Humongous (1982) Review by RevTerry

For the majority of my life, my attitude towards procreation has been less than enthusiastic. Obviously, I have some kind of reverence/respect for parents--I have a couple of my own, and they are pretty cool. Nevertheless, I just have never been keen on becoming one. Even located in the desert, most places I visit seem overcrowded, extremely so. I go to Walmart at three AM to avoid the mass of six-kid families that fill the place during regular hours. That way it's only the Wally-World night crew and me, as too many human spawn making noise at once tend to make me nervous (and when I'm nervous I make shitty shopping decisions). I don't want to increase or be partly responsible for the roving groups of free-range monsters in stores around the country. It's much easier for me to judge those who are responsible from afar and say things like “Where the fuck are these kids’ parents?” when the Nerf aisle is crowded.  More than that, while it's questionable whether or not there are enough resources in the world to go around, it is definite that not everyone receives what they need to survive. From my humble perspective, adding one more human to the mix seems like a fucked up gamble with life for most of us. There also appears to be a few overtly disgusting phases and speed bumps in developing a person that I don't know if I'm up to dealing with. Those saplings at Walmart smell strong and look like they might carry the next big plague. How can I sit down for my yearly Re-Animator marathon if I have to clean up real-life splatter and fluids? I could go on--really, the list seems endless. Kids are the not-fun kind of scary, gross shit, and those that take that charge deserve both admiration and pity.  Still, even with plenty of logical, visible negatives, a small part of me is pretty sure that it has baby making to do. Who knows, maybe it's nature, or I just need a captive audience for my seven-part presentation on the cultural value of Hackers (1995), but the call is there.  When that voice gets loud, it then takes a more extreme example of parenting gone wrong to scare it off--something like Humongous (1982).
Labour Day Weekend 1946, some rich guy is having a party on his private Lake Michigan island. The young lady of the house, Ida Parsons (Shay Garner), seemingly bored with the bourgeois festivities, spends the time chilling with the mass of family dogs who are caged outside. One of Mr. Parsons esteemed associates comes out to join Ida, and within a few seconds begins demanding sex. Ida isn't with it, repetitively telling him to fuck off, but the man becomes increasingly belligerent and eventually rapes her.  As a morsel of instant karma, Ida’s dog-homies break free soon after and tear the wealthy predator apart. Thirty-six years and some Cheers-esque credits later, a group of bickering overindulged youngsters makes plans to spend the weekend on St. Martin Island. Borrowing their parent's yacht, brothers Eric (David Wysocki) and Nick (John Wildman) bring their odd love triangle/lady friends Donna (Joy Boushel) and Sandy (Janet Julian) along with their sister, the nerdy third wheel Carla (Janit Baldwin). Not long after they have hit the water and everyone has cemented their cliche slot in the film, the night sets in with a thick fog. While nervously navigating through the darkness, the crew comes upon a stranded fisherman named Burt (Layne Coleman). Once rescued and aggressively introduced to the gang, Burt imparts to them the history of the nearby “Dog Island”. According to Burt, the island is home to Ida Parsons who has isolated herself there for the last thirty-something years, protected by a pack of savage dogs. Soon after the tale and some light necking, one of the brothers gets excited enough (for some reason) to angrily crash the boat right on the infamous island. When the group washes up on the beach, they are missing Carla, and poor Burt is only more damaged. There is some arguing, and Nick heads into the woods alone for a tantrum where he is killed by a grunting shadow. The next morning the survivors split up. Sandy and Eric head up to the Parsons mansion hoping to ask for help while Donna takes off her shirt and lays on top of Burt (because he's in shock). Team Sandy and Eric are unable to find a person to ask for assistance, but they do find a room full of oversized, grotesque toys and some chewed up canine bones. Soon, it is discerned that Ida wasn't alone on that island. In fact, she had given birth to a son thirty-six years ago, only to hide him from the world (because he is ugly and rich people are crazy). Ida had died some time ago leaving her mutated, uneducated man-child to fend for himself. After the food diminished, the extremely unfortunate and hungry offspring had taken to eating the many dogs, but eventually ran out of those too. However, his luck just might be turning around, because suddenly these opulent kids have shown up on the island and started splitting into easily manageable groups.
It's hard to tell if Humongous is an inherently silly tale that wants be serious or a dark story that wants to be irreverent. Regardless of its intentions, it is an awkward but entertaining confusion of near-effective suspense and cartoon details. With a dry cornball spin, it mashes backwoods slashers, creature features, and some Gilligan's Island into a relatively unique 80s VHS flavored paste. It's almost always predictable, as far as the story goes, but puts some of its own special weirdness on the borrowed tropes. The film's pacing is a little slow, and it takes some time with its lead-up events. Much of that time is spent with some very unlikable, spoiled youth while they make a series of bad decisions in emergency situations, complete with a few fruitless power moves from the alpha males. Between the intro and the boat ride, it becomes pretty apparent that everyone in the film’s universe is extra rapey for some reason and, aside from the confused, hungry mutant, pretty well off. Long before the cannibal shows up, the film makes a good case for letting most of the characters get eaten. The boat ride and mini Lord of the spoon fed Flies thing could easily be the start of a film with a less human antagonist or even an angry animal. These early moments come accompanied by POV spy-shots from the brush that could go either way, as far as what could turn out to be watching the unlucky shipwreck survivors. Even after the very human (but definitely fucked up looking) killer starts making exposed appearances, it holds on to an almost man versus nature mood until the point where the surviving party has dwindled substantially. Once it gets down to its cliche final girl, it might as well take place at Camp Crystal Lake, but the road there is a different one. There is quite a bit of obvious influence in the film from the big name slashers that came before it. It owes a lot to Friday the 13th, even lifting a mama's boy stumping tactic outright (from Part 2, 1981), but it's all played more as a light-hearted Texas Chainsaw Massacre type misadventure, sans most of the Avant-garde qualities (and few family members). The deformed killer hermit's face remains inexplicably hidden until near the film's climax, while everything else about his character is made clear early on, forming a less functional pseudo-Jaws meets Leatherface style restraint (aided by the horrible lighting). Other than the mysterious facial features, he serves as a fairly run of the mill slasher, although closer to a state most would reach further-on in a film series ( a la Friday the 13th part III, Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, etc.). He has full-fledged superhuman strength, seemingly phases from place to place and has to be killed several times to be truly dead, like a dog fed Jason Voorhees with the vocal range (and hairdresser) of Wayne Doba’s poor deformed character from The Funhouse (1981).  The film works as an outrageous younger sibling to the underrated backwoods horror classic Rituals (1977) and shares some elements, but doesn't come close to driving home its brutal subject matter as effectively.  It does read equally as Canadian somehow, which I always associate with great trashy action television shows. There's something adventurous to the plot initially, although it thins out as it moves along and lacks a good “nature guide” character.  Even being an early 80s entry into the slasher game the familiar pieces, celebratory nods, and fan service make it feel like a precursor to the more authentic modern homages like Hatchet (2006). It is entirely derivative but feels more like a tribute to its precursors than a complete rip-off.
