Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend (1992) Review by RevTerry

Loneliness and movies make a good pair. One of my favorite theater moments happened during a showing of Her (2013) a few years ago. The Spike Jonze film had already been out for a while, and some friends and I were catching a showing at the last discount place in town. As often was the case at this particular location, we almost had the house to ourselves, the only other party being a lone gentleman seated in the front row. Our fellow patron was a rugged twenty years older than my crew of young looking thirty-somethings, and he did his best not to acknowledge us as we entered loudly. Once the movie started, I quickly forgot about him and settled into the hip, emotional science fiction on screen. I'll admit I got into the sappy mainstream feels. What can I say? I'm a sucker for man-machine love stories. I wasn't the only one. Later in the film, I started to hear an odd noise, which seemed out of place in the film’s audio mixing. I barely noticed at first, but the organic sound got louder with each depressing turn in the story. It wasn't until the movie’s final twenty minutes that I was able to discern what I had been hearing. The single man in the front row had been letting out sobs through the sci-fi drama's many sad parts. Never quite becoming cries, his somber whimpers fit so well with the mood, they just felt like part of the production. For the rest of the showing I listened closely during the moments I felt strongest about hoping for validation. I don't think I will ever truly know if that film was actually effective or if I was just in the middle of some kind of cosmic sadness triangle involving Joaquin Phoenix and a random fellow moviegoer. Whatever the fuck it was, it was beautiful. Isolation is a driving force for the film medium. Sad people make great art, and as a viewer, it feels good to know you're not the only piece of shit floating around. Extreme cases of the infliction make people do crazy things, and that's always entertaining (if not relatable). For another high-class example of the marriage between loneliness and film, only with much less of Scarlett Johansson's voice and a lot more hookers, we can look at  Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend (1992).
Marcus Templeton (Andren Scott) is unhappy and alone. He lives in a rundown apartment (with thin walls) which he pays for with an unfulfilling job as a nighttime security guard. At a hard thirty-one, his health is declining, and he has become overweight, due in part to a diet consisting of TV dinners and Slim Jim's. Seemingly unable to make meaningful relationships, his time is spent alone with only his television for company. The closest thing he has to a sex life is a hearty porn addiction and his peeping Tom habit. To make matters worse, it's getting harder and harder to reach an erection, which threatens to strip away one of his few daily activities. On one occasion, he stumbles upon an escort ad, and after some low balling, invites a call girl over to his place. Not quite the girlfriend experience, but a better waste of money than infomercial products, Marcus begins hiring the service regularly and recording the events for later use. Two weeks, a venereal disease, and his entire life savings later, Marcus has no regrets.
Told almost entirely through internal dialogue, Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend chronicles a lazy downward spiral into greasy human obscurity with blunt humor. There isn't really a story structure, just a sad waltz between bad decisions and repeat activities as Marcus meditates on his world, making thin excuses when he can. Starting with “When did things get this way?”, the film follows its subject’s musings like a diary, broken into interconnected vignettes. From off-screen, Marcus talks through his thought process as the viewer watches those ideas dissolve into impotent realization. Intercut between the details of Marcus's stagnant lifestyle are chunks of the outside influences he receives through softcore porn, religious propaganda, and disapproving manifestations of his father. The deep, dark humor is always there, but it's hard to laugh at and almost impossible to explain. It's a very funny movie, however, the comedy is going to hit everyone at a different angle, and it's probably going to be uncomfortable despite the consistent silliness. It parodies the ugly parts of being human that get scrubbed from the usual lovable scumbag male trope.  An authentic creep, Marcus isn't a good person, just great depiction of human garbage built from equal parts empathy and harsh judgment. Each goofy or wince-inducing ingredient has ties to reality, far removed from the outlandish hijinks of the normal exciting, eccentric slacker. He is someone we have all met before, a person we know well or can identify with (whether you want to or not). The character is so broad that only the luckiest among us would miss finding a raw nerve in the trash pile. You don't have to be a pervert with an addiction to hookers to reflect on the self-inflicted plight, any kind of piece of shit will do. Nothing is ever drastic, or momentous. Things get gradually worse with no fateful crash or “Falling Down” moment of realization. Its tone is slow, aimless and sometimes seems intent with just being there drenched in quirky misery. The end comes across as abrupt without satisfactory resolution. Undignified, the story concludes with no meaningful change or a point, and Marcus leaves a negligible impact on the world around him-- it took me a while to realize how perfect that was.
Apart from the thick padding of homemade striptease footage, the movie is essentially a deviant slob’s memoirs recorded over his contemptible daily routine. Marcus is rarely seen talking on screen. The bulk of his dialogue is heard while he emotes on a couch. When interacting with the various paid women he brings home, the camera avoids him or moves to his point of view for an interview-like conversation. It's hard to tell where some things are happening as most scenes have the same decor (nothing). The cut between Marcus, his fantasies, and what's on television are undefined and blur together with only partial intention. Its assembly resembles a frugal documentary making do with limited sources. Almost half of the film is dingy looking footage of bored women taking their clothes off. Its non-existent budget is evident in every aspect of the production, but it only stands to strengthen the theme. The Fluctuating audio, lighting and camera work just make it feel more authentically gross, like a tape found under a neighbor's couch you should never have watched. Aside from the naked women, the film could have been made in the late 80s with ten bucks for jerky and a really good friend. Altogether It is bottom of the barrel production levels, with disreputable content and an unsavory name that wouldn't work any other way.
