Archive for February, 2013



Remember the first issue of this series? When it looked like, out of all the various Before Watchmen books, this one might be the most relevant? That it might actually fulfill the entire project’s supposed remit of “getting us to look at these characters in a new way?” That it might  have something  to add to our understanding not only of  Dr. Manhattan , but the entire Watchmen “universe” itself? That it might have some genuine ambition? That it might, at the very least, have something to say?



Yeah, I don’t remember that anymore, either. J. Michael Straczynski took that intriguing cliffhanger he left us with way back at the end of the first ish and followed it up with a second installment that basically took us into Marvel Comics What If —? territory, with Dr. Manhattan filling The Watcher role, then gave us a third that was basically the Watchmen equivalent of (a very condensed) Crisis On Infinite Earths, with “Big Blue” as The Monitor, destroying all other possible realities to save our own, “real” one. Now we’ve come to the “big” finale, and — well, the whole thing just kinda limps out the door with a cheap, gimmicky, completely uninvolving supposed “plot twist” that tries, in a clumsy way, to bridge the variant endings between Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ original Watchmen series with Zack Snyder’s Watchmen film and ends up doing a disservice to both.

And speaking of cheap gimmicks, artist Adam Hughes — whose work on this project has been, and remains, generally superb — actually resorts to flipping his work upside down halfway through the book when the narrative perspective “flips” from Dr. Manhattan to Ozymandias. I don’t lay the blame on Hughes for this painfully obvious stunt, since it was likely and editorial call, but it’s certainly as dumb as it is unsubtle, and I hope that either the artist himself or at the very least somebody, somewhere behind the scenes kicked up at least a little bit of a stink about it.

Beyond that, there’s nothing much to report here. The alternate covers by Hughes and Bill Sienkiewicz (respectively, as shown) are both fine, even if Hughes’ makes it look like something interesting might be happening in this book when, in truth, nothing is, but that’s just basic comic book hucksterism 101 and again, I’m not gonna lay much blame for that at the artist’s feet when the writer — and editors — are clearly the ones with no vision here.

We finally leave things off with the old “Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends” line, and see Dr. Manhattan walking around on his new faraway planet, contemplating the idea of creating some new life form of his own. In other words, right smack-dab  where we started. Which is probably Straczynski’s point, I suppose, but it’s a point that Moore had already made 25 years ago and it renders these past four issues not only totally unnecessary, but meaningless.

Nothing ever ends? Fair enough. But I’m glad this series is over all the same.


Okay, I’ve reviewed some pretty fucked-up stuff on this site over the years, but it’s probably fair to say that nothing I’ve seen — not Cannibal Holocaust, not Goodbye, Uncle Tom, not Men Behind The Sun, not A Serbian Film — compares in terms of being as genuinely unsettling as one-and-done director Adi Sidelman’s disarmingly matter-of-fact 1994 documentary ChickenHawk : Men Who Love Boys, a short (51 minutes, to be precise), concise look into the lives and mindsets of guys associated with the semi-notorious NAMBLA —  an acronym, for those who claim not to know, for The North American Man Boy Love Association.

NAMBLA’s core philosophy is an unusual one indeed — they hold to the belief that children are inherently sexual beings, with curiosities and desires just like anybody else, and that they are capable of having fully mature, consenting, reciprocal (in terms of both emotions and bodily fluids) relationships with — well, fully-grown adults. Specifically, fully-grown adult men.

Yeah, yeah — I know all the arguments : the Greeks and Spartans engaged in this kind of thing all the time, the Romans were cool with it (the film even mentions Nero’s public marriage ceremony to a twelve-year-old boy, not that I’d recommend invoking Nero’s name as a great historical example of, well, anything), and there are tribes in New Guinea where elder-on-kid sexual relations are still a matter of course to this very day. Never mind that there are tribes in New Guinea where cannibalism is still a matter of course to this very day, as well — when you’re in NAMBLA’s shoes, you gotta take your allies where you can find ’em. And strange as it sounds, you do have to sort of give them a kind of awkward near-respect for being brazen enough to organize themselves despite more or less all of society’s entirely-understandable disgust. Just to get back to cannibals again for a second, we all know they’re out there here and there, and walk among us in some (hopefully) small number, but I don’t see them having the guts (for lack of a better term)  to form, say, a North American Human Flesh Eaters Association.


