It sure is a treat when you stumble upon a Christmas movie that’s made in Wisconsin! Throw in cannibals and you’ve got a real holiday hit.
Trapped Alive is a 1988 slasher set in Vilas County, just over the border from Michigans UP. It’s beautiful, snowy and apparently has mines. It was produced by Windsor Lake Studios, which also made the wintery slasher The Chill Factor. Both are available from Arrow. So thank you, Arrow, for your oddly specific work in restoring Wisconsin cinema! I won’t hold it against you for not asking me to contribute to your Bill Rebane box set…
This isn’t a very Christmas movie, but it does open up with a Christmas party. So that’s enough to count for me!
When friends Robin and Monica leave Robin’s dad’s Christmas party, they head off in the snow to a different one. But along the way, the two girls have car troubles. Unbeknownst to them, a trio of convicts escape from a nearby prison. While the girls are stuck in the snow, the men hijack the car and kidnap the girls.
As one of the escapees, Randy, drives off the path and crashes into an unseen mineshaft below. Another convict, Mungo, crashes through the windshield and soon dies. Stuck in the mine, the remaining four attempt to find some light and discover a different way out of the mine.
Meanwhile, some weird shit is going on above ground. A local officer, Billy, stops at a house near the crash. There he meets a woman who lets him borrow her phone, then um, gets it on with him? The officer doesn’t bother to even get her name.
As Billy canoodles, the rest of the gang down in the mine get into plenty of trouble. Randy finds a generator and tries to fix it. He goes back to Mungo’s body to get a lighter, and he then sees that something (or someone) has eaten the body’s face and intestines.
Before he can return to the rest of the group, he’s caught by Billy, who follows him into the mine. When the two men arrive they’re able to stop “Face”, the leader of the prisoners, from assaulting Monica. They also release Robin from a dark room that Face locked her in, where she swears something was with her.
Billy handcuffs Face to a gate and Randy to the generator. But while the group tries to figure out what to do next, Face is attacked by a giant claw-thing and lifted into the air. A crazed-looking man then makes a Christmas feast out of Face.
Shocked by what they’ve seen, the survivors realise they need to escape not only the mine but a cannibal.
Spoilers ahead. But we eventually find out that the man in the mine is the house lady’s dad (whose name we learn is Rachel. Thanks for asking, Billy.). Apparently, her dad was the sole survivor of a mine collapse years ago. He survived for years after no rescue team would save him.
I have questions. Like with Death Line, why did these people just not go above ground? They clearly survived by people coming in and eating them. Surely if there’s a way in, there’s a way out? And the mine shaft that the car crashed into didn’t even seem that deep!
But we don’t watch Wisconsin-set cannibal mineshaft movies for realism!
Trapped Alive doesn’t make much sense. It also stops for several minutes just to build up as to why Randy is a good guy and we should really care about him. But it’s fun! Giant claws (I’m sure there’s a technical mining term here that I’m not aware of). Real evil villains that you love to watch die. It’s not really festive, but it does do the trick.
Veteran actor Cameron Mitchell (How to Marry a Millionare, Blood and Black Lace) gets top billing here, but as Robin’s father, he doesn’t actually get too much screen time. The crew was obviously psyched to get him and use him as much as possible. But the poor man does a lot of staring longingly into the distance.
Trapped Alive isn’t going to change lives, but it’s strange enough to warrant watching. Also shout out to the local actors whose Wisconsin accents slip through every now and then.
“You don’t know how to tell good guys from baaahd guys!”
Over the past couple months, a friend and I have been in a bit of a battle to find the best/most interesting horror films to stream. The search has been rather hit or miss. But thanks to my aggressive searching one night, this little indie film fell onto my lap.
When I initially saw the poster for The Monster of Phantom Lake, I thought I had found Roger Corman’s Creature from the Haunted Sea. Upon noticing the difference, I was absolutely chuffed to see that I found an indie film set in Mukwonago, Wisconsin.
I don’t know how I missed this movie the first time round (my last WWW was in 2016), but the movies gods must have been smiling down upon me. The film was made, though, in Minnesota, and directed by Christopher R. Mihm. So while this isn’t “technically” Wisconsin, I will welcome you with Midwestern arms anyway.
Like Corman’s Creature From the Haunted Sea, Mihm’s movie parodies 1950’s monster flicks. Set in the “Present Day” of the 1950s, The Monster of Phantom Lake centres around a toxic lake in a quiet Wisconsin town.
A professor and his young student, Stephanie, arrive at the lake to conduct research. They also bring cases full of double entendres and sexual tension.
Nearby in the woods, a group of young students are celebrating their high school graduation. The kids gather around a bonfire to tell scary stories. One boy, Jonathan, tells the tale of Michael Kaiser, an army veteran who served with his father. Jonathan tells his friends about how Michael went mad and murdered his wife, whom he thought was a Nazi spy.
Jonathan then tells his friends that Michael Kaiser lives in the very woods they were camping in. And while his friends don’t believe him, they should. Michael Kaiser lurks in the woods nearby.
