Wicked Wednesday: The Dead Come Home (1989)

The Dead Come Home aka Dead Dudes in the Hosue aka House on Tombstone Hill is a pretty standard post-Evil Dead slasher in many ways. Kids arrive at a haunted house, they meet supernatural foes, and then they die. It’s a beautiful formula that works.

And yet, there’s still something that makes it a bit special. There are echoes of Troma’s own Mother’s Day throughout, namely in its villain, an elderly woman. Only this one is dead! But there are also some brilliant practical effect death scenes that make this worth watching.

In a massive home in the countryside, a woman and her daughter spend some time over the corpse of a man on their floor. Forty years later, a group of young people arrive at the house. Mark, the house’s new owner, got it for a steal. In his words, “practically given away.” Maybe it was the 80s, but man – if it’s too good to be true…

After arriving, the kids have a look around. One of them disturbs the grave buried out back, severely pissing off the ghosties within the house.

The kids get to work, but soon after entering the house, they see an older woman. She doesn’t talk to them, but Mark goes to follow her when she shuffles away. And poor Mark, bless, is dead within the first fifteen minutes of run time. The home-owner dream was just not meant to last.

When Mark’s girlfriend goes to look for him, she discovers that he is very much dead, but still running around and being rude. The friends all try and escape the house, only to discover that they can’t get out. Granny and her daughter begin picking them off one-by-one in a pretty fun fashion.

Sure. The plot doesn’t really get more developed than that. But the makers of Dead Dudes in the House were obviously not here to tell a tale with characters we care about. They were here for the blood and gore. And they delivered!

I love a horror movie with too many names. And this one changes depending on the home video release. I have a personal affinity towards Troma’s choice of Dead Dudes in the House. There’s a group of boys (clearly in the early 90s) that don’t even feature in the film. Even Lloyd Kaufman’s description of the film in his book All I Need To Know About Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger isn’t entirely accurate but makes a nod to the unusual cover. “A group of hip-hop teens inhabit a house possessed by the spirits of a murdering, maniacal matriarch and her sexy daughter.”

Hip hop teens? Not here. But I would pay to see that movie too.

Wicked Wednesday: Screamplay (1985)

Troma has a reputation for being, as some would think, “a bit much.” It’s literally in their slogan as a badge of pride (“40 years of Disrupting Media”).

But beyond their shock tactics, the distributor has released some of the oddest independent films and sniffed out promising talents like Trey Parker and James Gunn. One of the most daring films is 1985’s Screamplay, a horror story set in Hollywood if Hollywood had been thrown up on by Robert Wiene.

Aspiring screenwriter Edgar Allan is fresh off the boat bus in Hollywood. All the naive young man has on him is his typewriter. He finds his way to a diner and meets Al, an agent interested in Edgar’s work.

Shortly after, Edgar is assaulted in a bathroom, but is saved when another man kills the assailant. Edgar’s savour is Martin, a landlord who agrees to put Edgar up in a storage closet in exchange for some custodial work. But at the crime scene is a page of Edgar’s screenplay, which makes the police suspicious.

At the apartments is an eclectic selection of characters: a fading actress, a rocker. And Edgar dreams about killing all of them while writing his screenplay! When the deaths in his screenplay are seemingly coming true, Edgar becomes the police’s main target.

Director, star and writer Rufus Butler Seder only ever made this one feature film. You can’t help but wonder if Hollywood did the same thing as what happened to Edgar or if any attempts to “make it” inspired Screamplay. Thankfully, Seder has had a great career publishing children’s books, so the man got to put his excellent eye to use in other ways.

Seder created a film with some incredible-looking scenes. It’s clearly inspired by expressionists, using stark black and white images with very set-y-looking sets. (Someone – get me a job in writing!)

This story reminded me a lot of the film Fade to Black, but I had a lot more fun with Screamplay. And stylistically, it’s much more interesting to look at. But I don’t think you can ever have too many “crazy in Hollywood” stories, honestly.

Wicked Wednesday: The Old Dark House (1963)

Remakes: they’re a source of contention with many horror fans. My favourite type of remake is one that really goes balls-to-the-wall and tries something different.

