Starring Richard Riehle, Adam Rifkin, Ray Wise, Eric Roberts, Joel David Moore, Kristina Klebe, Kane Hodder, Anton Troy, Brent Corrigan, Lin Shaye, Adam Robitel, Ron Jeremy, Ed Ackerman, AJ Bowen, Remy Lynch, Briana McKay Lynch, Joe Lynch, Tim Sullivan, Laura Ortiz, Alice Haig
Directed by Joe Lynch, Adam Rifkin, Tim Sullivan, Adam Green
One of my first drive-in theater memories was watching Reform School Girls incognito from the back seat of our car as my mother ogled Tom Cruise in Top Gun in the front seat. It’s a very clear memory. The film had no sound since the screen was for other cars to view, but I distinctly remember boobies, lots of boobies. I was nine years old and learned then and there I flippin’ loved the drive-in theater.
There’s something special about the drive-in experience, and sadly it seems most people nowadays will never know what that is like. One of the great things about my memories of visiting such an establishment as a child was the strange and often bloody movies I caught glimpses of off other screens when I was supposed to be paying attention to the one in front of me.
I had almost completely forgotten how cool and sort of wrong in a really right way those times were. With the upcoming horror anthology Chillerama, I’ve been reminded, and for one magical evening I felt like that nine-year-old kid again. Meaning, giddy with a boner. Okay … not really. Okay … really.
Chillerama is already being compared to the likes of Creepshow since it seems that we’ve been quite lacking in the Monstervision-style horror anthology movies I remember growing up watching in the 80s. Regardless of comparisons to movies that came before it, Chillerama is a wildly nasty and fun moviegoing experience on its own.
The film is made up of four individual segments unique to the filmmakers who directed them. Each one is an homage to a different genre that falls under the all-encompassing umbrella of “horror”. The movie brings you enough blood, feces, sperm, and laughs to … well, do whatever you need to do with blood, feces, sperm, and laughs. (Yeesh, you people are sick!)
Adam Rifkin starts it off with Wadzilla, a throwback to Fifties monster movies where the monster in question is a giant sperm and its motive is to literally cum all over the place. The creature animated by the Chiodo Brothers really must be seen to be fully comprehended. Of the four segments, Rifkin’s is the most spot-on in terms of capturing the proposed era and spirit of its time. And it’s also the most entertaining. There’s just no way to watch it without a grin on your face stretching from ear-to-ear. You’ll laugh. You’ll cringe! You’ll love it!!
Tim Sullivan’s I Was A Teenage Werebear is next, and it tells the story of a gay teenager struggling to come to terms with his homosexuality through a 1960s musical Jon Waters-inspired lens. While enjoyable for the most part, this segment is just too long and feels more padded than provocative. The idea behind this segment is genius, but a few of the musical numbers feel completely unnecessary. Overall it takes itself a bit too seriously and at times comes off more preachy than fun. While still entertaining, it is the least effective of the bunch.
Adam Green’s Diary Of Anne Frankenstein left a smile on my Jewish heart’s face. His is the story of the Frankenstein monster if said monster were a Rabbi. Shot as a classic black-and-white monster movie from the Thirties and Forties, the story here follows Adolf Hitler’s pursuit to bring the dead to life by using parts of cadavers to build a Nazi super-soldier. Joel David Moore’s German gibberish (“Osh Kosh Begosh”) supplies steady laughter from the audience, Kristina Klebe is as sexy as she is funny as Eva Braun, and Kane Hodder as the monster, Meshugannuh, is nothing short of priceless. The gags fly at the audience in a fast and furious manner, and there are even a few Jewish jokes that only members of the tribe will appreciate. This tribe member approves wholeheartedly!
Finally, the wrap-around that ties all of this chaos together is Joe Lynch’s Zom-B Movie, which tells the story of the attendees at the Kaufman Drive-In who end up becoming entrenched in a zombie apocalypse of the horny kind. This is the first time I have ever seen a film where zombies thirst for sex and humping over brain eating. Thusly, the outcome is a raunchy, gooey fun time and the perfect storyline to bring this roller coaster ride of a movie together. Special shout-out to the great Richard Riehle as Cecil Kaufman, who steals the whole damned show in a heartwarming, yet badass manner.
Let me stress … the cut of the film shown at Comic-Con is still a work in progress. The rating below reflects that and is subject to change once the final cut is released. Despite any shortcomings as a result of this being an early version, Chillerama still delivers the most offensively nostalgic fun time I’ve personally experienced in theaters in I don’t know how long.
The film is set to go on tour later this year to theaters and drive-ins around the country, settling down on DVD and On Demand afterward. Chillerama is meant to be peeped in a theater with other like-minded deviants and perverts so I’d see it in that environment if I were you.
