Murder Weapon (1989) Review by RevTerry

This weekend it is a cult film legend's birthday (5/27). Linnea Quigley is one of trash cinemas most celebrated actors. I have, more than once, been told by others with exquisite taste that her graveyard dance (as Trash) in The Return of the Living Dead (1985) was the initial spark that ignited a lifelong love of cult films and horror. Even after years of new horror media and a show using the title, she is still the first thing that comes to some minds when you say “Scream Queen”. This is with good reason-- she is the epitome of the b-movie star. What she brings to the screen cannot be explained away with a term like “good acting”, but instead she possesses an unfaltering soul that matches and enhances all the straight to video garbage it touches. Given even the silliest of roles, she will take it to its natural extreme and, most of the time, be the most memorable part of a production.  Her lasting ability to make even the worst films more enjoyable with her presence would give the often exemplified Bruce Campbell a run for his money, even without his connections. Quigley is one of a small group of ladies that gave shape to the idea of a Scream Queen and cemented it as a buzzword, even with mainstream audiences. She is the living spirit of trash, responsible for guiding a lot of us from the hunt for skin in late night cinema in our younger years to our ingrained, inexplicable quest for other hidden treasures in low budget horror as adults. Despite being tragically typecast by the roles we all love, she has always seemed to fully embrace her fan base of weirdos and approached each picture with energy. Return of the Living Dead will likely forever be her most popular appearance and it is without a doubt iconic, but personally, my favorite “Linnea Quigley Movie” would be Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988). It's goofy as shit, but I don't think I will ever tire of the self-aware mash of horror tropes, bowling, and quirky practical effects. That film was directed by David DeCoteau, a frequent collaborator of Quigley. The two have made a grip of films together in a working relationship that has lasted over 30 years. Somewhere else, among the cult cinema duo’s pile of indiscernible b-classics and near softcore porn, sits  Murder Weapon (1989).
The movie spits out a few credits before jumping into a sequence of scenes involving Amy (Karen Russell)  finding-- then fucking some creeper sneaking in her backyard while she is sunbathing and Linnea Quigley in pigtails doing some carefree hopping down the street. Dawn (Linnea Quigley) finishes her stroll by catching Amy in the act, which must have had some kind of effect because soon Dawn is jumping into the shower with the man to show him a neat trick involving a reappearing knife.  After some more title credits, it is implied that the opening scene was a flashback and that Amy and Dawn are now locked in an insane asylum, under the care of Dr. Randolph (Lyle Waggoner) and Dr. Gram (Lenny Rose). One of the doctors elicits the story, as he attempts to treat Dawn of her kill-people-itis. The two discuss daddy issues for a while, and then Dawn says something about a party, blackmails him and escapes. Another jump and the two ladies are chillin by the pool with the psych ward safely in their past. Amy, it seems, has just been released. And to celebrate, Dawn has invited a mix of their ex-boyfriends for a shindig at the house. Oh yeah, and they are both the daughters of high ranking mob members, but that has little to do with anything. The Bros arrive, showers are had, and the party goes better than you would think. That is until someone starts killing off the ex-boyfriends in gruesome, almost impossible ways...
The story is a cheesy mess and, in all honesty, parts still left me with a few questions, even after multiple viewings. For example, among a few other things: Was there more moisture in the air in the 80s?, Is it normal for someone to offer to shave someone else's legs?, And why would you stay at a party that your crazy ex-girlfriend invited you to that ended up being comprised of only her ex-boyfriends? Queries regarding the 80s courting rituals aside, it's kind of the illegitimate offspring of one of Jim Wynorski’s Sorority House Massacre films and a Shannon Tweed movie. The usual slasher custom of isolating the victims (in this case the pack of bros) on one property almost gets closer to a rushed House on Haunted Hill deal, with the party goers all being ex-boyfriends attached by various rocky relationship connections.  The obviously rushed plot is laid out strangely enough, to make it feel like some kind surreal dream, which is fitting because (I think) at a point, there is a kind of Russian doll thing going on with the flashbacks. It comes out more like a late-night thriller, but it's evident that the sleazy fluff has been built around a satirical contrast of horror film cliches. There are a few twists in the plot, but it loses its slasher feel on impact, giving little reason to suspect anyone other than the obvious. The mafia father angle is awesomely random and only serves as tacked on info to the character's psychosis. It probably wasn't necessary to add that the psycho femme fatale’s abusive father was into organized crime, but fuck it, it's great.  Altogether the mix of goofy plot points and fan service-heavy storytelling makes a pretty fun watch that is too deliberately squalid to ever be boring.
