The Astro-Zombies (1968) Review by RevTerry

The Misfits were an early favorite of mine and had a lasting influence on what would become RevTerry. Anyone who has ever ridden in a car long enough with me has been part of a serenade/karaoke rendition of Hybrid Moments or Last Caress at some point-- it just happens. They were one of the first "real" punk bands I became familiar with as a kid, and their music pathed a straight road towards things like psychobilly and other horror-centric genres. I never really dug Kiss or Guns and Roses, so instead it was The Misfits who showed me that bickering men in makeup, elaborate hairdos, and leather pants can construct timeless masterpieces. Even outside of music, the band had an impact on my life. I bonded with several people over the group--girlfriends, lifelong homies, scary-violent drunk people. Their existence was a natural, common ground in circles I frequented. Movie-wise, I got a lot out of deciphering the lyrics. Danzig, or whatever actual demonic being helped him write in his salad days, used some great references. A song title alone led me to the wonderful work of Ted V. Mikels long ago, by way of 1968s The Astro-Zombies.
After the opening (where someone gets killed with a gardening tool) and fifteen minutes of vintage toys on a sidewalk with war sound effects, the film moves to a fresh fucked up car wreck. As the driver moans away with some almost comedic leg placement, a strange figure approaches from the horizon. When the hobbling responder (William Bagdad with a hunched back that screams "lab assistant") gets to the wrecked vehicle, he reaches inside, grabs the injured dude and drags him out the way he came. Later, at a military facility of some kind, government stooge Holman (Wendell Corey) has called a very important secret meeting. It turns out--bodies have gone missing a lot lately, and by some miracle of detective work, they have traced the cause to their own labs. Through unintelligible means, it is determined the culprit is no other than Dr. DeMarco (John Carradine), a former colleague of the attendee Dr. Petrovich (Victor Izay). Before being fired, DeMarco was working on making super soldiers out of dead people for the Air Force, and the official's fear he has gone rogue with his experiments. After some discussion, the guys in suits play with a brain they just had hanging out on the desk to better illustrate... something. Anyway, the theory soon proves correct as the notoriously cracked researcher has successfully completed his project on the down-low with the help of his standard issue lab tech Franchot (the body snatcher from before). Unfortunately, before the mad doctor could celebrate, his two prototypes escape and hit the streets for some murder. Somewhere along the way, this attracts the attention of local bloodthirsty gang-leader/spy-person Satana (Tura Satana), who decides she could use some zombies for her criminal empire. Espionage, super science, and long-winded conversation follow as the team of officials try to bring down the franken-soldiers and prevent the technology from reaching the wrong hands. Also, the astro-people are bulletproof and powered by photovoltaics. Any light will do, a flashlight works well in a pinch.
The film's plot is a chimera of The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962), Perry Mason, and multiple Outer Limits (1963-1965) episodes, let loose penniless in the late-late 60s, while unknowingly dosed with a hit of acid. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is frequently present in the tale, both the original story itself and its various film incarnations, but with the bare minimum of deeper meaning or warning. Logic, technology, and science all play by different rules in the world of the film, and it becomes clear early on what you're in for. There's a lot of downtime spent hanging out in offices or the lab where the excessive amount of random ideas floating throughout each get their focus. Just as entertaining as the awkward violence, the exposition is a torrent of bizarre detail marinated in pulp and left-field imagination. Globs of zany off-base dialog fall out of the characters as they stand in crowds doing exciting things like looking at a table or making faces at each other. The playful lack of realism and direction never hurts, as it's all part of the package. Plus, every silly fictional bit of science you should ever need to know (and then some) is at some point explained to the viewer like a vintage, convoluted school film reel. In its own way, the gobbledygook is thought out. It has no real life base but makes perfect sense in the bizarre ageless universe the epic takes place in. Undeniably, it's slow and meanders around without cause. With a runtime of ninety minutes, it feels like three hours worth of rickety super science, non-sequiturs, and mayhem. It's a unique flavor type of trash that lands between Hammer's The Curse of Frankenstein, an Eddie Romero-Hemisphere production, and student theater. Astro Zombies is exemplary of the inexplicably entertaining wayward plod found in every Mikels film. It never really makes a ton of sense (to the viewer anyway), but the dry concoction of sci-fi tropes, implied sleaze and untamed imagination have an output you can't find anywhere else.
The production was put on with more determined love than physical resources. According to the filmmaker, it was shot in six days with a budget of around $37,000 (including staff and actors). Most of the film takes place in bare rooms with the lighting of a government PSA reel. The mad doctor's lab looks like a stripped down Universal set with the patchwork addition of tubes and a few fish tanks. Outside of the Astro Zombies themselves, attire is strictly suits and lab coats with little variation. The camera work and framing function well enough, although more than half of the shots have to be simply a crowd of people looking downward. Scenes go on long past their purpose and cut off abruptly. Every version I have seen comes equipped with plenty of film defects, mostly a constant, large grain. There is a fun contrast between drab, blank tones and unrealistically bright coloring, that can only be achieved by accident and in the late 60s. Menacingly unemotive the Astro-man get-up is essentially a rubber mask and a metal fanny pack. The headwear alone completes a beautifully over complicated look to go with its back story. Blood is plentiful, but it's usually during science time and looks a lot like Kool-Aid. Almost all violence is done off-screen with the classic red splatter coming from outside of the frame. Cheap but fully operative, the throbbing dismembered specimens are a highlight for me, even if the table cloth moves along with the rubber brain. It's the kind of hokey flawed filmmaking that's often parodied but never replicated without the genuine blind ambition.
Even among the eccentric greats of B movie history, Ted V. Mikels stands out as a distinctly flamboyant and unswervable character. By all accounts, the filmmaker was a weird fucking dude, both behind the camera and in his day to day life. For later products, the enterprising salesmen would have theatergoers sign a health waiver as a gimmick and hire an ambulance to park outside. At his height, he lived in a sizeable maze-like mansion in California dubbed "the castle" along with a group of females described as a "harem." Both the fantasy decorated villa and the rotating gang of bunkmates played critical roles in his projects during the time, such as The Corpse Grinders (1971) and Blood Orgy of the She-Devils (1973). Staying busy in the seventies, he put out a variety of features including, politically charged revenge drama The Black Klansman (1966), gross-out comedy The Worm Eaters (1977), and the genuinely creepy, damn near Mormon adventure-piece Alex Joseph and His Wives (1977). Though sporadically, he continued his proclaimed life mission in entertainment for the next three decades by any means necessary, completing films with little to no funding. Mikels died in 2016. At the time, he was hard at work on a sequel to Ten Violent Women (Ten Violent Women: Part Two was released posthumously in 2017), and as far as I know, still rocking a waxed mustache without his top buttons buttoned. He has been credited with inspiring Ivan Goff and Ben RobertsCharlie's Angels, as well as countless genre filmmakers. Quentin Tarantino listed The Doll Squad (1973) among his essentials and included an almost outright reference in Kill Bill (2003). Reportedly, he never received payment for Astro Zombies, as the distributor retained all rights during its run. The script was co-written by Wayne Rogers (Capt.'Trapper John' McIntyre on M*A*S*H) who had previously collaborated with the director on the 1964 comedy Dr.Sex. Mikels would turn out three sequels, first returning to the subject thirty six years later with Mark of the Astro-Zombies (2004). 
I have never been quite sure who the main protagonist is, multiple parties are given equal screen time and empathy. I usually root for Tura Satana's “Satana” despite her cliche character’s antagonistic ways, mostly because it's fun to watch her punk people. According to the legendary actress (and sometimes Mikels), the film had been written around her character after the director had attended a dance performance and developed a crush. The role veers heavy into James Bond bad-guy territory and makes me wish Satana would have had a chance to fuck up Sean Connery at some point. John Carradine plays Dr. DeMarco through a constant squint and probably for little more than gas money to his next stage acting gig. Daddy Carradine seems half out the door as the morbid researcher, but his theatrical delivery plays well with the exaggerated surroundings. He also adds some (probably unnecessary) human depth to the scientist that wouldn't be there otherwise. The rest of the cast looks either bored or goes over the top in just the right fashion. I get my money's worth just watching Wendell Corey do crazy shit with his eyebrows.
Astro Zombies is a slow-motion submersion into a sea of insane explanation and low budget B movie cheese. It lives in its own world, stocked with genre tropes, outlandish pulp, and rubber. It is not for everyone as its pacing shakes even some "bad movie" fans, but in my opinion, it's too surreal ever to call boring. Personally, I have no trouble getting lost in the warm, trashy experience. I enjoy the fuck out of it. There is just something special about the dull thud of a Ted V. Mikels flick. Thanks, Misfits for teaching me so much. But just to be clear, I'm definitely not advocating the use of Danzig as a role model, that would be a truly terrible idea. 
1h 32min | 1968
Director: Ted V. Mikels
Writers: Ted V. Mikels, Wayne Rogers

