The UKHS Writers Christmas Horrors – ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ (1984)

The UKHS Writers Christmas Horrors

‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ (1984) Review

Director: Charles E. Selier Jnr.

Writers: Paul Caimi, Michael Hickey

Starring: Robert Brian Wilson, Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Linnea Quigley

Runtime: 79 mins

UK Certificate: 18

“Santa’s watching, Santa’s creeping,
Now you’re nodding, now you’re sleeping,
Were you good for Mom and Dad?
Santa knows if you’ve been bad…”

It’s that time of year when most folks (especially us horror hounds) turn to festive viewing, and there’s been no shortage over the decades of scream-fests with a Yuletide theme to choose from – and one could do worse than selecting this one, going way back to 1984.

‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ tells the story of young Billy, who as a boy, already scared of the notion of a jolly old cove creeping into your house every December 24th armed with supernatural knowledge of your tiniest of moral misdemeanours, tragically and traumatically witnesses his parents being murdered by a criminal dressed in the garb of that very same fellow, old Saint Nick.

In the aftermath, Billy and baby brother Ricky are sent to a Catholic orphanage and raised under the watchful eye of the cruel and judgmental Mother Superior (played chillingly by stalwart French actress Lilyan Chauvin) and the compassionate, more progressively-minded Sister Margaret (Gilmer McCormick). Understandably, Billy is left so damaged by the events he witnessed that fateful Christmas Eve that he has a dreadful fear of the bloke in the red suit – and Mother Superior’s draconian attitudes regarding virtue and sin (and enthusiasm for punishment) have not been at all helpful to him psychologically…

‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ in many ways is your basic, by-the-numbers traditional 80’s slasher – there’s a killer on the loose, more and more unfortunates are succumbing to his / her foul deeds, knockers burst out all over the show (I really had no idea it was common practice for all women in the state of Utah to go bra-less in the dead of Winter!), but perhaps what elevates it a little above a flat-line cheap-thrills watermark is that rather than follow the ‘Scooby-Doo’ route of ‘who’s the maniac?’, we know from the start who’s undertaking the killings and have the full case history as to why he’s wound up the way he has.

We don’t exactly see the events through his eyes as such, but we’re walking alongside him throughout his spree and whilst we may not approve of Billy’s actions, I think the viewer sympathises with the terrible childhood he’s endured and the film suggests to us in bittersweet fashion, during the montage of him settling into his work as a toy store clerk, that he may have turned out okay in the end, if only it were possible to escape the spectre of Santa Claus in modern USA. Robert Brian Wilson also plays Billy in a simple, charming manner and puts me in mind of a less-calculating Dexter.

Make no mistake however, it’s still very much a thrills and spills affair overall and as I say is full of 1980s horror staples such as imaginative killing methods (some with a festive twist, of course!), a sequel set-up – why not indeed? – which manages to feel un-forced, and the wonderful Linnea Quigley not wearing a lot. All this and more pushes it to the exploitation end of the scale – it has a storyline which basically sensationalises mass murder brought on by severe childhood trauma and physical abuse by nuns after all – and it’s none the worse for that (plus I’m always sold on anything featuring an appearance by Linnea!).

To sum up, ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ is a slasher classic featuring exploitation undertones, with an antagonist who, while not quite likeable, is certainly sympathetic. Treat yourself to a throwback thrill this December and get hold of this old gem to warm your horror-hungry cockles!

“Naughty!”

7/10

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988) Blu-Ray Review

hchdvd1Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988) Blu-Ray Review

Dir- Fred Olen Ray

Starring – Jay Richardson, Linnea Quigley, Michelle Bauer & Gunnar Hansen

88 Films Slasher Classics Collection 06

UK Blu-Ray Release from 88 Films – 23rd March 2015

The CHAINSAWS used in this movie are REAL and DANGEROUS! They are handled here by seasoned PROFESSIONALS . The makers of this Motion Picture advise strongly against anyone attempting to perform these stunts at home. Especially if you are naked and about to engage in strenuous SEX. My Conscience Is Clear!”  Fred Olen Ray

And with that so begins the 1988 schlockfest that is HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS .

Private Investigator Jack Chandler (Richardson) is hired by the mother of a young runaway (Quigley) who has left home due to her step-father’s nightly visits. Chandler gets a call from the local PD who have a girl fitting the runaways description in custody, she is charged with the murder of a client and two police officers with a chainsaw.

Unfortunately for Chandler this is a dead-end , and now as the film progresses and we see more prostitutes do away with their ‘Johns’ using a chainsaw as the weapon of choice. Mercedes (Bauer) sees of a burly client whilst Lisa (Elise) strikes out baseball loving perv Hermie (Fox Harris). At each killing there is a mysterious dark stranger in the background , but who is he and why are these sexy sexy party girls butchering their clientele ?

hchdvd2Well Jack is handed a book of matches found amongst some grizzly body parts tossed away in a bag, and on the book is a number. This leads Jack to an encounter with the lovely Mercedes and much much more.

Now where to start with Fred Olen Ray’s seminal work on safe sex ? Well I (unlike some who pretend to be) am old enough to remember the UK release on VHS, in fact I did own a copy until ‘The Culling’ back in the mid 90’s when I had to get rid of most of my VHS collection (insert tears of sadness). Anyway without going into massive detail as this review is for the new 88 Films release, the UK VHS release had the word ‘Chainsaw’ deleted from the cover and artwork and it was replaced by a picture of a chainsaw instead, so we ended up with Hollywood ‘pic of a chainsaw’ Hookers. Yes that was the crazy days of 1980s moral panic Thatchers Britain.

