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Brainiac (2004)



Brainiac reviewStarring Greg Bayan, Lisa Nistri, Joe Hansard, Elizabeth Shevock, Michael Petrunak, Sarah East

Directed by Terry Michael King

Director Terry Michael King and friend Greg Bayan, who not only co-wrote the script with his brother but also cast himself in the lead role, started out trying to make what amounted to a backyard homage of the classically bad Mexican horror film, The Brainiac (aka El Baron del Terror, a schlock cinema masterpiece which I recently reviewed a restored DVD release of), but you can’t really call it a remake since the story and premise are so radically different outside of the title character transforming into a monster that sucks out victims’ brains with a tongue-like appendage. It’s impossible to watch their film and not sense the amount of enthusiasm they put into it. Alas, enthusiasm alone does not a good movie make (or even a so-bad-it’s-good movie), but their Brainiac is not without some merit.

The original version told the tale of an evil warlock sentenced to death by the Mexican branch of the Spanish Inquisition, only to escape by teleporting himself to a passing comet. He returns along with the comet 300 years later to extract revenge against the descendants of his inquisitors, doing so by transforming into a bizarre looking humanoid creature that sucked out victims’ brains with a forked tongue. King’s name-only remake, on the other hand, owes more to the classic creature features of the 1950’s with a mad scientist creating a drug that’s supposed to better mankind but only succeeds in making himself periodically transform into a brain-sucking monster and using his monstrous side to kill anyone in his way. Still, there’s no denying that those responsible harbor great affection for the original film right down to copying certain elements of it and even at one point having characters watch the original on TV. I think they may even have borrowed some music from the original’s score.

Their Brainiac monster is a very cheap creation, but one still in the spirit with the film’s 1950’s retro fashion. Like the original movie, the creature’s visible monsterism is limited to its head and hands. In this case, a pair of quite rubbery-looking, swollen monster hands and a Halloween mask head, albeit a very high-end Halloween mask but still obviously a full head mask. Somewhat goblin-like and looking like it would have been quite at home in the Star Wars cantina, this Brainiac’s head even pulsates a little like the original Brainiac and has a tongue-like appendage for sucking brains, although this one’s looks more like the Alien mouth-within-a-mouth. The transformation scenes are handled identically to the original film, simple fades from human to monster and back to human again – no fancy morphing here. Some viewers may scoff, but given the sort of movie the filmmakers were attempting to make and the limited resources they clearly had to work with, it’s a perfectly fine movie monster.

This is a very low budget film, slightly above the level of being a backyard production, or maybe it was just a backyard production that looks more professional than usual. To give you an idea what kind of budget this thing was working with, one of the opening scenes has the film’s main character standing behind a podium with a sign on it that reads “ANNUAL STOCKHOLDERS MEETING”; this stockholders meeting is being held in what looks like a college classroom and the man at the podium seems to be standing in front of a bunch of cabinets like you’d find in a biology or chemistry classroom. While the film is nicely lit, it rarely suffers from inconsistent sound quality like so many ultra low budget productions do and, amazingly, never has any grainy video quality. However, King still makes some annoying first-time director mistakes such as the occasionally poorly framed shot, pointless close-ups, and allowing certain shots to go on longer than needed.

Then there’s the matter of the acting. It’s, umm, shall we say, amateurish. That’s about the most polite way of putting it. Some performers fare better than others, but the ones that don’t really don’t.

Dr. Peter Van Doren is the head of a pharmaceutical drug company named PsyMax. Their big new wonder drug is Nirvana, a super drug they believe will not only eliminate drug addiction but also lower crime rates caused by drug using/dealing. Nirvana makes the brain produce endorphins, and endorphins make you feel good; hence, no need for illegal narcotics. Nirvana is being touted as the ultimate feel-good drug made from an all-natural formula with no side effects. PsyMax is nearing a breakthrough in the clinical trials, after which Dr. Van Doren predicts Nirvana will become the most successful pharmaceutical product of all time.

Trouble arises for PsyMax when a Food & Drug Administration investigator arrives with a warrant stemming from an intercepted internal memo that listed some unfortunate side effects Van Doren has been trying to cover up. The investigation effectively shuts down the clinical trials, and doing so could potentially lead to PsyMax’s financial ruin.

There’s also the matter of a bumbling police detective, Sgt. Danko (who looks remarkably like Wimpy from the old “Popeye” cartoons), investigating the murder of a top PsyMax researcher the night before. The investigation scenes with the fumbling detective were the worst aspect of the original Brainiac, and the stuff with the bumbling detective in this Brainiac fares even worse. His investigation will lead him to work with the murdered researcher’s assistant, Dr. Sunday Morgan. Yes, her name is actually Sunday Morgan.

Then there’s the matter of Dr. Van Doren’s teenage daughter Kate, her horndog boyfriend who is growing impatient with her refusal to give up her chastity, and a slutty cheerleader who is constantly tormenting Kate and isn’t even above trying to seduce her father.

Let’s not forget the completely extraneous subplot involving a drug addicted biker who was being used as a Nirvana test subject and has now become addicted to it too, and he certainly doesn’t take kindly to being told the clinical trials are on hold and his Nirvana supply will be cut off.

All the while, a series of murders have occurred that has stumped the cops and have been dubbed “The Brainiac Murders” by the media since all the victims are missing their brains. The only clue the police have to go on is that whoever did it suffers from a genetic anomaly that has something to do with regressed reptile genes in human DNA or something along those lines. It’s scientific mumbo jumbo; that’s another reason why Detective Sgt. Danko needs Dr. Sunday Morgan’s help. You don’t suppose that one of Nirvana’s side effects could transform someone into a brain-sucking reptilian man-monster? If not, it wouldn’t be much of a movie.

Unfortunately, it still isn’t much of a movie even with a brain-sucking reptilian man-monster. It certainly doesn’t help that there’s precious little brain-sucking reptilian man-monster action during the first half. Part of that problem stems from the story trying to keep the identity of the murderous mutant a mystery for much of the first half even though any avid B-movie watcher should be able to deduce who it is almost instantly. The movie this film bases itself on made no secret of who the monster was, wasted little time getting the monster in action on screen, and gave us plenty brain-sucking monster mayhem from then on. This film would have been wise to follow that blueprint.

King does deserve credit for actually doing a fairly satisfactory job keeping the pace relatively brisk, but when the story and characters aren’t terribly compelling, even a quickly paced movie can begin to drag. Brainiac does have a fun spirit about it that very much invokes many of the creature feature movies from half a century ago, but most of the characters and multiple subplots eventually grow wearisome. They needed to trim some of the fat and wrap things up in a timelier manner, 70-75 minutes, like the older films they’re invoking memories of.

Brainiac does spring to life with a lively finale that features the hilarious sight of the Brainiac driving down the street in the convertible whose driver he killed before jacking his ride. Now that brief moment definitely captured the berserk spirit of the original film.

2 out of 5

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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review



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


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.

User Rating 3.59 (22 votes)
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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters



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

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


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)


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.

User Rating 4.13 (23 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror




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.


  • 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


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.

User Rating 3.95 (20 votes)
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