Film Review: Nightmare (1981)

Also known as: Blood Splash, Nightmare in a Damaged Brain (alternate titles), Schizo (Australia)
Release Date: October 16th, 1981 (New York City sneak preview)
Directed by: Romano Scavolini
Written by: Romano Sacvolini
Music by: Jack Eric Williams
Cast: Baird Stafford, Sharon Smith, C.J. Cooke, Mike Cribben, Danny Ronan

21st Century Film Corporation, 97 Minutes

Review:

“Now Paul, you… you believed in these drugs. And, you rebuilt this man. And you did put him back out on the street. But now, he’s out there killing people. And we can’t have that. Now you find him… and you fix it” – Man with Cigar

Nightmare is an Italian slasher film shot mostly on the Florida Space Coast. Sadly, this isn’t a slasher picture that takes place at NASA but how cool would that have been in the ’80s? Like SpaceCamp meets Friday the 13th. I would’ve loved that shit.

Anyway, this primarily takes place on Cocoa Beach but there are a few New York City scenes as well.

The story follows a psycho that has been released to the public, he goes down to Florida and tries to fight his killer tendencies but he can’t. This all ties back to a horrific event from his childhood.

The film is far from spectacular but it is a good example of extensive gore used in a way that has some actual artistic merit to it. The gory scenes are very well done and as tasteful as they can possibly be. Yes, it is absolutely gratuitous but it feels like there is actual purpose behind it and it serves to have meaning to the plot and to character development. You’ll see what I mean when you get to the big reveal (a predictable one) at the end.

I can name dozens of slasher films that are better than this one and there isn’t a ton of killing but for whatever reason, this one does stick with you and it stands out, as it doesn’t try to emulate or blatantly ripoff other films in the genre, it explores different territory making it fairly unique. Also, I’m a Florida boy and I love the setting.

Strangely, being that this is an Italian film with a slasher premise, it doesn’t tap into the giallo style too much. The only thing remotely giallo, besides narrative similarities to that style and slasher films, is the vivid look of the blood once it really starts flowing. I think the director was more interested in trying to make something much more American feeling than replicating other, more famous, Italian horror directors. Kudos to him for that.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Don’t Go In the HouseBlood RagePieces and Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker.

Film Review: Call Me by Your Name (2017)

Release Date: January 22nd, 2017 (Sundance)
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Written by: James Ivory
Based on: Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman
Music by: various
Cast: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois

Frenesy Film Company, La Cinéfacture, RT Features, M.Y.R.A. Entertainment, Water’s End Productions, Sony Pictures Classics, Warner Bros., 132 Minutes

Review:

“We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to make yourself feel nothing so as not to feel anything – what a waste!” – Mr. Perlman

I didn’t get to see this in the theater, where I intended to check it out. It wasn’t the highest on my list of “awards worthy” films last year and I had a big list to work through. Plus, I’m not in an area where “awards worthy” films are looked at as all that important. But hey, everyone around here is really excited for that Bumblebee movie.

Anyway, I finally caught this on the Starz app, it’s still there, if you’ve been wanting to see this highly lauded motion picture.

The film is about an American named Oliver (Armie Hammer) that comes to live with an Italian family for the summer. The son, Elio (Timothée Chalamet), quickly develops a crush on Oliver. As the film progresses, Elio’s feelings towards Oliver are found to be mutual and we go along with him on his journey of self-discovery: trying to understand what attracts him, what love is and how to deal with the overwhelming emotions of being a passionate young man.

The film is heartbreaking at its lowest emotional moments and not just for Elio but for a few characters. At the same time, there’s hope and positivity in Elio learning to accept and find comfort in who he is. Luckily for him, he has loving and understanding parents. And while this does end on a sad note, I guess there’s a sequel in the works for some reason, even though it really isn’t necessary and sort of takes the impact away from the ending, knowing that these two characters will meet again.

The framework of an uncertain future is pretty much what makes the final moments work. And yeah, I guess the future is still uncertain but this takes some of the story magic away. Besides, I had incredibly strong feeling for the first few people I had sex with but at 39 years-old, I’ve moved on a half dozen times. That’s what life does, it moves on, you meet new people and what was once intense emotional pain was just something that happened lifetimes ago. Elio should never forget the experience but he also shouldn’t be crippled by it as life moves forward.

I thought that both Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet did a fantastic job. However, I thought their physical age differences, at least how they appeared in the film, were pretty drastic. Oliver is supposed to be 24 in the story but Hammer looks over 30. Elio is 17, which is well over the age of consent in Italy, but he looks 15. 7 years isn’t a big deal and Elio being 17 probably only seems weird in the U.S., where some states have the age of consent set at 18 and where the media is pedo crazy and we obsess over sex offenders. But in the film, the age difference looks greater than the original story intends. And I don’t think that their ages are actually mentioned in the film. It’s really not a big deal but Hammer looked much older than just being some college student living abroad for a few months.

