I want to pump You Up…with Embalming Fluid!

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In the 80’s two of the biggest cliches were cheesy horror films and the Fitness Craze. I’m actually pretty shocked we didn’t see dozens more films like Death Spa. Fuck, for all I know, there are dozens more but they are just as, or more obscure as this film. If so, let’s hope they stay buried, because sitting through this film made me feel the burn…in my frontal lobe, anyway.

The owner of a state of the art Fitness Club is plagued by visions of his dead wife, while his technologically advanced facilities cause deafly accidents towards his clients. Is it just technological failure? Or is it something more sinister…something from beyond the grave…something Interesting? Well, definetly NO to the last part. Goddammit…I tell ya, when I first heard of this, I just saw the poster, and immediately thought “Holy fuck! This looks stupid! This should be good for a laugh!” So I opened a bottle of wine, and started watching. About 5 mins in, something distracted me and caused me to stop watching, so I resigned myself to picking it back up later. When I next got the chance to watch, I WS sans booze. I cannot stress enough how bad of an idea this was. This film REQUIRES you to be fucked up, otherwise it is just painfully stupid. How stupid? There is a scene where a girl approaches a guy on an exercise bike to flirt with him. He tells her he is gay by saying…and I shit you not…”Sorry hunny, I’m Beta-Max and you’re VHS”
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At least there are some decent gore-gags, if folks getting torn up by gym equipment, or scalded in the Sauna. Hopefully you remember to booze yourself up sufficiently before you watch this ridiculously dated film. In fact, it might be a perfect film to make a drinking game for. Take your first drink if you recognise a name in the credits who is too good for this pile of shit (Ken Foree), next, drink for every time someone wears neon Lycra on screen. Bonus drinks if they are wearing multiple layers in multiple colors. With any luck, you’ll be shitfaced enough in mere minutes.

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Let’s get NASTY: The Cannibal Man, and Cannibal Terror

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I don’t know who it was who was tasked with watching this film to decide whether it was “Nasty” or not…but I really wished they had done a better job. Had this Chap bothered to watch the whole film back then, I wouldn’t have to sit through this hunk of shit now!

This 1972 Spanish film, directed by Eloy De La Iglesia, opens in slaughterhouse, and shows several live cows strung up, and exsanguinated(Fantastic word! If you don’t already know it, learn it, and use it often). A fitting opening for any film sure to be as visceral and demented as to rank among the Video Nasties, right? Fuck no. Our main character works in the Slaughterhouse, and believe it or not, the opening credit sequence has more bloodshed than the rest of the film combined.

Our main character, Marcos, is taking a cab home with his girlfriend, but the cabbie won’t let them fuck in the car, so he kicks them out and demands they pay the fare anyway, sparking a fight that sees Marcos accidentally kill the cabbie. Naturally Marcos wishes to keep this a secret, but his girlfriend, who was the only witness, wants to go to the police…so of course SHE has to die…but as the film goes on, more people become suspicious, and also must be killed to keep them quiet…thus arrousing more suspicion… You get the idea. And just to make sure the inclusion of the slaughterhouse wasn’t TOTALLY pointless, Marcos uses it to dispose of his growing pile of bodies. NOT ONCE DOES HE FUCKING EAT ANYBODY!!!

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I freely admit that I got bored frequently while viewing this, and started fucking around on my phone, but I seriously doubt I missed anything of great significance. Fuck this movie! I mentioned earlier that I doubt the DPP censors were paying attention when reviewing this film…I bet you anything they just saw the title, and the opening Bovine Bloodletting and immediately threw this in the Nasty bin. And what the actual fuck is with that title? I thought I was in for a story of an Urban Cannibal living in modern society, with scenes of gut-munching applenty. As it turns out, the original title of the film is La Semana Del Asesino, re-titled as The Cannibal Man for international release. Sure…why the fuck not?

