October Positivity: Brother Enemy (dir by Russell Doughten Jr.)

This 75-minute indie film from 1981 was directed by Russell Daughten, who also directed Nite Song and Face In The Mirror.

After losing his wife and his son in a car accident, Dave Weimer (William Wellman, Jr.) rebuilds his life by starting the most successful Christian puppet show in Iowa.  He has been invited back to his hometown so that he can put on a special charity performance at the high school gym.  Unfortunately, because Dave is going to need a lot of time to rehearse, this means that basketball practice has been canceled for a month!

The town’s teenagers are not happy about this.  For one thing, they’re really not sure who Dave Weimer is and they’re convinced that they are all way too old for puppets.  Why should they have to miss out on basketball for a kid’s show!?  So, a group of them get together and break into Dave’s workshop.  They destroy all of his puppets.  They also get arrested, even the little girl who was only there because her dumb older brother was supposed to be babysitting her!

The judge wants to throw the book at them but Dave has another idea.  He wants them to be put on two months probation and he wants to be their probation officer.  He wants the kids to build their own puppets and then put on their own biblically-inspired show.  Basically, their punishment is to do the show that Dave was originally planning on doing….

At first, no one is excited about doing a puppet show.  But it’s either that or go to juvenile hall.  The teens decide to do a show based on the story of the Prodigal Son.  One-by-one, they all let their guard down and open up to Dave.  Soon, the puppet show becomes less community service and more of a bible study.  However, Todd — the leader of the gang — is still angry and he plots to destroy the puppets once again….

Uhmmm, yeah.

Well, this was an interesting one.  On the one hand, the puppets were cute and I usually like movies in which a group of people suddenly have to put on a show.  On the other hand, Dave was kind of a creepy character.  Dave was played by William Wellman, Jr, a character actor who, before he became a regular in Daughten’s films, was best-known for appearing in biker films and the occasional war film.  (He appeared in several Billy Jack films.  He was a biker in Born Losers and a national guardsman in The Trial of Billy Jack.)  Wellman was well-cast as bikers and soldiers because he always came across as being very tightly wound and intense.  From the minute Wellman showed up on screen, he always seemed like he was just a few minutes from exploding.  Again, that’s a good trait for a biker but it’s not as good a trait for the creator of a Christian puppet show.  Wellman was a good actor but he just seems miscast here and, as a result, something always seems to be a little off about Dave.

As for the cast, I imagine they were largely amateurs or else actors drawn from the Des Moines theatrical community.  For the most part, the teenagers do better than the adults.  Like other Daughten films, Brother Enemy is almost painfully sincere.  Still, it’s hard not to watch the movie and feel that a lot of trouble could have been avoided if Dave had just had enough sense to lock the door of his workshop.

Horror On TV: Tales From The Crypt 5.7 “House of Horror” (dir by Bob Gale)

Tonight’s excursion into televised horror is the 7th episode of the 5th season of HBO’s Tales From The Crypt!  

House of Horrors has everything that you could possibly want from a Tales From The Crypt episode!  A dumbass idiot frat boy (played by Kevin Dillon) forces three pledges to enter  a supposedly haunted house.  Mayhem ensues.  This episode is full of atmosphere, dark humor, plot twists, and unexpected turns and it features two wonderfully over-the-top performances, one from Dillon and one from Meredith Salenger as a Southern-accented sorority president who may have a secret of her own.

This episode originally aired on October 27th, 1993 and is currently celebrating its 30th birthday.


The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: I Was A Teenage Frankenstein (dir by Herbert L. Strock)

“I was a teenage Frankenstein!”

“Of course you were, dear.”

Sadly, that dialogue does not appear in I Was A Teenage Frankenstein.  Oh well, we can’t have everything….