Men from a local plant are tasked with dumping vats of atomic waste into a nearby lake. When Michael hears them, he waits in the woods and watches. As the men work, one of their hats falls into the lake. Michael jumps in after, but he falls into the lake and isn’t seen rising from the water.
The scientists and the kids eventually meet up together for some science-exploration shenanigans. When the kids tell the Professor about a strange algae they find, he realises that it isn’t quite normal. It doesn’t help that the algae is in the form of a frog-man hand.
After studying the algae, Stephanie discovers that the algae contains traces of “something human”. The Professor doesn’t believe her findings, and the kids go off on their separate ways. Unbeknownst to everyone, a glorious creature has emerged from the lake, ready to kill them all.
That night, the kids are slowly picked off by the creature. Eventually, only Elizabeth is left. Poor Elizabeth is described by her ‘friends’ in the movie as a “square”. Which she is. She most definitely is.
She goes to get help from the scientists when the monster approached them at the camp. The monster, however, goes away when it sees Elizabeth. As it leaves, it takes with it Michael Kaiser’s dog tags that were found at this abandoned camp. Despite the monster, the Professor doesn’t believe that Elizabeth’s friends are dead.
The scientists eventually realise that the monster is a genetically-modified Michael Kaiser. Elizabeth, being the spitting image of Kaiser’s dead wife, was left alone. The Professor accepts Elizabeth’s story, and together they try to take down the Monster of Phantom lake.
Mihm’s love of the genre is blatantly clear throughout the film. He even has a “Mihmiverse” – several films all loosely connected to each other. All of them based on various b-movie genres. You have to love the enthusiasm of someone so passionate.
It’s great to look at the tropes those films through a modern lens. The Cold War suspicions and the casual sexism is abound in this film, with a tongue-in-cheek touch. The bits of nonsensical science is genius. The film’s dialogue even caught my husband’s attention. That would be the first time since watching Dead Weight nearly three years ago.
Parts of The Monster of Phantom Lake do drag, but I do think that is due to the fact that it tries so hard to faithful to the genre. Thankfully, this didn’t have twenty minutes of someone running through a woods. This was thankfully shaved down for viewers like me.
I’m looking forward to checking out more of the Mihmiverse in the future. It might not have been filmed in Wisconsin, but the movie had enough charm and passion for me to forgive it.
Oh Wicked Wisconsin Wednesdays. You’re over, and it feels might sad. Over the past ten months or so, I watched a variety of movies, short films, fake films and anthologies. From the astoundingly good through to the astoundingly bad, I made it through all of these movies from beginning to end (well, nearly). I am certain I’ve missed something along the way, but 37 WEEKS! That’s more than half a year’s worth of movie watching.
When I watched my first movie, The Giant Spider Invasion, I watched the MST3K version, thinking I wouldn’t be able to get through such a terrible movie by myself. Little did I know that this Bill Rebane classic would look like motherfucking Orson Welles after some of this shit I put myself through.
The idea of came to me when I arrived in the UK with my new visa. The few months I was back in Wisconsin, I was virtually stranded without a car or friends to hangout with. But strangely enough, I missed it as soon as I touched ground back in London. Each movie I watched was either filmed in this great Midwestern state or set there. Most of the time it was both.
But when I started, I thought of only touching on those movies explicitly set in Wisconsin. I never expected that things would go on for this long. There were several different points in which I thought the end was looming near. What I thought was going to be about six or seven movies, well, ended up with a nice round 37. But one important thing this project has taught me is that there are so many resources out there to find movies. And a very, very special source had to be Brian Albright’s book Regional Horror Films 1958 – 1990: A State-by-State Guide with Interviews. Albright’s book is fantastic and worth picking up if you too want to drive yourself insane with strange films.
As the movie well has pretty much run dry, I thought I would make this week a wrap-up of the highs and lows. Wicked Wednesdays will return to its old format – being whatever the hell I want it to be. Finding things to write about will certainly be easier, but admittedly, it just won’t be the same anymore. But alas, here is the big ending to Wicked Wisconsin Wednesdays:
Best Original Song:
Third place: Whatever Tiny Tim is singing in Blood Harvest
Runner up: “Walk With Me” by Pat Hopkins from Bog Winner: “Sensuous Tiger” by The Friends from The Capture of Bigfoot
Bill Rebane loves to include a good dance scene in his movies. It helps pad the film up to that 90 minute mark and cuts down on the “running around in the woods” footage. The Friends’ song “Sensuous Tiger” is a really awful semi-disco tune with some fabulously strained vocals. But it’s incredibly catchy song that (unfortunately) doesn’t like to leave your head once it’s stuck there. Sing it with me, “SPREAD MY WINGS I KNOW I CAN FLYYYYY!”
Top 5 actually good movies:
5. American Movie
One of the best documentaries I have ever seen full stop. American Movie followed Mark Borchardt while he attempted to make his short-film Coven. It’s slightly painful to watch at times, but it’s also a fantastic picture of a man trying to make his (American) dream come true.