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Trashtastic Team-Up: 7 cult superheroes that need to join forces

As I write this, Avengers Endgame is out in theatres in its second week. Disney has announced somewhere in the range of twenty more movies, and the internet's clickbait still wants to show me the same three pictures of Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. Defying all odds, comic book movies, particularly Marvel properties, continue to run the game and fill seats. With a backlog of interconnected canon and behind the scenes happenings, it makes for fashionable "movie blogging."  Unfortunately, that's not really the kind of shit that I usually cover here. It's a little mainstream, and there's a good chance I would end up sounding like an angry old nerd. There are, however, plenty of crime fighters that I would discuss here, so in the spirit of grand team-ups, I have put together an all-star fantasy team more on my level. I call it...  

Trashtastic Team-Up: 7 cult superheroes that need to join forces

Even before Disney acquired the ingredients to perfect money making alchemy, there was a shit ton of comic book influenced cinema. To keep it simple, I whittled my list down to seven members and omitted officially licensed comic characters that have had cult or "b movies" over the years like The Punisher, The Phantom, and The Fantastic Four. It's also not a definitive list of fringe superheroes or even necessarily my favorites, just who I personally think would make an entertaining, well rounded, B-team super-squad.

Doctor Mordrid

Shut-in criminal psychologist/grumpy landlord Anton Mordrid (Jeffrey Combs) is secretly a powerful wizard sent to our realm to protect the sorcerer's stone and prevent the gates of hell from opening. Kids are spoiled now. In my day we didn't have a legit Dr. Strange film, we had Doctor Mordrid, and we fucking liked it. Well, I did anyway.
Doctor Mordrid (1992) was conceived as an official adoption of the Marvel comic, but when the license expired before production, the project was slightly retooled with some name changes. Though now, it may seem like a poorly aimed precursor to Asylum-type marketing, the Full Moon property is a lot of fun and beat the pants off the made for T.V. official film that we had before it (though that one has its merits as well). Combs is gold in literally everything, and despite not respringing for the official rights, the film shows surprising love for its (unofficial) source material.
Powers and Abilities: 
Master of magic, expert on spooky shit
Role in Team:
 Untrademarked sorcerer supreme

Toxic Avenger

Everyone's favorite bullied teen turned lumpy nuclear do-gooder is probably the most obvious pick on the list. He is a patriarch of trashy mutant heroes, confusing parents since 1984. He even had a fucking cartoon show and toyline when I was a kid. In more ways than one, he would be my fantasy team’s Captain America, if Captain America squished heads and punched holes in people.
1984's Toxic Avenger and its runaway fanbase helped shape Troma into the underground cinema staple it is today. The mutant hero has returned for three more full-length sequels, most recently Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV (2000).
Powers and Abilities: 
Super strength, sporadic invulnerability, handy with a mop, can piss acid
Role in Team:
 De-facto leader and team pretty-boy

The Black Scorpion

 Undermined cop by day, leather-clad vigilante by night, Darcy (Joan Severance) is determined to rid her city of organized crime in retribution for her father's death. Donning a modified dominatrix outfit, the take-no-shit brawler dispatches goons with a Batman-like collection of toys provided by her mechanic (Garrett Morris), all while making time for steamy anonymous romance with her partner Bruce Abbott.
After first appearing in a Showtime original movie produced by Roger Corman in 1995, Black Scorpion returned for a sequel and a short-lived series (with another actress). I reviewed the first film in-full awhile ago.
Powers and Abilities: 
Highly skilled fighter, police department connections, comes with Alfred like engineer sidekick
Role in Team:
 Stealthy ass-kicker and helps fill the leather quota

Wade and The Mandroid Unit

When it isn't in the hands of evil disgruntled scientist Drago, Mandroid is the handy robotic avatar of the wheelchair-bound ex C.I.A. agent Wade (Brian Cousins). Together with his homie Benjamin Knight (Michael Della Femina), who can turn invisible (but doesn't like it), the two fend off the attacks of Drago (Curt Lowens) and his goons, when not macking on each other's girlfriends and fucking up science experiments.
 Wade and Mandroid hail from back to back, straight to tape epics made in 1993 that come off as a mix of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Robocop, and Fantastic Four with Full Moon’s district brand of cornball story telling. The first movie, Mandroid (1993), primarily serves as a feature-length set up for the symbiotic man/machine relationship and sometimes gets called boring--but I dig it. Legend has it that the team was slated to return after the sequel Invisible: The Chronicles of Benjamin Knight (1993), but a third film never came to fruition.
Powers and Abilities: 
Sluggish metal appendages, gun hands, inconsistent technical abilities, shitty luck
Role in Team:
 Metal man who overcomes adversity with expensive robotics

Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. 

Last time we saw Harry Griswold aka Sgt. Kabukiman in a full-length movie he had taken a turn for the worse and his drinking had become a severe issue (Citizen Toxie, 2000), leading to some awkward moments between him and Toxie. I assume things are going at least a little better as he currently hosts a lounge themed YouTube show. I see the potential for a Winter Soldier thing going on there, only with increasingly greasy behavior and substance abuse as opposed to a metal arm, some mascara, and a new edgy persona.
Sgt. Kabukiman was the product of a strange partnership between Namco and Troma, which ended awkwardly with his stunted PG-13 debut in 1993. Despite being a trusted rental favorite and giving the world the original Troma Car Crash, Kabukiman never received the acclaim of his more famous labelmate. Although he has made several cameos since then, he has yet to see a real sequel for his inauguration film.
Powers and Abilities: 
Flight, can pull (possibly offensive) cartoon weaponry from thin air, narcism
Role in Team:
 Problematic teammate

The Double-D Avenger

The movie itself is mostly bad puns about boobs, homemade generic costumes, and PG-13 strippers, but the idea of a modern-day Kitten Natividad kicking the shit out of bad guys brings me great joy. 
The Double-D Avenger was an early 2000s low budget feature by William Winckler that reunited Russ Meyer stars Natividad, Haji, and Raven De La Croix as over-the-top comic book characters with weaponized cleavage. 
Powers and Abilities: 
Superhuman strength, possibly more (She mostly just used her bust in some way, which works well enough), dildo sword fighting skills
Role in Team:
 Classic caped crusader with overpowered, exaggerated features

