Curse of Bigfoot (1975) Review by RevTerry

I would like to meet Bigfoot. Not for creepy internet reasons, just to say what's up. I think if the big, hairy homie popped out one day when I was hiking alone, it would say a lot about the kind of vibes I was putting out--If it didn't kill me or rip off my dick of course. At this point, where there is less and less natural landscape left out there, I'm guessing, staying hidden is a considerable priority for yeti-kind. Without a doubt, humans are probably the number one threat to the squatch's livelihood. Saying hello to me would be a huge risk, and I know that. The notion wouldn't be taken lightly or for granted, (just in case you are reading this Mr. Foot). Part of me can get behind the whole being hairy, dirty, and chilling in the forest idea. It's not something I actually could do, but I admire it. Personally, I have trouble sleeping without a TV playing old sci-fi and struggle to grow lip hair as I fly through my thirties. It's fantastic that Bigfoot is out there living that life and I want to tell him in person. It's been an aspiration of mine for a while, sadly I have had no luck (despite looking as friendly as possible whenever I'm the forest). Mummies are pretty cool too, although I don't really look up to them as much. The focus on sleep is a positive, but everyone likes naps and waiting around in a box for years does nothing for me. Also, I could probably pass on being introduced to a walking piece of royal jerky as well, (no offense if you're reading this). As far as my life-goals (as mentioned earlier) are concerned, it’s a nonissue though, because while there is a variety of mummified corpses in the world and several brands of ape-man-things supposedly lurking around, there isn't much overlap. By most accounts, the two are entirely different entities altogether. Unless we are talking about Curse of Bigfoot (1975).
While making its best impression of an educational program, the film opens with broad insight into man and monster biology spanning several thousand years. According to the narrator, before the balding, pants inclined homo sapiens came along, our ancestors walked the Earth as ugly, mutant bipeds that went around growling at each other and eating stuff. As time rolled on, the bulk evolved into early humans, but a few stuck around to creep in the shadows and possibly chow down on some meeker bipeds. As this is explained, we are treated to a few glimpses of a fuzzy specimen sprinting through the brush or juicing a caveman on a pointed rock. Next, we head to a classroom where highschool teacher Mr. Whitmore (Augie Tribach) is teaching cryptozoology to his pupils (70s kids were fucking Lucky). After spewing some freeform factoids their way, he welcomes his moody guest speaker to the podium, Bigfoot expert and former educator Dr. Bill Wyman (Bill Simonsen). Shifting the tone in the room with an explosive demeanor, Dr. Bill starts by gravely declaring that the yeti is real. He then explains that fifteen years ago, while on a field trip, some kids lost their minds, and it's all the "man-apes" fault. Our narrator then takes over (maybe the doctor got too worked up to tell the story), and we learn that the stunted evolutionary cousins he mentioned earlier had become "Bigfoot" and also served as inspiration for a bulk of the mysterious creature sightings or folklore throughout history. Despite some past slip-ups, the hairy dude is doing its best to stay out of humanity's way. Unfortunately, as more land is excavated or explored, there is less to hide in, and soon the species will be uncovered whether it wants to or not. Once that concept has been established on somewhat shaky terms, and the industrial stock footage is spent, the story heads back to 1956 as a younger, less damaged Dr. Bill is taking his class out for some hands-on archaeology. That's when the furry mummy wakes up. Also, the local authorities get involved, and that's never a good look for a school-sanctioned activity.
  Curse of Bigfoot is a tame, schlocky creature flick that has been carelessly recorded over a  partially rewound antiquated school science tape. The first chunk of the film heaps on a ton of information about the world of monsters and takes a hard look at the lumber industry's effect in regards to the human-cryptid relationship. It can seem like an excessive amount of filler, but I assure you it's imperative. Without this primer, things would get confusing around the point when everyone suddenly stops saying "Bigfoot" and starts using the term "mummy." Once enlightened to some facts about how the universe works, the correlation makes sense. Namely, that all legendary creatures are just misidentified yetis. Apparently, Mr. Whitmore knows this, because his class seems to be about anything from griffins to werewolves, in quick succession. The move into mummy adventure isn't so much abrupt as it is brazen and surreal. Instead of a segue, poor Bill Wyman says he's going to start his story from the top--the narrator comes on and does his demented Carl Sagan thing instead, and before you know it a whole new movie has begun. The more substantial portions plot contents are standard monster stuff-- assholes awaken the big bad guy, that “thing” fucks shit up, and finally there's a knockout by an epic battle as the townspeople cheer. There's a little bit of American pre-Code horror influence inside, next to The Thing from Another World (1951) and wrapped together like a Don Dohler flick (minus the aliens and love-- add in artifacts). As far as flashbacks go, it's quite a ride, but if that's the tale Dr. Bill is referring to, he must have suffered some brain damage during the ordeal.
  I don't want to ruin any of the magic (sarcasm is weird in text), but Curse of the Bigfoot didn't begin as a Bigfoot movie at all. Originally, the display of irresponsible high school trespassing, which makes up the last hour, was an aptly titled shorter film, Teenagers vs. The Thing.  That prototype version was finished and essentially shelved in 1959 (or 63 depending on who you ask). Like the title and the monster (and everything else) implies, the original plot had nothing to do with ape-folk and instead featured a reanimated, ancient, desert-corpse persevered for freshness. In the 70s, the director Dave Flocker (or maybe the writer/brother) presumably pulled the reel out of his sock drawer and sought out a distributor. To market the twenty-something-year-old project as a full feature, and possibly freshen up his flick for the new era, he cobbled an all-new thirty minutes of additional content. The original material was repurposed as a flashback, and Bill Simonsen came back to play the same character, aged in real-time (take that Richard Linklater). This new footage (in somewhat murky terms) transformed the films "thing" into the fabled big-footed one, or maybe one of his (our?) ancient relatives. Though the creature does not look like a mummy or a Bigfoot and more resembles a werewolf made of moss and fried eggs, it worked well enough for a television broadcast in 75. Coincidently, there were several other Bigfoot films released around that time, but any scheming was less than expertly executed. The Boggy Creek style faux documentary is attached to a much older backyard creature flick with little done to form one narrative. There is a giant spider's web of connected ideas, but it only serves to make things weirder as the film goes on. The crazed composition of pseudoscience and logical leaps would only realistically make sense if told by someone holding a cardboard sign covered in shakey marker script. There was probably a more straightforward way to bulk up the original project for release. Except then, we wouldn't have a yeti centered theory unifying biology, myth, and man's environmental impact.
As far as the technical quality, there are too many interesting aspects to list, and pointing them out yourself is ninety percent of the charm. Essentially, it's the result of two very low budget films from different eras played back to back. This circumstance allows production to capture the signature values of 50s cheese with an opener of drugged up 70s insanity. The elongated intro is a salad of stock footage, obscure angles and fresh content filmed on the cheap. It's rushed enough to make the remainder feel thought-out by comparison, and the editing turns the fictional biology lesson into a ransom letter made of babble. The rest of the film is an exercise in haphazard drive-in ambition on an endearing, dinner theater budget. There are at least three completely different arts & crafts abominations running around in this film, all labeled as "Bigfoot." The first one was supposedly our common ancestor from long ago, and so some change in appearance could be expected. That doesn't, however, explain why the mummified version the kids found transforms at random. The second one rocks an evil zombie carved out of soggy molded wood motif, while the replacement has a style closer to a bear corpse left in the fridge for too long. They don't even look like the same species, and not one of these things resembles a mummy or Bigfoot. I could possibly accept that they were all from the same paper mache planet, but that's as far as I'm reaching. Although filmed entirely in daylight, the movie makes due for night scenes with cricket noises and a campfire. It's worth a few laughs, and I honestly applaud the choice over a noisy black screen. For better or worse, this doomed nature walk is sleaze free. Early on, somebody screams while dumping Ragoo on a rock, and there is some wet cardboard violence, but the film is nearly squeaky clean-- content-wise anyway. All the humans involved expertly enunciate their lines, invoking ham through sixty years of half-assed transfers and grain. I'm talking crap, but it makes every bit of the nonsense enjoyable on some level. The shit that comes out of their mouths could have been made from a rejected Johnny Quest episode if they had cared less about the ancient culture ruins they were "exploring." Partnered with the exaggerated, vintage delivery, the long-winded, often pointless dialog is unintentional comedy in raw form. It's easily my favorite part and still gets at least a few giggles from me after repeat viewings. On a side note, some of the dubbing is a little wonky, which all things considered, is minor here. I only mention this because they could have at least switched out some of the "mummy"s for "Bigfoot"s when they tacked on the new shit. Never mind. You know what? It's perfect how it is.
The script is written by the director’s brother James T. Flocker who reportedly put in some time as the "mummy" as well.  James took to directing it himself while Teenagers Battle the Thing sat shelved and was working on his second feature when Curse aired in 1975. There is some grey area when it comes to who did what behind the scenes, with only unsourced or contradicting accounts to go off of. Either way, all of the uncredited secondary cast had previously worked on James' director debut Ground Zero in 1973 and seemed to be a tight-knit crew, collaborating in a variety of combinations until the early 90s. The official-ish credits for final release have been carried over from the original short film and omit a good number of the faces that show up. Teaching class, in the beginning, is Augie Tribach who had a small hooded role in Ted V. Mikels' Blood Orgy of the She-Devils (1973). In attendance is Debbie (Jackey Neyman Jones) from the infamous (more mentioned) Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966). For the characters with identities, local auditions were held before the 1950s production, none of the hired actors list film work outside of this films two titles. From the initial group, Bill Simonsen returns to play the same character in the prolog only older and more depressed. He fucking nails it and not just because he's actually been aging for fifteen years. I hope at least that some of the sadness was an act.
I wouldn't call Curse of Bigfoot the worst in Bigfoot or mummy cinema. It's probably up there in both categories for missing its mark so aggressively, but it is surprisingly common to find an incompetent flick in those subgenres. In fact, unless my memory is failing me, it is the greatest petrified Sasquatch film, I have had a chance to enjoy so far. The loose definition of each classic creature is probably going to leave anyone jonesing for a faithful dose of either concept unsatisfied. Plus, its a complete fuck-mess of dried up corn, insane logic, and lazy-ass editing. But having said all that, it is an excellent source of recycled b-movie hijinks and an overall blast to sit through. Sadly, the spiritual connection I usually get is absent from this particular (supposed) yeti family tree branch. I'm still glad that big-mummy-foot exists, for several reasons, but I'm also entirely okay with never telling the abomination in person. 
1h 28min | 1975
Director: Dave Flocker
Writer: James T. Flocker