So before even watching HCH it already had the ‘BBFC’ factor , now add to this Michelle Bauer in red underwear wielding a phallic chainsaw, one of the most iconic images of 1980s horror , and you have a cult classic in the making. But even with all of the above you still a good film, don’t you?

hchdvd5Firstly director Fred Olen Ray is the king of Eighties & Nineties pulp cinema, and he was pumping out 5-10 features a year. There are many of varying quality , but what you will get (mostly) is laughs and babes, in fact I think Fred is almost hitting 20 films of his own that feature the word bikini in the title. He may not be to everyone’s taste but if you are a fan of the Eighties the do yourself a favour and check out his work , especially his earlier titles.

Well HCH is an absolute classic, it embodies everything that I love in Eighties cinema. Made over just 5 days pulp director Fred Olen Ray managed to get horror icon Gunnar Hansen, scream queens Linnea Quigley and Michelle Bauer and introduced Jay Richardson , who he would work with on numerous later features.

HCH is a full on riot, it has blood, gore, tits, laughs, violence, tits and fucking chainsaws. What is not no like? Running as a film noir comedy , HCH has a running narrative from lead Jack Chandler that gives us an insight into the mind of an LA private detective. And it is absolutely hilarious, and in fact HCH is one of the greatest horror comedies you will ever see. Jack Chandler is just full of side-splitting one-liners that just crease me up each and every time I hear them , and I have listed a few at the end of the review.

But as usual I am waffling and the review is all over the place, but I love HCH so much that it is very difficult for me to maintain a steady cognitive stream as images keep flashing in my brain. Bauer doing her amazing sexy nude dance (and miming the wrong song – points to ring), Chandler’s one-liners, Gunnar Hansen just smouldering, Linnea Quigley in a double chainsaw dance and lots and lots more.

hchdvd688 Films must be continually applauded for their releases. The quality of the films chosen, transfers and extras are exceptional and at the moment they are second to none in my opinion in the UK re-release market. They are also not just bringing these films back to us seasoned older horror hacks but also introducing these gems to a new, younger audience.

The restoration looks fantastic and the sound is superb, real care and love has gone into this and it can be seen throughout the complete presentation.

So if you are looking for one of the most iconic and influential no-budget horror films from the decade that brought us poodle perms and care bears then look no further because 88 Films have just knocked this out of the park. And I haven’t even started on the extras yet!!

Essential Viewing 9/10

You can purchase HCH from ** Films own shop – http://88-films.myshopify.com

The Extras

lqhwLINNEA QUIGLEY’S HORROR WORKOUT – Bonus feature directed by PUPPET MASTER’s Kenneth Hall and starring the beautiful blonde icon of HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS in an alluring, creature-packed, fear-fitness video! Join former PLAYBOY pin-up Linnea as she whips zombies and other monsters into shape with all of the cheeky and sexy charm that you would expect from the legendary Scream Queen! -With Bonus Audio Commentary!! A unique piece of trash gold and the audio commentary from Linnea & Kenneth is brilliant.

SPECIAL FEATURES

Brand New Director overseen Restoration

5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack

LPCM Stereo Soundtrack

Audio Commentary with director Fred Olen Ray and David DeCoteau

Audio Commentary with genre experts Calum Waddell, director of SLICE AND DICE: THE SLASHER FILM FOREVER and Justin Kerswell, author of TEENAGE WASTELAND: THE SLASHER FILM UNCUT.

Original Theatrical Trailer (HD)

Fred Olen Ray’s Nite Owl Theater

hchdvd3Remembering Chainsaw Hookers 27 years later (HD) – Which is a lovely piece starring Fred Olen Ray, Michelle Bauer and Jay Richardson. They talk with great fondness about the filming of HCH and Michelle Bauer definitely still has that twinkle in her eyes!!

Archive Making of Documentary – Again another nice docu but this one from back in the day starring Fred Olen Ray, Michelle Bauer and Linnea Quigley.

Reversible sleeve with original poster art -88 Films Trailer Reel

Booklet notes by Calum Waddell featuring an extensive, career spanning interview with star Gunnar Hansen

TECHNICAL SPECS

Region Code: B
Picture Format: HD 1080p 1.78:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD MA Stereo 5.1 / LPCM Stereo
Language: English
Certification: 18
Running Time: 75 Mins Approx

 

The Jack Chandlers Quotes

chandler

Chandler – “Being a Dick is a 24 hour-a-day job”

Bartender – “What’s it to be”? Chandler – ” Bourbon with a Bourbon chaser”

Chandler – “If my head wasn’t hurting so much I’d have sworn I was in heaven – heaven for guys who like big tits!”

Chandler – “The girl talked like a frosted flake, but she had the nicest set of knockers that I had seen in a long time!”

31 Days of Horror: #21 – Night of the Demons

31 Days of Horror: #21 – Night of the Demons

Your daily bitesized guide to the films you should be watching this Halloween season…

NOTD (1)Night of the Demons (1988)

Directed by Kevin Tenney
Written by Joe Augustyn

Starring Amelia Kinkade, William Gallo, Linnea Quigley, Cathy Podewell

Kevin S. Tenney’s directorial career hit the ground running with the superb Witchboard, followed by this little cracker, before then turning a little mediocre with such DTV rot as Arrival II and Demolition University.

