Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964, Herschell Gordon Lewis)


Not only did Herschell Gordon Lewis manage to make one of the earliest slasher gore flicks with Blood Feast, he then followed it up with an early redneck torture genre movie in Two Thousand Maniacs! Sure the acting remains wonderfully awful, yet beneath that and some cheesy moments lies a movie that in 1964 examines the South being unable to let the Civil War go. Sadly that aspect remains more relevant than ever, and it makes me appreciate this movie more than others do I suppose.

That and the kills are really disturbing and gory for a drive in 1960s flick. Lewis was not afraid to go beyond any lines of good taste, and the poor Northerners who stumble into the town of Pleasant Valley find out all too well how thirsty for revenge the folks of the town are, via multiple different ways of violence! He helps create the cliches of the two dumb redneck guys responsible for orchestrating the chaos, the victims who fail to realize what is happening until it’s too late, and a fun twist ending that would be at home in any modern horror movie.

Lewis did all this, and helped along with others to drag the horror movie genre into the modern era kicking and screaming. I want to see more of his other movies, and I think myself and others have more of an appreciation for his movies, good or bad. This flick will stick with me for a while, that’s for sure.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Messiah of Evil (1973, Gloria Katz, Willard Huyck)


Equal parts slow burn, nightmare fuel and zombie film, Messiah of Evil is one one those 1970s cult gems that people talk about years later. There are two scenes that echo in my mind: one is a grocery store one that is super freaky, the other takes place in a movie theater which calls to mind Carnival of Souls. Both are highly effective and add to the film’s overall high eerie factor that works very much in it’s favor.

Arletty (Marianna Hill) goes to a small California town in search of her father, played by Royal Dano. Running into an old man (Elisha Cook, Jr.) who tells her about a dark prophecy straight out of a Lovecraft story. She ends up joining a rich guy (Michael Greer) and his two female pals (Joy Bang and Anitra Ford) who hang around despite all of them, Arletty included, reading her father’s spooky diary.

In fact much of this movie has the look and feel of a Lovecraft adaption, with some solid nods to George A. Romero, of course. The final act is your quality 1970s finale that has no qualms about being gloomy. I liked this movie a lot and I might watch it again if Shudder still keeps the rights or Tubi has it. This kind of movie is why I love 1970s horror so much: it has guts, literally.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Don’t Panic (1989, Rubén Galindo Jr.)


Don’t Panic is a quasi Mexican remake/different take on A Nightmare On Elm Street, to a certain degree. This movie works even though a decent chunk of the film made me think I was viewing a teen romantic comedy instead of a slasher movie. Well the violence gets dialed up to eleven later on and there is a pretty good and thrilling hospital scene as well. Poor Michael has a rare gift where he can communicate with the spirit world, and it’s this gift that causes a lot of trouble.

This movie has plenty of gore, really weird and eerie moments, a nice love story between Michael and Alex, and even a solid finale. I was surprised at how much action occurs in this flick, and the kills are rather bloody and shocking at times. Sure this doesn’t quite match the famous movie series that inspired it, yet Don’t Panic has enough good moments to keep it watchable and entertaining. Hey even the ending has that bizarre dream feel!

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Here Comes Hell (2019, Jack McHenry)


Before anyone pounces on me, I wanted to really like Here Comes Hell. The title is neat, the trailer made it seem fun, yet it took me almost a week to muster the effort to finish the movie. Here Comes Hell is not a bad movie, yet I cannot recommend the film to people. I am very disappointed, especially since whenever I discover a quality low budget cult film I eagerly sing its praises.

I did like the cast, and the actors give it their best shot. The film takes way too damn long to get going considering the short run time, and each reference or homage just made me wish I was viewing that movie instead. It does not help that Ready or Not came out the same year and does what this movie wanted to do much better. Not to mention The Lighthouse was a far superior tribute to classic early half century horror, as well. Also from the same year. Yes I know both had bigger budgets, still that didn’t stop a lot of great horror movies in the past.

Jessica Webber was likable enough in the main role, yet I feel that Margaret Clunie as the sister of the man responsible for the events of the film had better screen presence and would have made more sense as the lead final girl. Oh and Tom Bailey from The Thompson Twins is in this movie and is the only male character I even remotely cared about or liked. Skip this, watch the original The Old Dark House instead.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Victor Crowley (2017, Adam Green)


This is where I admit that I haven’t seen any of the other films in the Hatchet series. I only saw Victor Crowley due to Joe Bob Briggs covering it on The Last Drive In, and I found myself liking it although it doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. This is fine, since the movie works as a fun bottle episode fleshed out into a full length movie. Plus it has multiple famous people in the cast.

You have Kane Hodder as the menacing and very gruesome Crowley, legendary horror actress Felissa Rose, Brian Quinn from Impractical Jokers and indie scream queen Tiffany Shepis. The plot isn’t terribly important, just that like any slasher sequel the horror villain rises from the grave to terrorize the living once again. Oh and Dave Sheridan steals the movie as Dillion, who has more confidence than anyone should have. He was a riot.