I had a lot of fun reviewing this one, and I was really glad to have the pleasure to watch this. It’s a pretty typical “girl gets pregnant meets boy who wants her to pretend to be woman who’s actually dead so they can kill her and raise her baby as a vampire demon” story. But jokes aside. this is actually a weird little movie, but it has a pretty fun twist at the end that make it all the more enjoyable. This was surprisingly one of the more difficult movies to find. I eventually bought it on DVD, and I’m really glad to see it sitting up on my shelf.
3. Dead Weight
You know the saying “They just don’t make them how they used to”? Well, I think a lot of people apply that phrase to horror films more than any other genre. But there are always exceptions, and those exceptions are often, er, exceptional. 2012’s Dead Weight is a subtle little movie. It doesn’t pull any of the tropes you expect, but rather takes you on a really lonely, isolated journey as a man sets off across state to find his girlfriend during a biological attack. Finding this film was a pleasant surprise, and one that I know I’ll be watching again.
2. Blood Hook
Blood Hook probably shouldn’t be described as a “good movie”, but since I watched this movie on week #2, I’m impressed that I can still remember it (nine months is a long time for my poor memory – it doesn’t stretch that far). But this is one of the silliest, most enjoyable movies I watched. This is probably due to the fact that Jim Mallon (later of MST3K fame) directed it and it was produced by some of the twisted minds at Troma.
I love Deranged: The Confessions of a Necrophile. When I first saw the name, I thought I was going to be stuck watching a horrible exploitation movie. But Deranged surprised the hell out of me to the point that it has become a movie that I genuinely love. The acting is fantastic. The humour is twisted. And it really gets the tone right for a movie about one of the darkest Wisconsinites.
The Ed Gein award for best Ed Gein:
Roberts Blossom as Ezra Cobb in Deranged: The Confessions of a Necrophile
Call the character whatever you want. Blossom owns this role.
Top 5 Worst things I had to watch:
5. Invasion from Inner Earth (or They)
Sorry, Bill. But this was a pretty damn forgettable film. While there are usually some charming aspects to many of Rebane’s films, this is the one where I can’t seem to come up with any.
4. Fever Lake
Fever Lake wasa victim of it’s own lazy writing and clichéd plot. It’s predictable and often seems to suffer from a strange sort of memory loss. Oh Fever Lake, you forgettable pile of rubbish.
3. The Beast of Bray Road
There will be a running theme here of why these five have made my list. Mostly the era, but also the types of people in them: bros. Just the grossest stereotype. And The Beast of Bray Road is full of them. Plus the added bonus of misogyny!
2. Black Cadillac
Oh Black Cadillac. I’m sure some people will consider you an ‘eh’ movie, but you’re the only film I watched that really made fun of Wisconsinites and for that, I will never, ever forgive you. May you rot forever in movie purgatory.
1. Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plain Field
The only movie out of the 37 that I couldn’t bare to watch all the way through. It’s not difficult to point out why this is so wrong: they cast the totally wrong actor – someone who looks nothing like Ed Gein, they changed Gein’s story, which ultimately is just a massive disrespect to any of the victims, and most of all: this is boring as fuck. So many of the early movies I was watching insisted on making people from Wisconsin have Southern accents. Butcher of Plain Field was also an offender. The thing is, Ed Gein’s story doesn’t need to be made up. It’s a true story that should never have been fucked around with and made into some sort of lame-ass, half-assed tale.
Best (well…) Bill Rebane film:
Probably The Cold (aka The Game) because I can’t say Giant Spider Invasion. That would just make me too cool, probably. Much of The Cold is campy fun. The ending is hilarious, and there are super awkward sexy times in a sauna! Fun for everyone!
Total running time: too fucking long
I’m actually really sad this is done. As new films are released, I might cover them, but I can officially say that Wicked Wisconsin Wednesdays is over. On my very final note for this project, I wanted to say that this turned out to be so much more than watching horrible movies set in the greatest state in the good ol’ US of A. Doing Wicked Wisconsin Wednesday showed my home through a lens that will endlessly fascinate me. Sure most of the films showed Wisconsinites as drunk racists, and many of them are. But so many Wisconsin filmmakers have something special and that’s a whole lot of passion. I think that counts for a whole lot. Which leaves me with only one thing left to say:
This is it. My last Wicked Wisconsin Wednesday. 37 weeks of some incredible films. And we can use that word ‘incredible’ in any way we want. But I saved some delicious Bill Rebane for last because really, would this project even exist if it wasn’t for this man?
Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake or Croaked: Frog Monster from Hell or Rana: The Creature from Shadow Lake just plain Rana was made around the time his other creature film, The Capture of Bigfoot, graced us with its existence. But this time there was a bit more originality involved because we’ve got a whole new type of creature: a killer frog-man! Oh and some of the funkiest music to ever be featured in a Rebane film (and that’s saying something with this as competition).
Rana takes place mostly in flashback form as Kelly Morgan tells the story of his childhood to a woman in his cabin who may or may have something to do with this movie. Though strangely enough, one of the first bits we see is a flashback that has nothing to do with little Kelly, but since this is a Rebane film, I’m not going to argue. A fisherman is looking in the waters for a catch when he’s killed by his own harpoon.
