Black Scorpion (1995) Review by RevTerry

I don't have the inner resolve or finger strength to detail the painful plight regarding my relationship with the modern comic movie. It's too fucking much to bear. The emotional plane crash of seeing some of your favorite print characters come to life, on a beloved medium, only to then watch them become soulless celebrity husks (and in turn somehow ruin their comic sources as well) is just too much for this format. Plus I don't like to sound like the angry comic nerd or the before it was cool hipster. The fact is, to those outside of the old grumpy comic community, those films are just more enjoyable. I would hate to take away from anybody's cinematic enjoyment- as I should know better then anyone; that one person's offensively bad film is another viewers brainless masterpiece. Lately I have even brought myself to a semi- comfortable point where I can make it through these cookie cutter films and even almost enjoy myself. I mean, bad movies are kinda my thing, and in most cases, if it didn't feel so personal, the fact that a company was sucking an idea dry, releasing formulaic colorful trash would probably be right up my alley. So in order to just watch every overproduced marvel production as the engaging, well paced, hot garbage it is (like I normally would), I have to just pretend it has nothing to do with the comics, that I spent a majority of my life obsessing over. It gets easier with time, and it helps to remember the other silly superhero movies of the past, that didn't carry as much...emotional baggage. There were quite a few Batman and Superman clones in my happier years, following the Burton Batman films and multiple DC related shows on television, that did little for the art of film-making but can provide a good dose of dumb fun, when the time calls for the caped variety. One that oddly comes to mind often is Showtime’s 1995 foray into the masked vigilante, Black Scorpion.
Darcy(Joan Severance) is a hardened LA detective that comes from a line of by-the-gut lawmen. Despite being good at her job she gets little respect from her peers due to her gender, plus the fact her dad was ejected from the police force for harming a civilian doctor in a hostage situation. She holds a flame for her partner, Michael Russo (Bruce Abbott), even with his lack of support in either matter. One night after a long day of pretending to be a hooker (standard operating procedure for female cops in film), she stops in for a awkward and very serious chat with her disgraced father (Rick Rossovich) at the bar. When the two finish their corny ass discussion on the meaning of being a cop, the district attorney pops in and shoots her dad in the chest. The killer DA is promptly arrested, but he gives little in way of explanations. That won't fucking cut it for Darcy, (because the dude just killed her drunk ass dad) so she sticks a gun to his head in an impromptu interrogation later on at the jail. The tactic yields no more information ,but it does get her kicked off the force. Without her badge she ultimately is left no other recourse, then to dress up in skimpy black leather and hit the streets for some DIY justice. With the help of the not-so-ex car thief Argyle (Garrett Morris), his damn near magic chop-shop and armed with various taser modifications, she becomes The Black Scorpion, super electrostimulation enthusiast/crimefighter. While out and about on her quest for vengeance, she starts to uncover a wishy-washy conspiracy, involving asthma inhalers and petty crimes. A Diabolical plan all put together by the supervillain,The Breathtaker (Ed Gilbert), who kind of looks like a discarded character from a Super Sentai series.
The movie exists in a exaggerated reality just to the side of our own. Utilizing the broad strokes made popular by Tim Burton’s Batman (1989), to give it a comic feel, minus most of the noir aspects and on a fraction of the budget. The characters are all large cliches, but the film does its best to point at them and laugh, at least during the times it’s aware that it has fallen into these tropes. While the plot on a whole makes more than enough sense for what's on the screen, the movie isn't too worried about shit like logic. Almost as a side note her ex-con mechanic-slash-sidekick is able to provide her with a shape shifting armored vehicle, complete with in glass display and voice commands(as long as she says “Yo” first) etc. It uses the anything goes rubber reality to gloss over the problem with things like inexplicably advanced technomancy (in 1995) and it works, for the most part. In fact the film, probably by accident, succeeds in making it feel like there is a large but goofy ass world in there, that we are just viewing a small part of. This is an area many large budget modern superhero films struggle with, and one that should be a prerequisite for a genre that is supposedly based on serial comic books. Its edgy grit falls flat, but its failure is 90s flavored and is more than bearable. In line with with Showtimes business model,the film has a fair amount of nudity, including a memorable sex scene where Darcy keeps her mask on and knocks Russo out with her taser-ring afterwords. The fight scenes are okay at best but luckily all end with some kind of terrible one liner or innuendo. It's a fucking campy, trash Batman rip all the way, with an added bonus of cleavage and Dan Cain from Re-Animator (1985). Though you have to give credit because it’s got a lot of heart, keeps a great pace, and the hero even wields a branding iron with her logo on it, more than 20 years before Zack Snyder decided Batman needed one.