Night of the Demons sees a gang of ten teenagers descend upon an abandoned mortuary, Hull House, for the ultimate Halloween party which has been organised by social outcast Angela (Amelia Kinkade). Following a séance – which naturally seems like a good idea at the time – they unwittingly unleash a dormant demon who begins to gradually possess each teenager one by one.

The predictability of the narrative thankfully doesn’t stand in the way of this film being an undoubted highlight of late eighties horror. The initial exposition requires a little endurance, but following that we have a heady mix of gore that features throat ripping, razor blade slashing and a glorious Fulci-esque eye-gouging; it’s no surprise that most of the SFX crew went on to big box office gigs. Great performances gloss over the clichéd nature of each of the characters (token black guy, fat guy, goth girl…), and by the end you realise that this kind of movie is what made you fall in love with horror in the first place: It’s just fun.

What are you watching?
Share your own scare picks with us on twitter and Instagram!

#UKHS31

_________________________________________________________

Follow Dave on twitter @thedavewain

Graduation Day (1981) Blu-Ray Review

GRAD 001GRADUATION DAY (1981) BLU-RAY

Directed By: Herb Freed

Written By: Herb Freed, Anne Marisse, David Baughn (story)

Starring: Christopher George, Patch Mackenzie, Michael Pataki, E. Danny Murphy

UK Certification: 15

RRP: £17.99

Running Time: 96 minutes

Distributor: 88 Films

UK Release Date: 13th October 2014

Marking the launch of 88 Films Slasher Classics Collection is GRADUATION DAY, a Californian shot horror which was banned after its pre-cert UK release on IFS under a Section 3 Seizure Order, although its content was reappraised to a 15 certification as early as 2003 for its budget Hollywood DVD release. It proved an unlikely hit for director and former Rabbi Herb Freed, who other than this slasher made little impact over his ten directorial outings; though having said that, as schlock-entertainment the John Saxon starring BEYOND EVIL (1980) is a gloriously awful haunted house flick that warrants a late night alcohol fuelled viewing.

GRADUATION DAY begins with a high school track race where Laura (Ruth Ann Llorens), encouraged by the crowd and coach is pushing herself to the limit, so much so that after she crosses the finishing line she collapses and is soon pronounced dead. Shortly after this tragedy her sister Ann (Mackenzie) moves back to the small town where she was born and begins to do some investigatory work around the school in an effort to uncover the killer. As she digs deeper, a spate of killings begin which see Laura’s former track team members murdered by an anonymous black-gloved killer in a fencing mask.

GRAD 002With a synth-laden slice of pop cheese in ‘The Winner’ playing over the opening credits, GRADUATION DAY announces itself as a child of the early eighties loud and proud. While flares and dated hairstyles are the understated aspects that date such peers as HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY 13th, here an antiquated musical score from the band Felony (no, me neither) as well as Bee Gees plastered walls and alternatively shaped headphones mean that GRADUATION DAY wears its year of production firmly on its sleeve.

Deliriously camp in appearance, GRADUATION DAY makes for a decidedly modest slasher. Murder sequences are at times eye-rollingly constructed with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, while the mystery of the anonymous killer never really intrigues to the degree that it wants to and comes with a somewhat disappointing payoff. That said this is a film impossible to dislike irrespective of its obvious shortcomings. With frequent forays into comedic territory; intended or otherwise, along with eye-catching performances from such folk as Linnea Quigley, Vanna White, Michael Pataki and Christopher George, it’s a movie that provides great entertainment, but released slap bang in the middle of the golden era of slasher movies – it’s firmly down the pecking order.

With a region free Blu-ray coming from Vinegar Syndrome five weeks prior to this release, the boys at 88 Films were always going to have to add something special to convince people to opt for this home-grown release. At first glance, the absence of any commentaries (the Vinegar Syndrome edition has two), and the glut of Troma related miscellany from Kaufman’s age-old DVD elicits a resigned sigh.

Thankfully though, the welcome addition of the superb Scream Queen documentary from High Rising elevates this Blu-ray to another level. This feature length extra is introduced by the lovely Debbie Rochon who makes way for a legion of Scream Queens to talk candidly about their careers – from the iconic Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauer; to the lesser known Forbes Riley, Patricia Tallman and Elissa Dowling; there’s many more too, all of whom make for fascinating viewing.

GRAD 003What’s so refreshing is the concept of having a totally female perspective. It removes the distraction of a leering myriad of guys giving their predictably caveman-like reasons for their Scream Queen appreciation; leaving us instead with a relaxed, honest and informal analysis of the subject. With Jason Paul Collum’s SOMETHING TO SCREAM ABOUT being the last feature I remember on this topic, Waddell’s documentary easily eclipses it and could easily stand its own as a separate release.

Film: 5 out of 10
Extras: 8 out of 10

Extras:

Brand new 4K restoration
Scream Queens: Horror Heroines Exposed (78 mins)
Graduation Memories: Interview with author and critic Justin Kerswell (10 mins)
Introduction by Lloyd Kaufman (complete with insensitive Columbine pun)
Interview with Linnea Quigley
The cannibal lesbian hoedown music video – directed by Lloyd Kaufman
Tromatic filmmaking classroom: The arm rip
Theatrical trailer
88 Films trailer reel
Reversible sleeve
Booklet by Calum Waddell featuring a conversation with Patch Mackenzie

31 Days of Horror: #11 – Jack-O

31 Days of Horror: #11 – Jack-O

Your daily bitesized guide to the films you should be watching this Halloween season…

Jack OJack-O (1995)

Directed by Steve Latshaw
Written by Brad Linaweaver (story), Fred Olen Ray (story), Patrick Moran

Starring Ryan Latshaw, Linnea Quigley, Gary Doles, Maddisen K. Krown

“Plan 9 from Outta State,” laments Fred Olen Ray on the commentary for Jack-O as he and director Steve Latshaw explain their reasons behind some genuinely crazy/inspired filmmaking decisions on this Florida lensed picture. The narrative is largely incidental here, but for the sake of formalities we have a wizard who years ago swore vengeance upon the townsfolk who facilitated his demise. In the present day, this revenge takes the form of the pumpkin-headed demon Jack-O who has his sights set on the Kelly family – direct descendants of those pitchfork waving yokels.