On Amazon
Teenager Battle the Thing IMDB
Teenager Battle the Thing At the Internet Archive

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Horror House on Highway Five (1985) Review by RevTerry

Like the embrace of a lover, new socks, and being intoxicated at a buffet, the appeal of bad movies can not be truly quantified.  I can say there is more than one way to enjoy a film if you have the right mindset. The habit of seeking out films with a negative reputation has provided me as many meaningful life experiences as polished cinema itself has, if only on vastly different levels. In fact, some times, hearing someone complain can be enough to propel me towards a title. I'm not always rewarded for this policy (fuck you Bagger Vance), but it's worth it anyway because every so often I find myself fully engulfed in a masterful trainwreck where ideas become twisted and new on impact. Never quite the same, the actual payout for these ventures comes with their indescribable flavors and evolving values for each mood. At its best, a bad movie is simultaneously authentic, ambitious, unintentionally hilarious and partially incoherent. It's not something that can be streamlined, and it's hardly reproduced. The horde of tributes as of late can be fun, but ultimately you cannot capture lightning in a bottle without severe burns. Some of the greatest adventures I have stumbled upon were nothing short of happy accidents where everything had to go wrong in the perfect way. Obviously, there is a wide range of films that classify as "bad"--from the cheap, offensively low brow to just fucking broken. Some combinations are more enjoyable than others and can have wildly different effects from person to person. The slasher genre is an Infamous goldmine for quality garbage. It's amazing how the basic stab em up formula on repeat has given birth to a rainbow of freak bastard children throughout the ages. The niche is historically cheesy, frugal and sleazy; prime ingredients for cinematic junk food. Whether it comes in the form of lazy, by the numbers, titty-filled fan service, story-less gore, or a failed passion project, ambitions and failure can produce unrepeatable art when you least expect it. For an unteachable graduate class in intoxicating heaps and a minor in rocket science, we can take a look at Horror House on Highway Five (1985).
In a questionable and only half explained bid for extra credit, a group of college students heads out on a likely unsanctioned field trip on "Old Highway Five" to launch a model rocket. According to their history/science professor (Randy Daitch), their destination holds topical significance as it was reportedly the final home of the notorious Nazi astrophysicist Frederick Bartholomew. While most of the group is on its way, their classmate Sally Smith (Irene Cagen) embarks on a lone side-mission given to her by the professor to visit the late, probably evil, Nazi-guy's associates, living in his former home. On the clumsy coed’s arrival, she is greeted by Dr. Marbuse (Phil Therrien) and his childlike brother Gary (Max Manthey) who claims to have known Bartholomew well and wants Sally to hang out. After a short chat and evasion of capture, she leaves only to come back immediately after and is promptly kidnapped. At the same time, the rest of the academic adults have started prepping for their middle school science project in the prescribed field. Unfortunately, there is a killer in a Richard Nixon mask on the loose stabbing people with impractical sharp things. Unlikely and unrelated mayhem follows. Even if I could put the rest to words, I wouldn't want to spoil a possible twist. I will say, it involves a magical dead cat, invisible monsters and boob ironing—also just a hint of necrophilia.
From the get-go, the film set a precedent for an odd and eclectic grab-bag with little context. Opening with tarot cards, a mistreated pet and Nixon shanking someone with a glass shard, it only finds stranger shit to attach as it proceeds down its path. The ungrounded narrative jumps from uncomfortable situations without rhythm, scarcely holding together the familiar genre backdrop. While incurably singular, the "story" seems to have bloomed from the average slasher basics. It's as if someone took a sample of horror cinema and had it reinterpreted by an extraterrestrial tourist with limited actual earth experience. Most of the elicited giggles are unintentional although the film stocks a goofy, mean spirited comedy throughout. At least, I think that it is intended as such, as it swells at inopportune times and bleeds into the supposed terror. If you could take all the moments that felt off in Blood Diner (1987) and shove them into A Night To Dismember (played at 1.5x the speed), it may come close to Highway Five's demeanor. It's hard to understand what the film's true intentions are, as every action comes from such a strange point of view and no one stands still long enough to give any hints. With the casual plod of three-wheeled ice cream truck, the story drives around picking up strange elements until it finally circles back with no purpose. A concrete subject can't be discerned at any point, as brain parasites, Nazi magic and a pile of cat guts take turns in focus. And while that's not even the extent of its out of place gags, nothing is explored past a cryptic introduction. Anything goes, from flying POV monsters to immortal sickos, barely stuck together by a puzzling tone and a general location. Every character behaves free of logic, and the movie ends without insight on their behavior. None of it is particularly shocking (for a b-movie) on its own, but the misassembled Frankenstein monster has a way of unironically stumbling over itself with a goofy unnerving smile. I'm almost a hundred percent sure the psychedelic push into Avant-Garde territory is less about art cred than it was the number of cheap drugs the filmmakers were on. All that being said, it's got more character than ninety percent of exhibitions that tried their best to be weird. There isn't really a story and what is there is fucking whacked, but I'll be damned if it isn't an entertaining loss of brain cells.
While the underdeveloped possible satire belongs unmistakably to the 80s, much of the editing has the distinct flavor of a grindhouse roughie. The cuts linger without purpose to shake around in place or pan away towards a random part of the wall before moving on. Almost every opening is trimmed into the scene too far, adding to the constant feeling there is a crucial missing element that explains why any of this is happening. The transitions that do exist, only seem to indicate the movie has reached its end and fade to black at arbitrary intervals in the run-time. In any version I have seen, the picture quality is abysmal, and the film doesn't shy from dark scenes that show little more than the outline of figures. A variety of barren walls and outside locations make it difficult to get a sense of direction. I'm assuming all the inside scenes are supposed to be the same place, but if so, it's got a fucked up floor plan. The dubbing varies between slightly mistimed to Kung Fu movie-level lipsyncing. The first few victims sound like the same cartoon hick, and I wouldn't be surprised if the whole cast was voiced by three people in post.  Requisite nudity and gore are comparably light, saved by the fact the entire creation is covered in deviant grime. If somehow a time-traveling Chris Seaver met Doris Wishman in the middle of the 80s, their collaboration would come close to the style on display. The soundtrack is my favorite part and plays into the out of place retro vibes. For most of the time, it's an autonomous entity, picking songs with no regard to what's on screen. As if fashioned by a teenage Quentin Tarantino on LSD, the mixtape of accompanying pieces includes hippy love ballads, creepy organ, and desperado guitar twang. When it does play off the rest of the movie, it goes for the complete opposite vibe as if the DJ was bummed there weren't any nostalgic scenes to score, so they made their own from anything available. In some cases, the sounds are so precise in their negating of the tension that it's hard not to look for a deeper meaning (with futility). It fits, as the production’s only unifying factor is viewer confusion.
Before tackling the psychotronic slasher, director Richard Casey had made some sort of name for himself with music videos. He provided visuals for Blue Öyster Cult's Burnin' for You, and two tracks for Aldo Nova. Horror House on Highway Five was his first full-sized picture, although he is listed as a production assistant for the cult favorites Alligator and Galaxina in 1980. Casey shortly followed it up with another low budget occult-thriller-comedy Hellbent (1988), and in 1995  jumped back to music for Angry Samoans: True Documentary. In his most recent work and third feature film, the director returned to the horror house concept (only one highway over) with a remake/sequel in 2014 for the straight to the DVD market, Horror House on Highway 6. By the director's account, Highway 5 was filmed during weekends, over six years in the homes of loyal cast and crew members. Among the brave and willing participants was Bill Pope who worked with Casey in the music industry and would go on to provide cinematography for a slew of big money pictures (including The Matrix, Spider-Man 2, Alita: Battle Angel). Two-time robot (THX 1138, 1971 and Heartbeeps 1981) Irene Cagen (credited here as Irene F. for union reasons) appears here as Sally Smith--dizzy victim, and de facto main character. After the mid-90s she would mostly stay on the other side of the camera and to date has over twenty credits as casting director. An appropriate cocktail of unsettling cheese, Phil Therrien makes one of his four career roles as Dr. Marbuse. The rest of his credits include two more Richard Casey films (including the sequel) and a small part in Cheers. In the tradition of Boris Korloff’s monster, our masked killer and key flimsy plot-point is credited only as Ronald Reagan. Legend states, this was due to multiple cast members dawning the Nixon mask according to availability and practicality. That's fine; I just hope they know the difference between their creepy old politicians.
Horror House on Highway Five is the imported, run of the mill b-movie slasher cliche from a gonzo dimension running parallel to our own. Somebody had a plan for it all, born from perverted imagination and well-used genre tropes, but no sense can be wrestled from the awkward, lovable final product. I hate saying things like this, but to fully appreciate the film, it must be experienced. Even then, I can't assume you’ll find the joy inside that brings me back for repeat viewings. That's the thing about "bad movies"--it's a broad category, and we all have a different palette for trash. My best advice is just to try everything. Like food, you never know what you might dig. Also like cuisine, if the movie sucks, give it another chance sometime down the road, when you're in a different place, or drunk.
1h 27min | 1985
Director: Richard Casey
Writer: Richard Casey 
Review by:

