Vampires: The Turning (2005) Review by RevTerry

I hope this doesn't get taken the wrong way, but I'm hardly ever on the side of the vampires in a movie. They just don't click with me and never really have, at least compared to other monsters of their stature or fame. As a child, I was much more likely to pick Frankenstein's monster or a werewolf during any creature vs creature “ who would win” discussions or monster based role-playing game (i.e. running circles, yelling and magically dodging invisible projectiles) on the playground. In the classic Hammer or Universal films, I could always somehow find a way to relate to most of the monsters, if for anything--at least bad luck. Not so much with Dracula, the snobby undying rich dude. Don't get me fucked up, I have a love for bloodsucker based movies and literature of all kinds, and some badasses have portrayed various versions of Nosferatu. There is plenty of vamp-related shit that one would call “essential” viewing.  I just rarely find myself rooting for the leach-like predators themselves. As far as monsters go, they are usually less the misunderstood underdog and more some kind of overpowered aristocrat. When the classic Dracula preys on a young, ample town's person or an unsuspecting visitor, it's pretty much just a rich guy sucking the life out of some working poor asshole. If it's vampires versus werewolves, the furry guys are always depicted as some kind of shapeshifting hobos--who are only mad because they have been locked away from the benefits of rich, thirsty-goth living. Whenever it's some kind of monster all-star, supergroup type situation in a flick, the vampire is always placing themselves in a leadership position or as the mouthpiece--everyone else is just a mindless pawn. In a way, they effectively still represent the wealthy, heartless bastards Bram Stoker had in mind when making Dracula. We still have rich assholes who would drink your blood and kill you to sustain a life they have already had for a very long time. It is hard for me to root on that kind of dude even with some fangs and maybe a cool cape thing. Of course, because there are so many films that include the time-honored parasite, a few have tried to think outside the box when it came to its pathos, with a range of results. Since there's a chance that a dose of kung-fu will make anything better, we can include the surprise action film Vampires: The Turning (2005)  among that group.
 A couple on vacation in Thailand attend a rather large scale kickboxing event. Amanda (Meredith Monroe) isn't really digging the sport-violence, which leads to a spat between her and boyfriend Connor (Colin Egglesfield) outside of the arena. It doesn't go well, and she storms off into a crowd, leaving Connor to try and follow. The distance between the two grows amongst the dense pedestrians and in the frustration, Amanda loses her sense of direction. Sometime during the chase, she gains the attention of a local who also starts to follow behind (but more effectively). The tail approaches when she is mid-panic and, with a shifty smile, he politely asks if she would like to go down a creepy dark shortcut with him. She agrees (because that's the kind of shit you do anywhere let alone, in a foreign land), and the two make it about halfway through the alleyway before he surprisingly gets in her personal space to bite her. Connor catches up just in time to see some suspicious embracing and another assailant scooping up his girlfriend on a dirt bike. He gives chase, but this only leads to a hand to hand showdown with the initial attacker. During the fight, the kidnapper kicks it into vampire mode, and it begins to look like Connor might be pretty fucked--when out if nowhere, some bald dude lops the monsters head off. He tries to tell his new hero about the ordeal, but the mysterious stranger just tells him to take his ass home and bounces out. Still perturbed from seeing his girlfriend ride off unconscious on the back of a motorbike, Connor doesn't listen and instead follows the grumpy savior with the hope of figuring out what the fuck is going on. His snooping leads to an encounter with some apathetic vampire slayers and a group known as the Song Neng. The ancient order of vampires refrain from human blood, avoid senseless killing and were, in fact, the source of every vampiric species. Sang (Stephanie Chao), the group's uniformly old but still extremely beautiful leader, is on a mission of martyrdom, as it turns out it was her own mistake that created the whole lot of “bad” bloodsuckers worldwide. To reunite with Amanda and possibly get some fanged love on the side, Connor joins their cause. Motorcycle sword action and surprisingly brutal fight scenes follow as he battles his way through Thailand's neon goth underground in order to save his girlfriend from becoming a human Capri Sun.
Let's just get this out of the way. Technically, Vampires: The Turning (2005) is the third film in the Vampires film series that starts with the John Carpenter film in 1998. The first film, which starred James Woods, Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) and one of the shittier Baldwins, is a fucking classic in my book, along with most of Carpenters work. The second film, Vampires: Los Muertos (2002), was directed by longtime Carpenter collaborator Tommy Lee Wallace and starred pop-rock legend Bon Jovi as the main monster slayer. Wallace is proficient with the smaller budget (like always), and his entry has no trouble fitting into the world created by Carpenter in the first (who served as producer). Bon Jovi's cool uncle routine isn't really a great replacement for balls-out nutbag, James woods, but he seems to just lean into the cowboy thing and they make it work (deeadd or aaliiive). This film, Vampires: The Turning (originally called Vampire III: Throne of Blood) was the first in the series to be made independently from Carpenter. As a sequel to one of my longtime favorites (and it's mostly nifty Jovi-rific follow up), The Turning doesn't quite hold up. Any effort to connect to the rest of the series is minimal or forced, and it contradicts the established lore within the opening monologue. The tone clashes against that of the first two in an awkward way, and they make shitty companions. On its own, however, it's an engaging action flick with not only moody vampire politics but martial arts. I like to pretend it's autonomous, and luckily the generic title helps. I could have told you it was a sequel to Vampires: Out for Blood (2004) with Lance Hendrickson and it would have made just as much sense. Honestly, if you remove the intro and replace all the mentions of “vampire” with “immortal” then you could easily have a Highlander movie that fit better in that (fucked up) timeline than the original cut of Highlander II: The Quickening (1991). 