 For brief moments at a time, the direction is pretty fucking inspired and without giving it too much credit, reaches passed its direct predecessors to their roots in Italian horror. Mostly though, it reminds me of Tobe Hooper’s highly motivated but inconsistent work post-Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Unfortunately, any true finesse is hindered by the incredibly poor lighting which makes daytime seem like bad TV and night shots indiscernible. In the world of high definition mediums, it's hard not to think the darkness may have saved an effect or two from unforgiving clear pictures of today, but it is just too shitty (most of the time) to think of as a happy accident or functioning stylization. Beyond the terrible lighting, the technical aspects are flawed but mostly passing, making respectable use of what seems to be a moderate budget. It utilizes the island location well enough, giving the wildlife some screen time to invoke the survival horror subgenre and left field Italian exploitation flicks like Antropophagus (1980). The fog machine boat ride to the island that the kids take is another story completely and looks as if it could have been cut from a Godzilla film twenty years earlier. The monster effects are restrained both intentionally and by the dim recording. When Jr. does make appearances, he meets most of his mutant slasher requisites, but the less is more strategy doesn't quite hit its mark in this case and feels indecisive. The gore effects are uniformly covered in dark shadowing, but when some red pokes through, it's more than adequate. I especially got a kick out of the drawn-out head squishing. Everything is laced with an out of time soundtrack which wavers between dirty synth magic, overcooked TV show risers, and spaceship noises. I don't know what was going on with the music (provided by John Mills-Cockell), but I was digging it.
Humongous was directed by Paul Lynch and written by William Gray. It was the third collaborative effort from the duo after Blood & Guts in 1978 and Prom Night in 1980. Like Humongous, Prom Night lifted generously from popular slashers that came before it, specifically Halloween, and even borrowed its star, scream queen/mainstream celebrity / Hollywood-rulebook-burner, Jamie Lee Curtis. Both films were released to mostly negative reviews while Prom Night would eventually spawn three (mostly unrelated) sequels and a reboot.  Lynch and Gray continued to work together up into the 90s on Canadian produced televisions show like Robocop The Series (1994) and one of the ill-received Dark Shadows remakes (1991). Garry Robbins portrays the film’s abandoned mutant man-child. Robbins would play a few more monsters before his death in 2013 including “Saw Tooth” in the first Wrong Turn (2003). With performances ranging from perfectly exaggerated to passing, the majority of the cast is made up of Canadian TV regulars. I can't say I ever gave much of a shit as to who lived or died, but the group of yuppie sight seekers is well picked. Janet Julian, the film’s de facto lead, is a little lackluster here but two years later will put in a much more memorable performance as a self-appointed Samaria interpreter in the Empire flick Ghost Warrior (1984).
Humongous (1982) is a grimy but motivated collage of the popular horror films from its era with half their budget and a quarter of their lighting. Not a masterwork of cinema by any means, instead, it is a fun, somewhat sleazy flick with a lot of spirit. Ida's violent, pooch eating, confused bastard child probably isn't going to reorganize your top killer list, but the film is a few rungs above most slasher rip offs in any era. Plus, it's another great reason to make sure you are ready to be a parent if you do decide to be one. What if you accidentally raised a sheltered, unlovable progeny, like those waspy, spoiled assholes that crashed the boat?
1h 37min | 1982
 Director: Paul Lynch
Writer: William Gray

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RevTerry

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Violent Shit 2: Mother Hold My Hand (1992) Review by RevTerry

I think if I were a badass, I would need a metal mask or full covering helmet of some kind. Not for the armor aspect, although head protection is always good, I'm just a fan of the look. I would wear one in my daily life now, but they are probably expensive, and people would expect me to do something cool (as I too would expect of a dude with a metal head).  All my favorite villains had one in my youth. Both Magneto and Dr. Doom from the comics commanded respect and fucked shit up while wearing some metal on their heads. They were probably my earliest examples, but honestly, that's enough to have secured my love for the style. Their helmets were both semi utilitarian but mostly just looked really awesome with their cape combo. In cartoons, GI Joe took the effects of mirrored sunglasses to the next level with Cobra Commander, as he sometimes just had a smooth piece of chrome covering his face. I can get down with that--the blank and shiny look. It’s stylish features even distracted from his shrill sounding voice. I would probably go with something a little more personalized myself, but would definitely want something metal. It just completes the whole look for me. Something about a good sturdy helmet just fits with murder and mayhem. Karl the Butcher gets it. That's why, when he died, along with his love for over-the-top murder, he passed his fancy medieval headwear down to his son, so he would be properly dressed for his own adventure in Violent Shit II (1992).
Long after the events of the first film, two makeshift drug distributing gangs meet up in an open field to engage in something nefarious with a briefcase. For whatever reason, the deal sours, and the two groups go at eliminating each other in various gusher inducing ways. The battle whittles the congregation of assorted backyard wrestles down to a one on one duel between the leaders who both happen to practice kung fu and enjoy white button-up t-shirts. After some fancy moves, one of them slays the other in combat and begins to leave the scene (sans all his dead homies, I guess) but is stopped in his tracks by the sight of a large masked man yelling at him on the horizon. Turns out Karl Butcher Jr, son of the legendary mass murderer, was out for a stroll, spotted the dealers killing each other, and, not to be left out, had rushed to join. Very quickly, Karl (Andreas Schnaas) is on top of the would-be lone brawl survivor and promptly fucks him up with a machete just before the screen goes black. Following its intro and sparse opening credits, the film takes the form of a true crime documentary in development by reporter Paul Glas. Paul believes a string of recent murders can be linked back to The Butcher massacre from twenty years before (and also, the whole thing has something to do with real-life serial killer Fritz Honka...I think?). After divulging the history of Karl senior for a bit over panning random footage of Germany, the reporter follows a tip leading to an interview with some dude in a bar who confirms his suspicions. The Deepthroat-esque “DR. X” then tells him a few stories about the original culprit’s son who, mad about a face rash or something (honestly between the bad subs and silly plot I'm still dim on some details, but it doesn't really matter), had also already done some minor rampaging of his own in the last few years . Switching formats once again, we catch up with Karl II and his (adoptive?) mother (Anke Prothmann in a lot of make-up). Turns out, Momma Butcher has been priming her young progeny to follow in her late husband's footsteps, and now that he has grown to be the spitting image of his father (complete with the heirloom medieval helmet), he is ready to do some eccentric butchery of his own. In fact, this time will be extra special, because mom is coming along too. As one could probably guess, Karl's old lady has some very peculiar parenting ideas, specifically cannibalism and incest. Also at some point, a naturally occurring body hole gets closed up with a stapler, and I think someone eats poop, so watch out for that.