This 1957 film tells the story of Professor Frankenstein (Whit Bissell), an English scientist who comes to America and promptly sets about trying to create his own creature.  I guess we shouldn’t be surprised, considering that his name is Frankenstein and all.  I mean, when you’ve got a name like that, there are certain expectations that you have to live up to.  You’re not going to become a stand-up comedian or the janitor at the local grocery store.  When you’ve got a name like that, you’re expected to tamper in God’s domain and screw things up.  With a famous name comes great expectations.  Frankenstein …. Kennedy …. Kardashian …. it’s pretty much all the same.

Anyway, the professor is lucky enough to come across a fatal car crash.  This supplies him with exactly the dead body that he needs.  He takes the corpse to his laboratory where, with help of some spare body parts that he just happened to have lying around, he manages to bring the dead teenager back to life!

There’s just one problem.

The teenager (played by Gary Conway) now looks like this:

Yep, Teenage Frankenstein is definitely not ready for his public debut.  No one’s happy about this.  Not the professor.  Not the professor’s assistant.  Even the professor’s secretary is upset about what’s going on in the laboratory.  Not even the alligator that Prof. Frankenstein for some reason keeps around the lab is particularly happy about how the operation turned out.

What’s a Teenage Frankenstein to do?  Well, he can always sneak out of the lab but, whenever he does, it seems like someone inevitably ends up dead.  Obviously, Prof. Frankenstein is going to have to find a new face for his creation but from where?  Well, luckily, there is a lover’s lane nearby….

I Was A Teenage Frankenstein was produce by American International Pictures to capitalize on the success of I Was A Teenage Werewolf.  (Whit Bissell plays a mad scientist in both movies and gets the best line in It Was A Teenager Frankenstein when he yells, “Answer me!  You have a civil tongue in your head!  I know, I sewed it in there!”)  Unfortunately, while the monster makeup is indeed impressive, I Was A Teenage Frankenstein is never as much fun as I Was A Teenage Werewolf.  While the teenage werewolf had an entire town to explore, Teenage Frankenstein is pretty much stuck in that lab.  Whereas the teenage werewolf spent his movie running wild, Teenage Frankenstein spends all of his time doing whatever the professor orders him to do.  As a result, I Was A Teenage Frankenstein is a much slower film and also lacks the rebellious subtext of I Was A Teenage Werewolf.

That said, I Was A Teenage Werewolf was enough of a box office success that both the werewolf and the Frankenstein makeup were later used in How To Make A Monster.

Film Review: The Good Nurse (dir by Tobias Lindholm)

It’s suspected that Charles Cullen might be the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history.

He’s currently sitting in prison, serving 18 consecutive life sentences.  (For those keeping track, he’ll be eligible for parole in the 25th Century.)  In order to avoid getting the death penalty, Cullen confessed to killing 29 people in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  It is thought that, between the years 1988 and 2003, he actually killed over 400 people.  What made Cullen’s crimes especially horrifying is that he was a nurse and his victims were his patients.  When Cullen first confessed, he tried to portray himself as being a mercy killer, someone who only murdered those who would have no quality of life.  Cullen also claimed that he had been traumatized the first time that he saw a team of doctors fail to resuscitate a patient so he would specifically give overdoses to terminal patients so that they could die both with dignity and without leaving him traumatized.  It was subsequently discovered that few of Cullen’s victims had been terminally ill and that many of them were actually only a day or two away from being discharged from the hospital when Cullen killed them.  Cullen later said that many of his murders were impulsive acts and he wasn’t sure why he had committed them.  In the end, no one can be sure what drove Cullen to commit his murders.

Even before he was arrested, Cullen had developed a bad reputation as a nurse who lost a lot of patients.  He moved from hospital to hospital and he seemed to generate suspicion wherever he went.  Cullen would leave the hospitals whenever it became apparent that anyone was investigating any of the deaths in which he had been involved.  The hospitals were usually happy to be rid of him.  Despite all of the suspicions about him, no one ever tried to stop Cullen from getting another job.  Why risk getting sued for having had Cullen on staff when you could just dump him off on another hospital?