The film is a mostly made of kung-fu action sequences with attempts at bloodsucker drama. Horror elements are used as the set dressing, or merely flavor, for gang warfare and fancy sword fights in exotic locales. Think more like blood sucking Point Break (1991), or that one straight-to-video Fast and the Furious sequel. The vampire war (between mean vampires, nice vampires, and slayers) in Thailand is surprisingly civil. I mean heads get cut off and mass murder happens, but I remember only one instance of someone getting dragged screaming into the sunlight and exploding. Our main character quickly becomes one of the title monsters (hence “the turning”) and with additional flashy combat, each “slaying” is traumatic. The story is told completely from opposite the slayer faction, seeing them more as a heartless antagonist that puts money over everything. In this world, bloodsuckers meet up in a dirt bike circle like kids in Akira (1988), and peaceful vampires make tense deals with slayers as if they are high ranking mafia bosses. It passes through a few lulls as it attempts to realign with its characters original motivations, but nothing outside of the usual goofy action movie character development. Vampires and kung-fu isn't a wholly unique concept but manages to become memorable by taking both elements seriously at all times (with varied success, but that's less important). The film’s gung-ho pace benefits from the straight face it holds tight throughout the sillier moments, never taking time to break character. It really is more fun than it has any business being, even as it fails at establishing the character-driven revenge/rescue motives it goes for in the face of its predecessors. The main story gets kind of lost in some doomed love triangle that kind of just dies out before the conclusion, which is less than complete. As a third horror-comedy sequel, its existence is a hard fail in almost every regard. Instead, what transpires is entertaining kung-fu flick with ancient lore obsessed vampires and the poachers from Jurassic Park 2. A lot of it feels out of time, and it's hard to remember while watching, what time it was actually made. Large chunks feel straight out of a 90s Van Damme flick while a bunch of the dialogue could have come from something you would see between Jack of All Trades (2000) and Cleopatra 2525 (2000-2001).  In fact, (including its extremely soft ending) altogether, the whole mess has a lost 90s tv show vibe going on (but with better fight scenes). It never really gets boring. For what might as well be a backdoor pilot shoehorned into the canon of a perfectly simple film series, it's a surprisingly solid watch in its own corny ass way.
The film uses bad CG emphasis at uneven points throughout, that look they might lead into an episode of CSI (or one of its many sister shows). Outside of the awkwardly spaced computer generated bullshit, the majority of the film is technically sound and surprisingly proficient. There are scenes of capable practical lighting, and the overall direction pins together the mostly scattered plot with no issues. The locations and set dressing were inspired and hint at the larger underworld not fully explored. The fight choreography is by far the main draw for the film, and while it's nothing to call mom about (I mean...you can), it packs quite a few intense practical (as in no CG or shitty angles) one-on-one bouts. Some are better than others, and they are all sandwiched between hilarious slices of dialogue, but the no-nonsense throwdowns are worth a watch alone. The kung fu comes as a surprise, being that this is supposedly the third in a series about Catholic, cowboy vampire slayers (that kill shit with spike guns and a backhoe), but it all works out. The gore and nudity are a bit skimpy for an “R” rated vampire flick, adding more to the already strong TV show feel. The little bit of bodily harm that does make it in there is amusing enough, when it's not being dampened by CG. The vampiric features of the monsters amount to glowing blue eyes and if they get really amped--some facial get-up straight out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It suffers from extremely generic and increasingly out of place canned tunes that mostly hurt any attempt at serious moments. There have been far worse musical choices in the history of both action and horror (including plenty of vampire films), but I was not digging it much. I felt the copy I was watching had its original soundtrack removed due to copyright concerns, and some intern replaced it with unused early 2000s video game music.
Because of the cheesy dialogue, Conner’s confusing logic and Colin Egglesfield’s cardboard acting, the devotion to finding Amanda feels hollow as fuck. The character is stripped a little of the classic (fancy pants) vamp feel that might have been in a film like this, but the result is more a whiny and unloved c-list X-Men character than anything better.  You follow him as the film’s default protagonist, but it's hard to give a shit about what he does after a certain point. He does, however, make up for many of the pitfalls in the fight scenes, of which it looks like he performed himself (so don't tell him I said he was a shitty actor). As Amanda, Meredith Monroe spends a lot of time laying around being pale, so I couldn't really speak on her abilities passed that. Most of the gangs on either side (both “good” and “bad”) seemed to be selected for their face kicking ability alone, and I'm fine with that (in most cases). Stephanie Chao plays Sang, the leader of the well-meaning crew (The Song Neng). Her ability is quite a few steps above most of the surrounding players, although that means little in this case. For whatever reason, even with a role that seems to teeter on eye candy, and despite feeling like she walked out of another film completely, her character is one of the highlights in the acting department.  Dom Hetrakul, seemed like a weird choice for the“king vamp” role at first. Far removed initially from the normal dapper Nosferatu, his unique route eventually gets to the right place for a bloodthirsty badass. I thought he looked familiar, and it turns out it was a hazy memory from a dark time in my life when I was drinking Jameson out of the bottle and watching Bangkok Dangerous (2008) on repeat (which he's in). Anyway he was cool, and I will have to keep an eye out for his other shit (and possibly rewatch Bangkok Dangerous, partially sober).
Vampires: the Turning isn't likely to become your favorite vampire flick, and it is a terrible example of a 2000s name-only sequel to a classic 90s film as well, but somehow it's still a nice watch all the same. Sometimes you have to just isolate the situation in your mind, get rid of the baggage and enjoy watching monsters rumble like its the fucking Outsiders on kung-fu inducing crack. I'm told there are far worse vamp flicks that involve a love triangle out there, and I have seen enough fucked up Fright Night rip-offs myself to know this is very far from the bottom of the blood barrel. It's in good shape for a film of its type, and it moves at a quick enough pace to be an entertaining play on a few overused themes. It didn't quite make me sympathetic to the plight of the vampires in the story, although the Muay Thai moves were part of a valiant effort. I'm glad I can still enjoy vampire movies anyway, because I hardly ever relate. Semi-immortal powers like life-stealing and an advanced eye for fashion are nothing special in my world--I can get that shit on reality TV shows about rich people's kids.