Meaty Bits 9/19: Short Reviews and a Digital Religious Artifact

Short Reviews

Below are some quick thoughts on shit that I have checked out for the first time within the last few days. This includes some relatively more mainstream media, recent random finds, and my usual weird fare. Unlike my other reviews, I have only watched these things once. As these are mostly knee -jerk reactions, all are subject to me completely changing my mind on a second viewing, absolute misunderstanding on my part, or a full "review" at a future date.

Office Uprising (2018) 

Let's be real--not one concept featured in this film could be considered groundbreaking. In fact, if anything, it's a mix of several ideas that have been done multiple times in the last eight or so years--to more acclaim. That doesn't stop it from being functional, bloodsoaked slapstick that made me laugh out loud a few times. It kind of feels like an extended, R rated episode of a quirky cubicle themed television show from a time before The Office came over the pond. Gregg Henry is in there, and I'm always down to see him play a slimy role. Zachary Levi appears as well and gets a little crazy, post-Chuck but pre-Shazam!, which I actually enjoyed despite my severe (admittedly weird) hate for Chuck. 
(IMDB - WIKI - Crackle)

Cornman: American Vegetable Hero (2001)

I can't, with certainty, tell you how long this DVD has been hanging out at the bottom of my collection. I do know I have passed it over a few times in the last year, having had my fill recently when it comes to comic book parody. As is often the case, my rash conclusion was a little off base. Cornman is less a parody of the mainstream crime fighters we see so much of and more a homage to Troma's The Toxic Avenger, physical comedy, and agriculture. Seemingly made for pennies and heavily padded by nonsense, the movie is like watching a bunch of highschool 4H kids act out an inside joke with backyard wrestling, set to the soundtrack of a skateboard VHS. I took it for what it was and being in the right mood, I was soon ready to sign up for the official fan club. It's a light-hearted, stupid comedy with silly violence held together by an earnest homegrown vibe, usually reserved for SOV splatter. Plus, it gets extra points for utilizing a vegetable as a deadly weapon ( more than once) and bringing paper mache decapitation back.
(IMDB - WIKI - Amazon)

Hollywood's New Blood (1988)

After Seeing the cover and the film's title, I thought this low budget horror flick would have been a sleazy hamfisted pseudo critique of the Hollywood casting couch--something along the lines of a 90s Maskhead (2009) with aspiring stars lining up for slaughter and greedy snuff dealers praying upon the gullible. What transpires instead is a bare-bones Jason-derived camping trip with a few young-ish attendees (who sometimes mention a movie production) and one murderous senior-citizen. It's a lot of bad dialogue, and at one point there was a rapey dude that looks like a young Mark Hamill mixed with an Osmond brother. The color/lighting had some interesting moments (for the budget) and not in any way is it the worst slasher I have ever seen, but after seventy minutes of chatter, nothing happened. There was no notable payoff, not even reasonable trashy stab-em-up stuff, (blood, boobs, etc.) as those things were just referred to. Maybe I have a TV copy or something, and they chopped out the gore and nudity, or they simply spent all their money on Mormon Luke Skywalker, leaving little for rubber guts-- who knows. It does have an official theme song. However, so did Cornman and that movie actually remembered to bring enough fake blood along.
(IMDB  - Amazon)

Reel Nightmare (2017)

Even with some decent performances, well-done lighting and enough lore for two projects, this movie goes off with little more than a thud. Outside of those few highlights, it never reaches past film school jokes and passionless cliches. It wasn't terrible, but I couldn't help feeling I was watching someone's vanity project, which is an odd notion in a trashy horror flick. I put it on immediately after Hollywood's New Blood, and they ended up going together perfectly, but it wasn't always to their benefit or mine.
(IMDB - Amazon)

Assassination Nation (2018)

I should have popped this on immediately when it was released and after it's target audience shunned it. For some reason, I imagined Spring Breakers (2012) type, mainstream dick tease, only with less neon. I was wrong on both counts. As it turns out, ADD fueled satire with science-fiction style extremes, shot through an arsenal of millennial gibberish makes a pretty good watch. The film loosely wears the skinsuit of a YouTuber, and is something of a modern Jawbreaker (1999) meets The Purge (2013) and The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street (1960) on MDMA. Its whole social media premise has been done, but the flashy relentlessness does the societal threat some well-dressed exploitation justice. With plenty of colors and lens flare, it's an effective mainstream spiral into hyperactive violence with a rare and increasingly mean spirit. Its dizzying editing could probably be headache-inducing, but the medium is perfectly matched to the theme, treading a thin line between edgy teen party and video collage. According to the web, there were some celebrities in the mix of whose names I'm only slightly familiar. I didn't recognize anyone but Joel McHale and the dude from the IT remake. Then again, I had trouble telling who was who among the main cast, maybe they are all famous. I also probably didn't understand half of what was said, but I'm totally down with this shit.
(IMDB - WIKI - Amazon)

Orange Is the New Black: Season 7

I hope it doesn't surprise anyone that I make my way through the new season of the streaming poverty-porn-pioneer every time it drops on Netflix. It's very much in my wheelhouse, being both an iconic piece of fictional garbage and the revival of women in prison exploitation. It also helps that it has Captain Janeway in it, sporting a crazy Russian accent. That being said, the new season was definitely more Prison Stories: Women on the Inside (1991) than charming sleaze of the previous seasons. It seems to be reaching to provide development for the actors it can hold on to and is hitting the "hot topics" with more frequency to wring out its cheap drama. It's still a kind of stupid that I can roll with, though now it has passed its purpose and with a touch of self-parody. While OITNB is reported to be in its final season, it's interesting to watch such a shiny streamline of classic pulp ideas, pop culture, and new mediums go through the same phases of aging as the previous television drama traditions that its format has almost replaced. I can't wait for a spin-off.
(IMDB - WIKI - Netflix)