Jack-O IS a terrible film, however, it’s also enjoyably bad in that Ed Wood mould where you find yourself sat with your jaw gaping at what unfolds before your eyes. The cameo from John Carradine – who had been dead for seven years – is the undoubted highlight, though listening to Ray you can’t help feel yourself shrugging and nodding in begrudged agreement at his justification for shoehorning him in! Jack-O himself is a rare sight for most of the movie, while Cameron Mitchell turns up from another picture for a spliced in scene, Linnea takes a very prolonged shower and there’s a very out of place Brinke Stevens cameo too.

Jack-O is a totally inept schlockfest that underlines the danger of just what you could have come home with from the Video Store had you been hypnotised by some funky artwork. I say that, but then it’s really hard to refuse repeated viewings as its awfulness is truly endearing.

What are you watching?
Share your own scare picks with us on twitter and Instagram!

#UKHS31

Click on the links below to tell us what you think on our choices and what WE should be watching this month!

Twitter – @ukhorrorscene

Instagram – http://instagram.com/ukhorrorscene

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Ukhorrorscene

_________________________________________________________

Follow Dave on twitter @thedavewain

31 Days of Horror: #10 – Tweet-Along Special! The Return of the Living Dead

31 Days of Horror: #10 – Tweet-Along Special! The Return of the Living Dead

Your daily bitesized guide to the films you should be watching this Halloween season…

Tweet along with UK Horror Scene live tonight! 10PM BST #UKHSrotld

ROTLDThe Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Directed by Dan O’Bannon
Written by Dan O’Bannon, story by John A. Russo, Russ Streiner & Rudy Ricci

Starring Clu Gulager, Don Calfa, James Karen, Thom Mathews

Freddy is a street punk trying to turn his life around, with help of his girlfriend Tina. He has a new job at the Uneeda Medical Supplies warehouse, and on a guided tour from second in command Frank, he is shown some military containers that were delivered by mistake fifteen years earlier and have sat in the basement since. Upon closer inspection Frank shows Freddy the containers hold corpses that were infected by a chemical. Unfortunately for the pair one springs a leak, spraying 2-4-5 Trioxin everywhere…

ROTLD immediately nods to Night Of The Living Dead and then sets on its own eighties gore-filled ride . Written and directed by Dan O’Bannon (Alien, Dark Star), it puts the punks alongside the establishment to fight off an army of the undead. Wonderful effects, fantastically OTT acting, quotable lines at every turn and an amazing soundtrack mean that sometime around Halloween grab a few beers, invite your friends and close the curtains to the rain outside. And if things get out of hand you can always call the emergency services and request they “Send more Paramedics” .

Join UK Horror Scene’s live Return of the Living Dead tweet-along tonight!

10PM BST

#UKHSrotld

Click on the links below to tell us what you think on our choices and what WE should be watching this month!

Twitter – @ukhorrorscene

Instagram – http://instagram.com/ukhorrorscene

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Ukhorrorscene

_________________________________________________________

Follow UKHS on twitter @UKHorrorScene

An Interview with Michelle Shields by Dean Sills

ms1An Interview with Michelle Shields by Dean Sills

UKHS – Michelle, thank you for your time and welcome to UK Horror Scene.

How did you get into acting and what is it about the horror genre that you enjoy so much?

MS – Well I’ve been acting all my life. I was in all the school productions from kindergarten to college getting lead roles in high school and college. At age 15, I auditioned for a film and was cast as a 80s college punk rocker. I’ve always loved the horror genre watching horror films since I could crawl. I like the psychology behind the characters and their back stories that made the characters who they are.

 

ms6UKHS – You played Elizabeth in ‘Frankenstein: Day of The Beast’. Looking at the trailer you look too cute and innocent to play a character like this but I understand you do get tough in the movie. How did you get the part and what was it like playing a character that is both vulnerable and strong?

MS – I was contacted and offered a supporting role in the film but when I read the script I was drawn to the Elizabeth character. I notified the director that I wanted to audition for that role. After about 3 weeks of auditions I beat out about twenty five other women and was offered the lead role, Elizabeth.

It was great becoming the re-envisioned Elizabeth character. I liked the challenge and range of the character, who when circumstances demands, can take control of what is thrown at her.

 

ms10UKHS – Can you tell us a little about your role in ‘Post Mortem America, 2021’ and did you enjoy working with the great Horror Scream Queen Linnea Quigley?

MS – My character in the film is Hit Woman Suzy who is from the UK. She is a ruthless and psychotic killer. I am also proud of the fact that for this character I created the wardrobe and made the wig.

Of course I enjoyed working with Linnea. I grew up being a big fan of Linnea. On the set she is a true pro and off the set she is a wonderful person. We became good friends during the filming of “Post Mortem America 2021”.

 

ms3UKHS – How did you become a vampire named Sapphire in the comic book ‘Fangs’?