Though little Kelly is the one who finds some fancy fossil that brings all these strange people together in our little film. He and his forest ranger father are living up at Shadow Lake with a paleontologist woman who has joined in on their camping trip for whatever reason.
But early on, I’m totally won over by the line delivery in this movie. It’s as though everyone is seeing their lines for the first time and are just testing them out to see if they can pronounce the words or not. It’s stiff enough to make the Rana costume look realistic.
There’s also a group of three men in flannel marching around the woods. But it doesn’t matter because LOOK! Baby Raccoon!!
Baby animals are so distracting. I suppose that’s why I missed the fact that these men are supposed loggers. Get it? Because they’re wearing plaid? And remember that funky music I mentioned before? It’s following a strange old man as he runs through the forest. Again, I feel like I’ve missed the point of this character, but he’s hand-down the best part of this movie after the baby raccoon.
But then… older Kelly and random lady are making out in the present-day living room? Of course, Rebane. Of course.
So this movie is still going on, but I feel like I missed something like maybe the point of this movie (as is per usual with Rebane films). One of the loggers/legend-hunter was attacked by something in the lake. Whatever grabbed him has infected his leg with some neon-green pus. They’re looking for the entrance to some find some sort of treasure, which I guess explains something but also begs more questions like, why did anyone bother to hide something interesting in Wisconsin?
The old man is caught sneaking around Kelly’s home. His father catches the old man who warns that the frogs “know” about what’s going on up at the lake and that the logging group are going to be “heaps of trouble.” And they are.
The paleontologist’s niece, Susan, passes out when she’s spooked by one of the loggers who is scuba diving. In one of the more unnecessary moments, he brings her up to the shore where he then proceeds to wrap his hands around her neck like some sort of randomly aggressive animal. I guess this was done to make it feel more satisfying when he gets killed off two minutes later, and it definitely works.
The old man tells the paleontologist that her colleague (the fisherman who was harpooned earlier in the movie) is not around and that she should leave as soon as she can. But why listen to him? Everything feels so inviting by this lake. Somehow she’s put off by this exchange and makes Kelly go to question the man instead. He begins to tell the story about these Indians who find this creature that is half-man and half-frog. The Indian then throws this magical yellow pebble into the lake. This apparently brought game to the area of the woods. These pebbles were apparently some sort of gift to Rana who then gave them food. The “yellow pebbles” were actually gold nuggets. And that gold was to remain in the lake.
Everyone on this place clearly hate each other, and spend their time either avoiding each other or making life a hell for the others. The old man is shot by the loggers after he shoots at the loggers. On his death bed, he tells the paleontologist that Rana is there to protect the gold. As he’s dying, Kelly’s father goes to chat to the loggers who claim they are innocent but then proceed to beat the man up.
At this point, shit begins to hit the fan. One of the loggers finds the body of his friend while Susan finds a skull when she falls over in a field. Then the poor logger gets his face smashed into a tree by Rana. And the forest ranger gives absolutely zero fucks when he finds the body.
But by far the BEST, most unintentionally funny death scene is when the final logger is shot by the forest ranger and dies to the oh-so-subtle town of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Suite. But anyway, our leading paleontologist is (rightfully) points out that now that the old man is dead, there is no one to continue carrying out the ritual of giving gifts to Rana. Obviously Rana’s little froggy years were burning as it immediately punches its green arm through the kitchen window, scaring the shit out of everyone left.
The paleontologist is killed, so the remaining three head down river in a raft only to get invaded by Rana himself. Only the kids escape with nowhere to go but home. It doesn’t take long for them to get tracked down and Susan is taken by Rana, who is finally revealed to be a rubber suit-wearing man that sounds like a chainsaw that’s unable to start up.
And the ending, well, is so strange and pointless it could only be in a movie sometimes called Croaked: Frog Monster from Hell.
Rana is pretty much typical Rebane fare: dark shots, nonsensical directing choices and all with a lot of love and occasional humour, which is almost always unintentional. The weird flashback part is completely unnecessary but sort of adds to the charm. And if you really like people wandering around the woods and lake for 90 minutes, this just might be the movie for you! But after all these weeks, Rana was my parting gift, and I find myself left with just one lingering question:
Some weeks I really hate that I’ve subjected myself to this little project. Those weeks are the Fever Lake weeks. But then sometimes I get graced with a gift: something genuinely worth watching, and with this week’s short film – a film actually worth recommending.
Pity is a 2014 short film directed by John Pata, the director of the fabulous Dead Weight. At this point in WWW, I’ve certainly watched a lot of short films and anthologies, all with varied amounts of success. Pity is head and shoulders above them all in both story and overall quality.
The story comes from the liner notes of a Pig Destroyer album titled Prowler in the Yard, it’s a sinister tale of a man’s obsession with a woman. The opening shot shows a lone car parked in the rain. A man sits waiting in an elementary school parking lot across from a white house. The voice-over explains that he took a car from work in order to remain anonymous. The house belongs to the mother of the man’s presumably ex-girlfriend. The sinister voice-over delivers an unsettling look into the prowler’s mind, and bit by bit the story grips you like a narrator in an Edgar Allan Poe story.