Digital Religious Artifact

The Day of the Locust (1975) Trailer

I made a quick trip to Las Vegas a few weekends ago. All and all, it was pretty fun. I finally visited the Erotic Heritage Museum, got drunk, talked to Uber drivers, stayed drunk, and listened to some music. But, honestly, I was a little let down that Vegas wasn't covered in grasshoppers. You see, every several years, due to the weather, the area sees an influx of crawly citizens of all kinds--little green fuckers that stink and fly in face holes, loud-ass cicadas and most of all, grasshoppers. The season had been especially bad, and my town was hit with enough new jumpy friends to make the weird religious people nervous. According to the news, YouTube and anyone you talked to, the city of sin was seemingly caked in the insects, making for all kinds of cinema-grade effects when mixed with the Strip’s lighting. That wasn't the case when I got there, not even fucking close. I guess the pseudo locusts had their fill of the amenities and moved on (probably heading to my town).  In reality, I'm relieved, as they probably would have fucked up the night, though part of me was hoping for Exorcist sequel type shit. It did remind me of a film trailer that had left an impression on me as a child.
A Dramatic dark look at Hollywood and the desire for fame in 1939, The Day of the Locust was directed by John Schlesinger and featured intense performances from everyone involved. Among a cast of greats (including Donald Sutherland as Homer Simpson), Karen Black is at a peak in both beauty and frightening passion. I will forever love her mark on horror, but it’s roles like this that make me want to remind people that she was so much more than one genre. 
Long before I would actually watch or could probably fully grasp the film, I witnessed a trailer on a rental tape that stuck with me for two reasons. First, the title seemed like a mix-up, where the fuck were the Bible bugs? Was the minor bad guy from Ghostbusters (1984) going to turn into a giant grasshopper or something? Secondly, it was fucking intense. Just the trailer’s composition and content was an emotional rollercoaster, and despite the boring things the narrator was mentioning, it seemed epic to my young mind. Little RevTerry was confused and intrigued. Many years later, I would finally see the film and find the name less enigmatic, and that trailer held only a fraction of its overall power.  I was also familiar with the legendary Karen black by that point and knew she could shake a large apartment from inside a small tube television.
I can't be completely sure this is the exact trailer that I saw all those years ago on VHS, but if it's not, it's close and has the same voice-over. It also seems to have the same general effect, in that it draws you into the chaos but doesn't give away any more than a trailer should.  If you haven't seen the actual film, I can't recommend it enough--but pick the appropriate movie night as it's not a movie about swarming bug attacks.
(IMDB - WIKI - Amazon - Trailer Source: YouTube Movies)
New full review coming soon, and be sure to follow VideoReligion on all the social media outlets for daily film appreciation and because that's the only measure of worth left in the dystopian wasteland. Facebook Instagram Twitter

