Saturday, November 24, 2012


“Pretty soon the girls would become victims of more than being sex objects. If outsiders moved in so easily for sex, they could just as easily started maneuvering some of the girls into heavier shit -- like chains, whips, blood-drinking, animal death and even human sacrifice.” 
-Charles Manson, Manson in His Own Words 

Much like Charles Manson, Terry Hawkins, the anti-hero (emphasis on anti) of Last House on Dead End Street, is an evil demigod that manipulates aimless outsiders into unleashing a campaign of hatred against society. In this case, Hawkins enlists the aid of two broke and disillusioned girls, a desperate cameraman, and some maniac who was recently released from an insane asylum for having sex with a dead calf while working in a slaughterhouse.  Specifically, this group is in the business of making snuff films, as Charlie hinted at in the above quote, although they seem to be doing it more so for thrill seeking purposes rather than profit. 

It’s a long standing urban legend that the Manson family made such films, although no evidence has ever been found. LHODES seems to transform this urban legend, not into a realistic recreation of what might have happened, but into a waking nightmare instead. 

So, while the usual movie within a movie or found footage angle is meant to trick the viewer into believing that what they are seeing is real, here it is used to disorientate the viewer and break down this reality. For example, the point of view is rarely from that of the super 8 camera used to capture the snuff films, and indeed the cameraman is often seen roving around, as if mocking the victim with his camera. The perpetrators are often wearing creepy masks, even dancing around laughing, as if the movie is taking place is an alternate universe where the making of a snuff film is a cause for hilarity and joyous celebration. 

Then there’s the fanged mouth painting that hangs above them as they dissect one of the victims, and the spotlights towards the end that are reminiscent of the monolith discovery scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey. What starts as gritty realism devolves into a madness inducing vision ripped out of the bleakest of psyches. According to director Watkins, since he got the camera, film, and processing for free, he was able to use the entirety of the $1500 or so budget on crystal meth to inspire and fuel his mostly unscripted opus. That’s somehow appropriate; here is a film not logically constructed but forced into existence by a psychotic, drug fueled id. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012


In this Beverly Hills Cop cash in, Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal play two wise cracking Chicago cops.  Lord do they crack wise.  They occasionally do arrest someone, but they mostly throw around smart alec quips on the city's dime.  Anyway, they screw up a drug bust, so of course the captain brings them into his office and chews them out for not going by the book, and for the fact that he doesn't know how he's going to explain this one to the mayor, etc.  Well, the pair are shipped out of town since the drug dealers are looking for them, and they are sent to Key West, Florida.  As you might imagine, this isn't much of a punishment, and this is perfectly conveyed with a crucial montage (scored to a Michael McDonald tune) of the boys enjoying themselves in their sunny environs.

Anyway, here is the best snippet from the montage in GIF form:

Thursday, November 15, 2012


The number of zombie movies is pretty much well past critical mass at this point, and it’s not like zombies are really that distinctive from one another. Oh sure, you can have fast moving zombies or slow moving zombies, but that’s about the extent of it. There are also a bazillion vampire movies out there, but at least you could argue that different vampires have different personalities.   Maybe one vampire prefers hooker blood and another uses massive amounts of gel in his hair.  You know, character development and shit.

So, a new zombie film usual requires some sort of interesting innovation to make it worthwhile, and The Dead Undead obliges with…vampire zombies? Why didn’t somebody think of this earlier? I bet you’re wondering…aren’t vampires really just zombies with personality who drink human blood instead of eating flesh?  What happens when you combine two different strains of undead monster? Well, none of that matters in this one folks. Basically, these are just the generic fast moving zombies, except they don’t come out during the day and you can spot dimestore fangs right before somebody is about to turn into one. Whoop de do. 

But, I’ve gotten ahead of myself folks. A group of good looking Montana teens head out to a motel on a lake to do whatever it is young people do on a lake (chug PBR and do cannonballs, I guess). Ominously, there's no one around, not even in the motel office, but they go ahead and grabs themselves a room anyway because, you know...getting drunk and shit. 

Lo and behold, a zombie vampire kid with a mullet pops out of nowhere and bites one of the girls. Suddenly, it’s night, and zombies start coming out of everywhere. The entire area was empty just moments before, and now dozens of zombies are jumping out from behind bushes and out of trees and maybe out of the lake and out from God knows where else (sort of like that scene from House of the Dead but way more boring). Maybe they all live during the day in a secret underground bunker next to the lake? But, who made the bunker? I don’t get it folks.

Luckily, the dude’s SUV is equipped with firearms like that dude’s van in Birdemic. However, a couple of guns isn’t going to stop an entire zombie onslaught. Thankfully, a militia shows up in a van and starts blowing away wave after wave of zombies to the tune of some terrible numetal. On second thought, it might actually be extremely competent numetal, but that only makes it worse. Either way, it seems odd that there is such a huge zombie problem that a heavily armed militia is roving around trying to contain it, yet there wasn’t any news about a zombie threat getting back to the teens before they left town. That shit would be all over Facebook pretty quick. 

When the militia aren't blowing zombies away, they are sitting around bonding with each other and the surviving teensNormally, these types of scenes are supposed to be filled with some sort of tension, with characters clinging to some vestige of humanity while an apocalyptic threat closes in on them. Here, it comes across like they're taking a break from shooting zombies because shooting zombies can get boring after awhile and maybe lead to carpel tunnel syndrome. 