The Meteor Man

After being hospitalized by a chance encounter with a space-rock and a dumpster, school teacher Jefferson Reed (Robert Townsend) develops a plethora of powers which he then uses for random acts of community service. My team needs a moral compass, and a super-powered district employee with a “eat healthily and brush your teeth” kind of attitude fits the bill nicely. It was either him or Bibleman. I rented the shit out of Meteor Man’s tape back in the day, and I don't fucking trust Bibleman.
The Meteor Man (1993) is the brainchild of writer, director, and star Robert Townsend, the man who gave us the underrated 80s comedy Hollywood Shuffle (1987). The VHS adventure feels more like an unused kid show pilot than a feature film, only with a shit ton of cameos including Naughty by Nature and Cypress Hill as warring street gangs.
Powers and Abilities: 
Many-- (including but not limited to) X-Ray vision, healing factor, unbelievably effective community outreach
Role in Team:
 Resident Paladin and walking P.S.A. with a cape

Even though Shared universes are big stuff these days, I'm unlikely to ever see a crossover event with a group like this. It would take a collaborative effort from several studios along the lines of Who Framed Roger Rabbit with more cleavage and the addition of human blood. But then again, I never thought I would see an Avengers movie either, and here we are. If a series of Marvel movies had come out at this scale in 1998, little RevTerry would have shit himself and died of excitement. There is a decent chance Disney will own every intellectual property soon, and that will dissolve some of the potential hurdles. Shit, if it made money, the "House of Mouse" would probably guarantee the release of one a year with supplemental material. I hear they are even going to let Deadpool keep swearing after the FOX merger. On second thought--please don't let them take any more superheroes.

Who would you include on your cult film hero dream team? Who would you leave off? How do you feel about the current state of comic book films? If I let you touch my comic collection would you wash your hands first? Let me know in the comments below.