by: RevTerry


Rolling Vengeance (1987) Review by RevTerry

Monster trucks initially didn't appeal to me at all. Nothing like that had ever piqued my interest.  As a kid, I was into things like dinosaurs and monster-monsters not "big trucks," and I never went through an obligatory manly car phase of any sort. Smashing shit can be cool, but I have always preferred being the smasher in that case, not just some asshole watching from fifty feet away. From my limited knowledge (completely formed by Matchbox cars and cable television) it was an amalgamation of NASCAR and wrestling, and for a long time, that appeal escaped me completely. Altogether, it had some exciting components (the word monster, a "bigfoot," possible explosions), but it just didn't seem to be my type of jam, and I kept my distance. That was until, dragged along by a pushy family friend, I actually attended a real-life monster truck rally. Not fifteen minutes into the event, did I realize I had judged monstrous trucks too harshly. At an elementary level, I had imagined the event correctly, as it centers around some big ass trucks going in circles, driving off ramps and crushing cars. What I didn't account for, in my ignorance, was the in-person experience and overall spirit that comes from sitting in a crowd while that happens. Like all magic, It's hard to explain, and it has to be experienced to be truly understood. It's basically like watching a sport; you cheer when something "good" happens. Only, in the case of monster trucks, there isn't really a competition going on in front of you, just random acts of twisted mechanical violence. There are no permanent teams, important stats or designated moments of happiness based on geographic happenstance, you yell or act excited whenever the fuck you want. If seeing a truck do donuts gets you going, throw a whistle its way--same goes for any time flames shoot out of something. Fireballs are almost always tight in my book, so after I see one, of course, I'm going to cheer like I'm my dad when the Patriots just scored a touchdown. Included is all the good stuff you get with baseball games, nachos, beer, eccentric sunburnt nutbags, sans the boring sports part and substituted with chrome-plated chaos. It's pretty much a circus, only instead of abusing animals they playout the exciting vehicle moments from action movies--live.  It is like an artsy Vegas show, and a schlocky trash tape had a baby, starring big-wheeled mechanical creatures that each get a theme. Still in the parking lot, immediately after that first gasoline rodeo, I had to ask myself,  "How have I shunned something so beautiful?"   Right there, I vowed to look upon majestic beasts of motorized metal differently. Eventually, The new life philosophy also led to me watching Rolling Vengeance (1987). 
As the latest in a dynasty of gruff trustworthy truck drivers, Joey "little Joe" Rosso’s (Don Michael Paul) life is mostly going to plan. He is somewhat adequate at what he does, has people that love him, and he seems to be content with his place in the world. His father Joseph "Big Joe" Rosso (Lawrence Dane) has recently handed down a sizeable new rig, and Joey is in line to inherit a profitable Canadian outfit with a pre standing reputation for reliable goods transportation. This vocation also lends time and resources to his hobby of fashioning custom big-wheeled projects to show off at "truck shows." Last but not least, there's also his long-time squeeze Misty (Lisa Howard), a playful and beautiful moral activist who he hopes to marry someday. Unfortunately, Lil' Joe's life is not without issues. The majority of his problems, like everyone else in town, stem from the rowdy hicks found at a strip-club up the street. Recently, the spoiled redneck sons of the bar owner "Tiny" Doyle (Ned Beatty) have taken to terrorizing citizens through acts of reckless intoxicated driving. The straight-shooting "Joes" make their living on the road, so this doesn't sit well at all, but as the strip club/evil guy HQ is one of their biggest clients, they continue to deliver alcohol to the establishment. This professional policy works for a while until younger Joe has trouble hiding his disdain for the murderous hooliganism, causing a big ass party-foul and an awkward interaction during a Jack Daniels drop off. Big Joe tells Joe minor to chill, but the animosity puts a target on Joey's back, and the strip club bros take to dismantling his life with impunity since their dad is the wealthiest asshole in town. Eventually, when everyone he loves has been sexually assaulted and or gruesomely killed with no repercussions, the former "Little Joe" decides he has had enough and takes justice into his own hands. Retrofitting his big-wheeled, flame snorting show rig into an instrument of mortal justice, he hits the road to avenge his family, fight for sobriety and leave greasy stains on the pavement. Remember kids, only dead bad-guys drink and drive.
Rolling Vengeance is a cinematic ode to extreme vehicle antics in the form of a lopsided crimefighter tale with the style-sense of Sam Elliott and a melted Hot Wheels collection. Starting as a slow showcase of a trucker family's daily happenings, the story tries to drive home the good old boy vibes whenever possible. There is plenty of denim-clad conversation between scenes involving a deep, only slightly disturbing, love for engine drawn carriages. Partially saved by rambunctious pacing, the atmosphere is a little dry, and an extended amount of time is spent on compounding tragedy. Two parts movie of the week and one part Death Wish II (1982), it's determined to spread enough character depth around for the emotional impact when each loved one gets attacked. Ultimately, I had popped the flick in to see the truck-thing plow through thugs, but the time spent on our vigilante's life, pre vehicle upgrade, gives the revenge a fully formed Spiderman-like point and provides some sappy accidental comedy, so it's not a complete waste. The bad guy, on the other hand, gets almost no background or motive, besides being the more drastic version of Porky from Porky's (1981). His cronies aren't painted with any reasoning for their behavior either, besides being drunk asshats. While never dull, the film starts to feel like an extended road safety and drunk driving PSA dramatization involving a black and white moral standoff between cliche salt of the earth characters. It's only at the halfway point that you get a hint that it might all be worth it, as there is a cornball proto death machine-building montage to the soundtrack of a knock off Chevy ad and the random strippers (in the out-of-place clips) take their tops off. Once it gets going with the promised schlock, it packs as much cartoon hijinks into the remaining runtime as it can. Striking fear into a criminal when it appears on the road, the truck is presented as less a weapon, and more Joey's alter ego. Its eventual killings are deceptively lighthearted and come with an adventure-like goofiness that laughs in the face of the tone's tendency to take little other things seriously.  Like a pattern, the fun, almost comedic, revenge killings are followed by quick hamfisted reminders of how terrible the situation is. Then it’s back on the road to squish goons with a smile. By the time the antagonists are mounting some weaponized machinery of their own in the final battle, the story has pretty much trailed off into a makeshift Robot Wars (1993) in a junkyard with some kind of country-fried moral honor on the line. Even though the movie comes equipped with most of the right pieces, fully assembled, it's far from a revenge thriller by my qualifications. However, it is a redneck Punisher rip off with a lot of origin story and all-terrain tires, so I'm not mad.
