October Positivity: Pamela’s Prayer (dir by Dave Christiano)

The 1998 film, Pamela’s Prayer, opens with a title card that informs us that “Pamela Bucklin” got married in 1992 when she was 22 years old.  It’s a bit of an odd opening, because I imagine that there were a lot of 22 year-olds who got married in 1992.

The film then flashes back to the 70s and we learn that, after her mother died in childbirth, Pamela was raised by her father, Wayne (Rick Scheiderman).  Wayne works at the family business, a Christian film library which specializes in sending films (like this one!) to church groups and evangelical retreats.  Wayne prays with Pamela every night.  As Pamela grows up, he makes clear to her that she’s to wait until marriage.  From Wayne’s point of view, that means no dating, no kissing, no male friends at all.  Needless to say, once Pamela becomes a teenager, she starts to resent Wayne’s protectiveness but, since this is a faith-based film, Pamela’s rebellion is not only very chaste but it only lasts for one night and it leads to a sleazy boy spreading rumors about her.  Later, that same boy goes on a date with Jessica, who is also Pamela’s best friend, and things do not end well.  When Pamela informs Wayne about all of this, Wayne can barely suppress smirk.  It’s a real “I Told You So” moment.

Fortunately, there’s a nice boy working at the Christian Film Library and eventually, he and Pamela have one of those courtships where they don’t even hold hands.  After getting Wayne’s permission, they marry.  (Jessica, being the maid of honor, can only wonder why she has yet to find the one.)  Having waited 22 years to even kiss a boy, Jessica decides that she can wait for a few minutes more and she calls her father …. ON HER WEDDING NIGHT! …. so that they can pray together over the phone.

I think that I’ve proven over the years that I can be fair when it comes to judging faith-based films on their own merits but seriously, Pamela’s Prayer is exactly the type of faith film that drives other people crazy.  I mean, don’t get me wrong.  Some people choose not to have sex before marriage and, if that’s their decision, that’s fine.  Personally, I think it’s a bit foolish to go into a commitment like marriage blind but whatever.  The problem with Pamela’s Prayer, though, is that its emphasis on purity feels rather cult-like and it’s never really Pamela’s decision not to date or to kiss.  Instead, it’s all due to Pamela’s father ordering her to wait.  One gets the feeling that Pamela spent the first 22 years of her life being controlled by father and now she’ll spend the next 60 or 70 years being controlled by her husband.  What does Pamela want?  The film seems to suggest that it really doesn’t matter.

Christian films always seem to struggle when it comes to dealing with sex.  I guess it’s understandable when you consider that, especially in the 90s, the majority of these films were made to be shown at church meetings and to youth groups.  An honest discussion about sex and attraction and the suggestion that sex can be more than just a marital obligation would probably have scandalized the film’s target audience.  That’s one reason why films like this always seem to resort to the best friend who gets “in trouble.”  In this film, it leads to a telling of the story of Jesus and the woman accused of adultery, with the emphasis being not on Jesus ordering people not to cast stones but instead on Jesus saying, “Go and sin no more.”  To me, that’s missing the most important part of the story.  Don’t throw stones, people!

In the end, Pamela’s Prayer is about as effective as an old purity ring.

The Divisional Playoffs: Game 1

The Divisional playoff started today.

In Game One, the Yankees beat the Guardians, 4-1.

The Phillies beat the Braves by one run, 7-6.

And the Astros came from behind to beat the Mariners, 8-7.

I should be happy because I’m from Texas and the Astros are the Texas teams in the playoffs but I actually feel bad for Mariners, who really impressed me in the Wild Card and who were leading for most of today’s game.  I was glad that the Astros pulled off a win but I was sad that it came at the expense of the Mariners.

I’m also happy for the Phillies and their fans.  I know a lot of them were anxious waiting for the Phillies to finally put away today’s game.  A Phillies/Astros World Series sounds good right about now.  I’d even be happy with a Phillies/Mariners World Series.

Right now, in the last of today’s game, it is the top of the 4th and the Dodgers leads the Padres, 5-0.  Usually, I’d say that Dodgers are going to win but, as the Astros proved today, anything can happen before the final out.  That’s one of the many reasons why I love baseball.

Horror On TV: Ghost Story 1.11 “Touch of Madness” (dir by Robert Day)

On tonight’s episode of Ghost Story, Lynn Loring plays Janet.  Janet has inherited her mother’s house.  (Her mother died in a mental hospital.)  Janet is determined to fix up the house and her cousins (Rip Torn and Geraldine Page) are more than happy to help!  Or are they?

