Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)

Poster for Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) by #TheodoreGershuny

w/#PatrickONeal #MaryWoronov #JohnCarradine

A man inherits an old mansion which once was a mental home and is soon stalked by an ax murderer.

“The mansion… the madness… the maniac… no escape.”

#Xmas #Horror
#NotQuiteClassicCinema
#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn

I used to walk over to Jumbo Video with my friends (or sometimes alone) in the middle of the night. It was the first video store we had that was open 24 hours – and that seemed unreasonably cool to us. Sometimes you’d go to a late movie and then walk home and you’d realize that you were in the mood to watch two more movies and order pizza – but it was already after midnight! In the old days you’d be stuck watching whatever was on TV or – if you were lucky enough to have any – whatever VHS tapes you had in your collection. But truth be told, we didn’t really have collections yet.

VHS and Beta tapes were super expensive to buy – when they were available at all – and previously viewed movies hadn’t really been invented yet.

So, we rented movies whenever we could.

As I may have mentioned before, Jumbo Video had a horror castle – which was a room full of more horror films than anyone ever knew existed – and we always spent a lot of time wandering around inside of it. If we had rented a movie every day it would have still taken us years to see all of these obscure gems. And there were new ones being added all the time. Put simply, this castle was a horror junkie’s paradise.

VHS box for Christmas Evil (1980)I remember a little mini section of Christmas horror films on one of the shelves. This was before I had seen any of them, and my friends and I wold look at the boxes and laugh. Yes, we would laugh at the idea of Christmas being the subject of a scary movie. Halloween made sense to us. Friday the 13th made sense to us. Even Prom Night made sense, as we were all a little bit afraid of school dances. But titles like Christmas Evil (1980), Black Christmas (1974), and Don’t Open Till Christmas (1984) just seemed a little silly to us.

We knew about Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), and how it had been pulled from the theatres due to some moral outrage – but we had not seen the movie yet. We could, however, see its influence as there were similar titles on the shelf, like Silent Night, Evil Night (which it turns out was a retitling of Black Christmas), and Silent Night, Bloody Night – which it turns out was made twelve years before the notorious Santa Claus slasher film.

VHS box for Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)I eventually saw Silent Night, Deadly Night and I liked it. Then I saw Black Christmas (1974) and loved it. After that I watched every Christmas related horror film that I could get my hands on. This led me to eventually, pick up an old beat up VHS copy of Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) and I thought it was pretty good. It had Mary Woronov in it, who I knew from Eating Raoul (1982) and a few other films.

Honestly, I think I found Silent Night, Bloody Night a tad confusing the first time I saw it. It probably didn’t help that it was a bad film print which had been cropped and transferred to a cheapo VHS tape (which had likely been somewhat abused before I bought it). The image was dark and fuzzy, and the sound was slightly muffled. Still, there was something I liked about the movie, so I kept it in my collection.

It grew on me over the years, as I watched it a few more times. Then I picked up a nice widescreen DVD that was almost in good shape – and it was like a whole new movie to me. I felt like I appreciated it more than I ever had before. Maybe I had simply finally seen it enough times, or maybe that widescreen image made all the difference. Whatever the case, I can now honestly say that I love this movie. And watching it last friday – on Christmas Eve – really confirmed that for me.

Don’t get me wrong. Black Christmas (1974) is still the greatest Xmas horror film of all time, in my opinion. And Christmas Evil (1980) is also very special to me – but that’s another story.

Silent Night, Bloody Night actually has some things in common with Black Christmas (1974). It’s kind of a proto-slasher film. I have to wonder if the filmmakers were influenced by some of the great giallos that had come before it. It has a great location/setting (the mansion that used to be a mental institution). It has some really great horror atmosphere, as only the movies of the early 1970s seem to have. It has suspense, and a sense of dread. And it has John Carradine instead of John Saxon – both genre legends whose films run the gamut from masterpieces to trash. 

Other interesting facts:

Mary Woronov was one of Andy Warhol’s superstars – and there are at least two others in Silent Night, Bloody Night: Ondine & Candy Darling. Woronov was also apparently married to the director, Theodore Gershuny, at one time. 

