Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Scream Bloody Murder (1972)

My favourite video store used to have an amazing deal that allowed you to rent all the movies you could watch for one month for a low, low price (maybe $9.95, or $12.95, I can’t quite recall). You could rent three movies at a time, and exchange them as often as you like. Some a-holes would pay for the deal, take out three movies and just keep them for a month. I guess it was a cheaper way to “own” movies that had price tags like $199.95 (which basically meant they weren’t for sale – but if you wanted to pay that price, I guess they would have taken it). One year I decided to spend the final month of summer watching all the movies I could put my hands on. I figured it was a good way to try out a bunch of weird and iffy looking movies that I wasn’t so sure about. It was also a good way to relax before heading back school in September.

Unfortunately, I got an unexpected offer to assistant stage manage a play that was going up in September, which meant rehearsing the last three weeks of August. Like a fool, I said yes. This meant that I was in rehearsals for several hours each day – hours that I had planned to spend sitting in front of a TV watching outrageous cinematic atrocities. I had already paid for the all-you-can watch movie deal, so I didn’t want to waste it. I felt that on principle I had to watch a minimum of three movies a day. And since I was in rehearsal until 10:00 PM most days, this meant that had to watch movies all night to make up for it.

VHA box for Scream Bloody Murder (1972)I remember the sun was coming up as I finished watching a beat up looking VHS tape of an obscure old movie called Scream Bloody Murder (1972). The box had been taunting me, and tempting me, from the shelves of Movie Village for a while now, but I’d never been able to convince myself to rent it. It just looked so cheap – it had to be terrible. Perhaps I had flashbacks to renting Garden of the Dead (1972) with my friends a few years ago. Scream Bloody Murder just couldn’t live up to it’s own hyperbole: “The First Motion Picture to be Called GORE-NOGRAPHY!!!” Gore-nography? That screamed ‘rent me!’ and yet I still didn’t trust it. The box looked so… nasty – is that the word for it? Just take a look at it (on the right). Something about it creeped me out in a way that no other horror film ever had.

I’d been a big fan of horror films since I was a kid. I loved movies like Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980), not to mention The Amityville Horror (1979) and Poltergeist. (1982). I’d even seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and The Toolbox Murders (1978) – and those ones had probably given me similar vibes to Scream Bloody Murder, but both Texas… and Toolbox… were famous movies. Steven King even endorsed Toolbox… on the front cover. So, l I knew those movies had to be of a certain level of quality. But Scream Bloody Murder… it was more like finding something creepy buried in your back yard and going “what the hell is this?”

So, it took an all-you-can-watch movie deal, and an all night movie marathon, to finally convince me to slide this tape into the player. It was the final film of the night, and I was probably half asleep when it started – but pretty soon I was wide awake. It starts with a bang – or perhaps I should say a senseless killing. A young boy runs over his father with a tractor. Was it an accident? or some kind of twisted murder? It’s not really clear to me. But the boy jumps out of the moving farm vehicle and manages to get his arm run over. There is some blood and gore, and the whole thing has an air of unpleasantness to it. I was completely riveted.

The kid, Matthew, has his mangled hand replaced by a hook, or claw, and is stuck in a mental hospital until he is eighteen. Now played by Fred Holbert, he is released and he returns to the farm to discover that his mother has a new man in her life. Suffice it to say that Matthew has deep, deep troubles with his mother, and the murders soon begin (again).

This is just the beginning, and Scream Bloody Murder is soon winding it’s way through unexpected plot turns, and delivering some truly awesome moments of madness. By the time the final scene was playing out on my TV screen (as the sun was coming up through the window behind me) I felt disturbed, and just a little bit dirty.

Yes, dirty. The movie seemed so scuzzy to me (and I’m not even sure how to define that), that I almost felt a need to take a shower when it was done (as one critic once predicted that people would feel after watching a play I wrote – but that’s another story). Don’t get me wrong, I had enjoyed the movie – particularly the first half or so. There were moments of unintentional hilarity, as well as truly suspenseful scenes. I even found myself wondering, at one point, if Steven King had seen this movie and been inspired by it when he wrote Misery. Probably not, but there are certain similarities.

In the last act, the movie spirals down to a nightmarish conclusion. Something about the low budget production values, the bad film print, and the worn out VHS tape – coupled with the dark, disturbing ending – left me feeling thoroughly shaken, and somehow less clean than when I had started. Perhaps lack of sleep on my part was also a factor, I don’t know. But I never forgot Scream Bloody Murder, and I later picked up a half-decent print on DVD.

Watching it last week, I didn’t get that same feeling of disturbed uncleanliness. I’ve seen so many other movies over the years that are just as cheap and scuzzy – if not more so – that it really seems kind of quaint and classy to me now. It still entertained me in all the same places. And it was great to see Angus Scrimm in an early appearance, credited as Rory Guy. There are moments in Scream Bloody Murder (1972) that I think are absolutely brilliant, and overall it’s a fairly unpredictable story. I would call it a minor #NotQuiteClassicCinema classic, and recommend it to anyone with a taste for low, low budget horrors of the early 1970s. I know I will always be happy to see it turn up on any #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

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: Psychopath / An Eye for an Eye (1973)

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…

Psychopath / An Eye for an Eye (1973) by Larry G. Brown

w/ #TomBasham #JohnAshton #MargaretAvery

A children’s television show host named Mr Rabbey stalks and murders abusive parents.