This is a pretty good episode, largely due to the fact that Rip Torn and Geraldine Page play the cousins.  Torn and Page were married at the time and they both appear to be having a blast playing their odd roles.  This episode reminds me a bit of Jess Franco’s A Virgin Among The Living Dead.  It originally aired on December 8th, 1972.


The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Creature of Destruction (dir by Larry Buchanan)

In this 1967 film from venerable B-movie director Larry Buchanan, a psychic con artist uses hypnosis to bring back into existence a prehistoric, humanoid amphibian.



Okay, so the story doesn’t make much sense.  In fact, I would be lying if I said that I fully understood the film, despite the fact that I sat through all 88 minutes of it on Saturday night.  Basically, Dr. Basso (Les Tremayne) is a hypnotist and an occult historian.  He’s bitter about the fact that the world doesn’t appreciate him or take him seriously, despite the fact that he spends almost the entire film wearing a tuxedo and he has a head of silver hair that would have made even the great Criswell jealous.  So, Basso decides that the best way to prove his powers would be start predicting when people are going to die.  And the way he does that is by hypnotizing his assistant, Doreena (Pat Delaney).

Somehow, hypnotizing Doreena causes this prehistoric humanoid monster thing to rise out of the nearby lake so that it can kill whoever Dr. Basso wants dead.  It’s interesting that Dr. Basso could figure out how to bring an extinct creature back to life but he could come up with a less destructive way to prove his powers.  This is just my opinion but it seems like he could have just displayed the prehistoric monster and that would have proven his powers far more effectively than committing murders.  Dr. Basso’s plan is needlessly complicated.  Neither Dr. Basso nor the film ever seem to consider what would happen if he was asked to prove his powers while performing somewhere that wasn’t conveniently located near a lake.  If Dr.  Basso ever plays Vegas, he’s in trouble.

Anyway, it falls of Lt. Blake (Roger Ready) and Captain Dell (Aron Kincaid) to figure out how to stop Dr. Basso.  Captain Dell is not just an expert on the occult but he’s also an Air Force psychiatrist, so he goes through the entire movie wearing his uniform.  Dell being in the Air Force doesn’t really figure into the plot otherwise.  He could just as easily be in private practice.  One gets the feeling that he was made an Air Force captain just because someone had the uniform and it looked good on Aron Kincaid.

Creature of Destruction is a fairly confusing film.  Unfortunately, it’s also a rather boring film.  Larry Buchanan was a prolific director but he was never a particularly good one.  Some directors knew how to take advantage of a low budget and less than compelling actors.  Unfortunately, Buchanan really wasn’t one of them.  Still, the lake scenery is nice and it’s kind of fun to watch the monster waddle across the screen.  As  well, there are two musical interludes that come out of nowhere but which are amusing in a late 60s beach movie sort of way.  So, the film has that going for it.  Otherwise, not even hypnosis will help you get through Creature of Destruction.

Shrieker (1998, directed by David DeCoteau)

Six college students decide to stick it to the man by avoiding pricey dorm living and instead squatting in an abandoned hospital.  That makes sense because we all know that college is too damn expensive and that student housing is rip-off.  The students may have made a mistake picking the hospital, though.  Guess what?  That hospital was abandoned for a reason!  Years ago, a “shrieking” murderer killed all of the doctors and the nurses.  Some say the murderer was a crazed patient while others say it was a monster summoned by Satanists.  No sooner has mathematics major Clark (Tanya Dempey) moved into the hospital than everyone starts to hear the sound of shrieks coming from the basement.  Not only is there someone else already living in the basement but, somehow, the Shrieker has also been summoned!  Once people start dying, the suspicion is directed at Clark because she’s the newest resident.  But Clark thinks that, thanks to her skill with numbers and computers, she’s figured out who is actually responsible and how the Shrieker selects its victims.  She may have even figured out how to defeat the Shrieker but will she be able to get anyone to listen to her?

From Charles Band’s Full Moon Entertainment, this is one of those low-budget direct-to-video horror films that used to show up on late night Cinemax.  Unfortunately, it’s pretty tame, with none of the gore or anything else that we typically associate with Full Moon Entertainment.  The Shrieker itself looks good but it’s never around for long and too many of its attacks are just filmed as a sudden close-up of the Shrieker’s face.  The characters are all obnoxious but most of them die so it’s not a problem.  Alison Cuffe plays the role of the token communist with a lot of relish but it’s hard not to wonder what Linnea Quigley could have done with that role.  That would have been something to shriek about.