Lloyd Kaufman, legendary filmmaker and co-founder of Troma, was an associate producer of Silent Night, Bloody Night – or Ass Prod as I once called him on Twitter, to which he responded: “yes I was “ass producer!”… I still an “Ass Producer” check out @Return2NukeEm vol1″ – but I digress.

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) is #NotQuiteClassicCinema that could bring the merry good times to any #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn – particularly one that falls on or around Xmas Eve. I know that I will continue to enjoy it for many years to come.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: FleshEater (1988)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes & DVDs comes…

DVD cover for FleshEater (1988)FleshEater (1988) by #SWilliamHinzman AKA #BillHinzman

College students on an overnight hayride (is that a thing?) come across a group of man-eating zombies and must fight for their lives while trying to escape.

“He lived, he died, he’s back, and he’s hungry!”

#Horror #Zombie
#NightOfTheLivingDead offshoot (or should I say ripoff?)
#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

For those who don’t know, Bill Hinzman was the first zombie seen in the very first modern zombie movie  – George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). He’s the one who attacks Barbara and Johnny in the graveyard at the very beginning of the film. Hinzman worked with Romero on many of his earliest films, including industrial films and the recently rediscovered The Amusement Park (1975). Hinzman usually worked as a cinematographer, photographer, grip, and other behind the scenes jobs. But he also acted in a number of different films, usually in tiny roles such as “Drunk Guy in Bar” or “Mustachioed Archer in Tree”.

Apparently, Hintzman went to a science fiction convention sometime in the 1980s to visit a couple of friends who were appearing there. As he walked through the crowded room he discovered that people were recognizing him from his famous Night of the Living Dead appearance. They were excited to meet him, and perhaps even wanted his autograph. This made Hinzman think “Hmmm, maybe I should do something about this…”

So, Hinzman decided to more or less reprise his role as a zombie in a new movie called FleshEater (1988). He looks pretty much the same as he did in Night of the Living Dead, but a bit older. Oddly enough, he always seemed older than he really must have been in Night of the Living Dead  – perhaps in an attempt to be a more credible dead guy. In FleshEater he is finally the right age for the part.

FleshEater (1988) is clearly an offshoot (or should I say ripoff) of Night of the Living Dead. There are scenes and moments that are virtually remakes of the original film. Normally this would be a major turnoff, but because it’s Bill Hinzman doing it, he kind of gets a pass.

The acting is pretty amateurish in FleshEater, and most of the performers never did anything before or since. Vincent D. Survinski seems to reprise his role as Vince, a Posse Gunman from the original Night of the Living Dead. A few others had appeared in previous Romero, Hinzman, or John A. Russo films.

The script is pretty bad, and lacks a clear story or any kind of character development. In fact, there aren’t really any main characters, as the films drifts from one unlikely scenario to the next. A couple of the characters recur throughout the film, but we don’t really focus on them.

What FleshEater does have going for it is some pretty fun and imaginative low budget gore effects – and some surprisingly over-the-top sleaze, including a full frontal shower scene that leads to a fully naked zombie. This could be a throwback to the naked zombie in Night of the Living Dead, although that was more tasteful and implied. One can’t help but wonder if it was an attempt to recreate the magic of Linnea Quigley’s turn as Trash in The Return of the Living Dead (1985), which had made a major splash just a couple of years before Hinzman started making FleshEater

So what’s the verdict?

FleshEater (1988) is Trash – but it’s the fun kind of Trash. It’s no The Return of the Living Dead, which is a masterpiece of campy comedy and a clever satire of zombie movies. Hinzman’s style seems a tad closer to Al Adamson than George Romero or Dan O’Bannon – but those who know me, know that I love Al Adamson. 

Put another way. I can’t call FleshEater Terror, because I can’t imagine anyone ever being the least bit scared by it. It generates more laughter than suspense – and probably only for those with a taste for the trashier side of cinema. Viewers looking for a serious descendent of Night of the Living Dead will undoubtedly be disappointed. Those looking a slick and hilarious good time like The Return of the Living Dead will probably also be disappointed. Those, however, who can appreciate flawed oddities like Al Adamson’s The Fiend with the Electronic Brain (1967) or Ted V. Mikels’ The Astro-Zombies (1968), might find some undiscovered treasure in Bill Hinzman’s film. I, for one, was completely won over by the end (the first 20 minutes were a bit touch and go, however).