The film was shot and put together by artist Ronnie Cramer from a script by David Manning (based on a story by T.G. Baker). A painter, musician and experimental renaissance man, Cramer produced a range of film projects in the late 80s including animated shorts, Avant-garde visual pieces, and documentaries. Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend is his most noted work to date receiving national notoriety as well as a shout out from Joe Bob Briggs. The film's small crew was made up of frequent collaborators, and Cramer’s band Alarming-Trends supplied the soundtrack. The soul of the picture lays in Andren Scott, a longtime friend of Cramer who had appeared in his previous film Back Street Jane (1989). Scott’s dry delivery, telling facial expressions, and chronically average appearance create depth from very little. Putting a lot on display (including most of his naked body) the vulnerability in Scott’s performance brings cringe-inducing authenticity to an awesomely fucked up role. Sadly, in 1994 after appearing in only two releases, he was fatally shot at a Denver 7-Eleven while working as nighttime clerk. A sequel was in the works at the time of the tragedy, and released posthumously, as The Hitler Tapes (1994). The majority of the cast lists this film (and its sequel) as their only acting credit. Everyone looks and speaks like someone you could find in an average city, with performances that seem more disturbingly natural than amateur.
Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend (1992) is a no-frills cautionary tale told through your creepy uncle's unlabeled tape collection. Bare bones and offbeat, it is a beautifully disgusting study of the male human animal pre-pornhub. Not a film for everyone, It is as painful to watch as it is funny and could possibly make you ashamed to own a dick (if you have one and weren't already). The entire thing feels personal like a sweaty, discarded poem that wasn't meant to be seen. There is nothing like it--I would call it a masterpiece, but no one would believe me. From up close, the film showcases the somewhat extreme effects of loneliness with dark humor. It's not horror, but there is a good chance it is the scariest movie I have reviewed. With the right circumstances and some bad decisions, any ordinary asshole could become a version of Marcus. Now that I think about it, I wonder if that sad stranger in the front row is coming around. At the very least I hope he has a handle on his hooker expenses.
1h 38min | 1992
 Director: Ronnie Cramer
Writers: T.G. Baker (story), David Manning 

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Skeleton Cop (2019) Review by RevTerry

Because they can't get me from inside the TV, I'll watch anything with “cop” in the title. My interest is especially peaked when the word is preceded by something absurd. So far, the notion hasn't done me wrong (unlike actual cops which are kind of the reverse). I'm not even mad about Kindergarten Cop 2. I mean, I knew what I was getting into there, and I have seen a lot worse. So, of course, I jumped at the chance to check out something called Skeleton Cop.
With his no-frills approach to crime, Skeleton Cop is a lone force of extreme justice in a world gone mad. Quietly dedicated to cleaning up the streets, he will stop at nothing to get the job done despite facing anti-skeleton prejudice from his fellow boys in blue. His unorthodox take on law enforcement (i.e., riddling burglars with bullets) lands him in hot water with the chief (David Davis) who forces a partner on him with hopes to keep the renegade cop in line. His new babysitter Detective Nolan (Richard Buathier) is a by-the-book detective with a vocal prejudice against those without skin and isn't very happy with the situation himself. With no other choice, the two must find a way to coexist while continuing the righteous war against corruption, theft and deadly ninja gangs. Unfortunately, they won't have much time to get their shit together, as the evil Hang and his army of foot soldiers with large nuts have just begun to lay siege on the metropolitan area.
More spirit than used hard drive space, Skeleton Cop is a well-rounded fever dream induced by untameable ambition and a deep love for bad movies. The thirty minute short makes an eccentric run at the broader cop movie genre by replacing the main gun-waiving hothead with a sentient learning aid from a high school science class. Starting off in a heavy nod towards Larry Cohen's original Maniac Cop (1988) intro, the tale proceeds to lampoon a range of cinema and television in rapid-fire skits, tied together by the classic buddy-cop dynamic (and the whole skeleton thing). It's a parody recipe that's equal parts YouTube era irreverence and 90s low budget VHS trash, with just a dab of Police Squad! thrown in for flavor. In the tradition of the great cop films (like Psycho Cop, Bad Lieutenant and Vampire Cop), it promptly delivers on its title’s promise but generously sweetens the deal with ninjas, mutated furry creatures, and bootleg polka music. It is pretty fucking nuts and flawed by design, but it’s witty enough to avoid being wearing. Think a Kung Fury (2015) approach at Dirty Harry meets Dustin Mills except everyone involved is over thirty and has a day job.
Funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign (which brought in around eight hundred bucks), Skeleton Cop's production values proudly match its b-movie soul. The editing adds to the mood by leaving extra pieces on the trim, employing a variety of ridiculous effects and utilizing some well-picked stock footage. Its chronically underdressed star is brought to life with a combination of crafty angels, miniatures and, presumably, self-taught puppetry. In a cross between Toonces the Driving Cat and your neighbors yearly haunted house, the various tactics used to dole out violent, boney justice straddle a beautiful line between obvious and ingenious. All the film’s action is accompanied by hefty practical gore, leaving the fancy computer graphics for comedic moments. Nearly out of character, the blood splatter and wounds look fucking great for the budget with added attention to detail. Amidst its intentionally broken technical style, it pulls off tributing the classics in the genre with deliberate staging and buoyant warmth. There is kind of a Baywatch Nights thing going on as well, with the neon colors and derivative synth music tracks, only the David Hasselhoff stand-in has no flesh and is mute.
Altogether, it is goofy low budget fun with over the top performances, some nifty practical work and a ton of bloodsoaked charm. I enjoyed the fuck out of it, but I also have an affinity for lousy cop movies and discount Halloween decorations--so take that into consideration.
32mins | 2019
Director: Chad Knauer Writer: Chad Knauer

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Plankton (1994) Review by RevTerry

The underwater world is so vast and different from the one I experience. It's hard to wrap my head around, as nearly every living thing I meet enjoys relatively regular amounts of air and sunlight. In ways unlike any on dry land, the ocean gives shape to its own landscapes, seasons and animal kingdom. Even the small sampling of sea life I meet and/or consume up here looks like it's from another planet altogether. As far as my personal relationship is concerned, the deep sea could be outer space. If nothing else, It would be the closest thing I could afford on my salary for a good, lung-crushing, oxygen-deprived death. Even though supposedly there are more species of animal on land, the vibrant basic differences from the dryer versions are mind-blowing. They pull living shit out of the ocean that looks like it belongs in a cartoon ad for depression drugs.  It's all pretty fucking interesting, although admittedly, I haven't kept up on my Shark Week since the Discovery Channel went all Road Rules on me. I did take marine biology and oceanography at a junior college, and that was cool. I think I even passed, but that was years ago, and I'm almost sure I was stoned the whole time. Like many of the giant important things I depend on for survival, I know relatively little about the ocean and its inhabitants. Far from an expert, and always amazed, I would never want to sell Poseidon short. With all that said, I'm relatively sure that nothing in the briny deep resembles the lifeforms showcased in Plankton (1994).
Five friends carry a boat down to the Florida sealine while engaging in some playful back-and-forth and wearing matching swimwear. After loading up and embarking, the crew realizes they left the gas can on the beach just in time for a storm to set in. Luckily, they come upon a few dead bodies and, by following the trail, locate a damaged research-yacht not far away. Hoping the ship might have a radio and maybe some food, the kids yell out for help without results. Utterly dysfunctional, the gang deliberates for a while in the cadaver soup but left with no other choice, they come around to boarding uninvited. Once inside, they find an abandoned lab full of weird, dead fish and research equipment along with various quarters designed like hourly hotels. Mike (Clay Rogers), the group's junior marine biologist, quickly sets to work deciphering the damaged remains while the rest get comfortable and "party".  The mood relaxes, and everyone forgets about the waterlogged dead people outside as they go back to a more playful form of talking shit. Bobby (Michael Bon), the loudest of the group, even snorts some white powder he found in the lab on the off chance that it is a non-lethal narcotic. In between heart-to-hearts with Margareth (Sharon Marino), Mike uncovers various telling clues throughout the lab, leading him to suspect something horrible went down on the boat before they got there. His fears are soon validated when it becomes apparent one of the specimens broke loose from a jar before the disaster, and a now delirious scientist is found wandering around talking about fucking fish (it's cool though, they were “old enough”). It turns out Dr. Fishstick (Deran Sarafian) was studying a mutated strain of plankton with some very unique breeding habits and was transporting fresh samples in his love boat. Along the way, the meanest of the horny science projects liberated itself, fucked his crew up and was now trolling the ship for a new baby mamma.  An ungodly mess follows, full of things like damaging sex (both mental and physical), tentacles, and condom jokes. Also, scientific history is made when a female human unexpectedly gives birth to a large pile of caviar.
The plot is a slimy, confused spew of over the top horror, stolen cheese, and uncomfortable fornication. Juvenile and mean spirited, it’s a series of borrowed elements pushed to an impressively tasteless, discolored extreme. There is definitely a tale inside it somewhere involving ancient-nuclear-killer “plankton” and a perverted scientist, but early on it is apparent that nothing matters, except watching some unusually fucked up shit go down on a boat. Random bits of concept float unconnected in a surreal blend of dreamlike and slapstick tones before being forgotten completely in the grotesque final act. It's first forty-five minutes could pass as an overdrawn, deathless lead for a teen slasher, being mostly filled with terrible dialogue and bad decisions. All involved characters are either fatefully placed gimmicks (like the sex-crazed drug addict and his computer wiz junior biologist homie) or a cardboard female placeholder in a bikini. Their interactions are a constant mix of non-sequiturs and bickering which come and go without reason. It's hard to tell what was initially taken seriously, as some of the English dubbing is obviously in on the joke. In the usual genre fashion, the carefree gang has no qualms with using an unknown (possibly mad) scientist’s stained bed and shower--no matter how spooky. Once the film starts in with body horror and messy stuff, it skips most of the gears and goes straight for balls-out nuts. The entire plot is sexually charged seemingly for no reason than to add sleaze to the entertaining trash fire. The imagery isn't necessarily effective terror, just awesomely disgusting and possibly worth the wait for the right crowd.  There is no logic to the sequence of events, the character's choices or tone during any given moment--just lots of perplexing foreplay and a nautically themed gauntlet of oddly erotic cartoon horrors.
