The Saint (1997)
Producers: David Brown and Robert Evans and William J MacDonald and Mace Neufeld
Director: Phillip Noyce
Screenwriters: Jonathan Hensleigh and Wesley Strick (story: Jonathan Hensleigh)
A spy gets a job with a Russian demagogue to steal the cold fusion secret from a physicist. He succeeds but it turns out to be incomplete. Having fallen in love with the beautiful scientist, he teams up with her.
This is a well made film. It’s more romance than action. And most of the clever things the thief does in this film are off screen and never explained. While not a film to avoid, you probably shouldn’t seek it out unless you really want to see Val Kilmer (Tombstone) in a lot of wigs doing a bunch of accents.
27 February 2021
Salem’s Lot (1979)
Producer: Richard Kobritz
Director: Tobe Hooper
Screenwriter: Paul Monash (novel: Stephen King)
A man comes back to his hometown to write a novel about a mansion there that he considers evil. And it just so happens, a creepy British guy and his partner (Who is coming soon!) have purchased it. People start dying and then turning into vampires.
This is one of the best filmed versions of a Stephen King novel. It’s got a great cast, a near-perfect script, and Hooper does a great job of combining the small-town feel with impending doom.
Starring David Soul (Starsky & Hutch), James Mason (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), Lance Kerwin, and Bonnie Bedelia (Die Hard). Some other notable players are Kenneth McMillan (Partners), Geoffrey Lewis (Night of the Comet), and Elisha Cook Jr and Marie Windsor from The Killing.
3 December 2020
The Sandman (1995)
Producer/Director: JR Bookwalter
Screenwriters: Matthew Jason Walsh and JR Bookwalter (story: Bookwalter & David Lange and Walsh)
People keep dying in their sleep. Everyone is talking about it. But only romance novelist Gary notices the glowing red-eyed creature that’s roaming the night killing people.
Half straight-up comedy (the fights breaking out on the talk show are hilarious) and half supernatural horror, this one has a certain internal logic that you may love or hate.
The Sandman is under copyright. It is available on DVD.
Santa Jaws (2018)
Producers: Ken Badish & Daniel Lewis
Director: Misty Talley
Screenwriter: Jake Kiernan
A budding comic book artist gets a special pen that brings anything he draws to life. And currently, he’s working on “Santa Jaws” about a super-smart shark who ate Evil Santa and is now attracted to the smell of Christmas. Now the young man must save his family from this real-life threat.
I know this film sounds great. And it is in its way. It’s professional from top to bottom — and creative too! But it’s more or less the Hallmark Hall of Fame version of a psychotronic film. There are some great moments for fans and the score is great with lots of references to Jaws and Christmas songs. But mostly, this is a film that you might want to save for friends who are only psychotronic-curious.
15 January 2021
Santo vs las Mujeres Vampiro (1962)
Producer: Alberto López
Director: Alfonso Corona Blake
Screenwriters: Rafael García Travesi and Alfonso Corona Blake (Antonio Orellana & Fernando Osés and Rafael García Travesi)
Alternate titles: Samson vs the Vampire Women
There’s a group of lady vampires and their male slaves. They’ve been asleep for 200 years since they failed to get some woman for a sacrifice or something. They are back now to get the woman’s great-granddaughter. Bullets can’t stop them. But you know what can? Santo, of course!
This is a bizarre hybrid of horror and professional wrestling. The horror sequences are genuinely spooky. And the wrestling sequences are fun but go on way longer than you’d think. This was one of the earliest Santo films so he stays in his lane and is mostly just a wrestler. The vampires put up a good fight but fear not: they never manage to remove Santo’s mask!
22 November 2021
Saturday the 14th (1981)
Producer: Julie Corman
Director: Howard R Cohen
Screenwriter: Howard R Cohen (story: Jeff Begun)
A nice middle-class family inherits a cursed house. Their son accidentally unleashes a bunch of monsters from a book that a vampire couple is keen to find. Van Helsing shows up too.
Although it wasn’t marketed as such, this is really a horror-comedy for kids. And as such, it’s really good. Kind of tame for adults but I enjoyed it.
Starring Richard Benjamin (Love at First Bite), Paula Prentiss (What’s New Pussycat?), Kari Michaelsen (Gimme a Break!), Kevin Brando, Jeffrey Tambor (The Larry Sanders Show), Nancy Lee Andrews, and Severn Darden (The President’s Analyst).
16 September 2021
Saturn 3 (1980)
Producer/Director: Stanley Donen
Screenwriter: Martin Amis
A psychopathic inspector comes to a remote research facility run by a couple. And, of course, he causes lots of trouble, ultimately putting his psychopathy inside a robot and trying to kidnap the woman.
This film features great sets but could easily be a play since it really only has three characters. It has an awkward kind of charm but could maybe use a more interesting villain.
Starring Kirk Douglas (Ace in the Hole), Farrah Fawcett (Logan’s Run), and Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs). Because Keitel is an Actors Studio dipshit, Donen got working actor Roy Dotrice (Amadeus) to dub his part.
26 April 2021
SOS: Save Our Skins (2014)
Producers: Jonas Diamond & Henry Normal & Kent Sobey
Director: Kent Sobey
Screenwriters: Chris Hayward & Nat Saunders
Alternate titles: Save Our Skins
Two nerds from the UK go to New York for a science fiction convention only to find that everyone has disappeared. They avoid a blue monster while trying to figure out what happened.
This is an enjoyable film. It seems to have originally been a TV series, which it would work better as. It’s main problem is a weak ending. The “secret” itself is pretty good but the final resolution seems forced to me. Is a happy ending so terrible that it must be avoided even if it ruins the plot?
The film stars the writers Chris Hayward and Nat Saunders (who are really good both as writers and actors). It features Hannah Spear.
SOS: Save Our Skins is under copyright. It is available on a barebones DVD.
10 February 2021
Saving Private Perez (2011)
Producers: Billy Rovzar & Fernando Rovzar and Alex Garcia & Alexis Fridman
Director: Beto Gomez
Screenwriters: Beto Gomez and Francisco Payó González
Alternate titles: Salvando al Soldado Pérez
A drug lord tries to get into his mother’s good graces by returning her other son who was kidnapped while serving in the military in Iraq.
This film is okay. It has moments I quite liked. But I couldn’t get past the fact that a film with such a great idea and wonderful cast dragged so much. But the two friends I watched it with quite liked it.
Starring Miguel Rodarte (who is wonderful). Featuring Jesús Ochoa, Joaquín Cosío, Rodrigo Oviedo, Gerardo Taracena (Apocalypto), and Marius Biegai.
Saving Private Perez is copyrighted. It is available on DVD.
11 July 2020
Producer: Claude Héroux
Director/Screenwriter: David Cronenberg
The government is developing scanners — people with telepathic and other special powers. But the greatest of them, Revok, is building his own army. The government has only one hope, the homeless scanner Vale.
This is the film with the exploding head. The story is rather good and Vale is such a compelling character, it’s hard not to get drawn in. It also packs in a novel-level plot.
Starring Stephen Lack (All the Vermeers in New York), Jennifer O’Neill (Rio Lobo), and Michael Ironside (Total Recall). With Patrick McGoohan (Braveheart) and Lawrence Dane (Happy Birthday to Me). There is a nice small part for Robert Silverman (eXistenZ).
Producers: Norman Twain & Courtney Potts & Jamie Gordon
Director: Jed Weintrob
Screenwriter: Zack Ford
A young woman visits her hometown to visit her brother and niece. Years earlier, she survived the torture of a serial killer, killing him in the process. But now there is a new serial killer and she fears it is the same man.
This film is really well-made. The production is wonderful. And it’s a near-perfect film for the first hour. The reveal is pretty obvious and there’s a good 10 minutes of unnecessary torture porn with some of the most insipid villain self-justifications that I’ve ever heard. But it’s a worthy film and I did appreciate the dental element.
Scar is copyrighted. There are a lot of releases of this film. You can get it in 2D on DVD or with both 2D and 3D versions on DVD and Blu-ray. You can also get it on the Blu-ray Triple Feature Horror Vol 2 along with Terror Trap and Midnight Movie.
