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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
Growing up, I was always afraid of the forest at night time. I was always convinced aliens lurked in the woods behind my parents’ house. If aliens were to invade, they’d certainly begin with rural Wisconsin.
Then my friend’s dad used to tell us stories about a mythical beast. It was seven-foot-tall man walking around the woods with a pigs head, ready to kill us if we wandered off alone. I saw visions of the man for months after that tale.
So, it’s not hard to see why the hodag story took off in the 1890’s. With endless Wisconsin wilderness, your imagination can get the best of you.
In the past few years, the hodag has become “fashionable” again. It appeared as one of the new North American beasts in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. And it’s the main monster in this episode of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated.
This iteration of Scooby-Doo is a bit different. For one, there’s a long-running story arc along with the monster-of-the week. I found that slightly confusing (I’ve never seen a single episode bar this one). But I do understand one thing: cheese.
One day in the gang’s hometown of Crystal Cove, the “Most Haunted Place on Earth”, a travelling curio wagon arrives. Shaggy and Scooby hop inside and explore the exhibits. That’s where they meet the fearsome hodag of Wisconsin. But not convinced by the cheap-looking suit, they leave.
Later, Daphne’s sister Daisy finds the hodag in her room. Daphne gets a call, and the mystery-solving gang go to Daisy’s to investigate. She tells them that the beast stole the jewellery from her room, including an expensive ruby.
Velma begins her sketch based on the description from Daisy, and Shaggy and Scooby immediately recognise the thief as the hodag from the travelling curiosities show.
Upon returning to The Traveling Cabinet of Curiosities, the owner, Gene Shepherd shows the gang around. When they spot a locked box, he explains that he only opens it once a year. When he leaves, they all agree that he’s suspicious. Even I’m suspicious.
That night, Daphne’s family have a cheese party. I’m not actually sure what’s the party is actually for, but I’m from Wisconsin, so I fully accept the existence of cheese parties. During the party, surprise surprise, the hodag attacks again. Only this time, instead of just jewels, the hodag also steals Nova, the dog that Scooby is in love with.
The gang suspect Shepherd of the thefts, and return to his wagon where they find the loot. Even though he’s arrested, Velma isn’t convinced they’d really caught their thief. She reads up on the ability to train certain animals with the ringing of a bell. Before each theft the sound of a bell could be heard, and Nova wears a bell on her collar.
Velma and Fred agree to set a trap for the real thief. They bait the hodag with a key, which it uses to open the chest. They then lure the hodag up a tower using more bells. Eventually the hodag is trapped. When the gang take off its mask, it’s revealed that it’s a monkey named Roberto.
Because of course!
Roberto’s trainer, Mr Fussbuster, is the owner of the town’s cheese shop. He arrives holding onto Nova, and confesses that he trained Roberto to rob for him, but the monkey soon went out of control and began to steal bells. Fussbuster ultimately wanted Roberto to steal what was in Shepherd’s chest: a wheel of 500-year-old cheese.
Scooby then hurls the cheese (the package stolen from the chest) at Fussbuster’s head, allowing him to save Nova. With the real thief caught, the gang try to give Shepherd his cheese back, but he no longer wants it because it’s cracked. He mutters that the cheese told him to go to the town before leaving in his wagon.
Scooby-Doo always ticks the right boxes for me, and this weird, cheese-obsessed episode was perfect. For one, I love a celebration of strange, relatively-obscure folklore. Throw in masked monkey thefts and you’ve got me completely sold.
So sold, in fact, I think I’ll watch the first series. Scooby, you lovable buffoon, you’ve done it again.
Also, if you’re interested in reading more about the hodag, you can read up on him on the city of Rhinelander’s website. If you have any equally fun or interesting local folk legends, please share!
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.
I’ve been hunting for this movie since October now. Throughout that time, I have very much enjoyed mispronouncing the title as “Ass-wang” – like if Wang Chung had their own vampire beast . But thankfully, the movie also goes by the exceedingly generic The Unearthing, which I guess we can only dream of the archaeological thriller that could have been.
I think the title is technically pronounced more like “os-wong”, which is infinitely less fun. Crude (fun) names aside, this is a movie that actually has some cred to it, which is nice for a change. Aswang premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1994, which makes it just that much more sassier and special than Black Cadillac could never dream of being.
Everybody have fun tonight!
Everybody ass-wang tonight.
While I may be scraping at the bottom of the barrel for cash, I did splurge a bit and bought Aswang on DVD. Though it’s a German release (Das ultimative Böse which pretty much just means ‘The Ultimate Evil’), so I’m not really sure if there ever was a UK release for this. Possibly not. Moments like these that I really hate country codes. I’m surprised this little movie has been lost along the wayside. It’s rather difficult to find much about it on the Interwebs. I really couldn’t find to much about anyone connected to the film. The original story was written by Frank L Anderson, who was born in the Philippines and later moved Wisconsin. Most of the actors are from Kenosha. Well, according to IMDB anyway.