The film is the brainchild of Roger Corman (surprise!) and writer Craig J. Nevius, who also penned the infamous “lost” Fantastic Four movie for Corman the year prior. The writing is a mix of honestly trying to create a strong female character and Corman forcing in his usual tactics (read boobs). Director Jonathan Winfrey(along with the editing staff) gives us what would be the most consistent of his efforts, amounting to a few small cuts above softcore porn ,with a cartoon twist. Winfrey would give the world a handful of watchable b-movies , including my second favorite Carnosaur (3) and this films sequal, before moving jumping over to television. The film was original released with as part of Showtime’s “Roger Corman Presents” original film series. The TV budget is visible but, as with the bulk of the flicks the channel produced at the time, the lighting and sound are all way above what I call passing. Technically,it is mostly mediocre with some almost-inspired color and design at times.
Our protagonist is portrayed by model Joan Severance, who goes for more Dirty Harry then Bruce Wayne, and I can dig it. Despite obviously not really being trained to fight, she pulls of comic book badass, in a sea of misogyny, well enough. Her father is played by Rick Rossovich,who might just be reading his lines from off screen and spends a lot of time in a turtleneck. I will have to forgive him for this, because he is Slider, and for better or worse Top Gun helped shape America. Motherfucking Bruce Abbott plays Darcy’s shitty partner Russo, a role Slightly more removed from ReAnimator’s Dr.Cain than the similar film, The Demolitionist (remove the Batman parts, add Robocop) from the same year. He is always awesome and I have watched a lot worse just because he was in it. Garrett Morris provides comic relief (as if we needed it) and plays Q to the Black Scorpions flea market James Bond.
So what if in this dystopian timeline we live in, my long time love of Marvel Superheros has to die. Shit, Disney is actually doing me a favor, buying every comic title Marvel put out each Wednesday is expensive as fuck and hard to justify to other so called adults. Plus, with the right perspective, it just means more colorful cinema garbage to consume, even if the current version has skinned my childhood and is wearing its face around. I have to simply imagine that each film they put out is just another unrelated, craptastic hero flick, like this one. I won't lie to you- Black Scorpion is a thin and corny comic book nock-off and at most good for a few brainless moments, probably in a group of friends with some form of intoxication. Most importantly though, it contains something the big budget Marvel films never see fit to include, boobs a soul.
| 1995
 Director: Jonathan Winfrey
Writer: Craig J. Nevius 


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Slime City (1988) Review by RevTerry

It's amazing; the things you can survive when you are broke. For the working-poor, the taboos around things such as bad housing, diet or safety are fluid guidelines as opposed to steadfast rules, and can be placed on a sliding scale. Despite it being a medical miracle, I spent two years when I was younger substantiated on black coffee, Top Raman and Camel cigarettes alone. When your pockets are empty, your body adapts. It makes due. Poor people take uninsured risks every day and don't even think twice. It is just part of life. You don't see real poor people problems much in entertainment. Maybe the big wigs in Hollywood think it wouldn't be exciting enough. I mean it's deadly, but is lead poisoning really sexy? Despite several tv shows supposedly about the subject, the broke person's relationship with housing sees little media representation. The process in which you try to find a place that fits your budget, will accept you and won't lead to your death isn't the kind of image they would want on TV, at least at this point. But there are some flicks that get it. Just a handful of examples out there that the proletariat can feel on a deeper, black mold infested level. For a great but properly nauseating case, we have Slime City(1988). It knows the dangers of being broke and gives us a slime soaked fable for the true cost of a bargain.