In spirit, the film could serve as the 90s follow up to Shocking Dark (1989, also known as Terminator II, Terminator 2, Aliens 2, etc.), as it takes aim at James Cameron's coattails with reckless ferocity and little focus. There isn't much of Cameron's The Abyss (1989) visible in the actual finished product.  It's more like someone scanned the box at Blockbuster on their way to renting Night of the Demons (1988) and some animated tentacle porn. Outside of the more original creature surprises, each moment is stolen from another film, sometimes only saved from direct plagiarism by the cynically aware English dub team. Frugally portioned chunks of precursory sea monster flicks like Leviathan (1989), Piranha II: The Spawning (1981) and DeepStar Six (1989) are placed haphazardly on the boat alongside more predominant influencers like the Evil Dead franchise, The Blob (1988) and The Thing (1982). Both by proxy and directly, there are a lot of goofy nods to H.P. Lovecraft's work, most specifically The Shadow over Innsmouth (although I don't know how much of that is on purpose).  Human-sea creature mating seems to be a favored topic in the movie’s eclectic canon, fully embracing the unsavory concept fourteen years after the infamous fishman attacks in Humanoids from the Deep (1980). In this case, however, it's a violent, drawn-out, date rape/transformation that gets hard to watch long before the bestiality. With nowhere near the notoriety, it gives Roger Corman's non-consensual beach scenes a run for their money in bizarre commitment alone.
From the get-go, the film seems broken, with abrupt cuts between unrelated scenes and originless chatter when no lips are moving. The editing is frantic and lingers without purpose but stays coherent enough to hold attention.  The ever-changing camera angles seem to become more colorful as the film moves along. Every “intense” situation is accompanied by an extreme close-up for everyone in the room, in degrees ranging from Bruce Campbell-like silliness to some kind of nasal examination. The cargo ship’s eccentric interior decorating would make Barbarella afraid to sit down, cultivating a hellish mix of phallic objects and the essence of the original My Little Pony toys. Only really showing up in the final third of the film, the creature effects adequately mix ridiculous and disgusting into a messy payoff. It's all derivative like the rest of the film, but the monster’s design is a step above its surrounding quality and spirit. The creature has a variety of forms, realized with a healthy amount of latex, multi-colored slime and puppets. It does its best to make you gag while keeping things silly. To its credit, I had trouble finishing my apple sauce after the birthing scene. It's probably not the worst thing I watched this week, but it did remind me of an incident at a bus stop that I have been trying to block for years. Think Troma style hijinks executed with a Zombie 3 (1988) level of seriousness. Without any help from the rest of the production, the chum-beast’s appearances remain consistently fun enduring bad angles and lazy editing. The English dubbing has a mind of its own and takes some low brow comedic liberties at the original content's expense. More than a few times the voice track is out of place, blabbering on by itself as characters run around with their mouths shut. Any musical scoring is mechanical, repetitive and drowned out, like the melody of a cabinet arcade in the back of laundromat. It's not particularly offensive noise, mostly just general canned synth, but it never even tries to hit its mark. The closest it ever gets to in-sync is making the overstayed, inexplicable focus shots feel more awkward and lengthy. It's obvious the film spent the bulk of its budget on gnarly marionettes and buckets of goop, which I'm perfectly okay with.
All at once in 1989 science fiction and horror cinema returned to the mysterious ocean depths for inspiration like it was the new outer space. Through serendipity and background Hollywood magic, Sean S. Cunningham’s DeepStar Six, George P. CosmatosLeviathan and James Cameron’s The Abyss all visited theaters in the year with enough time for Roger Corman to cash in (with Mary Ann Fisher’s Lords of the Deep) before Christmas. A few others dived in after them including Spanish director Juan Piquer Simón (the same guy gave us Slugs 1988) with his submarine-versus-fungus epic The Rift (1990). Not the type to miss out on these kinds of things, but a little late to the party, Italian exploitation cinema answered the call in 1994 by low balling Plankton on to home video internationally. The project (also known as Creatures from the Abyss or Piranha 4) was helmed by first-time director Alvaro Passeri, who had worked around special effects leading up to that point. Spread out over a decade, Passeri has (so far) released four additional films since, including the similarly confused (but almost unwatchable) cash-in The Mummy Theme Park (2000) and something (I would very much like to watch) involving aliens that eat rich people mid-air during pleasure flights (Flight to Hell 2003). The movie’s cast is mostly made up relatively unknown actors, with four out of the five mains listing the film as their only role. There is, however, an uncredited appearance by b-movie/TV director Deran Sarafian as the sleepy fish-fondling marine biologist. Sarafian must have been a busy dude at the time since he released two films in 1994 himself The Road Killers (with Christopher Lambert) and the Charlie Sheen skydiving mystery Terminal Velocity.
