Everything You Know About Vampires Is Wrong: Night Hunter (1996, directed by Rick Jacobson)


Forget everything you know about vampires!

Did you think that vampires could only go out at night?  Wrong.  They can run around in broad daylight.

Did you think that you needed a cross or a stake to kill a vampire?  Wrong.  You can break their necks or use a shotgun.

Did you think that we get new vampires by vampires biting their victims late at night?  Wrong.  Vampires can only breed during a solar eclipse.

Did you think that there’s thousands of vampires hiding out across the world?  Wrong.  There’s only seven left.

That’s the idea behind Night Hunter, which stars Don “The Dragon” Wilson as Jack Cutter.  Cutter’s grandparents were vampire hunters.  His parents were vampire hunters.  Cutter was destined to be a vampire hunter.  And now that he’s the only member of his family left alive, he is determined to wipe out the last few remaining vampires.  Jack has two problems.  The first is that the police don’t believe in vampires so they just think that Jack is going around Los Angeles and killing random people.  The second is that a solar eclipse is rapidly approaching and, if the vampires breed, all of Jack’s work will be for nothing.  Accompanied by a plucky tabloid reporter named Raimy (Melanie Smith), Jack searches for the king of the vampires.  Not coincidentally, Raimy looks just like the woman that the king once loved over a hundred years ago.

For a direct-to-video vampire film, Night Hunter’s not bad.  Wilson may not have been a great actor but he was one of the best kick boxers in the world and this brings a verisimilitude to Night Hunter‘s action scenes that most direct-to-video action films couldn’t hope to duplicate.  Rick Jacobson directed the majority of Wilson’s films and, in Night Hunter, he keeps things moving along at a steady pace.  Night Hunter doesn’t waste any time getting to the vampire action and it never pretends to be anything more than what it is.  Best of all, the film’s got Maria Ford as a French vampire named Tourneur who says things like, “I will not await vengeance, the hunter will die!”

When I first watched Night Hunter, I thought that it was a rip-off of Blade but Blade actually came out two years after Night Hunter.  Unless Don “The Dragon” Wilson (who co-produced) was a fan of Tomb of Dracula, the similarities between the two films are probably coincidental.  While Night Hunter may not be Blade, it’s still pretty damn cool.

From the Direct-To-Video Film Vault: Naked Obsession (1990, directed by Dan Golden)


Franklyn Carlysle (William Katt) is a fine, upstanding city councilman, with a rich wife (Wendy MacDonald) and a bright future.  Carlysle wants to be mayor and he’s come up with the perfect scheme.  He’s going to work with a developer to renovate Dante’s Square, the city’s notorious red light district.

One night, while Franklyn is driving through Dante’s Square, he’s carjacked.  Someone knocks him out before stealing both his car and his wallet.  When Franklyn comes to, he discovers that he’s being watched over by Sam Silver (played by Rick Dean).  Sam is apparently a homeless philosopher, who tells Franklyn that he’s been taking life too seriously and that sometimes, you just have to yell, “Fuck this shit!” at the top of your lungs.  When Franklyn asks where he can find a phone so he can call the cops, Sam leads Franklyn to the Yin Yang Club.  It’s there that Franklyn sees Lynne (Maria Ford), a dancer to whom he is immediately attracted.  Suddenly, his missing car and his stolen wallet no longer seem that important.  With his marriage already in trouble, Franklyn returns to the club the next night.

Franklyn soon discovers that Lynne has a thing for being choked during sex.  Even though Sam keeps telling him things like, “Nothing wrong with the dark – you spend half your life in it – trouble is, most people keep their eyes closed,” Franklyn is worried that his affair with Lynne will derail his mayoral ambitions.  However, when Lynne shows up dead, Franklyn finds himself dealing with a much bigger problem.  He’s now the number one suspect in her murder.  Things just get stranger as Franklyn discovers that he wasn’t the only one cheating, meets a masked, gun-wielding stripper, and discovers that Sam might not even be of this world.