For most people, William Castle’s version of The Old Dark House will not be an improvement over Jame Whale’s 1932 original adaption. But for me, it was a great laugh that really pushed the slapstick humour.

Tom Penderel is a hapless car salesman in London. He shares his flat with a mysterious Casper Femm, who is only around during the day and goes home to his family estate in Dartmoor at night.

Casper asks a favour of Tom, to drive Casper’s car to the estate. When Tom arrives, the car is destroyed by a statue, forcing him to stay at the home. But once inside, Tom realises that his roommate has died.

Tom, now a guest at the home, meets Casper’s eccentric family, including the young Cecily. He learns from them that the family must meet at the home at midnight every night or forfeit their inheritance.

At the first midnight, Tom and the famiyl realise that the mother Agatha hasn’t arrived. They find her soon after with knitting needles in her throat. And soon, one-by-one, the rest of the Femms are picked off.

It’s a silly version of the story, for sure. Even more surprising, this is a Hammer Horror production! The usual air of dignity is long gone. And yet…while I enjoyed the original, I found myself still enjoying this remake for very different reasons. I love that Castle really leaned into how stupid it was.

There isn’t the usual Castle gimmick here, unfortunately, but I could definitely see one working. Is there a stage production of this thing? Someone quick! Get one made!

WICKED WEDNESDAY: 100 HORROR MOVIES IN 92 DAYS 2022, WRAP-UP #1

I told myself, “Never again.” Never again would I challenge myself to watch 100 movies in three months. That’s a lot of movies. Do I even like movies that much? What is a movie?

Well.

Here we are again. I am nothing but a weak, competitive soul.

But this year, I’m going full metal. We’re following all the rules, baby! This Letterboxd challenge, created by user Sarah Stubbs, asks horror fans to watch 100 new-to-them horror films in the three months leading up to Halloween. Sarah has a list of all the rules on her website. And unlike last year, I’m trying to abide by them all! This means no short films (at least 45 minutes) and must be tagged as “horror” in either IMDB or Letterboxd unless considering gateway horror. And yeah, that ruined all my giallo options!

Jokes aside. I do enjoy this. And it’s a great way of forcing myself to watch some films I’ve put off for ages.

At the point of writing, I’m about halfway there. But here is everything I watched in September. Check out my Letterboxd if you care to check out more, including seeing my ratings!

#1-37

1 Prey (2022) dir. by Dan Trachtenberg

2 You Won’t Be Alone (2022) dir. by Goran Stolevski

3 The Crazies (1973) dir. by George A. Romero

4 The Curse of Kazuo Umezu (1990) dir. by Naoko Omi

My first cheat, okay? It’s only 43 minutes. Cut me some slack.

5 Just Before Dawn (1981) dir. by Jeff Lieberman

A surprsingly good slasher with one hell of an ending!

6 America’s Most Haunted (2013) dir. by Chris Randall

7 V/H/S (2012) dir. by Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Radio Silence

8 Howl (2015) dir. by Paul Hyett

9 Zombie Flesh Eaters/Zombi 2 (1979) dir. by Lucio Fulci

10 Scared to Death (1946) dir. by Christy Cabanne

11 Damien: Omen II (1978) dir. by Don Taylor

12 Creepshow 2 (1987) dir. by Michael Gornick

13 Color Me Blood Red (1965) dir. by Herschell Gordon Lewis

14 Big Top Scooby-Doo! (2012) dir. by Ben Jones

15 A Creepshow Animated Special (2020) dir. by Gregory Nicotero

16 Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) dir. by Dominique Othenin-Girard

17 Sting of Death (1966) dir. by William Grefe

18 Noroi: The Curse (2005) dir. by Koji Shiraishi

19 The Night Walker (1963) dir. by William Castle

20 Xtro (1982) dir. by Harry Bromley Davenport

21 Blood Feast (1963) dir. by Herschell Gordon Lewis

22 Dream No Evil (1970) dir. by John Hayes

23 Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster (2021) dir. by Thomas Hamilton