 1h 24min | 2005
Director: Marty Weiss
Writers: D.B. Farmer, Andy Hurst

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Review by:
RevTerry


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Within the Woods (2005) Review by RevTerry

Recreational outside sleep comes in several flavors.  The two most common types I see are camping-camping, the classic--where you retreat to the wild to disconnect on some level and do shit like hike or take fewer showers, and then drunk-camping, the one where you get intoxicated somewhere remote so no one calls the cops. They can be pretty fucking different types of experiences, but the overlap is possible as well. The first is the kind of thing that you might do with your family and bring along special supplies for. I'm good to go with the right clothes, a tent and some food. You can make it on that and a fire alone, but a lot of people go all out with special camp vehicles equipped with more electronics than the fictional middle-class home in the Best Buy ad. It's a relaxing excuse not to do regular human shit, for most, but an over vocalized hobby for others. In the drunk version, you and a bunch of friends go to a campsite with good parking and get fucked up, that's it. You can bring a tent or a camper, but sleeping is optional, and you really don't want to bring anything too valuable as shit has a tendency to go down. It's not always easy to tell the two types apart at first, but it's usually pretty evident which one you have had by the next morning. I guess both are pretty equal as far as enjoyment goes, in my opinion, although I need to be in the right mood and with the right people to really have fun with either. Horror films depict a third type which, luckily, I have never experienced. I call that one murder-camping. It's kind of a mix of both usually, but perfectly calculated to separate participants so they can be killed. There is a little drinking, some campfire stories, maybe a wiener roast, but at some point, some extra happy campers pair up to do some nature fucking, or some asshole goes off alone to piss and never comes back. A lot of the time it can take place in a cabin, and there can be various underlying initial reasons for the camping trip. I assume you can tell that version of camping has occurred when (if) you wake up the next morning as well. It's not to be confused with the Murder-Summer Camp, which is pretty much the same thing but with counselors. For an unabashed, derivative example of Murder-Camping we can look at the third flick in the straight-to-video Camp Blood series: Within the Woods (2005).
The story picks up after the events of the first two films (Camp Blood 1 & 2) and the legend of clown-guy has only grown, despite the other two having the "twist" in their endings. To capitalize on the notoriety of Camp Blackwood AKA Camp Blood (which is possibly a different location from other two films in actuality, but still hardly a “camp”) a sleazy tv producer, Tony (David Sobel), develops a reality TV show based around blood-soaked events and their folklore. We hear all of the underdeveloped details of his pitch as he leads his assistant, Ingrid (Janelle Herrera), blindly to the location he has scouted out (supposedly the location of the other murders). The show’s premise revolves around having five attention starved contestants all competing for a cash prize, the idea being that those who make it twenty-four hours, without chickening out, can split the pot. He shows Ingrid the cameras he has hidden in trees and introduces her to Griff (Jeff Swarthout), his hired clown killer impersonator. Tony figures if he scares everyone off, it will equal big ratings and he will be able keep the dough that's up for grabs. He then ditches Ingrid out there with Griff for … reasons and heads to some brick and mortar facility somewhere to watch all the shit play out on CCTV while eating jelly beans out of a vase. Pissed off because she has just been taken to a crime scene and was dropped off without warning, Ingrid stops to unbutton her shirt (for some reason) but is interrupted by Griff who already seems to be practicing his creep routine. Very soon afterward, when she has finished whatever she was doing with her shirt, poor Ingrid is hacked to death by a man in a different (definitely more expensive but somehow shittier) clown mask. Tony takes her radio silence to mean that she has left the project and starts yelling at Griff after he says he hasn't seen her in a while. The contestants begin to meander in and meet up by chance in “the woods” as, seemingly, the show has little in the way of a host (I mean even survivor has that dude in cargo shorts). Only four of the show's participants turn up at first, luckily they are pretty well-rounded cliches, having a sleeveless jock (Phil Lander), the fame-hungry blond (Erin Holt), a chain-smoking stoner guy ( in one of those stupid floppy fisherman hats) and a school teacher (). By the time the fifth member of the party shows up, Griff (unbeknownst to anyone) has already been killed in some surprise clown-on-clown violence, and the jock, Russ, is holding the wannabe pop star, Kat’s, hand like they have dated since high school. Camping shit follows as in, a fire gets made, there is some more killing, and sooner or later someone gets to pull off the killers mask like at the end of a Scooby Doo episode.
The series is the brain baby of Brad Sykes. Presumably conceived after spending two weeks locked in a house with the entire Friday the 13th collection, some ICP CDs and a tube of airplane glue. He brought the first three Camp Blood films to life starting with the “original” in 2000. Into the Woods originally served as the third film in the series which capped off the low budget trilogy. It was the last Camp Blood with Sykes involvement before the series was picked back up in 2014 by Mark Polonia with his sequel Camp Blood: First Slaughter. For whatever reason Polonia’s “found footage” entry, First Slaughter, ignores the events of Within the Woods and even uses the name Camp Blood 3 on some media. The film was followed by its own sequels Camp Blood 4 (2016 Dustin Ferguson), Camp Blood 5 (2016 Dustin Ferguson), Camp Blood 666 (2016 Ted Moehring) and  It Kills (2017 Mark Polonia). I don't really understand the retcon; It does nothing for the handy cam garbage film that followed. The subsequent films are watchable but somehow lose a little of the original trilogy's soul. They don't quite hit the right notes, and come across less fun(for lack of a better word). Maybe it's just me, but the three original movies make a nice little trash trilogy, and really all the world needs is another senseless retcon.
Made with very little money and shot on location in the closest thing to a forest available, Within the Woods, like the previous Camp Blood movies before it, is a very special type of garbage. There is some kind of enigmatic joy that can be squeezed from the shaky, flawed footage and whatever-works, frugally thrown together effects. The third film in the series steps up the game a little. The cinematography seems to be more controlled than in the first two, and the sound matches up when people are talking (for the most part). There are a few moments in the beginning that almost reach the heights of cable TV movie quality, and it's even got its own crap-pop theme song. This one feels a little less like a messy clip show of various women running through a field, as a Jason clone in a clown mask stalks awkwardly behind them. I mean that still happens a lot, but there is an overall improvement to the editing and cuts.  Aside from the slight technical advances, the film is a lot more of the same for the series. This includes terrible dialogue, ambitious (but frugal) gore, random breaks for amateur nudity and all with a low rent, half-assed, Friday the 13th feel. The higher quality camera is a double-edged sword, helping a ton with the lighting but also bringing out the film’s various blemishes as well. There are some nice kills for the budget, including a dislocated eyeball, but others are completely ruined by the strange choice of camera angles. That goes double for the blatant fact that they are not actually in what would traditionally be called “the woods”, which might have been hidden a little better with some strategic framing. There are a few scenes where the boom mic makes a cameo-- even damn near takes center stage at one point. My biggest beef would be with the new mask the killer wears. It made Mr. Clown guy look like he was constantly shrugging and might tip over at any moment. The lopsided, rubber head looks like someone painted a misshapen Gilbert Godfrey mask in bright patriotic colors. It's more a spirited horror flick, than an effective one and barebones as it gets, but it all works in its own way, if you know what you are getting into. Honestly, having gripes about the technical quality of this kind of movie is like demanding modesty in a strip club-- you knew what you were in for when you paid the cover.