Had the film gotten a different title, it likely never would have wound up on the Nasty list, as they seemed to have a real hard on for anything with Zombie, Cannibal, Power Tools, Don’t…, and “Where is the house in relation to something” in the title. This wouldn’t be the first or last time a film was guilty by association, as Toby Hooper’s Death Trap was likely deemed Nasty because of the association with Texas Chainsaw Massacre(more on Death Trap in a later entry). Hell, with a different title, I may have enjoyed the film. My expectations surely wouldn’t have been so out of whack. Call me crazy,but I think Cannibal films should be gory, subversive and totally exploitative… Speaking of which…

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Fuck yeah! Directed in 1981 by Alain Dereuelle, this French film shares a staggering number of similarities with the Jesus Franco directed Mondo Cannibale…and its no surprise. Franco was an uncredited “writer” for Cannibal Terror, but seems to have much more of an active role. If you watch both CT, and MC, not only will you notice a startling number of the same actors, and dubbing actors…but much of the exact same footage…and not even very good footage at that. They even manage to repeat the same footage several times in the same film…withing 30 seconds of itself!  Seems Franco was pulling his favorite trick, filming multiple features at the same time all the while leaving the unsuspecting producers to foot the bill. Apparently several of his actors found out years later that Franco had starred them in films for which they had no knowledge of, let alone been paid for. At any rate, both of these hilariously similar films are terrible, yet Cannibal Terror is regarded as “The Good One”, simply because Mondo Cannibale is the worst cannibal film ever made.

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Yup. THESE ARE THE CANNIBAL TRIBE! Dude on the left looks like Steve Perry from Journey. And it gets better…when they are depicted feasting on the flesh of a woman, it is clearly a pig carcass they are tearing up. You can see the trotters. Any time these poor excuses for Cannibals are on screen, I’m laughing my ass off. Its fucking great! It’s like they decided the bare minimum effort would be good enough.

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The plot is pretty flimsy, but it could be worse. Two bumbling criminals botch a kidnapping, and along with a Hooker, flee to the jungle to hideout with a friend. Things may have been OK, but of course, one of the kidnappers rapes the wife of their friend. This seems like standard exploitation film territory, or at least it does until in the next scene, the newly raped wife is dancing and flirting with her rapist, and even encouraging everyone to strip. Now, it’s possible that her kink is rape-play…but I’m pretty sure its just the result of shitty editing and cobbleing together a feature from footage shot for a different purpose. The whole film is distinctly lacking in any kind of organic flow, or unifying logic. It all feels terribly random. Fortunately, random equals hilarious!
This is without a doubt one of the worst films I’ve reviewed in this series so far, but easily one of the most entertaining, if even for the wrong reasons.

Brief Bloodletting: “No Pets Allowed”

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Yes, my lovely creeps…This is the Birth of another series of articles here in The Haunt. I’ve been meaning to get around to this for some time, as I’ve received several short film submissions by a great number of generous film-makers. I’m genuinely disappointed in myself at the lack of content generated lately, and am taking steps to change that. We begin with Vancouver-made short directed by Nadine L’Esperance.

No Pets allowed is a fucked up little slice of  joy, establishing a creepy atmosphere, washing it down with gore, and never afraid to season with cheese and sleaze. It’s like if a John Waters film had a bastard love child with 80’s era shot on VHS gorefests (think Cannibal Campout)…and the kid is into Punk Rock! Our story begins with a sweet-faced young Rebecca who is traumatized after witnessing the cruel and brutal fashion in which her Father disposes of the pets she brings home. Fast forward a few years, a grown Rebecca(Holy balls, has she GROWN!), now played by Samantha Mack, still loves her pets…but now she keeps some very unusual creatures. I won’t spoil the film for you, as I encourage everyone keep an eye out for it and see it for yourself.

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Real Vancouver Punks, over the top gore, Grainy video effects as well as a creepy and rad synth score all ad to the charm of this feature . The two biggest standouts are concerning Rebecca…no…not THOSE two…yes, Samantha Mack has large and fantastic Ta-Tas…let’s move on! The duel portrayal of  Rebecca stood out to me quite a lot.  As a child, Rebecca has a haunting look in her eyes. Young Rebecca (played by the Directors Daughter) makes us believe that a dark seed has been planted deep within her, and we just know that seed will grow into something frightening. Such a strong performance from such a young Actress, and pulling it off with such little screentime, shows a world of future potential. On the flip side, Mack’s portrayal of the adult Rebecca is alluring and foreboding all at once. She is sexy and dangerous, and she makes no effort to hide this. This time her eyes show the wild twinkle of a woman reveling in her madness. You want her. You KNOW she is going to be trouble…but you a don’t care. And that is exactly what she has been counting on. The best part is that at every turn, we can can see it clear as day on her face…She truly enjoys the horrible things she does.

I really liked this short. It has virtually all the elements I enjoy in a film, and my only gripe is that i wish it was a full length feature. Maybe it’s better to leave the audience wanting more? Either way, keep your eyes peeled for screenings (like the film page on Facebook to get updates), because No Pets Allowed is very worthy of your time. Whether you are interested in a glimpse at how the spoiling of childhood innocence can lead one down a dark and twisted path later in life, or if you would just rather see a Bloodletting-Beauty carve up victems, this is a short that has got you covered.