The film moves kind of slow but it’s still well put together and it at least looks beautiful. Luca Guadagnino certainly has an eye for style and understands how to make his visuals a true accent to the narrative and the emotion unfolding on screen. While I was vehemently against anyone remaking Suspiria, I’m kind of intrigued by his vision for it after seeing this film and seeing the trailer for that film. I’m hoping that Guadagnino uses the same key crew members for that film, as this picture is so rich, visually.

In the end, I enjoyed this but it isn’t something I think I’d ever watch again. It looks beautiful, it told a good story but I feel it is also overblown due to its subject matter, which is the type of thing Hollywood snobs love because their progressive nature means that they have to push those politics and ideas into the mainstream. Which honestly, distracts from this just being a really good movie and just makes it one of many films that Hollywood has to prop up to prove that they’re not bigots anymore. But a lot of them are pedos and this doesn’t help that image, just sayin’.

Again, this is a good film. Picture of the Year nominee? Not really. But then again, most of the films that get that distinction aren’t worthy. Now if Timothée Chalamet fucked a fish man, this would have won all the big ones. Bestiality trumped gay sex this past year but gay bestiality would’ve broke the Academy.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: In recent years, Moonlight and Lady Bird.

Film Review: StageFright (1987)

Also known as: Deliria (original title), Aquarius, Bloody Bird, Sound Stage Massacre, Stage Fright (alternate spelling)
Release Date: January, 1987 (Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival – France)
Directed by: Michele Soavi
Written by: George Eastman (as Lew Cooper), Sheila Goldberg
Music by: Simon Boswell, Guido Anelli, Stefano Mainetti
Cast: David Brandon, Barbara Cupisti, Mary Sellers, Robert Gligorov, Jo Ann Smith, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Martin Philips, Piero Vida, Michele Soavi

DMV Distribuzione, Filmirage, Artists Entertainment Group, 86 Minutes

Review:

“In case it slipped your mind, this show opens in just one week from now, and as you can see, those people up there literally stink.” – Peter

StageFright was the directorial breakout of Michele Soavi, who had spent a good amount of time working with giallo maestros Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava before getting behind the camera for this picture.

If you love slasher films or Italian giallo, this film is a good f’n time. You should absolutely love this and frankly, this is pretty high up on any list for either of those genres, as far as I’m concerned.

90 percent of this film takes place on and around a sound stage, as the potential victims of the killer are locked in after rehearsing their upcoming play. The play is about a guy that went psycho, dressed up like an owl in a suit and went on a killing spree. However, now someone is picking off the director, the producer and the cast and that someone dons the costume of the killer.

I love the slasher in this movie. The owl mask is just really cool and chilling. The use of flying feathers and blood throughout the film is also fantastic and really adds a lot to the mystique of the killer.

Like a typical giallo style film, this one uses a lot of vivid colorful lighting, heavy shadows and makes the viewer rely on their imagination a bit, as things are often times obscured and your mind has to fill in the blanks. This actually helps build the tension and the creep factor.

The acting isn’t superb and the dubbing is goofy at times but most of the chicks are hot, most of the violence is presented more artistically than an American slasher flick and this has a magical and surreal quality to it.

Man, I f’n love this movie. It’s certainly not a perfect film but if you love this style and want something more imaginative than just a run of the mill slasher picture, than this should satisfy.

Lastly, I love the music in this and I’m probably going to have to track down the soundtrack on vinyl.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Other giallo and slasher flicks of the time: OperaPhenomenaPiecesTenebre, A Blade In the Dark and The New York Ripper.

Film Review: Ghosthouse (1988)

Also known as: La Casa 3 (original Italian title), Evil Dead 3 (informal Italian title), GhostHouse (alternate English title)
Release Date: January, 1988 (Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival)
Directed by: Umberto Lenzi
Written by: Sheila Goldberg, Umberto Lenzi, Cinthia McGavin
Music by: Piero Montanari
Cast: Lara Wendel, Greg Scott, Mary Sellers, Donald O’Brien

Filmirage, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Who are you? What do you want? For God’s sake… somebody help me… help… aarghh!” – Jim

This is a terrible, terrible film. However, I still like it because it is too damn bizarre not to appreciate.

It’s directed by Umberto Lenzi, who is no stranger to horror with films like Cannibal FeroxNightmare City, and Eaten Alive! under his belt. Like one would expect from a Lenzi picture, it is a low budget bonanza that features some gore, albeit not as much as some of his other bloody affairs.