Incidentally, the Shriek Show DVD that I have includes some nice extras, which somehow seems to elevate to entire experience. Needless to say, I will be keeping FleshEater (1988) in my permanent collection.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Love Me Deadly (1972)

Poster for Love Me Deadly (1972)Love Me Deadly (1972) by #JacquesLacerte

w/ #MaryCharlotteWilcox #LyleWaggoner

“WARNING! This Is The Strangest, Most Un-natural Union Ever Consummated Between The Living & The Dead!”

“A Hunger from Beyond the Grave!”

#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn
#Horror

#NotQuiteClassicCinema

I had a memory of watching Love Me Deadly (1972) many years ago, but I think I may have been confusing it with another movie called DeadMate AKA Graverobbers (1988). I remember renting the VHS tape, and running into a friend of mine as I walked out of the store.

“Hey, what movie did you get?” he asked me.

I was a bit reluctant to tell him, because he’s not a horror fan, and he tends to be a little judgmental about movies that are, shall we say, less than respectable. So, I probably said something like, “Oh, well, I just picked up this weird looking thing out of the bargain bin. I don’t know anything about it, but it looked kind of interesting.”, and then I showed him the box.

VHS cover of DeadMate (1988)He stared at the cover, then flipped it over and read the back.

I braced myself and awaited his judgmental wrath.

“That does look interesting…” he said.

I was shocked. No insulting comment about my taste in movies? This one actually looks INTERESTING to him? I grabbed the box back and took another look at it.

“Love after death is the ultimate nightmare!” the headline on the back screamed.

“Yes, it does…” I said.

DeadMate is a movie about necrophilia. The description on the back made that pretty clear. I saw it as a potentially sleazy trashterpiece. My friend, I imagine, saw it as a unique and unusual subject for a movie. I don’t remember much about that movie now, but I think it was about a man who marries a woman who discovers that he’s into sex with corpses.

When I saw Love Me Deadly (1972) getting a high quality Blu-ray release from Code Red, I imaged that it was DeadMate under a different title. A closer inspection revealed that Love Me Deadly is about a WOMAN who’s into necrophilia, and she marries a guy who (I presumed) would uncover the horror. Similar, but different from my memories of DeadMate. And this movie starred Lyle Waggoner as the unfortunate husband!

Lyle Waggoner, for those who don’t know, is best known for The Carol Burnett Show (1967-1978) and Wonder Woman (1975-1979) – two my my favourite childhood TV shows.

I decided to take a chance and buy Love Me Deadly.

If anything, I would say that it’s a better movie that DeadMate (although my memories of Deadmate are a bit hazy). As questionable and sleazy as the subject matter might be, it actually comes off as a classy, artistic movie. I would call it art-house exploitation. It’s very moody, and has a great musical score that adds to that feeling.  It’s definitely fairly unique (DeadMate notwithstanding) . There simply aren’t a lot of movies about necrophilia.

One other movie that does come to mind is Kissed (1996), the Canadian art-house picture by  and starring Molly Parker. it was based on a story by Barbara Gowdy, which in turn was probably inspired by the real life case of Karen Greenlee (who in 1979 was working as an embalmer and stole a corpse to use for her own pleasure). As I watched Love Me Deadly, I wondered if Barbara Gowdy or  had ever seen this movie. There are so many parallels.

But then again, the makers of Love Me Deadly  may have been inspired by Karen Greenlee as well.

What else can I say about Love Me Deadly? There is some, but not a lot of, of overt horror action. There is some full frontal nudity by both men and women – but not, I don’t think, Lyle Waggoner. He is naked at times, but I think mainly from behind (I may have missed something, so don’t quote me on that). Mary Charlotte Wilcox does appear totally naked.

Mary Charlotte Wilcox is a Canadian actress who appeared in movies like Willie Dynamite (1974), which I talked about on a previous friday, and Psychic Killer (1975). She was also on one of my all time favourite shows SCTV AKA SCTC Network 90 AKA SCTV Channel (?) – I just knew it as SCTV (1976-1984).

Basically, Love Me Deadly is a weird drama about necrophilia. I liked it quite a bit, but it’s probably not for everyone.

