Horror on TV: Baywatch Nights 2.1 “Terror of the Deep” (dir by Gregory J. Bonnan)

During the month of October, we like to share classic episodes of horror-themed television.  That was easier to do when we first started doing our annual October horrorthon here at the Shattered Lens because every single episode of the original, black-and-white Twilight Zone was available on YouTube.  Sadly, that’s no longer the case.

However, there is some good news!  Twilight Zone may be gone but every episode of Baywatch Nights is currently available on YouTube!

Baywatch Nights was a show that ran for two seasons in the 90s.  It featured David Hasselhoff as a guy who was a lifeguard during the day and a private detective at night.  The first season featured Hasselhoff solving crimes and hardly anyone watched.  The 2nd season featured Hasselhoff fighting monsters and other supernatural forces.  Again, no one watched but the 2nd season was still a lot more fun.

Now, I’ve shared random episodes of this show in the past but, for this year’s Horrorthon, I’m going to share every episode from the 2nd season of Baywatch Nights.  It’s not easy keeping those beaches safe!

For tonight’s episode, we have the first episode from season 2.  In this episode, Hasselhoff and company investigate a boat that may have been sunk by a sea monster.  Assuming that you’ve spent the first 40 or so years of your life believing that there’s no such thing as sea monsters, how would you react upon discovering that they actually did exist?  I think it would drive most people crazy.  That’s my theory.  Hasselhoff and company, however, handle things pretty well.

Anyway, here’s the episode, which originally aired on September 26th, 1996!  Enjoy!

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Blood Rage (dir by John Grissmer)

Filmed in 1983 but not released until 1987, Blood Rage tells the heart-warming story of two twin brothers, Todd and Terry Simmons (both played by Mark Soper).

In 1974, young Todd and Terry go to a drive-in movie with their mother, Maddy (Louise Lasser) and Maddy’s boyfriend.  (It’s suggested that Maddy has had many boyfriends over the years.)  The twins fall asleep in the back of the station wagon but, when they wake up, they discover that Maddy is making out with her date.  This inspires Terry to sneak out of the car, grab a nearby hatchet, and walk from car to car.  When he comes across another couple making love, he hacks the man to death and then watches as the man’s naked date runs into the night.  Realizing that he’s about to get in a lot of trouble, Terry hands the hatchet to Todd and then rubs blood on his brother’s face.  As a result, everyone assumes that Todd is the murderer.

Nine years later, Terry is living with Maddy at a secluded apartment complex called Shadow Woods.  Todd, on the other hand, is stuck in an asylum and not very happy about it.  On Thanksgiving, Todd escapes from the asylum and heads off to Shadow Woods.

Here’s where things get strange.  Everyone assumes that Todd is heading to Shadow Woods to get revenge.  That’s certainly what I assumed when he first escaped.  But it turns out that Todd, despite all he’s been through, is still a gentle soul.  He just wants to be free and to see his family.  However, when Terry learns that Todd has escaped, he sees it as a perfect excuse to go on another killing spree.

So, while Todd is sneaking around the complex, Terry is killing Maddy’s latest boyfriend and all of their neighbors.  Everyone who sees Todd asumes that he’s Terry and almost everyone who sees Terry assumes that he’s Todd.  It’s an intriguing premise that has a lot of potential.  Unfortunately, Blood Rage never gets as much mileage out of the idea as it should.  It’s not until the last few minutes of the film that it really digs into just how messed up Maddy and her sons really are.

Every by the standards of an 80s slasher film, Blood Rage is brutal.  Hands are hacked off.  Heads are separated from necks.  One unfortunate victim is chopped in half and spends what seems like several minutes feeling around for the lower half of her body.  As opposed to emotionless killing machines like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers, Terry Simmons seems to get real kick out of what he’s doing, which makes him all the more disturbing.  Interestingly, it’s not just the killing that Terry enjoys.  Terry also seems to enjoy knowing that he’s specifically going to get Todd in even more trouble.  He’s the ultimate bad sibling.