The Good Nurse, which just dropped on Netflix this week, stars Eddie Redmayne as Charles Cullen and Jessica Chastain as Amy Loughren, the nurse who worked with Cullen at his final place of employment.  In the film, Amy is workaholic single mother who needs a heart transplant but who still finds time to show compassion to the patients in the ICU.  She is, as the title states, the good nurse.  When Charles Cullen shows up to work the night shift, she is happy for the help and she takes an immediate liking to the polite and seemingly hardworking Cullen.  Just like Amy, Cullen has two daughters and they bond over their struggles to be both good nurses and good parents.  Cullen tells Amy about how his former coworkers were always plotting against him.  Amy, somewhat naively, invites Cullen to come to her house to meet her daughters.  But when patients start to die, Amy soon suspects that Cullen is responsible.  When she ends up as a patient in the hospital and is faced with the horrifying prospect of Charles Cullen being her nurse, Amy goes to the police and offers to to help them build their case against her former friend.

The Good Nurse is a typical Netflix true crime movie, complete with the slightly washed-out look that almost all of these films seem to share.  The film does a good of capturing the isolation of an ICU ward at night.  With only a handful of nurses and patients on the floor, it’s easy to see how someone like Charles Cullen could have committed his crimes without being caught.  Indeed, some of the film’s most disturbing moments are when Cullen appears to literally emerge from the dark shadows of the ICU ward, like some sort of ghostly hunter seeking his prey.  At the same time, there’s a few moments where the movie feels more like an extra-long episode of Law & Order than a feature film.  Noah Emmerich and Nnamdi Asomugha play the two detectives who are assigned to investigate Cullen’s crimes and their scenes often feel as if they could have been lifted from a dozen other similar true crime films.

As Amy, Jessica Chastain is well-cast, though the role itself is somewhat underwritten.  The film is stolen by Eddie Redmayne, who plays Charles Cullen with an intensity that is frightening to behold at times.  As played by Redmayne, Cullen is creepy from the first time that we see him but, at the same time, Redmayne plays the role with just enough needy charm that the viewer can understand how he was able to fool so many people at so many hospitals.  Redmayne plays Cullen as man who is incapable of compassion but who has learned how to fake it.  It’s only towards the end of the film that Cullen allows his mask to slip and what we see underneath is terrifying.  Eddie Redmayne brings to life a truly evil man, someone who is all the more nightmarish because he really exists.

In the end, The Good Nurse suffers from the same problem as Netflix’s Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile.  It attempts to comprehend an evil that is beyond normal comprehension.  In the end, both films suggest that there’s no real way to understand what motivates a Ted Bundy or a Charles Cullen.  Instead, all one can do is remain vigilant and hope they’ll be stopped before they can cause any more pain. Cullen is in prison for life.  Bundy got the electric chair.  Both of them left behind many questions that will never be answered.

Retro Television Review: City Guys 2.5 “The Divorce” and 2.6 “Bully, Bully”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Thursdays, I will be reviewing City Guys, which ran on NBC from 1997 to 2001.  The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!

As season two of City Guys continues, Chris’s parents finally get a divorce and El-Train is tempted to return his old ways!

It’s all a part of rolling with the city guys….

Episode 2.5 “The Divorce”

(Directed by Frank Bonner, originally aired on October 10th, 1998)

After spending the first season constantly fighting, Chris’s parents are finally getting a divorce.  Chris has a hard time dealing with the divorce, so much so that it starts to interfere with Chris’s ability to work at the radio station.  “Show’s over, people!” Chris snaps at one point, “go play your own music!”  You tell them, Chris!

Last week, I wrote about what a good job Wesley Jonathan did in the “Jamal Got His Gun” episode.  This week, it’s time to praise Scott Whyte, who does a very good job capturing Chris’s emotional turmoil over his parents splitting up.  Both Jonathan and Whyte obviously developed quite a bit as actors before the start of City Guys‘s second season because it’s hard to imagine either one of them giving as good a performance during the first season.