15 November 2020
Scare Campaign (2016)
Producer: Julie Ryan
Directors/Screenwriters: The Cairnes brothers
A horror reality show that causes participants to pee themselves needs to up its game because a YouTube channel is getting major clicks by actually killing people on screen. So the show sets up the ultimate “prank.”
As usual with the Cairnes brothers, this film is really well made. My friends and I all found the story shockingly predictable. But many film reviewers seem to have been fooled. So you may love it. I think you are better off with 100 Bloody Acres or just return to Videodrome.
20 June 2020
Scare Me (2020)
Producers: Alex Bach & Daniel Powell & Josh Ruben
Director/Screenwriter: Josh Ruben
An aspiring writer rents a cabin to continue his failed attempts. He meets a very successful writer staying nearby. During a power outage, they tell each other scary stories. Eventually they are joined by a pizza delivery man and the aspiring writer stops having fun.
The first hour of this film is exceptional. It’s funny and clever and the acting is fantastic. The rest of it is fine but I got tired of it. Then, when the denouement comes, it takes forever. But there is far more to like here than in most films.
29 December 2020
Scare Package (2019)
Concept: Aaron B Koontz & Cameron Burns
Producers: Aaron B Koontz & Cameron Burns & Alex Euting and Shawn Talley & Ashleigh Snead & Kris Phipps
Directors: Emily Hagins, Aaron B Koontz, Chris McInroy, Noah Segan, Courtney & Hillary Andujar, Anthony Cousins, Baron Vaughn
Screenwriters: Emily Hagins, Aaron B Koontz & Cameron Burns, Chris McInroy, Frank Garcia-Hejl & Noah Segan, Courtney & Hillary Andujar & Ben Fee, John Karsko & Anthony Cousins, Baron Vaughn
Two stock horror characters discuss their dissatisfaction with their roles. So one of them tries to go for a different character in his next film. The results are… interesting. This is followed but a number of horror parodies connected with the meta-theme that they are all in the same horror film.
This is generally a very funny film made by horror fans for horror fans. Two of the shorts are more comedy-adjacent and they change the tone but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, even if I prefer the laugh-out-loud segments. The last sequence gets kind of slow but it ends well.
The film stars a lot of fine actors. These include Jeremy King (USS Seaviper), Hawn Tran (Santa Jaws), Toni Trucks (Mr Art Critic), Chase Williamson (John Dies at the End), and Byron Brown (Grow Up, Tony Phillips). Joe Bob Briggs also has a small part mostly making fun of the kind of people who are thought to like this kind of film.
15 January 2021
Scarecrow County (2019)
Producer: Henrique Couto
Director/Screenwriter: John Oak Dalton
The journal of a young man who killed himself years earlier shows up when his sister is cleaning house. Now people who were connected with the death begin to die.
Another strong film from Dalton. I think The Girl in the Crawlspace is stronger, but this one works quite well.
Scarecrow County is under copyright. It is available as a Blu-ray/DVD combo directly from Henflix with a commentary track.
8 February 2021
Producers: Gina Gomez & Scott Dunn
Director: Scott Dunn
Screenwriters: Scott Dunn & Gina Gomez
A young man loses his job because he presented another writer’s work as his own. Then his girlfriend leaves him because she finds incriminating texts on his phone. He spends the weekend trying to win her back while staying with his friend who is having his own relationship problems.
Although not as good as Mandao of the Dead, Schlep has the same witty writing and breezy direction that’s kind of hard not to love. It seems that Dunn and Gomez have married.
Starring the same group from Mandao along with Nathalia Castellon.
Schlep is under copyright. It is available on Amazon Prime.
18 May 2020
Scream Blacula Scream (1973)
Producer: Joseph T Naar
Director: Bob Kelljan
Screenwriters: Joan Torres & Raymond Koenig and Maurice Jules (story: Joan Torres & Raymond Koenig)
Blacula is brought back to life by the privileged son of a recently deceased voodoo priestess. The new voodoo priestess tries to cure Blacula but fails, turning against him instead.
This is more of a traditional vampire story than the original. Generally, I think it is better. They make a great double feature!
William Marshall (Pee-wee’s Playhouse) is back in the title role. This is Richard Lawson’s (Black Fist) first credited role. Also featuring: Pam Grier (Black Mama, White Mama), Don Mitchell (Ironside), Michael Conrad (Hill Street Blues), Janee Michelle (The House on Skull Mountain), Barbara Rhoades (The Shakiest Gun in the West), Bernie Hamilton (Starsky and Hutch), and Craig T Nelson (Poltergeist).
Scum of the Earth! (1963)
Producer: David F Friedman
Director/Screenwriter: Herschell Gordon Lewis
This is the film shot just days after Blood Feast. It’s an underappreciated gem. The story revolves around a pornography ring and traps young women and even a photographer into doing work they wouldn’t normally. As Samuel L Jackson would say, they are the weak. Much of the film is hard to watch with off-camera rape and murder. But it builds to a heartwarming ending where even the weak find redemption. Generally considered the first Roughie.
Mal Arnold, who played a 60-year-old just the week before, plays a teenager here. William Kerwin is his usual fabulous self as Harmon the blackmailed photographer, and Allison Louise Downe plays the principal female (she’s not as good an actor as she is a writer).
If Blood Feast is in the public domain, then certainly Scum of the Earth! is. Regardless, is a decent copy on Archive.org. The only version of this film by itself is a DVD-R — not recommended. It is usually paired with other films: Blood Feast, The Defilers, and Night Tide.
The Seekers (2003)
Producers: Ron Bonk & Tim Ritter & John Bowker
Director/Screenwriter: John Bowker
A guy’s life is falling apart. He just got fired only to learn that his girlfriend, who appeared only to hate him before, is sleeping with another guy. He goes to a video store and rents a tape from a blind woman. On the tape, the same woman offers him a way to get back at the people who have wronged him. But at a great price.
Starring Felicia Pandolfi (Abomination: The Evilmaker II) and Rob Merickel.
30 June 2020
The Selling (2011)
Producers: Gabriel Diani and Emily Lou
Director: Emily Lou
Screenwriter: Gabriel Diani
Alternate titles: The Selling of Scary Manor
The nicest real estate agent in the world buys a house to flip. But it turns out to be haunted. In order to get money for his mother’s cancer surgery, he tries to sell it to unsuspecting buyers, but a ghost blogger and the bleeding walls make this very hard.
This is one of the funniest films I’ve seen in the last decade. It has a very clever script, exceptional acting, and directing that never lets anything get in the way of the comedy. If you like 13 Ghosts, you will love this film! And you probably will anyway.
Starring Gabriel Diani (Diani & Devine Meet the Apocalypse), Jonathan Klein (Hotel for Dogs), Nancy Lenehan (Sex Tape), Etta Devine, Janet Varney (The Legend of Korra), and Barry Bostwick (The Rocky Horror Picture Show).
The Selling is under copyright. It is available on DVD.
19 October 2019
Serpent Island (1954)
Producer: Bert I Gordon
Director/Screenwriter: Tom Gries
A woman goes looking for the gold her family lost 150 years earlier in Haiti. She hires a boat and finds love and trouble.
This is the first film directed by Gries and the first film that Gordon worked on at all as far as I can tell. The film is awkward and yet really interesting. It sets up a lot of conflict between the main characters and provides a denouement that is satisfying if expected.
Serpent Island is copyrighted. You can get a fair copy on DVD along with Monster From the Ocean Floor.
Producers: Arnold Kopelson and Phyllis Carlyle
Director: David Fincher
Screenwriter: Andrew Kevin Walker
A recently transferred detective is partnered with an old detective about to retire. They investigate a series of murders based on the seven deadly sins.
This is one of the best films about a serial killer. Like the later No Country for Old Men, the police are mostly impotent and the serial killer succeeds at his ultimate mission. The film is also beautifully shot in such a way that it seems to be set in hell on Earth.
Starring Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption) and Brad Pitt (The Mexican). Featuring: Kevin Spacey (LA Confidential), Gwyneth Paltrow (The Royal Tenenbaums), R Lee Ermey (Mississippi Burning), and Richard Roundtree (Shaft).