Game Review: You May Not Escape! (2022, Charm Cochran)

You are trapped in a maze.  You’re not sure why you are walking through this maze or why it is so difficult to find a way out.  At the start of the maze, a man named John Everyman offers to help you out but if he doesn’t think you’re being properly appreciative, he’ll leave you to figure it out on your own.

Try to make your way through the maze without getting lost.  I’ve played this game a few times.  It’s not easy.  It’s even a little creepy.  Stop and relax on a park bench but don’t fall asleep.  Climb a tree and discover a homey place to rest but watch out for the rain and the lightning.  Then there’s the graveyard.  Three of the graves are filled.  The fourth is waiting for you.  Find some rocks.  Break the security cameras and the LED signs that flash messages at you.  It’ll make you feel better but it won’t get you out of the maze.  At one point, you’re even given the chance to accept that the game is over.  Will you accept or will you keep searching?

You May Not Escape! was designed using Inform and it’s a throwback to the classic text adventures that I used to play when I was a kid.  Even the puzzle feels like a throwback.  Can you navigate a maze?  How many times to Scott Adams go back to that well?  But You May Not Escape! is much more difficult and rewarding than the old games that it resmebles.  This game requires some thinking.  It requires some imagination.  It requires that the player pay attention to what they’re reading.  The game is well-written and I appreciated all the little details that made the maze so memorable.  I especially liked the LED tickers the spelled out messages that were either menacing or encouraging, depending on how you read them.  You May Not Escape! is challenging but rewarding.

Play You May Not Escape!

Retro Television Review: Fantasy Island 1.5 “Lady of the Evening/The Racer”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Tuesdays, I will be reviewing the original Fantasy Island, which ran on ABC from 1977 to 1996.  The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!

Smiles, everyone, smiles!  It’s time for another trip to Fantasy Island, the most dramatic mystical island this side of Lost!  This week, we have three fantasies and Tattoo tries to grow mustache.

Episode 1.5 “Lady of the Evening/The Racer”

(Directed by Don Weis, originally aired on February 25th, 1978)

This episode begins with the bell ringing and Tattoo yelling that the plane is arriving.  Before Mr. Roarke and Tattoo drive off to greet the plane, Mr. Roarke tells Tattoo to wash his face because he has what appears to be a smudge on his upper lip.  Tattoo explains that he’s growing a mustache because all of the world’s great lovers (including, Tattoo says, Burt Reynolds) have mustaches.  Tattoo’s effort to grow a mustache is a running joke through this episode of Fantasy Island.  Needless to say, it doesn’t go well for him.  Eventually, he resorts to using shoe polish.  By the end of the episode, Tattoo finally washes his face and presumably returns to doing whatever it is that he actually does on the island.

As for the fantasies….

Renee Lansing (Carol Lynley) is a high-priced New York “call girl” who just wants to take a vacation some place where no one knows what she does for a living.  At first, the fantasy seems to be going well.  She even meets a nice guy named Bill (Paul Burke).  But then, on the tennis court — OH MY GOD, IT’S ONE OF HER CUSTOMERS!  Renee runs off to Mr. Roarke’s office and demands her money back.  Mr. Roarke tells her that she’s not being honest with herself about what her fantasy actually is.  At this point, I was really wondering what one goes through when one signs up to Fantasy Island.  I assume some sort of agreement has to be signed.  Does the agreement actually state that Mr. Roarke gets to decide what your fantasy actually is?  Renee’s fantasy was to not be recognized.  She’s been recognized.  GIVE HER BACK HER MONEY, ROARKE!

Anyway, it all turns out for the best.  Bill reveals that he also knows who Renee is (GIVE HER BACK HER MONEY!) but he doesn’t care because he’s secretly been in love with her for years and apparently, it was his fantasy to be reunited with her.  Good for Bill but Renee still didn’t get her fantasy.  Someone needs to introduce her to a good lawyer.

Meanwhile, Jack Kincaid (played by the master of overacting, Christopher George) is a race car driver who has never mentally recovered from a serious crash.  His fantasy is to reexperience the crash so that he can get back his confidence.  Mr. Roarke goes through a lot of trouble to build an exact replica of the race track on which Jack crashed.  He even brings Jack’s mechanic, Corky (Alan Hale, Jr.), to the island.  Fortunately, Jack’s wife (Carol Lawrence) convinces Jack that he has nothing to prove.  So, Jack doesn’t get his fantasy but he does become a better person.

