Fun, crazy movie with default ambient horror music. Andrea Riseborough (the titular Mandy, and I think Oblivion is due a rewatch) is a hitman who possesses the minds of people who can get close to the target, kills target then self. Jennifer Jason Leigh is her boss, and she ends up going two levels of virtual – so far, so eXistenZ. She possesses Chris Abbott but stays too long, and he begins to see her memories and visit her home and kill her family.

Haley (Kaya Scodelario of Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights) is a student swimmer who stupidly drives into a hurricane evac zone to find her stupid father Barry Pepper, who is trapped in the crawlspace of his house because the storm flooding brought alligators. It’s a fight for survival and escape, and you assume the body count will be low, but we get looters then cops then rescuers, all of whom become gator chow. Not impressed by the characters or dialogue, but the storm looked cool and the lighting was excellent.

From the two writers of Carpenter’s The Ward. I haven’t caught up with Aja in a while – after Haute Tension and The Hills Have Eyes Remake came Kiefer Sutherland horror Mirrors, horror-comedy Piranha Remake, Last Ten Minutes entry Horns, then a psychological thriller nobody saw.

Rescuers: Down Under

Can’t seem to remember if I ever saw this before – 90% sure that I did not, and that I saw the Kiefer Sutherland remake back in the day. I do remember the girlfriend disappearing at a gas station, the boyfriend searching for years, finally meeting the kidnapper and being given the option of finding out exactly what happened to the girl by experiencing it himself, or never knowing… he chooses the former, and is drugged then buried alive.

But it’s a 100+ minute movie and there’s more to it… like a scene at the beginning where the couple runs out of gas in the middle of a tunnel, and he abandons her in the darkness, some nifty foreshadowing. The man having a new woman in the years-later section of the movie is vaguely familiar – she’s tolerant of his continuing search for his ex, to a point. The main thing I’d lost is that the kidnapper has a major role in the movie. We see him deciding to kidnap people, then figuring out who/when/how. He takes notes and keeps time when knocking himself out with ether, ripped off by Piercing. So the moment when he gets a woman at the gas station to come to his car almost feels like a triumph of luck and planning.

Sluizer’s best-known worked ended up being the two Vanishings. He made other features with respectable actors, dunno why they are obscure. Then he was in the middle of filming with River Phoenix when River died, and Sluizer resorted to making Stephen Baldwin movies. Lead actress Johanna ter Steege turned up in Immortal Beloved and a Philippe Garrel movie.

At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (1964, José Mojica Marins)

Opens with a woman talking to the audience, Elvira-style, then the screaming sfx over the opening titles make it feel like this is gonna be a campy carnival ride of a movie. It’s not really, despite the TV Batman scene transitions, must just be José “Coffin Joe” Marins having as much fun in the editing room as he appears to be having in the lead acting role. The dubbing (and everything else) isn’t technically great, but it’s an honestly eccentric movie, up there with Death Bed on the pile of horrors with justifiable cult reputations.

Joe/Ze is the most feared man in town since he has no faith, and no compunction about violence and murder. He’s also a rude, shitty guy – at the beginning his woman tells him something, he replies “you have talked enough,” and walks out. He goes to the bar, cuts off a guy’s hand, whips another guy terribly, then returns home and kills his wife with a tarantula, then a second later he’s getting all moral on a random man. Seeking an heir, he kills his friend and rapes her girl, but she commits suicide – then the doctor wants to investigate the friend’s death, so Ze pokes out his eyes and sets him on fire.

After dude has been so terrible you’d think the last ten minutes of him screaming and running from vengeful ghosts would be more rewarding, but that fact that he lives to appear in a sequel gives the impression that Marins wasn’t serious about the comeuppance, he just enjoyed being bad for ninety minutes. Even on my standard old DVD, the avenging ghost’s stop-motion granite aura looked rad.


The Unliving (2010, Hugo Lilja)

I had some extra time, checked out a nice HD copy of this half-hour Swedish short. Nice twist on the ol’ zombie apocalypse. Mark and Katrin are in love – he installs wiring in zombie brains turning them into docile workers, she goes on raids into the city and nailguns zombies to walls so they can be captured and brought to Mark’s lab. They’ve each got problems – she kills a coworker who gets bitten, which is against the rules – and he spots his own mom and brings her home instead of drilling her brains, which is definitely against the rules. I assume their bosses are corrupt and there’s a whole gov’t conspiracy going on and this would’ve been expanded had they ended up making a feature version, which it feels like this very much wants to be… I kept stopping myself from being impressed with the massive amount of work put into this short because it ends up feeling like an overpriced advertisement for something, or an extended trailer for a miniseries. Or maybe I’m just cynical – it has some good character bits, like Katrin coming home, seeing her partner’s zombie mom, and stress-eating cereal. The director and writer finally got their break into features with 2018’s space adventure Aniara.

“What is a troll?”