There isn't much graphic violence on display. Most of the brutal stuff is cut away-from or only implied. Instead, the film shoots its load with cheer-worthy practical destruction of both vehicle and structure. Without an ounce of computer assistance (outside of the totally rad opening logo), the film consistently supplies a string of car battles, crashes and explosive impacts, shown from varied angles. Holding together like a trusty hoopty, the rest of the film’s technical qualities can't be faulted much, outside of being cheap or generic. Lighting is one size fits all (not counting the strip club) and exists just to make sure everything is seen. The editing and camera work during the destruction is more worried about showing it off than anything and lets the events speak for themselves. It reminded me of the "Truck, Car, and Tractor" compilation tape ads that played on TV when I was a kid. Far from the low budget action we get today, the film’s most minuscule throw-away stunt can be fully recognized as a lot of hard work from a skilled performer. During the film's titular "vengeance" sequences, the music and framing take on an almost Saturday morning theme. I got visions of Captain Planet showing up to teach polluters a lesson, only instead of a stern talking-to, he runs them over in a flame-shooting gas guzzler. The truck's final form is a masterpiece of functional prop creation. It looks like you could drive the thing off the movie lot in every scene and start hunting down drunk motorists in the real world. Style-wise it's got a budget Mad Max midboss mixed with a broken RC toy thing going on. Packed with backyard batman armor, expressive flames and a drill, honestly, it needs its own slightly exaggerated action figure. Between its altruistic theme music, the practical effects, and the laughable revenge killing, I was quickly swept away into the corny motif the super truck brought along. I soon forgot how I had waited though almost an entire drivers ed tape of low budget melodrama.
Before conducting this television epic in 1987, Candian director Steven Hilliard Stern had already helmed almost forty projects, including cult Tommy Lee Jones flick The Park Is Mine (1985), a wide range of TV works, and a bigger budget feature film that hasn't aged well at all (The Devil and Max Devlin, 1981).  After his foray into rubber and steel driven justice, he continued to make small screen action thrillers and direct random episodes for Canadian productions throughout the 90s. He quit directing after 1999's The Dream Team, and his last film credit was as a writer in 2004 for a WWII documentary. His daughter Jana Stern provided wardrobe and costuming on Rolling Vengeance in one of her first gigs. She would go on to do the same for a range of projects from Air Bud (1997) to Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003) and is still in the business today. Michael Thomas Montgomery wrote the script. The man only wrote five films total, including Eye of the Tiger (1986), so his batting average on rewatchable trash is admirable. Plus, his short, straight to tape career is filled with Cynthia Rothrock,  Fred WilliamsonRobert Forster and a lot of Gary Busey.  With an immediately recognizable face, Ned Beatty mixes Boss Hogg with Clarence Boddicker to bring animated life to a thinly scripted Tiny Doyle. Ned has shown up in a lot of weird shit and done a good job, so unsurprisingly, he plays the corrupt sleazeball just as easily as he does lovable, doofy friend or wise old guy. Also, for once, it's not entirely his fault I kept getting slight Deliverance vibes at inappropriate times. I didn't pick him out at first, but lead actor Don Michael Paul is something of a b-movie renaissance man. Along with other acting roles in classics like Robot Wars and Brisco County JR, Paul has worked both as a writer and director since the 90s. In 1991 he manifested another (more often mentioned) cult tribute to the engine, writing the script for Mickey Rourke/Don Johnson action team-up Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (1991). Still active today, the jack of all trades is behind several straight to DVD sequels including a recent Tremors. Here, he slides right into character with cartoon altruism, dramatic outbursts, and the perfect hairdo. Big Joe is played by veteran character-actor Lawrence Dane, whose long continuing filmography covers favorites like Scanners (1981), Happy Birthday to Me (1981), and Bride of Chucky (1998). Making up the rest of the cast is a slew of virtually unknown actors who are both well picked and seem able to fill in where the writing only infers. No matter how silly the whole thing gets, all in attendance fully embody their assigned tropes, extremes, and surface-level attributes in the best way. There are currently no awards for acting of its type, and it's not necessarily natural, but must be impeccably aimed to make the particular content work. The dialogue is a ham and cheese sandwich on white bread but served with all the enthusiasm available in rural Canada and a cool four-wheeled gimmick, it's a fucking full-fledged Happy Meal.
Rolling Vengeance is a paint by numbers revenge tale featuring beneficial practical effects and an emotional guy in a big rig, which has some entertaining trouble staying in the lines. It's not the motor oil flavored The Exterminator (1980) I had originally imagined, coming closer to Walking Tall (1973) forcefully repurposed into a big rig themed, comic book origin story. The movie advertised in the poster shows up noticeably late in the feature, but Vengeance does indeed roll, and the extensive filler has its own value in my opinion. Maybe, I simply like seeing shit get broken, smashed or crashed into by a hulking vehicle, but fuck it, fun is fun. I'm not going to wear a Gravedigger t-shirt or anything, but I like to think monster trucks have helped ignite something positive inside me.  It has served me well to have an open mind about things like this, in most cases anyway--Nascar is as I had initially thought, pretty fucking lame.
1h 30min | 1987
Director: Steven Hilliard Stern
Writer: Michael Thomas Montgomery