I’ve heard that Anna Biller, art-house auteur of The Love Witch (2016), has some appreciation for it. And there is a bit of a stylistic relationship between her movie and Love Me Deadly. They would actually make a good double bill, I think.

Love Me Deadly (1972) is #NotQuiteClassicCinema that is simultaneously sleazy and classy. If nothing else, it is a fairly unusual movie that may not be for everyone, but if it sounds intriguing to you, you should definitely give a shot on your next #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: The Last House in the Woods (2006)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes & DVDs comes…

DVD cover for The Last House in the Woods (2006)The Last House in the Woods (2006)
by #GabrieleAlbanesi

An Italian gorefest about a young couple being held captive by a sadistic backwoods family. A woman escapes a group of bullies seeking to rape her and takes refuge with a seemingly kind couple who have a dark secret hidden in their quiet, secluded house.

“There are some lines that must never be crossed… beyond them all is The Last House in the Woods”

#Horror #Slasher
#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

The Last House in the Woods (2006) features some pretty decent gore, and there are several scenes of horror and suspense. The problem, it seems to me, is with the script. The story is basically ridiculous. And most of the characters are pretty unsympathetic. Even the two most sympathetic characters behave questionably from time to time.

The movie is Italian, and I have a great love of Italian cinema – Italian horror in particular. But I found this one, right off the top, to be irritating me with bad dubbing . So, I actually switched to Italian with subtitles (which I probably should have been on to begin with, but the DVD defaulted to English). That helped a bit, but I still found myself scratching my head at times, wondering what the characters were thinking.

I won’t try to itemize all of the WTF moments in this movie, but one thing that seems to get mentioned by other reviewers is this: there is a gang of asshole rapists in this movie. They menace the two main characters in a random attack at the side of the highway.  Later in the movie, the three rapists return to the area and – for reasons that I can’t understand – they decide to look for trouble in the woods. They stumble onto the house or horrors in which our two main characters are being tortured and terrorized.

The movie seems to recast them as “heroes” at this point. The rapists decide to attack the other bad guys and rescue the very girl they had been attempting rape a few hours ago. I honestly wasn’t sure who I was rooting for. As luck would have it (SPOILER ALERT), pretty much everyone dies so either way it all works out.

So what’s the verdict?

The Last House in the Woods (2006) is Trash. Some may be sufficiently entertained by the gore gags and scenes of horror to call it a mild Terror. I must have felt that way myself 15 years ago when I first watched this thing. I kept it in my collection, after all. But looking at it again now, it just makes me want to watch the better movies that probably inspired it. For example, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). A messed up family living in the woods, using unfortunate travellers as a source of food? There’s even a creepy dinner table scene, and a deformed looking guy wielding a chainsaw, so you do the math.

Of course, so many films have ripped off – I mean, been influenced by – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre over the years that it’s almost pointless to mention it, but… 

The gang of rapists could be a nod to Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left (1972) – as the title (The Last House in the Woods) seems to imply. But their role in this movie is so head scratchingly strange that I’m not sure.

There’s also a  tumour-popping moment that conjures up memories of Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive AKA Braindead – which I consider to be a masterpiece. 

I would watch any of these three films – as well as many, many classic Italian horror films – over The Last House in the Woods again. It’s not a complete waste of an evening, but I think twice in a lifetime is enough for me. 

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: The Astro-Zombies (1968)

poster for The Astro-Zombies (1968)#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn…………………  .. ….. ….. ….. ….. ….. ….. ….. ….. ….. ….. ….. …..  The Astro-Zombies (1968) by #TedVMikels

w/ #WendellCorey #JohnCarradine #TomPace  #JoanPatrick #TuraSatana

“SEE Astro Space Lab”
“SEE Brutal Mutants Menace Beautiful Girls”
“SEE Crazed Corpse Stealers”
“SEE Berserk Human Transplants”

#Horror #SciFi
#NotQuiteClassicCinema

As I may have mentioned in a previous post about The Doll Squad (1973):

I first read about filmmaker Ted V. Mikels in a book called Incredibly Strange Films, published by RE/Search in 1986. I was writing a major paper for a film studies class and had chosen to do a semiotic analysis of Women In Prison films. A fellow student told me that there was a chapter on those movies in Incredibly Strange Films, so I went out and bought a copy at one of the better bookstores in town. There wasn’t a ton of information on Women In Prison films, but the book was fascinating and I read it from cover to cover.