We meet a young couple, Alex (Craig Sabin) and Lori (Mary Huner) while on the hunt for an affordable apartment for Alex. He settles on a run down building with a reasonable rate, and soon they are moving his shit in, with the help of his friend. Originally it appears the complex is mostly inhabited by the elderly, but soon we meet the poet Roman (Dennis Embry) and the dark and sexy hooker Nicole (Mary Huner again), both seemingly off people from the get-go. There is a side plot where a student couple is going through a rough patch involving a lack of sex and, I suspect, Alex’s whiney ass attitude, as well as some minor slice of student life moments. That is, until the wannabe Nick Cave-looking poet next door pressures him into a dinner of so-called “Himalayan Yogurt”, (a brightly colored slop) and something just as colorful to wash it down with. Alex eats his bright green serving, starts tripping balls and fucks the oddly hot (and familiar) prostitute neighbor. The Next morning he wakes up hungover and covered in orange slime, so he decides to take a walk to clear his head. His condition only worsens, and he dips into an alley to melt alone but unfortunately just ends up killing a homeless dude for talking shit. Luckily, as it turns out, snuffing out hobos temporarily cures melty-orange-slime-face-syndrome, but the shit only gets more glutinous from there, Including more goop in various colors, relationship problems and human possession from the beyond.
It is a sticky mess of quotable cliche dialogue, melty special effects and what seems like the set up for a quirky 90s BBC show. Outside of Dr. Jekyll style goo-murder tendencies, our main character's plight mirrors sitcom hijinks. It portrays the trials of being a starving-student, dopey larger friends and sexual frustrations, in the plucky tone of low rent early 90s television. The atmosphere can be nearly cheerful, in between the goofy imposing music and glop slinging. Its Choice of colors and odd logic give it a cartoon effect. Think Nickelodeon in the ghetto, but only in the weird days of things like Weinerville and You Can't Do That on Television. Despite a few lulls in the silly plot, it's mostly engaging and all ends in a beautiful slippery but tragic finale.
There is a lot going on, it quickly transfers between sci-fi, horror, and fantasy elements as it moves along. It's an extremely low budget flick but pulls out all the stops for its gore. Blood, pus and other sludge greases the action, every few scenes, to keep it entertaining.
Because of its penchant for melting human flesh and bright colored unknown substances, it instantly draws comparisons to Frank Henenlotter’s Brain Damage (1988) and Jim Muro’s Street Trash(1987), though Gregory Lamberson separates himself with a surprisingly kinder tone, doing it all with far fewer resources. It's less polished than most of Henenlotter’s efforts and doesn't hit the artistic notes. While the direction can be cold, it packs some violent, messy fun and plays with some interesting ideas. Lamberson continued the theme over 20 years later with a sequel, Slime City Massacre (2010).
The majority of the acting is rivaled by school plays and dinner theater, but this does little to sour the film’s flavor. Most of the actors seem to be playing variations of themselves and are utilized in a consistent manner. The big exclusion to this rule is Mary Huner, who takes on two roles in the film. While her acting is still very much amateur, she ends up being the best part and pulls off the two roles in an entertaining way. It took me a few watches to realize it was her playing both women, and it makes me wonder if that duel casting choice was a cryptic message about Alex's infidelity or just done out of necessity and ability.
Slime City is a grimy b-movie classic that knows The Struggle and invokes 90’s Double Dare flashbacks. For fans of goop and gore, it will be a worthwhile flick to catch, if for the final scene at least. It may also be something you relate to, if of course you have ever been broke as fuck, in a rocky relationship and forced to eat something gross at some point. But who hasn't spent a few years slumming it up, fucking hookers and killing people, while rocking a really bad complexion?