If Bruno Mattei and Sam Raimi engaged in a sweaty, intoxicated night of experimental passion during a budgeted pleasure cruise for kinky singles, Plankton (1994) would be their discarded flipper baby. Uneven as all fuck and mostly pointless, it's never dull, providing laughs during its slower (stolen) moments and globs of uncomfortable body horror as a payoff. Those with exquisite taste may also find value in identifying the various homages it makes use of for filler. Sleazy, extreme and cheap, it's a beautiful floating barge of secondhand water trash with an almost unique funk to it. Sometimes you just need some relatively tasteless cheese in your life, and you might as well have it on a boat. Honestly, I have no clue about what could be lurking yet unseen in the oceans. I stay mainly landlocked myself, but there are professionals out there bobbing for knowledge, and they find out new amazing shit every day. Anything is possible, I mean our ancestors crawled out of the sea at some point, so overgrown, snaggletooth protozoa could be in there too. Though if it is, and humankind runs into the abomination in the future, I vote we don't fuck it. Even if it's for science.
1h 26min | 1994
Director: Alvaro Passeri
Writers: Richard Baumann, John Blush

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RevTerry

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Frostbiter: Wrath of the Wendigo (1995) Review by RevTerry

The Wendigo is a surprisingly broad subject. When I hear the term, I first imagine a pale Bigfoot-ghost-deer hybrid that pulls people from their tent and drags them to death. A somewhat physical beast comes to mind, one with glowing eyes that hangs out in cold-ass, uninhabitable places and fucks people up who shouldn't be there in the first place. From my limited understanding (mostly comprised of research done when I was thirteen), the origins of the supernatural entity are more complex. The roots of the story describe something closer to a zombie mixed with the middle management found in retail. It's actually more of a concept or a condition than a full-fledged tangible monster. For several members of the Algonquian-speaking people, it was a spiritual representation of greed, gluttony, and extreme desperation. In some popularized Native American legends, it possessed ordinary humans bringing a cannibalistic hunger that could never be satisfied and drove the host insane. When introduced with the concept, missionaries (being grounded as they were) even started officially diagnosing the native population with something called “Windigo Psychosis” (whether they had eaten anyone or not), which invoked a range of unsuccessful treatments including sometimes murder. Unsurprisingly, the syndrome became increasingly rare as soon as it was put under any real scrutiny and was most likely just another horrible time in history where people with real-world mental health issues were disregarded as inhuman monsters. Anyway, the version I impulsively jump to is a relatively modern variety of the narrative formed by the comics, supposed children's books and nerdy board games. Arguably, the 1910 novella The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood could be to blame for the discrepancy in my case, as the loose take on the myth had a great deal of influence on the mediums following it. Cinema has had a few interpretations of the lore as well, including the snow-covered isolation flick, Frostbiter: Wrath of the Wendigo (1995).
A disfigured, broken man (Mike Missler) sits alone in a remote new york cabin, scribbling away on rustic parchment and reading the words back to himself (as you do in movies) in his best wise hermit voice. His exposition explains that long ago when the old man was spry and owned a coonskin cap, the area fell under a great evil known as the Wendigo. Through nondescript means, the narrator had defeated the monster, stopping a massacre and freeing the region from terror. Unfortunately, the victory came with a cost as, according to the local lore, the beast's remains must be appropriately prepared and perpetually guarded to avoid its return. Always willing to take one for the team, the man takes up the charge, which involves living in a cabin surrounded by human skulls on sticks, calling yourself “The Guardian” and writing your manifesto with a quill--like some kind of mystical Ted Kaczynski. This works out for a while until a couple of hunters, Gary (Guitar legend Ron Asheton) and Dave (David Wogh) come upon the sacred place while expressing some extreme libertarian views on property. Not wanting the loud hicks to break his power circle of human heads, “The Guardian” attempts to scare them off with a shotgun and an anecdote about respect, which only provokes the trespassers. In his belligerence, the more mouthy of the party, Gary, blows the old man away and breaks the circle. With his dying breath, The Guardian lets out a futile cryptic warning before the cabin erupts into cartoon madness and a giant hand comes out of a closet and decapitates Dave. Gary makes a break for it, heading towards another hunting group’s camp for help while coming up with excuses as to why it's not his fault. At the same time “Back on the Mainland,” a young woman named Sandy’s (Lori Baker) sleep is rudely interrupted by the haggard ghost of the freshly dead Guardian, Jacob Marley style. In so many words, she is told that the Wendigo has broken loose and that since the old man was too dead to be effective, it was now up to her to stop it. Sandy, no slouch when it comes to destiny, heads out toward Gary and his new (living) hunting friends.  Ancient spooky party tricks follow including an appearance by a homemade chili monster that has its own theme song. 
