Posts Tagged ‘massacre video’

quadead

If at first you don’t succeed — well, okay, it’s probably not fair to say that videocam horror auteur Chester Novell Turner didn’t “succeed” with 1984’s Black Devil Doll From Hell — he more than likely did, in fact, achieve whatever modest goals he set for himself with that release. Just don’t ask me what those goals were. He surely didn’t make anything like a good, or even competent, flick. Nor did he realize much of a financial profit — in fact, to hear him tell it, he’s pretty damn certain that the fly-by-night distro outfit that handled the —ahem! — “wide” release of his little opus on VHS ripped him off. So what was he aiming for? Just to get the damn thing made and get it out there?

I guess that must be it, and ya know what? I can’t fault him for that in the least. It’s more than most of us, myself included, will probably ever achieve. So in 1987 he had himself a pretty simple a simple idea — why not do it all again?

The end result of his decision to break out the Sony Betacam one more time is Tales From The Quadead Zone, a movie every bit as memorable-for-all-the-wrong reasons as his first effort, although also remarkably different.

To the extent, I suppose, that two no-budget, SOV, little-actual-talent-in-evidence,  homemade horror flicks can even be said to be all that different from each other at all. Especially when they feature the same “actors” and each appear to have been made over the course of a few days, tops.

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As you can see from the photo above, Chet’s old lady at the time, Shirley L. Jones, is back in the nearest thing to a “starring” role a production like this is gonna have, this time playing an unnamed single mother to a dead invisible boy named Bobby, who brings unusual books to his momma for her to read to him. Where he gets these things is anybody’s guess, but at the start of this little opus he hands her a heavy hardcover tome called, wouldn’t ya know it, Tales From The Quadead Zone, and she proceeds to relate two of the purportedly macabre tales from its pages to her precious little deceased angel.

The first story, entitled “Food For?,” concerns the trials and tribulations of a too-big-for-its-own- good poor family, who never have enough to eat and decide to get creative in terms of how they reduce the number of mouths to feed at their crowded table. I know, I know, I was thinking cannibalism was sure to be the end result here, as well, but it’s certainly never mentioned with any sort of specificity (hell, nor is it even really implied), all we know for sure is that, at journey’s end, some family members are dead, either at the hands of their own kin or in the state “gas chair” (huh?), while others are, as the image below details, “living high off the hog in the witness protection program.” The entire segment is, on paper at least, a yawner, but the rank sub-amateurism of the various performances, as well as the worse-than-shoddy production values, keeps things more entertaining than they really have any right to be.

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Next up is a little number called “The Brothers” (one of whom is played by Tuner’s own brother, Keefe), a heartwarming yarn about two siblings who have apparently hated each other’s guts since, we’re told, birth (how exactly does that happen?), and that intense and abiding hatred doesn’t simply end with the death of one of them, as the one that’s still alive steals the body of the one who isn’t from a funeral home and uses it to undertake a bizarre occult ritual that — shit, I dunno, summons forth some sort of evil clown spirit. Or something.

The tale of invisible Bobby and his doting mom bookends the “action” here and serves as its own (I guess) morality play entitled “Unseen Vision,” which ultimately sees the devil in Miss Jones (sorry, couldn’t resist) finally put her asshole boyfriend out of his (excuse me, her) misery before taking her own life. Yeah, I know, these things don’t stand up to much — or even any — sort of logical scrutiny, but what the heck? You’re either on the Chester Turner wavelength at this point or you’re not.

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On the whole, Turner seems to have found at least something of a more accessible premise here than a 70-minute feature about an evil ventriloquist dummy fucking the living shit out of a sexually repressed holy roller, and his decision to tone down the sexual content in favor of upping the blood and gore (or should that be ketchup and gore?) is honestly a welcome one, not least because (sorry, Shirley) it’s a relief not to have to see Jones naked again. And his increased comfort level with the camera makes a welcome change, as well, as a good number of the shots in this flick are actually (and, yeah, unbelievably) reasonably well-composed. Chester said that his goal with Tales From The Quadead Zone was to emulate the style of his two idols, Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling, and while he certainly doesn’t come anywhere near to doing that, all in all this is a somewhat more passable production than was his first venture into videography. It’s still garbage, sure, but it’s at least garbage that seems to have some sort of idea about how to proceed within the scope of its own (extreme, to be sure) limitations.