The film spends most of its time poolside with bright and washed out tones. Chunks are relegated to a noir style interrogation room, with bright spotlights on close-up faces and an endless darkness as a backdrop. Scenes are kept mostly short, which makes it feel like it has a quicker pace. In reality a lot of the movie has gone on beyond the title screen, before anything more than some hilarious shallow conversations have happened. There is some really nice gore, including some chest cavity damage that could make Kevin Bacon have flashbacks. Of course, the film deploys a dose of nudity every so often--just in case it's losing you. A few of the sex scenes go into full late-night cable mode, likely to beef up the runtime.  The generic soundtrack comes up uniformly flat and lurks behind in most scenes, but there is some crusty avant-garde bass going on in some of the darker dream sequences and a few of those snazzy 80s style pop songs that probably only exist in films like this. DeCoteau is one of the masters of making bad movies well. Somehow he just hits that perfect mix of well-humored sleaze and borderline satirical cheese.
Everybody has poofy hair and seems to be having a blast making the film. Karen Russell, who is a legend herself, having held several memorable roles in other straight to video flicks, plays Amy. The role mostly amounts to laying around in little bits of clothing and some screaming, but she knocks it out of the park. Quigley’s role isn't exactly out of her norm for the era but has a few differentiating aspects. Ultimately, as I hope I made clear above, she could pretty much walk onto an episode of Scrubs, and I wouldn't turn it off. The man I will forever recognize as Wonder Woman's homie, ( General Steven Trevor) Lyle Waggoner, plays the psychiatrist in the flashbacks, which is cool. The killer Santa’s kid brother, Eric Freeman makes an appearance. Interestingly not only do the psychiatric office flashbacks feel akin to the wrap around scenes that hold together Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (1987) in which he played that character, but also Linnea Quigley made an early, memorable appearance as a shirtless victim of the older Murder-Claus Brother in the first Silent Night, Deadly Night in 1984. Lenny Rose, another recurring Decoteau collaborator, plays Dr. Gram. Rose gives the film another link to classic Christmas-Horror film series having played a small role in Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 as well.
As the historical scrolls tell it, DeCoteau started a production company in the late 80s, Cinema Home Video, and was looking to fill his catalog quickly. Taking a page out of those exploitation film greats before him, he called up his most loyal of friends (who worked for cheap) to begin making movies that he could both produce and distribute independently. This, the first of these productions, was shot in Beverly Hills in six days, with Quigley acting as co-producer. Special effects work was done on the film by legend David P. Barton (Starship Troopers, Phantasm II and one of Mel Gibson’s boring exploitation films) who Quigley brought on board. The somewhat confusing opening sequence was added a little later when the original finished product came up short for a full-length feature. DeCoteau made the film partly as a send up to slasher flicks, hence the horror-film role reversal, and directed the film under one of his many aliases Ellen Cabot.
At one point, early in the film, Karen Russell’s character delivers a piece of dialog somewhere along the lines of “ it's Absolute trash,... but I love it” while defending her choice in poolside literature to Dawn. I think that could have probably saved me a few paragraphs actually, had I led with it. Is it hot garbage? Yes, it is. But have I also watched it more than five times on purpose? Also yes. It's got enough gore, nudity and silly hairdos to be worth the trip. Not to mention, it has The Living Spirit of Trash herself, Linnea Quigley, and really that would be enough. Thank you, Ms. Quigley, for everything you gave us and continue to give us. As kids, we may have shown up for the titties, but we kept returning for the sheer amount of entertainment value you bring to even the most terrible of productions. It is 2018, I can find boobs faster than I can find directions to a library, but here I am still watching 1989s Deadly Weapon like it's my only chance to see a nip.