3 1/2 out of 5
Desolation Review – The Joy of Being Rescued and All the Surprises That Come With It
Starring Raymond J. Barry, Brock Kelly, Dominik Garcia-Lorido
Directed by David Moscow
It’s those random, once-in-a-lifetime encounters that only a select few get the chance to experience: when we as regular participants in this wonderful thing known as The Rat Race, stumble across a soul that we’ve only witnessed on the big screen. I’m talking about a celebrity encounter, and while some of the masses will chalk the experience up as nothing more than a passing moment, others hold it to a much larger interior scale…then you REALLY get to know the person, and that’s when things get interesting.
Director David Moscow’s thriller, Desolation follows shy hotel employee Katie (Lorido) and her “fortuitous” brush with Hollywood pretty-boy Jay (Kelly) during one of his stops – the two hit it off, and together they begin a sort of whirlwind-romance that takes her away from her job and drops her in the heart of Los Angeles at the apartment building he resides in. You can clearly see that she has been a woman who’s suffered some emotional trauma in her past, and this golden boy just happens to gallop in on his steed and sweep her off of her feet, essentially rescuing her from a life of mundane activity. She gets the full-blown treatment: a revamped wardrobe, plenty of lovin’, and generally the life she’s wanted for some time.
Things return to a bit of normalcy when Jay has to return to work, leaving Katie to spread out at his place, but something clearly isn’t kosher with this joint. With its odd inhabitants (a very creepy priest played by Raymond J. Barry), even more bizarre occurrences, and when one scared young woman cannot even rely on the protection from the local police, it all adds up to a series of red flags that would have even the strongest of psyches crying for their mothers. What Moscow does with this movie is give it just enough swerves so that it keeps your skull churning, but doesn’t overdo its potential to conclusively surprise you, and that’s what makes the film an entertaining watch.
While Lorido more than holds her ground with her portrayal of a woman who has been hurt in the past, and is attempting to place her faith in a new relationship, it’s Barry that comes out on top here. His performance as Father Bill is the kind of stuff that wouldn’t exactly chill you to the bone, but he’s definitely not a man of the cloth that you’d want to be stuck behind closed doors with – generally unsettling. As I mentioned earlier, the plot twists are well-placed, and keep things fresh just when you think you’ve got your junior private investigator badge all shined up. Desolation is well-worth a look, and really has kicked off 2018 in a promising fashion – let’s see what the other 11 months will feed us beasts.
Got your eye on that shining movie star or starlet? Better make sure it’s what you really want in life – you know what they say about curiosity.
Wolf Guy Blu-ray Review – Sonny Chiba As A Werewolf Cop In ’70s Japan
Starring Sonny Chiba, Etsuko Nami, Kyosuke Machida
Directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Distributed by Arrow Video
As virtually every American adaptation has proven, translating manga to the big screen is a job best left to Japanese filmmakers. There is an inherent weirdness – for lack of a better term – to their cultural media that should be kept “in house” if there is to be any hope for success. Ironically, the stories are often so fantastical and wildly creative that a big American studio budget would be necessary to fully realize such a live-action vision. But I digress. Back in 1975, Toei Studios (home of Gamera) adapted the 1970 manga series Wolf Guy into a feature of the same name. Starring the legendary Shin’ichi Chiba (a.k.a. Sonny Chiba), who at that time was in his prime, the film combines elements of crime and psychedelic cinema, delivering less of a werewolf film (despite the title suggesting otherwise) and more of a boilerplate crime caper with a cop who has a few tricks up his hairy sleeve. I should stress it is the story that plays fairly straightforward, while the film itself is a wild kaleidoscope of strange characters and confounding situations… mostly.
An unseen killer, known only as “The Tiger”, prowls the streets at night slashing victims to death and leaving behind no trace. Beat cop Akira Inugami (Sonny Chiba) is on the case, and he has an advantage over his fellow brothers in blue: being a werewolf. As the opening credits flashback shows, Akira is the sole survivor of the Inugami clan of werewolves after a slaughter wiped out the rest of his kind. Now, as the last of his brethren, he uses his acute lycanthropic skills, under the auspices of the moon, to track down underworld thugs and solve cases uniquely tailored to his abilities. As the lunar cycle of the moon sees it growing fuller Akira’s powers, too, increase to superhuman levels.
Searching for this mysterious “Tiger”, Akira is led into a subterranean world of clandestine government organizations, nightclub antics, and corrupt politicians. One night, Akira is attacked and taken prisoner by a government research lab that wants to use his blood to create werewolves they can control. Only problem is – which they don’t realize – Akira’s blood cannot be mixed with that of a human; the only end result is death. Miki (Etsuko Nami), a drug user with syphilis, comes to Akira’s aid and proves to be quite useful. She holds a secret that has the potential to vastly change Akira’s world but, first, a showdown with the criminal underbelly looms on the horizon… as does the fifteenth day of the Lunar Cycle, when Akira will be made nearly invincible.
