michael has recovered.  He grows up to be a relatively normal boy.

But then puberty hits….

The Beast Within is a grim, dark, and occasionally depressing little book.  It’s also compulsively readable.  Though many of the scenes between Henry, Sarah, and Conners verge a bit too much towards the cartoonish side, the book picks up once Henry’s out of the way and the focus shifts to the McClearys.  You find yourself hoping the best for Eli, Carolyn, and Michael, even though you know it’s doubtful that this story is going to have a happy ending.  The Best Within is short, sordid, pulpy as can be, and undeniably effective.

Under the Sea: Goliath Awaits (1981, directed by Kevin Connor)


1939.  War is breaking out across Europe.  The British luxury liner Goliath is torpedoed by a German U-boat.  Presumed to be lost with the ship are a swashbuckling film star, Ronald Bentley (John Carradine), and U.S. Senator Oliver Barthowlemew (John McIntire), who may have been carrying a forged letter from Hitler to Roosevelt when the boat went down.

1981.  Oceanographer Peter Cabot (Mark Harmon, with a mustache) comes across the sunken wreck of the Goliath.  When he dives to check out his discovery, he is shocked to hear big band music coming from inside the ship.  He also thinks that he can hear someone tapping out an S.O.S. signal.  When he looks into a porthole, he is stunned to discover a beautiful young woman (Emma Samms) staring back at him.

Under the command of Admiral Sloan (Eddie Albert), who wants to retrieve the forged letter before it does any damage to the NATO alliance, Cabot and Command Jeff Selkirk (Robert Forster) are assigned to head an expedition to explore Goliath.  What they discover is that, for 40 years, the passengers and crew have survived within an air bubble.  Under the leadership of Captain John McKenzie (Christopher Lee), they have created a new, apparently perfect society within the sunken ship.  Cabot discovers that the woman that he saw was McKenzie’s daughter, Lea.

McKenzie is friendly to Cabot and his crew, explaining to them the scientific developments that have allowed the passengers and crew to not only survive but thrive underwater.  The only problems are a group of outcasts — the Bow People — who refuse to follow McKenzie’s orders and Palmer’s Disease, an infection that only seems to infect people who are no longer strong enough to perform the daily tasks necessary to keep McKenzie’s utopia functioning.   Even when people on the boat die, they continue to play their part by being cremated in Goliath’s engine room and helping to power the ship.

Everything seems perfect until Cabot announces that he has come to rescue the survivors of the Goliath.  Even though Goliath is starting to decay and will soon no longer be safe, McKenzie is not ready to give up the perfect society that he’s created.  McKenzie sets out to prevent anyone from escaping the Goliath.

Goliath Awaits is a massive, 3-hour production that was made for television and originally aired over two nights.  (The entire 200-minute production has been uploaded to YouTube.  Avoid the heavily edited, 91-minute version that was released on VHS in the 90s.)  It’s surprisingly good for a made-for-TV movie.  Because a large portion of the film was shot on the RMS Queen Mary, a retired cruise ship that was moored in Long Beach, California, Goliath looks luxurious enough that you understand why some of the passengers might want to stay there instead of returning to the surface.  Beyond that, Goliath Awaits takes the time to fully explore the society that McKenzie has created and what it’s like to live on the ship.  McKenzie may not be as benevolent as he first appears to be but neither is he a one-dimensional villain.

Mark Harmon is a dull lead but Robert Forster is just as cool as always and Christopher Lee is perfect for the role of misguided Capt. McKenzie.  The movie is really stolen by Frank Gorshin, who is coldly sinister as Dan Wesker, the Goliath’s head of security.  McKenzie may by Goliath’s leader but Wesker is the one who does the dirty work necessary to keep the society running.

Goliath Awaits also features several character actors in small roles, with John Carradine, Duncan Regehr, Jean Marsh, John McIntire, Jeanette Nolan, Alex Cord, Emma Samms, and John Ratzenberger all getting to make a good impression.  (Ignore, if you can, a very young Kirk Cameron as one of the children born on the Goliath.)

Goliath Awaits is far better than your average made-for-TV movie from the 80s.  With any luck, it will someday get the home video release that it deserves.

 

Horror Scenes I Love: Larry Talbot Discovers His Fate in The Wolf Man


Today’s horror scene that I love comes from 1941’s The Wolf Man.

In this scene, poor, unfortunate Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr) visits a gypsy camp and learns that sad truth of his fate from Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya).  I love this scene not only for the iconic dialogue but also for George Waggner’s atmospheric direction and Maria Ouspenskaya’s performance.  Even Lon Chaney, Jr. gives it his all in this scene.  Larry Talbot may have been a dumb lug but he was our dumb lug!