Lets get NASTY: Cannibal Ferox(81) and Cannibal Holocaust(80)

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There have been a few entries on the Nasty list, where i genuinely have no idea why they were included. Often it’s something that came along at the wrong time and pissed off the wrong stuffy Englishman, and thus found itself banned. Not the case with these two entries. They are the epitome of the word NASTY!

Cannibal Ferox (aka, Make Them Die Slowly), was released uncut on video in the UK via a group called Replay. Almost immediately the film came under fire for it’s scenes of extreme violence and sadism, as well as scenes of real animal torture and slaughter. It’s one thing to harshly depict rape and murder against humans, but don’t you DARE harm any of those cute lil fuzzy-wuzzies! Straight to the Nasties list with you!

Similarly, Cannibal Holocaust was released to instant infamy in 1981. With its reputation of Animal mutilation, rape, and torture coupled with a narrative style that has the audience almost believing the on screen carnage is real, it comes as no surprise that CA was successfully banned and prosecuted. In addition to obscenity charges, Director Ruggero Deodato was charged with Murder due to audiences being so convinced the on-screen deaths were real. After calling the supposedly dead actors as witnesses, the charges were understandably dropped, yet Deodato was still prosecuted for Animal Cruelty.

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After watching both of these films back to back, (BTW, don’t fucking do that. For serious.) it becomes pretty obvious that the two films are nearly identical in many respects. The plot of both films is virtually the same, that being a small group of Americans travel deep into the Amazon to study/document the supposed savages that reside there. The Americans torture/rape/push the Natives too far, prompting an intensely violent response, revealing that The Americans were in fact the true savages. Yet despite these nearly identical themes, both films take vastly different approaches to getting there. With it’s proto-found-footage format, and hyper-realism, CA also juggles a narrative dealing with the Medias obsession with violence and sensationalism, and the moral debate of just how far to go. All of the “recovered footage” in the film is filmed in a shaky style that really gives the impression of a handheld camera balanced on a shoulder, and really does look like unedited documentary style footage. Taking it’s cues from the popular Mondo films of the era(Look up what Mondo films are…I may end up doing a feature on them someday), CA paints a grim picture for the audience, that of a culture so motivated by their own entertainment…their own pursuit of thrills that it has left behind all of it’s civility. More than that, it holds up a mirror and lets us see a reflection of the damage that we, in our arrogance, visit upon those “less civilized than ourselves”. Social Commentary masquerading as an Exploitation film.

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Cannibal Ferox, on the other hand is an unabashed Exploitation Film hiding behind the shadow of Cannibal Holocaust. Gone is the Social Commentary, save for the general notion that “Civilized Man” is really just a giant asshole. In it’s place is a film that strives to hit all the same marks as Cannibal Holocaust, and up the sleaze while doing it. What i noticed right away is an incredibly Misogynistic streak through the film. Every female character in the film finds herself the victim of violence, is frequently called a Twat, or suffers some for of sexual exploitation or torture. Hell, in the opening credit scene, there is even a clear shot of a man on the streets of New York holding up a sign that reads : “Husbands of the world UNITE”, a clear reference to the backlash against the rise of feminism. With all the controversy stirred up by Cannibal Holocaust, Ferox seemed content with merely existing alongside it and being just as disturbing. The biggest difference is that while both films will likely upset you, the experience of watching Ferox will be over once the credits roll. Cannibal Holocaust will find a deep dark place within you to make a home.

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A lot of Exploitation films dont hold up well with the passage of time. Away from the grimy lights of the grindhouse cinemas, its pretty common for the once celebrated gems to be revealed as hokey, cheap, shallow and just plain shitty. These are two films that prove sometimes the filth of those fabled 42nd street cinemas will never be wiped clean. They remain today, just as troubling, shoking, unsettling…and yet entertaining, as they did yesterday. The next few installments of this series will see several other films from the Cannibal movie Boom, and when it is released, I’ll be doing a special Nasty report on the spiritual sequel to Cannibal Holocaust, Eli Roth’s Green Inferno.

 

And you thought the Bates Motel was twisted…

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What do you do when you set out to make a serious Horror film inspired by Psycho and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but you just don’t have the budget? You say “Fuck It”, go for comedy, and you make Motel Hell.