Jake Martin, who plays the anonymous man, is like Mickey Rourke’s Marv from Sin City. You know, if Marv had decided to seek revenge in a touch more sinister manner. He switches between calmly watching the woman in the window to losing his grasp on his own reality. He’s does everything with his right hand: picking up a cigarette and lighting it. When the camera pans over to a bloody mess of flesh he says to us (or himself), “Seven digits: one for each day we’ve been apart.”
It’s the thrill of the vague details given in the story that makes what is unfolding so compelling. But the simplicity of the story is only complimented by the beauty of what’s on the screen. Everything happens within the constraints of the car, and when the film ends – it leaves you with absolutely no answers. And that’s fantastic.
This is seven-minutes of incredibly built-up suspenseful hell. And I mean this in every good way possible. I’ve become a solid believer in Pata’s skills as a filmmaker. Dead Weight still remains a highlight in these long-dark weeks of Wicked Wisconsin Wednesday. Though, I’m not sure how much of a compliment that is when the competition includes Black Cadillac. But Pity truly delivers a short film that puts a panic in your stomach, filling the viewer with a fantastic dread of not knowing answer to the question “what happens next?”
Pity is available to watch on Vimeo, but if you’re really interested in independent filmmaking, the DVD is full of extras and available from Head Trauma’s website.
Severed Ties is a horror comedy by Fangoria Films. It’s one part Re-Animator, two parts Basket Case with a dash of film noir and the motherly love of Augusta Gein. Boy trapped in lab by mom. Boy grows mutant, evil arm. Sound like your thing? Probably not, but this little film isn’t as bad as it may seem.
Garrett Morris makes an apperance again (he has a supporting role in Fangoria’s other movie, Children of the Night) reprising his role as the homeless man…? But Severed Ties managed to pull even bigger names with Oliver Reed and Elke Sommer. Like all of Fangoria’s movies, this 1992 film was mostly shot in Wisconsin. It’s not the strongest of those made by Fangoria, but Severed Ties still delivers a strange and sometimes funny film.
Young scientist Harrison Harrison is being monitored in the lab by his mother, Helena, and her Oliver Reed, err… Doctor Hans Vaughan. He’s researching regeneration and trying to create a serum, a task his father had before him. His father believe in allowing his serum to be available to everyone. His son agrees. But unfortunately, mommie dearest is more interest in turning a profit from the product.
The news is broken to him when Doctor Vaughan takes the serum from him. But things get considerably worse when his arm is ripped off. Like any real trooper, though, he runs out of the house and injects the serum to grow his arm back. Not just any arm, though, a reptilian one like the poor creatures he was working on. It eventually takes on a more human appearance, but it definitely grew a mind of its own. Harrison realises that the arm is part him, part reptile and part serial killer (the corpse the scientist was working on).
Garrett Morris’ character “Stripes” appears and takes Harrison’s plasmid. He lost his leg during some war and he determined to grow it back. But he takes Harrison under his wing and introduces him to local crazy, Preach, who must have been excellent inspiration for Andy Serkis’s Gollum. Preach takes it pretty personally when Harrison’s uncontrolled hand slaps him.
Harrison runs away but is quickly chased down by Preach. The arm is ripped off, but remains animated. It proceeds to rip Preach’s face off. The rest of the homeless community seems to find this as good news, at least. Harrison is then attacked by his arm (somewhere some pun about “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” has to fit in here somewhere) until the two come to a mutual understanding.
Meanwhile, there’s trouble in paradise for Doctor Vaughan and Helena. The good doctor can’t replicate the product Harrison made. The arm is caught stealing products for Harrison, which then spurs on a sort of an “arms race” between the two parties of good and evil. In one really excellent scene, an trial of Harrison’s serum goes wrong and gives Stripes a demon leg with teeth. Though the new serum does end up working.
Harrison and his crew have a short-lived success party when they are overheard by the police, leading Doctor Vaughan and Helena straight to them. Harrison’s new girlfriend is kidnapped to have tests run on her.
Things get only worse for the poor scientist as his arm of mutant hands ends up killing all of his news friends. But Stripes survives and rallies the scientist into carrying on with his work.
“It’s time to make an army.”
But the ending is simultaneously hilarious and grim. It’s nothing you couldn’t have called from the beginning, but at least there are plenty of deaths and gore.
I never thought I would say this, but I actually enjoyed Children of the Night more. But still, Severed Ties has its strengths. It can be funny and it is pretty wacky. It’s just not any better than the films it was inspired by. There are at least some fun performances by the main cast. But the real star of the movie has to be the practical effects, which are actually pretty good for a film of this caliber. This is a film probably worth watching if you really feel like murderous reptilian arms are your thing.
I know there has been a solid lack of updating these last few weeks, but I’ve had the honour of having my dad visiting for the last three weeks. While that was pretty fantastic, I’m now behind on absolutely everything from emails to writing to replying to my mother’s “Merry Christmas” text. Going back to work after the holidays is always a bit of a bitch too. January and February is what I will forever deem “the slump months.” Endless days of darkness and being broke.
