Downdraft (1996, directed by Michael Mazo)


When an out-of-control general was on the verge of destroying the world, Col. Jack Slater (Vincent Spano) did what he had to do and he killed him.  Now, Slater is in a military prison and separated from his family.  However, he’s offered an opportunity to win his freedom.  All he has to do is reassemble his old crew of military/scientist specialists and deactivate an underground computer.  The problem is that a mad scientist named LaGrange (Zdenek Maryska) is threatening to use the computer to destroy the world and the underground chambers are patrolled by a killer cyborg that has melded with LaGrange’s mind.  Meanwhile, above ground, General Devlin (Paul Koslo) is willing to sacrifice Jack and his team if it means covering up what’s happening underground.  If the cyborg doesn’t kill them, the super computer will.  If the super computer can’t get the job done, the government cover-up will do what has to be done.  If the government can’t do it, the earthquake will have to suffice.  Either way, it seems unlikely that Jack and his people are going to escape that underground chamber with their lives.

“Game over, man!”

No one shouted that in Downdraft but they could have because the scenes of the team searching the underground chamber will be familiar to anyone who remembers the space marines exploring the destroyed colony in Aliens.

“I’ll be back.”

No one says that in Downdraft but someone could have because the computer turning on the humans that created it will be familiar to anyone who remembers what John Connor told Sarah in The Terminator.

“Thank you and have a nice day.”

Again, no one says it in Downdraft but they could have because the killer cyborg might as well be named Robocop.

Downdraft takes elements from all of those films and then adds in the type of corrupt general who would send John Rambo to Vietnam and then abandon him there once it became obvious that Rambo had found evidence of American POWs.  There’s not much about Downdraft that feels original but I will give Downdraft credit for including a little bit of everything.  Not only is there a killer robot and a super computer and an untrustworthy general and a government coverup and a team of quirky nerds who know how to fight but there’s also a race against time to defuse a hydrogen bomb and several scenes of people having to climb rickety ladders and cross over chasms on unstable bridges.  The action is impossible to follow but when there’s so much of it, it almost doesn’t matter.  The main message of the movie is that humanity shouldn’t become reliant on supercomputers to run the world.  It’s a good thing we all learned that lesson, right?

Vincent Spano was a good actor, even in this.  Whatever happened to him?  While he’s saving the world, he also finds time to fall in love with a Russian scientist played by Kate Vernon, who went from playing a key supporting role in Malcom X to starring in this.  Everyone has bills to pay.  That was as true in 1996 as it is today.

Game Review: Deathtrap (2021, Deathtrap Productions)


A trip to the market turns into a fight for survival when you are abducted and knocked unconscious.  When you awaken, you find yourself in a dark cell.  Will you just check out the sealed door, with its keypad?  Will you try to figure out how to unlock the trap door or will you search the bookcase?  Will you make smart use of the stove or will you make the same mistake that I did?  And if you do figure out how to escape the first room, will you be able to find your way out of the abandoned theme park in which you’ve been imprisoned?

Deathtrap is an old school text adventure, one where it’s important to carefully read descriptions, search everything that you can possibly search, and not waste too much time while doing it.  It’s also a game that rewards those who are good at solving puzzles.  Puzzles, of course, are my main weakness when it comes to Interactive Fiction.  I’m terrible at puzzles.  I’m the player who dies in a dozen different ways before I finally figure out how to survive and usually, that’s just because I’ve exhausted every other option.  Usually, I can only solve puzzles by default.

My fear of puzzles aside, I enjoyed Deathtrap.  It’s a well-written game and it’s challenging without being impossible.  (I died several times but I imagine people who can actually solve puzzles might not have that problem.)  The vivid prose does good job of putting you in the reality of being trapped in a dark and dangerous place and it doesn’t shy away from the consequences of going down the wrong hallway or opening the wrong door.  It’s hard not to respect a game that will kill your character just because you randomly opened the wrong door or went the wrong direction or made the wrong decision when it came time to choose whether you wanted to walk or crawl down a hallway.  It’s challenging but it’s also very rewarding when you actually do succeed in surviving and escaping.  How long will it take you to find your way out?

Play Deathtrap!