MS – Fangs is a comic book created by Comic Book Divas. I am actually an original core member of the company. Comic Book Divas offered to feature me in this and several other comics they have and are producing. Last year they decided to use my image to be the “Face Of Comic Book Divas”.

 

UKHS – I know you love Batman. How cool was it to actually work on the ‘The Dark Knight’ and how did this compare to working on other Hollywood movies like ‘Fred Claus’ and ‘Public Enemies’ ?

MS – Working on those films were great but the complete opposite of working on indie films. Indie films you may shoot a scene once or twice, maybe three times if you’re lucky because of budget restraints. These big budget films would take 12 hours to shoot the same scenes over and over again. One of the best parts of being in The Dark Knight was meeting Heath Ledger.

 

ms4UKHS – What projects are you currently working on this year?

MS – I have slowed things down a bit so I can finish my education. I have committed to three new films and will be doing a few personal appearances including being a Scream Queen Judge at this years Misty Moon Film Festival.

 

UKHS – What’s your favorite horror movie?

MS – It’s too difficult to pick, there are so many. I do like humour with horror so from ‘Return Of The Living Dead ‘and ‘Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein’ to ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘House of a Thousand Corpses’ with too many others to list 🙂

 

ms9UKHS – What would you consider to be the three main ingredients that you need to make a classic horror flick?

MS – A good script, a talented cast & crew, and dedication.

 

UKHS – If you were stranded on a desert island, which three items would you want to have with you? 

MS – Video games, comic books, and my boyfriend 🙂

 

UKHS – Finally, where do you see yourself in five years from now?

MS – Still doing what I love and working with clients as a therapist. You can keep up with me using the following links:

TheMichelleShields.com

www.facebook.com/MichelleShieldsActress

www.youtube.com/theMichelleShields

www.imdb.com/name/nm2512598/

UKHS – Thank you for your time, Michelle. Good luck for the future.

DeCoteau DeCoded by Matty Budrewicz

dc1DeCoteau DeCoded


Director and producer David DeCoteau has had one helluva career. Whilst even his most ardent supporters would have a hard time describing it as illustrious, the Canadian-American schlock kingpin has certainly been prolific. Hell, a look at his IMDb slate should be enough to tell you that, with well over one hundred directorial credits (under a variety of eclectic pseudonyms) since the mid eighties alone. Factor in his producing, writing and assorted other credits and well… Well I guess it’s safe to say that dissecting his full body of remarkable, money-spinning work would be a meteoric task; a near impossible endeavour, in fact, that’d be better served by a wordsmith far greater than myself.

Now, by and large DeCoteau has been responsible for a fair amount of dreck, something that he himself would probably admit to too. However, for the more liberal, loon-minded cineaste- you know, those of us with a voracious appetite for hootingly good tripe, there is actually a whole lot to savour with ol’ Davey’s hokum. And, what’s more, there’s a surprising amount of artistry and craft behind it all too.

One of the standout directors of the late eighties-early nineties direct-to-video B scene, DeCoteau is certainly one of the strongest visual stylists amongst them. Unlike his contemporaries Fred Olen Ray and Jim Wynorski who prefer a more ‘locked-off’ camera approach, DeCoteau sports a keen eye for staging and pomp-filled composition. Favouring Dutch angles and deep focus, he possesses a strong understanding of how to get a slick, richly photographed film in spite of meagre budgets, schedules and resources. Just check out the sorely undervalued car boot sale classic and discount shop favourite Legend of the Mummy 2 (or Ancient Evil: Scream of the Mummy as it’s also known)(1999) for the proof: bottom-end it may be, but it’s wickedly photographed, with a look falling somewhere between classic Hammer and the glossy energy of Tony Scott.

dc2It’s perhaps with the late Scott that the best comparison lies. Like Scott was, DeCoteau is a populist filmmaker. Just consider the evidence: both were/are commercially safe and both filled/fill the needs and demands of their paying audience and financiers, churning out profit-making hits in their respective fields in spite of often vicious critical lambastings. Best of all, however, is how they both managed/manage to do so whilst remaining true to their own artistic sensibilities, elevating them far beyond that of a pair of box-ticking journeymen to the status of true pulp auteur’s. Sure, their budgets may be drastically different, but it can’t be denied they’re not a million miles away from each other, especially when one considers that beach volleyball scene from Scott’s ’86 smash Top Gun…

I refer, of course, to homo-eroticism DeCoteau’s defining trope. Openly gay himself, DeCoteau has been the figurehead of the niche homo-horror sub-genre since his minor video success with Voodoo Academy back at the turn of the millennium. A thoroughly enjoyable quickie (DeCoteau shot it all in four days), Voodoo Academy is one of DeCoteau’s finest, the story of six male students at a strange Scientology-tinged Bible School being seduced into kinky black magic by the resident Reverend and house ma’am. It’s effective and surprisingly atmospheric stuff, a sort of low-key hodge-podge of Suspiria (1977), Angel Heart (1987) and a Calvin Klein boxer shorts commercial.