Mark Soper plays both Todd and Terry and he does a good enough job in the role that you can tell the two twins apart.  Occasionally, Soper does occasionally go a bit overboard as Terry but then again, most murderers aren’t known for their subtle personalities.  The film is pretty much stolen by Louise Lasser, who gives a memorably eccentric performance as Maddy who is, in her own way, just as unstable as her sons.  Some of the performances from the surprisingly large number of victims are inconsistent but, in the end, everyone dies convincingly and that’s what really matters in a film like this.

As I mentioned at the start of this review, Blood Rage was filmed in 1983 and sat on the shelf for four years.  Apparently, several different versions of the film have been released.  There’s a version called Nightmare at Shadow Woods that has almost all of the gore cut out.  The version that’s on Shudder is apparently uncut but it also opens with a title card that reads Slasher.  Blood Rage is a bit of a generic title but it is appropriate.  There is a lot of blood and there’s a lot of rage.

In the end, Blood Rage is an effective, if uneven, slasher movie.  Though the budget was undeniably low, the gore effects are convincing and the whole twin subplot allows from some unexpected moments.  The low-budget look of the film actually works to Blood Rage‘s advantage.  The grainy images occasionally give the film a rather dream-like feel.  At its best, it looks like a filmed nightmare.  At its worst, it just looks like another low-budget slasher flick from Florida.

Blood Rage may not be a masterpiece but it is a good film for the Halloween (and, given the film’s set-up, Thanksgiving) seasons.


Anguish (1987, directed by Bigas Luna)

John Pressman (Michael Lerner) is a mentally unbalanced, middle-aged, diabetic mama’s boy who is losing his eyesight.  When his mother (Zelda Rubinstein) orders John to go out and collect healthy eyes, it leads to John going on a rampage that eventually brings him to a movie theater.  After he barricades everyone inside, he starts to pick off the patrons one-by-one, removing their eyes with a scalpel.

Meanwhile, in another theater, an audience watches John’s rampage on the big screen.  Is the story of John Pressman just a movie?  Maybe.  But in the audience, people start to react strangely.  A woman breaks down in tears.  When John Pressman starts to kill people in his movie, a man in the audience starts to kill people in the real theater.  When the mother in the movie-within-a-movie sends her son out to get eyes, is she after the eyes of the people in her movie or the people watching in the audience?  Has the madman in the audience been possessed by the movie or is he just another spree killer, an ever-present threat in both the movies and the real world?  And how will his rampage be stopped?

Anguish is a clever, multi-layered Spanish horror film.  Watching the film, it’s important to remember that it was produced in the middle of a worldwide moral panic about whether or not people could experience violent movies without becoming violent themselves.  At first, it seems like the film is saying that horror movies are a bad influence but then there’s a twist ending that turns the entire premise on its head.  As the movie peels away layer after layer of plot, you’ll find yourself wondering what’s real and what’s just a movie.

An unheralded horror classic, Anguish is two good movies in one.  Obviously, the film about John Pressman and his crazy mother is considerably more cheesy than the one about the madman in the “real” world but both films are full of atmosphere, suspense, and a some surprisingly grisly violence.  The movie-within-a-movie also features Michael Lerner and Zelda Rubinstein, two actors who just seem like they were destined to play a henpecked son and his crazy mother.  Lerner is one of the best character actors around and Anguish gives him a rare leading role.  Lerner makes the most of it, carefully cutting out eyeballs while his mother’s voice echoes in his head.

Anguish is a good head trip of a film.  It’s long been rumored that Anguish contains subliminal images and sounds that are designed to make the people watching feel nervous.  I don’t know if that’s true, though the film does open with the following classic warning:

During the film you are about to see, you will be subject to subliminal messages and mild hypnosis.

This will cause you no physical harm or lasting effect, but if for any reason you lose control or feel that your mind is leaving your body — leave the auditorium immediately.

Luckily, Anguish is available on DVD and Blu-ray so you can watch it in the safety of your own home.

Game Review: Spring 2020 (2020, Philip J. Rhoades)

Click to Enlarge

In this existential, sequester-inspired horror film, you start in a room.  You cannot leave the room.  There is something appears to be food in the room.  You can do two things.  As the game puts it, “You can only eat or wait.”

The game’s not lying about that, either.  I tried all sorts of tricks to see if maybe I could fool the game into letting me do something else.  I tried to look at the food.  I tried to get the food.  I tried to go north.  I tried to go east.  I tried to go west.  I tried to go south.  I tried to examine the room.  I tried them all.  Just to be told, “You can only eat or wait.”