Anyway, this episode was well-done but the main storyline brought back a lot of memories of how I felt when my parents got divorced so let’s talk about the B-storyline, in which Dawn struggled to keep her electronic pet from dying ….. awwwww!  That’s so sad.  Okay, let’s think about the C-storyline, where Al and El-Train both got jobs.  So far, Al has been a good deal less annoying during season 2 than he was during season 1.

Finally, I have to say that I really related to Cassidy in this episode.  When she dropped in to see how Chris was doing, she immediately started cleaning his bedroom.  I would have done the same because there’s no excuse for not picking up after yourself.  While Cassidy is cleaning, Chris makes a joke about all the time that he’s spent watching Judge Judy.  Seriously, Judge Judy has been around forever!

Episode 2.6 “Bully, Bully”

(Directed by Frank Bonner, originally aired on October 17th, 1998)

After the newest school bully steals Al’s basketball, El-Train takes care of the situation by punching out the bully.  El-Train finds himself tempted to return to his old violent ways and that’s not surprising when you consider how the audience cheered when he threw that punch.

Fortunately, Ms. Noble has more sense than the audience and she tells El-Train not to return to his old ways.  She also mentions that El-Train is the class president so at least that season one cliffhanger has finally been resolved.  Anyway, it all leads to a slow motion fight scene and El-Train announcing that he was no longer into senseless violence.

It’s all a bit heavy-handed but Steven Daniel’s performance as El-Train remains as strong as ever.  And how can you not enjoy an episode with this much slow motion?  Slow motion makes everything better!

Horror Scenes That I Love: Jesse Is Transformed In The Neon Demon

Today’s scene is from Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2016 masterpiece, The Neon Demon.  Elle Fanning is transformed into …. well, watch the movie to find out.

Find Your Next Halloween Costume With The Pulp Covers Of Boris Vallejo

It’s nearly Halloween!  Have you picked out your costume yet?


Don’t worry!  The Shattered Lens is here to help!  For inspiration, check out the fashionable outfits featured on these pulp paperback covers, all done by artist Boris Vallejo!  Find your costume below!

Happy Halloween!

4 Shots From 4 Horror Films: 2015 — 2016

4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More 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, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we take a look at 2015 and 2016!

4 Shots From 4 Horror Films: 2015 — 2016

Crimson Peak (2015, dir by Guillermo Del Toro, DP: Dan Lausten)

The Belko Experiment (2016, dir by Greg McLean, DP: Luis David Sansas)

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016, dir by Andre Ovredal, DP: Roman Osin)

The Neon Demon (2016, dir by Nicholas Winding Refn, DP: Natalie Baier)

Horror Film Review: The Lawnmower Man (dir by Brett Leonard)

The 1992 horror/sci-fi hybrid, The Lawnmower Man, tells the story of two men.

Dr. Lawrence Angelo (played by Pierce Brosnan) is a scientist who is experimenting with ways to make less intellectually inclined people smarter. Dr. Angelo is kind of a burn out. You can tell he has issues because he needs to shave, he’s always sitting in the dark, and he’s never without a cigarette. You look at Dr. Angelo and you just imagine that he smells like smoke, bourbon, and lost dreams.

Jobe (Jeff Fahey) is the kind-hearted but intellectually disabled man who lives in a shack and spends his time mowing everyone’s lawn. Hence, he’s known as the …. wait for it …. THE LAWNMOWER MAN!

Together, Dr. Angelo and Jobe solve crimes!

No, not really. Instead, Dr. Angelo decides to experiment on Jobe. This leads to Jobe not only becoming smarter but also quicker to anger. Soon, Jobe is developing psychic abilities. He can move things with his mind. He can magically set people on fire. Basically, he can do whatever the script needs for him to do at the moment. Jobe is soon tormenting everyone who once bullied him. Father McKeen, the pervy priest, gets set on fire. Jake, the gas station attendant, is put into a catatonic state. An abusive father get run over by a lawnmower.