Please don’t confuse that previous statement for any sort of admiration  on my part for NAMBLA and its ilk, though —I don’t know about you, but the general impression I have of “pederasts,” or “boy-lovers,” or whaetver the hell it is child molesters prefer to call themselves, was probably imprinted on my psyche at an early age by Gordon Jump’s guest-starring turn as a bicycle shop owner with a taste for not-yet-ripened fruit on Diff’rent Strokes. As a result, these fellas have generally seemed to me to be more, frankly, pathetic than anything else, and Sideman certainly does nothing to dispel that notion in ChickenHawk. Listening to these guys wax poetic about how 12- and 13-year-old boys are, as they see it, “flirting” with them just by doing the normal everyday shit that kids do would almost be amusing, if the consequences for the “flirtatious” youngsters in question weren’t so devastating. When one of the NAMBLA-ites talks about a camping trip to the woods he took with a barely-pubescent little tyke, he goes to great lengths to stress that the whole trip was arranged by the boy, as was the idea for them to sleep in a double-width sleeping bag with no zipper in the middle. The creepy old fart chooses his next words even more carefully, though, and doesn’t come right out and say the kid “consented” to being reamed out by the old-timer, merely that “nature took its course,” and that said illegal “love”-making  was a “very special moment” for him and, he “hoped,” the boy, too.

He wasn’t certain of it, mind you — he just hoped.

Now, to return to the basic tenets of the “World According To NAMBLA” for just a  moment —the “historical precedent” argument these guys trot out fails to wash with me because times change and it means something entirely different to be a 12-year-old in a world where life expectancy is 40 if you’re lucky than it does to be a 12-year-old in a world where we live to be 80. The “kids have sexual curiosities and desires” argument likewise doesn’t hold much water either because, yeah, while  kids do indeed have sexual curiosities and desires ,they’re generally  about other kids their own goddamn age, not 50-year old men with pencil-thin mustaches, bad hairpieces, sweaty skin, and oily foreheads. So any sort of moralistic stance for pedophilia is just something I can’t buy into.


Now — bear with me here — where the NAMBLA creeps do have a valid point, though, is that no individual should be persecuted, much less prosecuted, for thoughts in their heads and feelings in their hearts that have never been acted upon. I don’t know if pedophilia is a genetic predisposition or what, and I certainly don’t blame the LGBT community for wanting to keep these folks as far fucking away from them as possible since there’s an absolute universe of difference between sexual activity engaged in by consenting adults and sexual activity engaged in by one absolutely positively rarin’-to-go adult and a young child who cannot, in any way, shape, or form be held legally or morally responsible for their actions and therefore can’t be said to “consent” to anything at all . All that being said,  when the queasy-looking fellow in the photo above was fired from his gig at a public school merely for being associated with NAMBLA, and not for any specific acts of child molestation (hell, he’d never been so much as accused, much less convicted, of anything), I think he should have “lawyered up” and sued the school district for everything they’ve got. Instead, he just sits in his less-than-modest apartment right across the street from the school that ousted him , watches the boys in the playground from his window, and compares himself to Moses looking out at “the promised land.”

Is  a statement like that enough to make your stomach churn? Absolutely. Do I blame the parents at the school for wanting to keep this guy away from their kids? Not in the least. But let’s be honest — those   kids have about a 10,000 % better chance of  being harmed, even molested, by those selfsame  parents than by the admittedly deviant (and unrepentant) lonely old creep they are supposedly being “protected” from. Unless and until this guy does anything, he’s got every right to keep his job as long as his — uhhhmmmm — predilections don’t affect his work performance. You may not like it, but you can’t claim the mantle of moral superiority over anyone, even a pedophile, if you’re willing to throw somebody under the bus merely for having criminal thoughts in his mind, because ya know what? We’re all guilty of that. I’ve never fantasized about molesting a kid, but I’ve certainly had the urge to kill a few people in my time, and so have you. We didn’t act on it — unless you’re reading this in the computer lab at Riker’s Island or something — and we’re allowed to go on about our daily business, as we damn well should be. Same goes for this clown. No matter how repulsive the inner workings of his mind may be, he should be allowed to live his life as freely as he wants to as long as they well and truly remain inner workings.

Likewise, you can’t help but feel a bit repulsed by the actions of a good number of our fellow non-child-molesters who are shown harassing NAMBLA members a bit too enthusiastically. Standing outside their office and chanting at anyone coming in or out, leaving anonymous death threats on their answering machine — this isn’t the behavior of people “concerned for the children,” it’s the behavior of a bloodthirsty mob out for a pound of flesh. And who’s an easier target than a grown man who admits to having sexual feelings for little kids? My message to all the overly-vociferous NAMBLA harassers is a pretty simple one — pick on somebody your own size. It doesn’t take much by way of balls to scream at and threaten the most marginalized, lame, pathetic losers on the planet. Direct your rage at somebody with some actual power if you’re still into proving your manhood. Might I suggest Goldman-Sachs? Citibank? Wells Fargo? Chase Manhattan? Who’s a bigger danger to the lives of you and your family — a desperate, lonely, unhygienic, unemployed slob who gets a woody looking at drawings of naked teenagers, or the asshole bank CEO who owns your mortgage?