1h 30min | 1989
 Director: David DeCoteau (as Ellen Cabot)
Writer: Ross A. Perron 

Help Linnea Save Her Home!!!
https://www.gofundme.com/help-linneatrash-save-her-home
The whole story is on the page… but I mean it's Linnea Quigley! Think of all she has given us!

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Spidarlings (2016) Review by RevTerry

I have no beef with the spider community. I mean I'm not trying to get super up close to my spider homies(and prefer them outside usually), but they are good folk. They look weird as fuck, but they are just out here trying to live and in most cases do more good than bad. Personally, I feel like these arachnids catch bad rep unjustly based on their unwilling interactions with humankind, like pit bulls or garbage balers. The only real crime most have committed is being creepy looking and having a fucked-up ass cousin somewhere. To me, this seems harsh.  If being weird looking and having shifty family members is a sin, then a bunch of us are fucked right out the gate. If you really take the time to examine them, some of the eight-legged motherfuckers even have a kind of strange neurotic but cute Sci-Fi vibe going on, or at least look like some sort of lanky aliens. I almost shit an organ when I saw my first tarantula after moving back to the desert. It was purposefully crossing a hiking trail, and with less a short reassessment it continued its path almost indifferent to my existence.  Its movements mirrored the VHS Ray Harryhausen monsters ingrained into my brain since childhood. I was spooked at first, but that wasn't the shaggy monsters problem, he was just out there doing his spider thing, and being hairy. Fuck what I thought. If ever we shared a moment-- it by chance happened upon the beginning of the encounter, when we both paused and fought back a primitive instinct to strike out at a surprise interspecies standoff. I don't know about that fuzzy bastard, but I walked away with a new respect for my eight-legged fellow desert dwellers. Spiders are awesome, they are also one of the many subjects of the bizarre independent musical Spidarlings (2016).
Spidarlings is the story of Eden (Sophia Disgrace) and Matilda (Rahel Kapsaski), an eccentric young couple living in Essex England. Lately, they have come upon hard times economically, relying on Matilda’s income alone from the local musical strip club, Juicy Girls, as Eden, unemployed, waits on her disability to clear. It's been awhile since they have paid their rent, as in, they have never paid their rent, and the landlord (Chris Repps) is increasingly breathing down their neck. We find this out as he sings his side of the story in the form of a whispered drinking song when the couple is unable to evade him outside. There is some apparent drama in the relationship, and the threat of eviction only makes it all more difficult, with Matilda’s low wage (and pickpocketing) being the sole source of income. Despite needing the job, Matilda is unhappy with the seedy vibe and patrons of the bar, having to endure continued advances from rock & roll creeper Ticks (Lee Mark Jones) and a near altercation with a very pushy small man (Veteran actor Rusty Goffe) that couldn't keep his hands to himself. Facing homelessness, they hit up their shared confidant and the Juicy Girls musical hostess, Gena (Tiffaney Wells), but get only a song offered as help.  Something has obviously got to give, but before it can, shit gets weirder as someone with a micropenis starts killing off the club’s girls and Eden buys (and promptly becomes attached to) a big-ass, possibly magical, spider from a slightly cracked merchant (Lloyd Kaufman). From there we have a fun-loving excursion into madness involving cartoon interspecies mating rituals, vengeance, and musical numbers.  