 1h 21min | 1988
 Director: Gregory Lamberson
Writer: Gregory Lamberson


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Decoder (1984) Review by RevTerry

Reportedly, when the first movie to use rock music in its soundtrack, Blackboard Jungle (1955), appeared in theaters it caused riots. It's fun to think about a world where the cliche sheltered youth of the 1950s just got so fucking pumped by the Bill Haley track “Rock Around the Clock” that they lost their shit, started tearing up seats, fucking each other and burning stuff. I have a feeling those reports are a little embellished, brought on by some kind of Footloose (1984) style fear of kids dancing, but there is definitely something to the notion that rhythmic sound has a drastic effect on the human animal. I don't mean this in that Tipper Gore, PMRC bullshit kind of way, more just the basic fact that sound patterns do have powerful and visible effects on the brain. I can easily see the changes myself, on my mood, speed, and even attention,based on the type of music I'm listening to. Various points have been made as to the correlations with performance during mental and physical activities, and I’m sure science will only add to that over time, that is if it's not already some kind of secret government weapon. Stores, commercials and casinos use sounds (along with colors,lights etc) to make you act a certain way , they pour a fuck ton of money into research along these lines. It's a vast, interesting and relevant concept, and when pushed to the extreme makes for a entertaining one. So I'm sure more flicks then I can recall have used it as a plot device on film, but it would be hard for any of them to be as bonkers as Decoder (1984).
In a glowing dystopian society, an oppressive governing power uses various sensory tools to control the public, including what they describe as “sound systems”. Despite this evil government seemingly having a whole department to defend against it, there is obvious dissidence among the societies youth, which you are left to gather over moody scenes of some chick that really digs frogs and some bohemian style discourse, without the participates looking at each other. Somewhere along the way, we are introduced to the disillusioned protagonist F.M. (F.M. Einheit). Our burger flipping main character discovers, through an interest in tape players and electronics, that special sounds can induce certain actions from the listener. He becomes suspicious of the elevator style music at H-Burger, where he works. Rightfully so, because as it turns out, the sleepy tunes were in fact installed by the fascist government to make the patrons passive and compliant. Soon he is recruited by a team of rebels who give him the lowdown about all of the government’s dirty tricks. Together they run around jacking tapes from the burger joints and replacing them with their own remixes that induce turmoil, kick-starting a revolution. There is also a hooker addicted government agent(William Rice), dream sequences featuring William S. Burroughs and some undeserved frog violence in the name of music.
The film takes a lot from the works of William S. Burroughs, who appears in the film. Not only does it seem to be fueled directly by his work, specifically "The Job", (as well as the related/remix "The Electronic Revolution"), the film also takes cues from the style of his writing, favoring a strange rhythm over a coherent or linear plot. The story is intercut with random footage, from the extremely abstract to the disturbing, which weaves together the strange scenes that make up the tale.
The first quarter of the film is a fucked up collage moving from morbid imagery and bright lights to random displays of the grimy societies norms. The world of the film is a dirty, alien place only reminiscent of our own. Imagine if a hungover Terry Gilliam met a younger Tim Burton in a German rave and they spent the night watching Italian neorealism, on a shared a hit of acid. It feels messy and violent at first, but it forms patterns and a strong rhythm with the seemingly random imagery. The later half of the film becomes much more concise and focused, but it's always fucking weird.
Each scene or room has a color that it is drenched in, and a collection of, two or three odd angles that it switches between. Camera direction gives strange amounts of focus to orifices on the face or background objects. Analog glitching and degradation are used to blend the varied effects used on scenes with the inserted stock footage. Its feels raw and dangerous as if it could have been secretly passed to you, in the world of the film.
The soundtrack plays a huge part in the whole fuckmess. So much so that it can feel like a music video at times, letting the audio take center stage, despite some of it being somewhat non-musical. Much like the main character’s tape of noise, it’s made up of human voices, industrial sounds and unidentifiable clips, that have been looped to make a pattern. The more musical pieces are almost entirely 80s electronica that breeze by with the imagery they accompany. Inexplicably three languages including English are used in the German production, sometimes switching back and forth in concurrent scenes. The sound effects focus on mostly on things like mouths chewing, as if by accident, that were obviously added in the dubbing purposely. It's all part of its style.