Seven Psychopaths (2012)
Producers: Graham Broadbent & Peter Czernin &Martin McDonagh
Director/Screenwriter: Martin McDonagh
A couple of friends run a pet stealing con, which goes well until they take the beloved dog of a gangster. Meanwhile, the Jack of Diamonds killer is murdering gangsters. And the lead character is trying to write a screenplay about psychopaths. Don’t worry, it all makes sense eventually.
This is about what you expect from Martin McDonagh. If you like his twisted sense of humor you should love this film. This is the best film to get started with him.
Producer/Director: George Stevens
Screenwriter: AB Guthrie Jr (novel: Jack Schaefer)
A gunfighter trying to put his past behind him goes to work on the farm of a homesteader. The local farmers are under pressure from an old cattle rancher who will use any tool available to get rid of them. Eventually, the gunfighter must again put on his gun belt.
The gee-whiz super-keen America presented in this film is funny at times. But it’s still a great film. It clocks in at two hours yet speeds by. It deserves its status as a classic.
14 June 2021
Shanghai Joe (1973)
Producers: Renato Angiolini and Roberto Bessi
Director: Mario Caiano
Screenwriters: Mario Caiano and Fabrizio Trifone Trecca
Alternate titles: Il Mio Nome è Shanghai Joe, The Fighting Fist of Shanghai Joe
Shanghai Joe shows up in San Francisco but he isn’t interested in laundry and restaurant work. So he heads off to Texas to become a cowboy. But he runs headlong into American racism. And soon he is single-handedly battling a rich man and his enslavement of Mexicans.
This film is a lot like the Kung Fu television series but with more explosive action and gore and none of the eastern philosophy. It’s a fun film but the acupuncture scene alone would make it worth watching.
Shanghai Joe is under copyright. It is available on DVD.
14 May 2020
Shanghai Noon (2000)
Producers: Roger Birnbaum & Gary Barber and Jonathan Glickman
Director: Tom Dey
Screenwriters: Alfred Gough & Miles Millar
The Chinese princess is kidnapped and taken to the old west. One of her guards is sent to retrieve her but he hooks up with an outlaw who learns important life lessons. The two of them work together to free the princess.
This is a solid western comedy with some excellent action. It should appeal to pretty much everyone.
Starring Jackie Chan (Police Story) and Owen Wilson (Drillbit Taylor). With Brandon Merrill, Lucy Liu (Charlie’s Angels), Roger Yuan (Once Upon a Time in Vietnam), Xander Berkeley (Safe), and Walton Goggins (Major League: Back to the Minors).
4 April 2021
Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre (2015)
Producer: Steve Goldenberg
Director: Jim Wynorski
Screenwriters: Jim Wynorski and William Dever
Two men from Arkansas Fracking Industries accidentally break the separator between the land and an ocean that exists below North America. This allows land-sharks to come to the surface where they attack a group of 4 women escaped from a local prison and two detectives not exactly hot on their trail.
From the director of Chopping Mall comes this well-made exploitation film. If you are the kind who might complain that the women’s prison looks like it is populated with the gals at the local strip club, you should go elsewhere. Otherwise, it is 80 minutes of mindless fun.
27 October 2020
Producer: Rob Hauschild
Director: Mark Polonia
Screenwriter: JK Farlew
During World War II, the Nazis take control of an actual Dr Frankenstein experiment. After the war, other scientists continue to work. Skip to modern times and a lone Nazi scientist is in the process of putting the Frankenstein heart and brain into a shark. The local law and some tourists get roped into the action.
Some of this is very funny and the film works better than the following year’s Land Shark. But it is much the same with comedic scenes added to straight horror for an unusual mixture.
Starring Greta Volkova (It Kills) and Ken Van Sant (Amityville Exorcism). With Titus Himmelberger (Outpost Earth), James Carolus (Bigfoot vs Zombies), and Jeff Kirkendall (Jurassic Prey). Director Polonia and Steve Diasparra (Ghost of Camp Blood) also appear.
Sharkenstein is under copyright. It is available on DVD.
21 July 2020
Producer: David Michael Latt
Director: Anthony C Ferrante
Screenwriter: Thunder Levin
Tornados are pulling sharks out of the ocean and dumping them on to the land. While a family fights these flying sharks, they learn good family values.
The sharks flying around really are a lot of fun. But outside that, this film is very much like the ABC Movie of the Week that your mother made you watch because people say it has lessons for the whole family. I know that Levin knew he wrote a comedy but it’s unclear if Ferrante knew he was directing one. There have been five sequels and various spin-offs.
20 January 2021
Sherman’s March (1985)
Producer/Director/Screenwriter: Ross McElwee
Ross McElwee is about to start filming his documentary on Sherman’s march to the sea. But his girlfriend dumps him. His family tells him he should find a nice southern girl. So he decides to make a documentary about finding a nice southern girl instead. The result was this revolutionary two and a half-hour documentary in which a man speculates about romance and meaning without ever concluding anything. It’s spellbinding.
Sherman’s March is copyrighted. You can usually find it and its follow-up, Time Indefinite, online for free. It is available with a short director’s interview on DVD.
Producer: Ivan Reitman
Director/Screenwriter: David Cronenberg
Alternative titles: The Parasite Murders, They Came from Within, Frissons
This was Cronenberg’s first commercial feature. And what a debut! A crazy scientist decides that humans are too cultured and intellectual so he creates a parasite that turns them into sex zombies. I know: when I put it that way it sounds like a crazy 1950s mad scientist film. But it’s not. The scientist dies in the first scene. It is all wonderfully believable. And creepy in the way that only Cronenberg is — with great action and effects.
Producer: Aubrey Schenck
Director: Alfred L Werker
Screenwriter: Eugene Ling (story: Albert DeMond)
A woman goes into shock when she sees a man murder his wife. But the doctor they bring in to treat her is the murderer who works with his nurse and lover to keep the woman silent.
This film moves along at a good clip and manages to make the murderer a bit sympathetic. The woman in shock is pretty annoying as the contrast to the cigarette-smoking nurse. This is a solid film from this era.
25 January 2021
Shock Corridor (1963)
Producer/Director/Screenwriter: Samuel Fuller
I’m a big fan of Samuel Fuller. He was perhaps the best independent filmmaker from the 1960s into the 1980s. He is best known for this film, however. It’s about a reporter who gets committed to a mental hospital in order to solve a murder that has taken place there. In the process, he meets a number of colorful inmates. It features Fuller’s usual humanitarian take on the subject. But mostly, it is simply great filmmaking.
Shock Corridor does not appear to be in the public domain. However, any psychotronic fan should really own it. The Criterion Collection Blu-ray and DVD versions are excellent. But they are a tad weak on extras.
Shock Waves (1977)
Producer: Reuben Trane
Director: Ken Wiederhorn
Screenwriters: John Harrison & Ken Wiederhorn
A boat on a pleasure cruise runs aground on an island with an abandoned hotel. Living at the hotel is an old Nazi officer. And around the island is a group of Nazi zombie troops who are intent on killing everyone.
This film is wonderful. It’s got that great 16 mm color look that I associate with older and lesser exploitation films. The zombies coming out of the water are amazingly creepy. It’s all just so cool and effective. Yet there’s no gore. A must-see!
15 August 2021
Shrunken Heads (1994)
Producer: Charles Band
Director: Richard Elfman
Screenwriter: Matthew Bright
In their effort to fight back against the local bully, three boys end up murdered by the bully on behalf of a local crime figure. A local newsstand owner is also a voodoo priest and he steals their heads from their coffins, shrinks them, and allows them to seek revenge.
This is a really well-made film for tweens. But it’s kind of strange when you consider it has an R rating.
30 July 2021
Producers: Frank Marshall & Sam Mercer and M Night Shyamalan
Director/Screenwriter: M Night Shyamalan
A former reverend deals with the death of his wife while raising his two young children. Meanwhile, there is a space invasion.
This is a well-regarded film. I can’t say why. It’s effective enough and the lead performance is excellent. But the horror and science fiction aspects are really just window dressing for a standard melodrama.
31 July 2021
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Producers: Kenneth Utt & Edward Saxon & Ron Bozman
Director: Jonathan Demme
Screenwriter: Ted Tally (novel: Thomas Harris)
An almost-agent at the FBI is sent to interview serial killer and cannibal Hannibal Lecter to get insight into the serial killer Buffalo Bill who has just kidnapped a woman with powerful parents so you know they’ve got to save her.
