Film Review: Sledgehammer (1983)

Also known as: Sledge Hammer (alternative spelling)
Release Date: 1983
Directed by: David A. Prior
Written by: David A. Prior
Music by: Ted Prior, Marc Adams, Philip G. Slate
Cast: Ted Prior, Tim Aguilar, Linda McGill, Sandy Brooke, John Eastman, Janine Scheer, Stephen Wright

I & I Productions, World Video Pictures, 87 Minutes

Review:

Sledgehammer came to me via Joe Bob Briggs’ show The Last Drive-In. It was paired with arguably the worst film ever made, Things.

Since this movie was shown first, it did leave a bad taste in my mouth but seeing Things directly after Sledgehammer, made me appreciate Sledgehammer for not being a steaming pile of crap covered in ghost pepper sauce and forced down my gullet.

This was actually David A. Prior’s directorial debut and it’s also the first slasher film shot on video, as opposed to traditional film.

I’ve reviewed some of Prior’s other films but this one doesn’t really live up to his other work that I’ve seen, which are also bad pictures. But he had to start somewhere and learn the ropes before making cult classics like Deadly Prey and The Final Sanction

The real problem with this movie was the cast. Prior told them to always be over-the-top and always having a blast in every scene and man, they really pushed it to an ungodly level of cringe. Nearly everyone has a can of Budweiser in their hand in just about every scene.

Don’t even get me started on the endless food fight sequence.

The plot is bonkers, as it’s about a slasher that kills with a sledgehammer, as opposed to a slashing weapon. He also appears out of thin air and is a large man with a creepy mask. However, we discover by the end that the big killer is actually the ghost of a little boy.

In the end, this is a harmless, stupid film that helped pave the way for one of the greatest schlock directors of his generation. Although, I can’t really recommend this as anything more than a cinematic curiosity.

Rating: 2.75/10
Pairs well with: other really, really bad ’80s movies filmed on video. Also, other films by David A. Prior.

Film Review: We Summon the Darkness (2019)

Release Date: February 28th, 2019 (Mammoth Film Festival – US)
Directed by: Marc Meyers
Written by: Alan Trezza
Music by: Timothy Williams
Cast: Alexandra Daddario, Keean Johnson, Maddie Hasson, Logan Miller, Amy Forsyth, Austin Swift, Johnny Knoxville

Common Enemy, thefyzz, Magna Entertainment, Saban Films, 91 Minutes

Review:

I grew up in the ’80s and I’ve always been nostalgic about that decade (and the early ’90s, as well). However, Hollywood has kind of ruined that, as they continue to tap ’80s nostalgia, again and again, because they don’t have original ideas and want to piggyback off of the success of the phenomenon that was the first season of Stranger Things, which is now five years-old.

We Summon the Darkness sets itself in 1988 rural Indiana, which is also the state where Stranger Things takes place. However, once you watch the film, it could’ve taken place in any time and didn’t need to be an “eighties” flick. Heavy metal still exists, as do crazy, religious fanatics. But whatever.

The film is also predictable as hell and pretty damn disappointing. I actually like Alexandra Daddario and not just because she’s fucking gorgeous. However, she’s insufferable in this and that’s not because she’s the main villain. Something about the performance is just off-putting where it should actually be really sexy and cool in the same way that hot horror villainesses of the past were sexy and cool.

Maybe this is due to Daddario also being a producer on the movie and she felt like she had to try a lot harder. And really, her performance feels like one of an actor trying way too hard.

The rest of the cast is just okay. No one really stands out but I did enjoy Maddie Hasson’s character, as the sidekick killer that always had to pee. I thought her performance was more natural, less forced and she brought some good comedic timing in at points.

Everyone else is totally forgettable except for Johnny Knoxville, whose role is minor but is still really effective. In fact, there’s one scene where he really has to act and he does fine with it.

As far as the plot, the film follows three females that lure three metal heads to their country mansion after a concert. They then drug the dudes, tie them to chairs and try to murder them in the same fashion as a Satanic cult. They actually aren’t a Satanic cult but they are trying to use the Satanic panic of the time to lure people towards their Jesus cult… or something. I don’t know, the whole premise is kind of retarded.

We Summon the Darkness is just dull and unimpressive and it’s also derivative as hell while believing itself to be cool, edgy and unique.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other horror films about cults, killer families or weird small towns.

