Starring Meg Tilly, Adam West, Melissa Newman, Robin Evans, Leslie Speights, Elizabeth Daily (A.K.A. E.G. Daily), David Mason Daniels
Directed by Tom McLoughlin
Distributed by Media Blasters
Ahhh, the Eighties. It was a time of feathered hair, Aqua-Net hairspray, satin jackets, and of course a plethora of now vintage horror films that have either been lost over the years or gained extreme cult status among fans. The first time I saw One Dark Night was about 1984 on something that used to be considered cable in New York back then called W.H.T.: Wometco Home Theatre. What in Christ’s name a Womentco was is anyone’s guess, but one thing was for sure: That service piled on the horror films. It was a much simpler time all around. Films didn’t have to be “The Event of the insert season here”; they just had to be fun and somewhat spooky. One Dark Night is a formerly lost gem that is all that and more, and this package is both an extreme joy and a bit of a disappointment.
The story begins with a convoy of coroner’s vans pulling up to a tenement. What the hell could have happened that this many body wagons had to show you ask?! Evil psychic, Raymar, has had his way with a bunch of young women, and they now lay dead along with him. To be honest, I’m still not really sure what Raymar was trying to do with these chicks despite having seen this film a bunch of times. All I know is that whatever it was, people were dead, there were assorted things like plates and knives embedded into the walls of the apartment, and it was evil! *cues spooky music* Even though Raymar was an aforementioned evil psychic, he did have a loving daughter who has a bit of the old psychic powers in her, and she has a loving husband played by Adam West. Yes, that Adam West. The two make sure her dad is properly entombed in the walls of a mausoleum and are then on their way.
Meanwhile on the other side of town we’re introduced to Julie, played by then budding starlett Meg Tilly. Julie’s in a new relationship with a hotshot jock named Steve, and all is well in teenie land — except for one thing. Julie’s got the rep of being a goodie-two-shoes and desperately wants to shed that skin. To do so, she tries to get inducted into the local cool girl group named The Sisters. Before she can do that though, she needs to pass initiation by spending the night in the same mausoleum that Raymar’s in. Her chances of passing aren’t helped much considering that the head of The Sisters is Steve’s ex-girlfriend. Julie’s not too bright. So there’s the setup — vengeful bitch ex-girlfriend, sweet teen, jock, mausoleum, evil psychic that doesn’t wanna stay dead, and eight hours to pass the horrid hazing! Of course The Sisters show up to scare our dear Julie, but Raymar’s got other plans. Before you know it, the dead are walking — well, actually rolling — and the spookfest has begun!
One Dark Night is a classic on many levels, the main one of which is the cheese level! The makers of this film didn’t want running zombies or even shambling Romero-esque zombies. In fact, they didn’t want any actors at all. Instead they opted to build some really cool (even by today’s standards) looking corpses and, for the sake of what I am guessing are budgetary reasons, put them on dollies and rolled them into the actors! The effect is hilarious! I love watching these things move down the hallways of the mausoleum. Of course there are inserts of corpse feet dragging to give the illusion that the newly reanimated are floating for realism’s sake. You just gotta love it! Another thing you’ll notice right away about this film is there is no gore whatsoever. Before you cry foul, trust me; in this case it actually works. Instead of the red stuff we get heaping buckets full of slime, worms, and maggots. Let me tell you, I’ll take stage blood over insects any day of the week. So what do we have here? An unintentionally funny and far-fetched film that is a must-see for any zombie lover.
Up until now this film has been extremely hard to come by. To my knowledge it only received one Stateside home video release by the now defunct Thorn EMI home video company, and unless you had that tape, you were shit out of luck. Every once in a while it would show up on eBay in usually poor condition, or if you were resourceful — and lucky — you could track down a DVD-R of that very same tape that still looked like shit. Media-Blasters has brought this mostly forgotten gem back to us, and for that I am thankful; however, there are some things having to do with this release that are a bit troublesome.
The main thing I speak of is the print of the film itself. Apparently the original negative was never located. Therefore the end result is actually from a print — complete with dust and scratches. This can really distract you, especially in the darker portions of the film. Don’t get me wrong; out of all the copies of this movie that I have seen, this is without question the best. I just wish it could have been cleaned up a bit more. Other than that, this-two disc DVD rules!