As Italian films typically do, this didn’t concern itself with other country’s copyright laws and borrowed heavily from a few successful films. You have the house, which can be said is similar to the house of the House films series. Then you have a clown doll that is blatantly a ripoff of the clown doll from Poltergeist. There are a lot of other little things in the film that are borrowed too and really, there’s nothing about this that comes off as original.

The house interiors look like they were on a closed set with a ton of overhead lighting. This was the best lit haunted house I have ever seen in history. Daytime and nighttime looked the same and it was like walking through a grocery store, that’s how bright it was.

While the house is haunted by what seems like a lot of ghosts at times, the only real monster is the creepy little blonde girl that clutches her clown doll. She and the doll both smile creepy and then bad shit happens. For instance, a girl in a bedroom is attacked by paper Easter decorations, an inflatable Mickey Mouse and feathers violently filling the air.

Granted, there is a cool guillotine death but they never show the girl cut in half, they show a head to the far left and feet to the far right with furniture covering up the middle because god forbid they get creative or spend three bucks cutting holes in a wood floor to create the effect.

The music in this film is initially creepy but man, it wears thin pretty quickly. There are only two songs in this entire picture, the creepy one and then the weird electro-jazzy theme. One or the other are playing constantly throughout this picture. Sometimes you get a break but it only ever seems like its just for the film’s DJ to cue up the other record.

Ghosthouse was ripped to shreds by the RiffTrax guys and deservedly so. It is derivative, strange as hell but surprisingly yet confusingly endearing.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: Other horror films by Lenzi: Cannibal FeroxNightmare City, and Eaten Alive!

Film Review: The New Barbarians (1983)

Also known as: Warriors of the Wasteland (alternate), Metropolis 2000 (West Germany)
Release Date: June 10th, 1983 (West Germany)
Directed by: Enzo G. Castellari
Written by: Tito Capri, Enzo G. Castellari
Music by: Claudio Simonetti
Cast: Fred Williamson, Giancarlo Prete, George Eastman

Deaf International, 91 Minutes

Review:

“The world is dead. It raped itself. But I’ll purify it with blood! No one is innocent! But only we, the Templars, are the ministers of revenge!” – One

Between 1990: The Bronx Warriors and Escape From the Bronx, Enzo G. Castellari made this terrifically badass flick. And like 1990: The Bronx Warriors, this film stars Fred Williamson in a supporting but show stealing role.

This is one of ten dozen Mad Max ripoffs but the post-apocalyptic genre of film was at its height in the ’80s thanks to the surprise success of Mad Max. There were ripoffs galore, some good, some atrocious, but some of them at least brought something new to the table. I can’t call this a good film but I like it a lot because it takes an oversaturated formula and gives it some sweet style.

The Italians could have really taken what they did with spaghetti westerns and started a whole spaghetti apocalypse trend. While they made films like this, as this is one of them, they never quite took off like the spaghetti western trend in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

Enzo G. Castellari really made his mark in spaghetti westerns and dabbled in some horror. The two really prepared him for making post-apocalyptic movies, as they share similar qualities: barren wastelands, gunslingers, violence and terror. And hell, trade out the horses for motorcycles and you’ve got a spaghetti apocalypse movie, as I call these pictures.

The New Barbarians or Warriors of the Wasteland, as it is also called, is an energetic and engaging picture for what it is. It wasn’t intended to be a game changer or exceptional, it was just made to cash in on a genre craze but still had enough of its own originality and style to stand apart from its primary influences.

Castellari was the master of these sort of films and The New Barbarians just solidifies that. It is well executed with awesomely shoddy effects and surreal action. It has weird dialogue, weird characters and weird costumes. It’s like some sort of bizarre European post-apocalyptic themed fashion show from the ’80s. I don’t really know how else to sum it up in a single sentence.

This film, along with Castellari’s Bronx movies sort of form an unofficial trilogy in my mind. They have similar themes, similar style and are cool to experience. This is a better film than the two Bronx movies: slightly beating out the first and completely surpassing the second, which actually isn’t very good.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: 1990: The Bronx Warriors and Escape From the Bronx. It also has a lot of similarities to the more modern film Turbo Kid.

Film Review: Hundra (1983)

Also known as: Warrior Queen (German DVD title)
Release Date: July 23rd, 1983 (Spain)
Directed by: Matt Cimber
Written by: Jose Truchado, John F. Goff, Matt Cimber
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Laurene Landon, John Ghaffari, Marisa Casel

Continental Movie Productions, S.T.A.E. Productions, Cinema Epoch, 90 Minutes (original), 109 Minutes (extended DVD cut)

Review:

“Bow!” – every asshole man in the film

Hundra has a 4.6 on IMDb. That seems pretty low and that puts it below average. I think it’s at least a bit above average. It isn’t a classic or even very good but it has some pretty strong positives that at least keep its head above the water line.