There was a chapter about Ted V. Mikels, and he seemed like a fascinating guy. One of the films that appeared to be a centrepiece (or a cornerstone?) of his filmography was The Astro-Zombies (1968). In my quest to see all of the movies that the book talked about (including all of Ted V. Mikels films), The Astro-Zombies was one of the first that I was able to get a hold of at my favourite video store. I remember watching it, and thinking that it was one of the cheapest looking sci-fi horror films that I had ever seen.

Of course, I had seen The Creeping Terror (1964) as a child, so nothing could ever really equal THAT, but that’s another story…

I think I may have been slightly disappointed in The Astro-Zombies the first time that I watched it. The poster, and the pictures, had made it look like a crazy, over-the-top sci-fi horror experience – and I was pretty excited to find a copy on VHS. I also knew that Tura Satana was in it – and she was practically a legend for starring in  Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) (a film, that I might add, I had not seen yet either, and was very desperately wanting to, because Russ Meyer was another filmmaker featured in Incredibly Strange Films,). In short, I think my expectations might have been running a little high when I popped The Astro-Zombies into the VCR.

Those ancient B-movie nights are all a little bit hazy to me now, but I think I felt that the film suffered from a bit of a split personality. One the one hand, it had some pretty entertaining horror action: crazy, weird outer-space-man zombies that attacked and killed beautiful women for no apparent reason. On the other hand, it had some pretty long, dull scenes of pseudo-science, and jargon-laden dialogue meant to explain what the hell was going on (I think). Or maybe it was that it seemed like a 1960s soap opera of espionage-related weirdness, crossed with some horror sci-fi action – I can’t really remember. It felt a bit like two different movies fused together, and I wasn’t sure what I thought about it.

I do recall thinking that Tura Satana was superb as one of the villains, but that perhaps there wasn’t enough of her in this film. And as much as I could appreciate the legendary horror star John Carradine, there was too much of him doing science, and not enough of Tura Satana slapping people around. Still, she was worth the price of the rental alone.

Tura Satana featured on a lobby card for The Astro Zombies (1968)

Of course, as the years have gone by, and I have learned to appreciate stranger and stranger films, I can now look at a movie like The Astro-Zombies with completely different eyes. As I may have said, when discussing another Ted V. Mikels film called Mission Killfast: I have a very high tolerance – and in fact an appreciation – for movies that most people would dismiss as “bad”. I also see low budget independent films differently now, having been involved in the making of several of them over the years. The simple act of getting a film done and released is something that I now see as admirable in it’s own way. And if the film is watchable – or even pretty good – then it’s even more laudable. 

Having said that, I happen to like Ted V. Mikels’ style of cinematic schlock, and I admire his ability to get things done. And I think he, himself, is a fascinating character and I love to listen to him talk about his movies (but perhaps I’m getting a bit off track). All of this is my way of leading up to saying that I enjoyed The Astro-Zombies much more last #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn than I did all those years ago. Having seen a few movies that were originally two (or more) different films fused together, I can now say that The Astro-Zombies is much more coherent than that. And I actually enjoyed the long scenes of scientific nonsense, and the espionage story (which involves Tura Santana). It all worked for me in ways that my younger self might have never imagined. 

And, of course, it’s never looked and sounded better than it does on the Kino Lorber Blu-ray, so that’s something to celebrate.

One weird fact to make note of: the film was co-written and executive-produced by Wayne Rogers, who most of us remember as Capt. ‘Trapper John’ McIntyre on M*A*S*H (1972-1975). Sadly, he does not play a role in this movie.

The Astro-Zombies (1968) is truly a classic of #NotQuiteClassicCinema. It may not be for everyone, but if you know what Ted V. Mikels’ films are like, then you already have a pretty good idea of whether nor not this film is for you. I will certainly look forward to enjoying it again on some future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Dr. Cyclops (1940)

Poster for Dr. Cyclops (1940)#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn……………… Dr. Cyclops (1940) Dr. Cyclops (1940) Dr. Cyclops Dr. Dr. Cyclops (1940) by by #ErnestBSchoedsack w/#AlbertDekker

“Diabolical dictator…devastating discoverer of the most frightening invention in the history of civilized man! He reduces men and women, as normal as you, to the size of dolls…and holds their 14 inches of quivering humanity within his dreaded grasp. Never before such a picture. Never before such thrills….”