 The plot comes together like a snow-covered Evil Dead clone written lovingly by the staff from Married... with Children after a night of cheap beer, binge-watching golden era Troma films and telling half-remembered campfire stories. Shamelessly, it borrows the structure directly from Rami's iconic series, even using some of the same setups and gags. The world of the film is most fashioned after Evil Dead II (1987) specifically taking the notorious cartoon horror vibes and running with them into Class of Nuke 'Em High (1986) territory. It never comes close to meeting Evil Dead's comedy or shock but could, in many ways, connect as a spiritual sequel more faithfully than anything ever considered part of the "La Casa" series. Sprinkled into the 80s appropriate haunted cliches, are little chunks of late 40s Americana via Frank Capra’s It's a Wonderful Life (1946) as it shares the fictional town of Bedford Falls (originally created by Philip Van Doren Stern for his The Greatest Gift). The Christmas classic can also be seen playing on televisions in the background of various scenes, creating a sort of in-universe paradox for any canonical ties (dammit). The film's monster can seemingly do anything, and morph the rubber reality at will. Ultimately serving to fill in for the Deadites, the wendigo lore takes from multiple sources creating its own (probably slightly offensive) version of the legend. Some of the added flavorings harken back to a few of the more serious takes on the angry forest-god, including Ghostkeeper (1981) and Wendigo (1978), but it never gets past useless trivia, dispensed while people are fucked up in ridiculous ways. Being based around a shape-shifting villain and taking place in the snow, there are brushes with John Carpenter’s The Thing, although it’s better described as a more playful take on the same source matter (The Thing from Another World 1951, Campbell maybe). Similarly, it has a fair amount in common with Stephen King's work, including his love for small east coast town folk. There is a lot of (sometimes contrasting) overlap with projects like Creepshow (1982) and future King stories like Dreamcatcher, but it's presumably a side effect of the similar taste alone in most cases. By the second half, any actual exposition dissolves into Ghoulies (1984) style monster antics and screaming.  It's not a smart film, just witty enough to understand what makes a mess enjoyable. Everything in the movie is self-aware to the point of parody, with several layers to the joke. It does an excellent job of filling in space with easter eggs, callbacks and other entertaining (but pointless) details. The characters themselves are entirely filled out, extreme cliches with personalities that obey the punch line above all.  Among the goofball horror tropes, is a pension for cheesy dialog and one-liners, especially during the fleeting masculine hero moments. The primary motivation is seemingly a blend of genre admiration and the desire to entertain. It is recycled b-movie trash held together by fan service, moving at a rapid pace.  Silly as all fuck and with all its seams showing, the passionate display still (as far as I can tell) accomplishes everything it showed up to do.
Much like its script, the production is an outward homage to Sam Raimi that has been pulled off with a Lloyd Kaufman-like execution method. The beginning of the film builds on an atmosphere that feels like a mix of Redneck Zombies (1989) and retro Scooby Doo, strengthened by exaggerated angle work. It teeters between back yard video and studio work before restricting itself to the practical constraints of the cabin for the remainder of the film. There are some serious tries for Evil Dead’s signature camera moves, including monster-vision and “the spinning Ash trick” which all fail in entertaining ways. The creature effects are pretty close to being a best-of for techniques used in the eras previous. Sometimes, at the same time, the film employs everything from Ray Harryhausen style claymation centaurs to a puppet that looks like the toweled-off synthesis of the devil baby from To the Devil a Daughter (1976) and the penis monster from Tromeo and Juliet (or any in-house Troma film for that matter). A close relative to the dragon from Q (1982) makes an early appearance only to expertly rip off a pilot’s dome-piece and disappear forever. I'm pretty sure I also saw a Star Wars hologram (sans its trash can robot to project it) during one of the crowded royal rumbles. It shows its budget with each silly makeup style or rubber doll, but the practical showmanship is a blast. The lone digital graphic, on the other hand, lost me a bit and made me wonder if it was superimposed at a later time in its long shelf life. Along with (public domain) It's a Wonderful Life (1946) clips, there is some semi-obvious stock footage involved, and an epic painted stage background (that looks like Castle Greyskull crafted on felt by the guy at the flea market).  Even though it isn't mixed correctly and plays louder than everything else, the soundtrack is one of my favorite parts. It’s entirely comprised of obscure Experimental rock, industrial noise and silly mood music which narrates the scenes while simultaneously feeling out of place (somehow).  I'm not even talking shit, I would put that tape in my car permanently. Altogether, the trip to the icy woods rides like a solid tongue and cheek 90s throwback to Evil Dead’s era, despite actually being filmed in the late 80s.
Frostbiter: Wrath of the Wendigo (called simply Wendigo in the title credits) was produced during 1988 in Michigan for a reported $25,000. It occupied a shelf somewhere until 1995 when it was picked up by iconic-slime-powerhouse Troma and was distributed under their banner. At some point before the VHS release, an adaption was commissioned from Caliber Comics, which accompanying media sometimes erroneously cites as the source material. By the time the film found its home in the late 90s the writer-director Tom Chaney had lent his expertise to another derivative creature flick, Mosquito (1994) which starred Gunnar Hansen, sported a considerably larger budget and almost had a theatrical release (the studio went bankrupt...he might actually be cursed). Currently, Chaney has two films in listed as “In-Production” one being a documentary about runners (not updated since 2012) and a mysterious 2016 project titled The Wind Walker (fingers crossed for another wendigo movie released eight years after its completion). This is one of five acting roles for original The Stooges guitarist and apparent b-movie aficionado Ron Asheton, who would also return for 94's Mosquito. Asheton plays gun-toting douchebag Gary and provides a majority of the production's Bruce Campbell impressions. He has a great over the top on-screen presence, playing the unlikable character like a drunken, spoiled Wings Hauser. It's a shame he didn't do more films, but he also was instrumental in the song I Wanna Be Your Dog, so he gave the world plenty. Japanese home video distributors further capitalized on the obvious connections to Evil Dead by releasing the picture with a misleading name and matching artwork in a similar fashion to the notorious Italian series of unofficial sequels under the “La Casa” brand.