Music Video of the Day: Killer Klowns by The Dickies (1988, directed by Chuck Cirino)


You can probably guess, just from the title, which film featured this song.  Written and performed by The Dickies, Killer Klowns played over the end credits of Killer Klowns From Outer Space.  The video features scenes from that film, mixed in with the band performing the song behind bars.

The video was directed by Chuck Cirino, who also did the sound design for the film.  Killer Klowns From Outer Space has gone on to become a huge cult film, one that is discovered by new fans everyday.  Just as the film endures, so do The Dickies.  In some form or another, the Dickies have been together since 1977.

Enjoy!

Evil Toons (1992, directed by Fred Olen Ray)


Evil Toons opens, disturbingly enough, with David Carradine hanging himself.  Carradine is playing Gideon Fisk, the owner of both a run-down mansion and an ancient book that appears to be bound in human skin.  Though Fisk kills himself, he still appears several years later so that he can deliver a copy of the book to the four girls who have been hired to clean his home.

The girls are all students at Miskatonic University, a name that will be familiar to any fans of the work of H.P. Lovecraft.  (Those same fans will also have figured out that the book is the Necronomicon.)  Jan (Barbara Dare) and Terry (Suzanne Auger) want to get the house cleaned so they can get paid.  Roxanne (Madison Stone) wants to party overnight with her idiot boyfriend, Biff (Don Dowe).  Shy and intellectual Megan (Monique Gabrielle) is mostly just worried about surviving until morning.  After the girls open the book, they get Megan to translate the Latin writing within.  This brings to life a cartoon monster, one who looks much like a combination of the Big Bad Wolf and the Tasmanian Devil but which is far more bloodthirsty and horny than either of them.  After killing one of the girls and possessing her body, the Monster stalks the other inhabitants of the house.

Not meant to be taken seriously in any way shape or form, Evil Toons was made by Fred Olen Ray for $150,000.  That probably explains why, despite the title, there’s only one evil toon and it only gets a minute and a half of screen time before possessing its first victim.  Most of the dialogue is deliberately obtuse, with none of the girls showing any alarm upon realizing that forcing Megan to translate the book has condemned everyone to an eternity of torment.  The good thing is that there are enough funny lines to hold your interest and the cast is game (and frequently undressed, which is probably why this film still has a cult following).  Monique Gabrielle proves that she can scream with the best of them while Madison Stone is genuinely funny as Roxanne, delivering her lines with a playful quirkiness and even indulging in a little physical comedy with a hard-to-open wine bottle.

Fans of B-horror will be happy to see Dick Miller in the role of Burt, the man who hires the girls to clean up the house.  After leaving the girls at the house, Burt goes home and watches Bucket of Blood (starring Dick Miller, of course) on television.  “How come that guy never won an Academy Award?” Burt asks.  Burt’s wife is played by scream queen Michelle Bauer, who gets a guest starring credit for a two-minute role that consists of her reminding Burt what Friday night is supposed to be for.

Evil Toons is undeniably dumb but I laughed more than I was expecting too.  I think it helps that the movie confirmed what anyone who grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons has always suspected.  Most cartoon characters aren’t that innocent, especially the ones that are drawn in the margins of the Necronomicon.

Game Review: Deep in The Spooky, Scary Woods (2022, Healy)


The full title of this piece of Interactive Fiction is: I Was Too Lazy to Get Started on My EctoComp Entry at a Reasonable Time But I Still Wanted to Enter So I Crapped Out This Masterpiece Or: Deep in the Spooky, Scary Woods.

Hey, don’t be so hard on yourself!  It’s better than anything that I’ve come up with recently.  In this Choose Your Own Adventure style game, you’re in the woods, the spooky, scary woods!  You can cry if you want.  You can build a fire.  You can try to text a friend.  But what you have to be prepared for is that eventually, a witch is going to want to join you and you might very well find your way to Dracula’s castle.  How will you handle it?  How will you interact with the supernatural?  What choices will you make?  Will you get the good or the bad ending?  Play to find out!

Even thought the author states that this game was just something that was put together in an hour, I always enjoy games like Deep In The Spooky Scary Woods.  That’s because I’ve played enough pompous and self-important Interactive Fiction games that I can not help but enjoy one where the whole point is to get the player to laugh and poke fun at the whole genre.  Sometimes, you’re in the mood for Interactive Fiction that is big and complex and full of subtext.  Sometimes, you just want to play something that’s fun, that’ll keep you amused, and which will take less than 15 minutes to complete.

