Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Maniac (1963)

As an avid movie renter, first on Beta then later on VHS, I noticed that there were three films called “Maniac” available to me. The one that I’d heard of and read about, and was super excited to see, was of course Maniac (1980). This was one of the holy grails of the slasher genre, with groundbreaking, eye-popping special make up effects by Tom Savini. The other two movies were Maniac (1934) and Maniac (1963). When I was a kid, these two Maniacs looked old – I mean, really old. They were black and white for crap’s sake! There was no possible way that they were going to feature groundbreaking, eye-popping special make up effects (I.e. gore). I made it a mission to make sure I didn’t accidentally rent one of them.

VHS of Maniac (1963)VHS of Maniac (1934)VHS of Maniac (1980)

 

Fast forward a few years and I realized that Maniac (1963) was a Hammer movie. This made it somewhat more interesting, although it somehow didn’t look as exciting as any of the Dracula or Frankenstein movies. And it was still in black and white.

Don’t get me wrong. I had loved old black and white monster movies since I was a kid. My dad had also introduced me to movies like The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Casablanca (1942) when I was young, so I had an appreciation for all kinds of black and white films. Not to mention the fact that our first TV was black and white so everything I watched for the first few years was black and white.

Still, when it came to paying money to rent movies – horror movies, in particular – I wanted to see something that I couldn’t see on TV. Something a little more extreme, or R-rated. And I believed that any movie called Maniac should be in blood red colour.

So, I didn’t rent Maniac (1963) until much, much later. And I think my first impression was that it was one of a handful of Hammer films that came out in the wake of Psycho (1960), trying to emulate that black and white, low budget, psychological horror-thriller style. It wasn’t as good as Psycho, and it wasn’t as good as Scream of Fear (1961), another Hammer film in that style which I had seen years earlier. So, I think I more or less dismissed it and went back to watching my VHS copy of Maniac (1980).

Watching Maniac (1963) again now, for the first time in more than twenty years, I can honestly say that I didn’t remember anything about it. I found myself doubting that I had ever watched it before – but I know that I did. I guess this is just another sign of old age creeping up on me. I’ve noticed that a lot of the movies that I only watched once back in the 1990s or early 2000s are completely new to me now. Movies that I watched more than once, I tend to remember. And movies I saw in the 1970s and 80s are far more likely to remain burned into my brain – even if I only saw them once.

I suppose this phenomenon could party be due to the sheer volume of movies that I watch now, which is a trend that started back in the ’90s. I watch at least one movie a day. Some days I watch two or three. Back in the ’80s I probably only saw one or two movies a week.

This could be the old man in me talking, but I also feel that the average level of quality was much higher in the movies that I was watching back in the ’70s and ’80s. So many of them are now certified classics – or #NotQuiteClassics as the case might be. I can’t imagine that very many of the recent movies I watch (and by recent I mean anything made in the past 20 years or so), will be remembered with the same reverence as Halloween (1978), Dawn of the Dead (1978), or even Maniac (1980).

I’m not saying that there aren’t great movies being made today (or within the past 20 years). There are, of course. But there are just so many MORE movies in general, and sometimes the truly great ones get lost among all of the mediocrity. It will be interesting to see which current films get remembered and talked about in thirty or forty years (not that I will be around to find out).

So what does this have to do with Maniac (1963)? Well, it’s an older movie (that was already older when I first came across it) that doesn’t get talked about very much. When people think of Hammer Horror, or Hammer movies in general, I don’t think this is one of the top ten movies that pops into their minds. It’s part of a sub-genre, or sub-category of Hammer films, that includes movies like Scream of Fear (1961), Paranoiac (1963), Nightmare (1964) and maybe Stop Me Before I Kill! (1960). Maniac (1963) is probably the weakest of all of these movies. However…

Watching it again after all these years, I found that quite enjoyed it. Maniac (1963) has enough of the good qualities that make movies like Scream of Fear great, to make it a pretty decent little noirish psychological thriller. It’s a slow burn, for sure, spending a lot of time building up characters and relationships. It’s almost more of a drama in the first half, so hardcore horror fans will need a bit of patience as they wait for the payoff. And that payoff likely won’t be big enough for those, like 12 year old me, who might be looking for some blood red gore.