So, during one game, I ate.  During the next game, I waited.  I did both of those for several turns and things did not go well for me at all.  This is a game that you cannot win but it also captures the way many people feel about 2020.  This is the year when no one wins so why not play a game where no one wins?  It’s a simple game but it captures the mood of the year.

If you want to play this game, you can download it from here.  

Just remember, you only eat or wait.

Horror Scenes That I Love: The Drive to the Overlook from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining

As I’ve stated many times on this site, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is one of my favorite horror films and it’s also one of the few horror films that can still scare me even after I’ve seen it hundreds of time.  Those two little “Come and play with us” girls still freak me out and I still think about the blood pouring out of that elevator at least once a month.

That said, one of my favorite scenes from The Shining comes early on in the film.  It’s the scene where Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson, of course) is driving his family to the Overlook Hotel for the first time.  He’s already visited for his job interview but this is the first time that his family is going to see their new home.  And, as you can tell in this scene, he already appears to be kind of sick of them.

Seriously, when someone is driving and has that expression on his face, don’t ask him about the Donner Party.

What I love about this scene is Nicholson’s obvious exasperation.  You can just tell that he’s thinking, “I’m going to be stuck in a hotel with these two for months.”  I especially love the way that he delivers the line about Danny learning about cannibalism from the television.  (Of course, I think one reason why Jack is upset is because Wendy’s the one who brought up the Donner Party, in the first place.  If you don’t want your child to know about cannibalism, don’t randomly start talking about a famous example of it.  That’s parenting 101, I’d think.)

Seriously, if I was a passenger in that car, that is exactly when I would say, “Pull over and let me out.  This is not going to end well.”

Horror Book Review: The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

Which is better, the movie or the book?

That’s a question that’s often asked and I think the knee jerk reaction is always to say that the book was better but that’s certainly not always true.  There are a few notable cases where the film has been dramatically better than the book.  Just check out The Godfather, if you don’t believe me.  Occasionally, you’ll run into something like the recent two-part adaptation of Stephen King’s It.  The first film was dramatically better than the novel while the second film was significantly worse.

And then occasionally, you’ll have a case where the book and the movie are equally good, albeit for different reasons.  That’s the case with William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel, The Exorcist.

The book and the movie both tell the same story.  Perhaps because Blatty served as both the writer and the producer of the film version, the movie sticks closely to the basic plot of his novel.  Regan McNeil, the daughter of an atheist actress named Chris McNeil, is possessed by a demon called Pazuzu.  It falls to Father Merrin and Father Karras to perform an exorcism.  Unfortunately, Merrin is old and in bad healthy while Karras fears that his faith might not be strong enough to defeat the demon.

Though the plot does remain the same, there are, of course a few differences between the film and the book.  As befits a novel written by a screenwriter, the book gets a bit more gossipy when detailing the production of Chris’s film.  The book also spends a good deal more time on Inspector Kinderman’s investigation into the deaths of characters like film director Burke Dennings.  In the film, Kinderman only appears in a few scenes.  In the book, he’s as important a character as Karras and it’s rather obvious that he was Blatty’s favorite character to write.  (It’s not a surprise that Kinderman was subsequently the main character in Legion, which was filmed as The Exorcist III and which starred George C. Scott as Kinderman.)  The book also spends a good deal more time on Karras’s crisis of faith.  In the film, Karras was portrayed as being initially hesitant to accept that Regan was possessed.  In the book, Karras researches the history of exorcisms and considers almost every other alternative before committing himself to performing the exorcism.  When the book was first published, those scenes were included to make the reader themselves question whether or not Regan was actually possessed.  Modern readers, however, already know that answer to that.

Myself, I appreciated the extra time that the novel spent with Kinderman and Karras.  As written by Blatty, they’re both engaging characters and Karras’s crisis of faith is actually handled with a good deal more skill in the book than in the movie.  If the movie is a nonstop roller coaster of terror, the book is a bit more thoughtful.  Whereas the movie shocks you into accepting its premise, the book actually tries to convince you that demons are real and that they’re responsible for the evil in the world.  (The books opens with a series of quotes from real-life dictators and mobsters.)  The movie aims for your gut while the book’s horrors are often more cerebral but they both get under your skin and inspire you to make sure that every door is locked and every window is closed.  Not that any of that would protect you, of course.  Both the movie and the novel understand that the scariest thing about what happens to Regan is that it’s out-of-her-control and could, in theory, happen to any of us.  Demons are going to do whatever they can.  Both the book and the film are fantastically effective and worthy of being known as horror classics.