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Anyway, as I’m sure you’ve no doubt guessed by now, Tales From The Quadead Zone is the second disc in Massacre Video’s newly-released The Films Of Chester Novell Turner double-DVD boxed set. There are fewer extras on hand this time around — stills gallery, reversible cover with cool original VHS cover art and text on the “B” side, a somewhat more listless feature-length commentary track from Turner and Jones, and trailers for other Massacre titles — and while the image has been sourced, again, from Turner’s master tape, rest easy when I say it still really does look and sound like utter shit. It wouldn’t be right if it didn’t. Sure, the package as a whole isn’t stellar by any means — hell, how could it be? — but it still probably represents a more comprehensive release than fans of this movie (assuming there are any) could ever have realistically hoped for.

Black Devil

After Tales From The Quadead Zone, Chester Turner decided to call it a day as far as backyard horror- movie-making was concerned. He started up a small construction company in Chicago and still pursues that trade to this day. Where the rumors that he died in a car crash in 1996 came from I have no idea — and neither does he. But evidently his cinematic pipe  dream became too much of a hassle to continue pursuing. Determined not to get hustled out of his rightful due a second time, Turner opted to “distribute” his second feature entirely on his own — specifically employing the selling-it-outta-the-trunk-of-his-car-to-video-rental-shops method he originally had going with  Devil Doll before inking his lousy deal with Hollywood Home Video. As a result, his “market penetration” consisted of a couple hundred stores in Illinois and Alabama (I figure he must have had family there), making Quadead the far more rarely-seen of his two — uhhmmm — epics. The fact that we’re even getting a proper DVD release of this at all is pretty goddamn miraculous.

Still, to say this flick is an acquired taste is putting things mildly. It is what it is and Turner appears to have made it merely because — well, why not? He had the time, he had friends and family, and he had the gumption. He even shows brief flashes of something vaguely resembling ability this second time out. If that’s enough for you , as it apparently is for me given that I have to admit I had a lot of fun with this one, then you know the drill — grab this before it’s gone, which will probably be pretty damn soon.

black devil doll from hell vhs front & back2

Okay, who are we kidding — writer/director/no-budget visionary Chester Novell Turner’s direct-to-video 1984 feature Black Devil Doll From Hell is a reprehensible, misogynistic, mean-spirited, thoroughly incompetent,  less-than-amateur pile of shit with absolutely no redeeming social, artistic, or even entertainment value whatsoever. All I’m asking is — what’s so wrong with that?

If we’re going to be completely honest with (and about) ourselves, we have to admit that we all have occasions where pure, unadulterated rotten-ness for its own sake is, for whatever reason, sort of appealing to us as viewers. If not, then we’re not the sort of people who enjoy reading (or, in my case. writing for) a blog like this one. Sure, I wander pretty far afield into things like mainstream movies and comics and what have you, but the name of this site is still Trash Film Guru, goddamnit, and anyone who checks in here at the very least infrequently does so more or less hoping to find reviews of films exactly like this one. Or at least sort of like this one, because frankly there are no other films — not even 2007’s indie production Black Devil Doll, which isn’t so much a “remake” per se as an altogether different flick extrapolated from the idea at the core of this one  — that are exactly like Turner’s ultra-sleazy little number here.

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The “plot,” as it were, is a pretty simple one — uptight church-going woman Helen Black (played by Shirley L. Jones, Turner’s girlfriend at the time) buys a black, dreadlock-adorned ventriloquist’s dummy at a shoddy antique/second-hand shop and takes it home, whereupon it promptly comes to life and proceeds to rape her relentlessly. Somewhere mid-sexual assault, though, Helen actually starts enjoying what this ( literally) pencil-dicked evil puppet is doing to her, and before you know it, she’s in the throes of passion and begging  for more and more of that good  hard rammin’  morning, noon, and night.  One thing you can definitely say about a lover made of wood — while he may not be much in the conversation department (his idea of foreplay being limited to shouting sweet nothings like “wake up, bitch!”), he never goes limp.

He’s a possessed devil doll from hell, though, remember — so he’s obviously schtuppin’ the living shit out of poor Helen in order to steal her immortal soul. Or something like that.

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Is it all as deliberately offensive as it sounds, playing up every negative racial and sexual stereotype imaginable with no apparent concern, much less conscience? Why, yes, it is — but it’s also blatantly obvious that Turner himself isn’t taking things very seriously, so there’s not much point in us doing so, either. And just when things threaten to get well and truly boring, he throws in little touches like having the devil doll go down on our hapless leading lady with a red-painted popsicle stick tongue. Comparisons to straight-up low-grade porno aren’t entirely out of place here, but as there’s no actual (as far as we know — or at least hope) penetration going on, Turner and his old lady (and his brother, who was pretty much the only other member of what can loosely be described as a “film crew” here) stay (barely) in “hard-R rated” territory here.

