The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Victor Crowley (dir by Adam Green)

“Hey, did I mention that I recently watched Victor Crowley as a part of the Last Drive-In on Shudder?”

“Who’s Victor Crowley?”

“It’s a movie! About a killer named …. well, Victor Crowley. He’s played by Kane Hodder and he kills people in the swamp in various gruesome ways.”

“Oh, is that the guy from the Hatchet films?”

“Yes, the same.”

“And aren’t those the slasher films that are really bad but you’re not supposed to care because they wink at the audience and acknowledge that the suck?”

“Yep, exactly. Victor Crowley is the latest installment in the Hatchet series. It came out in 2017. An airplane crashes in a swamp. All of the passengers are in some way connected to the previous Hatchet films. Victor kills them all one-by-one.”

“Was it any good?”

“I personally didn’t care much for it.”

“What as wrong with it?”

“It took forever for the action to actually get going and the humor often felt forced, even by the standards of the Hatchet films. Some of the deaths were creative but since the characters were all pretty much just cardboard figures, it was hard to really care about it. Kane Hodder was an imposing killer, though. He’s definitely the best thing about the film.”

“I like Kane Hodder.”

“Me too. It’s funny. He’s always killing people but he seems like such a nice guy in real life. To be honet, the best thing about watching Victor Crowley on The Last Drive-In was that Joe Bob Briggs would interrupt every few minutes and share his thoughts on the film. Joe Bob, I should mention, liked the film far more than I did.”

“So, do you or do you not recommend Victor Crowley?”

“Well, it’s funny. I didn’t like it but I can understand why some people do like it. Because it’s over-the-top and intentionally silly and it doesn’t make any apologies for being what it is. It’s kind of like the slasher version of a good Lifetime film. So, I can’t really sit here and totally trash the film. It wasn’t for me but if you’re a fan of the Hatchet movies, it’ll give you exactly what you’re expecting — i.e., blood, humor, and Kane Hodder ripping off Felissa Rose’s arm.”

“So, you’re recommending the film?”

“To fans of the Hatchet series, yes.”

“I hope they enjoy it.”

“Me too. Isn’t that what life’s all about?”

Relentless 3 (1993, directed by James Lemmo)

Detective Sam Deitz (Leo Rossi) is back and somehow, his life is even more crappy than before.

Detective Deitz is still an intense New Yorker struggling to fit in with the laid back California lifestyle.  Watching a Relentless film, you would think that it’s a crime to be laid back in New York.  After three films,  Deitz should no longer be as much of a fish out of water as he is in Relentless 3.

Deitz is now divorced and he hardly ever sees his son.  That bothers him but also means that there aren’t anymore arguments between Deitz and his wife about him bringing his work home.  Deitz is now out on the dating scene.  The movie spends a lot of time on scenes of Deitz trying to pick up women.  It’s not easy because he’s an intense New Yorker and they’re all laid back California girls.  He eventually meets and falls for Paula (Signy Coleman).

Meanwhile, there’s a new serial killer on the scene.  Walter (William Forsythe) lives with a mentally unstable woman and is always bragging about how he’s a star.  He picks up women in bars, take them home, kills them, and then has sex with their dead bodies before eventually dumping them around Los Angeles.  Even though Deitz no longer wants to chase serial killers, he agrees to serve as a consultant.  When Walter finds out that the famous Sam Deitz is working the case, he decides to make it personal.  Being a “star,” Walter wants to compete with the best.

Relentless 3 gets off to a good start but it runs out of gas quickly.  William Forsythe is an effective villain and some of the early scenes of him picking up women are suspenseful.  Also, there’s an effective scene where Walter mails Deitz a patch of tattooed skin and proves, as if there was any doubt, that Walter was one sick puppy.  But the movie, which should be a relentless cat-and-mouse game between Deitz and Walter, gets sidetracked with all of the scenes of Deitz trying to get back into the dating scene.  For all the build-up, the final confrontation between Deitz and Walter feels like a let down. This Relentless film just isn’t relentless enough.

Leo Rossi still does a good job as Deitz but it seems like we learned as much as we need to know about the character during the first two Relentless films and nothing that Deitz does surprises us anymore.  Despite good performances from Rossi and Forsythe, Relentless 3 never comes together.

Horror Film Review: Night of the Demons (dir by Kevin S. Tenney)

“Where are you going?  The party’s just begun.”