Play Deep In The Spooky Scary Woods!

Music Video of the Day: One of Those Days by Ozzy Osbourne and Eric Clapton (2022, directed by Todd McFarlane)


It looks like Ozzy Osbourne is having one of those days, complete with upside down crosses, trips to the graveyard, and drinks from a bottle of sin.  Luckily, he’s got Eric Clapton backing him up with some killer guitar moves.

This video features the Ozzy Osbourne that parents used to warn their kids about, the one who was thought to be in league with Satan and who happily drank from bottles of sin and bit the heads off of bats.  It all seems pretty foolish today but, then again, it seemed pretty foolish back then as well.  I have never bought into the idea that Ozzy worshipped Satan but I’ve also never bought into the other story that is often told about Ozzy, that’s he’s secretly a devout member of the Church of England.  If Ozzy worships anything, it would appear to be rock and roll and why not?  It’s been good to him.

The animated video was directed by comic book artist and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane.

This feels like the right way to start October.

Enjoy!

Death Kiss (2018, directed by Rene Perez)


An unnamed city has been turned into a war zone by gangsters like Tyrell (Richard Tyson).  Men, women, and children are killed in the streets.  Muggers haunt every corner.  Pimps exploit women in dirty trailers.  A right-wing radio host named Dan Forthright (Daniel Baldwin) rants that if the police aren’t going to do their job then it’s up to the citizens to take up arms and take the streets back.

Making that dream a reality is a man known only as the Stranger (Robert Bronzi).  The Stranger walks the streets, wearing a dark suit and carrying a gun.  He has a mustache and a grim expression and he doesn’t say much.  He approaches criminals and he guns them down without hesitation.  If the criminals beg for their lives, the Stranger just shoots them again.  There’s no one that the Stranger hates more than a criminal who preys on the weak and defenseless.  (The Strangers reminds me someone.  As the film’s tagline puts it, “Justice has a familiar face!”)  For years, the Stranger has been sending money to a single mother named Ana (Eva Hamilton).  He goes to her house and they meet when she catches him slipping an envelope full of cash into her mailbox.  The Stranger won’t explain why he’s sending her money but he will take the time to teach her how to use a shotgun.  “For coyotes,” The Stranger says, handing her the weapon.

Death Kiss is one of the many recent, low-budget action films to have starred Robert Bronzi.  Bronzi is a Hungarian actor who owes his entire career to the fact that he bears a passable resemblance to Charles Bronson.  (Bronzi doesn’t speak much in his films but, when he does, his voice is usually dubbed by a Bronson sound alike.)  The problem is that Bronzi only looks like Bronson in long shots.  In a medium shot or a close-up, it becomes obvious that he’s just a middle-aged man who does not seem to be comfortable reciting dialogue and who often looks straight at the camera.

Death Kiss doesn’t have much of a plot.  The Stranger visits Ana, who is not at all worried about a mysterious, gun-toting man showing up at the home that she shares with her young daughter.  The Stranger also tracks down Tyrell.  Along the way, he shoots nearly everyone that he meets.  There are a few one liners but none of them are as good as the “Do you believe in Jesus?” scene from Death Wish II.  Because The Stranger is not allowed to just come out and say that he’s Paul Kersey from the Death Wish films, he’s not allowed to reveal any motivation for his activities.  He just shows up and starts shooting people.  Say what you will about some of the movies that he made during the latter part of his career, the real Bronson would have held out for a better script or at least a bigger budget.  I hope they at least gave Robert Bronzi a nice trailer so that he could put his feet up between scenes.

Music Video of the Day: Seventeen by Winger (1988, directed by Mark Rezyka)


Tomorrow is the first day of October and traditionally, the first day of the horror season.  I am going to try to keep things centered on that theme as far as the site’s music videos of the day go.

For instance, what could be scarier than Kip Winger singing about banging groupies?  How about banging underage groupies?  Technically, as Kip always points out whenever anyone asks him about this song, seventeen is the age of consent in many states but the lyrics of Seventeen suggest that it might not have just been the law that was after Winger.  “Daddy says she’s too young, but she’s old enough for me,” Winger sings while grinning at the camera.