“Nobody can escape him… Nobody!”

#Horror
#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

 

I’ve had this one in my collection for many years, and it’s a in a cheapjack VHS box that looks a lot like the picture above. Family Tyme Home Video the company is called. Family time? This movie hardly conjures up images of Mommy and Daddy gathering the kids around the TV set on a Sunday afternoon. On the other hand, Psychopath / An Eye for an Eye (1973) is about a children’s performer, so maybe that’s where Family Tyme got the idea to release it. What’s really odd to me is that I don’t think the movie has ever been given a proper re-release on DVD on Blu-ray. I certainly have never come across it – and it seems like it would be a perfect candidate for one of the better niche companies that release special editions of weird, cult horror movies.

I’m not sure if Psychopath ever developed much of a cult following, but it really should have. The story, about a children’s entertainer murdering abusive parents, is about as close to brilliant to any cult horror plot that I’ve ever heard. And just to add to the mystique, Joe Spinnell – who gave one of the greatest performances as a psychopath in horror movie history in Maniac (1980) – attempted to remake Psychopath as Maniac 2: Mr. Robbie (1986). I’m not sure how official a remake it was, but the original movie features a children’s performer named Mr. Rabbey, and Joe called his character Mr. Robbie – coincidence? I think not. 

Honestly, Psychopath is nowhere near as good a movie as Maniac. Still, it’s fairly entertaining for what it is – and what it is is a PG rated early ’70s portrait of a weirdo going over the edge. It’s light on gore, violence, and nudity, but it’s a pretty twisted story that manages to deliver a few unintended laughs as well as some seriously creepy moments. The fact that it’s a little hard to come by on home video also adds to it’s understated appeal.

So what’s the verdict?

I would have to say that Psychopath / An Eye for an Eye (1973) is a mild #Terror. Hardly the best of its kind, but an acceptable way to spend eighty some odd minutes once every fifteen or twenty years. I will be hanging onto my VHS tape in the hopes that I might live that long.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Burial Ground (1981)

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 cover of Burial Ground (1981)Burial Ground (1981) by Andrea Bianchi

An archaeology professor discovers an ancient crypt which contains living dead corpses.

The scariest thing I remember from this is the creepy 25 year old kid…

“They craved flesh with a hunger!”

#Zombies #Horror

#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

 

Aside from the very creepy child, who looks like he’s 40 but was apparently played by a 25-year-old actor named Peter Bark, or Pietro Barzocchini, the only thing I remembered about this movie was that the zombies made use of tools and ladders, etc., which I had thought was a bit ridiculous. 

I first purchased the VHS tape during the dark days when zombies were all but extinct. The last great entries in the genre had been Day of the Dead (1985) and The Return of the Living Dead (1985). The great zombie resurrection wouldn’t occur until Dawn of the Dead (2004) and 28 Days Later… (2002) wowed audiences. Things were pretty bad for zombie fans in the 1990s. Films like I Zombie: The Chronicles of Pain (1998) and The Dead Hate the Living! (2000) tried to get things going again, but weren’t quite good enough. So, when I watched Burial Ground for the first time roundabout 1995, I was so starved for good zombie action that I was willing to overlook all of its flaws. Watching it again now, after more than fifteen years of superior zombie films and TV shows, those flaws seem a little more apparent. 

The plot of Burial Ground is paper thin, and the characters are as well. I suppose that the raison d’être of this film was crazy zombie action, gore – and a healthy dose of sleaze. Judged solely on those merits, it’s not too bad (or maybe so bad it’s good). The main reason to watch this movie, as far as I’m concerned, is still the creepy adult kid – who has a very creepy relationship with his mother, which leads to what is probably the most infamous moment of the movie (I hate SPOILERS, so I don’t want to say too much about it. Let’s just say it involves the mother trying to breastfeed her 40 year old child after he’s been zombified). 

Burial Ground (1981), featuring a mother and her "child", played by 25 year old Pietro Barzocchini.

So what’s the verdict? Is this movie #Trash or #Terror? 

I would much rather watch movies like Zombie (1979) and City of the Living Dead (1980) on any day of the week. But still, Burial Ground is a movie that truly must be seen to be believed (as the VHS box claims). So, I would have to conclude that it is a very mild #Terror. I’m sure there are people who love it more than I do, but… Having revisited it for the first time in 15 years, I’m not sure that I will have to watch it again any time soon. Fans of Italian zombie films who haven’t ever seen it, should probably do so at least once. 