The title is about as far from the old-fashioned B-movie bait and switch as you can get. Like the first film, Violent Shit is wall to wall grotesque violence, only now (in true sequel fashion), it's been turned up a few ridiculous levels. There is an increased story to it compared to the first film, that is to say, there is more than nothing tieing the insane moments of torture and dismemberment together. For the first few acts, a disjointed, random, and confusing series of events form some semblance of a point, but the film forgets about the majority of this as it moves on into plasma soaked sadism. Mostly, the additional fluff just makes room for things the series was truly missing-- like a training montage, cliche fauxumentary tropes, and Kung Fu.  Karl Jr's maternal relationship adds fucked up frosting to an already disturbing cake of sinister shit. The weird sexual thing that's going on there, combined with mom's encouraging cheers, was enough to make me glad the subtitles are wonky and that I don't speak German. At around the same runtime, it might be a little lighter on the fake entrails than the first to make room for the added story, but it wouldn't be considered lacking in most circles. The Butcher-minor is more creative than his father but also seemingly obsessed with genitals (of all genders), which is weird and takes a lot of screen time. There are a few classic machete whacks to the face for some victims. However, as the body count grows, most of the slaughter comes with long, drawn out, silly torture and bloodletting. A bare-bones opposite to the Saw-style mouse trap, instead of providing intricate setups for the deaths, the act of execution itself is long, complicated, and involves several steps. It's all sure to offend anyone who watches but is too extreme to take seriously. Even if you are of the squeamish type, by the fifteenth minute of growling testicle torture and six similar acts, the action loses any real shock and becomes either just gross or hilarious (and gross). It goes for broke, eventually just dissolving into increasing levels of carnage, capturing the essence of a drunken night between friends trying to top each other's morbid imagination. Along with its spastic rampage, the film makes several references to classic American horror films and even borrows a few plot points from the Friday the 13th series unambiguously. To its credit, it's moved forward quite a bit from the first writing-wise, although it’s not like it is casting a bigger net for an audience. It's still just random gore because that's fun sometimes, and hopefully, no one who pops in a film titled Violent Shit 2 will be worried about the level of drama involved.
Shot on tape and seemingly dumping the entirety of its finite resources into gore, Violent Shit 2 is, again, what it says on the tin. The whole thing looks like it was shot in different sections of the same public park, which it refers to as a “forest” at one point. The John Woo tribute, in the beginning, is the film’s most developed moment as far as framing and choreography go, displaying some above average movie brawling for its budget. For the film’s meat and potatoes (Karl the second, killing people), it's a lot more of the same backyard style camera work that kind of hangs around watching the action from any accessible angle. Shots seem almost placed at random, and it jumps between them with meaningless cuts. The film’s biggest draw is an overabundance of practical gore, which comes out as a step above the rest of the film quality- wise. For the lack of resources, the film utilizes some pretty gnarly effects when it comes to flesh mangling, and it doesn't skimp or pull away.  I think I counted four different consistencies of blood, and each horrible scenario is trying to top the last. Without spoiling anything, there is a range of squirtastic stabbings and stringy limb removals that, despite their amateur surrounding conditions, would give a lot of larger budget splatter flicks a run for their money.  Some of the more ambitious (for lack of a better word) moments spend a little too much time on screen and give themselves away, but all together it should more than slate any grimy blood-seekers thirst or send anyone else running. When it isn't mumbling at random volumes, the dubbing is just screaming, grunting and giggle-worthy squishing sounds with no attachment to what's on screen. Music-wise, the film is laced with an out of place, unbalanced soundtrack that sounds straight out of an RPG fantasy video game. Besides the Dungeons & Dragons mood tunes, it does have a German death metal/butt rock theme song (Violent Shit by Vice Versa) bookending it that captures the spirit nicely and almost feels critically necessary. Stick around afterward for some bonus scenes and marquee of credits that look like they are trying to sell you knock off sunglasses.
German director Andreas Schnaas has made an international name for himself with a torrent of ultra-low budget, ultra-violent gross-out splatter flicks that continues today. In 1989, he and some homies secured a tiny bit of funding to form the company Reel Gore Productions and produce their first full-length picture titled Violent Shit. Filmed over four weekends and with a rented tape recorder, the project amounted to a series of violent acts committed by a large masked man named Karl the Butcher, crafted with homemade practical effects (and little else). By the grace of the trash-gods, it saw a single midnight theater showing but received mostly negative reviews on its initial video release due to its lack of production values. However, with a little help from a to-the-point naming strategy and its unrefined grimy gusto, it found an audience worldwide over the following years in less discerning gore hounds who don't mind the homemade feel (a bunch of fucking weirdos probably). Succeeding their second feature Zombie '90: Extreme Pestilence in 1991, Andreas & Co would return to the world of Violent Shit and brewing cult following. To date, the character Karl the Butcher has appeared in six flicks, that I know of, including a reboot of sorts (Violent Shit: The Movie 2015) by Italian director Luigi Pastore, without Andreas Schnaas involvement. Schnaas himself would play the role in most outings, taking over for Karl Inger (allegedly) after the first film.
Violent Shit II: Mother Hold My Hand (aka Violent Shit 2) is a composition sketchbook of demented cartoon executions forged during an in-school suspension and realized in full-color low fidelity magnetic tape. For the right crowd, it's an awesomely inelegant, generously proportioned helping of sloppy sleaze, possibly best devoured while intoxicated. It advances from the first movie to some degree in almost every way, but it's still one for the same exclusive and fucked-up crowd. If you want tasteless acts of dismemberment, childish boundary-pushing, and obscene special effects, it's got you covered. Those seeking damn near anything outside of that, better look for their kicks elsewhere. In a way, it has the same MO as a Gallagher show, in that there are small bits of gibberish in between gags, but ultimately everyone watching is just waiting for red shit to spray, and a majority of possible viewers are not going to get the joke. I enjoy the fuck out of the unseemly mess, although I don't know what that says about me. I also really dig Karl the Butcher’s fashion sense. If only I too had been lucky enough to have inherited some cool metal headgear along with the destructive predispositions.