Documentary Review: In Search of Darkness: Part II (2020)

Release Date: October 6th, 2020
Directed by: David A. Weiner
Written by: David A. Weiner
Music by: Weary Pines
Cast: Nancy Allen, Tom Atkins, Joe Bob Briggs, Doug Bradley, Clancy Brown, Lori Cardille, John Carpenter, Nick Castle, Larry Cohen, Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Sean S. Cunningham, Joe Dante, Keith David, Robert Englund, Stuart Gordon, Andre Gower, Kane Hodder, Tom Holland, Chris Jericho, Jackie Kong, Heather Langenkamp, Don Mancini, Harry Manfredini, Kelli Maroney, Bill Moseley, Greg Nicotero, Cassandra Peterson, Diana Prince, Linnea Quigley, James Rolfe, Robert Rusler, Tom Savini, Corey Taylor, Gedde Watanabe, Caroline Williams, Alex Winter, Tom Woodruff Jr., Brian Yuzna

CreatorVC, 263 Minutes

Review:

Everything I said in my review of the first film in this series still holds true for this one. Reason being, they’re exactly the same in what they are. It’s just that each one features different films.

I think that I like this one a wee bit better for two reasons.

The first, is that I already know what I’m getting into now. I know that this will just fly through dozens of films and not give them the proper amount of time they deserve. As I said in the previous film’s review, I’d love to see each section spread out into a full episode and have these films actually be a streaming series.

The second reason, is that I like that the films are getting more obscure, as there were a few here I hadn’t heard of. With that, I walked away from this with a list of shit I need to watch and review.

Apart from that, this was more of the same. That’s not a bad thing, at all. I just wish that these documentaries didn’t fly through films and other topics so quickly.

I still like these, though. I know there’s a third one coming, which I look forward to, and there’s also one coming out on ’80s sci-fi flicks.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other documentaries in the In Search of… series, as well as other documentaries on ’80s horror.

Film Review: The House by the Cemetery (1981)

Also known as: Zombie Hell House (alternative title)
Release Date: August 14th, 1981 (Italy)
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Written by: Dardano Sacchetti, Giorgio Mariuzzo, Lucio Fulci, Elisa Livia Briganti
Music by: Walter Rizzati, Alessandro Blonksteiner
Cast: Katherine MacColl, Paolo Malco, Ania Pieroni, Giovanni Frezza, Silvia Collatina, Dagmar Lassander, Lucio Fulci (uncredited)

Fulvia Film, Medusa Distribuzione, 86 Minutes

Review:

“Ann? Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true?” – Bob Boyle

This is one of the few Lucio Fulci horror films from this era that I hadn’t seen until now. That being said, this was pretty much what I expected, however, the movie’s monster was fucking cool and the last ten minutes or so of this exceeded my expectations and enhanced the overall experience I had with this film.

It’s honestly a fairly cookie cutter haunted house flick where a family moves into a new home with some scary secrets. For one, there’s a tomb hidden under the house. There were also some bizarre killings.

Being that this is Italian horror, though, the plot is kind of all over the place and nonsensical. It’s hard to really know what the hell is actually happening but at least most of it is pretty cool.

The dubbing, especially for the kid, is really bad but it also makes the movie enjoyable in a sort of goofy way. I also thought it was funny that this little tyke’s name was simply Bob.

Anyway, crazy shit happens, the family doesn’t move, weird dialogue is exchanged in nearly every scene and we get a cool finale with a legitimately creepy monster.

All in all, this isn’t a must see but if you like Fulci’s work, it’s worth checking out. Plus, the ending makes up for the weaker aspects of the film.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Lucio Fulci movies of the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Film Review: Mother’s Day (1980)

Release Date: September 19th, 1980
Directed by: Charles Kaufman
Written by: Charles Kaufman, Warren Leight
Music by: Phil Gallo, Clem Vicari Jr.
Cast: Nancy Hendrickson, Deborah Luce, Tiana Pierce, Gary Pollard, Michael McCleery, Beatrice Pons

Duty Productions, Saga Films, Troma Entertainment, 91 Minutes, 76 Minutes (cut version)

Review:

“You’ll get what you deserve in them Deep Barons, you lez-beans! You won’t be causin’ no one no trouble no more!” – Storekeeper

This movie just flew under my radar for decades, which is surprising to me as I’ve seen dozens of films put out by Troma since the ’80s and this is something that I would’ve dug when I was obsessed with slasher flicks as an ’80s kid.

I discovered it just recently when it was featured as the first movie of the third season of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs. That episode had Eli Roth on as a guest and he revealed that this was one of his all-time favorites. So much so, that he watched it with the other kids celebrating his bar mitzvah.

This takes the Texas Chain Saw Massacre formula and moves things to New Jersey and gives us a film that is a lot more comedic and playful than its terrifying inspiration. By 1980, this formula had already been recycled quite a bit but this picture is more memorable and entertaining than most of the others.