But if you like black and white suspense thrillers, with likeable characters and a growing sense of creepy dread, you might just find Maniac (1963) to be a pleasant addition to your next #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn. While not the best example of its kind, it’s somewhat forgotten #NotQuiteClassicCinema that’s worthy of rediscovery.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Miner’s Massacre (2002)

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 box art for Miner's Massacre (2002)Miner’s Massacre AKA  Curse of the Forty-Niner (2002) by #JohnCarlBuechler

w/#KarenBlack #JohnPhillipLaw #RichardLynch #VernonWells #MartinKove #JeffConaway

A group of friends take gold from an old mine and awaken a long dead miner Hell Bent on protecting his treasure.

“They Axed For It!”

#Horror #Slasher
#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

A friend of mine worked for a website reviewing DVDs. Apparently, he did it to get a bunch of free DVDs mailed out to him on a regular basis. He told me I should get in on it, but somehow I never did. One of the movies he received and reviewed was Miner’s Massacre (2002). – and he told me about it one day.

“Is it worth watching?” I asked him.

“Oh, yeah!” he said with a glint in his eye.

I got the impression that he thought it was a bad movie, but a “so-bad-it’s-good” bad movie. He knew I liked that sort of thing, so I guess he figured that he was giving me a hot tip. He didn’t lend me his DVD, oddly enough. But I guess at that point we were only seeing each other once in while – if we happened to bump into each other at a party or event. He may not have wanted to risk losing his precious copy (for which he’d paid nothing).

A couple of years later I found a copy of Miner’s Massacre in a bargain bin somewhere and, recalling my friend’s ringing endorsement, I bought it. I guess I must have enjoyed it enough to put it onto my movie shelf – where it has remained collecting dust ever since. Honestly, I couldn’t remember a thing about it. So, I decided that it was time to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

It’s basically an old school slasher film directed by John Carl Buechler, who made Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988) and about 17 other movies. He is more known for his special effects work. Miner’s Massacre is inferior in every way to any Friday the 13th movie. It tries to create a supernatural killer, like Jason, but doesn’t do as good a job setting him up and making him scary. He seems more campy and ridiculous most of the time. We also see him right away, so we know he’s the killer. There’s no mystery, like even the original Friday the 13th had. That would be okay if he was scary like Michael Myers, but he’s not. 

There’s an amazing cast of well known supporting actors in Miner’s Massacre. Unfortunately, they are all wasted. It’s pretty evident that they are there just to provide some names that can be used to promote the movie. many of them just have one scene – some of which are completely unnecessary and do nothing to move the story forward. 

So what’s the verdict?

Miner’s Massacre (2002) is Trash. It doesn’t work as a serious slasher film. It’s not scary or suspenseful. It also isn’t quite bad enough to be “so-bad-it’s-good”. The ridiculous misuse of the famous actors could almost qualify it, but not quite. It does have a tiny bit of sleaze in it, but not enough to make it worth sitting through. Perhaps those who’ve seen fewer bad movies than I have may be amused enough to declare it “so-bad-it’s-good”. Maybe I even did myself when I first saw it almost 20 years ago. But now, it just seems bad.

For a much, much better miner’s massacre, stick to My Bloody Valentine (1981) – or even My Bloody Valentine (2009), which has a much higher sleaze factor and is in 3D! They are both well worth repeat viewings – and are much better slasher films than Miner’s Massacre (2002). 

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Pulse (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 comes…

VHS box for Pulse (1988)Pulse (1988) by #PaulGolding

w/ #CliffDeYoung #RoxanneHart #JoeyLawrence

A son tries to warn his dad and stepmom that they are being menaced by an intelligent pulse of electricity.

“It traps you in your own house… then pulls the plug.”

#Horror #SciFi

#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

 

Not to be confused with Pulse (2001) – a Japanese horror films also know as Kairo – or the American remake, Pulse (2006) – which led to the sequels Pulse 2: Afterlife (2008) and Pulse 3 (2008) Pulse (1988) is a movie that I remember fondly from the dying days of the 1980s, but seems to be largely forgotten. In fact, I may have been the only one on the planet who, upon hearing that the movie Pulse (2006) was coming out, said “Is that a remake of the one with that Joey Lawrence kid?”

No, it’s remake of the Japanese film Kairo, someone told me.

“Was Kairo a remake of the one with that Joey Lawrence kid?”