This October, definitely be sure to watch The Exorcist and The Exorcist III.  Hell, maybe even watch The Exorcist II.  It’s not that bad!  (Okay, well, actually, it is.  But still, it’s kind of …. fun, in its way.)  But also take the time to read the books.  Doing one without doing the other is only getting half the story.

The Evil Schemes of Dr. Death

Who was Dr. Death?  His original name was Rance Mandarin and he used to be a professor at Yale University until he was driven mad by his hatred of technology.  Through the occult, Mandarin hoped to turn back time and reduce civilization back to a simpler, more primitive state.  Standing in his way were the members of the Secret Twelve, one of whom was apparently the President of the United States.

In 1935, Dr. Death appeared in three issues of his own pulp magazine, with cover art from Rudolph Zirm.  The magazine didn’t last long but it did find an audience years later when, in the 60s, Corinth Books reprinted the Dr. Death stories in paperback form.  These paperbacks all had covers by Robert Bonfils, who brought a different visual spin to the character than Zirm had.

Below are the 6 covers of Dr. Death!

by Rudolph Zirm

by Rudolph Zirm

by Rudolph Zirm

by Robert Bonfils

by Robert Bonfils

by Robert Bonfils

Finally, Dr. Death was driven mad by technology in the 1930s.  Can you imagine what would have happened to his brain if he had lived during our time?

The Car: Road to Revenge, Review by Case Wright

Happy Horrorthon! I warn you that this post might look …. weird. My Chrome version of wordpress has been possessed. There’s NO OTHER EXPLANATION! EVER!

The Car: Road To Revenge is a sequel to The Car from 1977…. MINDBENDER! No wonder I feel like having a key party and getting an orange couch… Dramatization:

This film was written after Death Race 2050 – ALT Title: Miffed Max: Budget Road, Reviewed like a boss! also by G. J. Echternkamp. I have to write that G.J. is a genuinely nice person and these are great genre films. I could easily see Bruce Campbell starring in a Echternkamp movie. Believe me, I have some ideas….G.J. …DM me. 😉 really! Car 2 is set in a dystopian future, but really it didn’t seem any worse than Seattle today. Car 2 had fancy cars, embattled police, and shitty local government, and lawlessness; if you threw in some drizzle, I’d be right at home.

The film begins with Caddock (Jamie Bamber) of Battlestar Galactica fame. He’s a possessive and corrupt prosecutor who is in an on again off again thing with Daria (Kathleen Munroe). Apparently, he gets an evil computer chip that everyone wants … for some reason. I never fully understood why they wanted the chip or why they’d kill Caddock for it. Did the chip have the recipe for Coca Cola? Were they hardcore gamers? Did it have the latest version of Microsoft Word?

Caddock puts the evil chip into his car and it does …. something. I wasn’t really sure what it did, but when the bad guys go after Caddock for it and kill him, the chip causes Caddock to possess the car. Caddock Car spends the rest of the movie avenging his own death and trying to get Daria to be his … Car Girlfriend? I wasn’t sure how that Daria/Caddock Car consummation would work, but I know she’d have to use plenty of Jiffy Lube or maybe they could MAACO out for a while. I’m not saying it would be a AAA session, but maybe they could get used to it and have a GOODYEAR or two.

Caddock’s murder/slash possession puts Ranier (Grant Bowler) on the case. By on the case, he basically drinks a lot and gets into the pants of Daria. Bad idea because Caddock Car is possessive is it like Daria’s all Meineke and tries to run over Ranier…a lot. Then, the movie gets…weird. The bad guys who want the chip, kill or try to kill A LOT of people to get the chip. Why? It will apparently improve their body augmentations and I don’t mean like the piercings on a Seattle Soccer Mom…. I mean Robotech stuff. Caddock Car manages to squish most of his enemies to death and I mean jump on a Capri-Sun when you’re bored at your kid’s soccer game squish.