The film is steeped in 80s industrial/electronica culture, employing a few of the genres performers as actors. The lead role is held by percussionist F.M. Einheit,known at the time for his experimental live performances during his stay in bands like Einstürzende Neubauten. It also includes the avant-garde/occult legend Genesis P-Orridge, and I’m sure there are bunch more related faces that someone more versed in the musical genre could point out. As for any real acting, William Rice gives a spacey performance that plays well with the altered reality around him.
I can see it being a little much for some viewers and not in the normal “blood guts and titties” style of the films I normally write about. If you can get some footing, it makes for a interesting but very entertaining watch. It's very much an experiment itself in the sciences depicted in the film. Decoder is beautiful in it's way, and I can't help but feel it's important or somehow relevant, despite being nuttier than a jar of testicles.
1h 27min | 1984
Director: Muscha
Writers: Klaus Maeck, Muscha, Volker Schäfer, Trini Trimpop 

RevTerry visits Tom Devlin's Monster Museum

We don't get many Horror-Cons in Southern Utah. By that, I mean we get zero fucking Horror-Cons. I’m sure it’s the same reason Godsplotation flicks like Freetown (2015) get banner billing at the local theater, but I have trouble finding a place playing mainstream phenomenons like The Shape of Water (2017). Anyway, those who would attend such an event are shit out of luck and left making the drive to comic cons in Salt Lake City with pessimistic hopes of seeing cool Jason cosplay or something. It was therefore strange to learn (from Full Moon’s latest Indiegogo campaign) that just a few hours away stood a small monument to the Horror films and the practical effects that make them great. Until then I had no idea that just outside of Vegas was Tom Devlin's Monster Museum.
If you don't know, Tom Devlin is one of the modern greats of trash cinemas special effects department. He gave us some awesome and fucked up monsters for both Troma and Full Moon’s more recent eras as well as a chunk of Asylum creature shlock. No matter the quality of flick his shit is always on point. Recently he was key in bringing the puppets to life for Puppet Master: Axis Termination, and in the effects for the best three Killjoys (3,4,5 IMO).
After a quest through the desert, I arrived at the museum’s home town of Boulder City NV, I easily spotted its location on the dusty city’s main (only?) road. Inside I found a showroom full of costume supplies for sale and a kick-ass employee who greeted my party and guided our admission to the Museum portion of the establishment. Through the inconspicuous double doors, in the first section, I found traditional plaques and tributes to classic horror greats as well as some awesome/creepy-as-fuck face molds. Devlin has life sized recreations of famous monsters ranging from Universal Monsters to The Exorcist’s Regan complete with her bed. The first third of the attraction is full of fun facts and lifelike exhibits and would fit in well with the pop culture displays and wax museums of the area.
As the Richard Band esque tune playing in the background got louder, my anticipation for my predicted favorite grew, until I finally found the puppets I had been secretly looking for since the very beginning. I pressed my face against the glass and took in all the goofy ass glory. The Puppet Master series holds an unexplainable portion of my heart, and his work on last two flicks looks great. I was glad to be finally meet the crew in person.
Along with Puppet Master, there were also screen-used props and masks from other recent Full Moon flicks, including a large showcase of his work on the Killjoy and Evil Bong/Gingerdead series. He also includes the costume used for the fully formed Chicken Monster from Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006) which is far more terrifying in its real life then anything in the movie.
It was great to see his time at Asylum represented. His work is the highlight of those films, and it serves as a testament to the quality and effort that goes into the practical effects on even those films with little resources.
The quaint hall of horrors serves to be a shared and elaborate love letter to medium as much as it is a museum. Plagues of flavor text provide information and background on the collection as you go. Along with the behind the scenes facts and trivia, you are exposed to the confession that Tom Devlin is a fan above all else. Passed the screen props is more detailed replicas of some of his favorites including The Toxic Avenger and an amazing set of Killer Klowns.
The whole thing was well worth a few hours in the desert and like, 13 bucks. I had a blast checking out the collection and will definitely be back out that way. If you are in the area I recommend taking a look. Thank you Tom Devilin for giving the poor, oppressed, desert dwelling horror fans a thing… Sorry about the face smears on your glass cases.

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