 The film wallows in the cheese and the shamelessly stolen elements it lays out proudly, some of which, by this point, have become bastard calling cards for the series. It's what I would mean if I ever uttered that overused saying  “it's so bad it's good” but  I fucking hate saying that, so I won't, and people that do are usually referring to something with sharks on the SciFi channel. Many things are so bad they're good, Camp Blood is shitty horror incarnate with all the warts, bruises and dead air that this kind of story can have. It has frugally sourced parts, Frankenstein-stitched together and powered by pure spirit. It is somehow wholesome in its confused, shoestring admiration and simplified, raw replication of its influences. Movies such as this are like the horror equivalent to backyard wrestling, built on the bloody backs of determined fans of the genre with little to no budget or resources. The plot to this entry in the series actually seems to make a little more sense (then the first two) and fills in the canon with several (albeit useless) details. It feels like it's in on the joke for some of the sillier moments but never loses its authentic shitty b-movie feel. There is plenty to laugh at throughout its duration, but the film intent is more tribute than parody. Its dialog and exposition is filled with determined foreshadowing and stabs at character development. Most of it never amounts to anything worthwhile, but it's a pretty hefty step up from the long moments of camera hiss and goofy exclamations called human communication found in the first two. There are no IT references if the clown had you worried. The dude in the mask doesn't so much as giggle or crack a joke.  Largely influenced by the F13 series (hence the Camp Blood title) it stays in that ballpark, and out of all its callbacks, I can't think of one that screamed Pennywise or any other killer clown (unlike 2017s sequel that uses the Asylum-esque name “It Kills” and a party balloon themed subplot).  Like its title (Within The Woods was the original Evil Dead short film) the film’s story, dialog and kills are all borrowed elements. If anything can be said about the writing with confidence, it would be that it is well versed in the camp slasher sub-genre. It's pretty much all dude-in-a-mask killer cliches and tropes you have seen before, just this time with almost no budget.
 There are those classic, well made, almost flawless pieces of film in the world and then far, far away, on the other end of the spectrum, there are the movies like Within the Woods (2005). In some cases, and depending on my mood, they both can have their night at my house. Make no mistake, it is a truly bad movie and probably not one for the homie that brags about making it all the way through Sharknado or whatever else Tara Reid is in these days. Just like camping, it's the kind of thing to be enjoyed with the right crowd. On the other hand, you could just surprise that unsuspecting friend (or friends) with it on movie night and see if they can hang, it works for drunk camping (sometimes). Real life camping can be fun, whether it's the drunk kind or the old-dad type. I'm sure Murder-Camping can be pretty nifty too, with all the fucking and other gratuitous hedonism that goes down in the beginning...before all the killing and running stuff.
1h 25min | 2005
Director: Brad Sykes
Writer: Brad Sykes 

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Review by:
RevTerry


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Dead Mate aka Grave Robbers (1988) Review by RevTerry

The Bluebeard story is kind of like an OG slasher. If you're not familiar, it is an old ass folktale involving a wife-murdering rich guy with a blue-tinted beard (hence the title). The first version I ever read was in inside a collection of “Irish Ghost Stories” that I was gifted as a child (because I'm half Irish and mostly creepy). That particular anthology’s telling (as far as I remember) started with a mysterious man rolling up to a farm on a horse. The man is butt ugly, and he starts shoving money in the farmers face, talking about needing a wife to take back home. All of the farmer’s young daughters are pretty much like “fuck this”, and they refuse, but the man throws his weight around or offers to save the farm from debt (or some shit), which I guess is enough for the farmer to come around to the idea of pimping out his daughter. The enigmatic, rich, ugly dude and his “wife” ride back to his castle, and he gives her the master keys with a warning not to enter a certain mysterious door. There she lives out the lifestyles of the rich and awkward for a while, but sooner or later, curiosity gets the best of her, and she opens the door to discover a room full of chopped up ex-wives. He finds out that she knows about his dead wife storage and decides it's a good time for her to join the collection. There is a scuffle, somehow she gets the best of him, and I think she kills his crusty ass. I don't really remember the end. I do remember, at the time, I got hung up on the fresh knowledge that, at some point, people just went knocking on doors to ask strangers if they had an extra daughter lying around-- like someone asks for a cup of sugar ( I was very young yet to have a social studies class or see Conan the Barbarian).  The moral I took away from the whole thing was that no amount of money makes someone less creepy --and not to sell your kids, but I may have been missing the original point. To little RevTerry’s credit though, there is some debate on the true meaning of the story, as it has been told by numerous cultures and has survived for ages.  The versions can range drastically from things like elongated curiosity-killed-the-cat type yarns to fables predicting the dangers of fully trusting a spouse. There are recurring themes and the base of the tale stays the same, for the most part, but the takeaway can vary with each rehash. Of course, every person retold it according to their values, and with each modification the original message was lost. Like many other fables, it can serve as a pre-made recipe for several mediums, from the most famous and lasting version, Charles Perrault’s 1697 entry in Histoires ou contes du temps passé, to necrophilia themed, low budget movies like the one I’ll talk about today, Dead Mate (aka Grave Robbers 1988).