So for this week’s movie, I thought I would go with something as mindless as the review I’m going to write for it. Feeding Frenzy is a 2010 movie by Red Letter Media, a production company based in Wisconsin who came to notoriety with their blockbuster riffs. Feeding Frenzy is a parody of films like Ghoulies and Critters and it reeks of it in pretty much every scene with over-the-top comedy and outlandish situations.
A prostitute arrives at a motel (which is really located in Franklin, Wisconsin) where she meets her client. She’s a rather reluctant prostitute, who doesn’t seem very enthusiastic about the man in the wheelchair. But he seems even less enthusiastic about her after he kills her with his knife/cane device and her brains end up everywhere. He’s then seeing rolling her body through a hardware store.
In the morning on Downer Ave in Milwaukee, the killer (Mr Plinkett) is managing the hardware store where Jesse Camp works cleaning up the man’s messes. Jesse is constantly being threatened by his boss, saying that if he doesn’t comply, he’ll reveal Jesse’s “dark secret”.
During his shift, Jesse’s crush Christina shows up at the store with her boyfriend Kyle. They’re about the biggest idiots as you’d expect. Jesse is convinced that Christine is with Kyle because she’s too afraid to leave him. But Jesse is clearly also an idiot (which is pretty much the theme of this movie), he decides to finally tell Christine how he feels while he’s in the middle of a conversation with her friend who was about to say she was raped. Jesse is the stupid stockboy that makes Ash Williams look brilliant and thoughtful.
Mr Plinkett orders Jesse to go downstairs and get the tape from Monday night. He delivers the tape back to his boss, who immediately crushes it with his hands. Mr Plinkett becomes even more suspicious when Jesse finds the bag of Christine’s friend stuffed in the Lost and Found box. When he meets up with Christine, she tells him that her friend has gone missing. She seems reluctant to believe him until Kyle convinces her otherwise. The three agree to go to the hardware store that night and see if they can find out anything about Mr Plinkett.
The three get caught by Mr Plinkett while searching his secret part the basement. Kyle, being brave, demands to know what’s hidden inside the giant box. Mr Plinkett agrees, and Kyle is immediately feasted upon by creatures that look like fat, fleshy balls with teeth. While trying to escape, Christine and Jesse accidentally let the creatures out into the world. The beasts then begin feasting on the city, eating more than enough to fill their tiny stomachs.
Meanwhile, Christine, Jesse and Jesse’s co-worker Carl take to the streets to set things right. They all capture the little beasties and trap them in a box, but they are caught (of course) by Mr Plikett and his henchman. He gives his overly-complicated reasoning to the backstory behind the monsters before ordering them into his car. Christine and Jesse wake up strapped to tables. Mr Plinkett gives yet another reasoning behind everything, and the reveal is that he’s brought his wife back to life using the critters. She ends up looking like something between a goblin from Troll 2 and a yeti.
It’s up to Christine and Jesse to set things right, but considering they are two of the least intelligent characters to grace the screen nothing is straightforward. There’s a sort of meandering ending, but there’s at least one amusing bit to make you feel satisfied.
Feeding Frenzy is supposed to be as silly and nonsensical as the movies it’s paying homage to, but a lot of the humor just feels a bit flat. The characters are dumb. Everything they do is dumb. It was a bit too tongue-in-cheek for my taste, but I suppose it will appeal to it’s intended crowd. Just never take it seriously for a second. It is decently gory and pretty fun at time, though. Certainly a movie worth watching if you need something stupid to fill a void in your life. But if you really want some campy classics, just stick to the originals.
Bar fights! Wife beating jokes! Monsters with a hairdresser! Lots and lots of guns!
You know you’re on to gold when one Amazon review reads, “The worst film I’ve seen since 7 heads in a Duffle Bag.” Assuming they mean 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag, I will take their point. This week’s movie was another shitter, but at least it was a remotely fun one to hate.
The 2005 movie The Beast of Bray Road is brought to you by The Asylum, who are known for their Mockbusters and their Sharknado movies. Wisconsin-born director Leigh Scott was one of The Asylum’s most-used directors. Scott worked on over 15 films for asylum in two years. One of them was this thing.
If you recall, I wrote about two “short films” that were “found” in 2002. These two videos, called the Gabel films, tried to be a kind of found footage reel of a man seemingly getting attacked by the beast of Bray Road. It does a fairly good job at looking like a reel of 1970’s home footage. The Beast of Bray Road was released a few years later. It follows the same legend of the Gabel moves, which is essentially a werewolf-like monster who stalks a road in southern Wisconsin. I think that’s the gist of it, anyway.
This is really a period of time in movie history that I hate. Plus it always brings flashbacks of Black Cadillac and I will never get over it. The Beast of Bray Road the type of movie I would expect some guy who refers to himself as a “bro” to describe this movie as “balls to the wall, dude!” Though my imaginary bro character is what I imagine was the target audience for this film. Yes I know this is a low budge movie, but this time era (the decade from about 1996 to 2006) just reminds me of tube tops, light-wash jeans, frosted hair and questionable hair choices. And those are some pretty gross memories.
And somehow this movie ticks all those boxes right in the first couple of frames.