Disc One contains the film along with a great commentary by director Tom McLoughlin and co-writer Michael Hawes. Both men display a lot of affection for their work, and they gleefully point out every mistake and flub! It’s apparent that for them this is kind of like going back and looking through their high school yearbook after not seeing it for twenty years. The memories keep flowing back, and the on-set stories are damned funny! Good stuff. Disc Two delivers the usual supplements like trailers and some shot on video behind-the-scenes footage, but the gem of it all is A Night in the Crypt. What’s that you ask? Well, this movie was filmed in 1981 and didn’t see a release until ’83. A Night in the Crypt is the rough assembly of the original 1981 directors cut of One Dark Night presented here in its entirety! It’s missing some sound effects and special effects here and there but it’s great to get an idea of what the filmmaker’s original vision was. I had no idea this cut even existed, and as a fan, this inclusion is the coolest thing ever. Bravo!
So how does One Dark Night stack up after all of these years? Pretty well! It may be a tad slow for today’s audiences, but fans of Eighties horror will eat it up! It’s riddled with ridiculous lingo like “Let’s book up!” and “You go, Hugo”, and if that don’t get ya cruisin’ down memory lane, I can guarantee the arcade scene and the clothing will! This flick remains one helluva guilty pleasure. Is it good? No! It’s fucking horrible by some film standards but in the most endearing of ways. Should you buy it? Without hesitation! Don’t make me have to roll a zombie at ya!
DIS Review – Not for the Faint of Heart!
Starring Bill Oberst, Jr., Lori Jo Hendrix, Peter Gonzales Falcon
Directed by Adrian Corona
I’ve made this claim many a time on this website before, and in the company of film friends as well: Bill Oberst Jr. is one of those actors that can literally be thrust into ANY role, and deliver a performance with so much harnessed electricity that you couldn’t believe that it was possible. I was the lucky recipient chosen to get a look at his latest project, titled DIS, and I think that I can honestly say – this is the stuff that nightmares are constructed of.
Directed by Adrian Corona, this 60-minute dive into the black depths of hell, and in actuality DIS is located between circles # 6 and 9 in Dante’s Divine Comedy, and trust me when I tell you – there’s not a shred of comedic relief in this demented presentation. Oberst Jr plays an ex-soldier named Ariel, and his seemingly harmless jaunt through the woods will become anything but that, and judging from the film’s opening scenes, you are meant to feel as uncomfortable about this watch as any you might have checked out in recent memory.
Perversion is the norm here, and lord help you if you’re caught where you shouldn’t be…my skin’s crawling just thinking about what I saw. Ariel’s travels are basically dialogue-free, but it only adds to the infinite levels of creepiness – you can tell he’s being stalked, and the distance between he and the horrors that await are closing in rather quickly.
Visually by itself, this hour-long chiller can sell tickets without any assistance – hollowed-out buildings and long sweeping shots of a silent forest give the movie that look of complete desolation. Sliced up into three acts, the film wastes no time in setting up the story of a killer needing fresh blood to appease his Mandrake garden – seriously guys, I can’t type as much flashy stuff as there needs to be in order to describe this innately disturbing production.
If you’re one of those types who tends to shy away from the graphic side of things, then I’d HIGHLY advise you to keep your TV tuned to the Hallmark Channel for some holiday entertainment, because this one registers high on the “I can’t believe someone thought of this” meter. So the quick recap is this: Oberst Jr in a standout performance, visual excellence, and an unshakable sense of debasement on a cellular level – keep the kiddies out of the living room with this one. Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended, and one that I’ll throw down as a top 5 for me in 2017.
Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End Review: A Heavy Metal Massacre In Cartoon Form
Starring Alex House, Bill Turnbull, Maggie Castle, Melanie Leishman, Chris Leavins, Jason Mewes
Directed by Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace
“Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil” – Canadian television’s greatest blend of Evil Dead, Superbad and Deathgasm? Yes. That answer is yes. For two face-melting seasons, Todd “protected” Crowley High from episodic villains who were bested by metal riffs, stoner logic and hormonal companionship. Musical interruptions showcased stage theatrics like Sondheim meets pubescent Steel Panther and high school tropes manifested into vile, teen-hungry beasts. It was like a coming-of-age story got stuck between Fangoria pages – all the awkwardness with 100x more guts.