Anyway, the movie, right?
Aswang begins with some a girl, Katrina, and her boyfriend discussing their unborn baby. She ignores his pleads to go to a clinic and instead goes into an office where she and a couple sign a rather complicated agreement. Katrina has decided to pose as “Janine” for the Null family. She’ll be acting as Peter’s wife, who won’t see any of his orchard fortune if he isn’t married. His mother is in a wheelchair and seemingly normal until we see her clucking to her pet chicken, but if we’re all being honest with ourselves, isn’t that what any good Midwestern mother do?
Turns out Peter’s twin sister Claire is also a bit off her rockers. She lives unseen in the run-down house in the back garden, but has been under the care of Cupid, the attentive housekeeper. She’s quite attentive, actually as she insists of giving Katrina a drink at the dinner table and is insulted when she tries to turn it down. After knocking back a few, Katrina begins to dance which upsets the mother enough to bring her into a small attack. But everyone seems cheerful enough like some sinister Folgers commercial.
But clearly none of this is good for the baby. “Cider” plus creepy dreams and a really strange family? Poor Katrina, you’re totally fucked.
Meanwhile, Dr Harper is digging through the woods with his dog when they come across a disgusting, rancid skull. He’s later caught trespassing by Janine and Peter. Finding the doctor on the land really seems to be rather protective of his property. But he says he’s been finding scores of those weird skull/nest/cocoon bits all over the area. Seemingly forgiving the small misunderstanding, Dr Harper is invited over for dinner where he is shown Peter’s large collect of art from the Philippines, including a painting of the Aswang.
Dr Harper heads back to his little shack his, uh, shacked up in where he reads up about the Aswang. He discovers that it is Filipino vampire that eats on fetuses. Most die, but some can also turn into a Aswang. But he has little time to do anything with this revelation because he and his dog are quickly axed off. Sorry, fed on by mummie dearest.
We get to see some great worm-tongue, proboscis bit in action by the Aswang. The, I dunno, “slurpy bit” tries to attack Kat in the night, but she actually puts up a pretty damn good fight for a pregnant lady. After seeing Peter arrive to assist his mother, Kat realises that she’s gotten herself into some crazy shit.
Unfortunately, she’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. Instead of trying to get away, she goes to look for “Claire” for assistance. She sees that the small home is covered in blood and dead bodies, but tries to save Dr Harper’s life instead of just getting the hell out of that place. This is pretty standard for horror fare, but I also feel like those mothering instincts should kick in sometime right about now. To be fair, they do as soon as she starts getting chased by a woman with a chainsaw. It’s as good a time as any.
While Kat is busy tripping over graves in the woods and running down long country roads, Peter is mourning loss of Claire, but at least he doesn’t lose sight of the prize: Kat’s unborn baby. She’s eventually brought back by an idiotic policeman and goes straight back into the arms of the Null Nuts. At this point I’m kind of rooting for the Nulls because I’m interested mostly in what the effects will look like.
The ending is actually pretty great and there’s no way in hell I’m going to ruin it by telling you who is the victor in all of this. But it did make me go “Whoa. YES!” So I guess that’s a bit of a victory. Aswang is will worth checking out yourself. If you love screaming at the screen and fearing for character’s lives, watch this bad boy.
I actually really liked Aswang. The story is pretty messed up, there’s lots of gore and a really beautiful setting. Even the acting didn’t suck! HOORAY! I would have liked to have seen more development in the beginning of the film, like how Katrina got herself stuck in this situation to begin with. If you’re not paying enough attention at all, it can be easy to miss what the plan is supposed to be, exactly. Though the film is good on making a rather unsettling atmosphere, it just should have taken it’s time a bit more. I can’t believe I’ve written that for a WWW movie, but I wish this movie was longer.
But what I was mostly disappointed by was the lack of Wang Chung in the soundtrack. And that, I’m afraid, is something that just can’t be forgiven.
I’d walk a million miles
To eat your babe tonight
So if you like my deal
I’ll make you my fake wife
The vampire in me is strong
My mom is just like me
We’re kill you soon
Enjoy that cider, please
SLURP IT UP!
SLURP IT UP!
You’ll chase through the town
SLURP IT UP!
EVERYBODY HAVE FUN TONIGHT!
Everybody Ass-Wang tonight!
EVERYBODY SLURP BLOOD NIGHT!
Everybody Ass-Wang tonight!