This gem has rightly become a tongue in cheek Cult Classic. Released in 1980, and like so many films reviewed here, didn’t do particularly well until it eventually found it’s audience on home release. What comes as a total shock to me is the producers didn’t think to market the film with a limited run of Smoked Meat! Which leads us in to the plot…

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The Motel Hello (the “O” flickers on the sign, conveniently) is run by the Murderous Brother and Sister duo of Vincent and Ida. In addition to the Motel, the grounds have a small farm, a “secret garden” (we’ll get back to that), and a smokehouse where Vincent makes his “Famous Smoked Meat”. Naturally the secret ingredient is HUMAN FLESH, and they will go to any lengths to protect their secret, as well as maintain their supply. Particularly Ida. Vincent sets and maintains booby traps near the Motel to ensnare new victims which he takes to the secret garden, buries them up to their neck and feeds them through tubes until he is ready to cure and smoke their flesh…because for some idiotic reason, he only smokes three at a time.

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Along the way, we meet the third and youngest sibling, Bruce. In a true twist of unpredictable comedy genius, Bruce left home at a young age and became an officer of the law! What crazy situations will this lead to? As it turns out, a lot of bizarre situations that will leave you scratching your head and wondering “What kind of mind thinks up Daffy Bullshit like this?” For fuck sakes, Vincent dons a giant Pig mask during the climactic chainsaw battle…for no fucking reason!

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As random and nonsensical as this film is, it is a lot of fun and had me laughing way more than most Horror-Comedies. I’ve said many times before that often the stupider a Horror film is, the more i enjoy it, and in Motel Hell, we have another perfect example. The absurdity of films from this era seems to make them age like a fine wine, only getting better/shittier with age. I’m hoping to start hosting semi-regular Double Bill Screenings in the Greater Vancouver area, and Motel Hell is a perfect example of the kind of films i hope to showcase. Do you have any suggestions for other titles to screen? Venues to host? Ways i can pull this off while spending and or losing as little money as possible? Contact me, and let’s make this shit happen!

6/10 Random Pig Masks

The Cryptid Crypt: The Mothman Prophecies

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I labored greatly over the decision whether or not to include this review under the banner of the Cryptid Crypt. The film is much more a psychological thriller than it is a creature feature. The nature of the Mothman itself is not unlike this film, in that one can constantly ask “What is it?”, and never receive a definitive answer. Ultimately I decided to include it based on two things. 1) There needs to be way more entries into the Cryptid Crypt, so i better not let an opportunity go to waste. 2) Monsterquest devoted a whole episode to the Mothman, which as far as I’m concerned, gives him all the Cryptid Cred he could ever need.

“We’re not allowed to know”

This film flew under my radar for a great many years. 2002 was an interesting year for Horror fans, post Scream era, just as Asian Horror films were starting to catch on, and before Hollywood Remake fever hit it’s frenzied pitch. Several films came out during this time which didn’t fit into any category and stood out as stellar films in their own right, such as 28 Days Later, Cabin Fever, May, and of course, The Mothman Prophecies. During this time, Not only did i not have regular access to the internet, but i was frequently quite broke. My only hope of seeing Horror films was to rent them, and with a limited budget, i wanted to make sure i wasn’t disappointed by what i selected to watch. Ultimately i relied on word of mouth as well as what trailers i was able to see on TV. I can’t recall whether i was unimpressed with the trailer or if i heard a poor review, but I stayed away from this film until 2 weeks ago. I can’t even remember what made me decide to finally give it a chance, but once i did, I felt compelled to watch it several more times. Each time i would end the experience feeling uneasy and slightly on edge. Not afraid, but as if the film was trying to tell me something that i wasn’t able to decipher yet.

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As cheesy as that may sound, it fits in not only with the Narrative of the film, but with the overall execution as well. The story follows John Klein(Richard Gere), as he struggles to move on with his life in the wake of a Car accident that claimed the life of his wife Mary(Debra Messing). Before she succumbs to her injuries, Mary seems terrified and disoriented because of what may have been an encouter with the Mothman causing the crash, leaving behind strange drawing s of an ominous winged creature she says she saw that night. Two years later, John is functioning, but clearly broken. He is sent on assignment to Richmond Virginia yet mysteriously drives to Point Pleasant West Virginia in a span of time that should not have been physically responsible, and with no memory of having done so. Once in Point Pleasant, John becomes wrapped up in the accounts of several locals who are reporting strange and inexplicable occurrences and sighting of a familiar looking winged creature.