Retrospectively, it’s easy to see DeCoteau’s distinctive blend of histrionic horror and sculpted, shirtless young men implicitly flirting with one another as the next logical step in his filmic evolution. Reworking and inverting the playful, girl-ogling sexiness that characterised his earlier gun-for-hire T&A jobs like Beach Babes From Beyond (1994), and infusing them with the same Queer Cinema sensibility that made his experimental black and white gay art-pic Leather Jacket Love Story (1997) such a festival hit, DeCoteau has turned post-Scream teen-centric terror into a girl and gay-baiting art-form a fact his longevity can attest to. Though perhaps a little too much for some, there’s without doubt a big and demanding market for DeCoteau’s kind of chilling chintz. I mean, just look at the colossal Twilight saga – what are they if not glorified DeCoteau flicks? Angsty teens, topless hunks, supernatural shenanigans…

dc3Ultimately, I think without Dave DeCee and, say, his Brotherhood series (2001-2009), Sparklin’ Edward Cullen et al just wouldn’t have been possible. The only difference is that the six-strong Brotherhood chapters are actually pretty damn good, unlike the god-awful Twilight, and the first three (I’ve Been Watching You, Young Warlocks and Young Demons as they’re known over here) especially so. It would seem even directorial titan Martin Scorsese isn’t above lifting from him either, what with his latest DiCaprio-starring hit bearing a strikingly similar title to DeCoteau’s 2002 lycanthrope romp Wolves of Wall Street. Oh, to see the faces of the people who unexpectedly stumble across that one…

Beginning his film career as a production assistant for the legendary Roger Corman back in the eighties, DeCoteau soon found himself at the attention of another iconic B sultan, Charles Band, with his first mainstream movie proper, Dreamaniac (1986).

The impact Band has had on DeCoteau is gargantuan and it’s often under the Full Moon head honchos auspicious guidance that DeCoteau has made a vast majority of his best stuff, such as the terrific should-have-been-a-series Shrieker (1998) and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988)- his most well-known film. Indeed, a lot of DeCoteau titles I’ve already mentioned have also been Band produced, occasionally – as in the case of Legend of the Mummy 2 – uncredited. However, the real treat of their numerous and fructiferous collaborations is 1991’s Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge. For my money, it’s DeCoteau’s masterpiece.

dc4Retconning the timeline established in the first two instalments of the flagship Full Moon franchise, DeCoteau’s part III is a period-set prequel starring Mr. Sardonicus (1961) himself, Guy Rolfe. It’s Berlin 1941 and the Nazi’s- as they so often do, are unsuccessfully attempting to raise the dead for use as battlefield super-soldiers, via the experiments of the surprisingly well-meaning Dr. Hess. His superiors, the lecherous General Mueller and full-blown S.O.B. Major Kraus, are a different story however, and they take great umbrage when they learn, through Kraus’ driver and spy Lt. Stein, that master puppeteer Andre Toulon has been performing politically subversive shows with his anthropomorphic puppets. After a Kristallnacht-esque raid on his home in an attempt to grab Toulon’s secret life-giving elixir results in the death of his beloved wife Elsa, the heartbroken Toulon swears revenge and, with the help of his deadly puppets, embarks on a swath of bloody retribution against his wrongdoers.

Made whilst DeCoteau was closeted both personally and professionally, and purely because he was the only director willing to travel to the originally planned Romanian locations, Toulon’s Revenge is understandably free of his guy-candy fetishism. It’s for the best really too, as any sort of over the top eroticism would likely be out-of-place in the comic book-y series, lest of all between a gaggle of overly tactile male model types! Even without DeCoteau’s signature auteurist flourish though, Toulon’s Revenge is a far from perfunctory mercenary gig, packed as it is with his usual panache and creative bombast.

Transcending its modest budget, Toulon’s Revenge is a big-feeling picture, without doubt the most ambitious and most handsomely mounted of DeCoteau’s career. It’s part rollicking little horror programmer and part Where Eagles Dare-ish wartime adventure, just as DeCoteau and scripter C. Courtney Joyner envisioned it. This magpie, cherry picking knack is another goodie habitual to cinematica DeCoteau: his utilising of an obvious love of the movies to create interesting and often inter-textual cross-genre product. Take Creepozoids (1987) and Final Stab (2001) for example. On paper, both are nothing more than shameless rip-offs of Aliens (1986) and Scream (1996) respectively, with the latter actually going as far as to be being cheekily retitled Final Scream here in the UK. Now, I’m not going to dispute for one second that that’s not how they came about, but both transcend the usually awful ‘Rubbish Clone’ category by actually being quite inventively referential and self aware.

dc5The excellent Creepozoids, for instance, knows it’s fundamentally man-in-a-rubber-suit tosh and DeCoteau is more than willing to celebrate it, firing a whole manner of archetypal sci-fi and horror motifs at the screen with gleeful abandon: Aliens, a monster baby a la It’s Alive (1974), giant rats, an abandoned research facility, the fall of man, and a future earth thrown into ecological hell… It’s all there, delivered with a fair amount of wit too. Even better is that it’s all capped off by the, erm, ‘double delicacies’, shall we say, of Scream Queen Linnea Quigley.

The twisty-turny Final Stab meanwhile, is DeCoteau’s pleasing contemporary valentine to the golden age of slashers. It’s a wonderfully silly and loving patchwork of retro fun and sly humour, a shining minor gem vastly superior to more famous and truly chunder-some soulless Hollywood slash-arse like the Prom Night (2008) remake. In short, it’s much better than a casual glance would suggest.