The Necro Files (1997) Review by RevTerry

I love a good burial ground. I don't really know if I feel like taking up space after death myself, but I'm glad others did in the past, and that the concept exists--if that makes sense. From my experience, the feeling isn't universal, as some would-be visitors are crippled by a distrust of subterranean corpses (or something along those lines) and find unease in their company. For me, the plots are calming, peaceful places, which almost seem to exist in their own quiet reality. The age-old institutions have a unique balance between spooky and chill as fuck. I have had great times among the headstones, and there is really no other way to get the same vibe. There was a time when I would walk almost a mile out of my way to take my stroll through St Stanislaus Catholic Cemetery before waiting for the city bus. It was the best stop in town, sitting on the corner of mortality, right in the middle of a memorial masonry shop, two medical buildings, and a rest home. Cemeteries are also romantic as fuck. Where I lived as a teenager, the parks were filled with impromptu parties and shady dealings you wouldn't want to walk in on. If you required a quiet, grassy scene to do some teenage dating, the graveyard had your back at any hour. I don't think I remember a scene of drama or fist fight taking place in a cemetery at all, and I even once witnessed a knife fight in a bounce house. The dead make good company. They keep quietly to themselves exceptionally well. Graveyards and the like are, in my experience, safe places with bonus history trivia. In movieland, that's not really the case, as burial grounds are much more active environments. In a horror flick, you would probably want to avoid the cadaver zone. There is a good chance something bad is happening there, and you wouldn't want to be a part of it.  For instance, you probably wouldn't want to share space with a half-witted satanic cult, resurrecting a cannibalistic deviant through human sacrifice like in The Necro Files (1997)
Leaving the police baffled and citizens in fear, a psychotic cannibal/rapists/serial killer by the name of Logan (who is also probably a Nazi, so just the fucking worst) has claimed over two hundred lives without apprehension, leaving only a single victim alive (and pregnant with his child). Having lost his sister to the madman, Detective Sloane (Gary Browning) is especially disturbed by the continuing spree, which he investigates with the help of his partner Detective Manners (Steve Sheppard). Together they pursue any lead that might turn up the dangerous sicko with passionate resolve and spend their free time in intense car rides where they spout out context about the case. The duo seems to be running low on hope until one fateful night when they manage to catch the sadistic bastard (Isaac Cooper) in the act of regurgitating a nipple. While making their emotional arrest, Manners ends up bumping his head, losing his shit and eventually killing Logan. Sloane tries to stop him, but at the end of the day, you can't argue with results, so they head home for paperwork and to start the healing process. Sometime later, a local sect of young “Satanists” meets up at Logan’s grave having kidnapped his surviving child. To appease their demonic deity, the head of the clan (Todd Tjersland) stabs the child to death and pisses on the grave (don't ask why they thought Satan wanted this). Somehow this morbid ritual awakens the rotting, evil pervert who now has a torn suit and less hair. With some grunting, he quickly rips off the head cultist’s dick, inserts it into someone's eye socket, and chows down on most of the other acolytes. Free from the police and the confines of mortality, moldy Logan goes back to his terrible routine only now with the help of undead steroids and reanimated Viagra. The bodies start piling up, and poor detective Sloane rightfully begins to worry when some of Logan’s calling cards resurface as well. As if that wasn't enough, he is also forced to play babysitter for his brain-damaged partner who has started using drugs and kicking people to death. Also, the dead baby returns from the grave with demonic flying powers, a full vocabulary, and a hatred for sex dolls.
Gleefully offensive and cornball as all shit, the film lays out a hand-drawn comic book tale of sleazy macrame come to life. The name seems to be an X-Files reference, tenuously tacked onto the story by the Bad Lieutenant knock off, his downtrodden partner and a closing epilogue bumper. Coming off as a mixture of every trope that could fit and fiery overacting, the cop shtick is a little grinding before becoming the essential piece of ham that holds the fucked up cheese sandwich together. The fact that the plot involves a flesh-eating rape-zombie should tell many people all they need to know about the film, but of course, that's part of the point. It sets out to be fucked up, gives its all and probably has too much fun doing it. Limited by resources, and mostly played comedically, the gruesome boundary pushing is more absurd than shocking, especially after the first few doses it offers up very early on. It's hard to know what to take seriously and probably best just to avoid thinking altogether. Whatever the intentions, it's not likely to unnerve any seasoned genre fans, and at best will get some healthy chuckles out of those with a sick sense of humor (half raises hand, then looks around). Barring some bizarre atmosphere footage, it's one ridiculous thing after another, and it keeps an energetic pace. On top of the inept satanic cults, unbalanced cops, and the undead, deviant father/floating, stabbed up infant son reunion there is a range of side characters (victims)-- all with their own storyline. A lot is packed in there, but as far as these things go, it's more coherent than it really needs to be.  Everything is sexually charged in very unsexy ways--closer to a severed phallus sketch on a bathroom stall than a porno. People are always coincidentally in the middle of a scandalous act when the reanimated psycho, whose unit grew into a weapon post mortem, shows up. Somewhere under camcorder grain, it shares a bloodline with some of Japan's over-gore from the 2000s (The Lust of the Dead films, The Big Tits Dragon), but it holds none of the bright colors, gloss or mutant school girls. Think instead, mean spirited grimy Troma with a tenth of the effects budget and half the slime. Altogether, it's perfectly bottom level entertainment with a twisted spirit for nonsense. I probably shouldn't even admit to how much I laughed at the flying, dead super-baby.
On the technical side, the movie is shot on tape backyard production with an extra dose of manic ambition. It looks like it was made with the contents of a suburban garage in the 90s and filmed around the neighborhood. There are just a few locations including public parks, street corners, and a storage unit. It's definitely not the worst camcorder work I have seen and even includes some formative shots. Always front and center, the makeshift action on-screen is displayed outright, flaws and all. Ranging from boldly bad to resourceful and crafty, the film's effects go for broke with differing techniques. The whole “stabbing a baby to death in the churchyard” bit would be pretty fucking gruesome if it weren't instantly evident that it was a regular old toy. The fact that afterward, the baby doll flies around noisily on a string was a nice touch, but the further exposure didn't make it any grimmer. Offscreen action is always preceded by splatter on a wall and some impressive after the fact, DIY gore that sticks around too long. Most on-screen impacts go over relatively well. Among a few others, there is an inconsistently realistic hand chopping scene that got a little surprised wince out of me the first time around (nothing spectacular it just triggered my fear of paper cuts). I really like the zombie make up, despite the floppy rubber monster gloves that accompany it, and honestly, they do a lot worse on TV. Each fucked up attack is an overlong sequence involving many uncomfortable close-ups laced with grunting and what I think is chocolate syrup. The dubbing includes plenty of squishing sounds which seems essential, and it has its own original score of bare-bones synth. There is plenty to poke fun at, however, that is baked into the trashy viewing experience and is better done in the moment with friends (if you have some and can get any to watch it). It's inventive homemade 90s splatter, and you will probably know if you're willing to watch a film of this quality shortly into the runtime. Actually, that probably goes for every aspect of the feature.
The Necro Files was the third film by Washington director Matt Jaissle, following Back from Hell in 1993 and Legion of the Night in 1995 (which featured cameos by Ron Asheton and S. William Hinzman).  Among some later low budget projects, Jaissle helmed two sequels Necro Files 2: Lust Never Dies and Necro Files 3000 (2017, with puppets!). The script writing was handled by Todd Tjersland and Sammy Shapiro. Tjersland has mostly stuck to “Real Gore” mondo tapes since, pumping out Faces of Gore 1-5 into the early 2000s. He also helped pen the ‘03 sequel and put together something called Midnight Movie Madness in 2009. A majority of the cast and crew lists other Jaissle projects, if any, as the only other credits in their filmography. The exception and the most recognizable name is Dru Berrymore (not to be confused with Drew Barrymore), who along with being known for adult films has appeared in a few genre-flicks including Strange Days (1995) and had an uncredited part in David Lynch's Lost Highway (1997). I have not extensively researched her work, but I'm going to bet her part here is the least erotic scene of her career. The two hammy detectives played by Steve Sheppard and Gary Browning deserve recognition if only for yelling seventy-five percent of their lines. Everyone seems to be having a blast, sometimes even when trying to sell something horrible. 
The Necro Files is a no-budget splatter classic that giggles childishly in the face of production values and taste. It's too goofy and makeshift to strike much fear, but for the right crowd, it's a scoop of sloppy entertainment with some pretty weird and fucked up ideas to keep your attention. No matter how silly, the kids should probably go to bed first, although they have definitely seen worse online and could possibly make more sense of it than any reasonable adult. I won't lie to you, it's terrible in more ways than one, but sometimes, beyond reason, I want to watch some grainy unsavory shit go down in a graveyard. I'm fine with a lot of things-- as long as they stay in movieland and out of the real world. Cemeteries are a great place to find some peace on this side of the screen, and I can't think of a scenario where human sacrifice doesn't fuck that up.
1h 12min | 1997
 Director: Matt Jaissle
Writers: Todd Tjersland, Sammy Shapiro


