Horrorfest 2017 Presents: Bite (2015, Chad Archibald)


Do not watch Bite while eating, as the film roughly 40 minutes in becomes gross. I have viewed a lot of body horror film and yet I still find this movie disgusting. Which is clearly what those who made it had in mind, while channeling other films. Modern horror does that a lot, and unfortunately too much familiar territory is covered as a result.

The cast mostly helps this film, although Jordan Gray is bland as Casey’s boyfriend.  Elma Begovic is rather sympathetic as Casey, despite turning into a monster. Denise Yuen and Annette Wozniak play her friends: one who cares about her, the other does not. Things get out of hand quickly 40 minutes in, and the body horror elements were the film’s strongest.

I did not care for the found footage style opening, and the movie took a bit too long to really get moving. Still Bite is not all bad, and it was not a complete waste of time. Oh and bugs creep me out, just like everyone else. Yet they can also be oddly fascinating. From a distance, behind glass.

Horrorfest 2015 Presents: Nightbreed (1990, Clive Barker)


A good way to tell if you are in a horror movie is that David Cronenberg is your psychologist. Plus you are having recurring nightmares of murders and a place that is not found on any map. If you also encounter a strange man who ends up carving off his own flesh and speaks of a mystical place known as Midian, the very place you have been searching for, well you are most likely in a horror movie. Clive Barker created a cult film in Nightbreed, a twisted yet oddly captivating and moving fantasy horror movie about a man’s search for a place to call home.

Boone is the name of that young man, troubled because he is being framed for crimes he has never committed. Midian happens to be something truly else, a community that is almost out of this world. Only Barker, the creator of so many gruesome and yet intriguing films and books could give birth to something as inspired and fascinating as this film. Lucky for me Netflix had the director’s cut which was released by Scream Factory, and thus I was able to witness Barker’s vision as intended. Studios never care about the artist and what they are trying to accomplish.

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Even after I saw this film I still was not sure what the creatures of Midian were, and I’m not sure if they were really good or not. Compared to a twisted mask wearing serial killer, rednecks and corrupt local law enforcement the beings of Midian are saints. Also its too bad that Craig Sheffer never became a big star, as he’s great in this movie as Boone. Matching him rather well is Anne Bobby as Lori Winston, his girlfriend, who does not understand what is going on with Boone and searches for him despite it clearly not being a good idea. Cronenberg manages to be rather creepy as Boone’s psychologist, Dr. Decker-although I cannot say more about what occurs-and he really should have been in more movies, as he is that rare director who can act.

I also liked how the film uses so many different creature effects, and of course Doug Bradley, who famously played Pinhead, makes an appearance in this movie. I also prefer the alternative ending, which is the one that is used for the Netflix copy of this film since it is the director’s cut. I know of the original ending and it sounds weaker by comparison. Although just like Hellraiser this film falls short of greatness, I still think of both films rather highly and I have so far enjoyed Barker as a director. Its worth noting that both Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions were both meant to be franchises, and yet it was Hellraiser that ended up being the series, for better or for worse.

Horrorfest 2014 Presents: Night of the Demons (1988, Kevin Tenney)


Thanks to Scream Factory I was able to view another 80s cult film, this one being titled Night of the Demons. By the late 1980s the horror film genre was tired of slasher movies, and so films like this one were more the norm, although of course a group of teenagers wander into some abandoned building and get horribly murdered. However “Night” has a more slower pace, as it builds up the tension until events really get out of hand. And naturally a film like this has a morality tale of sorts included, offering up why one should not mess with forces beyond our world, or something like that. Not really a complex message, although this movie is pretty straightforward, which is part of its charm. Also the opener is darkly humorous, as it features an old man preparing to lace his candy apples with razor blades. How that side story concludes, is um, with a quite gruesome surprise.

This is the type of horror movie where you have character names such as Angela, Judy, Helen, Max and Roger. Although of course you have a guy like Stooge, who by the end of the film truly lives up to his human pig reputation. Most of the film doesn’t contain humor and is a suspenseful movie, turning into a chase style trying to escape movie by the conclusion. Despite having some cliches “Night” has some surprises, and I was entertained despite the film’s low budget limitations. I also liked that the film saves its gory elements for later on, and doesn’t become too campy, the bizarre plot aside. Oh and the film has a really good soundtrack, with one of the tracks being sang by Bauhaus, who also contributed a track to the 1980s horror classic The Hunger. I’m not sure why or how this film spawned multiple sequels (plus the typical horror remake) although by the 1980s franchises had become the norm for anything halfway successful or notable.

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.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: The Video Dead (1987, Robert Scott)


Released around the same time as Sam Rami’s classic The Evil Dead II, Scott’s The Video Dead is a low budget zombie film in a long line of low budget zombie films. What I dig about his movie is that it’s gory, raw, creepy and entertaining despite its clear limitations and the poor acting. I can admire the level of dedication it takes to get a movie like this made and how hard it was to achieve a pure vision without the proper funds. This is one movie that could have been a classic with just the right budget. Although I guess that never stopped George A. Romero or Sam Rami. Still Scott had an original idea, one that I rather like.

Zombies emerging from a cursed TV set is both fantastic and rather eerie. The hapless brother and sister duo that are faced with an nameless ancient evil must battle the undead horde that is terrorizing their neighborhood. I liked most of the kills, with one murder being properly gruesome. The zombies themselves are decaying and ugly, appearing as if they did truly emerge from their graves to prey upon the living. That’s some quality makeup work for a film that took a year to make due to lack of funding.

The DVD copy I found of this film was a two pack, with The Video Dead being parterned with another solid underrated cult horror film, Terrorvision-thanks to Scream Factory, a division of Shout! Factory. Which is a cool double bill, one I would love to see on the big screen. The Video Dead also has a bone chilling ending and is a reliable addition to the zombie subgenre. I realize it’s funny how every time I think I’m getting tired of zombie films I find another one that surprises me in a good way.

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