This is a well-made film with a number of effective moments. The moving camera is often annoying but it does make the times when it stops that much more effective. There’s quite a bit of good visual humor in the film. But the plot is ridiculous. I’m not sure most people notice though.
The Silence of the Lambs is under copyright. It is available on DVD. There is a 4K Criterion Collection release on DVD and Blu-ray with cast/crew commentary, 40 minutes of deleted scenes, hours of interviews, and more. And there are a ton of other releases.
7 August 2021
Silent Hill (2006)
Producers: Samuel Hadida and Don Carmody
Director: Christophe Gans
Screenwriter: Roger Avary
An adopted girl has nightmares where she mentions “Silent Hill.” To help, her mother takes her to the now deserted town but gets trapped in a hellish world where the religious zealots want to kill them both — and they aren’t the worst of it.
This is a visually stunning film that is flat-out scary. There’s too much exposition and it is really weak compared to the horror scenes. But you need the breather. Horror doesn’t get any better than the highs of this film. It’s based on a computer game of the same name.
30 October 2021
Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)
Producers: Jeffrey Konvitz and Ami Artzi
Director: Theodore Gershuny
Screenwriters: Theodore Gershuny and Jeffrey Konvitz & Ira Teller
Alternate titles: Night of the Full Dark Moon; Death House
This is one of the first films that Lloyd Kaufman had anything to do with. Given that he is (1) the biggest son of a bitch in the low budget industry and (2) most praised for having no managerial involvement with Zombiegeddon, you can make up your own mind as to how this affects your view of Silent Night, Bloody Night.
Overall, this is a pretty engaging slasher film. And I’m not just saying that because Patrick O’Neal gets hacked to death at the 29-minute mark even though he is supposedly the star. But if you doubt me, I recommend you skip to the 29-minute mark and then I dare you to tell me that isn’t a damned cool double-murder.
The male star of the film is James Patterson (In the Heat of the Night). He went from Tony-award-winning actor, to Silent Night, Bloody Night star, to death by cancer at only 40. Actors: beware your choices! (That’s wrong of me. His death was tragic.) Other notables: John Carradine, Walter Abel, Mary Woronov (Eating Raoul), and other Andy Warhol “Superstars.”
Silver Saddle (1978)
Producer: Piero Donati
Director: Lucio Fulci
Screenwriter: Adriano Bolzoni
Alternate titles: Sella d’Argento, The Man in the Silver Saddle, They Died With Their Boots On
A group of bandits try to kill a rich boy but he is saved by a gunslinger who is framed with kidnapping him. The two get on well and must uncover the large conspiracy in the family.
Kind of a fluff film but it’s loads of fun, often very funny, and with a great cast.
Silver Saddle is under copyright. All I can find is a German Blu-ray of it.
24 June 2021
Singam II (2013)
Producer: S Lakshman Kumar
Super-human Indian police officer takes on a drug ring while preparing for marriage.
If Michael Bay, Spike Jonze, Nora Ephron, and Roberto Benigni made a film together but never spoke, it would be Singam II. It is alternatively action, comedy, romance, and musical. The action is ridiculous by American film standards, but no less believable. The comedy and romance are both braod but enjoyable. And the musical sequences are loads of fun.
Singam II is copyrighted. It is available on DVD.
The Sinister Urge (1960)
Producer/Director/Screenwriter: Ed Wood
The police are trying to figure out a string of murders that are linked to the local porn industry. It seems a guy goes stab-crazy when he sees porn. And this brings the whole operation down.
I don’t like the film as much as Jail Bait but it works pretty well all the same. The film is filled with lots of Wood’s contradictions like interesting sexual interests along with a puritanically judgemental nature. Still: a solid B crime drama.
The Sinister Urge is under copyright. It’s hard to find. There is a DVD version, but it’s very expensive. And online, you can pretty much only find it in a badly-cut version via a distinctly unfunny Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode.
Skinned Alive (1990)
Producer: JR Bookwalter
Director: Jon Killough
Screenwriter: Jon Killough (story: Jon Killough and Mike Shea)
The van of a homicidal and incestuous family breaks down. While it is being worked on, they stay at the home of the mechanic. But they don’t stop killing people and even manage to skin producer JR Bookwalter alive.
This is the most disturbing film that Tempe ever made. The family is so weird that it goes well beyond the acts of violence. It’s a film I appreciate more than enjoy.
Starring Mary Jackson (not the one who played Emily Baldwin on The Waltons), Scott Spiegel (The Dead Next Door), Susan Rothacker, Floyd Ewing Jr (Robot Ninja), and Barbara Katz-Norrod (Her Name Was Christa).
17 October 2020
The Skull (1965)
Producers: Milton Subotsky and Max J Rosenberg
Director: Freddie Francis
Screenwriter: Milton Subotsky (story: Robert Bloch)
An occult researcher gets the skull of the Marquis de Sade, which is possessed by an evil spirit. It controls him trying to reanimate itself.
It’s easy to admire this film. It does build and hold suspense throughout. But ultimately, nothing really happens. If you are really into Gothic horror, this one may work well for you.
7 December 2020
Slaughter High (1986)
Producers: Steve Minasian and Dick Randall
Directors/Screenwriters: George Dugdale & Mark Ezra & Peter Litten
Marty is a high school nerd. The cool kids prank him in cruel ways — ultimately leading to him being badly wounded and disfigured. Many years later, all the cool kids come back for a reunion at the high school that has been abandoned for the previous 5 years. They are all murdered horribly.
It’s nice to see a very direct revenge film where it isn’t secretly the victim’s mother who is responsible for al the carnage. And the kills are well-done. My only problem with the film is that they tack on an ending that reframes the film in an annoying way. But otherwise, it’s good.
7 June 2021
Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity (1987)
Producer/Director: Ken Dixon
Screenwriter: Ken Dixon (short story: “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell)
Alternate titles: Slavegirls from Beyond Infinity
Two runaway slaves get captured by a planet. There they find a man who provides accommodations for them. They are there with a brother and sister who are similarly stranded. Soon they find that their host has brought them to the planet so that he can hunt them.
Although shot in color, this film harkens back to early TV dramas. As such, it has a lot more talking than anything else. But it’s better than you’d think.
Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity is under copyright. It is available on DVD with no extras.
20 March 2021
Producers: Anne-Marie Gélinas & Patricia Gomez Zlatar
Director: Elza Kephart
Screenwriters: Patricia Gomez Zlatar & Elza Kephart
The staff at a chic clothing store finds that their newest designer jeans have come to life with lethal intent. A young woman on her first day must ultimately try to protect the world of fashion lovers from these jeans.
This is a wonderful film. It looks great despite being a single location shoot. And it is very funny at times with some cool make-up effects. Check it out!
Slaxx is under copyright. It is a Shudder original available on DVD.
22 March 2021
Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Producers: Michele Tatosian and Jerry Silva
Director/Screenwriter: Robert Hiltzik
Eight years after her father and brother are killed in a boating accident, a young woman goes to a camp at the same lake. At first people die from what seem to be accidents. Then they are clearly murdered. Who could possibly be doing this?!
This is a bizarre but shockingly fun slasher film. If you watch closely, you will quickly notice the “error” in my summary and learn what the terrible secret is behind this film. But it’s not worth the effort. Just enjoy the ride.
Sleepaway Camp is under copyright. It is available on an old DVD. Much better (And cheaper!) is to get it on a Blu-ray/DVD combo from Shout Factory with an old commentary with director and star, a new one with the two stars, interviews, and other stuff. You can watch it for free on Shout Factory TV.
10 January 2021
Producers: Paul Brooks & Eric Newman
Director/Screenwriter: James Gunn
An asteroid slams into Earth bringing with it a worm-like creature that takes over one man who grows more of them until an entire town is taken over by them (they are a hive-mind so really just the one man). This guy still loves his wife so she, the local police chief, and an enterprising young woman must fight back.