I will try and view the rest of the series, and I think the first one was on Tubi at one point. This movie isn’t super intelligent but it does offer fun, and sometimes that is good enough. Oh and remember if you defeat the villain to not build a memorial site to him full of power tools he can use. Just saying.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Hack O-Lantern (1988, Jag Mundhra)


I only saw Hack O-Lantern thanks to The Last Drive In With Joe Bob Briggs. I had no idea this movie even existed, and guess what: I liked it. Is it a good movie? Hmm…probably not. Is it my kind of bad trash that I embrace during each fall season? Absolutely. This film has goofy yet awesome one liners, breasts, gore, strange music videos and nasty kills. Plus cemetery sex, on top of a recently killed guy no less.

The opener makes clear that Tommy is a creepy kid who grows up to become a moody goth teenager. His murderous psycho grandpa wants him to embrace the ways of cult hood and become one with his destiny, or something like that. I love how this movie manages to rip off a majority of the Halloween series. They should have made a sequel that covers the rest of the franchise. Oh and the Halloween party scenes are a blast-I miss those times.

Although the last act is a bit too rushed for my liking, I enjoyed this flick. The characters are solid enough and this film achieves its goals and closes up shop rather quickly. I can admire a film that is businesslike and doesn’t need to mess around. “The power is in the blood…” or something like that. Spooky.

Horrorfest 2019 Presents: Demons 2 (1986, Lamberto Bava)


Even though Demons 2 lacks the originality of the first Demons movie (Lamberto Bava even uses people from the first film in this one!) I still liked it as a sequel. Besides the demon coming out of the TV part is freaky, and there is even a demon baby that terrorizes people. The movie theater sitting of the original has been replaced by an apartment complex that faces an evil onslaught of demonic forces, threatening to ruin everyone’s nice evening. One girl who becomes taken over by the evil proceeds to attack her fellow party goers, the end result of which is an orgy of violence in a parking garage that is rather apocalyptic.

I don’t honestly recall any of the characters from this one, although there is once again a guy and a girl desperately trying to stay alive through all of the chaos. Oh and the last act is equally nuts-in fact I felt that Bava was trying to up the original by including plenty of mayhem and freaky moments in this installment. One thing I do miss that the original did well is the soundtrack, although there are some good music tunes in Demons 2 as well. Never underestimate the Italians’ talent at making super gory horror movies with plenty of monsters and carnage along the way.

Horrorfest 2019 Presents: The Babysitter (2017, McG)


Finally lying down, beer in hand, I watched The Babysitter last night. This was my kind of late night modern slasher film-savvy, fun, really violent, channeling the 1980s. In fact this movie would have been right at home during the slasher heyday, and if it was older many would regard The Babysitter as some lost cult classic. As it stands it is a really good modern day horror film, one with a good cast and snappy one liners.

Young Cole doesn’t realize until it’s too late that his super gorgeous babysitter, Bee, is the leader of a devil cult. One that sacrifices lonely losers and then uses the blood of the innocent to achieve power. Or, something along those lines, that aspect was not important. Once the group finds out that Cole knows, the poor kid has to run and this movie turns into Home Alone on steroids. Bonus points for the Foghat hanging out montage that is oddly adorable.

Sure I have seen this kind of movie done before, yet pure slasher cinema is apparently Bella Thorne crying about getting shot in the boob. Also Samera Weaving and Judah Lewis have that nice bit of chemistry that was just not meant to last. I wouldn’t mind if this became a franchise, although it is unlikely to happen. Even though it is cool that this is on Netflix, getting to see it on the big screen would have been more satisfying. Oh well.

Horrorfest 2018 Presents: Hell of the Living Dead (1980, Bruno Mattei)


Too bad Hell of the Living Dead only really has a cool title and some decent gore, because the characters are way too one note even for a 1980s Italian zombie movie. There was some interesting stuff about how the Third World is devoured by the richer countries, as reflected by the zombies, yet it comes into the movie way too late to have any kind of major impact. I lost interest midway through the film, and this might have worked more as a short movie or even a TV series instead of a movie. Bruno Mattei lacks the talent and skill that other, better Italian directors possessed, and while there are some great moments Hell of the Living Dead feels as if its a greatest hits collection of other, better zombie and horror movies.

If anything the plant setting at the beginning of the film was pretty cool, and should have been used more. I would have gone for a bottle episode type movie instead, one that would have been different from the multiple cannibal/zombie/gore fest movies that were so popular at the time. Skip this flick and watch Zombie Holocaust instead, although I wonder if maybe I had viewed this one before the other I would have felt differently. I don’t think so though as Zombie Holocaust is clearly the better made of the two.

Horrorfest 2018 Presents: Zombie Holocaust (1980, Marino Girolami)


The Italians sure had a sense of style and many of their 1970s and 1980s films were gory and fun to watch. Some of them featured Ian McCulloch, who has a good screen presence in the handful of horror films I have seen him in. Zombie Holocaust is one of those, and it also went by multiple names, which was normal for foreign horror cinema. I found this movie to be wonderfully campy, and not as brutal and unforgiving as a certain other, more famous movie I watched in October. I gave both the same rating, and each one achieves different goals, which is fine.

Donald O’Brian hams it up as the resident mad scientist, while Alexandra Delli Colli serves as the film’s screen queen. I chuckled at the “I am determinded to have your brain” line, and I thought the zombies looked delightfully nasty in this film. Oh and this film has cannibals, because it takes place mostly on an island in a horror movie and so that’s a basic requirement, it seems. Even though this is mostly for gorehounds such as myself, I think Zombie Holocaust is one of those midnight cult movies that is both entertaining and was shocking for the 1980s. I wish I could have seen this on the big screen.

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