That – for worse – was until Todd fell to a premature cancellation after Season 2’s clone-club cliffhanger. Indiegogo became the show’s only way to deliver a feature-length finale, except to reduce costs and ensure completion, the project would have to be in cartoon form. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End suggests an animated curtain call for this otherwise live-action production, and from a fan’s perspective, familiar maturation follies befall our favorite bloodsoaked friend group. But for new viewers? Start with the far-superior original show – you’ll be lost, underwhelmed and baffled otherwise.
Alex House retains his characterization of Todd Smith (in voice only). At this point, Todd has thwarted the book’s apocalyptic plan, Hannah (Melanie Leishman) has died, longtime crush Jenny (Maggie Castle) isn’t as horny for Todd anymore, and best friend Curtis (Bill Turnbull) has sworn Todd’s name to Hell (since Hannah was his girlfriend). Guidance Counselor Atticus Murphy Jr. (Chris Leavins) is now Janitor Atticus Murphy Jr. because Janitor Jimmy (Jason Mewes) is now Counselor Jimmy, yet Crowley High finds itself plagued by the same satanic uprisings despite these new changes. Why is evil still thriving! How is Hannah back in class! Who is the new “Pure Evil One” now that Todd has denied the book! Welcome to the end, friends – or is it a new beginning?
At just north of 80 minutes, structure runs a bit jagged. We’re used to Todd battling one baddie over a half-hour block – backstory given time to breathe – but in The End Of The End, two mini-boss cretins play
second fifth-fiddle to the film’s big-bad monster (well, monsters – but you’ll see). A double-dose of high school killers followed by a larger, more important battle with the gang’s fate hanging in the balance. Not a problem, it’s just that more length is spent singing songs about Todd’s non-functioning schlong and salvaging relationships from the S2 finale. Exposition (what little there is) chews into necessary aggression time – fans left ravenous for more versatile carnage, underwhelmed by the umpteenth cartoon erection gag. Did I mention there’s a lot of boner material, yet?
These two mini “chapters” – “No Vest For The Wicked” (yarn demon)/”Zits Alors” (acid acne) – never come close to rivaling Hannah Williams’ doppelganger bombshell (“Songs About Boners”/”This Is The End Of The End Of the End”). Hannah [X]. Williams waking up in a room full of other Hannahs, emerging from some sleep-pod chamber; Todd’s gang facing off against this new “chosen one” in a way that erases “Sack Boy” and “Pizza Face” from memory. The End Of The End dashes dildoes-swinging into the show’s biggest mystery while dropping call-backs and bodies with equal speed – maybe too hastily for some.
Now, about the whole pivot to animation – a smooth rendering of Crowley High and all its mayhem, but never representative of Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil‘s very Ash Vs. Evil Dead vibe. All the practical death effects (gigantic man-eating cakes, zombie rockstars) are lost to one-dimensional drawings, notable chemistry between cast members replaced by edited recordings lacking signature wits. This isn’t Metalocalypse, where dismemberment and bloodshed are gruesome on levels that outshine even live-action horror flicks. There’s no denying some of the magic is missing without Chris Leavins’ “creepy uncle” overacting (a Will Forte breed) or the book’s living incarnations of evil. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End plays hooded minion to Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil’s dark ruler – less powerful, a bit duncier, but still part of the coolest cult around. Just try not to think about how much radness is missing inside hand-traced Crowley High?
It’s hard not to strike comparisons between “reality” and ‘toon, because as noted above, live actors are sorely missed in a plethora of situations. Be they musical numbers, heretic slayings, Todd and Curtis’ constant references to wanking, wangs or other pelvic nods (no, for real, like every other sentence) – human reactions no longer temper such aggressive, self-gratifying cocksmanship. It doesn’t help that songs never reach the memorable level of “Horny Like The Devil,” but the likes of House, Leishman, Turnbull and Castle were masters of selling schlock, shock and Satan’s asshole of situations. Instead, lines now land flat like – for example – Leavins’ lessened ability to turn pervy, stalkerish quips into hilarious underage stranger-dangers. Again, it’s not Metalocalypse – and without that kind of designer depth, a wall prevents inter-dimensional immersion into Todd’s extracurricular madness.