This is an amusing and extremely fun film. It also features some impressive practical effects. And even some of the computer effects worked for me. On the other hand, the film is not at all scary so it’s a good one to watch with your more fearful friends. Or pair it with something more substantial.
24 October 2021
The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
Producer/Director: Amy Holden Jones
Screenwriter: Rita Mae Brown
A serial killer has escaped from the mental hospital and he has an electric drill! The story follows a group of girls in the high school basketball team. Several of them have a slumber party but this killer gets around!
What do you get when a couple of feminists make a slasher film? Lots of boobs! Lots of gore! And some clever symbolism. This is a pretty fun film.
Starring Michelle Michaels, Robin Stille (Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama), Debra De Liso, Andree Honore, Gina Smika Hunter, and Jennifer Meyers. Brinke Stevens (Nightmare Sisters) has a small but notable role here as the second victim in one of her first films.
The Slumber Party Massacre is under copyright. It is available on Blu-ray with commentary, interview, and a 20+ minute featurette. It is available on DVD with the two sequels all with commentaries and a few other things.
11 December 2020
Producers: Lawrence Lasker and Walter Parkes
Director: Phil Alden Robinson
Screenwriters: Phil Alden Robinson and Lawrence Lasker & Walter Parkes
A ragtag group of hackers normally contract to find weaknesses in security systems. But one day, they get a big job with the NSA to find and steal a device that can break any cryptographic code. Once they get it, they find themselves trapped between organized crime and the government.
This is a fun film. It’s best not to think much about the plot because none of it makes any sense. And “Setec Astronomy” is one of the stupider plot elements I recall seeing. But if you underthink it, you’ll be pleased.
Starring Robert Redford (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica), Sidney Poitier (Lilies of the Field), Dan Aykroyd (Dragnet), David Strathairn (Matewan), and River Phoenix (My Own Private Idaho). Other notables: Stephen Tobolowsky (Mississippi Burning), Timothy Busfield (Trucks), Eddie Jones (Seabiscuit), and James Earl Jones (Field of Dreams).
27 December 2020
So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993)
Producers: Robert N Fried & Cary Woods
Director: Thomas Schlamme
Screenwriter: Robbie Fox
A guy meets the gal of his dreams but various details about her indicate that she is a serial killer. But maybe he is just avoiding committing to the relationship.
This is a light and fun comedy that is a lot more than simply a vehicle for its star’s bits. In particular, Fox’s screenplay is really well-structured.
15 April 2021
Son of Kong (1933)
Producer/Director: Ernest B Schoedsack
Screenwriter: Ruth Rose
This is a silly film. But it does answer a big question that remains at the end of King Kong: is anyone going to hold Carl Denham responsible for the mess he’s created? And the answer is: yes! Son of Kong starts with him hiding out from people who want to sue him. And when he learns that he will be indicted the next day, he and the captain from the first film head out to sea. Unfortunately, they just can’t resist Skull Island. It’s all played for laughs — kind of like Beethoven but with a giant gorilla. And it’s also filled with huge amounts of 1933-era racism!
The film also has an economic-political bent. Right before arriving at Skull Island, the crew mutiny. They get rid of the officers and create a worker-run ship. It’s probably most remarkable in that the film doesn’t make the crew look bad. There’s really no judgment one way or the other.
The film features a number of actors from King Kong such as Robert Armstrong, Frank Reicher, and Victor Wong. Also of note is Helen Mack, who had a remarkable career spanning silent films, radio, and into television. She is mostly known as a writer.
Son of Kong is still under copyright. You can get it on disc with King Kong.
Producer: Jack Hill
Director: Jack Hill (as Brian Stuart)
Screenwriter: Jim Wynorski
An evil magician must sacrifice his first-born child but he has twins and ends up dead. The two girls are raised as warrior “men.” When the magician comes back 20 years later, he tries to find them again.
Something went wrong in this film. It’s kind of subtle. But the tone they were able to render in post-production was not what they were trying for in pre-production. It’s all supposed to be light and funny. But it ends up just being disturbing. And the actors who did the dubbing are awful — especially given that a couple of the Mexican actors are excellent. At the same time, I was glad to have watched this film. And the part with the zombies was really good!
Sorceress is copyrighted. You can get it on DVD but it’s cropped for TV and you can probably find a better print online. There is a good widescreen Blu-ray of the film with some good interviews. Sadly, none of them are with Hill. I’d pay a lot for a commentary with him!
23 November 2020
Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988)
Producers: David DeCoteau & John Schouweiler
Director: David DeCoteau
Screenwriter: Sergei Hasenecz
Two sorority pledges and three high school geeks who were spying on them must break into the local bowling alley and steal a trophy. They are joined by a thief already inside. They accidentally release an imp who offers them wishes but really has evil (and deadly) intent.
For a first-draft script and a rushed production, this film is a miracle. It features a great cast and some amazing puppetry by Craig Caton.
Starring Andras Jones (The Demolitionist), Linnea Quigley (The Return of the Living Dead), Brinke Stevens (Delta Delta Die!), Michelle Bauer (The Bikini Escort Company), and George “Buck” Flower (The Devil and Leroy Bassett).
Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama is under copyright. You can get it on DVD released 2013 or 2020. Get the latter; it is remastered with excellent extras; it’s also cheaper. There is a Blu-ray with the same features but it is much cheaper directly from Full Moon.
28 November 2020
The Soul Collector (2019)
Producer: Jac Williams
Director/Screenwriter: Harold Hölscher
A family comes to stay at the home where the husband’s father just died. A man who says he used to work on the farm is hired. He forms a close bond with their ward, a little girl. But the local people believe the man is taking the souls of the local population. Also, he carries around a bag with something moving inside.
This is an incredibly compelling horror film with so much chemistry between the two main characters that it’s fun just to watch them. The end is kind of messy but it is still one of the better films you are likely to see.
5 January 2021
Producers: Brad Miska, Roxanne Benjamin, Chris Harding, Radio Silence, Greg Newman
Directors: Radio Silence, Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath
Screenwriters: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Roxanne Benjamin & Susan Burke, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath & Dallas Hallam
Two friends are on the run from otherworldly creatures. No matter how they run, they can’t get away. This is the first of five stories about justice delivered.
This is a fantastic and well-structured anthology film. As in V/H/S, David Bruckner provides the high point, “The Accident.” But all segments are excellent and Radio Silence does a great job pulling it all together. Normally, I find gore amusing; here I was deeply disturbed, empathizing with all the victims. See this film!
Starring Chad Villella, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Fabianne Therese (Teenage Cocktail), Hannah Marks (Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency), Mather Zickel (Achilles’ Love), David Yow, Tipper Newton, Kate Beahan (Splitsville), and Gerald Downey.
11 November 2020
Space Captain: Captain of Space! (2014)
Directors: Jeremy Mather & Lindsey Sproul
Screenwriter: Jeff Sproul
The evil people of Planet Argor are pushing the Moon into the Earth in order to kill all the humans. So we send the heroic Rocky Lazer to stop them. Along for the ride is Jean Jarvis, the world’s first woman college professor, Doctor Horst Karlock, scientist and union member, and the hyper, chipper, and indestructible Chip Skipper.
This is a very funny parody of Rocky Jones, Space Ranger. Of course, I actually enjoy Rocky Jones without irony. This film is a lot like The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra and other Larry Blamire films. If you like them, you’ll like this.
Starring Matthew Wise, Alicia Barnatchez, Jared Warner, and Jeremy Mather. The writer plays the lead bad guy.
Space Captain: Captain of Space! is under copyright. It is available on Amazon Prime.
11 July 2020
Space Truckers (1996)
Producers: Peter Newman & Greg Johnson and Ted Mann & Stuart Gordon and Mary Breen-Farrelly
Director: Stuart Gordon
Screenwriter: Ted Mann (story: Stuart Gordon & Ted Mann)
Two independent space truckers and a nubile passenger try to make it to Earth before the evil corporation and space pirates can stop them.
In some ways, this film is as good as Re-Animator. The problem is that science fiction just isn’t as fertile a ground for comedy. I can see why people don’t like this film much but it’s quite a lot of fun if you can get past your preconceptions and allow the film to be what it is.