I was almost kicked out of the horror movie appreciation society…

Just based on my own experience, it seems like Pulse (1988) is not remembered by many people, and was probably not a big success when it was released. But it feels like it should have been – or was designed to be. Since I hadn’t seen it in years, I decided to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test…

Pulse (1988) is a PG movie, and I dare say it’s pretty family friendly. I think it was going for the same vibe and/or audience as movies like Gremlins (1984) and The Goonies (1985). I might even go so far as to suggest that the filmmakers had Poltergeist (1982) on their minds when they conceived of this one.

Pulse (1988) takes place in a picture perfect (almost Spielbergian) suburban neighborhood and features a family being menaced by electricity in their house. Their TV set is featured prominently in the mysterious action, which automatically gives me flashbacks to Poltergeist. The story is ultimately very different, but I suspect the producers would have been thrilled to capture even a small percent of Poltergeist‘s success. 

Just to be clear, Pulse (1988) is nowhere near as good as any of these other films that may have influenced it. However, it’s actually a pretty good movie, with a great cast, some state of the art ’80s special affects, and a few genuinely suspenseful and scary sequences. I would have loved it as a twelve year old and, as someone who is a little bit older than that, I still enjoyed it quite a bit.

So what’s the verdict?

I would have to say that Pulse (1988) is a medium #Terror. Especially good for younger viewers, and those with a yen for healthy dose of 1980s nostalgia. I will be hanging onto my VHS tape for whenever I need my next fix.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Psycho Cop 2 / Psycho Cop Returns (1993)

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 comes…

VHS box for Psycho Cop 2 (1993)Psycho Cop 2 / Psycho Cop Returns (1993) by #AdamRifkin

w/ #RobertRShafer #BarbaraNiven #JulieStrain

A psycho cop decides to kill everyone who he thinks has broken the law.

“Something old, something new, someone bloody… and the man in blue!”

#Horror
#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

 

Confession: I’ve never seen the first Psycho Cop (1989) movie. I’ve always imagined that it was a ripoff of Maniac Cop (1988). Someone gave me an old VHS copy of Psycho Cop 2 (1993) back in the late ’90s. Truth be told it was a former video store owner who had closed up shop and was getting rid of old tapes. How could I not do my part to help? I brought home a boxful of ’90s movies that I’d never seen before. Most of them were trash, but I remembered enjoying this one quite a bit and adding it to my personal library. Fast forward a couple of decades and I really couldn’t remember much about it. I’d enjoyed seeing it on my shelf over the years, but for some reason I’d never had the urge to revisit it. Last week I decided that it was time to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test…

Psycho Cop 2 (1993) – or Psycho Cop Returns as it’s sometimes called – was directed by Adam Rifkin, who made films like Detroit Rock City (1999), The Chase (1994) and one of the segments in the awesome anthology Chillerama (2011). He also made a pretty nifty film called Look (2007), which was shot entirely from the perspective of security cameras. It works surprisingly well, and should be much better known than it is – but I digress…

Psycho Cop 2 is more like a slasher film than Maniac Cop – and as anyone who knows me can attest, I love slasher films. The plot goes something like this: a bunch of office workers throw a bachelor party and a psycho cop shows up to punish anyone who is breaking the law – which is pretty much everyone, since the whole party is against the rules. There are strippers, including relative newcomer and future star Julie Strain, and there are ridiculous, gory murders. Put simply, this movie really delivers the exploitation goods – and it’s all done with tongue firmly in cheek. It’s fast paced, funny, and just plain fun.

I can’t help but notice that it gets a higher rating on the IMDb than the original Psycho Cop, and I can believe it’s a better movie. Maybe one day I’ll watch part one and find out for sure. In any case, I believe that Psycho Cop 2 is entertaining enough to warrant repeat viewings.

So what’s the verdict?

As you can probably guess, I believe that Psycho Cop 2 (1993) is #Trash of the highest order, which means that it’s #Terror to me (although I wouldn’t exactly call it scary). I use the word #Terrror interchangeably with #Treasure – and I will certainly continue to treasure my VHS copy of this movie for years to come.

Friday the 13th at the home drive in: The original Friday the 13th (1980)

I remember seeing the poster for Friday the 13th at a movie theatre and thinking it looked scary. Too scary. I had always enjoyed watching scary movies, but something about this poster made me wonder if I should stay away. Fortunately, I was too young to buy a ticket anyway. Continue reading