Frostbiter: Wrath of the Wendigo is a punk rock cover version of the cabin in the woods tropes, adorned in clown horn honking with a spirited dedication to the b-movie gods. For the most part, it's nothing new, but it is a motivated remix that gets the joke. I enjoy the fuck out of it, but I'm easily won over with cartoon violence. As for the portrayal of the mythical Wendigo, it's less than traditional, taking from different versions of the myth when it best serves the trashy entertainment. If there is any trace of the original morals attached, it's buried deep in cheese and rubber. In its defense, however, the myth has evolved heavily over time making tracing its roots difficult. Plus, “Ancient Wind Monster” is far enough removed from “Ancient Evil Book” to avoid a lawsuit, and that's what really counts.
1h 24min | 1995
 Director: Tom Chaney
Writers: Tom Chaney, Rick Cioffi, Steve Quick 

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Review by:
RevTerry

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Mom (1991) Review by RevTerry

From what I understand, I'm fairly lucky. My mother and I get along relatively well, and not everyone has a decent relationship with their biological birthing vessel. Aside from organically and painfully growing me, my mom was instrumental in my love of cinema and music, which is like 90% of my personality. As a result, when I run into people chronically unschooled in the classics, I secretly blame their parenting. She also edits her adult son's trashy movie reviews for errors weekly so you can thank her for all the fancy comma work (read: functional text). Don't get me wrong-- we have our beef, but She didn't listen to shit like the Osmonds when I was a kid and never made anyone go to a church (that I know of), so I think she's pretty cool. More importantly, she still loves me despite being well informed of my sordid past behavior and historically inept style choices (baggy shorts, ball chain necklace, all that shit). She has even seen me cry naked (multiple times) and still accepts my calls. You are just not going to find that kind of loyalty elsewhere in the world. Mothers are powerful things for obvious reasons.  That's why everyone from Big Tymers to Dean Martin has a song describing their maternal relationship. It's the same love that keeps the Bates Motel open and makes Jason crawl out of the lake. Whether bad or good, a mother is a significant factor in what you become and the things you do. If you exist at all, there was a point when you were just a parasite gestating inside one. They represent an origin for all and a lifeline for many of us. So it would be somewhat fucked up if, in her golden years, Madre started eating people, like in Mom (1991)
A dented pick up truck pulls into a remote bus station on a dark night. In a fit, the grizzled driver gets out and forces the passenger, a young pregnant female, to exit the vehicle. There's some arguing, but after unloading her luggage, he speeds off leaving the girl behind. The mother-to-be makes a seat from her suitcase, strikes up a cigarette and goes about making one-sided conversation with the only other person around, a menacing stranger (Brion James) semi-covered by shadows. The interaction is quick, however, because after removing his nighttime sunglasses and saying something mean, the man tackles the girl to the ground. Transforming into something with sharp teeth and googly eyes, the invasive new acquaintance bites down on the woman's pregnant belly. The film jumps to the residence of senior citizen Emily Dwyer (Jeanne Bates), in the middle of watching her reporter son Clay (Mark Thomas Miller) on the local news. Looking for someone to rent out her son's old room, she is soon contacted by an eccentric by the name of Nester Duvalier (the baby eater from before) and being a trusting individual, she takes him in without so much as a deposit. The new roomies form a sort of bond, and after some initial miscommunications, begin dining with each other nightly. Clay isn't as thrilled about his mom's new homie and begins to grow suspicious after finding her chowing down on the homeless behind a dumpster. At some point there is a kitchen fire, more people get snacked on, and we all learn a lesson about family values.
Patchy and erratic, the story plays like a timid supernatural soap opera armed with some unique takes on various genre tropes. Its draped in almost sincere horror, but the core is something closer to a sappy TV drama, infused with quiet situational humor. The writing jumps around a lot and seemingly leaves enough developing plot points with every shift for several other films. Starting with amusing cliche horror that could just as efficiently proceed a frugal An American Werewolf in London (1981) rip off, the plot instead diverts toward a strange mix of slapstick humor and personal drama. Along the lines of an 80s sitcom pilot, it nonchalantly moves on from a more drastic conflict into a theme that could be wrapped around various entertaining family predicaments. It's always uneven, but the constant sway from horror, comedy and dry strife somehow blend into a functional slice-of-life format that holds up through a majority of the film. While keeping a mostly understated front, there is a surreal tone that lives under the surface, as if a more colorful script existed at some point before being sown into a tweed suit jacket. There is a lot the movie doesn't tell you, but for the most part, the ambiguity works in its favor. The type of creature in question is never explicitly named, and the in-universe rules to its existence are never explained. None of the supernatural matters are answered, less as a flaw and more the side effect of being a small emotional story set in a larger world. The lore gives only hints of details outside of its immediate and relatively short-sighted scope. Its ending is uncharacteristically brutal, but just as fitting, as the film never goes quite the way you might think it should.  Without warning, it sheds all its comedy and just goes for a somewhat effective, untelegraphed gut-punch. I'm not sure if it nails the desired effect, but it makes an interesting fucked up ride either way.
