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.

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.



Ya know, most come-n’-go cinematic trends make a kind of sense to me in retrospect — the 3-D craze of the 1950s, the second 3-D craze of the early ’80s, the third 3-D craze that we’re still enduring, the teen sex comedy explosion of the early ’80s, the second teen sex comedy explosion with raunchier humor but less nudity in the late ’90s — you can all sorta see where they came from.

One that I still can’t get my head around, though, is the short-but-damn-prevalent-for-a-minute-there plethora of underwater Alien rip-offs that came along at the tail end of the 1980s. It’s almost as if the movie industry in general — from the big Hollywood studios to B-grade fly-by-nighters — decided that, having exhausted the public’s appetite for blatant and obvious riffs on Ridley Scott’s classic with flicks like Forbidden WorldGalaxy Of TerrorContamination and Creature figured that, rather than letting the basic premise take a much-needed rest, they’d just move it under the ocean and see how it would play out there. What followed was a brief flurry of films that included such semi-memorable entrants as Deep Star Six and James Cameron’s syrupy The Abyss. Hell, the Italians even got in on the act with Antonio Margheriti’s Alien From The Deep. My personal favorite of the bunch, though — and the one under our reviewer’s microscope today — is 1989’s Leviathan, which one-ups the proceedings by liberally borrowing not only from Alien but John Carpenter’s classic The Thing, as well.



Set on an underwater precious-metals mining station on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean referred to by its crew as a “shack,” director George P. Cosmatos’ effective, by-the-numbers thriller takes from Alien the crew-obsessed-with-making-quota, monster-loose-in-an-enclosed-ship aspects of its premise, mashes it up with The Thing‘s genetic-mutation-that-stitches-its-victims-together and found-in-a-foreign-country’s-abandoned-encampment (in this case a sunken Russian “ghost ship” rather than a devastated Norwegian research base) ingredients and comes away with a story that’s by no means original, but certainly a thoroughly entertaining little sci-fi/horror amalgamation that’s every bit as  much a collection of jumbled parts as the monster our erstwhile heroes are battling.

Also, at the end of the day (and yeah —this is, again,  ripping a page right out of the Alien playbook) the true villain isn’t so much the monster itself but an evil, greedy mega-corporation. That’s always a plus in my book because that’s reality, folks.

What sets Leviathan apart from the other contenders for the throne to the undersea Alien kingdom, though — apart from the fact that’s it’s busy swiping its core concepts from two movies rather than just one — is that Cosmatos , who directed a little something you might have heard of called Rambo:First Blood Part II and later went on to work with Sly again on Cobra, is more than willing to fully embrace the inherent B-movie ethos of his film rather than bury it under a bunch of cleverness and faux-ingenuity. There are no pretensions of any sort on display here, this is strictly workman-like stuff, and is all the better for it.



A stellar cast of Hollywood also-rans, led by “Mr. Deadpan” himself, Peter Weller, as the “shack”‘s commanding officer (or whatever title they give guys in his line of work) and complemented by Amanda Pays, Daniel Stern, Hector Elizondo, Lisa Eilbacher, and Michael Carmine as his crew, Richard Crenna as their haunted-by-his-past medical doctor, and Meg “Haunting Eyes” Foster as an evil corporate CEO-type bitch, elevates the proceedings to a degree, sure, but in the end this is a genuinely Corman-esque affair that just happened to have major studio backing, and therefore a slightly bigger budget (though not big enough to take all the fun out of everything).



Like any good exploitation auteur, Cosmatos takes heed of the old “less is more” axiom and doesn’t give us a “full reveal” of his monster in all its — errmmm — “glory” until the very end, and while it’s pretty unimpressive by today’s standards, for 1989 this thing wasn’t too shabby. Certainly not memorable by any stretch of the imagination, I’ll grant you, but solid, professional, and in no way a letdown. Which makes it rather a decent a slimy, scaly, dripping, shambling analogy for the film itself.



Leviathan is available on DVD — and probably at this point Blu-Ray, as well, though I couldn’t say for sure — from MGM. It’s a bare-bones release with no extras to speak of apart from the theatrical trailer, but the widescreen transfer and 5.1 sound are both plenty good. It’s also currently playing on most local cable systems (for free, no less) on Impact Action On Demand. It’s hardly standout, earth-shattering stuff, but it will most certainly keep you entertained from start to finish, and heck — since it’s a pretty fair  bet that’s really all Cosmatos had in mind, ya gotta tip your hat and say mission accomplished.