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Addicted to Murder (1995)

It’s time for Trash Or Terror Tuesday

…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…

Trash Or Terror Tuesday - VHS box cover art for Kevin J Lindenmuth's Addicted to Murder (1995)Addicted to Murder (1995) by Kevin J Lindenmuth

w/ Mick McCleery & Laura McLauchlin

What happens when a serial killer encounters someTHING far worse than himself…? What makes Joel different is his special childhood friend… a #VAMPIRE named Rachel.

“Time To Feed The FEAR”

#Slasher #Horror

#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

 

Trash Or Terror Tuesday, or Trash Or Treasure Tuesday, is something that I’ve been tweeting about for about a year and a half now. It’s basically just an excuse for me to watch one of the old VHS tapes that’s been sitting on my shelf for years, untouched. In most cases, these are movies that I bought, or was given, as much as twenty-five years ago. I watched them once, back then, and then put them into my personal library – which at the time was much smaller and had space for such things. For whatever reason I have never revisited these films and, in many cases, I cannot remember anything about them. I no longer have space to add new blu-rays and DVDs – unless they are directly replacing an older copy of the same film. Looking at some of the forgotten films sitting on my shelves, I can’t help but wonder if some of them might be ready to move on out of my collection and into some else’s. Perhaps some of them never even deserved to be there in the first place. On the other hand, maybe some of them are true gems waiting for rediscovery. Whatever the case, last January I decided that it was time for me to find out. I figured that if I forced myself to look at one a week (every Tuesday) the project would slowly, but surely, get done.

Some of my Trash Or Terror Tuesday tweets have sparked discussion among my Twitter friends. Occasionally someone will ask me, “Was it trash – or treasure?” So, I’ll try to answer as best I can in a brief tweet, but it often feels like I could do better. I must admit that I often think I should be following the initial tweet with one that says “And the verdict is…”, but so far I haven’t tried it. So, starting today, I am going to attempt to answer that burning question in a brief (ish) blog post. Briefer than this first one, I hope. And with that in mind…

Last week, I took a look at Kevin J Lindenmuth’s Addicted to Murder (1995). I was somewhat hesitant to include it in this project, as I’ve always been quite pleased to have it sitting on my shelf. I had read about it in an obscure horror magazine in the 1990s. It looked like a pretty cool low budget, SOV, horror movie. But like many such films in those days, it was really hard to come by. A few years later, I found a copy in a bargain bin and immediately snapped it up. I have never seen another copy for sale anywhere.

I know that I watched the movie back then, but my memory of it is hazy, to say the least. I think I thought it was pretty good, but maybe not as good as I had hoped it would be. Still, it was a unique and rare VHS tape, so I knew that I had to keep it. Over the years I have enjoyed looking at it on my shelf, but I have never had the urge to watch it again. This, it seemed to me, was a bit wrong. Movies are meant to to be watched, after all. If I never wanted to watch this one, why was it in my collection?

So, last Tuesday I put Addicted to Murder to the test and the results were… mixed. I was actually fairly impressed by the look of it – the style, the cinematography, the editing. It was a very low budget movie, but Lindenmuth managed to put a lot of interesting shots and sequences up on the (home video) screen. To borrow a quote from my friend and fellow bad movie aficionado, Den, Addicted to Murder did not look like “assholes with camcorders” had made it. On the contrary, someone with a strong understanding of filmmaking made this movie (check out Lindenmuth’s company website). The story was fairly unique (serial killer meets vampire), so it gets points for that. However, it did not movie forward at a lightning pace, and was actually fairly repetitive at times. 

In terms of delivering the goods, or “bringing home the groceries” as Den might say, Addicted to Murder did a pretty good job with the gore, but was a little light on the sleaze factor. The article that I had read back the ’90s had mentioned it alongside films like Gore Whore (1994) and Gorgasm (1990), Hugh Gallagher’s SOV masterpieces of sleaze horror. Compared to movies like that, Addicted to Murder is pretty tame (although probably better made). 

So, what’s the verdict? Is this movie #Trash or #Terror? 

I would have to conclude that Kevin J Lindenmuth’s Addicted to Murder (1995) is a mild #Terror. It’s worth watching once (or once every twenty years in my case). Some people may find even more to like about it than I did, but speaking for myself, I’m not sure if I will live long enough to get back to it a third time. This is one of the strange realities of getting older. I no longer ask myself “DId I enjoy this movie enough to put in in my personal library?” I now ask myself “Am I likely to watch this movie again before I die?” – and if the answer is no, I put it aside to sell, or give away, to someone who might get some enjoyment out of it. Movies are meant to be watched, after all. Not just stared at on a shelf…

 

Friday night at the home drive-in: Watch Me When I Kill (1977)

I have always been a fan of horror films, and slasher films in particular. I saw movies like Halloween (1978) and Terror Train (1980) when they first appeared on TV, and they made a strong impression. But it wasn’t every day that respectable TV stations would show movies like that. And I was too young to get in to see most of them in the theatre. Home video was a life-changer for a kid like me. Not only did stores like Jumbo Video have a Horror Castle (which was a room filled with hundreds of horror films on VHS and Beta), the clerks who worked in those stores never stopped me or my friends from renting R-rated movies when we were 12 or 13. Continue reading