Horrorfest 2014 Presents: Orca: The Killer Whale (1977, Michael Anderson)


Joe Bob Briggs’ commentary on this film is complete gold, and is far better than anything I could possibly write about this movie. In fact there is a good movie in here somewhere, however Orca is overall a mediocre at best Jaws rip off that fails hard because it journeys into self-parody. The film also has some of the most hilarious slow motion deaths in cinema history, as the angry killer whale has to rely on his victims to literally hang over the boat in order for him to grab them. Did I mention that the big angry whale is also seeking revenge? Does it matter that really such a thing isn’t possible? Nope. This is a movie so reality is suspended, however there is only so much that I can take before I start to laugh and write off what is happening onscreen. Case in point: the Orca manages to attack a power station, followed by it giving Richard Harris the death stare as he stands on land. Now that’s one intelligent pissed off animal. This film is literally if Free Willy’s mate was killed and he decided to go on an epic killing spree-in fact maybe Free Willy is really what would happen if Mr. Orca decided to befriend a kid instead of murdering people. But where would the fun be in that?

What’s even worse about this movie is that it wastes a good cast that includes besides Harris Charlotte Rampling (who is given very little to do whatsoever), Keenan Wynn, Bo Derek (before she became famous-what happens to her is one of the film’s highlights) Robert Carradine and a post One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest Will Sampson, who has some of the film’s less cringe worthy lines. Although I liked certain moments and I didn’t mind the film’s ridiculous plot I still cannot give this film a passing grade. And yes I must stress viewing Joe Bob Briggs’ MonsterVision commentary for this film because it is really quite humorous. I’m not sure why the 70s became so killer animal obsessed as Jaws wasn’t the earliest example, even if it did end up becoming the most famous and best of the bunch. Oh and for some reason this film has a score by the legendary Ennio Morricone. I hope he got paid really well for composing music for this turkey.

Horrorfest 2014 Presents: Body Bags (1993, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, Larry Sulkis)


Lately I’ve been viewing more anthologies and enjoying them, particularly horror film ones, simply because the horror genre is often at its best in the short form. Edgar Allen Poe certainly thought so and he gave us some of the best short horror fiction. Stephen King’s Night Shift and other anthologies he’s written over the years have been mined for full length horror films based off of his creepy, much shorter tales. Body Bags is such an anthology, however it was originally meant to be a TV series on Showtime-unfortunately for us all, that never happened and all we are left with is this film, which has a typical wrap around plot and of course three ghoulish tales of murder and mayhem. Overall this is a pretty good, enjoyable feature, and considering that it involved John Carpenter (also playing the sinister narrator) and Tobe Hooper, two horror movie legends, its a shame that we only have the three stories and the one film from the project.

Emerging from hiding in a morgue, the weird looking corner stops and notices us, the viewer. He then proceeds to find body bags, obviously, and uses them to spin tales. The first such one is called “The Gas Station,” and it is the best one of the bunch. Directed by John Carpenter as is the second tale, this one centers on poor Anne (Alex Datcher), a college student who takes a job at a gas station on a lonely stretch of highway in the middle of nowhere. With a killer on the loose, no less, which makes her the typical final girl/not particularly bright heroine found in so many horror movies. What really makes this tale eerie and suspenseful is the killer, who I will not reveal here because it is a delightful twist, one that turns this story into an urban legend of sorts. You have Robert Carradine being his usual cheerful self, Wes Craven acting all odd and frumpy, and Sam Raimi in a cameo that is well, rather shocking. Also Carpenter cannot resist throwing in a reference to his 1978 classic Halloween. See if you can find the reference.

Next up is the also Carpenter directed “Hair,” which I found to be the weakest of the bunch although still decent/solid overall. This one has the best cast, with Stacy Keach as a vain man desperate to grow hair so that he can please his long suffering girlfriend, played by Sheena Easton. David Warner and Deborah Harry show up as people who offer to help, and of course they are not who they seem. The twist ending is actually rather frightening, and as a man going bald I have to wonder if maybe losing my hair instead of becoming a slave to something alive is perhaps the wiser choice. Although I’m not sure how this one fits into what the Corner says before the story…

Finally you have “Eye,” which is a frightening and tragic episode, directed by Tobe Hooper and starring Mark Hamill as a baseball player who descends into madness after receiving an eye transplant. Although some objected to this episode’s religious overtones, I rather enjoyed “Eye,” finding it to be both rather freaky and also sad, especially with how it ends. Besides one can argue that the episode was not condemning religion, although I cannot go into this further without spoiling the conclusion. Oh and look for great cameos from famous icons John Agar and Roger Corman, who play the doctors that operate on Hamill. I guess I should have recognized Twiggy as Hamill’s poor wife, too, and for some reason I didn’t.

As for the wrap around story, I am amused by how it concludes, and what it really entails. Particularly since it stars Tom Arnold and Tobe Hooper and has a really good singular joke. Body Bags may or may not have resulted in a decent TV show, but perhaps it works best as a singular anthology film. Many thanks goes to my local public library and Scream Factory for the DVD release I was able to get my hands on.

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