Starring Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider), Stephen Dorff (Don’t Go), Debi Mazar (Witness to the Mob), and Charles Dance (Alien 3). George Wendt (Cheers) and Barbara Crampton (Jakob’s Wife) have small roles.
Space Truckers is under copyright. It is available on a very expensive DVD. You can find it on Blu-ray if you have an all-region Blu-ray player.
3 November 2021
Space: 1999 (1975-1977)
Creators: Gerry Anderson and Sylvia Anderson
Producers: Gerry Anderson, Sylvia Anderson, and Fred Freiberger
Directors: Charles Crichton, Ray Austin, Tom Clegg, David Tomblin, and 7 others
Screenwriters: Johnny Byrne, Christopher Penfold, Anthony Terpiloff, Terence Feely, Fred Freiberger, Donald James, and 18 others
A team on the Moon base are thrown far out of the solar system when it explodes. Now the team must keep alive while they try to make their way back to Earth.
Forget the absurd science and just enjoy this well-constructed drama with science fiction elements. It feels a lot like the original Star Trek, but the crew is more believable.
Space: 1999 is under copyright. There are other worthy releases, but if you have to choose one, get it from Shout Factory on DVD or Blu-ray. They both have as good of video as you will find, a new 5.1 soundtrack, and a massive number of extras.
22 August 2020
Producer/Director: Mel Brooks
Screenwriters: Mel Brooks & Thomas Meehan & Ronny Graham
The bad space guys are going to steal all of the air from the good space guys. And the princess of the good space guys runs away from her wedding and hooks up with a good but not too good space guy and his space cat and together they defeat the bad space guys — all while mugging at the camera and hoping Andrew Bergman will show up on set and do rewrites.
This is mostly a parody of Star Wars. I guess there are people who love this. It certainly has a few laughs. But mostly, I was just embarrassed watching it. I have no idea how Brooks has managed to maintain his reputation after films like this.
Starring Rick Moranis (Little Shop of Horrors), Bill Pullman (Brain Dead), John Candy (Planes, Trains and Automobiles), and Daphne Zuniga (The Fly II). Featuring Dick Van Patten (Charly), George Wyner (How to Be a Serial Killer), and Mel Brooks (who, showing his usual humility, gets top billing).
Spaceballs is under copyright. It is available on DVD. It’s also available on Blu-ray with a bunch of extras if you want to hear Mel Brooks talk about how brilliant he is. And it’s on a number of collections.
12 February 2021
Spawn of the Slithis (1978)
Producers: Paul Fabian and Stephen Traxler
Director/Screenwriter: Stephen Traxler
Alternate titles: Slithis
This is wonderful: an old-fashioned 1950s monster movie made in 1978! Nuclear waste leaks into a Wisconsin lagoon and combines with organic material to create radioactive mud called “slithis.” And from it comes what looks very much like the disheveled brother of Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954). A high school teacher and his scientist friend search for the monster aided by the teacher’s wife and an able scuba diver. The monster turns out to be very hard to kill.
The film is pretty well acted for being made up of unknowns. It features Alan Blanchard, Dennis Falt, JC Claire, Judy Motulsky, and Win Condict as the monster.
Spawn of the Slithis is copyrighted but not well-protected and so can often be found on YouTube and the like. It is available as a DVD with just its trailer as the only extra. Currently, it is really expensive.
Spider Baby (1967)
Producers: Paul Monka & Gil Lasky
Director/Screenwriter: Jack Hill
Alternate titles: The Maddest Story Ever Told
This is Jack Hill’s masterpiece — which is saying something. A horror comedy that is consistently funny, it tells the story of three children (Sid Haig, Jill Banner, and Beverly Washburn) who have a unique disease that causes them to regress as they age. They partake in cannibalism, murder, and general oddness. Cared for by their chauffeur (Lon Chaney Jr) after the death of their father, the rest of the family have come to take them away. And that won’t do! Ultimately, this is one of the sweetest films you’ll ever see. It is also deeply disturbing.
It features Carol Ohmart (House on Haunted Hill) and Mantan Moreland (the Sidney Toler Charlie Chan films). Jill Banner died in a car crash when she was only 35. Marlon Brando apparently said that she was the love of his life. They were a couple when she died.
The older DVDs don’t have great video quality. But the director’s cut has a lot of notable extras. You are better off with the Arrow Video Blu-ray/DVD version, which has a bunch of extras. I assume it has an excellent quality transfer (given that it was released 3 years after the Academy Film Archive created a number of high-quality prints).
Spinning Man (2018)
Producers: Keith Arnold & Ellen Wander
Director: Simon Kaijser
Screenwriter: Matthew Aldrich (novel: George Harrar)
A philandering philosophy professor seems to be responsible for a missing young woman. He’s clearly hiding things from the police and his wife. By the end, even he isn’t sure what happened.
The first half of this film is slow but it takes off in the second half. It’s pretty cerebral though. And it may appeal more to people like me who don’t have much clarity about what’s going on in the outside world.
9 August 2021
The Spirits of Jupiter (1984)
Producer: Louis Young
Director/Screenwriter: Russell S Kern
Alternate titles: Planet Gone Mad
Jupiter and Saturn align and it drives people crazy. It makes many violent and others silly. But it doesn’t affect those with the good sense to wear gold plates on their heads.
This is a wonderful find. In many ways, it’s a typical regional genre film. But it’s so weird with lots of odd humor that it is elevated to genius. The main character is well-established as an asshole but he comes off as good compared to the killer cops. And he’s played like John Wayne with a sense of humor. You have to see this if you get a chance.
Sadly, the only copies I’ve found are of such a low quality that I can’t read the end credits. The only really notable actors are Rex Cutter as the hero and Richard Luna as the dwarf Nostradamus, who steals the few scenes he’s in. Chopper Bernet, who I believe played the son, went on to a notable acting career that continues to this day.
The Spirits of Jupiter is under copyright. It isn’t widely available. I’ve seen DVD-R versions but I’m skeptical of the quality (otherwise, I would have bought it).
29 September 2021
Splatter Farm (1987)
Producer: JK Farlew
Directors/Screenwriters: Mark Polonia & Todd Michael Smith & John Polonia
Teen boys go to their aunt’s place for the summer. There they slowly realize that things are seriously screwed up. The farmworker kills and dismembers people. And eats them. The aunt drugs one of the twins and rapes him.
This is a seriously twisted film. Just about every scene goes one or two levels past where you think it will. For example, the worker cuts off the hand of a victim. Then he uses it to masturbate. You really need to see this. It’s a classic!
Starring the three filmmakers and Marion Costly (How to Slay a Vampire) as the aunt.
Splatter Farm is under copyright. You can get it on DVD.
23 July 2020
Spontaneous Combustion (1990)
Producer: Jim Rogers
Director: Tobe Hooper
Screenwriters: Tobe Hooper and Howard Goldberg
In the 1950s, a young couple takes part in a nuclear test. When the woman soon gives birth to a boy all seems well. Then they catch fire and die. Jump forward about 30 years and the baby is grown and his past comes together as his life unravels.
This is widely considered one of Tobe Hooper’s worst films. But it’s strange in that even people who don’t like it admit that it is entertaining. I’m not clear on what a science fiction film like this is supposed to be other than entertaining. I really like it.
Featuring Brad Dourif (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), Cynthia Bain, Jon Cypher (The Kid and the Killers), William Prince (The Gauntlet), Melinda Dillon (Close Encounters of the Third Kind), and Dey Young (Rock ‘n’ Roll High School).
Spontaneous Combustion is copyrighted but if you can find any Hooper film online, it is this one. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray, but in a form that is typical of neglected films. There is also an all region Blu-ray.
Producers: Eugenie Joseph and Thomas Doran & Brendan Faulkner & Frank M Farel
Directors: Eugenie Joseph and Thomas Doran & Brendan Faulkner
Screenwriter: Frank M Farel & Thomas Doran & Brendan Faulkner
A group of young adults are on the lookout for a party and come upon an abandoned house. They go inside, play with a ouija board, and this brings out a bunch of undead monsters to attack them. They all seem to be controlled by an old magician who has brought his long-dead wife back to life.