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Lagomorpha-Thon : 5 Flicks for Rabbit Day

I usually watch zombie movies on Easter. Since, for some, it's a religious day dedicated to an extra special undead dude, it always seemed fitting enough. This Easter, however, I decided to switch it up and have prepared a marathon theme more in line with the outward (sellable) appearances of the holiday--the bunny. There is actually a shit ton of movies involving the fluffy creature in some way, but after careful deliberation, I landed on five features for a healthy Sunday lineup of rabbit involved cinematic madness. I call this year's watchlist:

Lagomorpha-Thon: 5 (fucked up) Flicks for Rabbit Day

Bunnyman (2011)

Carl Lindbergh’s ode to the back-roads slasher is essentially a bargain bin Texas Chain Saw Massacre clone with a fursuit. It's not a super intelligent, original, or good film (actually it is fucking terrible by most standards), but it does have murderous rednecks, lost tourists, and juvenile violence--which I dig. It was followed by two sequels in kind: The Bunnyman Massacre (2014), Bunnyman Vengeance (2017). Also, It’s incredible how much a disturbed man-child killer can emote through a dirty bunny costume.

Night of the Lepus (1972)

The notoriously inept piece of seventies cheese pits southwestern good ol’ boys against the rampant forces of superscience, man-eating rabbits and dated cinema magic. It also features an all-star cast of legends at some of their corniest including Rory Calhoun, Stuart Whitman and fucking Bones (DeForest Kelley) from the original Star Trek. In this age of remakes, if Hollywood had any guts at all, it would try rehashing the giant, killer-rabbit trope before re-re-doing another horror classic.

Peter Rottentail (2004)

A bullied magician comes back to life wearing one-third of a rabbit costume and begins a quest for revenge, killing anyone who gets in his way. The endearing, bottom-level shlock, from John and Mark Polonia (Feeders, Splatter Farm, etc.), looks like a cable access kids show from the late 90s, only with blood and half the budget. I enjoy the shit out of it, but no one will watch it with me, even when it is topical.
IMDB/On Amazon

Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill! (2006)

In this twisted, low budget holiday tale from Chad Ferrin, a mysterious killer, sporting a plastic bunny mask, doles out bloody retribution for the abuse suffered by a handicapped child. Along with being a spiritual tribute to the tasteless trash of old, It's a good dose of offbeat, fucked up splatter, surprisingly capped off with a heartwarming conclusion that brings a tear to my eye.

Watership Down (1978)

Unlike a lot of people in my age group, I didn't catch this one until much later in life, which from what I hear, may have avoided me some childhood trauma. Based on the book by Richard Adams, it's a grim adventure depicting a forsaken society on the brink of extinction, as performed by cartoon rabbits. Technically, it's the only non-horror movie on this year’s list, but it's probably the most effective, and I have heard it called worse things than scary. There was a recent remake on Netflix that doesn't quite live up, so make sure to scar your kids with the OG version.
Zombie movie days are frequent (if you count Dead Heat, I had one on Tuesday). It can't hurt to set time out for the bunnies every year to hold a marathon in their honor. Long before I had heard of Fulci, Jesus or even Romero, I was paying a yearly tribute to a long-eared deity through egg hunts and chocolate gluttony. Plus, the fact that I have written out an itinerary of some kind (for a weekend no less) is making me feel remarkably grown up.
What movies would you include for Rabbit Day? Do you have something special that you watch on Easter weekend? What connection do egg-laying bunnies have to an undead demigod rising from his grave? Have you ever put a peep in the microwave? Let me know in the comments below.


The Muthers (1976) Review by RevTerry

The following is written with humorous intentions. I do not support illegal activity of any kind. Media piracy and copy infringement are a crime.

 Seriously, if you like a film, give the people who made it money. This goes double for independent features or distributors that can sometimes live or die by your twenty dollar mail order. In the film industry you have a vote--a lot like the government only you do it with your wallet, and it actually works.