The demented recital feels like underground filmmaking's mutated answer to True Romance (1993) by way of The Adventures of Priscilla,Queen of the Desert (1994) and Slumber Party Massacre II (1987). At its core, deep down, it is a poetic love story, but it comes fully dressed in a classically abstract epic, full of neon jabs at the real world, murder and karaoke-like breaks for sing-along antics. The “musical” aspects range from story-involved (mostly) harmonized dialog to complete psychedelic breaks from the already loose reality of the film. It never seems to hurt the watchability of the whole or get gimmicky, like a lot of other attempts at a musical (especially around its budget). The various styles for each tune are equally estranged from each other, but their individual place in the madness feels completely natural. My favorite song would have to be the catchy critique of advertising ( with the Citizen Fish meets Schoolhouse Rock! vibe going on) that took place in the grocery store, while the two main characters were deciding what to spend their cash on, instead of rent. It's difficult to place a hard genre on the film, and  I found myself trying to decide whether it's an indie slice-of-life film held together with sci-fi/horror elements or vice versa. Turns out it's both, and it's none, it just kind of does it's own fucking thing.  If I had to try, I would say it was a crusty buddy comedy/romance, hopped up on Kafka and cabaret (that would still not really do). Influences can be anything from old school Troma flicks and John Waters to more mainstream “cult” classics, and I probably only picked up half the call-backs on the first watch through. Its punk cred goes beyond an aesthetic with its Easter-egg hunt of critical satire and its stark refusal to pick one genre or style.  Parts are partially based on someone's real life or a local scene, but I had no trouble getting into it, even at points when it was far removed from my own (or the accent threw me).  It takes its time and jumps from place to place and at an awkwardly somber pace. I could possibly see it losing some of the less patient viewers with the odd speed on top of the lower budget aspects, but it wears both these things pretty fucking well (especially when compared to “similar" experiments on its level). It is grimy in some of the best ways and as consistently unique as all shit. 
The film utilizes several mediums including entire sequences done in cartoon animation. Despite the lower budget, the cartoon pieces are well done and help add to the acid-like spirit of the film. At their worst, the cost effective animation reminded me of the more static segments from Reading Rainbow (or at least what I remember from 20+ years ago). The majority of the live action shots are washed out in varied bright color schemes, favoring the neon pink and blue combination. The effect, mixed with the willfully unbalanced story type, almost makes it feel like it could be a distant relative to Decoder (1984 reviewed here) but with horror and punk instead of sci-fi and industrial music. Outside of some loose dubbing, the sound quality works well for an indie film that relies on music so heavily. It uses a small group of fully decorated locations, shown through a frenzied and ever changing framing. This includes some pretty interesting one-off angles and some obvious on the job experimentation. I got a kick out of trying to identify all the posters that littered the walls in the duo’s home. Minimal gore, it's mostly just blood splatter, but there is an awesomely fucked up take on a classic slasher murder weapon (involving some utilitarian genital mutilation).
Spidarlings (2016) is a poetically tangled blend of attitude and showtunes. If Penelope Spheeris had found time between Suburbia (1983) and Dudes (1987 reviewed here) to direct a The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) inspired musical, then something close to this flick might have popped out. It induces feelings akin to catching a random interactive theatre show in San Francisco for five bucks, or the first time I heard Penis Envy (1981) by Crass. I definitely enjoyed the ride. Not likely one for the strict gore hounds, but there is a good chance the enjoyment could be enhanced with the right crew. I'm also glad it showed some love to the misunderstood arachnids. I don't think they get enough, and I like to vocalize that whenever possible since they know when and where I sleep.