Elsewhere, DeCoteau inverts the Death Wish (1974) vigilante formula with a female twist in his self-explanatory Lady Avenger- a cheap and cheerful blast of kinda-gritty action fluff from 1988. It’s an area DeCoteau would explore further with his producer only Steel & Lace (1991), a schlock hybrid of rape-and-revenge and the then blossoming DTV cyborg genre that followed in the wake of RoboCop (1987). Tailored towards what sells they both may be but, like Creepozoids and Final Stab, the glee in which they each embrace and toy with their own conventions is refreshing. Interestingly, Lady Avenger and Steel & Lace link pretty nicely thematically with Toulon’s Revenge, essentially creating a loosely connected ‘Vengeance Trilogy’ well over a decade before Park Chan-wook even began his. What? I’m just saying…

dc6In Toulon’s Revenge, perhaps the most striking moments (other than the ones of puppet carnage, natch) are those which allude to the classic Universal horror of the thirties, Frankenstein (1931) in particular. The similarities between actor Ian Abercrombie’s conflicted Dr. Hess and Colin Clive’s conflicted Victor Frankenstein are just as impossible to ignore as their shared use of stylised lab equipment.

It’s an obvious tip of the hat really, considering how Frankenstein’s director, the openly homosexual James Whale, is the progenitor of ghoulish camp. Fittingly, DeCoteau would later go on to helm his own revisionist version of the classic Mary Shelley tale, the kiddie-friendly Frankenstein Reborn! (1998), and even go as far as to cite Whale’s stupendous Bride of Frankenstein (1935) directly during a scene in 1999’s prequel to the prequel, Retro Puppet Master: “A world of God’s and monsters,” a young Toulon says, echoing the effete Dr. Pretorius.Stuart Gordon, a DeCoteau peer and fellow Band alum, and his debut film Re-Animator (1985) are another key Toulon’s Revenge touchstone.

In a fun visual quote, Toulon’s magical serum looks suspiciously like Herbert West’s glowing green re-agent from the similarly Frankenstein-like saga; who knows what kind of Freddy vs Jason franchise hopping this could’ve yielded too, had Re-Animator just kept the original H.P. Lovecraft stories thirties setting! The DeCoteau-Gordon back and forth doesn’t stop there, however. Exchanging the weird creepiness of William Hickey’s portrayal in the original Puppet Master (1989) for a more human and pathos laden take, the then seventy-nine year old Rolfe gives an excellent dramatic performance as the definitive incarnation of Toulon. It’s a turn cut from the same genial horror hero cloth as his part in an earlier Charles Band exec produced killer toys flick, Dolls (1986), directed by (you’ve guessed it) Stuart Gordon. Rolfe would return to the Toulon role three more times (or four if you count his archival footage appearance in the duff part eight, Puppet Master: The Legacy) before his death in 2003.

dc7Weirdly, and as if to confound even more the already incestuous nature of the eras B movie scene, Brit actress Sarah Douglas- best known as the villainous Kryptonian Ursa in Superman I and II (1978/80)- would later go on to star in Re-Animator and Dolls producer Brian Yuzna’s Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993). Unlike her part as the angelic Elsa in Toulon’s Revenge, Return finds Douglas as the driven military head of a scientific programme planning to raise the dead for use as battlefield super-soldiers. Just like Mueller, Kraus and Hess. It’s a convoluted web, no? Even more so when you think that Return’s producer, Gary Schmoeller, is the brother of David Schmoeller, the director of the first Puppet Master. Good Lord…

Ironically, just as Toulon’s Revenge stands as DeCoteau’s best, two of his subsequent entries in the series are amongst his worst: 1998’s Curse of the Puppet Master and the aforementioned Retro Puppet Master. Whilst bad scripting and a general air of rushed tackiness are forgivable, that both movies are so painfully dull is not; DeCoteau land is many things, but it’s never boring. It’s a shame too as Curse in particular boasts one of the most nifty but wasted premises of DeCoteau’s filmography; a Tod Browning-tinged tale of a madman attempting to turn one of DeCoteau’s beloved twinks into a human puppet. Thankfully, DeCoteau atoned somewhat with Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010), an interesting, amusing and again World War II-set Toulon’s Revenge companion piece.

Though the old rental medium that allowed someone like DeCoteau to flourish in the first place is now a thing of the past, it’s lovely to see that he remains as productive and as enterprising as ever. By embracing the online streaming platform, DeCoteau and his production company Rapid Heart have certainly proved themselves still relevant in the home entertainment arena, just as his recent 1313 brand shows.

Sure, the films may now be of noticeably lower quality than his giddy heyday (a truly horrifying thought if you’re one of the man’s detractors), but any filmmaker who still manages to regularly belt out gloriously goofy gay-tickling pap like Giant Killer Bees! (2010) and Hercules Unbound! (2012) deserves to be celebrated if you ask me. I mean, the MILF-tastic 1313: Cougar Cult (2012) alone is enough to warrant a look for the B curious, reuniting Quigley with fellow schlock sex sirens Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauer, some twenty-four years after their last team up in DeCoteau’s Nightmare Sisters.

dc8A look around your local Tesco’s entertainment aisle will tell you Big Dave is as vital as ever too. Just last week a new DeCoteau joint, Bonnie & Clyde: Justified (2013), stormed into their charts top ten, whilst his endearingly naff Hansel & Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft (2013) has been one of their bargain zone mainstays since its release back in March last year.

What with that and companies like 88 Films pushing his back catalogue out into the market again, there really is no better time to immerse oneself in DeCoteau’s stuff. You’d do well to give it a go. I think you’d just might like it.

********************************************************
For more ramblings, follow Matty on twitter @mattybudrewicz

 

 

 

 

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) A UKHS Xmas Horror Review

sndn1Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

Director – Charles E. Sellier Jr.

Starring – Robert Brian Wilson, Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero, Linnea Quigley, Britt Leach, Charles Dierkop.