Chicken Hawk (Adi Sideman, 1994)13

All of which, perhaps confusingly, is not to say that I feel the members of NAMBLA and their ilk deserve any sympathy. When Sideman shows noted “beat generation” icon Allen Ginsberg reciting a poem that begins “sweet boy, give me your ass!!!!!!!!” at the boy-lovers’ national conference and the (obviously quite small) crowd roars and cheers its approval, it’s pretty obvious that most of these guys are genuinely loathsome individuals who have absolutely earned a healthy amount of scorn. But it’s a matter of degrees here, people. In the overall scheme of things, these folks, repugnant as they are,  pose a very small threat, while your average bank, oil company, hedge fund, or defense contractor poses a mighty one indeed. Just imagine what a glorious world we would be living in if the average Wall Street executive were as ashamed to show his face in public as the average NAMBLA member!

If it seems I’m extrapolating a bit here, that just goes to show that ChickenHawk is, indeed, a thought-provoking piece of work. It’s definitely a challenging — hell, even difficult — bit of filmmaking, but it does what all good documentaries do — shows both sides of the issue without bias or emotion, raises thought-provoking questions while bypassing the urge to spoon-feed answers,  and allows the viewer to make up his or her own mind. All in the space of about 52 minutes.

While this movie was probably the most- talked-about selection at legendary “fringe” documentarian Todd Phillips’ inaugural New York Underground Film Festival back in the day and got pretty good distribtion on VHS under the auspices of the great Film Threat, it has never, at least to my knowledge, been given a “legitimate” DVD release (although it was available as a bootleg for awhile from an outfit calling itself Divine Trash Films). That  doesn’t mean you can’t see it, though — more than a few enterprising individuals have put it up on YouTube in its entirety. Don’t expect a link here since I don’t need that (or, hell, any) kind of unwelcome attention around these parts, but if you really want to see it, just type it in the search box there and you’ll find it easily enough. I would certainly encourage you to do so — it’s one of those films that nobody should see if they don’t know what they’re letting themselves in for in advance, but if you go in forewarned and forearmed, you will find it to be a truly rare thing indeed : a movie that more than likely absolutely confirms your initial impressions in regards to its subject, but gives you plenty to ponder over anyway.

Posted: February 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

The third and final posting in my series on the “Slumber Party Massacre” trilogy for Through The Shattered Lens website.

Through the Shattered Lens


What the heck, let’s wrap this up, shall we?

While the appearance of Slumber Party II may have surprised some being that it came five years after the original, it’s safe to say that when Roger Corman unleashed Slumber Party Massacre III  on the direct-to-video market in 1990, nobody was shocked in the least.

Shot primarily at one beach location and one residential home for exteriors, and with all the interiors being filmed at Corman’s Venice, California studio, the third installment in the SPM series cost a grand total of $350,000 and took somewhere in the neighborhood of one week to get “in the can,” as the saying goes, so yeah — it’s cheap , quick stuff we’re talking about here.

That being said, that certainly doesn’t mean it’s bad. What starts as a pretty bog-standard tale of stereotypical SoCal bimbo Diane (Brandi Burkett) and her friends ( a crew…

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Posted: February 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

My newest piece for Through The Shattered Lens website, looking back at Roger Corman’s “Slumber Party Massacre II.”

Through the Shattered Lens


By 1987, I’m not sure that anyone was expecting Roger Corman to trot out a sequel to The Slumber Party Massacre. Sure, the movie had gained something of a cult following thanks to the VHS rental market (it did rather middling business at the box office upon its initial release), but it had been a few years and since most “slasher” sequels at the time tended to pop up within a year or two of the first flick (heck, that’s pretty much still the case), I think it’s pretty safe to say that the general feeling at the time was  that SPM was a one-and-done deal.

We all should have known better, or course. When you’ve got an ultra-simple premise that can be filmed cheaply and quickly using just a couple of different locations, and the original turned a profit (however modest), then there’s no way Corman’s not gonna…

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There are certain actors that do the same thing so consistently — and so well — that you figure that’s just gotta be what they’re like in real life, right? I mean, guys like Clint Eastwood and Robert Mitchum must be tough as nails because you really can’t picture them as being otherwise. And Linnea Quigley absolutely, positively screams at the top of her lungs at, say, her own shadow, or a mouse running across her kitchen floor, right?

Anyway, the list of Hollywood stars and starlets who have pretty much made a career out of essentially playing the same part over and over again to the point where you figure said repeating character’s mindset and mannerisms have become woven into their very DNA as people is flat-out endless, is it not? My point here being — to the extent that I have one — that Ben Murphy, best known for his starring turn on TV’s Alias Smith And Jones, has always struck me as being  more than a bit of a dickhead.