By some definitions, I was a pirate for a very long time. After bootlegging my share of tapes as a youngster, I jumped head first into the digital era's rapid-fire duplication and distribution technology. I took full advantage of the lax protection on early computer games and can look back fondly on the days when you could run a whole block on one Starcraft product key. Later, after Napster went down in 2001, I kept the neighborhood up to date on which P2P program to use next. I can't admit it when asked at work: “how do you know all this computer stuff?, but the truth is, I learned it all to steal shit. As far as digital piracy goes, I'm a retired crusty sailor from way back with an eye patch and a pegleg. But while that has its perks and shares a name with the aaargh kind, it's definitely not as cool. Sure, just at my fingertips, laid a world of media for the pillaging, and my expedition to booty ratio was probably better, but the lifestyle lacks any real adventure. There's some danger... well kind of. My day job regularly has me removing the malware from other’s naive attempts at locating the newest Marvel movie. And of course, copyright enforcement came into play but usually through a third party and in the form of passive aggression. Both the sea-fairing buccaneers and I had a code of sorts, so there are similarities. My plundering was just not as badass. For example, if my sister needed to catch up on a show or see a movie she couldn't find otherwise, she might have hit me up. If I didn't have it floating around in some form, I could get it-- simple enough. However, if she had fallen into some real trouble which might call for possible swashbuckling, I wouldn't have been much help. I don't think my net combing skills will come in handy if she gets herself locked up in a Filipino prison run by a murderous warlord. Nope, that would call for another type of pirate something like the ladies of The Muthers (1976).
Kelly (Jeannie Bell) and Anggie (Rosanne Katon) are pair of tough as nails thrillseekers with their own boat full of dirty pirate crew members. While making a living through oceanic armed larceny, the rambunctious group spends its days robbing yachts full of yuppies of their shit when not clashing for territory with rival gangs. One day after returning to the pirate commune from a particularly easy jack-move on a load of wealthy partygoers and a score-settling shootout with their nemesis Turko (John Montgomery), Kelly receives some troubling news. It seems her stubborn younger sister ran off some time ago, and the family is beginning to worry, as she usually turns back up after a day or so. Rumor has it that the sibling has entered an ominous placed called Santa Domingo and most likely has fallen into peril. Annoyed with her sister but not wanting to miss out on giving her a lecture/beating, Kelly begrudgingly takes Anggie to go look for her. After Santa Domingo is a bust, the two head into a bar to question the patrons and end up having to break the bones of several handsy drunks. Somewhere between ass-kickings, they are approached by a government agent investigating the local sexy-lady work camp (pretending to be a coffee plantation) run by Monteiro (Tony Carreon). According to the man, Kelly's sister has been locked up in the bloodthirsty tyrant's establishment, and there is little chance of escape. Having recently lost contact with his informant, probably due to death, he needs someone on the inside and promises to look the other way on the group's piracy business if the two agree to get themselves locked up. They comply, seeing the terrible strategy as the best chance to catch up to the wayward family member. Predictably, once inside, the ordeal becomes more complicated and the whole thing goes to shit, but they do make some new friends (Trina Parks as Marcie and Jayne Kennedy as Serena). Soft women-in-prison antics follow, including cruelty and showers, before the girls get sick of dry land and stage a breakout. Also, there's some more shooting, and everyone has really creative ways to almost not wear a shirt.
With no complete stops, The Muthers (1976) is a trashy leisure cruise through grindhouse concepts with an action-packed pirate theme. It's a flurry of well-used exploitation tropes, poured over a very basic jungle based chicks-in-chains flick that sets itself apart with its solid leads and quick flashes of adventure cheese. There isn't much of a story, just some classically diabolical bad guys, a gang of beautiful buccaneers and a checklist of borrowed concepts half stirred into the husk of The Big Doll House (1971).  It lays into several women-in-prison norms but feels more at home during fits of chaos on a cartoon battlefield. Inexplicably, the B-movie blend of tropes becomes its own with a flavor equal parts Foxy Brown (1974) and Missing in Action (1984). It leaves behind the usual pampered socialite doomed to learn a harsh lesson and supplants “take no shit” bandit queens, out to crush skulls. More scoundrels than victims, the enigmatic gang spends its time beating up handsy jerks or pulling nautical jack moves when not breaking in and out of prison. The movie relies on the WIP norms at choice moments but functions better with a spray of artillery. Those strictly looking for the subgenre's usual brand of sadism might be a little bummed with the focus being the breakout as opposed to the extreme atrocities of a scary prison somewhere. It has less to do with a female stuck in jail than it does someone taking a shitty deal knowing they will have to fight their way out. Fucked up shit goes down, but it only fuels the fires for comic book revenge, and soon after it rounds back to one-liners without many tears shed. Logic is thin all around, and nobody seems to be concerned with tragedy for long. Stacked next to its blood relatives, it seems almost tame with a unique flair for action. A sleazy tone picks up after the early swashbuckling leaves and sticks around till it ends, but it never gets grim. Despite the subject matter, the film is almost lighthearted, boiling down at most to sexy, one-lady armies laying waste to goons and talking shit to everyone. None of it makes any sense, but it comes out the other end as an entertaining ride through cliches with above average characters and a few boat scenes.