The film opens to a nightmare involving living disemployment and surprise generic rock music. We then meet Nora Mae Edwards (Elizabeth Mannino), the woman from the dream and a graveyard shift diner waitress with a dark past. Once she has fully awakened, she reports to her job where she is greeted by a fellow waitress and her first customer, a greasy, abrasive man (Mark McCally) with a thin mustache. The self-proclaimed condom salesman (I guess that would be a thing) starts off the interaction with some light harassment, followed by a sales pitch/pick up line, of which our beautiful protagonist Lora isn't having any of. She is, however, (very) quickly smitten with the next customer, a cryptic stranger that arrives in a limo and introduces himself as John Henry Cox (David Gregory). John engages Nora with a creepy smile, does some vague talking, and in less than five minutes, asks for Nora's hand in marriage. Without so much as a thought about where he is from or what he does for a living, Nora agrees to the strange proposal and throws off her apron. The two quickly leave the diner and the lonely condom salesmen behind, and head for John’s mansion/house-thing in the small town of Newberry.  Once they have arrived, and John has revealed he is, in fact, the local funeral director, Nora is greeted by a house filled with the town's most influential people. Everybody seems inexplicably overjoyed to greet her. There is a lot of talk about how perfect her dimensions are, and one of the old ladies in the bunch lets it slip that Nora isn't Mr. Cox first bride. Having met everyone from the town priest to the bank manager, she is then whisked off to a quick candle-lit wedding and streamlined honeymoon. Aside from the breakneck pace, things already start out a little spooky when during the consummation she is asked forcefully to “be still, be very still” (which sounds like the most boring kink ever, really). When she awakes the next morning, she finds that all the previous wife's clothes fit her perfectly and puts some on. During John’s tour of the house, she learns that he is very secretive about his dead body business, and she is informed his workroom is off limits. Despite things getting increasingly weird, Nora figures that anything beats food service, says” fuck it”, and decides to spend some time exploring her new home. While she's looking around the house, she finds a loose segment in the (extremely thin) wall (?!?) that allows her to peer directly into John's locked embalming room. Before she can get a good look, however, she is startled by the mumbling man-servant/chauffeur/lurch-clone, Morley (Kelvin Keraga).  Elsewhere, on a nearby road, a young woman is driving recklessly when she notices her brakes have been cut and then crashes into a pond, dying in the process. The town's local emergency services spring into action, which for them means cracking jokes, feeling up the corpse and transferring it directly to John's funeral home. It is then that this community’s true nature starts to shine through, and Nora starts to notice that things might be more complicated than she can handle. It turns out that Newberry is kinky as fuck, and John is less a mortician and more some kind of fucking cadaver-pimp or something. Light body horror and passive aggressive smiles follow as Nora tries to escape an entire town of necrophile swingers, with down-home attitudes, not knowing who she can trust.
Outside of the obvious Bluebeard influence, Dead Mate's story plays out very much like a made for the tv movie or an extended episode of one of the less celebrated anthology TV series. Despite being an odd mix of The Lottery (1948), dead people fuckers, and an old french horror story, it seems very simple, for lack of a better word. It moves at an airy, but quick, pace and keeps a forward flow, until it drops off for an Animal House style epilogue at the end. The film manages to squeeze a little of the gothic and backwoods vibes into what is obviously a late 80s suburban town. Moments feel like classical horror tropes draped in dry modern (ish) clothing. It's definitely not a thinking film; the lack of logic makes it borderline otherworldly. There is little attempt to make the main character’s choices seem realistic, but the movie never dwells on their consequences long enough for it to matter. A lot of the times the story comes off undercooked. The townspeople's process of procurement and embalming is a mess of purposefully weird vibes and half divulged details that never really make a satisfactory whole, outside of the already established notion that they like to fuck around with dead people.  Newberry feels odd from the get-go, but the depictions never quite hit the quirky townsfolk level they try for. The movie doesn't ever actually fully realize any of the extremes it grabs for, never taking things far enough to make it really gross or shocking, and it ends up feeling confused about its place in the world. The story bottoms out completely there at the end, struggling to adapt any of the Bluebeard legend’s possible outcomes with the film’s custom set prices. Still, an efficient pace works well enough to connect its silly take on a morbid subject matter to the mediocre television vibe, creating an oddly engaging watch.
In a lot of ways, Dead Mate feels like a Lifetime Network film, or what I imagine one would feel like--written after a coke bender and a night of nothing but Jörg Buttgereit films. The lighting is very much the stuff of tv dramas, using mostly a soft universal glow and several bright daytime shots. The editing is competent but doesn't do the black comedy any favors. Its timing at the most comedic moments feels off or misaimed. The failed attempts at dark humor come closer to just being creepy, which ends up working in its own way. Most of the chuckles the film extracted from me were due to the strange juxtaposed soapy atmosphere and low budget body horror (the comedy of which may not have always been deliberate). The dialogue is terrible, but it's honestly one of the best parts, especially during the town “meetings” at the funeral home. It's filled with plenty of unintentionally humorous moments and one-liners for later (I guess you can't get AIDS from a dead body….the more you know). There are some definite higher points when the film parts clash in just the right way.  Some especially inspired scenes happen during the body preparation ritual, when it employs some kind of corny Duran Duran meets Jimmy Buffett jam to contrast the grotesque actions being implied or referenced on screen (it's got a strangely romantic vibe and the song is catchy). Dead Mate is at its best when it is most confused. The packaging of random, low energy tones wrapped around super science infused necrophilia is just weird enough to work for me. It is really light on the gore though, especially for the subject matter, mostly inferring the ghastly stuff. There is one particularly low point in the effects towards the end involving a car chase, but it makes up for that with the sheer absurdity of the scene. The film’s nudity comes in three flavors: softcore romance, dead chick, and swirled (in this particular case they overlap) but all are fairly tame.
Dead mate is written and directed by Straw Weisman. It marked his directorial debut after already having more than ten years in the film industry as a writer and producer. He continued to be a key player in mostly trashy cinema but wouldn’t sit officially in the director's chair again until 2002 with Man of the Year (a mostly improvised John Ritter movie). He continues to work on a wide range of films (including trashy, low budget and even Godsplotation) to this day. It also features work by Pat Jacoby, who was also instrumental in the classics Troma's War (1988) and Frankenhooker (1990), Dead Mate being his last known work. To seal the deal on its milquetoast technical motifs Katherine Quittner lays down a soft-pop soundtrack straight out of a bad movie about sad stuff you could have caught on cable in the late 80s early 90s.
