From Here to Obscurity: Sting of Death - Dread Central
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From Here to Obscurity: Sting of Death

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PLEASE NOTE: The movies reviewed in From Here to Obscurity have either never been given an official VHS or DVD release, have been released on VHS but are long out of print and very hard to find, or are readily available in some form but have generally gone unnoticed by most of the general public.

If not for Something Weird Video this 1966 monster movie from Florida indie filmmaker William Grefe would probably have been lost to the ages. Unlike so many older monster movies, this film was never released to television for airing in syndication. Prints of the film were very scarce and usually of very low quality. When Something Weird tracked down a copy of the film’s negative, it was ravaged with mold. Several film processing labs told them it could not be salvaged. Fortunately for us all, they did eventually find a film lab that was able to salvage and restore the film to its original glory. And thank goodness because I’d hate to live in a world without Sting of Death, the world’s only Jellyfish Man movie!

The most striking thing about Sting of Death is just how vibrant the colors are. Movies set in swamps usually go out of their way to look dark and murky. Not Sting of Death; this movie is practically director William Grefe’s personal love letter to the natural beauty of the Florida Everglades. You always hear about the Everglades being this forbidding swamp where people could easily get lost and never found. Grefe makes the Everglades look like a sort of boggy paradise, almost tropical in nature. The swamp has never looked so good on film. The only negative aspect to this is that it’s hard to create an atmosphere of suspense when someone is being stalked in broad daylight by a supposedly horrifying monster in a colorful landscape that appears idyllic for a picture postcard. Still, this is one of the prettiest looking low budget monster movies I have seen.

A scientist has a nice house out in the Everglades where he studies the deadly Portuguese Man-O-War jellyfish, one of the most poisonous creatures in all of nature. Portuguese Man-O-War jellyfish are not native to the Florida Everglades, but I won’t tell anyone if you don’t. The scientist has a pretty daughter and a hunky assistant, and I’m sure you can guess where this is going. He also has his own personal Igor, a facially deformed mook in a Where’s Waldo? shirt named Egon. He might have also been a hunchback or perhaps he just slouched a lot. I forget. The daughter has always been kind to Egon, whereas most everyone else treats him like a freak due to his facial deformity, which looks like one of his eyebrows got stung by a bee about a thousand times, and so of course he is madly in love with her. Of course, this romance will never be because she’s a young hottie and he’s facially deformed goon running around in a candy cane striped shirt. She’d much rather hang out with her friends and flirt with the boyishly handsome assistant, which doesn’t sit well with Igor ’65.

Of course what nobody is aware of is that this malformed fashion victim is also a self-taught mad scientist. Egon has been conducting his own experiments involving deadly Portuguese Man-o-War jellyfish in a secret underwater cave filled with water tanks and computers, which make it look more like something out of a 1960’s spy film than a 1960’s swamp monster movie. Egon has somehow developed a scientific process that transforms him into a Jellyfish Man, but he doesn’t turn himself into this monster and then spend the rest of the movie running amok as happens in so many other monster movies of this type. Nope, Egon is not just a Jellyfish Man. He’s a werejellyfish! By turning on some electrodes, whispering some sweet nothings to this huge jellyfish at the bottom of a fish tank, and then dunking his head into the tank as fog emanates from it, he magically transforms himself into a half-man/half-jellyfish being. In fact, he does this several times throughout the film. Just how this scientific process works is a secret Egon will take to his grave because at no point is there ever any attempting whatsoever to explain it, and that’s probably for the best.

Back at the Everglades compound, the daughter has invited some of her college pals to come out into the middle of the swamp for some swanky sixties partying that actually looks a lot more like your typical fifties partying (i.e., non-stop dancing and drug-free, possibly non-alcoholic, frivolity). Unfortunately, they’re all a bunch of jerks for whom sighting a man with a facial deformity is a sign to instantly converge on him and start acting like a bunch of dumb jocks assailing an innocent nerd they love to hate. This is the last straw for Egon, who retreats back to his cave vowing revenge against the beautiful people. The movie attempts to portray him as a sympathetic maniac along the lines of the Phantom of the Opera, but the fact that he’s shown in Jellyfish Man form killing some random bathing beauty before the opening credits of the film kind of negates the sympathy factor.

It seems taunting someone with a physical deformity puts these kids in a partying mood as they jump right into a swinging poolside party where they dance to the sound of Neil Sedaka, who provides the movie with the kind of catchy but ultimately really stupid tune “Do The Jellyfish”. I can only guess that the song is supposed to be a reference to some special dance craze called “The Jellyfish,” but the filmmakers failed to come up with one as nobody seems to be doing any specific stylized dance moves. They just boogie down to this dopey song and do so for a very long time. Hey, they spent money getting Neil Sedaka to do a song specifically for the film, and dammit, you are going to listen to it in its entirety!