This is basically two different films. There was originally the unfinished Twisted Souls. It includes the more compelling part of the film with fabulous special effects and a more lively plot. Additional material was written by Ann Burgund (as Joseph Burgund) and filmed by Eugenie Joseph who I assume assembled the final product. The additional material is still quite good — especially the final chase. The reason people dismiss this film is that the plot is confused. So what? It’s a whole lot of fun!
Starring Felix Ward, Maria Pechukas, Dan Scott, Alec Nemser, AJ Lowenthal, Nick Gionta, Lisa Friede, and Joan Ellen Delaney. Peter Iasillo Jr is great in this film.
Spookies is under copyright. It is available on a Blu-ray with some great extras.
11 September 2021
Producers: David Lawson, Justin Benson, and Aaron Moorhead
Directors: Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead
Screenwriter: Justin Benson
A young man goes to Europe to deal with the recent death of his mother. There he begins a relationship with an attractive and interesting young woman who, unknown to him, must take injections or her body decays and changes.
Most of this is a coming-of-age film with a basis in some very effective body horror. It moves very slowly with the first indication that anything is happening about a half-hour into the film. But it’s worth the time.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Producer: Robert Sallin
Director: Nicholas Meyer
Screenwriter: Jack B Sowards (story: Harve Bennett and Jack B Sowards)
Khan manages to escape Ceti Alpha V and take over a starship. The Enterprise, as ever, the only starship in the quadrant, must stop him before he gains possession of the Genesis device, which can create worlds — but also destroy them.
Of all the Star Trek films including different generations and reboots, this is the best. Much of the plot doesn’t make sense and I’ll never understand how a sun exists inside a planetoid. But it’s the character and drama that makes it work.
Starring the usual gang: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, and the rest. It also stars Ricardo Montalbán (Conquest of the Planet of the Apes) in one of his greatest roles. Featuring Paul Winfield (The Terminator), Bibi Besch (The Beast Within), and Kirstie Alley (Toothless).
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is under copyright. It is available on a 2009 DVD. Or you can get it with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Or with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Or you can get the second, third, and fourth films on DVD or Blu-ray — not a bad way to go since they work as a trilogy. Or you can get the whole six-film set. There is a two-disc “director’s cut,” but it’s actually just 3 minutes extra added for TV (some good bits though). You can also get it on Blu-ray (probably for less money).
1 October 2020
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
Producer: Harve Bennett
Director: William Shatner
Screenwriter: David Loughery (story: William Shatner & Harve Bennett & David Loughery)
Spock’s brother takes over the Enterprise in order to search for God. He has a special ability to win converts by making them face their pain. They all make it to “God” but it doesn’t go well.
This is certainly not one of the best of the franchise but it has a lot to offer. Tonally, it’s mixed. It has a beautiful opening sequence followed by a dorky comedy sequence. But I suspect audiences weren’t happy primarily because Laurence Luckinbill (Messenger of Death) as Sybok makes every other character on screen seem small in comparison.
Also starring the old cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, and the rest. David Warner (Time After Time) doesn’t have nearly enough screen time.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is under copyright. It is available as a 2013 DVD and Blu-ray. You can also get it with Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, which is a weird combination. Or you can get the whole six-film set. You can also get it on Blu-ray.
1 October 2020
Producers: Nat & Patrick Wachsberger
Director: Luigi Cozzi (as Lewis Coates)
Screenwriters: Luigi Cozzi (as Lewis Coates) & Nat Wachsberger
An evil Count is trying to take over the empire. So the emperor reaches out to two smugglers to destroy the Count. And while they’re at it, locate the emperor’s missing son.
The special effects are really great. They may not be as “realistic” as those in Star Wars, but they are more colorful and interesting. And they use a lot of techniques. The story is kind of lame but this is worth watching just for the effects and other eye candy.
Starring Caroline Munro (At the Earth’s Core), Marjoe Gortner (Mausoleum), Christopher Plummer (Remember), David Hasselhoff (Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD), and Joe Spinell (Maniac) as the wonderful villain.
26 April 2021
Starry Eyes (2014)
Producer: Travis Stevens
Directors/Screenwriters: Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer
An aspiring actor really wants the starring role in a new horror film. But the production company is a front for a Satanic cult. As the film goes on, she goes through a frightening transformation.
The middle section of this film is first-rate body horror — even throwing in a nice allusion to The Fly. The end is first-rate slasher. The only real problem with the film is that it’s such an obvious (but funny) allegory for Hollywood stardom that it’s hard not to think about it.
26 Jan 2020
Stay Out of the F**king Attic (2021)
Producers: Dallin Cerva & Jason Scott Goldberg and Gary Auerbach
Director: Jerren Lauder
Screenwriters: Jason Scott Goldberg, Jesse Federman, Jerren Lauder, and Julie Auerbach
Three people from a moving company show up at an old house on a job. The German occupant pays them excessively to do the job quickly. He also says to stay out of the basement and attic. It turns out that he is a Nazi scientist.
This is a very well-made film with a great cast. I thought the screenplay was weak and there were problems combining the lively personalities of the three principals with the very dark plot. But I expect great things from this group. I think they would be particularly good making a horror-comedy. And the film is still good. It’s worth watching — especially the first half.
Stay Out of the F**king Attic is under copyright. It hasn’t been released on disc yet.
11 March 2021
Stay Tuned (1992)
Producer: James G Robinson
Director: Peter Hyams
Screenwriters: Tom S Parker & Jim Jennewein (story: Tom S Parker & Jim Jennewein & Richard Siegel)
An unhappy couple with a successful wife and couch-potato husband are sucked by a TV dish into Satan’s network where they must survive for 24 hours or lose their souls.
2 October 2020
The Steel Helmet (1951)
Producer/Director/Writer: Samuel Fuller
Survivors of battles during the Korean War join together to make their way to safety. But they don’t get along. It’s kind of like Night of the Living Dead as a war film — including the racism.
Samuel Fuller was one of the best filmmakers of the 20th century. And it is well on display even in his earliest films like this and I Shot Jesse James (1949). This film is a serious and interesting story unlike trash from the same year Operation Pacific.
The film stars Gene Evans (Shock Corridor). Also featuring: Robert Hutton (The Slime People), James Edwards (Patton), Steve Brodie, Richard Loo (The Man with the Golden Gun), Sid Melton (Lost Continent), Harold Fong (Up in Smoke), and William Chun as the little boy.
The Steel Helmet is under copyright. It speaks to just how vapid and boring a society we have that the film is not available on an NTSC DVD or any Blu-ray at all. Luckily, it is available to stream. And it is old enough that you can usually find it on free streaming sites. You can get The Steel Helmet, along with I Shot Jesse James and The Baron of Arizona (1950), on The First Films of Samuel Fuller.
The Stepfather (1987)
Producer: Joseph Ruben
Director: Jay Benson
Screenwriter: Donald E Westlake
After brutally murdering his family, a man relocates and becomes the stepfather of a new family that he clearly hopes will not disappoint him like the last one did. The new mom is happy with him but the daughter thinks he’s creepy. Meanwhile, the brother of the first wife is searching for the stepfather.
The lead performance is great but it doesn’t fully explain why this film is so good. Without being especially gory, the violence is shocking. And the main character is the embodiment of every repressed creep on TV ranting about the evils of modernity. Don’t miss this one!
22 April 2021
Producer/Director/Writer: David Cronenberg
This was David Cronenberg’s first feature film: a 60-minute black-and-white MOS with voice over. It claims to be an educational film about people who are turned into psychics. They are encouraged to experiment sexually to increase their psychic powers. It’s sort of the ur-Scanners and definitely foreshadows most of Cronenberg’s career. It’s gorgeous to look at and disturbing to watch. You know: a David Cronenberg film!
Stereo features a number of actors who you might know from later Cronenberg films. The main one is Jack Messinger. But the acting is really not the point of the film.
The film is copyrighted although you can often find it online. But the good news is that you may already own it. For example, it is on the Criterion Collection Scanners — which you really should own! The Blue Underground release of Fast Company includes Stereo and Crimes of the Future. You could also get David Cronenberg’s Early Works, which includes those two along with his first two short films Transfer and From the Drain.
The Sting (1973)
Producers: Tony Bill and Michael Phillips & Julia Phillips
Director: George Roy Hill
Screenwriter: David S Ward
A young conman hooks up with an old conman to get revenge on the murderer of a friend with a big con.