It's not nearly as gruesome as it's premise, but Dead Mate is not the the bone dry tv-thriller it might first appear to be. I don't think it quite hits the mark on the dark humor it was trying for, but it definitely succeeds in being pretty fucking weird. Plus, it is entertaining and that's all I really ask for out of anything (entertaining weirdness that is). I never got it when other reviewers said things like this, but I feel like it's fitting here--it's a nice boring Sunday type of watch, though it probably doesn't give any insight into the original message behind the Bluebeard story. Honestly, the only thing I have really learned here is that rich people are usually creeps and have rooms full of dead people, and I already knew that.
 1h 30min | 1988
 Director: Straw Weisman
Writer: Straw Weisman 

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RevTerry


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Twisted Nightmare (1987) Review by RevTerry

What the fuck is summer camp? Is it like camping school? That sounds terrible. Why let the school do to camping what it already did to shit like books? In the movies, it's some kind of breeding ground for teenage drama, steamy romance, and extreme (scarring) harassment. Which makes sense--but that's also how high schools are portrayed in cinema, so I don't quite trust it. It is fun to watch though. Shit goes does down at camp apparently--there is always some kind of life-changing event that takes place while there. The subject range is wide, beginning with romantic tragedy, stopping at comedy and ending with surprise genitalia. Kids “come of age” at summer camp, fall into a life-defining love, learn a fucking important lesson or two, and in some cases, commit a truly cruel act of violence against another human that will come back to haunt them. Whatever the case, whether love or murder, we are given an impression that the effects of that summer at camp will last a lifetime (although that will be shorter for some). No matter what the actual events of summer camp (or maybe cheerleader camp, etc) turn out to be, it changes the lives of those in attendance forever. The ripple of summer camp can be felt years later for a film's character (s) through something like a lost love returned, or in those times when it turns out the token summer camp dead-kid isn't really deceased as initially thought. Movie summer camp is like a long high school prom in the woods, and that's a great petri dish when it comes to horror antics. Since I'm not a “first romance” kind of guy, most of the summer camp movies I usually dig end in carnage, but for the most part, they start with the same shit. Usually, at some point early (sometimes very early), some gang of camp dick-bags does something fucked up to someone else (because camp is just a little like kid prison in movies but with pinecones). The act can be all kinds of shit, and isn't relegated to camper on camper violence. It comes in a few flavors, and each varies a little, but sooner or later, everyone is running around the campgrounds getting stabbed and shit. You know, the fun stuff. Something 1987’s Twisted Nightmare did not forget to include.
The film opens with a narration that sounds like it was taken from a twice recorded VHS tape of Tales from the Darkside. Afterward, we meet a large group of young adults that have all been called back to a summer camp they attended collectively as kids, by way of a mysterious reunion. The anonymous event invite strikes a few of the attendees as strange right off the bat, because the original summer was marked by a somewhat accidental death, but they decide to go anyway because… they’re promised free booze? (best guess). Not long after they all start getting into the party and discussing the possible reason for the meeting, people start leaving for ridiculous reasons, never to come back. At first, everyone is too drunk or whimsical to notice or care. The dwindling crowd goes on arguing, drinking and removing clothes, but increasingly it grows evident that someone is killing off each of the former campers. As the bodies mount, the remainder of the group begins to point fingers at one another, but none of their paranoia is effective, and one by one they are picked off in ridiculous ways, usually during or after sex. Oh yeah, and there is this grumpy “Indian” dude that pops up in some overalls every once in a while to mumble something about evil and tell them to bounce.
The storyline has all the makings for several simple horror films and just kind of lays them out there next to each other. It's not so much that the pieces are not connected but none are developed enough for real depth or purpose.  It has some mystery to it in the beginning but shakes it early in exchange for scene after scene of borrowed sexy kill setups, grunting and implied revenge for several various wrongdoings. There are some early attempts at misdirection that turn mostly into subplots, which serve little purpose aside from making sure every camp killer cliche can be displayed. There is a great deal of ridiculous detail needlessly given to some of the characters before they are dispatched but little offered to explain the supernatural elements it uses in it's supposed main plot. Without spoiling anything (that I haven't already), the film not only liberally borrows most of its plot from the Friday the 13th movie series but also seeks to streamline the issues surrounding Jason's inexplicable magical Lazarus powers by way of Pet Cemetery. Like every other piece of the patchwork film, it just kind of lumps a magic burial ground in without a flinch or legitimate logic. It misses the point on a lot of what it tries to take from more beloved franchises. Tragically, a little bit of the sympathetic monster gets lost in the jumble somehow, and there isn't much to the killer's style. With that all being said, it plays through 80s camp slasher moments the same way Now That's What I Call Music CDs featured radio hits from the late 90s. With your brain mostly off, it's packed with more than enough tasty garbage to be a blast. Once you figure in the fact that nothing is going to come to a head, aside from killing blows with a blunt or sharp object, it's a great ride through some silly horror tropes.
The film was written, directed and filmed by Paul Hunt. Hunt was instrumental in the production of several obscure genre films during his twenty-plus years in the business, including the equally mixed up, awesome sleaze fest The Toy Box (1971). Additional camera work was provided by Gary Graver, who gave us over forty years of awesome trash flicks like The Toolbox Murders (1978). Charles Philip Moore also served on the crew in several roles, he would later work with Hunt on goofy classic Demon Wind (1990). Twisted Nightmare was originally developed under the spoilerific original title Ancient Evil, but it was changed sometime shortly before being released. Ever the proponent of recycling, it reuses the Friday the 13th part III (1982) set with little to no alteration in some parts. Despite a release date in 1987, the opening card lists a copyright for 1982, giving some possible indication that it went it into production or was maybe even filmed, in part, shortly following Friday 13th 3D in ‘82. But there is no official word or documentation of the work (in any name) until shortly before its release five years later (as far as I know), and some scenes seem to be inspired by later films.