And truth be told, even the cheapest, sleaziest, let’s-get-this-in-the-can-and-get-the-fuck-outta-here-before-we-have-to-prove-these-girls-are-18 SOV porn boasts higher production values than Black Devil Doll From Hell. Turner claims he spent something like six thousand bucks making this thing, but it’s hard to see where that money actually went.

Tell you what, though — this movie has been something of a “holy grail” for connoisseurs of largely-forgotten shot-on-video ’80s horror for a long time now, with copies of the VHS release from the late, un-lamented Hollywood Home Video going for big bucks on eBay — until quite recently, that is.

So what changed? Glad you asked!

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Underground label Massacre Video — the folks responsible for last year’s DVD release of Wally Koz’ (or should that be Koz’s?) 555 —   bucked the prevailing “wisdom” that Turner died some years ago in a car crash and actually tracked the guy down and secured DVD rights to both this film and his 1987 follow-up effort, Tales From The Quadead Zone, and the end result is a two-disc DVD boxed set called, just like the title of this review (I’m feeling lazy tonight, sue me) The Films Of Chester Novell Turner. So, yeah, a juicy little urban legend has met an untimely demise, but hey, at least these films are finally available again, and furthermore are being presented complete and unedited for the first time since before Turner cut his distro deal with HHV and was selling homemade copies from the trunk of his car to local Chicago-area mom n’ pop rental shops (Massacre’s DVD features both the full-length cut culled from Turner’s own master tape (don’t worry, it still looks like shit) and the pared-down, half-assed-metal-music added- in “mass” distribution version).

On the extras front, there’s a full-length (and pretty interesting) commentary track featuring both Turner and Jones (neither of whose recollections are entirely clear, but are at least always entertaining to listen to), a new “making-of” mini-documentary called Return To The Quadead Zone (only included, bizarrely enough, on the Devil Doll disc and not the Quadead disc itself — go figure), a stills gallery, and the requisite trailers for other currently-available and/or forthcoming Massacre titles. Oh, and the cover is completely reversible, with the new Massacre version on one side and the original VHS artwork and blurbs on the other (as pictured in the photo atop this very review). Really cool. All in all, a pretty impressive package for a movie whose most (and perhaps only) enduring “quality” is  how  well and truly unimpressive  it is.

Black Devil

If you don’t know that you’re getting into with Black Devil Doll From Hell, then I certainly can’t recommend watching it — but hey, this is such an absolute obscurity that chances are the only folks who have heard of it will know exactly what they’re getting into. If that describes you (and it certainly does me), then this set should probably shoot to the top of your “must-buy” list right now.

This is the bottom of the bottom of the bottom of the barrel. I can’t say I “like” it here, but shit — visiting every now and then sure is interesting. Just don’t spend too much time dwelling on why you feel so fucking comfortable here.

If you’re anything like me, besides having my sympathies, you’ve probably sat through a countless number of movies in your life and thought to yourself “I could make something better than that.” And it’s true — even with no particular background in filmmaking or any sort of technical knowledge required to do the job, you, dear reader, could probably come up with something better than, say, current box office champion The Vow. Not that I’ve seen it, but that’s beside the point. And before I lose said point here entirely —

A native Chicagoland area resident named Wally Koz had that same thought back in the 1980s (you know, before the sprawling exurban soul-dead wasteland outside of Chicago forced the nauseating term “Chicagoland” into existence in the first place — apologies to any and all residents of places like Schaumburg who might be reading this) but, unlike archair critics like you and me, he fucking did something about it. Wally was (the past tense being appropriate here, unfortunately, as he passed away a few years ago now) a guy who, besides having one of the most instantly-ready-for-cult-status names in the history of the world (“Dude, you’re a Wally Koz fan? Me too!”) also had a few thousand bucks in the bank and some friends and family members (counting the number of people with the surname “Koz” listed in the credits would make for a pretty good drinking game — the most notable being his brother Roy, who wrote the script and also “acts” in the movie) who were game to play along with his mad scheme. The end result? 1988’s shot-on-video, direct-to-VHS horror mini-epic (okay, invoking the term “epic” here in any sense might be a stretch) 555.

Like many of us, our guy Wally spent a lot of time and money in the 80s watching SOV/DTV horror movies like Blood Cult, Cannibal Campout, The Ripper, and Video Violence, and was dismayed at how infrequently most of these backyard numbers well and truly delivered the goods (well, okay, Video Violence is an exception to that and probably doesn’t belong on the list — maybe we should substitute Revenge or something instead), especially in relation to their always-lurid box cover art. Figuring (correctly) that most of the folks behind these homemade flicks had no more aptitude for the job than he did, he thought he’d just go ahead and make the kind of SOV horror that he wanted to see, since nobody else was making them. It would be violent in the extreme. Gory in the extreme. Tasteless in the extreme —

—and, in fairness, for many long stretches dull in the extreme. But hey, he shot this thing on 1″ videotape and from my understanding that stuff was a real bitch to edit, so looooooong, lingering takes without much necessearily, you know, actually going on are to be expected, as seasoned viewers of 1980s SOV are well aware. But apart from that one minor quibble more forced on 555 by dint of necessity than any sort of intentionally bad creative decision-making, by and large I think we can congratulate Mr. Koz (and his friends and family) on a job at least reasonably well-done here.