24 So Vam (2021) dir. by Alice Maio Mackay

25 Paranormal Activity 4 (2012) dir. by Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman

26 Viy (Вий) (1967) dir. by Georgiy Kropachyov, Konstantin Ershov

27 The Seventh Curse (1986) dir. by Lam Ngai Kai

28 Savage Intruder/Hollywood Horror House (1970) dir. by Donald Wolfe

29 The Curse of Halloween Jack (2019) dir. by Andrew Jones

30 The Gorgon (1964) dir. by Terence Fisher

31 Cult of VHS (2022) dir. by Rob Preciado

32 Torn Hearts (2022) dir. by Brea Grant

33 V/H/S 2 (2013) dir. by Jason Eisener, Gareth Evans, Timo Tjahjanto, Eduardo Sánchez, Gregg Hale, Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard

If anything, just watch Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Evans’s segment “Safe Haven”. A brilliant bit of found footage terror!

34 Beyond the Door (Chi sei?) (1974) dir. by Ovidio G. Assonitis, Robert Barrett

35 Barbarian (2022) dir. by Zach Cregger

Going to call it now: this is going to be my favourite horror film of the year. Utterly bananas and terrifying. I LOVE THIS MOVIE. I would give anything to watch it for the first time again.

36 Tremors (1990) dir. by Ron Underwood

37 V/H/S: Viral (2014) dir. by Nacho Vigalondo, Marcel Sarmiento, Gregg Bishop, Justin Benson, Aaron Scott Moorhead

FrightFest 2022 wrap-up

Another FrightFest has come and gone. And boy howdy, this was a good one! The best of new horror cinema was being premiered in London, and I heard some whisperings about some really good films coming our way.

My budget (as usual) was too small to see a lot, but the four films I did see all left me feeling very satisfied. Long live horror, ya’ll!

Dark Glasses (Occhiali neri) dir. by Dario Argento

It has been a decade since the maestro came out with a film. This time, we see Argento returning to his giallo roots. Dark Glasses follows a sex worker as she is pursued by a killer. One of the attacks results in her being blind, forcing her to rely on others for help and learn to manoeuvre the world in the dark.

Dark Glasses has many of the usual Argento hallmarks: children being pals with blind people, German shepherds, excellent soundtracks, etc. However, the film lacks style. It’s not a particularly beautiful film to look at. While set in Rome, there is very little use of the Roman architecture. The story is solid, but perhaps nothing that we haven’t seen before. (Bad pun not intended.)

But it is good to have Argento back. The last I saw him at FrightFest, he was there to promote his new autobiography (Fear, which I recommend if you can find a copy) and tease this film. He exclusively revealed that he will be working on a film in Paris next year, supposedly a remake of a 1940s Mexican thriller. As long as he’s willing to work, I’m here to watch.

Watch the trailer here. Coming to Shudder on 13 October.

The Cult of VHS dir. by Rob Preciado

“It’s like vinyl if vinyl kinda sucked.”

VHS collectors seem like a nice, but odd bunch. Director Rob Preciado introduces us to some of them from around the world in his documentary The Cult of VHS.

The documentary covers the passionate collectors as well as topics like the Video Nasty era in Britain, SOV films and cover art. It’s a nostalgia-soaked ride through video stores and garbage bins.

I was shocked to learn how many films have never been given a digital transfer. These collectors may well be the protectors of the history of cinema! But beware: this documentary may give those of us who love physical media the desire to pick up a new bad habit.

Watch the trailer here.

Torn Hearts dir. by Bea Grant

Ambitious country duo Torn Hearts are looking for their big break in Nashville. And they think they might have found it when one of them finds the address for a genre icon. But the Torn Hearts find more than they bargained for when they arrive at Harper Dutch’s front door.

This is a wild and crazy ride. Katey Sagal gives one hell of a performance as Harper. But beyond the Sunset Boulevard-style story, there’s plenty of subtext here about how industries like country music pit women against each other. If you’re looking for a fun thriller (with great music and costumes to boot), Torn Hearts is for you.

Also: more regional horror like this, please!

Watch the trailer here. (Beware: it gives a lot away!) Available to buy, stream and rent in the US now. No UK release date.

Barbarian dir. by Zach Cregger

Reviews on Barbarian are currently embargoed until the 9th. But honestly, I’m not sure I would want to say anything that would give away this totally, utterly bananas movie.