The films technical quality seems to deteriorate for some reason. The beginning scenes are crammed with bad dialogue and silly moments but in a quality no different than most studio slashers from its time. As it progresses however, its bad dubbing and dark lighting come closer to something that could have been shot on tape. There are a few moments hindered by low light to the point that it gets annoying, but the relentless grunting that accompanies the scenes gives it an almost unseen scuffle effect, like something from a cartoon (which on second thought, I can get behind). The soundtrack, provided by Bruce Wallenstein (he worked on Demon Wind as well) is pretty much on point for film’s motif, with slightly borrowed synth and dreamy dramatic tones. If anything, the background music gets a little generic in its quest to match the example set down by those before it, but it works. There are quite a few surreal moments. Intentionally or not, the mix of film qualities and irrelevant scenes ends up looking like something that the second season of Twin Peaks left on the cutting room floor.  Gore effects are all pretty nice, including a few beautiful cranial impacts. It straight up rips many of the kills, sometimes by the shot, there is even a rendition of one of my all-time favorites the “coitus-kabob”. It racks up at least fourteen bodies by the end of the movie, and a more-is-better philosophy transfers to the nudity as well, which is sprinkled in at the same frequency. It probably packs more tits than worthwhile dialogue ( or definitely does).
You have to give it to Twisted Nightmare on one thing at least-- it doesn't skimp on victims. The initial scenes with the whole group in the cabin look like the party from Animal House (1978), packed with ill-fated reunioners. As a favorite character, I lean towards the resident asshole Dean, played by Kenneth Roper Jr. He is given some terrible one-liners through his relatively long lifespan and is just God awful, but like all the highlights he, somehow, is fucking perfect. Rhonda Gray plays a witch (or something) that spends a good part of the film in the bathroom, which is cool but not as fun as it sounds. Cleve Hall who provided all special effects and makeup also spends some time in front of the camera as the extra crispy plot device Matthew. Brad Bartram plays Shawn, and I still don't remember what else I have seen him in, probably something with “Bikini” in the title. Whether it’s for direction given, dubbing or ability, nobody really comes out looking good here, but it's all very in line with the rest of the film.
Twisted Nightmare is garbage, but it's well-recycled garbage, in a good way, plus that kind of shit is environmentally responsible. The film works as a melody of slasher elements with a focus on the summer camp subgenre. It's a brainless, fun, hollow flick that knows what you came for and attempts to make a buffet of its fan service. It is like the cheap off the strip casino buffet, but it's still pretty tasty and above all, plentiful. Really though, it probably has most films beat on summer camp drama. I mean, there was like fifteen dead people, a pound of tension, and shit even got kinda orgy-ish at this camps quasi-reunion. It kind of makes me wish I had gone to summer camp-- some of us only had the school year to make our bad choices and scar people for life.
(I couldn't find a trailer, below is a slightly revealing clip)
 1h 35min | 1987
 Director: Paul Hunt
Writers: Paul Hunt and Charles Philip Moore

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RevTerry


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The Majorettes (1987) Review by RevTerry

In horror, it only takes one role to make you an immortal. This seems to be one of those better or worse type things. But since I have yet to release my debut slasher (Blood Soaked Sermon: The RevTerry Murders), I don't have much in the way of insight to the pitfalls of being a cult celebrity. I do know that it can be a more fitting role in life for some people. I don't know the logic behind it, but for whatever reason, we viewers can take a liking to some random fucking characters, and when the people that play those characters happen to be fans themselves, the results can be some special shit. Some cult favorites are just born for it. I’m sure it’s the same for the more mainstream type celebrities, but the fan favorites stick around longer and live a lot closer to the viewer's reality when it comes to those involved with horror. It doesn't even have to make sense really, it's just something that happens. You don't have to be in the best Friday the 13th to be the everyone's favorite Jason. Shit, you don't even have to be the main character at all.  You could just be the first walking dead guy to limp up in an opening graveyard scene. Sure, it helps if you have a memorable undead snarl, and if the scene is in a film that happens to be considered the spark that ignited an everlasting lust for zombies in cinema. Bill Hinzman will forever be most known as being the first ghoul to make Barbara scream in Night of the Living Dead (1968), and seemed to have no issue embracing the horror-love the role brought him over the years. He was a regular at conventions from an early point, sometimes coming decked out in full zombie get-up and continued to work in the industry, horror specifically, pretty much up until his tragic death in 2012. He appeared to have immense love for the genre, and it manifested itself in the form of two very derivative horror films, of which Hinzman served as director(among other things). In 1988 he made Flesheater, a direct homage to the original NOTLD, in which Hinzman plays a much more flushed out version of his zombie character on his own (unofficial) spin-off adventure. A little before that, both he and a fellow original dead alumnus stepped outside of the whole walking-corpse thing altogether to make a trashy slasher flick called The Majorettes (1987).    
After a slightly lost intro animation, we meet a troop of majorettes in the middle of a spandex dance demonstration in a school gym. When they are done showing off their skills, they convene in the locker room for the regular girl talk as the creepy janitor watches and takes pictures from a vent. Everyone then gets showered and/or changed, and we, the viewers, leave the group of girls altogether to watch some random bitter person be mean to a mute old lady without explanation as she wheels around her wheelchair. After that's over, we visit with one of the girls while she is out on a date with a local boy. Things seem to be going well for the both of them, but as it gets physical, the girl breaks down and reveals her true intentions for the night-- which involve tricking the boy into believing he was an unborn child's father. Everyone gets sad for a second, but that doesn't really come up again, because both of them are murdered shortly after by a man in a camouflage ninja outfit (no it's not Richard Harrison), who literally busts through the top of their car and starts cutting necks. When they are both nice and dead, the killer takes the female's corpse to a body of water and starts dunking her head in it gently. A jagged back and forth cut in editing takes us to a priest baptizing a child in a river, as a crowd of people watches. The local sheriff (Mark V. Jevicky) is in attendance, and it is then that he is informed of the murders. The county detective (Carl Hetrick) is also called in, and the two engage in some grumpy back and forth when they arrive at the crime scene. Everyone at the high school is shaken up by the recent gruesome deaths, but they all try to get back to their routine of either being a teenager or being really creepy around teenagers. Of course, the killer follows up his murders, so with little to go on, the cops have to start looking at the local shadesters as suspects. Unfortunately, there is a shit load of those in this town. Normal wooden slasher shenanigans follow, except at some point there is a long veer into action revenge, as one of the characters (Kevin Kindlin) pulls a half-assed Charles Bronson and lays explosive siege to the hideout of a drug dealing/bigoted/satanic biker gang (with no real effect on the slasher plot whatsoever).