The film does its best to mimic the high-end Hollywood action films of its time using the skimpy and makeshift technical aspects of the average B-movie produced in the Philippines. There are some valiant attempts at grandeur during the intro that utilize bright colors and roving landscapes to create its own brand of stylized swashbuckling. It almost has a fucked up retro, live-action Disney thing going on before devolving into the basic cheap and dirty techniques of frugal jungle sleaze. The editing, while rough, isn't the worst of its kind, and outside of a few strange choices, does its part in scraping together a flow. There isn't a ton of fluff and the quick cuts of stripped down content help the film move along quickly.  A majority of the camera work is kept bare bones, avoiding the stock footage feel of some of its peers but also missing out on some scenic meandering. After the time spent on the beach, it moves to a plantation-like location deep in the jungle with a set that looks like it may have been assembled the day before. It gets some of the action right, other times brawls resemble a fucked up game of duck-duck-goose. The dubbing goes from semi-functional to disastrous, on several occasions coming closer to a Shaw brothers film than a Roger Corman production. The soundtrack chases the themes around the runtime with a different style and volume for each situation. Sometimes it's fitting, like rousing adventure tunes beachside showdowns but also things like loud funky basslines for tense torture scenes. Rushed, blunt and dirty, it is in standard form for the boom of Z grade productions coming from the Philippines at the time. My biggest nag is that I wish there were more straight pirate content. The fucking intro Robin Hood skit was gold, and I would have liked a whole movie of that kind of shit. I guess sweaty jungle torture huts are cheaper than naval warfare.
The Muthers (1976) was produced, written and directed by the legendary Cirio H. Santiago, king of fan service and lover of topless karate. He was one of Roger Corman's goto filmmakers at the time and fit the project between work on films like Cover Girl Models (1975) and Vampire Hookers (1978). Breaking into the American market with blaxploitation films Savage! (1973) and TNT Jackson (1974), Santiago gave the world three decades of trashy entertainment before his death in 2008, and I have too many personal favorites to name. Mustering an unprecedented amount of chemistry (along with the requisite badassery), the most consistent highlight of the film comes in the form of its female lead cast. 70s playmates/prior Santiago collaborators Jeannie Bell and Rosanne Katon play sexy-pirate managerial duo Kelly and Angie. Bell who previously starred as TNT Jackson, brings the similar role to its apex, turning otherwise cheesy dialog into damaging put-downs with her sheer presence and going for broke in the fight scenes. Rosanne Katon had worked with Santiago on Ebony, Ivory & Jade that same year, going on to pop up in a range of 80’s television roles and a few cult favorites like Motel Hell (1980). Here she can be seen putting in a considerable amount of the actual physical action, outside of the ridiculous wire assisted jumps (done with a double). Among the rest of the eventual escapees is Trina Parks who first comes to mind as “Thumper” from Diamonds Are Forever (1971), but honestly if you haven't seen her as Syreena in Darktown Strutters (1975), you should check that out (it's a fucking trip). The group does wonders with a nothing script and even adds a hint of realism at unexpected times. It's a great mix of "whatever works" directing and actors willing to make shit happen. While not Cirio H. Santiago’s best on the usual aspects, the left field combo of his eclectic style and the main performer's energy bring something fresh and just fucking awesome to the flood of similar movies from the time.
The Muthers is a low budget, over the top action adventure flick made from the abandoned remains of a jungle sleazefest. It's pure junk food with a twist on familiar flavors never truly replicated. A women-in-prison film with an identity crisis, it's not shocking enough to be counted among the notorious greats of the subgenres, but in its madness, it brings in values that rarely get play, in any genre really. Hollywood gives itself a pat on the back every time it includes a single female with a weapon, so in a fucked up way (that makes me sad), this movie still has them beat thirty-something years later. It is two playmates and a Bond girl spending a whole movie talking about beating up and/or robbing people when they are not doing it, which I enjoy the shit out of. It could use some more pirate action though, as it gives just a taste. I liked their style and could do with some pointers. If I was looking towards advancing in the field, robbing the rich assholes face to face on their luxury watercraft seems like a logical next step from where I left off.
1h 23min | 1976
 Director: Cirio H. Santiago
Writers: Cirio H. Santiago, Cyril St. James