This film holds up pretty well. Knowing the twists hurts a little but the characters are so vivid that it’s a lot of fun anyway.
Starring Robert Redford (Jeremiah Johnson), Paul Newman (Cool Hand Luke), Robert Shaw (Jaws), Charles Durning (O Brother, Where Art Thou?), Eileen Brennan (The Cheap Detective), and Robert Earl Jones (Sleepaway Camp).
28 June 2021
Producers: René Besson and Jesse Kennedy & Matthew Joynes
Director: Simon West
Screenwriter: David Guggenheim
A bank robbery goes wrong. Eight years later, when the mastermind, Will, is out of prison, one of his crew kidnaps his daughter to get the money stolen. Unfortunately, Will burned the cash at the time to limit his prison stay. Now he must find his daughter — or steal more money.
This is a solid action film. I have no idea why so many people claim to hate it. It has a reasonably clever plot, excellent cast, and a pretty good look.
1 March 2021
The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh (1971)
Producers: Luciano Martino and Antonio Crescenzi
Director: Sergio Martino
Screenwriters: Eduardo M Brochero and Ernesto Gastaldi (story: Eduardo M Brochero)
Alternate titles: Lo Strano Vizio Della Signora Wardh
A slasher is on the loose and the masochistic wife of a diplomat almost becomes his victim. She runs away with her lover but after the slasher is caught, she is still in peril.
This is a really good Gallio film with lots of sex and violence and a surprisingly complicated Strangers on a Train plot. The ending is perhaps a bit too neat but that’s a small thing.
21 September 2021
Suburban Gothic (2014)
Producer: Dylan Hale Lewis
Director: Richard Bates Jr
Screenwriters: Mark Lineham Bruner & Richard Bates Jr
Having trouble finding a job after college, effeminate but heterosexual Raymond comes home to live with his parents. But workers on the property uncover a child’s grave and then supernatural stuff starts happening. Also: his father hates him.
A very clever script and excellent cast make this one a lot of fun. It also features some good effects. It’s basically just a “return home” plot with a horror story included. But it works. This one is definitely worth checking out.
Starring Matthew Gray Gubler (Criminal Minds), Kat Dennings (2 Broke Girls), Ray Wise (Twin Peaks), and Barbara Niven (The Perfect Neighbor). It also features Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator) and John Waters (the director).
Suburban Gothic is under copyright. It is available on Blu-ray.
9 December 2020
Sugar Hill (1974)
Producer: Elliot Schick
Director: Paul Maslansky
Screenwriter: Tim Kelly
An organized crime gang kills a nightclub owner when he refuses to sell. His girlfriend wants revenge so she makes a deal with the Zombie Baron. And all the bad guys die horrible deaths.
This film is fun from beginning to end. It’s got that mid-1970s kind of dorky cool black culture along with some great zombies and a very fulfilling story. See this one!
8 October 2021
Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1989)
Producer: Jefferson Richard
Director: Anthony Hickox
Screenwriters: John Burgess and Anthony Hickox
Don’t believe the reports: being a vampire sucks. So a group of them take over a small town and create a factory to produce artificial blood. But some of the vampires want to go back to the old ways. And the clueless grandson of Van Helsing wants to kill them all.
This film has tons to recommend it including a fine cast. But it doesn’t work quite as well as it should. I think the screenplay is kind of scattered. It’s still a lot of fun and worth watching if you happen upon it.
Starring David Carradine (Kung Fu), Jim Metzler (Circuitry Man), Morgan Brittany, Deborah Foreman (April Fool’s Day), Bruce Campbell (The Evil Dead), Maxwell Caulfield (The Boys Next Door), and M Emmet Walsh (Jack of Hearts).
Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat is under copyright. It is available on DVD with director and cinematographer commentary and actor interviews.
4 November 2020
Producers: Kurtis David Harder and Brandon Christensen and Osric Chau
Director/Screenwriter: Brandon Christensen
Two young people are vacation vloggers. They come to stay at a beautiful remote house where the owner is attentive. Too attentive. And maybe isn’t even the owner.
This film is really well made. The gore is lots of fun and the acting is energetic. But the whole thing drags and feels like it should have been a half-hour long. There is excessive music to make up for the lack of action in the first hour. And if you think that people act stupid in slasher films, you’ll be impressed with how this film sets a whole new bar. But there’s no doubt everyone did great work on this. Next time, maybe hire a screenwriter?
Superhost is under copyright. It is available on the Shudder Amazon Prime channel.
6 September 2021
Producers: Deboragh Gabler and Ailsa Orr
Director: Tony Mitchell
Screenwriter: Edward Canfor-Dumas
Yellowstone becomes a supervolcano — spewing ash into the stratosphere, blocking sunlight and freezing the northern hemisphere.
The kind of disaster film that terrified me as a kid because it’s based on something that could happen (but probably won’t). It’s pretty good. The whole thing would be better if there were more disaster, though.
Supervolcano is copyrighted, but not hard to find online. It isn’t currently available on disc with US encoding.
Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971)
Producer: William Finnegan
Director: Burt Kennedy
Screenwriter: James Edward Grant
A conman on the run from a woman comes to a town that has two gold mining companies feuding with each other. He convinces them that his companion is a well-known gunfighter, which gets them to all get along — for a bit.
Most people prefer Support Your Local Sheriff, but this is actually the better film. And it rewards repeated viewings in a way that the earlier film does not.
14 May 2020
Support Your Local Sheriff (1969)
Producer/Screenwriter: William Bowers
Director: Burt Kennedy
A cowboy on his way to Australia stops in a gold town. He takes a job as sheriff to make ends meet and soon finds himself cleaning up the town.
This is a funny western. It’s also sweet if you don’t think too much about it.
14 May 2020
Producer: Claudio Argento
Director: Dario Argento
Screenwriters: Dario Argento and Daria Nicolodi (Story: Thomas De Quincey)
A young woman shows up to dance school and things immediately get weird. Another student runs away and is soon murdered. Maggots fall from the ceiling. People continue to die. Finally, she learns that the school used to be a witch coven — and apparently still is.
This is one of the most stylish and effective horror films ever made. The score by the progressive rock band Goblin is particularly good — especially paired with the very quiet non-scored scenes. There are more good frights in this art film than in most pure slasher films.
Starring Jessica Harper (Phantom of the Paradise) and Stefania Casini (Andy Warhol’s Bad). Featuring: Joan Bennett (Dark Shadows), Alida Valli (The Third Man), Flavio Bucci (Property Is No Longer a Theft), and Udo Kier (Blood of Dracula). Several of the actors are dubbed in English — most disappointingly, Kier.
Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971)
Producers: Melvin Van Peebles & Jerry Gross
Director/Screenwriter: Melvin Van Peebles
“Rated X by an all-white jury.” Also, well, there are still parts of this film that might make you uncomfortable. But this is an incredible film. It’s a simple “man on the run” story. But it is filled with so much grit and directorial brilliance that it is hard not to love.
It’s a fun film that tips many of the tropes of this genre on their heads. Watch Melvin Van Peebles eat a live lizard!
Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song is under copyright and well protected. Generally, the commercial releases are of mediocre quality. Thankfully, the Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray is available. It’s wonderful. There is also a combo package with Blu-ray and DVD. The two are usually the same price, so why not? Don’t mistakenly purchase the DVD-only version; it isn’t from Vinegar Syndrome. As I write this, both the Blu-ray and combo packages are less expensive. Don’t get tricked into buying a lesser copy for more!
Producers: Joel Silver and Jonathan D Krane
Director: Dominic Sena
Screenwriter: Skip Woods
A retired hacker is in a custody battle for his daughter. As a result, he’s convinced to work for some kind of spy-badass who works for the government (kinda). He’s tasked with stealing billions of dollars so the spy-badass can fight terrorism or something. But there are problems and a lot of explosions along the way.
This is a perfectly fine action film. Yes, it’s a bit light on plot but the characters are interesting. The direction hasn’t aged terribly well but if you can get through a Michael Bay film, you shouldn’t have difficulty with this. The main thing is to avoid thinking about what this film is saying because it isn’t good.
9 May 2021