#Horror #SciFi
#NotQuiteClassicCinema

Dr. Cyclops (1940) is another movie that I probably saw on Not Quite Classic Theatre when I was young. It was a show, or rather a time slot during which the TV station would air old B-movies – particularly black and white monster movies from the 1940s and ’50s. I remember watching Dr. Cyclops on TV back around that time. I can’t say for sure it was on Not Quite Classic Theatre – but I think it’s very likely. 

I don’t remember it as being one of my favourites from the era (either my era of watching Not Quite Classic Theatre or the 1940s). As a result, I never bothered to watch it again over the years. Last friday, I decided that it was time to remind myself what this film was all about.

According the IMDb, Dr. Cyclops was the first science fiction film to be shot in three-color Technicolor. Cool. It also featured some pretty state of the art special effects. The director, Ernest B. Schoedsack, had worked as a director (uncredited) on King Kong (1933) – which was one of my favourites as a child – as well as Son of Kong (1933). So he was no stranger to movies about large monsters menacing tiny people. Some of the techniques that had been used to make King Kong so impressive can be seen in Dr. Cyclops.

When watching Dr. Cyclops, one can’t help but think of The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) – another #NotQuiteClassicCinema classic from my childhood. The Incredible Shrinking Man is probably the superior film, but credit must be given to Dr. Cyclops for pre-dating it by 17 years. 

Albert Dekker stars as Dr Cyclops, or rather, Dr. Thorkel. He is a somewhat mad scientist was has figured out a way to shrink animals – and people – down to about 14 inches. Dekker was in over hundred movies and TV shows during his lifetime, but he is most remembered for Dr. Cyclops.

In all honestly, Dr. Cyclops is nowhere near as good as King Kong, or The Incredible Shrinking Man or even Tod Browning’s The Devil Doll (1936), which deals with similar ideas. Still, it’s a pretty fun example of  #NotQuiteClassicCinema  that has a few brilliant moments in it. The scene in which Dr Thorkel holds a 14 inch  Dr. Bulfinch in his hand is one of my favourites. 

Those who enjoy movies about large animals or people menacing small animals or people should consider adding Dr. Cyclops (1940) to their next #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Dark Ride (2006)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes & DVDs comes…


DVD cover for Dark Ride (2006)Dark Ride
(2006) by #CraigSinger

w/#JamieLynnSigler #PatrickRenna

Six friends on a road trip to New Orleans stop at a closed amusement park funhouse unaware that the former resident psychopath (who murdered two girls there back in the 1980s) has coincidentally just escaped from a mental institution and returned to his old stomping grounds.

“The Last Ride You’ll Ever Take…”

#Horror #Slasher
#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

Dark Ride (2006) is part of the After Dark HorrorFest “8 Films To Die For” series. I tried to see all of them when they first came out. Some I purchased in order to do so. I found the films to be a bit of a mixed bag back in the day. Some were great, but others were… forgettable. Dark Ride was somewhere in between, and I think I kept it because I have a soft spot for horror set at carnivals. Fifteen years later, it’s still sitting on my shelf – but should it be?

So, I decided to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

It becomes clear, pretty fast, that Dark Ride is a pastiche of older, better horror films. It’s practically an unauthorized remake of Tobe Hooper’s “Hey let’s spend the night in…” The Funhouse (1981). It has a healthy dose of Halloween (1978), as it features a psychopath who murdered in the past escaping from a mental institution and returning to the scene of his crime. It also includes a “picking up a strange hitchhiker” subplot that almost seems to mirror the famous sequence in Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).

The hitchhiker in Dark Ride is a hot blonde neo-hippie type – and she makes a crazy speech while riding in the van which seems to unsettle some of the main characters. It’s played more for humour, here – and the whole scene seems ridiculous as one of the main characters fantasizes about picking a hot female hitchhiker right before it happens. And, as luck would have it, this hot hitchhiker actually wants to have sex with the very guy who fantasized about it. 