Caddock Car eventually gets the majority of his revenge. I had trouble figuring out who to root for sometimes, but I guess it was Daria. She was pretty badass and eventually kills Caddock Car, but Caddock Car is avenging his murder…so, maybe him too. Anyway, Caddock Car gets driven into the bottom of a …lake? Quarry? Large above ground pool? I could not really tell where the car ended up, but it’s dead…or is it???

Happy Horrorthon!!!!

International Horror Film Review: Kung Fu Zombie (dir by Hwa I Hung)

Kung Fu Zombie, a 1981 film that was produced in Hong Kong, tells the story of….

Well, it’s a little bit difficult to explain just what exactly it tells the story of.  I’ve watched it a total of three times over the past two months and I’m still not totally sure what’s going on in the movie.  Some of that is because, like many martial arts films, it was heavily cut and haphazardly dubbed when it made it’s way over to New York’s 42nd Street theaters.  Most of it, however, is because Kung Fu Zombie is a mess.  It’s a big, glorious, wonderfully entertaining mess.

Pang (Billy Chong) is a martial artist who is respected in town but who can’t get any respect from his father.  Even after Pang foils a bank robbery and and sends the bandit, Lu Dai (Cheng Ka Ying) to prison, Pang’s father, Fong (Chang Tao), continues to say that Pang is not good enough to inherit the estate.  As if to prove his point, Fong randomly attacks Pang whenever he gets a chance.  Pang usually fights his father until Fong has a heart attack and falls over.  Pang is never sure whether or not Fong is actually dead because apparently, Fong like to pretend to be dead so that he can attack Pang while the latter is celebrating his father’s death.

Anyway, Lu Dai comes back to town and recruits the local wizard, Wu Lang (Chan Lau), to create a bunch of zombies that he can then use to kill Pang.  Wu Lang creates the zombies but they don’t do much good.  When Lu Dai summons Pangs to the local graveyard and then attacks him, Lu Dai ends up falling in a coffin and landing on a bed of spikes.  Lu Dai’s body may be dead but his spirit is still following around Wu Lang, demanding a new body.

When Pang kills yet another criminal — a serial killer named Kwan Weig Long (Kwon Young Moon) — Wu Lang tries to put Lu Dai’s spirit into Long’s body.  However, Long is so evil and Wu Lang is such an incompetent sorcerer that, instead of allowing Lu Dai to take over Long’s body, Lang’s spell instead causes Long to come back to life as a vampire.  Soon, Long is roaming through the village, drinking everyone’s blood.  Whenever Long appears, the James Bond theme song plays on the soundtrack, which is odd but enjoyable.

Meanwhile, Lu Dai still needs a body.  Fortunately, Fong has died for real.  With so many different dead people walking around, can Pang bring peace and safety to the village?

Kung Fu Zombie is thoroughly berserk movie, one that mixes well-choreographed fights with moments of bizarre comedy and even stranger horror.  Now, admittedly, the film itself isn’t exactly scary.  I mean, the vampire looks fearsome but every time he appears, the Bond music starts up and it pretty much becomes impossible to take him seriously.  But, at the same time, how can you not appreciate a movie that not only steals the Bond theme but then uses it as the calling card of a serial killer-turned-vampire?  It’s just so weird that there’s no way you can’t love it.  Really, that’s pretty much the perfect description of Kung Fu Zombie.  It’s messy but the action is nonstop and the plot is wonderfully weird.  One gets the feeling that the director and his actors just made up the story as they were going along.  It’s impossible not to love it.

Kung Fu Zombie is a gloriously chaotic film and it’s currently on Prime.  Watch it and keep a eye out for the dead.

4 Shots From 4 Mario Bava Films: Black Sunday, Planet of the Vampires, Baron Blood, Lisa and the Devil

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

This October, we’re going to be using 4 Shots From 4 Films as a way to honor some of our favorite horror directors!  Today, we honor the one and only Mario Bava!

4 Shots From 4 Films

Black Sunday (1960, dir by Mario Bava)

Planet of the Vampires (1965, dir by Mario Bava)

Baron Blood (1972, dir by Mario Bava)

Lisa and the Devil (1973, dir by Mario Bava)