Did anyone get their fantasy this week!?  Actually, Mr. Brennan (Jerry Van Dyke) did.  Mr. Brennan shows up in one scene and tells Roarke that he loved his fantasy, which was apparently to play tennis without having to deal with his wife nagging him …. wait, what?  That’s the fantasy that Roarke actually honors?

I’m starting to think Fantasy Island might be a scam!  We’ll find out more next week, I guess.

Horror Scenes I Love: Carrie Blows Up A Car

When it comes to the 1976 film, Carrie, we tend to focus so much on what Carrie does at prom that we forget about what she does while she’s walking home.

The prom scene, to me, is disturbing because Carrie not only kills her bullies but also a lot of people who probably weren’t actually laughing at her.  The floppy-haired photographer wearing the dorky fake tuxedo?  That dude did not deserve to die in a fiery inferno!

However, the scene in which Carrie blows up Chris and Billy is extremely satisfying because there’s no doubt they deserved it.

International Horror Film: Robo Vampire 3: Counter Destroy (dir by Godfrey Ho)

In 1989, Hong Kong director Godfrey Ho made what might be the most confusing film of all time.  It has been released under many different name.  The Vampire Is Still Alive was one.  Another was Counter Destroy.  And finally, there’s  the title that I’m choosing to use for this review — Robo Vampire 3!  This is indeed the third part of the Robo Vampire trilogy, though the guy in the robot suit doesn’t show up until the very end of the movie and even then, it’s never quite clear whether he’s really there or if he’s just a figment of someone’s imagination.

Robo Vampire 3 is actually two movies in one.  Half of the film deals with a private detective named Jackie.  Jackie has been hired by a movie mogul named Lawrence.  Lawrence is producing a film about the last emperor of China but, apparently, there are several other film companies that want to make a movie about the same subject.  (Uhmmm, guys …. Bernado Bertolucci beat all of you to it by about two years.)  Lawrence is concerned that the other film companies and their gangster allies are going to try to disrupt his production so he hires Jackie to find out what their plans are.  Jackie accepts the assignment and then go around killing all of the other studio heads and gang bosses.  Jackie is presented as being one of the film’s heroes, even though she’s basically just tracking down middle-aged men and murdering them in cold blood.  Now, in fairness to Godfrey Ho, the efforts of the Triads to control the Hong Kong film industry are fairly well-documented so, when seen in that context, Lawrence and Jackie’s action might make more sense.  It’s still kind of jarring to watch Jackie assassinate a man, at close range, with a crossbow.

Meanwhile, Joyce has been assigned to write the script for Lawrence’s Last Emperor movie and she’s been given a week to do all the research and get the script done.  Joyce and her assistant, Cindy, are working in a villa.  However, after Joyce and Cindy have a conversation with a mysterious monk, a scarred guy who has a Freddy Krueger-style glove knife shows up at the villa and starts to haunt Joyce’s nightmares.  Meanwhile, a bunch of hopping vampires (in Chinese folklore, vampires hop) are approaching the house.  Who do they work for?  Are they connected to all of the other productions of The Last Emperor?  Are they college students who have been brainwashed by Bertolucci’s Marxist cinema?  It’s never really made clear.

But where is Robo Vampire?  As I said, he shows up eventually.  Long after Joyce has been possessed by an evil spirit and it appears that the film set is going to be overrun by hopping vampires, the director of this film’s version of The Last Emperor suddenly spins around and is transformed into the cyborg Shadow Warrior dude from the previous two films.  No one is particularly shocked when this happens.

As you may have guessed, Robo Vampire 3 is a bit of a disjointed film but it’s pretty much what we’ve come to expect from Godfrey Ho.  One gets the feeling that Robo Vampire 3 was stitched together with stock footage and outtakes from several unrelated movies.  It also wouldn’t surprise me to discover that there were several different versions of the film out there.  The version I saw was badly dubbed so who knows what the film’s plot actually was.  The whole thing has a “make it up as you go along” feel to it.  With the previous Robo Vampire films, the shoddiness was kind of charming but Robo Vampire 3 takes forever to get going.  It needed more hopping vampires.

As far as I know, this was the last Robo Vampire film.  Hopefully, Robo Vampire’s version of The Last Emperor was a big enough success that he could retire from shadow warrioring and devote himself to cinema.  Now, that’s a happy ending!