I will say this: Barbarian surprised me at every turn. Go see this one blind. Don’t even bother with the trailer! Without a doubt, I know this movie is making my top five of the year.

In US theatres on September 9th. No UK release date.

Wicked Wednesday: Blood Feast (1963)

Last week, I dipped my little toes into Herschell Gordon Lewis’s bucket of blood with Color Me Blood Red. Sure it wasn’t a masterpiece, but it got me curious enough to want more. And where better to start than where the blood all started flowing?

Blood Feast is possibly one of Lewis’s best-known films (The Wizard of Gore probably takes the top spot thanks to Juno). It’s also considered one of the first splatter films, meaning plenty of blood and gore to fill your screens.

Even by today’s standards, Blood Feast has plenty of shocking and graphic moments. The opening scene sees a woman getting attacked while in the bath, her legs hacked off by our killer. This is only three years after Psycho shocked the world with its slaying of Janet Leigh in the shower.

The killer, we later learn, is Fuad Ramses, the owner of a catering company that specialises in “exotic” food. He’s approached one day to cater a birthday party for Suzette Fremont, a young student with a particular interest in Egyptian culture.

Incidentally, Ramses is a loyal follower of the goddess Ishtar. He slays women for their body parts in order to create a blood feast – one that he believes will cause Ishtar to be reincarnated.

The police are stumped by Ramses for the most part. The killer never leaves a single clue behind. Why Ramses is so good at getting away with murder is never really explained. Most of the film doesn’t really convince you that he’s particularly clever or tricky!

It isn’t until one victim is found alive. Despite having most of her face hacked off, she’s able to utter a few words to the detectives including “Itar”.

One detective, incidentally Suzette’s beau, finally puts together that “itar” means Ishtar. Thanks to some sleuthing, the detective is able to link Ramses to the killings. And never fear, our darling blonde Suzette is saved before she can be sacrificed at the birthday buffet.

Okay. It’s a bit heavy-handed. I imagine clever writing and story-telling wasn’t at the forefront of Lewis’s mind when he created this movie. Though I really appreciate that a woman, Allison Louise Downe, gets a screenplay credit for this.

I can’t say that I enjoyed this movie. The acting is some of the worst I’ve ever seen – it’s more wooden than an Amish table. It kind of trots along at a meandering pace – even at 67 minutes. Many things stop it from reaching “so bad it’s good” levels. But it’s difficult not to appreciate what influence this movie has had on the horror genre. A movie doesn’t need to be “good” by conventional standards to be worth watching.

So I sault you, Herschell Gordon Lewis. You got vibrant red blood to paint our screens with. It’s certainly a step up from that chocolate syrup.

Wicked Wednesday: Color Me Blood Red (1965)

I have a lot of horror blind spots, and one of them is Herschell Gordon Lewis. The “godfather of gore” somehow has continued to evade me. Bar Monster a Go-Go (which Lewis was an uncredited director on), the splatter horror movies never made it onto my screen. Until now, obviously.

Color Me Blood Red is the third film in Lewis’s “Blood Trilogy”. And would I start with the first one produced? No! Because I never do things in the correct way, apparently.

The story centres on struggling artist Adam Sorg, who hasn’t painted a thing in months. His biggest setback? Being unable to find the perfect shade of red for his paintings. When he goes to a gallery, he gets into it with one of the critics, leaving him even more determined to prove himself.

His inspiration comes from an unlikely place. After his girlfriend, Gigi, cuts herself on a nail, he falls in love with the shade of her blood. He begs for more of it, but she resists when he becomes too aggressive with her. He tries using his own blood, but finds that it makes him too weak to actually paint.

During an argument, Sorg kills Gigi. With her dead, he’s able to paint with her blood all he wants. What he creates is a grotesque masterpiece. He shows it off to the critic from the gallery, and it catches the attention of the wealthy Mrs Carter. Despite being offered a hefty sum of $15,000 for the painting, Sorg refuses to sell.

Knowing that he must have blood to create great works, Sorg finds new victims whose blood will fill his pallet.