That’s probably tremendously unfair to Mr. Murphy, who for all I know could be the nicest guy in the world. Maybe he volunteers down at the local soup kitchen and is kind to animals. But somehow I kinda doubt it. He just radiates a little too much smugness and self-satisfaction. He seems like one of those guys who’s convinced he’s just that much cooler and more together than everybody else. If I needed help, he’s not somebody that I’d call. Not that I have his phone number, anyway (you can rest easy, Mr. Murphy, on the very off-chance that you’re reading this).

And nowhere is Murphy’s casual arrogance more magnificently displayed than in 1982’s Time Walker, where he plays a professor at something called the California Institute Of The Sciences — which is, as we’re assured by the school president’s right-hand lackey, an accredited academic institution — named Doug McCadden who is, well — more than a bit of a dickhead.

Seriously. You wanna punch this schmuck in the jaw right outta the gate. Or right outta the tomb, as the case may be, since the flick begins in Egypt, in the tomb of King Tut himself, where McCadden has made the archaeological find of a lifetime — a burial sarcophagus containing a mummy that he promptly flies to southern California.


The problems start right away, as you’d expect. One of Professor Doug’s over-eager students accidentally X-Rays the mummy with 10,000 times the normal level of radiation. There’s a weird green fungus covering the mummy’s bandages that turns out to still be alive — and deadly. The mummy’s buried with some weird unknown gemstones that have a habit of glowing every now and again. And then the mummy itself disappears right when McCadden is about to unveil it to an assembled throng of fourth-estaters.

Yeah, of course all these things are connected — the mummy shambled out of his casket on his own after all that radiation woke him up, he’s really a visitor from outer space, the fungus is from his home planet, and the gemstones all fit into some kinda magic homing beacon that he intends to use to get back to Alpha Centauri or wherever.

time walker

Look, I won’t kid you — as far as mummy flicks go, this one’s pretty much a snoozer. Big, slow, and bandaged runs around semi-terrorizing the college kids for a bit, and there are some effectively atmospheric shots (the one with the mummy staring up at a full moon that I reproduce below is pretty solid, for instance), but on the whole it’s just way too fucking obvious how all this is gonna play out, even though director Tom Kennedy thinks he’s laying out quite a multi-layered, mysterious little new age-y puzzle  for our edification. Like Murphy’s pompous and aloof professor (oh yeah — yawn — he’ sleeping with one of his students/research assistants, played by Nina Axelrod, as well), there’s an overall sense here that this movie thinks it’s somehow above what it really is — just another “monster  on campus” flick. Roger Corman picked this one up for distribution via one of his many short-lived outlets, and you’d think he’d have had the sense to market it in the traditional exploitation manner that he was undoubtedly as master of, but instead the film’s promo posters and trailer emphasized the faux-intellectual/even-more-faux “mystery from beyond time and space” bits, and on the whole it really doesn’t work. If Corman had chosen to  hustle this off in a more direct, “mummy-chases-co-eds” manner, not only would it have have felt more genuine, who knows?  I might have even have enjoyed the whole thing more.

Mummy phone home

The key word there, of course, being might have — the story’s still as slow and plodding as its titular “time walker” , and even an appealingly lurid promo campaign probably couldn’t have saved this flick from itself. The acting’s pretty risible, on the whole, as well, with the only notable exceptions being Kevin Brophy as a “frat rat” kid who’s something of a con-artist/two-bit huckster and Shari Belafonte-Harper (this is actually  her first film) as the campus radio station DJ/school newspaper photographer — and I’m probably giving her a bit of a break because of her looks.

In all honesty, though, a lot of it, at least from my perspective, really does come back to Murphy — a “hero” character that you actively want to see get killed, slowly and painfully, by the mummy just isn’t a great guy to choose to revolve your monster movie around. This is something you’d think you’d pick up on right away in basic filmmaking 101 — but evidently that’s not a course they offer at the California Institute Of The Sciences.


Time Walker is available on DVD from Shout! Factory on a two-disc set called “Vampires, Mummies, & Monsters,” part of their “Roger Corman’s Cult Classics” series. It’s presented in a pretty good-looking widescreen transfer, the soundtrack is a solid-enough 2.0 stereo remaster, and extras for the film include the original theatrical trailer and on-camera interviews with the aforementioned Kevin Brophy and producer Dimitri Villard. While none of the four films — the others being Lady FrankensteinThe Velvet Vampire, and Grotesque — are exactly “classics,” even by Corman standards, it’s pretty fair to say that this is the lousiest of the bunch. Which is a bit of a shame, really, as there’s some — I repeat, some — slight potential buried under all those dusty old bandage-wrappings.

But not a lot. Let’s be honest — monsters running around at colleges and/or high schools were pretty well played out by 1982, and trying to lay some 2001-style, “head trip” bullshit on top of a worn-thin premise isn’t likely to fool anybody. I’d have enjoyed Time Walker a lot more if Kennedy, Villard, and Corman had chosen to play up what it was rather than spending all their time and energy trying to dupe us into thinking it was something it wasn’t.