If this review sounds over-negative, fret not – it’s merely wishes of what could have been. None of this is to say Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End should be skipped. When you’re already known for masterstrokes of ballbusting immaturity, metal-horned malevolence and vicious teen-angst creature vanquishing, expectations are going to be sky high. Directors Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace successfully service fans with a smile, ensuring that rivers of red scribbled blood spurt from decapitated school children just like we’re used to. It’s just, I mean – ugh, sorry, I just have to say it one more time. BY DIMEBAG’S BEARD, this would have been an epic live-action flick. As is? Still one fine-with-a-capital-F-YEAH return to Crowley High for the faithful who’ve been waiting some 5-or-so years in a Todd-less purgatory.
The Shape of Water Review: A Quirky Mix of Whimsy and Horror That Does Not Disappoint
Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stulbarg, Doug Jones
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
“True Blood,” Beauty and the Beast, and Twilight aside, the notion of romantic love between humans and otherworldly creatures has been a popular theme throughout storytelling history. The ancient Greeks told tales of Leda and the swan, while stories of mermaids luring sailors to their lusty demise were met with wonder worldwide, stemming from Assyria c. 1000 BC. To this day, there’s Creature From the Black Lagoon fanfic that’s quite racy… for whatever reason, some people are fascinated by this fantasy taboo.
The new period film from co-writer/director Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water, dives right into the erotic motif with the tale of how Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) fell in love. (While I personally could have done without the bestiality angle, I do applaud del Toro for having the balls to show what’s usually implied.) Having said that, The Shape of Water is about more than just interspecies passion.
The Shape of Water is a voluptuous, sumptuous, grand, and melodramatic Gothic fable at times (there’s even a lavish 1940s style dance routine!), but mostly it’s an exciting and gripping adventure, pitting the good guys against one very bad buy – played with mustache-twirling (minus the mustache), bug-eyed glee by Michael Shannon. Shannon is Strickland, a sinister and spiteful Cold War government operative who is put in charge of a mysterious monster captured in the Amazon and shipped to his Baltimore facility for study. When using cruel and abusive methods to crack the creature’s secrets doesn’t work, Strickland decides to cut him open to see what’s ticking inside.
Elisa, a lowly cleaning lady at the facility, has meanwhile grown fond of “the Asset,” as he’s called. She’s been spending time with him on the sly, not even telling her two best friends about her budding tenderness for the mute and isolated alien. She relates to him because not only is she lonesome, she’s unable to speak (an abusive childhood is alluded to – which includes water torture). Using sign language, she first tells out-of-work commercial illustrator Giles (Richard Jenkins), then her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer), about the need to rescue her waterlogged Romeo from Strickland’s scalpel. Needless to say, it won’t be easy sneaking a classified government experiment out of the high security building.
The Shape of Water is vintage del Toro in terms of visuals and accoutrement. The set-pieces are stunning to say the least. Elisa and Giles live in cozy, cluttered, age-patinaed apartments above a timeworn Art Deco moving-pictures palace; Strickland’s teal Cadillac is a collection of curves and chrome; and the creature’s tank is a steampunk nightmare of iron, glass, and sturdy padlocks. DP Dan Laustsen (Crimson Peak) does justice to each and every detail. Costumes (Luis Sequeira) and Creature (Legacy Effects) are appropriately stunning. The velvety score by Alexandre Desplat (“Trollhunters”) is both subdued and stirring.
While the film is a fantasy-fueled feast for the senses, it’s really the actors who keep you caring about the players in such an unrealistic, too-pat story. Jones, entombed in iridescent latex and with GC eyes, still manages to emote and evoke sympathy as the misfit monster. Jenkins is endearingly morose as a closeted gay man surrounded by his beloved cats and bolstered by the belief his hand-painted artwork is still relevant in an ever-more technical world. Spencer is the comic relief as a sassy lady who’s hobbled by her station in life but leaps into action when the chips are down.
Del Toro cowrote the screenplay with Vanessa Taylor, whose credits in the television world are numerous – but she’s probably best-known for her work on “Game of Thrones” – which adds an interesting and feminine perspective. The story definitely feels more comic-book than anything, which is okay I guess, but I prefer del Toro’s deeper delves into history and character (The Devil’s Backbone is still my fave). But, for those who love del Toro’s quirky mix of whimsy and horror, you will not be disappointed.
The Shape of Water is a dreamlike, pulpy adult fairytale that dances on the surface of reality while remaining true to the auteur’s vision.
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