2h | 2016
Director: Salem Kapsaski
Writers: Salem Kapsaski

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Ninja Dragon (1986) Review by RevTerry

Ninjas are a sure fire way to get me to watch a movie. They are on a long list of subjects that guarantee I will, if given the chance, indulge in a film. I have hurdled through various genres or degrees of quality solely due to the promise of a ninja appearing on screen at some point. The movie doesn't even have to be good, which is great, because there are tons of bad flicks involving the mythic assassins. Ninjas go well with everything, but they meld especially well in trash flicks. In a way the ninja, as we know and love it, belongs to cheesy entertainment. Not that there wasn't historically a people labeled as such, but the stylized image most of us pull to mind when we hear the word has been mostly formed of uninformed (but fun) fiction. The dark clad magical death fairy we have come to recognize as a “ninja” is, in bulk, the product of sensationalist oral storytelling, literary action tales and repeating trends in b-movies. It's as if two separate things share the name with only a minor relationship. On the one hand, you have the very real group of sneaky mercenaries that purposely remained mostly unknown, and on the other, one of entertainment’s many beautiful bastard children in some cool/comfortable fight clothing. In films, they can range from a magical order of karate wizards to cronie cannon fodder for the hero to mop up in faceless droves. The fill-in-the-blanks nature allows them to be shoved into most situations with little struggle, be it as major characters or hired help. In a lot of cases, it just makes a bad movie better, like throwing in something like nudity or a chainsaw.  I fucking love ninjas, real ones and fake ones, whatever ninjas you got really.  I hope to one day marry a ninja. You know who else really fucking loves ninjas? Godfrey Ho... or at least I assume he does since he was so instrumental in my gratuitous affection for the fake kind of ninjas. A huge chunk of his life's work incorporates one, or a bunch, as well as a title that contains the word. This, of course, includes his unexplainably absorbing mess of kung-fu and incredibly bad dubbing- Ninja Dragon (1986).
The film opens up with a suspiciously familiar duel between two ninjas that freezes as the credits are displayed. Here we see The Ninja Master Gordon (Richard Harrison) having it out with a nameless ninja, using various techniques and styles. It doesn't actually tell you his name here, but he is wearing a camouflage hoodie and I have seen enough Ho films to say it’s a safe bet. After the credits, funky stolen music comes to an abrupt stop, and without giving a reason for the duel (ever), we cut to a table full of dudes in suits making “brumph” noises. There are flags everywhere like a mini-UN luncheon. But after Ninja Master Gordon shows up, someone breaks out a deck of cards, and they all go in for some high stakes, nondescript gambling. I guess Gordon owns a bank or something, or maybe everyone owns a bank and he just has the best one (I don't really know). After he wipes the floor with everyone in whatever card game they are playing, he bounces out to do special mobster/banker/ninja stuff elsewhere. One of the players, Paul(Paulo Tocha), sticks around to do some shit talking afterwards. Because he hates losing at cards all the time, he decides to have rival gang leader, Furious Fox, kill Gordon’s “partner” Black Eagle. This (barely) leads to a scene on the street where a man is attacked by matching members of the men in black (but like pre-MIB movies when they had cool hats), after they cap a few of their own guys for dramatic effect (I think, it starts getting shaky about here and suddenly the background looks like Japan in the 50s). It turns out the victim was Black Eagle (who knew?), and there is a war going on between the groups, already involving another dead guy in a closet. Gordon gets word of his friend’s death while hanging out at his ninja cabin and vows revenge. But because he has important business to do somewhere...else (in the tall background grass), he leaves it up to his sharply dressed homie, Dragon. Able to move within the rival gang’s cartoon-mobster universe because of his attire, Dragon takes on most of the opposition, plotting as he navigates the Ninja/Mobster underworld and takes care of the deceased's family. Oh yea-- everyone is a ninja, all those dudes playing poker, the gangsters-- everyone.  It doesn't matter what the fuck you normally do in this flick, when it's time to ninja up, the background changes, and you fucking ninja up. Of course, at some point, Gordon shows back up in an economy car, dressed in his favorite camouflage ninja suit to fight that same old pesky ninja in red (from all the other movies where he does the same exact thing), and justice gets served to some degree...I think anyway. During a fight scene, the movie just kinda ends.
Ninja Dragon is the mash-up of recycled scenes lifted from the 1982 movie Hei Juan Tao (1982) (as well as possibly other sources) and Ho’s infamous stash of Richard Harrison footage. The rehashing from the earlier film Hei JuanTao, most likely accounts for the flattened thriller like tone the flick contains in its fluffy bulk. It was one of many Godfrey Ho films that Harrison “starred” in without his prior knowledge. As the legend goes, Cult films star Richard Harrison played a part in what he thought was two (or three) Godfrey Ho films during his b movie adventures in the Far East, in the latter part of his career. The experience was less than stellar on set and, much to Harrison’s dismay, Ho repeatedly used the footage shot for the films in future releases that billed Harrison as the star.  Godfrey Ho made over ten films in this fashion, each with Harrison on the cover. So distressed with the whole business, Harrison even later credited it with being the major factor in him stepping away from cinema and compared the situation to prostitution. This formula usually amounting to the story of a camouflaged clad ninja called Gordon who shows up in already broken storylines, out of nowhere, and at some point fights another ninja that is wearing red. This film is no exception to that rule, and despite probably being the driest of the bunch, it features my favorite chunks of the well worn Harrison fight scene.