Just check out some of the actual lyrics.

Monkey. Don’t be a donkey.

It’s nothing like the Monkey.

It isn’t funky or anything that’s junky.

It’s something swella!

The jilla-jalla-jellyfish!

Hmm…I can’t imagine why that song failed to become a classic. Seriously though, the song is disturbingly catchy. Don’t be surprised if you start humming it or can’t get it out of your head after watching the movie.

Nobody notices that a humanoid jellyfish has slipped into the swimming pool awaiting someone to make the mistake of diving in. Someone does and the killing spree, which mostly consists of him just grabbing people and getting them all covered with slime, I mean jellyfish toxin, officially begins. You can pretty much guess how the other two-thirds of the movie plays out from there up until the final showdown where father and stud have to rescue the daughter from Egon’s underwater lair.

The only noteworthy deviation from the formula is a scene where several of the annoying friends try to get away on a boat unaware that Egon has sabotaged it. It starts to sink out in the swamp; and as they fall into the water, they find themselves being swarmed by some deadly Portuguese Man-O-War that Egon has sent after him. Whether or not this means that Egon also has mind control powers over the floating medusas is never discussed. All that really matters here is that the scene is an absolute hoot. It’s more overwrought than an Irwin Allen disaster movie scene, goes on for seemingly forever, and the deadly Portuguese Man-O-War are actually not-so-cleverly disguised plastic bags — and I do mean plastic bags, literally. What’s supposed to pass for the most lethal breed of jellyfish looks like tentacled plastic bags filled with blue and pink cotton candy. Watching these people thrashing about in the water and scream in mortal terror as these colorful plastic bags just bob up and down in the water next to them is priceless.

Sting of Death is not scary, the acting is merely adequate, the special effects are anything but, and the story is rather mundane. In other words, it’s totally in-line with typical monster movies of the era with no shortage of cheese.

There’s only one reason why you should go out of your way to see Sting of Death. The sight of a man in a poorly disguised wetsuit covered with jellyfish-like tentacles, so poorly disguised in fact that his skin can sometimes be seen popping out through it. Over his head is a large inflatable plastic bag through which you can see the shadowy form of the actor’s head. It’s just priceless. For one thing, it’s obvious that the man in the Jellyfish Man costume can barely see. During the film’s climactic showdown the Jellyfish Man is held at bay by a guy waving a lit flare at it. Part of me suspects this was done because the burning flare was the only thing the monster performer could make out through the thick plastic garbage bag over his head. You can barely pay attention to the action on-screen during the finale because you’re transfixed watching the plastic bag on this guy’s head inflate and deflate from moment to moment, most likely due to the poor bastard beginning to run out of air and suffocate while filming the scene. This stuff alone makes the movie a must see. And let’s be honest, isn’t watching a man with an inflatable garbage bag over his head putting people in the Iron Claw the reason why we all waste our time watching movies in the first place?

1 out of 5

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7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB Review – Rest Easy, Indiana Jones, There’s Not Much To See Here

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Starring Kellan Lutz, Bingbing Li, Kelsey Grammar

Directed by Kimble Rendall


If it only weren’t for those friggin’ spiders. Kimble Rendall’s adventurous flick, 7 Guardians Of The Tomb is one of those “wanted to be, yet couldn’t quite hit the mark” action-films that will probably entertain those looking for some cave-dwelling escapades caught on celluloid, but for the more picky aficionado of said slam-bang pics, this one might be viewed as a bit stagnant. Let’s strap on our mining helmets and pick around this one, shall we?

Acting as a bit of a search-and-rescue formation, the movie tails alongside Dr. Jia Lee (Li) as she hunts down the whereabouts of her missing brother after losing contact with him while he was on expedition in Western China. Apparently he was looking for a secretive Emperor’s tomb that supposedly holds a potion that can reanimate, or re-invigorate…or rehabilitate – anyway you slice it, the juice has got some pretty potent powers. So a search team is assembled, led by Mason (Grammar – glad someone got Frasier off of the barstool), and he’s latched onto all-American fella Jack (Lutz) to assist this operation. As it turns out, the initial journey is cut off fairly quick when a violent electrical storm forces the group to head underground, and that’s when things get creepy and crawly…like 8-legged style. The film is ripe with some feverish action and a few decent performances, but it’s the overall framework that acts as the big bully, tauntingly kicking sand in the little guy’s face at the beach.