1h 22min | 1992
Director: Andreas Schnaas
Writer: Andreas Schnaas

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RevTerry

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A.P.E.X. (1994) Review by RevTerry

If I'm being completely truthful, computers make a lot more sense than humans do. That probably sounds bad, like somebody's justification for crowdsourcing a sexbot, but it's the truth, plus humans have a lot more hidden variables. Many times, during my day job, after I have just mediated a quarrel between man and machine (I work in I.T.), I receive a question from the fleshier party along the lines of “How do you understand this computer stuff so well?”. It's one of many comments I receive regularly that I need to check myself before answering to avoid sounding like an asshole. In a way, computers are just acting off an awesomely complicated list of stacking instructions, which for the most part I can see (in one way or another). The PC has no emotions and it doesn't get bummed as we do. It just does what it's told. If it's doing something wrong software wise, then somewhere along the lines, it was given some screwy instructions to go off of. I'm oversimplifying (a lot) of course, but at the end of the day it's a fuck ton easier for me to explain why it has done something, than why a human does any of the things humans do. A computer’s motivations can be quantified, and it always has a reason for its actions. So when I come into the room to settle a dispute between an operating system and a blood-filled user, the squishy one can point all the fingers they want, but really only one party is capable of acting irrationally in that situation. Without human interaction, that computer would be minding its own business and technically working to spec, while we meat bags will always find something to fuck up, virtually unprovoked. I'm not saying you are the mammal at fault every time the computer "fails". It’s just that, nine times out of ten there's a human to blame in the end. Hardware does go bad, but the real problems can almost always be linked to our own faulty organic digits, like the automated squad of killer robots in A.P.E.X. (1994).
In the year 2072, a scientific branch of the government known as the APEX (Advanced Prototype EXploration) program sends probes to explore various time periods. These exploratory units are strictly manned by robots, as early tests with organic passengers proved to cause viral infections as well as “paradoxes”. As a safeguard, if a problem in the timeline is detected, a “sterilization” unit is automatically (and continuously) sent to clean up the problem (by killing everyone). After an extremely slow opening crawl, done with an early 90s text-to-speech engine, we meet Nicholas Sinclair (Richard Keats). Nick is one of the project's lead scientists and a loving husband to his pregnant wife Natasha (Lisa Ann Russell), who also works on the project in some manner. On a day like any other, Nick and the team are casually sending things one hundred years into the past, when suddenly, one of the robots explodes causing Nick to take the trip instead. After hanging out with a hippy family for a bit in 1972, Nick heads back home. Unfortunately, when he arrives, he doesn't find the future he left. Instead, he is in a war-torn alternative reality, where a viral infection has torn the population apart, and his own killer-cleaning robots show up every so often to shoot at random civilians in an attempt to fix the problem. His wife is no longer his wife, and the both of them are apparently hardened soldiers in the robot fighting militia. Almost completely positive that the incident may have broken history, and that he is the only one that has noticed, Nick is determined to somehow fix the timeline. But to do that, he will have to win over his new crew, find another time machine in a dusty wasteland, and dodge artillery from the neverending army of automated time janitors (actually that last part is pretty easy as they are not great shots).  
 The film's story takes some pretty hefty cues from the Terminator series, but mostly on paper. In practice, it comes out closer to a blend of Cyborg (1989), and Trancers (1984) with the temperament of a Fred Olen Ray movie. The film's world is patchwork pieces of genre flicks that led up to it from the 80s. Sharing a lot of his favorite ingredients, the recipe is similar to something Albert Pyun would cook up. The lifted elements amount to more tributes than stolen material, and the movie's style adds a unifying flare to each chunk. Its characters are one dimensional and based on overused cliches but come off as almost enduring or “classic”, like a project Charles Band would lay hands on in the middle of the 80s. Our Aliens (1986) meet Eliminators (1986)-style crew of “tech” soldiers is (mostly) comprised of surface level badasses that look like they walked off another film’s VHS box and are written as tongue in cheek counterparts.  It is constantly familiar, and it doesn't take any extra time explaining technology or tropes that the viewer could presumably be acquainted with from other films. There is a lot going on in the plot. The robots, time travel and some kind of techno virus run alongside each other as somewhat sliding, tentative links. It's not an intelligent film but finds a way to bring out the hard science fiction roots of its influences. In addition to its goofball action, it grazes higher concepts, making calls to literature like Ray Bradbury's A Sound of Thunder and Robert A. Heinlein’s By His Bootstraps. There is a significant focus on the paradox and the possible problems of voyaging through time, a move from the usual clones that just throw that into the background or plot setting. When it all comes full circle, with a wink at the end, I am reminded of the twists that make up the original Planet of the Apes series (minus number 5, always minus number 5).  Undeniably, there a is a strange love for science fiction in the mix which sets it apart from some of the other genre favorites made purely to cash in (although those are fun too). Like a lot of flicks, it has the effect of making increased sense as you know more--until it makes no sense again because you know too much. By the end, its “paradox” is just a plot hole, but it runs face first into it, and that has a certain charm.  To its credit, it has some fun with problems that the concept would involve instead of avoiding them.  Altogether, it's likable hokey ass fun with some warm imagination and a little, tiny bit more grey matter than usual.
On a technical level, A.P.E.X. feels like somebody picked up an unfinished 80s Empire movie and finished it up with discount 90s computer graphics. The special effects are split unevenly between old-school props and blossoming cheapo splash screens. Very shortly into the runtime, the time tunnel is revealed to be reminiscent of something that would come packaged with Windows XP, and every time it comes back it gets worse.  The practical effects are a different story, still corny as all fuck, they mostly add to the entertainment value. There is some neat sci-fi tech, including guns, doom-mobiles etc. ( per genre requisite), though some are seemingly borrowed but with new additions. The automatic killing machines look like the lost love child of Cylons and a Power Ranger bad guy. They are not exactly menacing but they make solid B movie heels, even though they move at a very impractical speed for killing anything. I have a soft spot in my heart for advanced robots that exhibit terrible balance. Due to genre and budget, It utilizes just a handful of sets, and a great deal of the film is just a group of people in cyberpunk gear walking in the desert. Outside of the shitty CG, it works well within its budget even if it could have been made a few years earlier. The editing is handled somewhat functionally and helps keeps the mess tamed, although the narration feels a little tacked on, possibly to add needed exposition.  There is plenty of action and some shit explodes, but the warfare is entirely bloodless as far as I can remember. In fact, the film is completely devoid of any real sleaze at all, so grab the less critical youngsters. It tops off the concoction with a steady flow of canned synth music that really just ties it all together.