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It can be said, without fear of hyperbole, that Naked Obsession in the Citizen Kane of Roger Corman-Produced Straight-To-Video Maria Ford-Stripper movies.  This is largely due to the performance of the late, great Rick Dean in the role of Sam.  Sam’s not just just a homeless drunk with a motormouth.  As played by Dean, he’s a philosopher king and, the film hints, much more.  He comes across like an angel of the devil and he’s exactly what Franklyn Carlysle needs to liven up his too safe life.  Maria Ford, who specialized in playing troubled strippers in Roger Corman films, gives one of her best performances and, in the role of Franklyn’s secretary, Elena Sahagun, has some great scenes too.  Finally, William Katt classes up the joint, giving a real performance as Franklyn instead of just sleepwalking through the film.  Dan Golden’s direction emphasizes the surreal and, by the time the end credits roll, Naked Obsession will leave you wanting to spend a night or two at Dante’s Square.

Like so many classic films from the golden age of late night Cinemax. Naked Obsession has never been released on DVD or Blu-ray but it can be found on YouTube.

A Movie A Day #123: Dillinger and Capone (1995, directed by Jon Purdy)


1934.  Chicago.  The FBI guns down a man outside of a movie theater and announces that they have finally killed John Dillinger.  What the FBI doesn’t realize it that they didn’t get Dillinger.  Instead they killed Dillinger’s look-alike brother.  The real John Dillinger (played by Martin Sheen) has escaped.  Over the next five years, under an assumed name, Dillinger goes straight, gets married, starts a farm, and lives an upstanding life. Only a few people know his secret and, unfortunately, one of them is Al Capone (F. Murray Abraham).  Only recently released from prison and being driven mad by syphilis, Capone demands that Dillinger come out of retirement and pull one last job.  Capone has millions of dollars stashed away in a hotel vault and he wants Dillinger to steal it for him.  Just to make sure that Dillinger comes through for him, Capone is holding Dillinger’s family hostage.

This film, which was produced by Roger Corman, combines two popular but probably untrue rumors, that Dillinger faked his own death and that Al Capone had millions of dollars stashed somewhere in Chicago.  Though the two never met in real life (and moved in very different criminal circles), the idea of bringing Dillinger and Capone together sounds like a good one.  Unfortunately, the execution leaves a lot to be desired.  Sheen and Murray are both miscast in the lead roles, with Sheen especially being too old to be believable as the 40 something Dillinger, and the script never takes advantage of their notoriety.  In this movie, Dillinger could just as easily be any retired bank robber while Capone could just as easily be any unstable mob boss.  In classic Corman fashion, more thought was given to the title than to the story.

One things that does work about the movie is the supporting cast, which is full of familiar faces.  Clint Howard, Don Stroud, Bert Remsen, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Catherine Hicks, Maria Ford, and Martin Sheen’s brother, Joe Estevez, are all present and accounted for.  Especially be sure to keep an eye out for Jeffrey Combs, playing an FBI agent who suspects that Dillinger may still be alive.  He may not get to do much but he’s still Jeffrey Combs.

The SPM Trilogy Revisited : “Slumber Party Massacre III”


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What the heck, let’s wrap this up, shall we?

While the appearance of Slumber Party II may have surprised some being that it came five years after the original, it’s safe to say that when Roger Corman unleashed Slumber Party Massacre III  on the direct-to-video market in 1990, nobody was shocked in the least.

Shot primarily at one beach location and one residential home for exteriors, and with all the interiors being filmed at Corman’s Venice, California studio, the third installment in the SPM series cost a grand total of $350,000 and took somewhere in the neighborhood of one week to get “in the can,” as the saying goes, so yeah — it’s cheap , quick stuff we’re talking about here.

That being said, that certainly doesn’t mean it’s bad. What starts as a pretty bog-standard tale of stereotypical SoCal bimbo Diane (Brandi Burkett) and her friends ( a crew that features a few  young-at-the-time ladies, such as Hope Marie Carlton, Maria Ford, and Keely Christian, whose faces — and other parts — you may recognize from similar early-90s “slasher”/sexploitation fare) playing volleyball at the beach and then returning to Diane’s parents’ place for a weekend slumber party, where they are set upon, in turn, by their prankster-ish boyfriends, a voyeuristic “nosy neighbor” type, a mute Albino creepy dude, and finally a pyscho killer with a power drill, actually morphs somewhere along the way into a flick with a pretty wickedly sadistic, even black-hearted, sense of humor — with a pretty heavy dose of the misogyny you’ve come to expect from these things thrown in, of course.