Let’s take a moment to remember Lars Ulrich throwing darts at a picture of Kip Winger.

God knows Metallica has done some embarrassing things but at least they’ve never turned into Winger.

In a 2014 interview with Songfacts, Kip said, “”Look, seventeen was legal in Colorado, so I didn’t even get the joke, dude. I didn’t get it. And then it hit and every seventeen-year-old girl in the United States thought that song was about her.”

Sure they did, Kip.

The video is made up of close-ups of the band playing (while being illuminated with purple light for some reason) and shots of the girl who is only seventeen but looks like she’s closer to 40.  Both the song and the video were a hit, procing that 1988 was a different time.  Just imagine the reaction if a band released that song today.

If the song did come out today, we all know who would be on twitter, defending Seventeen and saying that we just weren’t getting the joke.

As for the subject of the song, she is 53 now and probably tells everyone that Nirvana was the first band she ever loved.

 

Friend of the Family II a.k.a. Passionate Revenge (1996, directed by Fred Olen Ray)


Alex Madison (Paul Michael Robinson) goes to New Orleans on business and spots the beautiful and sexy Linda (Shauna O’Brien) having a fight with her boyfriend at a local bar.  Alex introduces himself to Lind and offers to pay for her dinner.  Later, directed Fred Olen Ray mixes shots of them making love with shots of Mardi Gras happening right outside the bedroom window.

Linda falls in love with Alex and becomes clingy but Alex has a wife and newborn at home.  When Alex leaves Linda (and breaks up with her via a note) and returns home, Linda is heartbroken.  When Linda’s ex finds out about the affair and shoots himself in the kitchen, Linda is outraged and decides to track Alex and his family down.  When Alex’s wife, Maddy (Jenna Bodnar), announces that she’s ready to go back to work and says that they will have to hire a nanny to look after the baby, Linda applies for the job.  Alex impresses Maddy by holding the baby and, more importantly, she doesn’t mention that she had a weekend affair with Maddy’s husband.  Alex comes home from work and is shocked to discover that Linda not only lives in his house but she’s also now best friends with his wife!  Linda is soon sexually blackmailing Alex while carrying on an affair with Linda’s horndog of a younger brother, Byron (Sid Farley).  Linda wants revenge against all of them.

This is a pretty typical example of the type of films that Cinemax used to air once the sun went down.  (There’s a reason why the network was once nicknamed Skinemax.)  I think anyone who grew up in the 90s has at least a few memories of watching these movies with the sound turned down low enough to not run the risk of waking up the adults in the house.  Fred Olen Ray was one of the main directors of these films and he certainly understood what his audience was expecting and, more often than not, he delivered.

That is certainly the case with Friend of the Family II, which is full of sex, violence, and not much else.  (It is also a sequel in name only so don’t worry about not being able to follow the plot if you haven’t seen the first Friend of the Family.)  As someone who casually cheats on his wife and is then shocked to discover that there are consequences for his actions, Alex is not exactly a likable or sympathetic protagonist but most people watching this movie will be watching Shauna O’Brien, who goes all out in the role of Linda.  Linda is unhinged enough to demand sex from Alex while his wife is sleeping right next to him but also clever enough to worm her way into Alex’s family.  Fortunately, O’Brien is convincing no matter what she’s doing and she also brings some vulnerability to the role so Linda is sympathetic no matter how much she tries to destroy everyone’s live.

Friend of the Family II is currently on Tubi, under the name Passionate Revenge.  It will be best enjoyed by people who have nostalgic memories of late night Cinemax.

Music Video of the Day: Vincent Price by Deep Purple (2013, directed by Joern Heitman)


A young couple goes to the a dungeon and soon, they find that they’ve become black-and-white and they can no longer hear.  They’ve become a part of a silent movie, starring someone who looks much like Vincent Price.  Of course, the real-life Price didn’t appear in any silent movies but, overall, this is still an effective music video.

The director, Joren Heitmann, has several music videos to his name.  He directed multiple videos for Rammstein and Sarah Connor.  In fact, one of the videos that he did for Sarah Connor was for a song called Vincent.

Deep Purple was first formed in 1968.  As with most bands that have been around for that long, several members have come and gone over the years but the important thing is that the band is still going today.

I’ve been told that this video is a good example of what the site hopes to accomplish this October.

Enjoy!