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News and Shit 4/19: Greatest hits/Social Media

There is no new review this week, I took the weekend off. Stay tuned, though, for some exciting new stuff coming soon (to be announced), as well as a return of the regular bullshit next week.
In this short intermission, I would like to thank those who have let me virtually vomit in their brain holes to date. I have reviewed over seventy films since 2017, and it's still something I look forward to each week. I can't tell you how much it means to me that people have reached out in response to the articles or the blog in general. There is a fuck ton of entertaining trash fires scattered across the web. If you have spent some time in mine, sincerely, thank you.

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I'm pretty sure it's killing everyone from the inside out and destroying creative media altogether. Also, you should follow me everywhere to receive site updates, catch my charming antics and witness my witty banter in real time.

Did you know VideoReligion was born on Tumblr? True story. Sometime in 2015, I started a side blog on the platform to spam VHS gifs and post tits away from my main blog. By follower count, it's the most popular Video Religion social outpost, even after Tumblr eradicated the female nipple.

Despite being somewhat exposed as a mediocre supervillain, the Facebook machine remains the go-to for mass communication. According to Google, it sends the most traffic my way. I like to imagine there is some A.I. tension there.

I think this is where celebrities and pornstars say stuff. One time Uwe Boll gave VideoReligion a shout out, and its probably still the coolest thing that has happened to me.

The newest social extension from VideoReligion, mostly, because I had no idea what to do there. There is actually a pretty strong physical media culture buried under all the celebrity babies and diet advertising. If (by the grace of the cinema gods) I attend a relevant event of some kind, you may find highlights and man-in-streets type shit there.


In the first year of the blog, I broke even by way of Amazon ads just before I had to re-register the domain. I work a full-time day job and VideoReligion doesn't exist to turn a profit. If you are a giver and feel compelled, you can buy me a Ko-Fi.

I also have a Threadless artist shop with rotating designs for public displays of affection.

Thanks again for reading. See you next week - RevTerry

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The Astro-Zombies (1968) Review by RevTerry