Del Tenney Double Feature: The Horror of Party Beach / The Curse of the Living Corpse (DVD) - Dread Central
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Del Tenney Double Feature: The Horror of Party Beach / The Curse of the Living Corpse (DVD)

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The Horror of Party Beach starring John Scott, Alice Lyon, Allan Laurel, and Eulabelle Moore

The Curse of the Living Corpse starring Helen Warren, Roy Scheider, Margot Hartman, Robert Milli, and Hugh Franklin

Directed by Del Tennney

Distributed by Dark Sky Films


Hey daddy-o, when it came to teen films of the Sixties, two genres were the kings of the jungle: beach movies and monster flicks. They were the living end! Okay, so I may not be exactly sure what being the living end means, but I am trying to get into the spirit of things!

The Horror of Party Beach is a hard film to label. For its time it had it all. Biker gangs, bikini clad chicks, hunky guys in speedos for the ladies (and some men), that damned too loud rock n roll music, and of course monsters in suits with bulging eyes and hot dogs sticking out of their mouths. It was a gas, man, and it’s regarded as one of the most beloved films in the genre by many fans, both young and old. The film is pure camp, and it finally comes home to DVD with another film that it made its drive-In and theatrical round with, The Curse of the Living Corpse. Both features were directed by Del Tenney damned near simultaneously, and they couldn’t be more different from each other.

The Horror of Party Beach tells the tale of some creatures that are birthed from the remains of a group of unlucky sailors whose ship was wrecked off the coast of Connecticut. This comes about as the result of radioactive waste being dumped into the water. Damn us pesky humans! We deserve what we get sometimes. Anyway, before you can say Creature from the Black Lagoon, the monster mash begins and every teenager is on the menu. The cops are baffled, the kids are scared, so what to do? Call in the scientists! There was no beastie in the Fifties or Sixties that could bear the wrath of a good scientist. Interestingly enough, in the oddest turn of events imaginable, the aforementioned scientists finally come up with a sure-fire way to kill the baddies — sodium. Yes, you read right, salt. Didn’t these monsters come from the sea? Isn’t the sea salty? Shouldn’t the creatures… Oh, nevermind! We’re not here to analyze. Despite their scientific heroes these films were never much for logic.

One of the things that makes The Horror of Party Beach such a success is Tenney’s slick direction. There are quite a few dance numbers strewn throughout and lots of laughs to be had. Even though for the most part the film is completely hokey, when the horror does come, there’s nothing humorous about it. In fact, The Horror of Party Beach has a double-digit body count, twenty of which come during a slumber party populated by girls in nighties. This scene isn’t just alluded to as one might expect given the era in which it was filmed. These chicks are getting mangled, and to the best of his budget and ability Tenney lets us see every moment of it. Eyes are gouged out, skin is torn, blood is splashed. In retrospect, that is some pretty serious stuff considering the bulk of the movie is standard lighthearted fare. The film walks a fine line masterfully, and you cannot help but admire its ambition.

While the subject matter of The Horror of of Party Beach is campy and fun, the film that it played with as a double feature upon its release and is paired with here, The Curse of the Living Corpse, is anything but. Curse is a straight horror film and a period piece at that.

Welcome to the 1800’s. The Sinclair family has just lost its patriarch Rufus and is about to bury him. Rufus was a very wealthy man, so it’s a pretty safe bet that his surviving family members aren’t too broken up about his demise. Most of them are just thinking about the cash they’re about to reap via the old man’s last will and testament. As the story plays out, we find that Rufus was a bit of an evil man and not very well liked by his family at all. His death probably would have come as a helluva blessing if not for one nagging thing: Rufus suffers from a rare disease that at times can make him appear dead even though he is very much alive. As a result he has a clause in his will that his family must perform certain tasks daily to ensure that if he isn’t truly gone, he won’t have to endure the horrors of his worst fear — being buried alive. This is to go on for approximately one year before anyone sees any cash. They’re also informed that should they not abide by his wishes, upon his return he would make sure that they all meet their deaths in the ways that they fear the most. Of course they don’t listen, and the body count starts mounting.

The Curse of the Living Corpse is a true Gothic horror classic reminiscent of the latter Hammer films we all love though it may not be for everyone. Unlike The Horror of Party Beach the tone of this film is deathly serious. There’s no dancing around and no rubber monsters to be found — only a madman hellbent on absolute and bloody revenge. It does what it sets out to do, which is deliver the chills in some surprisingly violent for its time ways. I didn’t expect to see heads on platters or people being burned alive. The Curse of the Living Corpse is a dark, carnage filled surprise. Also of note is that this film marks the screen debut of the legendary Roy Scheider. Part of me kept waiting for him to utter his famous lines from Jaws at any moment, even though I knew this was nearly some twenty-odd years prior. The man will always be the Chief to me.

Director Del Tenney does a great job behind the camera, and I only wish he would have kept at it instead of putting his career on hiatus for so many years. He shows a genuine love for his craft, and call me crazy but he seems to love the living dead. For those in the know, you’ll also remember Del from the zombie cult flick I Eat Your Skin. Coupling that film with Living Corpse and, to a certain degree, The Horror of Party Beach adds up to a semi dead trilogy of his own. I know what you’re thinking, “You just said that The Horror of Party Beach was about sea monsters!” This is true, but the sea monsters were formed out of the remains of dead sailors, and throughout the film they are referred to as zombies several times. Who knows? Maybe I’m reachin’ but it works for me!

As stated above, The Horror of Party Beach and The Curse of the Living Corpse were filmed back-to-back and at times overlapped each other. If you take into account the vast difference between these two, it’s easy to see the type of range Tenney had as a filmmaker. Truly good stuff.

On the DVD side of things, both movies look and sound great. Dark Sky Films should be commended on its restoration job. However, things are a bit skimpy on the extras side of things. We get a trailer for each film, an eight-minute interview with Tenney, and two surprisingly tame yet chatty commentary tracks by Tenney. I found myself wanting more, but at least these two gems are finally available and in one package to boot! Now if only Dark Sky would complete the Tenney collection (they also just released his slasher opus Violent Midnight) by adding I Eat Your Skin to their catalog. Please? Anyone? Hello?

While these films may not be considered A-list extravaganzas, it’s good to see them finally get their due in the DVD market. Director Tenney has just made his return to film after an almost thirty-year absence. We can only hope that he will throw his hat back into the proverbial horror ring. Until then these sea monsters and slashers are just fine enough to tide us over.

Special Features
Two audio commentaries with Del Tenney
An eight-minute interview with Del Tenney
Theatrical trailers

3 ½ out of 5

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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review

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Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne

Directed by Charles Martin Smith


I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.

Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.

Now let’s get to it.

First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.

Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.

I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.

Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.

It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!

And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.

Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.

And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.

Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!

In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?

That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.

Rockstar lighting for days.

Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.

Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.

More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.

Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcornand if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.

Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.

All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!

Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!

  • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5
3.5

Summary

Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.

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User Rating 3.62 (21 votes)
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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


** NO SPOILERS **

It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
3.5

Summary

The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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User Rating 4.14 (22 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods


The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom
4.0

Summary

In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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User Rating 3.95 (20 votes)
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