I really liked the killer family, even though they were evil and batshit crazy. All three of the actors really hammed it up and gave their performances their all. I also liked that the head of the family was the mother, who somehow could play a sweet, charismatic old lady while also being completely deranged and sadistic, as she commanded her demented, pervert sons to, “Make mommy proud!”

I also thought the three females leads were decent. The one with the glasses actually had a pretty good character arc over the course of the movie, as she starts out as the shy, reserved girl scared of everything and eventually steps up to the plate to take this evil family out of existence. The final kill was bizarre yet very satisfying.

Although, the girls trashing that dude’s store in beginning was pretty fucked up. Clean up your mess, don’t be an asshole. Honestly, by slasher film logic, they all should’ve died horribly for knocking over that guy’s shit and bolting after acting like complete jackasses.

Anyway, this is a solid horror comedy with lots of violence and gore. It fits well within the patented Troma style and if those movies are your thing, this will most assuredly entertain you.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other slasher films with crazy families, as well as other Troma pictures from the ’80s.

Film Review: Student Bodies (1981)

Release Date: August 7th, 1981
Directed by: Mickey Rose, Michael Ritchie (uncredited)
Written by: Mickey Rose
Music by: Gene Hobson
Cast: Kristen Riter, Matt Goldsby, Cullen Chambers, Richard Belzer (as Richard Brando), Mimi Weddell, Sara Eckhardt, “The Stick” Patrick Boone Varnell

Allen Smithee Classic Films, Universal Southwest Cinema, Paramount Pictures, 86 Minutes

Review:

“13 1/2 Murders + 1423 Laughs = Student Bodies” – tagline

I half expected this movie to be so stupid and dull that it was going to be a real chore to sit through its 86 minute running time.

I was surprised by it, though, and I thought that the humor was really good, even if it was pretty stupid. It’s just that enjoyable stupid that comes with a playful goofiness where you can see the actors loving the film’s insanity, which transcends the picture itself and rubs off on the viewer.

It’s also a bit impressive that this parodied the slasher genre so well but it came out in 1981, which was really early in the genre’s cycle.

This is full of some pretty entertaining gags and it’s also full of actors that no one will recognize but should appreciate, as they all hammed it up with gusto and kept this movie rolling at a thunderous pace.

Every scene just has funny, bizarre shit in it. A lot of it doesn’t make sense and the humor does border more on the side of absurdism. The dude passing out hot dogs at the football game had me in hysterics and the janitor was f’n brilliant every time he came onscreen.

There isn’t much to say about this, honestly. The plot is thinner than a supermodel that got runover by a steamroller and it’s so absurd, anyway, that none of it matters. You just need to know that there’s a killer taking out horny teens and none of the clues really add up to anything once the killer is revealed.

Student Bodies is just dumb fun but if you hate really zany, bizarre humor, you’ll probably hate this as well. For me, it was my unique cup of tea.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s slasher films, as well as good horror comedies.

Film Review: A Blade in the Dark (1983)

Also known as: House of the Dark Stairway (alternative English title)
Release Date: 1983 (Italy – Mystfest)
Directed by: Lamberto Bava
Written by: Elisa Briganti, Dardano Sacchetti
Music by: Guido & Maurizio De Angelis
Cast: Andrea Occhipinti, Anny Papa, Fabiola Toledo, Michele Soavi, Valeria Cavalli, Giovanni Frezza, Lamberto Bava (cameo)

National Cinematografica, Nuova Dania Cinematografica, 110 Minutes

Review:

“Tennis balls?” – Bruno

This was an early film for director, Lamberto Bava. While it’s a giallo picture, it has a real grittiness to it and isn’t as stylized as other pictures of that distinctly Italian horror subgenre. In fact, it looks more like an American slasher flick than something with a strong Italian flavor.

Having his father, Mario Bava, and giallo maestro, Dario Argento, as mentors, the younger Bava was savvy enough to put together a better than decent picture, even early in his career. Sure, he had some missteps like the Jaws wannabe, Monster Shark, but he usually proved he was a capable horror director.

A Blade In the Dark is a fairly strange film that deals with a transvestite serial killer, slashing beautiful women to ribbons. By 1983, this wasn’t anything new and I think that Bava may have been directly influenced by Brian De Palma’s neo-noir serial killer thriller, Dressed to Kill. However, Bava went the hardcore horror route and turned up the gore quite a bit.

The earliest encounters with the killer had him using an old fashioned box cutter, which I thought was visually cool, as those things just have a gnarly look to them. Those old school blades break really easily though, so it was probably a poor choice for a murder instrument but the killer does graduate to more practical and bigger tools, as the film progresses.

The kills are generally pretty good and Bava did a stellar job in building suspense in these scenes. The bathroom murder around the midpoint of the movie was exceptionally well-crafted and executed.