Writer-director (and producer) Phillip J. Roth has given us a slew of trashy thrillers, budgeted sci-fi and made for TV action. Starting in 1988 with the TV movie, Bad Trip, his last directing credit is from Dark Waters in 2003, and he produces a range of random straight to DVD stuff to this day. A.P.E.X. came two years after Roth’s first foray into science fiction Prototype (1992), another ambitious post-apocalyptic flick with robotics. Richard Keats is the films lead, and narrator. Keats is another one of those actors that, whether or not you know his name, you have most likely seen at one point. Here he is, in good form, as scientist Nicholas Sinclair, but I'm not sure how anyone is confusing him for a soldier. As the crew's muscle, Mitchell Cox rocks a hairdo that's equal parts Howie Long and Jack from Tekken 2. Despite the poof on his head, he makes a pretty good tough guy and provided similar roles in other the films by the same director. Lisa Ann Russell essentially has a major and a minor role (Natasha Sinclair in both “timelines”) and pulls it off. As far as I know, I haven't seen her in anything else (unless I saw her walking by in an episode of Saved by the Bell: The College Years as “Girl”).  All the acting works pretty well for what's going on, and the performances match the loving cheese of the rest of the film. My only real gripe is Marcus Aurelius’ character (Taylor), for whatever reason, he is constantly wine-yelling. I'm pretty sure he was supposed to be the Hudson of the group and went for the annoying tone on purpose--in which case it misses its mark, but good job on the annoying part (I guess).
A.P.E.X. is packed with time-bending cheese, B movie technology, and frugal love for the genre. It's a little late to the party but makes a good companion to its fellow genre-mates. I can't say it's a good movie by most standards, or incredibly original, but it hits all the right points to be a worthwhile ride if killer robots and cornball heroics sound like your thing. Since that's right up my alley, I enjoy the fuck out of it. Also, I feel like I can relate to a protagonist who has to stop a war between screaming humans and machines that are essentially just doing what they are told.
1h 38min | 1994
Director: Phillip J. Roth
Writers: Phillip J. Roth, Gian-Carlo Scandiuzzi and Ron Schmidt

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Review by:
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Silent Night, Deadly Night IV: Initiation (1990) Review by RevTerry

It's way past time we change up the “holiday” season. It's really gone to shit under its current management style. How could it work? They just kind of plopped that Jesus shit on top of someone else's seasonally appropriate celebration, leaving us with a broken mass of morals, judgment, and fictional bullshit. Half of the correlations make absolutely no sense or just straight up contradict. It's been a long fucking time since Pope Julius and the Catholic church slapped their messiah’s birthday on the ancient celebration. Obviously, I wasn't there to know for sure, but I want to think that's when it all started getting really bad. During the cultural rebranding ( probably not for evil reasons), the church did its best to mix saints and values into the random pieces of local flavor it could live with, creating some kind of a mash of magic, uppity god-monsters and special meal times. There's a lot going on in the lore of the holidays, and nearly all of it is fucking bonkers or just a straight-up motivated lie. In my yearly confusion, I'm left with a never-ending stream of questions. What does the portly “Santa” cryptid have to do with the demi-god super baby? Why are both these supposedly divine creatures involved in some kind of plot to publicly tie a parents’ economic status to how good their child was? Why does it have to be December to get anything with peppermint flavoring? Honestly, regardless of the answer to these questions, It's pretty fucking lame, and It's time for a change. For one, let's just dump all the current icons, they're the bulk of the problem. They have all kinds of baggage and contrived origins. I have a few ideas about who (or what) we can use instead, but, really, the possibilities are endless. I'm just spitballing here, but what about Star Trek captains? It's kind of the same thing, as they’re obviously fictional characters that embody some kind of ideal. I haven't even seen anything past The Next Generation, but I'm pretty sure they would altogether make a more cohesive and helpful whole than whatever the fuck we have now. And that’s just one idea. If, maybe, you would miss the mystic chaos of it all, we could go with bugs and witches like in Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 (1990).
Highly motivated reporter Kim (Neith Hunter), has trouble gaining respect at the newspaper where she works with her boyfriend Hank (Tommy Hinkley). Surrounded by a tight-knit boys club (that includes her slightly supportive sweetheart), she is relegated to the “calendar” section, despite her fiery drive and skills. Looking for her breakout story, she takes interest in a local death that has mysteriously been described as “spontaneous combustion”. Kim attempts to get the story assigned to her but ends up being ignored by her boss (Reggie Bannister), as he and the chattering group of assholes that surrounded him run off with her story instead. Kim is bummed but still pretty fucking determined, so she takes it upon herself to investigate the weird-ass crispy lady situation on her own. In the process, she runs into Fima (Maud Adams), a bookshop owner, who while giving up no real clues as to what happened outside her store, does offer friendly cryptic chit chat and free books on witchcraft. Kim also meets Ricky (Clint Howard), an odd, possibly handicapped, transient with personal space issues that Fima seems to know pretty well. Less worried about how this peculiar lady ties into the case, and more just glad to have a new friend, she accepts a mystery snack from Fima before going about her investigation. Her hunt leads her to the roof of the building, from where the victim jumped while spontaneously combusting. After seeing how close she can get to the edge without falling to her own death, Kim starts feeling woozy, so she takes off for home, but not before being a part of some more uncomfortable moments with Ricky (involving a large alien worm thing he pulls from a vent, which I guess didn't raise any red flags). Before she can settle down in back at her apartment, her boyfriend starts calling, claiming she's late for Christmas dinner with his racist ass parents (oh yeah, it’s almost Christmas!). She then dumps the depression-meal she was cooking-up and heads out for what promises to be an awkward evening. Hank’s dad has some special holiday opinions (mostly about Jews and how he doesn't like them). Being of Jewish descent and not a bigot herself, their conversation leads to an altercation, and Kim leaves the party early. The next day Kim meets her new homie Fima’s book club which turns out to be a bunch of quirky bead-store-lady types. Kim gets cozy with the crew right away, but her picnic is prematurely interrupted when she is called back to work. Surprisingly, upon her return to the office, her boss has a sudden change of heart, and she is officially assigned the case (alongside Hank). What's more, Hank abruptly apologizes about his family's bullshit from the night before and begins to vocally support her with the boys around the water cooler. With more respect around the office, a boyfriend who suddenly had her back, and a generous, beautiful new friend (with a voice like a Stern elementary school teacher), life was looking up for Kim this Christmas. Unfortunately, the good tidings came along with some nasty fine print, and Kim unknowingly may have placed herself in the hands of an ancient worm worshipping coven of Egyptian witches. Soon, she is canceling all the normal Christmas shit she had planned for things like rituals involving various bugs, drug-fueled mind fucks, and the worst threesome ever.