As is fairly obvious to regular and/or unusually observant readers of this site, your host has been on quite a tear as far as these Mill Creek/Pendulum Pictures DVD bargain boxes go lately. And it occurs to me, perusing through my more recent postings, that I’ve only bothered to write reviews of “product” I found on these sets that I was, shall we say, less than fond of. In the spirit of absolute fairness, then, I think it’s only right that I scribble down some musings about at least one of these microbudget backyard horror “epics” that I actually like, wouldn’t you agree?

And so it’s my distinct pleasure to introduce you, my dear readers, to the $12,000 slice of sublime joy that is writer/producer/director Dave Wascavage’s Fungicide. One of two SOV flicks that he made in 2005 hot on the heels of the “success” of the previous year’s Suburban Sasquatch (the other being a rather blase affair entitled Tartarus), this straight-outta-redneck-country-Pennsylvania 80-or-so-minuter tells a pretty simple tale about a mad scientist who’s holed up in what’s supposedly a “bed and breakfast” (it actually looks — okay, fuck it, is — a conventional home that hasn’t been B & B’ed-up in the least) and ends up testing out his latest super-serum concoction on the local wild mushroom supply. Soon the other guests at the “inn” — a  motley collection of hilariously predictable stereotypes on legs — are under attack from fungi that have transformed into intelligent, ruthless killing machines!


Wascavage is lot more ambitious in terms of his CGI usage here than he was in Suburban Sasquatch, and the reults are, if anything, even worse. I mean, seriously — the effects “wizardry” on display here makes Birdemic look like a master’s thesis at the ILM training school (if such a place actually existed an’ all). It’s a damn good thing that the weirdly-boxed full-frame image on this film is so washed-out and hideous-looking, because if we could actually see these killer digital ‘shrooms in crystal clear, high quality resolution they’d certainly look even more hysterically shitty than they already do. in other words, don’t expect a Blu-Ray release for this flick anytime soon.


Still, ya know what? As lousy-in-a-fun-way as the computerized fungi are, the film really kicks into a whole ‘nother gear when they become so giant, so deadly, and so bloodthirsty that Atari 2600-style graphics just won’t do the job and Wascavage has to resort to people wearing beige(-ish) bedsheets and cardboard (I think) muffin-top hats in order to “convincingly” portray the full fury of his homicidal mushrooms gone wild. You need more proof than my mere say-so on this? Here ya go —


And that, right there, is pretty much what Fungicide is all about. Its raison d’etre, if you will. Get a bunch of friends together, go out to the woods,  throw some grade-school-play costumes on , cut loose, and have a good time.  If anybody out there in the entire universe is stupid enough to want to watch the thing apart from friends and immediate family members, so much the better. This is the pioneering DIY spirit of a Nathan Schiff (minus his sociopolitical commentary) back from the dead, and it’s good to see that some people with no actual talent, certainly no actual budget (IMDB lists Fungicide‘s total  expenditures as being $12,000, but that seems pretty generous) and, at the end of the day. nothing much to really even say are still more than willing to just go outside with a video camera and shoot something for no other reasons than that they’re bored, and they can.


As for which Pendulum box I found this  hiding it, it’s the 12-disc, 50-film Catacomb Of Creepshows collection. As already mentioned, the picture quality is positively atrocious and the stereo(-ish) sound is just as lousy — at least! — to boot. It’s also available as a stand-alone release from Wascavage’s own production “company,” Troubled Moon Films, and their release is supposedly a two-disc set loaded with extras — although, according a friend and fellow bad movie buff on facebook, his two-disc “special edition” arrived with only one disc in the case and it was strictly a bare-bones affair. He doesn’t mind in the least, and I can’t say as I blame him since that’s pretty much Fungicide  in a nutshell : a cheap, bad,  sub-sub-substandard, waste of time rip-off — that you love to pieces anyway.


Remember the golden days of the late ’80s and early ’90s? Back before the concepts of DVD, or even Laser Disc, were anything more than a twinkle in the eye of some mad inventor and we still watched things on bulky, boxy VHS tapes? Why, these tape things were so popular that a lot of third-(or lower) rate producers even came to the realization that they could bypass those pesky movie theaters altogether and just unleash their usually-less-than-goodies directly onto the rental market. Those were good times, I’m tellin’ ya, and I miss ’em.

Foremost among those peddling their genre wares right onto video store shelves was, of course, Charles Band, who had the good sense to transition over from making low-budget theatrically-released films like The Alchemist and Metalstorm : The Destruction Of Jared-Syn to even-lower-budget straight-to-video work when he realized those new-fangled VCR machines were where all the action for his particular brand of sub-Hollywood product was gonna be located from here on out. He could both spend less, and turn a bigger profit, doing things this way, and hence Full Moon Entertainment was born — an outfit that’s still going semi-strong to this day.