To start, the first fifteen minutes or so are badass. A horde of evil men show up to rape and pillage a village of only women. It’s a rehash of the beginning of nearly every barbarian-esque picture since the first Conan came out but it works to great effect here.

Plus, it is immediately followed up by Hundra returning home and having to lure out the testicle-having baddies to a place where she can use the environment to her advantage and kill the entire horde. Well, one escapes to fight another day but that whole battle sequence was well orchestrated and showed a warrior woman who was able to outwit and outsmart a large number of rapist thugs.

Weirdly, she has a hard time taking out a midget on a miniature horse just five minutes later.

The problem with the film is that after all that awesome action in the beginning, it just slows to a halt and continues on for another hour and a half.

I guess the biggest highlight, other than that long opening pillage and the battle on the rocks between Hundra and a gang of rapey tyrants is the incredible score by Ennio Morricone. Morricone is mostly known for his work on Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns and other films in that genre. Unlike those movies, however, he gives us something a bit more classical and pure. His themes during the pillaging scene and the chase out to the rocks was stellar.

Additionally, Laurene Landon as Hundra was a pretty big positive too. She looked and acted the part and hats off to her because she did all of her own stunts except for the big stumble off of the top of the tower around the middle of the film. I really only knew Landon from her role in the first two Maniac Cop films but after seeing this, I wish she had more roles where she got to play a hardcore feminine badass.

The cinematography is a mixed bag. The outdoor stuff is great. The landscapes are beautiful and everything in the first fifteen minutes is shot and captured really well. However, when you get to the interiors or other closed set pieces, things take a turn for the worse, as the film just becomes dull, poorly lit and ugly. It’s hard not to compare this to the very similar Red Sonja and when you see the films side by side, at least Red Sonja had more interesting interiors. Granted, Hundra also didn’t have as big of a budget as Red Sonja.

The acting isn’t very good but if you’re watching this for that reason, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Landon is charismatic and very likable as Hundra and her friend Tracima (Marisa Casel) was incredibly alluring and had my attention.

This is really a film about women overcoming evil men who only want to use them for sex and as servants. Sure, it’s written by a man as most films with a feminist message were, back in the day. However, Landon’s performance legitimizes it beyond just being some guy’s Amazonian fantasy.

If this movie was whittled down to 80 minutes and had as much energy as its first fifteen minutes, it could have been something really good. Unfortunately, despite the long list of positives I just gave, it is just too slow and dull for about 75 percent of its running time.

But I would love to see a Hundra and Red Sonja team up story, even if it were just in comic book form.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Other sword and sorcery movies from the era, most notably Red Sonja, the Conan movies, Beastmaster and Conquest.

Film Review: Hercules Unchained (1959)

Also known as: Hercules and the Queen of Lydia (English literal title)
Release Date: February 14th, 1959 (Italy)
Directed by: Pietro Francisci
Written by: Ennio De Concini, Pietro Francisci
Based on: Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles, Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus
Music by: Enzo Masetti
Cast: Steve Reeves, Sylva Koscina, Primo Carnera, Sylvia Lopez

Lux Film, Galatea Film, Lux Compagnie Cinématographique de France, Warner Bros., 97 Minutes

Review:

“I’m so sleepy, I can’t seem to keep awake!” – Hercules

Mystery Science Theater 3000 has always loved to showcase old sword and sandal movies of the worst quality. Actually, nearly everything in the genre is of poor quality. However, you knew you were getting into something special when one of MST3K‘s sword and sandal selections was a Hercules movie. Okay, maybe not special… more like, slightly better but still not good.

At least this one stars Steve Reeves, the true Hercules of his era and the only one that really mattered in that iconic role.

While this isn’t as good as the first Reeves’ Hercules, it is better than nearly everything that came after it. Still, it’s a fairly crappy motion picture that doesn’t do much to capture the imagination and makes one wonder why these style of movies were so popular. I mean, at least in the ’80s there was ConanRed Sonja and my personal favorite, Beastmaster. But those were actually sword and sorcery movies and not sword and sandal ones. I guess sorcery pairs better with sandals on the big screen. I certainly enjoyed James Earl Jones’ Thulsa Doom, as a villain, much more than the many harlots and weirdos that Hercules got tangled up with.

This film is pretty boring overall. It’s less interesting than the zanier stuff like Hercules Against the Moon Men and it doesn’t have a cool Hydra like The Loves of Hercules. It may be a hair better than both of those due to Reeves giving the film some legitimacy but to be honest, these films all sort of blend together in my mind as a big stew of sand where Steve Reeves’ face occasionally pops up.

Hercules Unchained isn’t a painful experience, it is just a really dull one.

And it is also shitty enough that I must run it through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 7 Stool: Watery, no solid pieces. Entirely Liquid.” That’s a bit harsher than I thought but the machine never lies.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: Steve Reeves’ first Hercules movie.