The movie is one in a hat-trick of horror franchise sequels that Brian Yuzna directed between 1989 and 1993. The first of these, Bride of Re-Animator (1989), directly continued the story from the original classic (Re-Animator 1985) in which Yuzna served as producer (with the director Stuart Gordon). “Bride” would be the second film in what would become a trilogy (Yuzna would direct a sequel to that in 2003), and closely aligns with the first film in canon and tone. In 1993 he would direct Return of the Living Dead III, which, while still involving zombies, would mark a drastic mood swing for the series, spicing things up with some superhero style masochism, 90s angst, and allusions to Shakespeare. Initiation was the second of his rapid-fire cult 80s movie follow-ups and the farthest removed from the source material. Starting in 1984, the Silent Night, Deadly Night franchise (not ...Bloody Night or ...Evil Night) begins by following the disturbed orphaned Caldwell siblings as they engage in holiday carnage (usually dressed as Santa clause) for a few eventful years. The first film (1984 directed by Charles E. Sellier Jr.) finds the oldest brother trying his hand at society but ultimately failing so badly that he starts chopping up teenagers (including Linnea Quigley) with an axe, more or less dressed as Father Christmas. Lately, it has (rightfully) become a sort of a Christmas Story for the horror crowd, but it faced some controversy on its release for its depiction of a “killer Santa” (even though Christmas Evil had done it already in 1980, and Tales From The Crypt, 1972, before that). The second film (Silent Night, Deadly Night 2, 1987) features his younger brother Ricky, who is locked in an insane asylum, and pretty much recounts the entire first film through flashbacks before escaping to go on a Christmas massacre of his own. Even being mostly a clip show, and incredibly corny, the sequel gave us one of cinema's greatest moments (garbage day!), making it a yearly watch at my house. The third film (Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out!, 1989) also showcases Ricky (suddenly played by Bill Moseley) who now, as a lobotomized lab rat, runs around causing mischief with a fancy bread maker on his head. It has a sci-fi angle, psychic abilities of some kind, and it definitely goes off the fucking rails, but it technically “follows” the story from the first two. The fourth film observes what has become a time-honored tradition among horror franchises and completely disregards the previous films. It stands as an independent story with no ties to the first three films, outside of it being Christmas while all this is taking place. Well… maybe. Clint Howard's character is named Ricky, but they never give a last name, and it would be quite a stretch. Last we saw of Rick (in part 3), he was impaled on a stick. I guess it is possible (as anything else) that since then, he has survived and found his way to playing gimp for a bunch of bug-obeying witches. Honestly, despite the fact that Ricky already went from looking like Mormon ass Eric Freeman to everyone's favorite redneck Uncle Bill Moseley in the other films, I still have a lot of trouble with him turning into Clint Howard. Also, how much (December 24/25 related) shit could possibly happen to some poor disturbed person? First, his brother hacks people up dressed as father Christmas and commits suicide by cop in front of little Ricky at the oppressive religious orphanage (run by an evil nun of course) that he calls home. Then, after his later break from the loony bin and his own holiday murder spree/foiling, some doctors bring him back to life by turning the dude's head into the world's most obnoxious bicycle helmet. That mess ends with more dead teenagers and with Ricky kebobbed (and brainless). Still, after everything, he just so happens to stumble into a cult of formicophilia witches that needs his man bits for their rituals. I'm not buying it (just that right there, that's the line). It’s a large adventure for just one whacked out dude. As much as I love ridiculous cannon, I happily assume the film is just making a small nod towards it predecessors with the character’s name. It is best viewed (in my opinion) as a switch to a hybrid anthology format for the series (see Prom Night IV: Deliver Us from Evil 1992). Like Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) or Yuzna’s own Return of the Living Dead III (1993), "Initiation" would probably be better off in some ways without the established series attached to its title. There is no killer Santa in part 4, outside of a fourth wall breaking shot of part 3 playing on TV. In fact, during a majority of its runtime it's possible to forget it's happening during Christmas at all. Yuzna would continue on with the Silent Night, Deadly Night series producing (and co-writing) the next film, Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1991), which kept with the standalone trend for the most part. It did, however, find a way to squeeze in a killer Santa of sorts (played by Mickey Rooney who has his own history with the series) and features the “Ricky “ from this film played again by Howard (which would make it the only time in the series one actor had played him twice… if it was the same Ricky).
Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 (aka Bugs, Silent Night, Deadly Night IV: Initiation, or just Initiation) has a lot of familiar genre tropes, but almost none of the regular holiday movie standbys, horror or otherwise. Mostly, it’s a story about a secret modern witch coven, adorned with Yuzna’s love of taboos and slimy things, specifically in this case—bugs. The mood is completely detached from the first three films, conforming mostly to the director’s signature style, although noticeably a little light on his usual cynical humor. A mostly squirm free first quarter tunes partially to Romero’s frequency for Season of the Witch (1973), but updates it for a (mostly cliche) 90s world. The witch-sploitation DNA plays heavily into the character's early plight, her being critically underestimated by her male peers, a dissatisfaction with her mundane prescribed role, and the mysterious, seemingly strong group of witches. As her new friends attempt to take her into the fold, the movie picks up some surreal elements and tries to add some paranoia to its rabbit hole. Among other things, there are sped through nods to classics like Suspiria (1977) or The Witches (1966). Up until the leech stuff really gets going, it could have served as a goo-filled, unofficial American entry into the Argento’s The Three Mothers series just as easily as with the Silent Night, Deadly Night movies (that's not saying much though). Once things start to ramp up in the plot, there is a lot of Rosemary's Baby (1968) floating around, even as the movie replaces any artful strangeness with the goopy and not-sexy-sexual kind. It moves too fast for any real tension, but the constant pace helps it cram all its gonzo ideas into a somewhat cohesive tale. As with a lot of Yuzna’s stuff, it hints at some deeper meaning or maybe a critique on things like gender roles but primarily focuses on trashy fun. It could serve as a satanic spiritual precursor to his Progeny (1998), playing with a lot of the same taboos and concepts. The large range and hallow touch to each element gives some of the writing a fantasy-television feel along the lines of Charmed (1998-2006). I like to think that In some alternative universe somewhere, Brian Yuzna could take Joss Whedon's place in Hollywood and produce seven, lovingly derivative years of this type of thing as his Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The glue barely holds it all together, and it's not this writer-director duo’s best by a long shot. Still, it most definitely brings their brand to the holiday. Before you know it, the witch thing has moved on to demonic flatworms, and unsexy erotic body horror lines the walls. None of its building blocks are extremely creative on their own, but Yuzna's special grotesque touch fills in the cracks with unique moods and pulpy action. Woody Keith, a regular in Yuzna’s posse provided the original script. According to Keith, the duo utilized leftover ideas from the conception phase of their previous work, the satirical favorite Society (1989), which seems to come through in the secret world it portrays just behind the surface. At its worst, the try for a retro, supernatural thriller build-up in the story clashes a little with the blunt, in your face, shock-value theatrics. Mostly, the blend works for me when it all comes together. It's just weird enough not to be affected negatively by the juxtaposition, and it all takes the form of a fucked up, amusing fever dream instead. It may not be the usual film motivations or characters you find around this year, but in a way, it's about fucked up family traditions that take place on December twenty fourth, so it counts.