First, some bad news: Sonny Chiba never attains full werewolf status. This is not that movie. Sure, he growls and snarls and sneers and possesses many of the traits of a werewolf but in terms of physical characteristics he more or less remains “human” the entire time. Yes, even during “Lunar Cycle Day 15”, a.k.a. the moment every viewer is waiting for, to see him turn into a wolf. Instead, he just winds up kicking a lot of ass and taking very little damage. To be fair, a grizzled Sonny Chiba is still enough of a formidable presence, but, man, to see him decked out as a full-on kung-fu fighting werewolf would’ve been badass. The film could have done better at tempering expectations because it builds up “Day 15” like viewers are going to see an explosion of fur and flesh, instead it’s just plenty of the latter. Aw, well.
Lack of werewolf-ing aside, the film plays out a bit uneven. The opening offers up a strong start, with The Tiger attack, wily underworld characters being introduced, and a tripped-out acid garage rock soundtrack (which I’d kill for a copy of). But Second Act Lag is a real thing here and many of the elements that may have piqued viewer curiosity in the first act are scuttled, and although the third act and climax bring forth fresh action and a solution to the mystery it also feels a bit restrained. Then again, this is Toei, often seen as a cheaper Toho. Wolf Guy serves as a good introduction to Akira Inugami and his way of life, which makes it a greater shame no sequels were produced.
Presented with a 2.35:1 1080p image, Wolf Guy hits Blu-ray with a master supplied by Toei, meaning Arrow did no restorative work of their own on the picture – and it shows. Japanese film elements, especially those of older films, are often notorious for being poorly housed and feebly restored. This transfer is emblematic of those issues, with hazy black levels, average-to-poor definition, minimal shadow detail, and film grain that gets awfully noisy at times. The best compliment I can give is daylight close-up scenes exhibit a pleasing level of fine detail, though nothing too eye-popping. This is a decidedly mediocre transfer across the board.
The score fares a bit better, not because the Japanese LPCM 1.0 mono mix is a beast but because the soundtrack is so wildly kinetic, exploding with wild garage rock and fuzzy riffs right from the get-go. Dialogue has a slight hiss on the letter “s” but is otherwise nicely balanced within the mix. Subtitles are available in English.
“Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Movies with Guts” is a September 2016 sit-down with the film’s director, who reflects on his career and working with an icon like Sonny Chiba.
“Toru Yoshida: B-Movie Master” is an interview with Yoshida, a former producer at Toei who oversaw this film and many others.
“Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Vol. 1” covers the man’s career up to a point, with the remainder finished on Arrow’s other 2017 Chiba release, Doberman Cop.
A theatrical trailer is also included, as is a DVD copy of the feature.
- Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Movies with Guts
- Toru Yoshida: B-Movie Master
- Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Vol. 1
- Theatrical trailer
While the film might be a bit of a letdown given what is suggested, fans of bizarre Japanese ’70s cinema – and certainly fans of Chiba’s work – should, at the least, have fun with this title.
Inside (Remake) Review – Is It as Brutal as the Original?
Starring Rachel Nichols Laura Harring
Directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas
While the directing duo of the cringe-inducing and original 2007 French grand guignol thriller Inside have gone on to refurbishments of their own—Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo recently helmed a retread of Leatherface’s origin story—their flick now has an American stamp on it with the release of the remake, also titled Inside.
A cheerless Christmas eve sets the stage for heavily-pregnant widow Sarah’s (Rachel Nichols) oncoming ordeal. It’s a frigid and snowy night. She’s got a huge house to herself, following the accidental and violent death of her husband. She wants to sell the home that was meant to hold a family, to forget the nascent memories it once held. But she’s got to ride it out until the baby is born. While Sarah is lonesome, she won’t be alone. She’s got her genial gay neighbor nearby, and her mum is going to come and stay with her for a few days. Oh, and there will be an unexpected visitor too.
When a shadowy, seemingly stranded stranger (Laura Harring) knocks on the door pleading to be let inside, Sarah instinctively balks. She even calls the cops. But the woman leaves and all seems well. Crisis averted. Sarah puts the housekeys in the mailbox outside for Mom, and goes to bed. Big mistake.
Mystery Lady shows up at Sarah’s bedside armed with chloroform, an IV bag, and a case full of sharp-and-pointies (sorry, ’07 fans… those implements do not include a pair of scissors). The horror unfolds and the expected yet lively game of gory cat-and-mouse ensues. Then the tete-a-tete becomes a body-count chiller featuring one shocking moment after another.
Nichols is fantastic in the role, giving it her all. When the original Inside came out eleven years ago, she was starring in another French-helmed horror, P2—also set on Christmas eve—and she stole the show. She does the same here but with a less-intense adversary. Harring’s killer character, unlike her European counterpart, has a lot to say—which takes away from her initially mysterious manner as the minutes tick off. Still, the girl-on-girl action is a welcome change from the usual gender dynamic one sees in these things. Both deserve kudos for their performances.
While Inside isn’t a died-in-the-wool “Hollywood” remake (Miguel Ángel Vivas directs, while [REC] co-creator Jaume Balagueró wrote it) it feels like one. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end). However, Inside is still a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it.
Inside is a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end).
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