Dr. Angelo knows that Jobe is out-of-control and that the experiment has to be reversed. However, the sinister group behind Angelo’s research wants to use Jobe as a weapon because …. well, because they’re evil and that’s what evil people did back in 1992. Jobe, however, has other plans. He wants to become pure energy so that he can rule over a virtual world….

Or something like that. To be honest, it’s kind of difficult to really figure out what’s going on in The Lawnmower Man. The movie shares its name with a Stephen King short story but it has so little in common with its source material that King reportedly sued to get his name taken out of the credits. (Considering some of the films that King has allowed himself to be associated with, this is kind of amazing.) The film tries to be a satire, a slasher film, a conspiracy film, and a technology-gone-crazy film all in one and the end result is one big mess.

Along with all of that, The Lawnmower Man is also a time capsule of when it was made. A good deal of the film takes place in Jobe’s virtual reality universe, which looks a lot like a mix of Doom and Second Life. I imagine the film’s special effects may have seen impressive way back in the 20th Century but, seen today, they’re rather cartoonish, if occasionally charmingly retro.

On the plus side, the film does have an interesting cast. Pierce Brosnan is never convincing as burn-out but he tries so hard that he’s still fun to watch. Underrated actors like Jenny Wright, Geoffrey Lewis, Dean Norris, and Troy Evans all get a chance to show what they can do in minor roles. Finally, you’ve got the great Jeff Fahey, giving a far better performance than the script perhaps deserves. Though the film may be a mess, there’s something undeniably fun watching Jeff Fahey’s Jobe go from being meek to being a megalomaniac.

It’s a silly film and not one that’s meant to be watched alone. This is a film that has to be watched with a group of your snarkiest friends. Watch it the next time you’re looking for an excuse to avoid doing the yard work.

Horror On The Lens: Messiah of Evil (dir by Willard Huyck)

MOE Mariana HillWith only five days left until Halloween, I wanted to make sure that I shared this film with our faithful and wonderful readers.  Messiah of Evil was first released in 1973 and, since it’s in the public domain, it has since been included in a countless number of bargain box sets from Mill Creek.

I can still remember the first time that I saw Messiah of Evil.  It was on a Monday night, many years ago.  I had recently picked up a 10-movie DVD box set called Tales of Terror and I was using the movies inside to try to deal with a bout of insomnia.  I had already watched The Hatchet Murders (a.k,a. Deep Red) and The House At The Edge of the Park and, at two in the morning, I was faced with a decision.  Should I try to sleep or should I watch one more movie?

Naturally, I chose to watch one more movie and the movie I chose was Messiah of Evil.  So, there I was at two in the morning, sitting at the edge of my bed in my underwear and watching an obscure horror movie while rain fell outside.

And, seriously — this movie totally FREAKED me out!

Messiah of Evil tells the story of Arletty (Marianna Hill), a neurotic woman who drives to an isolated California town in order to visit her father.  Her father is an artist who specializes in painting eerie pictures of large groups of black-clad people.  However, once she arrives at his home, Arletty discovers that her father has vanished and left behind a diary where he claims that a darkness has overtaken the town.

Meanwhile, a mysterious man named Thom (Michael Greer) is wandering about town with two groupies (played by Anita Ford and Joy Bang) and interviewing random townspeople.  One crazed man (Elisha Cook, Jr.) explains that “the dark stranger” is returning.  After meeting Arletty, they all end up moving into her father’s house.

But that’s not all.   There’s also an odd albino man who shows up driving truck and who eats mice….

Messiah of Evil is literally one of the strangest films that I’ve ever seen.  It’s shot in a dream-like fashion and the much of the film is left open to the viewer’s interpretation.  There are two classic scenes — one that takes place in a super market and one that takes place in a movie theater and the movie’s worth watching for these two scenes alone.

Messiah of Evil is a film that will be appreciated by all lovers of surrealism and intelligent horror and I’m happy to share it with you today.