The cast has some surprise additions, ranging from TV veterans to a two-time Bond girl. Familiar faces include Hollywood (and bizarre horror veteran) Jeanne BatesReggie Bannister from the Phantasm series and Allyce Beasley who has been providing the same bit part as well as memorable voice acting since the 80s. The satanic den mom, Fima is played by cult legend Maud “Octopussy” Adams. Adams is Stunning as always, and she does a great job of pulling off the judgmental bookstore owner/witch. It's one of the highlights of the film but also scary in unexpected ways, a sensation kin to facing off with a pissed off affluent yoga instructor. A favorite of mine, Clint Howard shows up for a majority of the film and as his, often seen, simple oddball character. Clint, who is likely the more fun Howard at parties (yeah, I fucking said it), has over-the-top creepster down to a sputtering science, and in this case, he gets to do some naked partying (nine years before Eyes Wide Shut--take that Tom Cruise) as well. For bonus points, look out for Shiva (Marjean Holden) from the second Mortal Kombat movie (actually you can have the points if you remember any of that film).
Amidst obvious budget limitations, several of the more out-there concepts have been handicapped to make due. There is a lot of brutal and just strange shit going on, but quite a bit happens off screen or is just implied. The shlop, suction cup god-worms and other creepy shit you do see hold up, as another frequent collaborator of Yuzna, Screaming Mad George, true to form, pulls off some great effects even with limited resources. It starts in early with nudity and it returns frequently, however, that also includes a shirtless Clint Howard (not making a judgment here, just making sure you have all the facts). Along the way, there is some fun camera work ranging from homages to its witch-sploitation roots to more unique angles and framing. On the downside, an unfortunate generic lighting laces almost every scene adding to the already ever-present cable television feel.  The editing is mostly just passing, but does do its part to help create a constant pace between its attempts at tension and the shock value. All things considered, it's pretty fit for a Christmas film that forfeited its ability to use last season’s clearance aisle for props.
Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 (1990) is not a very good sequel to a classic series about homicidal Kris Kringle impersonators, but standing alone it can be a fun, trashy, snowless slay ride in December. Viewers who are strictly in it for more of the Chapman family brand of yearly horror dramedy will be disappointed, because it's just not there. Those movies took the jolly images associated with Christmas and twisted them into awesomely entertaining sleaze, while the fourth entry gives the holiday the finger in its own bizarre way. It leaves behind the explicitly Christian reference, colorful wrapping paper, and the rosey fat man altogether and makes a good case for Yuletide black magic and body horror instead. After getting over the change, I appreciated the extreme left turn and look forward to it each year. In a way, it's the perfect anti-Christmas movie as it ignores the usual deity based mascots that crowd the 25th and supplements them with its own. Please don't get me wrong, I like the killer Santa flicks (a lot), but it's about time we, as a culture, just throw the whole tinsel tangled, felt motif out the window for good and go with something fresh. I don't know if celebrating ancient Egyptian, slime covered, rape-bugs is better than the current yearly cult member activities, but it's a little different, and that's something.
Director: Brian Yuzna 
Writers: Woody Keith, S.J. Smith, Richard N. Gladstein, Arthur Gorson and Brian Yuzna

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Review by:
RevTerry
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Christmas Evil (1980) Review by RevTerry

The holidays can make people lose their shit, and in very special ways. It would seem we all were gifted our own custom brand of madness early on in life, and we can't help but break it out come December. I mean, there are some really common core elements to the crazy-ass outward shit we do. You have your Yuletide-disciple types, with twenty-five different seasonal outfits, who make sure every speaker is producing Christmas music like it's their fucking job. These are the self-proclaimed traditionalists, like the office party coordinator that has already sent out three themed emails to the whole workplace by the 19th. Some of them have, in recent years, also enlisted in a kind of war that involves disposable coffee cups and loudly saying “Christmas” immediately after an unfortunate blasphemer mistakenly wishes them a “Happy Holiday”. There are then the scores of militant shoppers who use this time to get out the year’s aggression in the retail arena in fully sanctioned combat. Cutthroat anger radiates from the battle-torn aisles of Walmart (or Target if you're fancy), where many fall slain to the increased pushy ass demands of commercials and misplaced guilt. In the year’s closing, the purchase-addicted are given the ultimate excuse--credit cards get maxed, and the CEOs of retail giants have an extra incestuous money pile orgy (on top of their usual monthly money pile orgy), it's a national tradition. Seemingly, on the other end of things, you have a large part of the population that just looks fucking bummed around this time, or even agitated. All the talk about quality interpersonal relationships and the emphasis on spending money can be the perfect combo for feeling like shit if you don't have people in your life or money to spend on them. None of this is really that simple though, because everybody adds their own twist, or remixes a few parts. The yearly escapades are tied heavily into the important things in your life, like family, finances, or even whatever hell you call a workplace. Everyone feels the impact, you can't dodge it without a time machine. Its been happening your whole life, developing further after each year's winter. The best part is, nobody receives your personal concoction of cheer and trauma, you own it. For several reasons, the spiced traditional blend of fuck-it-all capitalism, stolen seasonal celebrations, and the imaginary judgmental fat man have made monsters of us all. So during this time, try to remember that everyone is out of their fucking gourd, including you. It is the fucking season for it.  You're just going have to make it to January without killing someone, unlike the woefully confused Harry in Christmas Evil (1980).
As children, Harry and his brother Philip stayed up late one Christmas Eve to watch as Saint Nicholas dropped off gifts and munched on some cookies they left behind. After the mythical intruder had made an exit, their mother quickly shooed them to bed, where the two boys argued over the validity of the Kringle encounter. After a few faith-based quips, Harry became fed up with his unbeliever brother and stormed out of the bedroom to get his mom to back him up (or something). Unfortunately for little Harry, Santa hadn't exactly left and was instead passionately licking mom’s leg in front of the fireplace ( picturesque stockings and all) when he entered the living room. Finding out Santa is fake is hard for some kids, but walking in on your parents fucking is rough on anyone, so Harry finds a dark corner and does some creepy shit to cope. Fast forward to a fully grown, balding Harry (Brandon Maggart) who now works at a toy factory, of all places, and is the bain of his successful family-man brother's (Jeffrey DeMunn) existence. Recently, Harry has received a promotion to a desk position but still lends himself to ridicule from his coworkers back on the line, even being muscled into one of their shifts while they go drinking. It isn't all bad, as he has a deep love for toys, and lives for anything Claus related, so the job fits. His apartment is fully lined in holiday decorations, and he spends his free time in his Santa Claus outfit, seemingly, year-round ( although it is almost Christmas so we can give him the benefit of doubt). He also has the totally normal hobby of documenting the neighborhood children's misdeeds in leather-bound books, deeming them good or naughty based on his judgment of their actions. For whatever reason, this particular year’s approaching 25th takes a drastic toll on Harry, and, along with the added bullying from his former linemates, elevates his already problematic obsessions into full-on delusions. In the midst of some kind of breakdown, Harry begins donning his outfit outside the house, acting as if he was Saint Nick himself. This includes doing things he thinks Father Christmas would do, like giving gifts to orphans, telling kids to be good, and stabbing mouthy yuppies in the face with a sharp toy (the good old days of playtime craftsmanship). Of course, everyone gets weirded out (except the kids who are easily swayed by toys) and tries to ruin Christmas by stopping the good-natured rampage. Harry, however, is sure he has enough holiday spirit for all and isn't going down easy. 