When Mrs Carter’s daughter, April, goes to the beach she meets Sorg. Having heard about him from her mother, April naively trusts him. He invites her to sit for a painting, which he will give to her for free. April is hesitant and leaves, but she returns later that night.

April’s friends, also at the beach, soon discover Gigi’s corpse in the sand. They have to move fast before April becomes another victim of Sorg’s art.

Color Me Blood Red is supposedly the weakest of the three films. As someone who started at the end and not the beginning, I can’t have an opinion. However, I found this movie pretty interesting for what it was. The story doesn’t move mountains, but it’s entertaining enough.

The sound, however, suffers greatly. Many of the characters use these hdyrocycles. And they are SO LOUD. Not only are they loud, but they make a truly disgusting sound on the mic. I will die happy if I never have to hear it again.

There are quirks to this movie to stop it from being such a straightforward bore. I really liked April’s couple friends, who are fans of dressing like twins and doing stupid shit. They sort of set themselves apart from most of the rest of the cast, who are quite interchangeable and forgettable.

If this is as bad as it gets for Herschell Gordon Lewis, I look forward to things going up from here!

Wicked Wednesday: The Curse of Kazuo Umezu (1990)

I have to admit, I know nearly nothing about anime. While briefly obsessed with manga as a kid, it was pretty difficult (and expensive) to access anime at that time. With the internet bringing everything to our fingertips, I now feel too overwhelmed with where to start!

When I saw a positive review of this 90s OVA on Letterboxd, I thought I’d give it a try. What better place to start than just some random-ass spot? (And yes, I have only just learned what OVA is.)

The Curse of Kazuo Umezu (Umezu Kazuo no Noroi) contains two short supernatural horror stories. The first one “What Will the Video Camera Reveal” begins with the introduction of a new student, Rima, from Mexico to her class. She captures the attention of the entire class, mostly with her beauty. But one student, Masami, is filled with weird feelings and bad dreams.

In the morning, Masami finds a strange mark on her neck. The bad feelings fade the longer she’s away from Rima. But on her way home from school, she finds herself lured toward Rima’s home.

Her grandfather confirms her bad feelings when he says that something went through her window as she slept. It, of course, freaks her out, and Masami goes to her friend for help. He gives her a video camera and sets it up to film her (and the horrors of what happens to her) at night. One she gets the courage to watch the footage, it won’t be what she’s expecting.

The second story, “The Haunted Mansion”, is (unsurprisingly) about a haunted mansion. Two friends go to explore it, bored of their horror movie marathon. One of them curious to see ghosts and explore while the other is much more afraid and cautious.

After they arrive outside, they are met by two other friends who are lured to the mansion. The girls begin to explore, finding strange things and having horrible visions along the way. Much more terrifying than anything a horror video could show them. But their real life and the dreams of the mansion begin to bleed together, leaving none of the girls certain as to what is real.

There are some really twisted visuals as well as a solid, haunting score. The design in the first short story particularly got to me. Though some of the animation is a touch clunky with age. That’s easily forgiven.

It’s the atmosphere that cells these stories as the plotlines themselves aren’t very unique. But they are straight-forward, and sometimes simple is all you need to be effective.

I enjoyed The Curse of Kazuo Umezu quite a bit and would like to watch more horror animation. Please send recommendations my way!

Top five Wisconsin-based horror movies

I’ve been back in Wisconsin for an extended holiday this month. This is truly one of the best times to be in the state. Beautiful weather, lots of time at the lake, and lots of food and beer (though that last one isn’t seasonal).

To celebrate my time in the Dairyland, I’ve collated a list of my top five favourite horror movies set and filmed in Wisconsin. You can read my initial reviews of them from back in the day during my Wicked (Wisconsin) Wednesday project. Honestly, Wisconsin has a lot to offer for regional horror (usually a lot about farms and lakes), that they’re definitely worth checking out.

And going through my old lists, posts and other Letterboxd material – I’ve realised that I’ve got a lot of watching and catching up to do! Viva Wisconsin!

5. Blood Harvest (1987) dir. by Bill Rebane

I recently revisited this Rebane “classic” on the 88 Film release. And look, I’m not going to argue that this is a good movie. It’s got a lot of oddities about it. But it also has a great performance from Tiny Tim as a Vietnam War veteran who dresses up as a clown. He comes across as very unsettling, but also someone you pity. It might not be a cornerstone of the genre, but it’s a good example of regional horror.