The plot revolves around a killer dressed as a hippie who has this habit of killing couples mid-coitus, hacking them up in whatever gruesome fashion strikes his fancy, and then getting a little post mortem lovin’ from the ladies. Rather than shying away from the nastier elements of this set-up (well, okay, all the elements in this set-up are inherently nasty), Koz positively revels in this shit. You want to see corpse-fucking? You got it. Decapitation? It’s in there. Red -Karo- syrup-blood flowing like a river? Got that too. In short, nothing’s left to the imagination, and while many of the plastic-torso-and-dime-store-fake-innards effects are, admittedly, seriously lacking, some are actually pulled off pretty damn admirably (the lopped-off head on the VHS, and now DVD, cover pictured at the outset here being a notable example).

With the cops, who it must be said occupy the most sparsely-appointed police precinct office you’re ever likely to see (Wally’s garage, anyone?), the media (in the form of a would-be-hot-in-a-real-movie-with-a-budget-but-isn’t-here reporter who’s more than willing to spread her legs to get a lead), and a cheeseball supposedly young(ish) hot-shot DA on his tail, the killer’s MO is quickly (well, okay, not so quickly) discovered — every five years, he kills for five straight nights during the fifth month of the year. Hence the title.

Suspense during the “investigation” is minimal to put it kindly, with lots of scenes of the cops (particuarly one Sgt. Connor) sleeping on the couch, getting up to make coffee, drinking said coffee, then sitting back down on the couch again, etc., and the acting on the whole is pretty atrocious (although hialriously so in the case of the aforementioned Connors, played by Greg Kerouac (I’m assuming no relation to Jack), who’s quite obviously having the time of his life chewing the hell out all the scenery, minimal as it usually is, and spits out epithets and profanity-laced dialogue with the kind of relish with which a starving person might undertake, say, a $10,000 shopping spree in a grocery store), but give the Koz clan credit — when it comes to those kill scenes, they’re all-in.

Look, I won’t kid you, by the time we get around to discovering who the killer is and the incredibly convulted and overwrought reasons for why he’s doing what he’s doing, you won’t (or at least shouldn’t) much give a shit. If you’re here for anything more than seeing how one guy can see his admittedly not-for-all-tastes (hell, not for many tastes) cheapo vision come to life, then you’re watching 555 for the wrong reasons. But if you’re into low-rent production values, ham-fisted acting, gleefully over-the-top grisly slaughter, and have no problem sitting through some of the most unintentionally-nearly-sublime stretches of nothing whatsoever of consequence going on, then you’ve just found one of the best ways to spend just under 90 minutes of your life.

Massacre Video have recently seen fit to finally release this admittedly small-cult obscurity on DVD, complete with a faithfully reproduced version of the nauseating pink-and-yellow-dominated cover that stared out at us from the racks of horror sections at so many video rental shops back in the day. Extras are minimal, consisting of some profesionally-enough-done interviews with some surviving cast and crew members and a selection of trailers for some forthcoming rather, uhhhhhhm, interesting-looking Massacre titles, but the full frame picture has been remastered pretty nicely and looks about as well as this thing probably ever could, and the sound quality (by the way, be on the lookout for the same canned scream being used in every single one of the murders of members of the fairer sex) is likewise about as good as we’re gonna get given the technical unevenness of the source material. They also have a deluxe version that includes a full-sized poster (put that up on your wall and have guests over immediately) and there was a very limited edition VHS reissue of 50 copies(!) that sold out more or less immediately.

No one involved with 555, either in front of or behind the camera, ever worked on anything else again. This is their one credit, across the board, without exception. But Wally Koz, with a little help from his friends and family,  saw this thing through to completion, got a video distribution deal, and apparently at the end of the day he even came out ahead on the whole thing by a few bucks. That’s worth no small amount of respect right there, as is the obvious gusto with which he went about regaling home viewing audiences with some of the most grotesque and tasteless bloodbath scenes ever committed to videotape. All in all, that’s proven to be more than enough to ensure that we’re (well, some of us, at any rate)  still talking about this thing nearly a quarter-century later. It’s not the most auspicious legacy any moviemaker has ever left behind, fair enough, but it’s a damn sight more than most of us will ever achieve.