 
There is a shit ton of movies in the monstrous family member subgenre, most with extremely descriptive titles. Mom was released amidst a slew of supernatural parents including a sexy alien stepmom played by Kim Basinger (My Stepmother Is an Alien 1988) and a ghost dad that hasn't aged very well at all (Ghost Dad 1990). Although the movie’s basic concept is similar, its tone takes a darker, more severe route than the family-friendly counterparts like My Mom's a Werewolf (1989).  Those expecting a slimy, practical gore-laden slapstick number, like Rabid Grannies (1988), might be disappointed as well since the film is more restrained than its cover implies. If anything, it is closest to being a grumpy, maternal based counterpart for oddball fantasy flicks like Pterodactyl Woman from Beverly Hills (1997) and My Demon Lover (1987). The plot takes cues from classic monster flicks, consciously subverting some tropes and laying hard into others. The better part of the focus is on the frantic Clay Dwyer as he attempts to deal with his mother's affliction and complain his way through incredible, disgusting or generally fucked up situations. Similar themes would be explored to an exaggerated degree over the next two years with Dead Alive (1992) and Ed and His Dead Mother (1993). A little ahead of the game, Mom never reaches out toward their edge, playing its ridiculous and murderous events through somewhat tasteful confines. There are a few promising themes that get left unrealized in the mix, but what it does end up sticking with works for it on its own terms.
In contrast to its story, the film's production is mostly uniform if not a little uninspired. The editing kind of holds the whole thing together keeping a similar pace through the uneven plot and avoiding a crawl. Erring on the generic side, the camera work is competent but sticks to safe well-worked angles. There is only a handful of locations, specifically Mom’s house, and a few dark alleys to eat people in. Monster effects are noticeably conservative, and in the bulk of the film, involve only sharp teeth and contact lenses. At its most developed, the design on the beast resembles a premature Howling werewolf crossed with the Beetlejuice snake, with both Nester and Emily Dwyer having distinct features respectively. It holds up well, partly because it keeps it brief. Blood and gore are limited as well but are able to keep their intended impact throughout. Despite its usual place and appearance on the shelves of the VHS rental store, its explicit content is closer mainstream horror from the same era. The only real blemish that can't be folded into the style of the film is the soundtrack. I can't tell if the music is terrible or just incorrectly placed, but it never gets the job done and leaves key moments without support.
Mom was written and directed by film editor Patrick Rand. Rand was mostly working for Roger Corman at the time and fit the production between his duties on evil-baby flick The Unborn (1991) and the erotic thriller In the Heat of Passion (1992). Outside of the film, Rand works exclusively as an editor with about fifteen credits to his name including Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989), Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994) and, most recently, something called Baby Einstein: Discovering Shapes (2007). The script was Co-written by Kevin Watson, whose notable works include a small role in the 1996 Fred Williamson/Larry Cohen collaboration Original Gangstas (1996) and an uncredited appearance as “Plumber” in the 2000s Pink Panther movie. As of a March 2018 update, he is slated to make his own directorial debut with an independent superhero flick titled Bronze Barons. Replicant and under-appreciated genre regular Brion James plays the sinister tenant and catalyst Nester. A perfect match for the comic book foil, James is one of the highlights of the film; unfortunately, his character is stomped out early on in the tale. The films titular “mom,” Emily Dwyer is played by late veteran Jeanne Bates whose extensive career had already spanned fifty years by 1991. Bates’ legacy includes over one hundred and forty titles counting multiple David Lynch films, the original Twilight Zone and a Die Hard. She puts personality into what could be a cushy old lady character and seems to have fun with the people-eating. Stella Stevens and Art Evans make cameos along with a grip of other semi-recognizable regulars from the 80s/90s. As the main character and next to cinemas unsung heroes, Mark Thomas Miller’s acting comes across as a low point, although it is nothing too damaging. At worst, his grinding tone and whiny nature work for the type of tension the character Clay Dwyer carries by design.
Mom (1991) is an unstirred cup of dry VHS family turmoil, quirky dark comedy, and classic wolf(wo)man tropes. If a little underwhelming at times, it's always just strange enough to keep my attention. It has its own unexpected way of doing things, for better or worse, and takes some worthwhile stabs at tropes from multiple genres. I dig it, and it seems to benefit from return visits. Depending on your situation, it might even be one to watch with your own mother since it's considerably tame and ends in a bummer like a Lifetime movie (not that all moms like Lifetime movies [mine doesn't], or that only mom's watch them either...). I don't know what I would do if my mother turned into a vagrant devouring creature of some kind. I would like to hope I would be more supportive than bitch-ass Clay. I'm pretty sure she would help me out if I started eating hobos. Plus, where else would I find an unpaid editing staff that was both as loving and brutally, soul-crushingly critical?
1h 35min | 1991
Director: Patrick Rand
Writers: Patrick Rand, Kevin Watson

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Review by:
RevTerry

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