The juxtaposed plot mostly takes its almost random points from mob movies, The Godfather series most obviously. I haven't seen the original film (Hei Juan Tao), but the reused scenes seem to indicate that it is a crime drama set in the 1950s. There is talk of "families" and "respect" to blend in with the well-dressed group dynamic, with the word ninja thrown in every so often to keep it on track. Harrison's character is awkwardly shoved in as some kind of broken Yojimbo, and except for a few small cuts every so often, almost serves as a wrap around. Because of the tone set by the filler, it's a much less eccentric outing than other Ho/Harrison films, but the hilarious dubbing and even worse dialog keep it from being dull. Predictably the jumble of a story loses what makeshift wheels it has early on, and you’re left just kind of waiting for ninja fights. Because one of the warring clans doubles as the local cliche mafia, a lot of their villainy is done with old-fashioned guns in a “hit” like fashion. In fact, most of the Carnage in the film goes down with vintage shootouts and Mobland-esque murder. That is, until without explanation, there are Kung-fu moments, and everyone turns into a ninja. I just assume they must have some kind of an unbreakable no Tommy-Gun rule when it comes to certain high profile fights, as those are martial weapons only affairs. The job of explaining the connection between each drastically unrelated scene is delegated to the character’s conversations, of which they are amusingly inept.  There is plenty of dialog, but nothing serves to make light of the haphazard details in the plot. You do have to give him credit for his cut and paste skills, as he tries his darndest to splice a conversation together between Harrison and Dragon. It is really pretty amazing, even though Dragon is inexplicably a gangster from what looks like a really boring low budget period piece. Unfortunately, that conversation is really the only time the two separate casts ever connect on screen. A lot of the film’s unintentional laughs come from the flimsy fastening of available footage using almost clever “writing” techniques. The two universes are anagrammed together to create a completely new third universe with little logic and its own set of rules.
Its pure garbage-- and the kind only Godfrey Ho can give you (I have written about a more atypical film of his previously). His use of extreme editing to create movies seems somehow greasier than other masters of the technique, like Fred Olen Ray(and his endless  stock) or Troma(with gags like the frequent car flip). The comedy provided by the film can only be created by accident, and no parody could do justice to it's fucked up charm. It would be silly to comment on the camera work or lighting, as most of it was created five years prior for another film. The kidnapped material is easily distinguished by it's set dressings and overall style. Despite being in at least two different worlds, all the clips involved, more or less, match in quality, and the director was well practiced in the film collage. The soundtrack is one of the best aspects. Even though I don't immediately recognize any pieces, it's most likely all been stolen as well.  To its credit though, it's got some well placed funky-ass jams that help make even the dullest, most pointless scenes accidentally some kind of multimedia art piece. It's as nutty and confusing as it sounds but the enigmatic spectacle ends up being a fun trashy watch, as long as you don't pay too much attention.
I don't think the so-called ninjas presented in Ninja Dragon provide any insight into nonfictional ninjas, ninjutsu, or banking. In fact, I don't know if the movie has any easily quantifiable value at all, aside from just being a frugally sourced, ninja flavored, cinematic hot dog. Personally, sometimes that's exactly what I want and find the mix of grimy byproduct tasty as fuck. If you are familiar with Godfrey, then you know what to expect, even with the addition of faux gangland elements and the more somber tone. I have watched far worse movies for fewer scenes of ninja action. I have even watched worse movies for the same scenes of ninja action.
1h 25min | 1986
 Director: Godfrey Ho

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