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The Master Demon (1991) Review by RevTerry

Demons are tricky mother fuckers. It would seem everyone's demon has a particular set of rules or requirements to be dealt with. It could be a special necklace, some bloodletting or a fucking priest spouting gibberish. You never know, so you have to have to ride it out till it makes a little sense and you can try out some cures. That’s if it ever reveals a weakness. It's always possible the demon cannot be defeated at all or will keep coming back for sequel after sequel until your character dies off and beyond. Worse still, each of the beasts comes packing a unique technique or instrument of torment, with varying degrees of discomfort. Your demon could be the kind that runs around wearing your persona to mess with your folks, a surprise scary face in the mirror at night or the simple version that sticks to pointy metal and violent disfigurement. There are no real rules to how and why you end up with one, but It's not entirely random, because the negative power is personalized by case. It's always perfectly crafted to prove a point. While at the same time, there isn't a predictable merit system or anything to look for. Of course, some people go searching for cursed objects or will invoke an evil presence willingly. But you don't have to do something stupid to summon one or two into your life. If there is some science to it, I can't figure it out. While one person can get a demon that looks like Scott Valentine with a mullet and a tail (possibly annoying but not fatal), others get completely screwed. You could just as easily end up on the wrong side of an evil Kung Fu entity, who only possesses large bald men and calls himself The Master Demon.
Long ago, two mighty warriors were having a death battle for the fate of humanity in a lovely green field somewhere. After some dramatic sparring, the larger combatant, a bruiser with a red gi and some nasty blackheads, appears to best his opponent with a deep cut to the side of his torso. This seems to be the end of the ordeal, but surprisingly, the skinny hero dressed as every member of Van Halen at once jumps up slicing off an appendage with one swipe. The rest of the violent aggressor then disappears, leaving his bloody hand behind as a parting gift (because apparently, that guy was a demon in a colossal human suit that could use the leftover chunk to resurrect himself). Without a pause, the wounded hero hobbles his way towards the local temple. Once he has successfully found a trustworthy looking monk and handed off the gruesome baton for safekeeping, he then mumbles loudly and dies, having saved the world (for now). Centuries later, the modern ancestor of the guardian/hair metal warrior Tong Lee (Eric Lee) has had his sleep disturbed by recent dreams about his great (great, great, etc.) grampa's final exploit. Sometime during the night, it was explained to him that the entity known as Master Demon (Gerald Okamura), once again, will walk the earth. What's more, being the "white warriors" kin, it's Tong’s job to stop him this time using the family sword. Sure enough, across town, a convoluted, unlucky series of events involving burglary, an artifact dealer with lousy timing and Pugsley on steroids has awoken the demon and set things in motion. Incomplete, the diabolical being dispatches his best woman from the nether-realm--a muscle-bound blond, lightly wrapped in leather, named Medusa (Kay Baxter Young) to locate his missing limb now in a dusty box with a flesh-colored hockey puck. Sooner or later, this all lands at disheveled PI Cameron's (Steve Nave) doorstep, and in turn attracts the attention of his creepy cop homie Wayne (Sid Campbell). After meeting Tong, the two are skeptical of the whole immortal evil part but sign up for the chance to punch randos without so much as a handshake to signal the newly formed team. Various displays of martial arts, bromance, and sloppy dialogue follow as the heroes race to stop the demonic threat and ultimately save the world. Also, Wayne gets an extended sex scene that is about as sensual as his greasy lip hair.
An epic of no-budget trash hopped up on John Carpenter sized ambitions, The Master Demon is essentially an American made, 90s love letter to outlandish Kung Fu cinema and buddy-cop action flicks. Whenever possible, it recreates the feel of martial arts related b movies, cracks and all. Some of the more isolated scenes nail the motif to the point that it feels like they were lifted from older films, Godfrey Ho style. It's aware, filled with gags, and proud of its cornball nature but never in full parody. With drug trip insanity, it takes itself seriously enough to elicit unintentional laughs when characters aren't getting punched or acting crazy. At face value, it feels like an earnest attempt to tribute the greats by a fan who has only seen the films dubbed on VHS while high and then filled in the blanks from cartoons later. However, there is a huge inspiration from Big Trouble in Little China (1986) in both the content and the approach. This goes as far as some shameless use of copied moments that are only slightly altered to fit the scope. I think the private detective is supposed to be a neo-noir Jack Burton, but with the scale and internal dialogue, it comes out more along the lines of Cody Abilene (from Malibu Express, 1985) mixed with a confused John Ritter. In place of a setup, half explained tangents play out in sequence as if from two different films. The only relationship building within the trio comes when the martial artist progeny breaks through the slacker PI's window dressed like an Easter Sunday-Morrissey circa 1993, and the mustached guy shows up afterward to ask about the ruckus. That's it. Once they have briefly greeted or reintroduced themselves, it's time for adventure, and shit hits the fan. The magic and time-travel, concocting some good adventure tones from babble, remind me of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993) for some reason. I mean that it in the best way possible, like when I first watched it as a kid, not like those two times I have tried to watch it since. It's all pretty stupidly engaging and provides enough random weirdness to stand out as its own thing, despite being a heap of recycled schlock.