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Soon, John becomes totally consumed with the phenomena that he is consumed with finding answers. About this time is when he speaks with Ingrid Cold. Only conversing to John over the phone, Cold is a mysterious and haunting figure whom we are to assume is the Mothman. Cold makes prophecies about disasters, and chillingly tells John in specific detail things that could only be known if he were inside John’s head.

“If your friend thinks he’s talking to God, he’s off by more than a few degrees.”

Ingrid Cold is the personification of the unexplained within the film. Giving voice to occurrences that cannot be. What do you do when the things that cannot be, suddenly ARE? John tries in vain to connect the dots through the divide of rational and irrational and comes dangerously close to losing himself in the process.

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This movie is a very strange trip. It manages to achieve a certain aesthetic flow, drawing you in while adding mysterious, often surreal layers, yet never once is it forceful or feel like it’s leading you by the hand. Several scene transitions are accompanied by mild electrical interference, giving the impression of being monitored. Adding to the semi voyeuristic tone is the use of POV camera angles, but who’s Point of View are we seeing this from? When Mary wakes up in the hospital, she darts her gaze frantically around the room, the POV appears to be hiding behind a partition and peering out at her bed. Other shots appear as it they are peeking out from behind trees, drifting above moving cars, or even flying over the city.

This film haunts on a subliminal level. As i mentioned before, I have now watched it several times, not because I feel like I’m getting closer to some hidden truth, but because i have the unshakable feeling that there is more to the film that I am not seeing. If a character on screen should appear in a mirror, their actions don’t always match the reflection. This may be the most blatant clue to the viewer that things may not always be as they appear to be.  The film is an adaptation of a book by the same name written by the real life John Klein who documented the supposedly true accounts of Point Pleasant locals who had encounters with the Mothman, leading up to, and after the infamous Silver Bridge Collapse in Point Pleasant. How much is truth and who much is fiction will likely never be answered to universal satisfaction, yet the film certainly succeeds in making me look closer at not only the film itself, but the mysterious events that took point in Point Pleasant, and I encourage you to do the same.

7/10 Collapsed Bridges

If any readers have suggestions or requests for the Cryptid Crypt, or any other section of the blog, feel free to comment below.

Rad Moon Rising

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It’s very rare when merely the title and poster for a film can sell it so effectively. Especially in this day and age. What is Wolfcop about? It’s about a Wolfcop. Nuff said. This little slice of exploitation heaven keeps things simple and it’s paid off in spades!

The story of how Wolfcop came to be is rather unique. Director Lowell Dean entered the very first Cinecoupe Fastrack contest. After beating out 9 other entries, Cinnecoup amped up Dean’s budget, and a guaranteed release in Cineplex theaters across Canada. Most independent films never get theatrical release, and if they do, it is often through smaller cinemas in select markets. To see a film come from such humble beginnings and receive national attention is incredible.

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Cast and crew knew they had to make the most of their opportunity, so to build hype for the June release, they hit the festival and convention circuits hard! Before the June 6th premier, Wolfcop already had legions of fans, and thanks to the support of investors drummed up at festivals, a sequel has already been greenlit. Words can’t express how impressed I am with how this film has been promoted. I was given a limited edition Wolfcop comic while standing in line, and Wolfcop himself is a sexy centerfold in this months Rue Morgue magazine!

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But how was the film? I’m pretty sure I fell in love with this film long before I saw it, so trying to be objective is a bit difficult. I put this one right up against Hobo With A Shotgun as two of the best films in the last five years that deliver an insanely good time. Wolfcop makes good on all the madness suggested by it’s title, yet manages to be more than just an 80’s tinged exploitation romp. Surprisingly, it works rather well as a straight up Cop-flick. Leo Fafard(our Wolfcop, Lou Garou), Jonathan Cherry(conspiracy nut/sidekick Willie), Sara Lind (sultry barmaid Jessica) and Amy Matysio (Hardworking cop Tina) each turn in solid performances that somehow make such a ridiculous premise seem natural and believable by perfectly balancing the dramatic and the silliness.

This is a clever, fun, charming, and most of all BADASS film! A perfect blend of practical creature effects, gore, action, the occult, intrigue, humor, werewolf jokes, and marketability. Praise be to Wolfcop, our new Cult Movie Hero! 

Yes, I know I told you next to nothing about the plot…Just go see it, or you will never forgive yourself!

9.5 out of 10 Drunken Werewolves!