As a brief case in point, instead of the standard bathtub-electrocution with either a hair dryer or toaster, in SPM III one of the nubile young co-eds is dispatched in the tub by means of a vibrator gone haywire! Nasty stuff, to be sure, but clearly not something that takes itself too terribly seriously while it’s dishing out its feminist-unfriendly — hell, female-unfriendly — goods.

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As with the previous two entries in this series, Corman again opted for an all-female writing and directing team here in order, one would assume, to help deflect any criticism this one might bet from the usual quarters (not that very many people were paying attention by this point), with those duties falling to Catherine Cyran (one of his regular screenwriters at the time) and Sally Mattison (a semi-veteran of Hollywood’s low-budget fringes best known for her work as a producer), respectively, and while it’s fair to say that this film is the most “seems-like-it-coulda-been-directed-by-a-man-ish” of the bunch, given that it ups the ante a bit in terms of its misogyny and plays it much “straighter,” if you will, than its predecessors in terms of sticking to the standard and much-maligned slasher formula, at the end of the day it’s still a pretty tongue-in-cheek affair  that’s just a bit more self-indulgent and gratuitous in terms of the T&A and overall mean-spiritedness.

To their absolute, credit, though, Mattison and Cyran, while carrying over the blatant phallo-centrism of the whole power drill thing, at least decide to throw in a bit of “whodunit?”-style mystery into the proceedings vis a vis their killer’s identity. Yes, folks, for the first time in a Slumber Party Massacre movie, the psycho might actually have some motivation for his murder spree here!

Or, ya know, he might turn out to be just some random stranger after all. I guess I won’t “spoil” anything in case you haven’t actually seen it. I will say, however,  that the mystery angle isn’t a particularly involving one — but hell, at least it’s there. We’ve already firmly established that “take what you can get” is the order of business with these things, haven’t we? The same — ahem! — “philosophy” applies here.

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All in all,  though, you do get the sense that everyone involved here is giving it their best go on what they’ve got — which admittedly isn’t much in terms of time, talent, and money — but I’d rather watch so-called “D-listers” actually try than “A-listers” sleepwalking through yet another mega-budget production any day of the week. Slumber Party Massacre III may not be particularly ambitious stuff by any stretch, but it’s put together and performed by people who gave an honest day’s effort at the office. That’s worth a little something right there,  and after the absolute clusterfuck of wanna-be “trippy-ness” in the second flick, the “return to roots” sensibility in this one is very welcome indeed.

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As always, the third and final outing (to date) in the SPM “oeuvre” is available on DVD from Shout! Factory packed together with its older celluloid sisters in a two-disc set under the heading “The Slumber Party Massacre Collection,” part of the “Roger Corman’s Cult Classics” series. It’s presented full-frame with 2.0 stereo sound — and while if there’s been any remastering done with either it’s certainly minimal, the whole thing looks and sounds generally decent enough. Extras include a good little “making-of” featurette, a feature-length commentary with director Mattison, the original trailer, a few trailers for other titles in the Corman series, a poster and still gallery, and a liner notes booklet by Slumber Party Massacre fanatic/filmmaker Jason Paul Collum. A very comprehensive package well worth your time.

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Look, who are we kidding? This isn’t a movie out to set the world on fire — hell, it’s not even out to set the DTV slasher world on fire. It’s there to give two distinct parties their money’s worth — Roger Corman and you, the viewer. It manages to deliver on both fronts, even if just barely. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily worthy of a ton of respect, but it’s not worthy of any sort of scorn, either. Don’t expect too damn much, and you’ll walk away satisfied.

Not, I suppose, that anyone who might be inclined to “expect much” as far as their entertainment choices go  is even watching this in the first place.