More spunk then actual resources, The Master Demon is at its technical best when people are getting beat up. For all its silliness (intentional or otherwise), it throws a pretty good fight scene in every once and a while and nails the vibe on some of the throwback material. It's not Sonny Chiba caliber shit, but somewhere between The Karate Kid (1984) and Walker Texas Ranger. The skilled showcases would feel out of place with the rest of the film's quality if it didn't awkwardly cut to zany antics at random. In the final quarter of the run time, practical gore starts showing up and gets gradually more extreme as the film concludes. All the bloodshed is relatively well done and brazenly announces itself for cheesy shock values. To illustrate the demon’s hold over a vessel, Gerald Okamura’s body is shown breaking down through facial prosthetics. In one instance this means Trypophobia inducing wounds and later an almost full transformation into Jay leno, both equally scary. The neon-colored, drawn-on lightning effect from The Golden Child (and Big Trouble, I just didn't want to mention it again) makes several haphazard appearances in a budgeted form that doesn't quite line up on the screen. It looks like shit, but drawing magic lines on each frame is hard, and I would have been bummed if it wasn't there. The film’s score plays as almost wholly independent of the movie, keeping most of the intentional humor at bay by staying dramatic at inappropriate times. As far as some of the lousy dubbing goes, I can't tell if some of that was on purpose or not. Sound problems would be typical for the actual era and budget, while at the same time it would be incredibly fitting coming from its apparent motivations. If it is on purpose, it is fucking perfect, if not, they have made a movie where things like that can be confused for technique. So good job either way.
 The 1991 straight to video release was Brooklyn born Samuel Oldham's 2nd directed full-length feature after low budget zombie film Tales of the Unliving and the Undead (1988) and his short entries into the collaborative anthology Dark Romance Volume 2 (1990, he worked as an editor on volume 1). Actively fulfilling a range of roles, Oldham has had a part in a variety of interesting (sometimes nutty) projects since the early 80s. As a director, he followed Master Demon with Close Encounters of the 4th Kind: Infestation from Mars, a science fiction film about space conspiracies in 2004 and Yuri Gagarin Conspiracy: Fallen Idol, a 2009 "documentary" which I haven't seen (but I think is about space conspiracies). Since then he has mostly kept to editing, possibly plotting which cult film type to tackle next. Steve Nave plays the cliche private dick Cameron. Not in on much action, the character is played mostly for laughs or possibly as a misguided avatar for the audience. I thought I recognized Nave from a few things, but it turns out he looks like fifty percent of all 90s TV actors. Despite the loud wardrobe choice, Tong Lee is unquestionably the more talented of the crew and isn't afraid to get on all fours pretending to be a dog in the middle of a fight. The goofy but almost superhuman hero is played by Eric Lee who appeared in Big Trouble as "Wing Kong Hatchet Man" and provided ass-kickings (one way or another) in over thirty titles since.  Lee is also credited as one of the stunt choreographers and producers on the film, possibly accounting for inconsistent high quality when it comes to certain beat downs. It's kind of a bummer we don't see him in more starring roles, as he is a blast to watch and evidently brings a lot to a production. Even though their crusty-cop homie gets the least backstory, Wayne takes up the most screen time overall, showing off his barrom style punching or his prowess with the ladies. Played by Sid Campbell, the character is the most perplexing thing about the whole insane mess for me, for whatever reason. He just tags along, seemingly coming out of nowhere, to fight goons and fuck secretaries. He is like a bargain Sgt.Taggart from Beverly Hills Cop (1984) who had been hypnotized into thinking he is Burt Reynolds. Reminiscent of a modern competitor trying to build a Marvel/Disney/StarWars-esque universe, the movie shoves in a hoard of fully formed side characters with little real connection. If a major studio made it today, I would assume it was wishfully laying the groundwork for a slew of tie-in material; sequels spin-offs the whole nine. Among them is an odd take on Moneypenny where Ava Cadell, for most of the film, plays only a bizarrely referenced sex object before unexplainably joining the final battle and taking on grabby henchmen all by herself. An array of action figure worthy cliches makes up the army of foils. This includes Medusa, a mix of Roxanne Kernohan in Critters 2 (1988) and a possessed American Gladiator whose superpower is putting people in headlocks. Played by Kay Baxter Young, she's probably my favorite bad guy--although "random executioner in a room, removing a man's face" was pretty cool too. The most familiar face, Gerald Okamura, plays the film’s main threat and most consistent element. Further linking the film with Big Trouble, the cult veteran's frequently utilized characters trope seems almost tame with all the lightning and professional wrestling going on.  I have to give many props to the whole cast, no matter how eccentric or left field the role, they seem to get it and go all in. Everyone plays their ridiculous part to a hundred and ten percent and makes the randomness of it all work in a fashion that's a hearty blend of a video game midboss and the GI Joe television series.
The Master Demon (1991) is a film equivalent of sneaking into three random action movies, getting hyped, then going home and playing out epic improvised showdowns with every one of your toys (as a kid obviously...I'm an adult. I don't bang mine together like that anymore--it fucks them up). A penniless bastard child of action cinema, it borrows heavily from a range of influences with unabashed love and scrappy spirit. I dig that. As far as I'm concerned, it's a success story of imitation, ingenuity, and imagination on a budget. It's cheap, dated and full of problems, but it is easy to find entertainment in the gumption, mania and blatant flaws. It honestly makes more sense than is necessary, as far as low budget, time jumping, American supernatural Kung fu movies go. Plus, I think on some level, I relate to being assaulted by an inherited demon.
1h 21min | 1991
Director: Samuel Oldham
Writer: Samuel Oldham


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