Christmas is coming, the turkey’s getting fat, here comes Santa Claus… With his giant effin’ axe! Ho-ho bloody ho!
Ah, Silent Night, Deadly Night. Despised by critics, cherished by cult horror afficianados, this glorious near legendary slasher from the sub genres golden holiday themed age (think April Fools Day, My Bloody Valentine et al) tells the heartwarming story of Billy – a young man with a serious aversion to all things festive.

You see, as a child Billy and his baby brother Ricky were the unfortunate witnesses to the violent Christmas Eve (“The scariest damn night of the year!” according to their nuts-o grandpa) murder of their parents by some rotter dressed as Santa. After spending the next decade in an orphanage headed by a tyrannical Mother Superior, Billy finally flips after being coerced into a Father Christmas suit and embarks on a nasty yuletide killing spree all of his own.

SNDN2Though it may lack the sophistication of its closest brethren, Bob Clark’s nerve shredding Black Christmas and Lewis Jackson’s surprisingly disturbing Christmas Evil, SNDN is arguably the most essential seasonal shocker of the lot: a cheap, wonderfully mean spirited exploiter and the perfect remedy for all us Grinches out there already sick to bastard death of “good will to all men”. Big axe whacks, antler impalings and slayride decapitations- this is cracking, must see stuff.
Released to a storm of controversy back in ’84 thanks to its now iconic poster and ad campaign, SNDN actually briefly outgrossed it’s weekend horror competitor A Nightmare On Elm Street before being pulled from Stateside theatres by its distributor Tri-Mark. Sadly, the film wasn’t released at all over here in the UK, remaining the stuff of gorehound legend until those wonderful folks at Arrow unleahed it onto DVD in 2009.
sndn3For those locked by region two coding, get a hold of it at once- you can scoop it up for less than a pack of cigarettes! For multi region connoisseurs (as everyone should be in this day and age), get your import on and go for the Starz/Anchor Bay American “Christmas Survival Double Feature” disc where it’s paired with its stunning first sequel (more on that later…).
Eight gruesome stockings out of Ten.

Creepozoids (1987) DVD Review

creepo1

Creepozoids (1987) DVD

Dir David DeCoteau  –  69 Minutes

UK release 88Films

Starring Linnea Quigley, Ken Abraham, Michael Aranda.

UK Based label 88 Films have released several Grindhouse classics on DVD even numbering them to fishhook the completist’s among us, the DVDs are jam packed full of extra trailers bonus materials and so much more The title in question here is 1987’s Creepozoids starring everyone’s favourite horror starlet Linnea Quigley (Night of the Demons) and directed by David DeCoteau (Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge).

This sci-fi horror mash up has the viewer in the futuristic year of 1998, a bunch of rag tag survivors looking to escape the ravages of world war III stumble on a presumably abandoned research facility to avoid the deadly acid rain, as the group set to make camp they realise they are not alone.

No sooner than the group are in the research facility does the lovely *ahem* acting presence of Miss Quigley come to light in a hot soapy shower scene (the food is scarce but hot water and soap is aplenty?) which will no doubt be of delight to male viewers of a certain age. While Bianca (Linnea Quigley) and Butch (Ken Abraham) are otherwise preoccupied, the group’s nerdy scientist character Jesse is digging into the previous occupants of the base. When Jesse pulls up the computer file take a close look at the itinerary to see some rather familiar names as the missing scientists.

Filmed as an Alien knockoff/Homage; Creepazoids has some entertaining practical effects and a decent prosthetic for the “creepazoid” making this a worthwhile purchase, it doesn’t take long before the group starts to get picked off one by one.

creepo2

Giant rats, Laser Pistols and a killer mutant baby, what more can any Grindhouse aficionado ask for; Creepozoids isn’t going to win any Oscars but who cares? It has its heart is in the right place. A lot of people will give Creepozoids hate and to be honest these people have no soul, this is a fun way to spend a perfect run time of 69 minutes doing exactly what it says on the tin, catering to people who love their movies gory and cheesy. So Grab some friends, some popcorn and have fun which is exactly what 88 films want with this excellently priced release.

Guy Moon lends a typical 80s Synth soundtrack which while not dire does get a little bit repetitive, the 80s keyboards will let most horror fans fondly recall some of the better score work out there.

The picture quality is perfectly fine for a release of this ilk and the sound is just as good if not better than any previous release of this movie, 88 Films care for these movies and with a working partnership with Full Moon pictures fans are set to be treated to some gems.

A trailer reel on the extras is set up in an inventive manner, each trailer numbered and set against a digital drive in theatre; on offer are trailers for Sorority babes in the slime bowl O’rama, The excellent Puppet Master I and II, the sci fi sex comedy Dr Alien and the underrated, creepy and downright awesome Tourist Trap are among the highlights of this extensive trailer reel that proves 88 films has a whole lot more for genre fans planned.

If that wasn’t enough for you the original trailer for Creepozoids is included, production stills gallery and an entire second feature Filmgore (1983).

creepo3

Filmgore is an excellent collection of Drive in exploitation clips from genres classics like Driller Killer, Texas Chainsaw Massacre to Blood Feast and beyond, all set to a gloriously delirious Surf rock intro. Produced by Forrest J Ackerman and presented by Elvira Mistress of the Dark this is an interesting little film for genre fans combining clips and interesting side facts and quips by Elvira herself on films such as Blood Feast, Snuff, Driller Killer and many more. On an interesting aside this is a rare occurrence for Elvira as in the latter stages of her career she avoided the more extreme of horror cinema.

This extra is actually more promising than the main feature and is a very welcome addition and would hold up as a standalone release.

DVD Verdict 7/10