A group of friends are leaving the local bar at closing time. Some of them are trying to get laid while others only are interested in continuing the party at someone’s house, but all have to leave
under the insistence of the bartender, Kelly. Right off the bat, there are already some classic lines of poetry like: “I heard that… hooker” and “Can you not see I’m trying to get laid here?” Unfortunately, these are what all the characters are like in this movie.
One girl, Gretchen, decides she’s had enough for the night and heads home in her junker of a car. But her car breaks down along the way. She calls her friend for help, but her face is clawed by an invasive hairy arm. In the strangest scene cut ever, she’s suddenly out of her car and running through the woods. And no, Gretch doesn’t make it to the opening credits, but is killed a by this beast with bright green eyes and flowing brown hair (but I think it’s meant to be a werewolf).
Enter Sheriff Phil (played by Jeff Denton, also known as Jeff Dneton from Pirates of Treasure Island because grammar), he finds the empty car and reports that the abandoned car is on Bray Road. The blood down the side of the world is suspicious to him, so he sends a sample to the lab to be tested. In the meanwhile, he goes to interview the owner of the car and the wife he likes to beat up, Gretchen’s sister. The sister tells him to head back to Kelly’s bar and look for more information there.
Phil arrives and… wait. What the fuck is this?
Anyway, this is typical sleazy redneck fare inside Kelly’s bar. This might even be the same bar from Black Cadillac. Phil sort of shuffles around “interviewing” people, but just gets hit on because he’s sooooo dreamy! Oh and he then goes to interview the boyfriend, but according to his friend’s Gretchen is a slut so she probably just went home with someone else.
So I guess more importantly, Shelly’s husband is horrible. Thankfully it pays off when we get to watch him die a brutal death at the hands of the beast, and then Shelly shoots her shotgun at the thing. After the beast gets a little too ambitious for one night, it attacks a dog in a backyard. A boy and his friends see it, and beg their mother to do something about it. So she shoots at it. Which thank god for America and guns, right?
The mother goes with the two boys to the police station where Phil learns the story of the Beast of Bray Road. But Phil is a big city boy so he doesn’t believe in monsters. Only stupid rednecks do. On his exit from the scene of the beast attack, he means a cryptozoologist named Quinn. He’s interested in the case, believing that there is something interesting going on in the town. Phil turns down the offer of help and essentially suggests he piss off. When he gets back to the station, he sees Quinn setting up camp inside. Phil’s co-workers at the station believe that they can exploit these attacks to drum up a tourism industry and to bring in documentary crews from television shows. This clearly annoys Phil, but since there’s “no monster” he allows it to carry on.
Shelly and Phil bump into each other at Gretchen’s funeral and we learn that for some reason, Shelly isn’t telling anyone that her husband is dead. Does she not know that everyone would believe her because everyone knows there a monster because, well, IT ATE YOUR SISTER? She returns to Gretchen’s grave that night, totally wasted. When her friend hears the beast, she runs off. But Shelly seems to think that it won’t hurt her.
While more people get picked off left and right, Phil is busy pulling the moves on Kelly. Before they can consummate their love to each other, Phil is called away and informed about the several bodies that have been discovered. With that, the police squad unite to take on their lycanthrope.
The twist at the end is pretty decent. Considering no one will (or should) watch it, I’ll just tell you that (spoilers) Kelly is the Beast of Bray Road and that’s why you should never trust women. To it’s credit, The Beast of Bray Road actually has some fun, and pretty good practical effects. That plus horrible characters actually makes the death scenes pretty entertaining to watch. But it’s still pretty full of some dated tropes and issues that make this movie more boring than campy fun.
I recommend this movie to fans of Linkin Park, misogyny, frosted lip gloss and Black Cadillac.
Laserdisc makes this two weeks in a row with anthology horror films. This was not planned. In fact today I got home and thought “huh, it’s Wednesday” and I had shit planned for today. Somehow this little buddy was knocking around in my notes and I decided to take it out for a spin. I was even more pleased to see the short running time. Any film that is under 20 minutes is always fine by me.
This selection of films couldn’t be any more different than Hole in the Wall, but both contain the same strain of humor mixed in with the story. It’s all a bit surreal. On one hand it’s quite funny for a laugh, but most of this feels light-years away from the days of Bill Rebane. It seems to now be the goal to make something that’s intentionally bad instead of trying so hard and falling flat. Perhaps it’s an homage to the strange cult films that came before them. All I know is that films like Laserdisc just don’t have the same charm, even if it is still pretty entertaining to watch.
Laserdisc opens with a pair of friends going trick-or-treating together. The first house they arrive at only has candy in the basement, according to the resident. So the friends willingly enter the basement before being invited to watch a laserdisc together. On this laserdisc are the short films that they watch throughout the night.
Since this has a running time of a sweet 17 minutes, you can expect that all the segments are pretty damn short. “The Mutation” follows a man and his unwillingness to listen to others (mostly be looking in the freezer). “Sweetest Kill” is a diabetic’s nightmare. “The Horror Roll” is about a man without loo roll and his quest for a clean bum. The following segment, “The Sale That Keeps Selling”, gives a bit of gore when one man tries to take out a vacuum cleaner salesman.