Sorry, Angela, the party kind of sucks.  Beyond the strange guest list — like seriously, why would any of these people be hanging out together — and the weird decision to hold it in the deserted old funeral home, there’s the fact that people are getting possessed and people are dying.  There’s a lot that I can tolerate from a party but once people start dying, it’s usually time to leave.

(Unless, of course, it’s a theme party.  I went to a Halloween murder party last year and I had a lot of fun watching as each guest was “killed off” until the eventual killer was revealed.  I drew a card telling me that I had been murdered in the master bathroom while stepping out of the shower so I ran upstairs, changed into a towel, and let out the loudest scream possible.  Now, that was a party!  That said, I can’t remember who the actual killer was so they’re still out there, probably breaking into your house at this very moment.)

As Jeff, Leonard, and I watched Night of the Demons last week as a part of the #ScarySocial live tweet, Jeff mentioned that this 1988 film had apparently been very popular on late night cable back in the day.  I could certainly see why, what with it’s combination of boobs, blood, and Linnea Quigley.  It’s about two outcasts — Angela (Amelia Kinkade) and Suzanne (Quigley) — who throw a Halloween party in a funeral parlor.  It’s a pretty boring party but it’s also an 80s party so we get to see some silly dancing before the spirits end up possessing Suzanne and Angela.  Angela does a wild dance.  Suzanne sticks a tube of lipstick into her breast.  I guess you can do that when you’re possessed by a demon.  That said, that scene still made cringe just because it made me think about all of the lipstick that I shoplifted when I was in high school and how much it would have upset to me to have gone to all that trouble just to have some possessed girl waste it by shoving it inside her boob.  One-by-one, the partiers die.  Soon, only good girl Judy (Cathy Podewell) and good guy Rodger (Alvin Alexis) are left alive but will they be able to figure out a way to escape the funeral home?  Not only do they have to climb a wall but they have to do it while dressed, respectively, like Alice in Wonderland and a pirate.  Good luck, kids!  You’re so fucking dead.

Anyway, Night of the Demons is pretty stupid but it’s a film that people have fun watching.  There’s none of the nuance that one found in Kevin Tenney’s other classic horror film, Witchboard.  Instead, this one is entertainingly over-the-top and enjoyably weird.  This is a film that was made for people who enjoy making snarky comments while watching horror movies.  As a result, it’s an ideal live tweet movie because it doesn’t require a lot of thought as much as it just requires a group of friends who are willing to validate your every comment by clicking the like button.  It’s not a particularly scary film but both Amelia Kinkade and Linnea Quigley deserve a lot of credit for throwing themselves into their roles and, at the very least, it’s got some dancing.  It’s a crowd pleaser and, I’ve recently been told, some people feel that’s the most important thing that a film can do.  Personally, being a film snob, I don’t quite agree with the assessment that it’s the most important thing but, still, one should probably never discount the importance of keeping the audience entertained.

The point is, I had fun with Night of the Demons.  Watch it with your friends.

Guilty Pleasure No. 41: The Dead Are After Me (Raiders of the Living Dead), performed by George Edward Ott

If you watched Raiders of the Living Dead earlier today, you heard this theme song:

The dead are after me….

We are the Raiders of the Living Dead….

Seriously, how can you not love that!?  Yes, the song is totally mid-80s and it’s kind of silly but it’s also kind of perfect.  Certainly, it’s the best thing about the film and the song has even gone on to achieve a life outside of the movie that it was written for.  There are bands that regularly cover this song.  It’s a permanent part of my Halloween playlist.

Seriously, you can ask my friends and they’ll tell you that, every October, they’re forced to listen to me sing this song in my off-key way.  The deeeeeeeead are afterrrrrr meeeeee….

Many sites incorrectly refer to this song as being called, like the movie in which it appeared, “Raiders of the Living Dead.”  The actual title is The Dead Are After Me.  It was written and performed by a musician named George Edward Ott.  I did some research and I came across some comments that Ott left on another site, in which he discussed how this song came into existence.  From Morgan on Media:

In 1986, after viewing early outtakes of the film with Sam Sherman and Tim Ferrante, I went home and wrote the song in about 15 minutes. Cheesy song for a cheesy movie! 

Yes, it is a cheesy song but it’s also rather brilliant in a cheerful, no apologies sort of way.  Just try to get out of your head.

Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly
  26. Project Greenlight
  27. Sex Decoy: Love Stings
  28. Swimfan
  29. On the Line
  30. Wolfen
  31. Hail Caesar!
  32. It’s So Cold In The D
  33. In the Mix
  34. Healed By Grace
  35. Valley of the Dolls
  36. The Legend of Billie Jean
  37. Death Wish
  38. Shipping Wars
  39. Ghost Whisperer
  40. Parking Wars


Horror Scenes That I Love: Susie Meets Helena in Dario Argento’s Suspiria

In this horror scene that I love, from Dario Argento’s Suspiria, Susie Bannion (Jessica Harper) finally meets the Mother of Sighs, Helena Markos (Lela Svasta).

To make clear, this scene is from the original Suspiria.  This isn’t from the remake or the rehash or the reboot or whatever it’s supposed to be that Film Twitter is currently going crazy over.  Don’t get me wrong.  I haven’t seen the new Suspiria yet so it could be brilliant.  It could be the best film ever made, for all I know.  But regardless, Dario Argento’s Suspiria will always be the only true Suspiria for me.

Horror Film Review: Happy Birthday To Me (dir by J. Lee Thompson)

“John will never eat shish kebab again!” announces the poster for the 1981 Canadian slasher film, Happy Birthday To Me.  

Happy Birthday To Me is famous for three things.  One of those things is the poster above, which was apparently so controversial that it actually led to the film being banned in some countries.  That said, it’s a brilliant poster, one that probably belongs in the Film Poster Hall of Fame.  If I had been alive and old enough to sneak into the movies in 1981, that poster would have drawn me into the theater.

The other interesting thing about the poster is that no one in the movie is named John.  There is a shish kebab scene, of course.  But it happens to a guy named Steven, not to anyone named John.  Of course, the poster also says that Steven likes to ride a motorcycle but, in the movie, the motorcycle rider is a pervy French-Canadian named Etienne.  Maybe the film’s producers feared that American audiences would not be willing to watch a movie featuring a character named Etienne.  (They were probably right, by the way.  Happy Birthday To Me came out decades before Degrassi: The Next Generation taught America that it has nothing to fear from the Canadians.)

As for what else Happy Birthday To Me is famous for — well, first of all, there’s the actual shish kebab scene itself.  As cringe-inducing as it may appear to be on the poster, it’s even more disturbing in the actual film.  Interestingly enough, there’s not a lot of blood in the scene.  In fact, it’s one of the few scenes in Happy Birthday To Me to not be drenched in blood.  However, there is a lot of gagging and gurgling and the sounds are all the more disturbing because they’re taking place off-camera.  Making it even more unsettling is that Steven (played by Matt Craven, who has since become a distinguished character actor) is one of the few likable characters in the movie.  In a movie full of snobs, pervs, and weirdos, Steven is the guy who is always encouraging people to stop fighting, make love, and gamble.

Finally, Happy Birthday To Me is famous for not making a damn bit of sense.

Actually, to be fair, the movie does make sense up until the final ten minutes or so.  Up until that point, it’s simply been a well-made slasher film, albeit an above average example of the genre.  There’s a killer on the loose, killing students at Crawford Academy.  All of the victims are members of the Top Ten, an exclusive clique of rich and spoiled teens.  (Interestingly enough, not every member of the Top Ten is killed.  In fact, some of the people who you are sure are due to be killed somehow manage to survive.)  One member of the Top Ten, Ginny (Melissa Sue Anderson), should be excited about her upcoming birthday party but instead, she is haunted by flashbacks to a car accident and the brain surgery that she was forced to undergo afterward.  (Footage of actual brain surgery was used in the film.)  Her father (Lawrence Dane) is clueless.  Her therapist (Glenn Ford) insists that Ginny needs to move on with her life.  But Ginny can’t escape the feeling that something is not right, especially when all of her friends start to disappear.

As I said, it all makes sense up until the final ten minutes or so of the film.  That’s when the film produces a twist that is so out-of-nowhere and nonsensical that you cannot help but admire the film’s audacity.  I’m not going to spoil the twist, other than to say that it makes no sense and I absolutely loved it.  From what I’ve read, it appears that the twist ending was almost literally made up on the spot and it’s just so weird that it elevates the entire movie.

Of the many slasher films that came out in the early 1980s, Happy Birthday To Me is one of the best.  It’s a classic that need not ever be remade.  (I doubt any remake could match the audacity of the original’s finale.)  Nicely acted, intelligently directed, and batshit insane when it needed to be, Happy Birthday To Me is an October essential!