We’ve got love interests, a flurry of backstories, and oh my lord, those spiders! Yep, even the heartiest of CGI can effectively ruin a good case of the willies when it comes to arachnids and their powers of sucking humans and animals dry of their lifeforce. It’s an intently goofy movie, and even the dialogue seems a bit showy at times, leaving plausibility and intelligence at the entrance to the caves. Lutz is fun to watch as the burly rescuer, and he looks as the type who is just waiting for his cinematic moment to step into the spotlight. What pains me is that this movie really could have been something much bigger, and apparently it looks as if the majority of the film’s budget was wasted on those hokey-looking computerized spiders.

All in all, 7 Guardians Of The Tomb is spotty entertainment, even if you despise those little skittering aphids racing towards you, programmed or not. Give it a peek if Raiders Of The Lost Ark isn’t readily available at your disposal…even that crappy Crystal Skull one.

  • Film
2.5

Summary

A film that could have been so much more adventure-wise instead comes off looking like a lesson in how not to waste too much time on computer imagery.

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 160 – A QUIET PLACE

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Lately, it seems as though comedy actors are cutting their teeth as horror directors and absolutely killing it! This year’s indie horror darling comes in the form of John Krasinki’s A Quiet Place. Chris has been sick as a dog, so the haomie Christine from Horrible Imaginings Film Fest is filling in to discuss whether A Quiet Place is 2018’s horror heavyweight, or just a lot of noise.

What Bruno took was what changed me; it only amplifies your essence. It simply makes you more of what you already are. It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 160!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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THE DEVIL AND FATHER AMORTH Review: Friedkin Goes Mondo Catholic

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Starring Father Gabriele Amorth

Directed by William Friedkin


Hitting theaters this weekend in NYC and LA is William Friedkin’s new documentary, The Devil and Father Amorth. And right away I am asked: “Is it ‘good’?” You don’t watch a documentary like this with that in mind. Faces of Death, Traces of Death, Mondo Cane. They are not here to be “good”—they are beyond words like that. Beyond good and bad.

It is more like the sideshow—Behold! See what has not been seen before! The Horror! The Forbidden! And you hand the man your ticket — you see The Arabian Giantess at the flea market in New Jersey, and maybe it is a sleight of hand and made of papier-mâché, but it was worth that dollar, and now you have a story. You have bought your way into the unknown.

The Devil and Father Amorth is light on science (and length – it runs just 68 minutes) and heavy on faith. If you have been exposed to Friedkin’s — or more specifically, William Peter Blatty’s — work, there is the struggle with belief in the Roman Catholic faith, and also in the search for evidence of the miracle. You could also prove the Force of Divine Good if you could face the opposite side of the coin—the Force of Evil, in the vernacular of Catholicism—the Devil himself. Paradoxical, yes—faith exists without proof; and so what is the drive to tell the world God exists, the Devil exists?

In the documentary we learn Rome is filled with the possessed. Hundreds of people are contacting the Church about their own possession or the possession of their loved ones. The Most Holy Father Amorth is the person the Vatican has tapped to perform exorcisms—thousands of them. And sometimes he has repeat business. Christina is one such woman, exorcised nine times and still susceptible to the Force of Evil. Those of us who are non-believers look at this woman as someone who is troubled—but “through the eyes of faith,” obviously it is a demon.

Surrounded by her family, the rite begins, and you see… an actual exorcism. There is no enhancement, no Dick Smith make-up; it is not as dramatic as we want it to be. Should we get her help that is not in the form of a witch doctor? What about doctors? And so we meet them.

Friedkin brings the footage to top hospitals in NYC. Psychologists give their point of view. Then neurosurgeons. They don’t know what’s going on—the exorcism seems to help, but they do see that it might be a cultural remnant. There is a medical diagnosis for it, as it can affect anyone of any faith. But the doc never digs too deep. I am disappointed: I needed to know more. I don’t believe it.

Are they hurting Christina? Is she just another female the Church is suppressing, as they did with witches—the control, the stigma, of the female body and identity? None of this is explored because it’s just a 1-dollar ticket under the striped tent, just left of the dancing girls and the strong man—Actual! Exorcist! Footage! Hurry up and see!

As Friedkin mentioned himself, when someone asks you to film an exorcism, you say yes. So see it for the freak show. Expect nothing else. And either you believe or you don’t, based on how you were raised — mythology, religion, or superstition.

  • The Devil and Father Amorth
2.0

Summary

See it for the freak show. Expect nothing else.

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