Everybody’s got their favorite Full Moon “franchises,” of course — nearly every idea Band threw out there was worth at least one sequel, and in many cases several. The Puppet Master series has proven to be the most popular and successful of the bunch, but Trancers, The Gingerdead Man, Demonic Toys, Subspecies and Killjoy, to name just a handful, all have their fans, as well.

Tops on my personal list, though, has always been the almost-agonizingly absurd Dollman, a foot-tall bad-ass ex-cop from the distant planet of Arturus named — get this — Brick Bardo, who’s got a gun that can blast anything or anyone to bits and an attitude so OTT in the hard-edged department that he makes Dirty Harry look positively friendly by comparison. Full Moon regular Tim Thomerson is essentially reprising his role as Jack Deth from the Trancers flicks here, but he sinks his teeth into the part with even more obvious relish here since the premise itself throws suspension of disbelief right out the window from the word “go” and never bothers to look back. This is Thomerson “unplugged,” all the way — and probably even a little unglued, too.


Anyway, for Bardo’s first outing back in 1991 (he would, sadly, make just one other appearance, in the franchise mash-up Dollman Vs. Demonic Toys) he’s transported to Earth accidentally during a high-speed space-chase in pursuit of a villainous floating head-strapped-to-a-board named Armbrusier. Some kind of dimensional barrier or other is breached and/or ruptured in their cosmic game of cat n’ mouse and they both end up crash-landing on Earth —in the South Bronx, no less — and discover, to their apparent near-nonchalance, that they’re not even knee-high to the inhabitants of our planet.

Needless to say, the South Bronx being something of a war zone itself, both Bardo and Armbruiser quickly find themselves on opposite sides in a neighborhood conflict : Brick’s teamed up with “save-the-community” do-gooder Debi Alejandro (Kamala Lopez-Dawson) and her son, Kevin, while Armbruiser figures he can use the local drug gang, led by one Braxton Red ( future Oscar nominee, Watchman, and Freddie Krueger Jackie Earle Haley — hey, we all gotta start somewhere, right?) as foot soldiers in his plan to eventually, ya know, take over the world, now that he’s pretty much stuck here an’ all.


If this sounds like a recipe for 82 minutes of overtly absurd fun to you, then congratulations — you sure won’t be disappointed. Veteran Z-grade director Albert Pyun (responsible for such disparate fare as The Sword And The Sorcerer and the langusihed-in-unreleased-hell-for-years version of Captain America starring J.D Salinger’s son, among other highlights in a career I’m positively envious of) is fully engaged with material that a Hollywood snob would sleepwalk through until his payday came along, and gets some terrific performances from his cast. The theme song liberally swipes from that of Robocop (most likely without persmission). The split-screen effect to create an illusion of massive size differential is entirely unconvincing throughout. The special effects in general are amazingly, thoroughly, uniformly unbelievable, in fact. In short, this one’s got everything you’d want — a story not worth believing in the first place, executed on a budget that knows it, helmed by a director who’s determined to give it his best effort anyway and make sure his cast does the same (Haley, for his part, certainly proves that he could always act here and that his nod from the Academy was no fluke).


Like a lot of Full Moon product, Echo Bridge has recently released Dollman on a double-sided bargain DVD along with Demonic Toys and Dollman Vs. Demonic Toys. It retails for around eight or ten bucks and while the full frame transfer and stereo sound aren’t the best by any means, they by and large get the job done. There are, as you’d no doubt expect, absolutely no extras to speak of included with the package. I understand a British Blu-Ray release is also in the works, for those of you who absolutely must see the closest thing to a “quality presentation” this movie’s ever likely to get.


If stupid fun’s what you’re after, Dollman delivers it by the toy -truck -load. Truth be told, halfway through writing this review I found myself getting antsy to watch it again, and I’ve seen it at least a dozen times. How many films can you really say that about?

Freeze, sucker ! Not another step or I shoot you in the ankle!


I know, I know — that’s one dull image to start a review off with, isn’t it? Normally, I try to find the original theatrical poster for a film — or at the very least a DVD cover — to begin any piece with, but in the case of 2002 SOV obscurity When Heaven Come Down, you gotta take what you can get, and while this Woodstock, Illinois-lensed 75-minute homemade horror claims to have been released by something called Mind’s I Productions (no doubt the “corporate” brainchild of writer/producer/director Gary M. Lumpp), I can’t find evidence of its existence as a stand-alone DVD anywhere.