4. Blood Hook (1986) dir. by Jim Mallon

Filmed in Hayward near the Fishing Hall of Fame muskie, this slasher is pretty darn Midwestern. I mean, the premise is a group of kids at a fishing festival get murdered. It’s whacky for sure and directed by the producer of MST3K to add a bit of prestige to it. There’s apparently an extended version available from Vinegar Syndrome and Troma. It’s what the world needs most.

3. Trapped Alive (1988) dir. by Leszek Burzynski

A fun, Christmas-time cannibal film! A group of kids and escaped convicts get lost in an abandoned mine during a snow storm. Unfortunately for them, the mine contains a cannibal and his boobytraps. Utterly weird. Completely Wisconsin.

2. Lake Michigan Monster (2018) dir. by Ryland Brickson Cole Tews

A truly trippy sea monster movie that’s zany enough to make my beloved Milwaukee proud. A sea captain goes to great lengths to capture and kill a sea monster that supposedly dwells in the depths of Lake Michicagn. It does lose pace at the end, but it’s so worth the watch if you’re a fan of b-monster movies like the type from Roger Corman.

1. Dead Weight (2012) dir. by Adam Bartlett and John Pata

A somber zombie movie that has more going for it than many. A man struggles through the zombie apocalypse to be reunited with his ex-girlfriend. It’s a look at obsession and the struggle some people have to just let things die.

Top five new-to-me movies of 2022 (so far)

How is it already nearly the end of July? This year has been an utter blur. Perhaps a fun sign of getting older?

I’ve watched so many good films this year. A big plus to going to the cinema more often. (Shout out to the Prince Charles Cinema for being my second home.) I’ve made an effort to watch more international films, and have been greatly rewarded for doing so.

So for the first six months of this year. Here are the five new-to-me movies that I’ve enjoyed the most.

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) dir. by Daniels

When I saw this at the cinema, the woman behind me was sobbing like a baby. Not much more needs to be said.

Okay. Actually, I have a lot more to say about this movie, which is largely about the immigrant experience. It’s hilarious, truly moving and utterly unforgettable. Michelle Yeoh is a treasure. As is Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan (IN THAT STUIT!!!!), Jamie Lee Curtis and James Hong… The cast is brilliant.

Black Dynamite (2009) dir. by Scott Sanders

“Your knowledge of scientific biological transmogrification is only outmatched by your zest for kung-fu treachery!”

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began watching Black Dynamite, a parody of the Blaxploitation movies of the 70s. But it’s so funny and very clever. A true love letter to the genre.

If you’re fond of the films of that era, it’s a must-watch. Even if you’re not, the comedy is excellent. It’s a fun ride that keeps the pace moving at all times.

Mother (2009) dir. by Bong Joon-Ho

First off, shout out to my coworker who took the time to give me an excellent list of Eastern Asian movies to watch. It’s been an endless source of great

When I saw Mother in cinemas, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. But I left stunned and in tears.

It’s best to go blind into this one to avoid any expectations. But the story examines the lengths people (mothers) will go to protect their children, sometimes to the detriment of others.

The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch (1968) dir. by Noriaki Yuasa

If there’s one thing I’m excited to explore more of, it’s classic Japanese horror. The monsters are unlike anything I’ve seen in Western cinema.

I have, of course, seen many of Yuasa’s Gamera movies, but this fantasy horror outing is special. The Snake Girl follows a young girl who is reunited with her family after spending time in an orphanage. Though her family is not quite everything she hopes they would be.

This movie reminded me vaguely of the excellent A Tale of Two Sisters, which is also a story about family betrayal and secrets. But this one has witches and crazy ladies with snake necks!

Switchblade Sisters (1975) dir. by Jack Hill

I’ve seen some of Jack Hill’s movies before, but was so surprised by how engaging Switchblade Sisters was.

Based loosely on Othello, this exploitation gang movie follows a group of school girls who fight for power and leadership of the Jezebels. There’s betrayal, excellent outfits and plenty of violence.