Cyberbullies get murdered by ghost of their victim, five stars. Much of the terror here is in degraded video and waiting for sites to load. Unfortunately when I think of this movie, instead of the cool stuff like the one guy’s suicide by blender, I keep lingering on the last two seconds, which unwisely leave the desktop and show us the ghost. But movie also had positive outcomes, getting me to put the post-it note over my laptop camera again. Fun how the movie sets up Blaire, whose desktop we’re in, as a friend, paints her as a victim, then as her friends turn against each other and die, it’s revealed that she’s just as bad, and finally worse.

Blender boy is Terri from the movie Terri, and two of the girls are TV stars. The director is from Georgia (the country) and his followup was an “animated documentary” about a painter/puppeteer. The writer worked on the Sleepy Hollow series, and the gaggle of producers are the only ones who returned for the sequel.

How did Karl Krumpet’s 25-second vacation video get eleven million views??

Child’s Play (1988, Tom Holland)

First off, the baddie is known as The Strangler, but he has a getaway driver – what strangler has accomplices? He’s also a powerful satanist, and when cornered by a cop in a poorly staged toy-store shootout, he pours his soul into little Chucky, which our boy Andy’s mom buys from a “peddler” in a back alley (I dunno why I find it funny that they use the word peddler so many times).

Chucky kills mom’s friend the babysitter first, which is investigated by the guy who shot The Strangler – he’s the only cop in town, and doesn’t do a useful thing in the whole movie. Then Chucky takes Andy on some adventures into the city, first to blow up the house of his getaway driver (who escaped from police! the police not coming off great in this film) then to his voodoo guru’s house. Chucky rightly points out that gurus shouldn’t tell their clients where their own voodoo doll is hidden, then kills the doll after getting the vital info that he can only soul-transfer into the first person to whom he revealed his identity, so, Andy. Standoff ensues, finally mom and Andy and the fuckup cops killing the hell out of the killer doll. I’d forgotten how great Chucky looks in these – some real attention paid to the effects.

Holland directed Fright Night, and a Whoopi Goldberg action-comedy that I’ve somehow never heard of, even though in the late 80’s I definitely tried to watch all the Whoopi Goldberg action-comedies. Writer/creator Don Mancini has stayed involved in the whole series. Andy’s mom is Catherine Hicks (whale scientist of Star Trek IV). Brad Dourif, undistinctive as the human killer but next-level as the doll’s voice, has been in a ton of things, always best when he’s playing crazy. The cop had just played the evil prince in Princess Bride, was later the voice of Jack Skellington. Poor Andy would mainly keep playing Andy.

Dourif opens a locked door the way you do in movies: by firing a glancing shot a couple inches from the deadbolt:

Andy’s mom checks out the Mighty Damballa:


Child’s Play 2 (1990, John Lafia)

Chucky’s skull is salvaged by toy company, a great idea! The Mike Pence-like boss wants the thing investigated as part of a relaunch of the doll line, and it’s not a great sign when a chintzy electrocution effect throws a company engineer through the window. Andy’s mom is off recovering in an institution, so the kid is set up with a foster family: two bickering parents and a cool motorcycle chick, while Chucky slaughters the company flunky who took him home (hey, finally some strangling from The Strangler).

Since everyone loves a mass murdering doll, the movie is trying harder to be funny and quippy… Chucky complaining about “women drivers” while the chick is trying to shake him of her car is a low, but foster-home manager dying on a photocopier is cute. This is the one with the memorable ending back in the toy factory, where Andy and the chick kill Chucky in six different ways.

Chucky fashions himself a Terminator 2 knife-hand:

Lafia was a writer on part one, also directed an Ally Sheedy dog horror. Grace Zabriskie (appearing in Twin Peaks at the time) played the foster-home manager. Walkabout star Jenny Agutter is foster mom, Beef from Phantom of the Paradise is foster dad. The motorcycle chick is Christine Elisa, who was in Body Snatchers with Meg Tilly, sister of Bride of Chucky star Jennifer Tilly.

Great scene: three people here know this is a hostage situation, Grace is oblivious:


Child’s Play 3 (1991, Jack Bender)

Years later, we’ve reached the limits of young Andy as an actor, so he’s recast as a teen in military school. At the toy company, Mike Pence is back, arguing with an Ebert-type that the dolls should be rebooted again, and this time the resurrected Chucky kills the boss himself.

Stop putting police and military shit into my killer doll movies. Hardly anything of interest here, the military school providing new friends and enemies for Andy before Chucky leads them off-campus to a carnival. It’s jokier than ever, and goes against its own mythology in a desperate attempt to keep going. Chucky kills a garbage man, the barber, replaces their paintballs with live ammo before a war-game, then waves a gun around inside the carnival haunted house until he’s dropped into a giant fan.

The barber!

Bender would later direct a significant chunk of Lost episodes, and a couple of well-regarded Stephen King TV series. Very happy to see Kirsty’s dad Andrew Robinson making the most of the barber role – he would later be a regular on Deep Space Nine. New Andy is Justin Whalin, soon to be a TV star on Lois and Clark.