Which brings to mind the question, then, of how I actually managed to see the film. Get ready for a “no surprise there” answer — it’s available from Mill Creek’s Pendulum Pictures sub-label as part of a six-movie, two-DVD set entitled Savage Sickos. If you absolutely must be made aware of the technical specs in regards to this thing, it is, of course, presented full-frame, with horrendously uneven stereo sound that will have you adjusting and re-adjusting your remote constantly in an effort to either be able to actually hear what the characters are saying, or not hear the rancid, fourth-rate, pseudo-“death rock” soundtrack music. But enough about all that, let’s talk about the movie itself.


Or, hell, maybe we really shouldn’t, because this one is pretty lousy even as far as these sorts of things go. Still, since I’m the one who brought the subject up in the first place —

Samantha “Sam” Eckhart (Emily Albright) was attacked and nearly killed three years ago by a religiously-tinged serial killer (who, by the way, wears the most laughably absurd, all-black, wanna-be- “signature” psycho costume I’ve ever seen) calling himself “The Savior.” She managed to escape his clutches simply because he took a likin’ to her, and the cops arrested him and hauled him off to prison — after the detective who ‘cuffed ‘im handed Sam his gun and offered to let her shoot him dead if she wanted and she, good girl that she is, politely declined the invitation. I know police in several jurisdictions are trying to do some “community outreach,” but come on.


These days, Sam’s a bartender by day and runs a support group for abused and traumatized women by night. She’s got a swell new boyfriend, too, a sincere-as-shit fella named Josh who sticks by her side through thick and thin even though she’s not “putting out” for him. So anyway, yeah — life’s looking good. Until the women in her support group, and even some of their abusive boyfriends, start turning up dead, in ways that eerily fit “The Savior”‘s M.O.

If that sounds at all interesting to you, trust me — Lumpp’s confused collection of going-nowhere subplots, going-nowhere-even-faster supporting characters (look for a cameo from the only semi-recognizable “name” in the film, Robert Z’Dar (who’s also credited as an associate producer) that serves no discernible purpose whatsoever), and gaping plot holes (the (now former) cop who brought “The Savior” in apparently somehow “lost his eye” doing so even though we clearly see him arrest and handcuff him in the film’s opening scene and he’s still got both eyes) will leave you more baffled then intrigued pretty quickly.

And not “good” baffled like, say, Mulholland Drive or something — I mean baffled like “why the fuck did he make this?” baffled.

Still, make it he did, and while that shows a certain amount of gumption in and of itself, it’s really no reason to waste a little over an hour of your life on this thing. Lumpp never made another movie and Mind’s I Productions appears to no longer be a going concern, so that pretty much tells you all you need to know. There are some quirky, idiosyncratic (if admittedly rough and unpolished) gems hiding on some of these Pendulum sets that are certainly worth a look, if for no other reason than curiosity value alone. When Heaven Comes Down isn’t one of them.

Posted: February 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

My latest piece for Through The Shattered Lens website , looking back at Roger Corman’s “Slumber Party Massacre.”

Through the Shattered Lens

the film poster only features one actress actually in the film (Andre Honore)

Ah, the folly of youth. When we’re young, we’re so determined to prove we can “make it on our own” that we’ll turn our backs on opportunities that might serve us better in the long run just because they would mean answering to “The Man” in the short term. A hot-shot young chef (a nauseating demographic which our nation is currently, and quite literally, under absolute fucking assault from) will bypass the chance to apprentice under a master of his craft in a popular and established kitchen in order to go start up his own restaurant that will be lucky to last out the year. A promising young journalist will eschew the opportunity to work as a “beat” reporter on a local paper in order to start up a “cutting edge” news website with “attitude” that folds when they can’t get any advertisers. A way-too-full-of-himself young lawyer will say “no…

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When it comes to the twisted and complex family tree grown out of Wes Craven’s classic A Nightmare On Elm Street, it’s a safe bet to say that most here  are no doubt well familiar with its branches — there’s the progenitor of the clan itself, dating back to 1985, followed by five direct descendants  (those being the “official” sequels), two let’s- call -them -cousins ( in the form of the meta-fictional Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and the franchise mash-up/cash-in Freddy Vs. Jason), and a bastard offspring no one likes to talk much about  (the 2010 Michael Bay-air-quote-produced remake). But what about its roots?

To explore those, my friend, we have to go back to medieval folklore, specifically the legends surrounding a creature known as an incubus. Evidently, this homicidally-inclined, violently horny form of demon would first appear in some unlucky pubescent male’s head in the form of a recurring dream, then somehow find its way out into the real world and wreak a fairly astronomical amount of havoc, raping any and every human female it could gets its hairy, scaly hands on (and presumably equally scaly-and-hairy schlong into) in a desperate desire to procreate like crazy in the short time it was able to take physical form before the virile lad from whose nightmares it escaped woke up again. There was just one flaw in the logic of yer average incubus, though — since it invariably went on to kill whoever it forced itself upon, those offspring it was after would never come to be, and alas, the sound of tiny hoof-steps was  never to be heard in any family home.