If you think these scenes might humanize these characters, you’d be completely wrong (except maybe teen girl Summer, but I was probably too busy checking her out to notice if she was indeed being humanized or not). Not only are the characters pretty much annoying, their very existence doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. You see, the militia members are vampires themselves! However, they’re not zombies I guess. They're undead all right, but not that undead.  However, you would never know that for a second looking at them. They are just militia grunts who work at night. They don’t even have sharp teeth because they file them down. One of the dudes even moonlights as a female columnist (?!?) that Summer actually reads. I’m not even gonna try to break down the logic of that one. It should be noted that this factoid is most definitely not an attempt at absurdist comedy, but is presented as banal “getting-to-know-you” chatter for some ungodly reason. Oh, and I think the zombie vampires are a result of vampires contracting mad cow disease. I don’t know either. I just work here folks. 

Apart from Vernon Wells showing up at the end to cash a paycheck, and the ubitiquitous hacky Forest J. Ackerman cameo, there are also two long flashback scenes showcasing the previous lives of several militia members. One couple used to be Norse warriors with American accents, and another dude used to be an old west gunfighter. This all seems like pretty bizarre and unnecessary back story for characters that wear fatigues and shoot guns at moving targets. Maybe more of the emphasis should have been put on the zombies (well, vampire zombies). As far as I can tell, they are just monsters that are forced to pop into frame, wait for the squib in their shirt to go off, and then fall over. If anyone is being dehumanized here, it’s the zombies.  

P.S. This was written as part of Project Terrible, hosted by Alec over at Mondo Bizarro.  He also picked this movie for me to watch, because the world could always use another rambling analyzation of a crappy zombie movie.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


One of the most unchronicled aspects of 80’s junk culture is the post-apocalyptic metal video. They always seem to be inspired by the Mad Max trilogy, especially Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. While the video for Judas Priest’s “Locked In” (1986) is clearly a Thunderdome ripoff, there’s also the Scorpions' “Rock Me Like a Hurricane” and Krokus’ “Screaming in the Night”, which also seem to ripoff Thunderdome, yet somehow predate the movie. Could George Miller have been inspired by a Krokus video to create Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome? Probably not. Maybe it was an aesthetic that was “in the air” at the time.  After all, it was Ezra Pound that said that artists are the antennae of the human race, and sometimes those antennae pick up images of dudes fighting in cages and chicks with giant teased hair wearing tattered Amazon clothes.

Instead of the usual Van Halen video where Eddie is tapping his guitar into the camera and Diamond Dave is karate kicking while bouncing up and down on bungee chords (Dave might've been the world's first vocal athlete), here are videos that create a world and seem to be telling a story, yet the logic of the story slips through the viewer's fingers. Most people are dumbfounded at the “plotting”, laugh at the hair and the clothes, and then dismiss them as a nonsensical relic of a big stupid era. I watch them and think “I wish there was a whole movie like this.  My life would finally be complete, or at least less empty”. 

Well, such a movie exists, and it’s called Roller Blade. Here we have an 80’s post-apocalyptic metal video at a much lower budget, expanded to 90 minutes, and then elevated to uncompromising art. This insane world, further fleshed out in seven or so sequels that I have yet to see, is brought to us by Donald G. Jackson, semi-famous for making that post-apocalyptic frog movie that stars “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (that would be Hell Comes to Frogtown). 

Roller Blade revolves around a roller blading convent that worships a smiley face, headed up by “Mother Speed”, who is confined to a wheelchair but still wears roller skates (I guess that would be a display of irony, or maybe it's just stupid). She has a bunch of big haired/big titted heroines (including Michelle Bauer and late porn actress Barbara Peckinpaugh, previously addressed and undressed in my review for Shadows Run Black) that exclusively wear spandex and leather when they’re actually wearing clothes. They do battle against the minions of an evil hand puppet (who apparently worships a shopping cart hanging from the ceiling) over a magic crystal, while combating roving gangs of punk rockers along the way. Trust me, it’ll all make sense once you watch the movie. That’s a lie, for the record. 

Here, cheap jack visionary Jackson creates a hermetically sealed world that manages to comment on the fascistic consequences of consumerism run amok (the shopping cart is a clue), as well as a punk vs. metal treatise, all covered in fog and hairspray. Just like those post-apocalyptic videos, it transmits its ideas through fashion and pop iconography. More importantly, it creates an aesthetic universe that never existed before; a fashion show for the hopeless gluehuffer in all of us.   If you don't buy any of that, just remember that the movie is filled with some pretty righteous nudity and a bunch of dumb stuff that makes no sense.  It's a combination that really works if you're wasted on the brewskis. 

Now, here are some pics:


 that's what you call a "heavy metal entrance"

 notice the punk rocker there in the background

 killing is my business...and business is lackluster

 the men are fashionable too

 this magic bath heals battle wounds, so it's plot related, for the record

gotta have toonz

 training sequence, folks

 nunchukus, of course

 that there's a shot

I know he's a haevy metal mascot, but I can't pin down the band

 the evil master gets hotties delivered to him wrapped in tinfoil

 nun dog

 Catfight alert!

Oh, one thing before I leave.  I mentioned in my review for Ghost Warrior that the abandoned auditorium that a battle scene takes place in is the same auditorium in Xanadu that is turned into the superdisco known as, you guessed it, Xanadu.  Well, that SAME auditorium pops up in Roller Blade.  Pretty amazing huh?  I like to think of these three movies belonging to the same world, taking place in the area around the auditorium.  I know that sounds stupid, but it's my imagination and I'll do what I want with it.