 The effort is noteworthy enough for being the zombie-less brain baby of both writer John A. Russo and director S. William Hinzman (AKA Bill Hinzman). Both had a hand in the original Night of the Living Dead, Hinzman as stated above, and Russo co-authoring the script (there is a longer discussion in there somewhere, but it will have to wait for another time). Russo authored the script for The Majorettes, adapting it from his novel of the same name and served as producer. The film was made and released two years after his own “dead” universe kicked off, with Return Of the Living Dead (1985) and five years after his own (bizarre) directorial venture into the slasher genre, Midnight (1982), both films also loosely based on his own original novels. Bill Hinzman would return to the world of the living dead as well, the year after The Majorettes with Flesheater (1988), which he wrote, directed and starred in. He would only direct the two films, both sharing much of the same (relatively unknown) cast and crew.
Even before the uncalled-for biker exterminating Rambo segment, the movie’s story contains out of place pockets of unrelated drama, between people like the pervy (and likely slow) school janitor, the gang of flamboyant bikers or the investigating team of cops, that walked straight out of a Showtime erotic thriller. The tacked on plot points come and go as they please, while the camouflage laden killer doles out violence around them. Someday, I hope to read John A. Russo’s original novel, but I'm afraid to find out that it's not just a random mess of storylines like this movie. For most of the main plot, the drama is played out as a straight deadpan slasher. You have your (not so) teenage girls in high school, getting picked off one by one, a masked killer, and creepy male adult figures in abundance.  Like Hinzman’s Flesheater, it leans hard into its influences. If it was made today or had taken it a step further, it would have risked becoming a full-blown parody, even without a wink at the camera. It’s not the best entry in the High School Slasher collection or really anything new, outside of focusing on baton twirlers (that's what majorette means in case you didn't know, I did, and definitely didn't watch this movie 4 times without looking it up/making the connection) versus using the normal go to victims- the cheerleader. It's trashy enough to be good generic slasher fare, with more bad guys who hang around high schoolers than normal and a slight case of ADD. This low rent massacre makes up the bulk of the film, that is until inexplicably one of the loosely connected dead-end side plots takes over, it switches focus and goes into full-on Death Wish 4 mode. It's a complete change in tone and is just kind of shoved into the already patchwork structure of the film’s story. It's wonderfully random and lots of stuff explodes, just in case you were getting sick of locker room scenes and stabbings. There is no real character development and, story-wise, no reason to care about the people being dispatched, but it's all silly enough to be a great match for the rest of the film's aspects and makes for good trashy entertainment.
The editing doesn't do the already thin cohesiveness of the story any favors, as it helps little in the task of blending the random jumps in and out of the straightforward slasher fare. It completely loses it shit on some of the kills, mixing reverb into the sound and jumping back and forth in time. The rest of the soundtrack is incredibly fitting, using some kind of lively Casio backbeat behind dramatic organs, that I swear I have heard before. It also has a few 80s trash pop tracks it throws in whenever it can.  On a technical level, Hinzman’s directorial style is almost nonexistent. For the most part, the camera just kind of hangs out in the same room as the characters, moving with the dialogue if absolutely necessary. At times, he channels the slower moments in Hooper's Invaders from Mars remake (1986), playing the almost 50s style high school dynamics with a completely straight face. There are a few flashes of creative inklings in between the cliche killer-vision style stalking and choppy attacks. I also get (very) faint hints of Fulci's The New York Ripper (1982), during the murderer’s build-ups, when the action on screen becomes almost surreal and the beat hits just right. Hinzman makes up for the missing flare in camera work by packing in ample amounts of fan service. As with a lot of the late 80s slashers, it can feel like it mostly missed the boat when it comes to its overused tropes. In this case however, instead of feeling completely stale, Hinzman’s love of the genre steers him towards worship. I get relatable visions of Hinzman cramming in as many of ( what I can only assume were) his favorite parts of the slasher sub-genre and one by one scratching them off a list. It comes along as something closer to the fake film-grain, overt homage flicks and neo-trash grindhouse parodies that we get today. As if it was already having nostalgic feels about the 80s slasher before the 80s even ended. It's a little light in its gore but features a few fun kill scenes, most, if not all, will remind you lovingly of another more recognizable horror flick made before it. In line with the near intentional slasher cliches, there are plenty of on-camera wardrobe changes, showers breaks and locker room meetings. The really disjointed segments, including the revenge explosion-filled raid and the Andy Sidaris-esque mustache cop's antics, feel like completely different productions altogether and share only the strange timing of the connecting slasher chunks of the film. Whether they were written to be red herrings or character development is lost in the final product, and they end up feeling like cut and paste pieces from another film, Godfrey Ho style. It sounds bad-- and it is, but the mess comes together with a unique trashy charm.
I can't argue Majorettes is a masterpiece or even a good movie, but that doesn't mean it doesn't do exactly what it came to do. If you are not worried about something making sense all the time or staying on track, there is a fun, sleazy flick in there, that's obviously made out of love. Even if it has no idea where the fuck it is or where it's going at any given moment, the film is nowhere near boring. Initially what looks like a by-the-books slasher clone turns into a anything goes free-for-all of b-movie tropes. It uses a bunch of well known elements to make something unpredictable. Above all, it feels like it was made by a fan of the genre,and that is always a good thing as far as I'm concerned. I can only assume Bill Hinzman was connoisseur of horror, as I never knew him personally, but it seems to shine through in his work. Either way, he leaves us a nice little piece of junk-food entertainment, along with his contributions to zombie flicks. I might have been happy just having the bragging rights that come with being the most OG of OG cinema dead walkers, but then again I tell people at parties about my movie collection, so my bar is really low there.
1h 32min | 1987
 Director: S. William Hinzman (as Bill Hinzman)
Writer: John A. Russo

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