Alternately, though, if you don’t feel like rifling through a bunch of dusty old tomes in the cavernous sub-basement of some European castle-converted-into-a-library to learn about these things, you can just watch  the decidedly gothically-tinged 1982 Canadian tax shelter production The Incubus and be done with it.


Starring the obviously-awesome John Cassavetes — who you most likely know as an actor thanks to Rosemary’s Baby or The Dirty Dozen,  or as a director thanks to his groundbreaking, highly personal films like FacesHusbandsThe Killing Of A Chinese Bookie and A Woman Under The Influence — and directed by the less-obvious-but-no-less-awesome John Hough, a household name only in the abodes of the most seasoned exploitation fans despite a stellar track record that includes Dirty Mary Crazy LarryThe Legend Of Hell House, and such fondly-remembered Disney fare as The Watcher In The WoodsEscape To Witch Mountain and Return From Witch Mountain, our story here centers around the supposed New England (even though it was filmed in and around the Toronto area and the license plates on the cars read, for some reason,  Wisconsin) town of Galen, where local pathologist/medical examiner Dr. Sam Cordell (Cassavetes) and police chief  Hank Walden (the always-great John Ireland) are investigating a non-stop series of brutal rapes/murders that leave many of the victims so pumped full o’ spunk that the initial investigative hunch both men play is that there absolutely must be more than one perpetrator — in fact, they feel it’s quite likely that a whole gang of wild n’ reckless youths are behind this sordid spree.

There’s just one wrinkle — all the semen still scurrying about in the dead victims matches, and it’s all red. Complicating matters even further is the fact the a local newspaper reporter named Laura Kincaid (Kerrie Keane) who’s covering the developing story just so happens to be a dead ringer for Cordell’s deceased wife, and that his ethereally-beautiful teenage daughter, Jenny (Erin Noble, billed here as Erin Flannery) is dating a kid named Tim (Duncan McIntosh) who the good doctor is, shall we say, decidedly less than impressed with. Tim’s got a less obvious problem than his choosing to get overly-familiar with sam’s precious little angel, though —  he’s been plagued with horrible, vivid nightmares lately :  nightmares invariably revolving around the brutal, ritualistic rape and murder of young women. Oh, and our young would-be-Romeo’s last name? It’s Galen.

Somehow, of course, it’s all connected — the dreams, the rapes/murders, the intrepid doppleganger lady reporter, even the secret lineage of the family the town is named after — but how?


Don’t let the admittedly salacious nature of the plot fool you, though — for flick that drops the word “sperm” more often than your average gang-bang porn loop and revolves around an unending string of what are, we’re told, the most violent killings the cops have ever seen, almost all the truly horrific stuff happens off-screen. A supernatural  I Spit On Your Grave  this ain’t. Hough instead relies on a constant, oppressive atmosphere of gothic foreboding — for a Canadian movie purportedly playing out in New England it sure does feel like we’re moving between one ancient,  dank, stone hall of records here and another — and serious-minded, thoroughly professional performances from his uniformly fine actors to bring the horror home in this one. The script has some serious flaws and gaping holes, but Hough knows that flawed source material will, when left in good hands, be elevated to a level it may not, technically speaking, even deserve. Just because it doesn’t read terribly well on paper or make a tremendous amount of sense in retrospect doesn’t mean that John Fucking Cassavetes can’t do something good with it, after all.


I guess if I were more inclined to brevity — I’m trying! — I’d sum this one up by saying “don’t expect a horror classic here, but something of a largely-forgotten, hidden gem —albeit one of more ornamental than actual value.” Sound about right?

Fortunately, the “largely forgotten” part of the previous verbal equation is no longer necessarily the case, as Scorpion Releasing has recently seen fit to offer up The Incubus as part of its “Katarina’s Nightmare Theater”  DVD series hosted by former/supposed WWE “diva” Katarina Leigh Watters (apparently when you’re a female ex-pro wrestler your two career options are either to start dating George Clooney or become a horror movie presenter). The film is presented in a good-looking, remastered 1.85:1 widescreen transfer with pretty decent, also-remastered mono sound. “Extras,” such as they are, consist of Watters’ semi-informative intro and outro bits, the original theatrical trailer, and a smattering of trailers for other Scorpion titles of semi-recent vintage.


At the end of the day, I have to believe  there’s just no way Wes Craven didn’t see this movie, unless he took up the study of medieval folklore as a hobby there for awhile, because three short years after this was releases he latched onto the core concept of the incubus demon, took its thinly-disguised allegory for the onslaught of male puberty in general down a pedophilic road (oh yeah! remember when Freddy was a child molester who didn’t snap off clever one-liners and was actually kinda scary?) and gave it metal claws a la the just-getting-popular-at-the-time X-Men character Wolverine. The rest, as they say, is history.