Christmas Evil (aka You Better Watch Out) is a mixed bag of emotions, and it pulls full force into each. At its core, it's less a horror film and more a psychological thriller or drama. The film's world is cruel and filled with selfish manipulative people, making a few passing comments about our application of the holiday in our actual society. A lot of time is spent watching Harry as he reacts to the realistic, regular disappointments in life.  His problems are restrained and ordinary but trigger a slow downward spiral into quirky madness. This core dissent takes more from Maniac (1980), Taxi Driver (1976) and even Psycho (1960) than it does any of the emerging slashers that came before it. At times it also comes close to striking the same cords Falling Down (1993) would play to in the 90s. Our killer is the film’s main character and extremely human. It almost hurts to watch him break further from reality as it moves along. The plot makes stops to build up embarrassing moments to a point of being felt. Its narrative sometimes indulges Henry's vision but often drops off into repercussions. Despite his obvious delusions and increasing creep factor, you start to root for the poor bastard, and the perspective almost allows it. Without mentioning too many Scorsese/De Niro movies, it feels like the killer Santa Claus version of The King of Comedy (1982).  It is consistently a Christmas movie, complete with would-be touching moments, only tainted by an uneasy foreshadowing. In fact, I'm pretty sure, it’s a morbid, unofficial remake of  Miracle on 34th Street (1947). It mirrors the classic tale’s plot but twists each event in awkward, mean-spirited ways, even inexplicably borrowing some elements from its closing scene (what the fuck was that?). In the same vein, there are moments of unaligned comedy, although it's hard to know what to laugh at during Harry's awkward interactions. Any humor is blended with realistic social anxiety and an ever-increasing threat of a breakdown on Harry's part. The confusing drive to the film helps create an awesomely unnerving story that builds up to its main characters eventual violent rampage. If it's a slasher (like the cover seems to promise), then it's only during its final thirty minutes. Our killer isn't superhuman, undead, or the product of special circumstances, his life resembles our own in many boring ass ways, he just didn't handle the Yuletide bullshit very well this year.
The film borrows much of its technical style from family Christmas films, and large chunks feel like they came directly from a 1980s made for TV movie. Because the killer’s identity is known, and he is the film’s subject at all times, there is none of the classic stalking and concealment that had already almost become a cliche for American horror by that time. It’s definitely dingy but not intentionally dark, and any grime is a happy side effect of age and budget. Throughout, the editing feels broken and unfinished, as if rushed. Early on, there is a low-balled attempt at using young Harry's delusional perspective that doesn't fly very well, along with a few post-involved errors. The mangled jumps and cuts are a low point, but they still assist in moving the somewhat slow story along at a tolerable pace. Only slightly lost in the paste job, all the camera work is beautifully set and with purpose. It brings over classic composition and lighting from its out of place, fairy tale DNA, adding off-kilter impact to the subject matter. The gore comes in late, and it doesn't stick around long. There's more stock put into the tension proceeding the violence. What blood splatter you do get is pretty fun, and because it is restrained, never really loses its bite. Really, there is little explicit content outside of these moments, leaving it up to less-than-trashy psychological scares for better or worse (depending on who you are or what mood you're in).  Unsurprisingly, the movie is lined with Xmas tunes, and it brings in random jingle bell noises with some great timing, adding to the fucked up mix of moods.
From what I understand, the film was writer-director Lewis Jackson’s third feature as well as his last.  Jackson reportedly set work on the film ten years prior, completing two films before seeing it realized. It would also his be only surviving work, as his previous films, The Deviates (1970) and The Transformation: A Sandwich of Nightmares (1974) are seemingly lost to time (or maybe a divorce).  A lot of the film's effectiveness is in its homicidal Kringle, played by Brandon Maggart. Maggart’s killer's almost childlike and naive worldview drives home an eventual violent climax to a memorable degree. He never feels anywhere near evil, just dangerously damaged and unable to function in society. Maggart, who is apparently in a ton of shit I don't remember him in, does a great job blending the contrasting scenes with his take on the trope and material. His blood soaked Christmas comes early in a long list (see last year's List of Killer Santa Flicks), but still stands out as distinct and fresh to this day. The brother is played by a younger Jeffrey DeMunn, who I definitely recognize. DeMunn has a long career in small (angry) mainstream film and TV roles, but will always (in my mind) be the scientist that was buried by his homies in the first X-Files movie (Fight The Future,1998). He comes in a little hammy, but the later scenes foreshadow the latter half of his career in a positive way. There's plenty of terrible acting, and some of the delivery of the side character is laughable, but great acting isn't really something I have come to expect in holiday movies, so it's actually doing pretty well in that department. Plus look out for an (extremely) quick cameo by the films Director Lewis Jackson as a bartender at Harry’s office party.
Christmas Evil is a family holiday film that has, seemingly, undergone back alley surgery to have its cheer removed and replaced with uneasy dread. It's almost a difficult film, but its eclectic mix of feels is too bizarre to be truly dramatic. It works, but only on its own seasonally depraved terms. Next to other killer-Kringle flicks, it comes up short on instant gratification and titillation, but it can make a good break from cornball holiday slashers while keeping with the theme. It has a little more to chew on than its peers. Just because the main character has stabbed a dude in the eye, doesn't mean you can't have a touching moment where he hands out presents to orphans-- life is complicated. Obviously, I wouldn't for health reasons, but part of me just wants to give Harry a hug. The holiday really did a number on him. Christmas has a fucked up power over all of us, so don't feel bad if you start to crack this season. Stop short of skull-fucking random assholes with toy soldiers, and you should make it through another year like everyone else.
 1h 40min | 1980
 Director: Lewis Jackson
Writer: Lewis Jackson 

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Review by:
RevTerry


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