The escape of the psychopath seems totally unrelated to the events of the movie. It’s not like Michael Myers biding his time until Halloween, or Mrs Voorhees returning to Camp Crystal Lake when they are about to re-open it. This killer simply escapes on this night because a couple of asshole orderlies decide to taunt him with some raw meat. He’s a vegetarian, you see.

It’s just bad luck that a van full of typical slasher victims decides to “spend the night” in this old, abandoned “dark ride” to “save money on the motel room.” And where are they coming from anyway? They’re on their way to New Orleans, and they leave during daylight hours. It’s pitch dark when they get to the amusement park in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Not to mention that we’ve had a long montage sequence implying hours of driving. The film was shot in Los Angeles, so I guess that explains everything.

So what’s the verdict?

Dark Ride (2006) is Trash. Yes, it’s beautifully shot, and has some absolutely wonderful creepy atmosphere. An old abandoned dark ride (or funhouse) does seem like a perfect locale for a horror film. And I suppose it has some decent slasher kills, and some gore. But the script is so bad, and everything that happens is so unbelievable, that it makes the whole experience seem pointless. I didn’t care about any of the characters, and the familiar moments just made me want to watch the far superior movies that this one seems to be paying homage to (or ripping off). 

The Funhouse (1981) may not be the greatest of the golden age slasher films, but I’d watch it any day over Dark Ride. Guess which one is staying in my collection…

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Plot of Fear (1976)

Poster art for Plot of Fear (1976) #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn……………… Plot of Fear Plot of Fear Plot of Fear Plot of Plot of Fear (1976) by #PaoloCavara

w/ #CorinneCléry #MichelePlacido #TomSkerritt #EliWallach

A group of wealthy men and women get murdered one by one at a decadent weekend party full of orgies and drugs on the outskirts of Milan.

#Giallo #Mystery
#NotQuiteClassicCinema

I had never heard of Plot of Fear (1976) prior to picking up a copy on DVD sometime earlier this year. It was on sale and, looking at the box, I found it irresistible. The description on the back begins “Plot of Fear tells the story of a group of wealthy men and women who get murdered one by one at a decadent weekend party…”. Well, say no more – I’m sold.

It turns out that this description is a little wrong. The men and women are not murdered AT the party. They are murdered sometime AFTER the party – and we don’t even know about the party at first. It’s the thing that ties them all together and provides a motive for the murders.

Plot of Fear is a giallo. I’ve talked about the genre before, and how it has become one of my favourites. This one, starring Corinne Cléry from The Story of O (1975) and Moonraker (1979), features a heavy dose of sleaze including hookers, S&M, and the promised “decadent weekend party”. 

The film even includes a pornographic cartoon made by Gibba, who was an Italian animator (full name Francesco Maurizio Guido) who did several erotic animated films in the 1970s and 1980s.

Tom Skerritt appears in Plot of Fear as a Chief Inspector of the police. I thought for a minute that he was only going to make a brief cameo in one scene, but his appearances are actually peppered throughout the entire movie.

Eli Wallach also appears as Peter Struwwel, a private detective with some questionable techniques and morals – and his character is even more prominent than Skerritt’s.

 is the real hero of the movie. He has 130 credits on the IMDb, and may be recognizable from movies such as The Pyjama Girl Case (1977), Kleinhoff Hotel (1977), The Sicilian Connection (1985). and Big Business (1988) with Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin. In Plot of Fear, Pladico plays a police detective trying to solve a series of bizarre murders (as could only be found in a giallo – or maybe a slasher film). 

Plot of Fear is probably not the greatest giallo ever made, but it’s pretty darn entertaining – especially for those who appreciate a higher than average sleaze factor. It manages to keep you guessing as to what the hell is going on – and who is behind the murders. And it is certainly no carbon copy of every other giallo that came before it.

The director, Paolo Cavara, is probably best known for making Mondo Cane (1962) and other pseudo-documentaries that expose strange behaviour from around the world, like Women of the World (1963), Malamondo (1964) and  L’occhio selvaggio (1967). Plot of Fear is a drama that exposes the strange and shocking behaviours of a group of rich elite people in Milan, so it’s kind of like Mondo film in a way. 

Plot of Fear (1976) is #NotQuiteClassicCinema that should appeal to fans of unusual giallos and other Italian exploitation films. It could certainly add a little spice to any cinematic line-up that seems a little too chaste for a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.