Sorry other actors, I only care about the barber:

Every SHOCKtober you’ve gotta watch an anthology horror… this played at the Plaza this month, but I didn’t feel like going out during the apocalypse so I watched the blu-ray at home.

Three drug guys have heard that there’s a package for them at a funeral home, but before he’ll give them “the shit,” the mortician shows some bodies and tells how each met their demise. So far, so anthology-horror, but the difference here is that the framing story is the best part, due to an incredible performance by mortician Clarence Williams III (Prince’s dad in Purple Rain, a lead on The Mod Squad, and hey, this is my second movie in a row with an actor from The Cool World). He plays it big and campy, with a comic unpredictability without losing his menacing edge, and whenever the three guys ask for their shit, he repeats “the shit” in the craziest way.

Anyway, story one: Anthony Griffith (of Panther the same year) is a rookie Black cop whose white partners beat a Black political rival (Tom Wright, also star of an anthology segment in Creepshow 2) to death while “Strange Fruit” plays – so it’s gonna be an unsubtle social issues movie. Anthony can’t take the heat and leaves the force, but that’s not good enough. “Where were you when I needed you?” After hunting down and killing the three cops as brutally and ironically as possible, the vengeful ghost frames Anthony for their deaths. One of the white cops was in The Crow, another in Texas Chainsaw Massacre III.

The next story involves extreme domestic abuse mixed with It’s a Good Life. I dunno what made them cast David Alan Grier as a violent monster stepdad, but it works out. The writer/director plays a concerned teacher who comes to student Walter’s house, meets his hot mom (Paula Jai Parker of She Hate Me and Friday), and they all get tormented by wicked Grier until Walter (who later played Young Michael Jordan in Space Jam!) takes his psychic revenge.

A racist white southern politician named Duke (heh) is running on an anti-affirmative action platform while living in a house where a lot of bad historical shit went down, until a small army of stop-motion dolls imbued with the souls of murdered slaves take him out (this has better puppetry than the Puppet Master movies). Corbin Bernsen (between Major League II and The Dentist) is the main racist, and Roger Guenveur Smith (Do the Right Thing‘s Smiley) is his image consultant (who is also murdered).

Starting to bring things home for the framing-story boys, the fourth body is a guy they knew. Jerome (Lamont Bentley of TV’s Moesha) is a crazy murderous gangster paired up with a klansman in prison by “experimental” doctor Rosalind Cash (Buckaroo Banzai, The Omega Man) under the logic that they both killed a lotta Black people. Jerome is tormented, but won’t repent, and all this turns out to be a years-long dying fantasy as he’s killed in the street in the first, pre-prison scene.

Cash died of cancer just months after this film’s release:

Obviously at this point the three dudes are gonna discover coffins of their own in the funeral home, though I didn’t need the mortician to turn into a literal demon, he was fine as he was.

Rusty also directed Chappelle’s Show and made Fear of a Black Hat, which suddenly seems essential. One of his two belated sequels stars Keith David in the mortician role, which could work, and the other stars Tony Todd. Rusty’s cowriter on all three films is Darin Scott (also: Vincent Price anthology From a Whisper to a Scream, Danny Trejo anthology Mr. Malevolent, and he directed Jeffrey Combs in Dark House).

Part one was the masterpiece that I remembered, and part two… well, it’s a sequel, it’s fine. Maybe losing Stuart Gordon (who was filming Robot Jox instead) was a real problem, or maybe it’s just sequelitis, or I should relax, since this is still quite good.

Dan has no self-respect, is still palling around with the clearly mad Herbert, who is doing gruesome experiments in an unsupervised warzone before returning to the hospital of part one, where he claims he’s doing important work but mostly fucks around reanimating whimsically-joined body parts.

Curious Dr. Graves (Mel Stewart of Shirley Clarke’s Cool World) awakens the evil psychic head of Dr. Hill. As before, emotionally fragile Dan tries to have a love life (Fabiana Udenio of the second Austin Powers) and West accidentally kills someone (this time a cop!) whom he has to resurrect to get out of trouble. And sure as shit, they go the full Frankenstein, making a Bride out of stolen body parts, causing a love-triangle problem for Dan, who chooses life, so the new creature tears her own heart out.

Glad to see that this holds up. Killer Klowns land in small town and kill almost everybody in extremely circusy ways. Silly, but constantly inventive, with a very high body count and kickass theme song. Looks real good in HD.

The Chiodos have an Alien Xmas special out on streaming this month! Debbie is 80’s horror royalty, also appearing in Return of the Living Dead II and Night of the Creeps. Mike was later in Driving Me Crazy with Billy Dee Williams, and a leprechaun movie from the director of Subspecies. Sympathetic Deputy Dave played DEATHSTALKER in Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell the same year. His shitty, teen-hating cop boss is from Point Blank and Hitchcock’s Topaz. I’m sorry to report that not only did the ice cream truck-driving Terenzi brothers not become major film stars, one of them died this August.