The final segment, “Warm Jellybeans”, contains a plot about two brothers just wanting to complete a drug deal before their dance class. They even have enough time to throw in a twist at the end of this one. Nice Melons Films (who present the film and made the two segments – “Warm Jellybeans” and “Laserdisc”) took first place at the 48-hour Film Project for Milwaukee for a different short film they made. They have a string of short films up on their YouTube page and each has the same feeling as the one that carries through Laserdisc.
It’s clear that none of these segments don’t want to be taken seriously. I wouldn’t believe anyone for a second if they said I was supposed to get something out of this other than a little chuckle. Not even a shudder. I guess calling Laserdisc a series of horror shorts is using the term as loosely as possible. Dare I even say it, but I almost miss the days of Rebane and that lot. Even if they are horrible. I really don’t think anthology films and I are meant to be.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that I didn’t think where would be a week 29. There’s a week 30 after that too. Every once in a while I get to a point where I think “Well, that’s just about it” and I discover that there is always something else lurking around the corner. Although I do have to say that this horror anthology might have escaped my notice if it wasn’t thanks toJohn Pata, who directed the fantastic Dead Weight.
Hole in the Wall is an anthology containing several different short films.
The first bit opens along with the opening credits as a man drags a sheet-wrapped body through a field. A boy, Eli, is watching the man through, well, a hole in the wall. Since Eli’s clearly a pretty indiscreet farm boy, he’s pulling into the upstairs room by the man to watch what happens with the body. This segment is interspersed with the others as a sort of linking feature.
In, what I guess in the next short film, a hitchhiker is picked up, knocked out and put in a cage. The hitchiker wakes up in a run-down apartment to see his surroundings with his dog in the cage above him (which at this point I can only care about the dog because I just know it’s going to die). Uh then I guess the kidnapper starts pissing blood? This is clearly the start of the film’s grim and gory reputation. He’s clearly not a friendly sort of fellow and continues keep the two in their separate cages despite the fact that he probably needs to go to hospital to get it dick looked at.
I’m really going to try not to give too much away, but I will say there is some pretty gross stuff going on in that little apartment. There were plenty of “OH GOD” and “FUCKING HELLS” going on as I got throughout this segment. The kidnapper is a man who clearly needs to sort his shit out.
The third segment clearly was more interested in a comical tone. It opens in 1944 where a pre-grave-digger Ed Gein is sitting with his Mama, learning about the dangers of the world. In present day, a man is meeting with three women. He has a chair that apparnetly Ed Gein sat in himself. The three witches (?) raise Ed Gein from the dead, but he’s back – as a killer dentist. Watch Gein take people’s teeth out! Watch Gein pick up girls at a bar! It’s fucking weird, but hey! It’s not the worst Ed Gein film I’ve seen.
Segment #4 is uh… well, more different yet. I’m not really sure how to describe it other than Blood Harvest with Tiny Tim’s character on acid. Um, if I’m trying to take anything about it, men in drag/clown make-up are not always trusty-worthy sex partners. So. Moving on to part 5? Actually, the two are quite similar. As the next bit is about as trippy as it’s predecessor. Mostly because the actress drops acid.
Really, I’m writing this as I’m watching this and I still can’t say what the fuck is going on. Though, wonder if my problem is trying to look for meaning when perhaps there isn’t supposed to be anything other than “this is a total trip and it’s gruesome.” But I know that can’t possibly be true. And I kind of hate not understanding what’s going on.
After, the backstory is filled in with the main story. The memory begins with a man, who is covered in blood, dragging his handy axe. He’s shot and killed where the woman possessing his mind takes over the man who murdered him. “It and I… are one.”
But I’m still not really sure if any of this means anything at all. It’s been a really demented ride, but some of the segments are so far-out I feel like I need to be watching them in a classroom. I can’t say which segments are better than the other because it’s clear that some were more conventional that others while some tried some really interesting and different techniques in their story telling. This is not trying to be diplomatic, but each piece really delivered something drastically different than the last. Certainly some are utterly unforgettable, but I think there was quite a strong sense of feeling throughout the movie that I can watch these and feel “Well, this is Wisconsin horror.”
In the politest terms possible, Hole in the Wall is fucking disgusting, but it offers some brutal imagery that could only be offered by an indie production. It will make you uncomfortable and squeamish. Half-way through watching this movie, I had to run down to our local pub. It’s safe to say that this movie affected me because even though I live in one of the largest cities in the world, I felt that eerie loneliness and vulnerability that these Wisconsin-based movies made me feel, which I think speaks volumes of its content.
If you’re reading this on the published date, you might be thinking, “Bitch, it’s a Tuesday.” And it is. But this is a pretty busy week for me as Wednesday and Friday I will be at the Prince Charles Cinema to see Zach Galligan present Gremlins and Grelmins 2: New Batch. All exciting things on top of Thanksgiving on Thursday (which I still have to celebrate every year, even in dreary England).
And yes. If you’re wondering if that stop to the pub made me a little drunk while writing this? The answer would be yes.