For the most part, the characters in this are all pretty likable. Even the ones that pop in just to get killed fairly quickly.

Now I can’t say that the twist ending was unpredictable or shocking, as I figured it out almost immediately with the movie’s opening scene. Maybe it was a surprise for viewers in 1983 but frankly, it’s nothing new, even by 1983. Still, it doesn’t in anyway wreck the story or the film, overall.

This is a pretty decent film for its type and while it’s not Lamberto Bava’s best, it really displayed his talent and prowess pretty early into his directorial career.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Italian giallo and slasher pictures, as well as other films by Lamberto Bava.

Film Review: Slaughter High (1985)

Also known as: April Fool’s Day (working title), The Last Laugh (alternative title)
Release Date: May 10th, 1985 (Cannes)
Directed by: Mark Ezra, Peter Litten, George Dugdale
Written by: Mark Ezra, Peter Litten, George Dugdale
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: Simon Scudamore, Caroline Munro, Carmine Iannaconne, Gary Martin, Billy Hartman, Michael Saffran, Donna Yeager, Josephine Scandi, John Segal, Kelly Baker, Sally Cross

Spectacular Trading International, Vestron PIctures, 90 Minutes, 91 Minutes (uncut)

Review:

“We’ll take my car. It starts every time.” – Carol

The film’s tagline on its original poster boasts “From the makers of Friday the 13th” but honestly, I don’t know what the fuck the marketing department was talking about because the three writers/directors and the two producers don’t have that film listed under their credits.

One of the producers was known for working in exploitation films and porn, so maybe he was just using one of those old school tricks like flat out lying to get his film in theaters and then hoping he could sweep it under the rug if the big wigs at Paramount Pictures ever found out.

Whatever. This film came and went like the passing of the wind and nearly no one noticed it. I guess it developed a bit of a cult following over the years but having now seen it, I have no idea why. It’s absolute shit. And I don’t say that lightly, as the love of my life, Caroline Munro, is in this thing.

Granted, I’m not sure why Caroline Munro is playing a high school student when she was thirty-five at the time of filming. Still, she’s always been damn beautiful and I’m not going to nitpick about her being in a movie… ever.

Other than Munro, the film is a complete dud. It’s your standard slasher plot about a kid getting bullied, a prank gone wrong and then he puts on a mask and starts chopping up thirty year-old teens.

While I generally like slasher movies, even bad ones, this is just on another level of sucktitude. The story takes too long to get going, once it does, it’s just dull and pretty uneventful until the home stretch.

It’s also wrecked by one of the worst film scores that I’ve ever heard. Strangely, the score is done by Harry Manfredini, who made the iconic Jason Voorhees theme for the Friday the 13th films. Hey! Maybe he’s the “maker” of Friday the 13th that the poster touts.

Slaughter High is a waste of time. Sure, you could stare in awe at the natural beauty of Caroline Munro but you could also appreciate her in far better films than this one.

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: other really shitty slasher movies.

Film Review: Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha’ Hood (2003)

Also known as: Leprechaun 6, Leprechaun 6: Back In Da Hood (working titles), Leprechaun 6: Back to Tha’ Hood (alternative title)
Release Date: December 30th, 2003
Directed by: Steven Ayromlooi
Written by: Steven Ayromlooi
Based on: characters by Mark Jones
Music by: Michael Whittaker
Cast: Warwick Davis, Tangi Miller, Laz Alonso, Page Kennedy, Sherrie Jackson, Donzaleigh Abernathy, Keesha Sharp, Sticky Fingaz, Shiek Mahmud-Bey

Lions Gate Entertainment, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t you presume to tell me right from wrong. You compromised all you believed in once you got the gold, just like all those before you. Your kind is weak, and will always give in to your selfish yearnings.” – Leprechaun

So I was not looking forward to watching this after reviewing the previous film in the original Leprechaun film series. However, I was pleasantly surprised and this somewhat redeemed the series and at least brought it back to the quality level of the first three movies.

That’s not necessarily high quality but they’re at least pretty palatable for horror fans that like the occasional laugh.

The five previous films were made by Trimark but this one was made by Lions Gate, who ended up absorbing Trimark after the atrocious fifth picture. With that, I feel like Lions Gate wanted to salvage this series and make a decent sequel.

I feel like they succeeded, even though this ended up being the last installment of the original string of films. They’d be rebooted later, twice, but no one cared either time because without Warwick Davis, you don’t have the Leprechaun.

Anyway, this film was actually funnier and the jokes mostly landed. Also, it felt a bit more grounded, as the Leprechaun can’t just summon any random spell for plot convenience, essentially being omnipotent.

It’s not specifically shown or stated that the Leprechaun’s magic has limitations in this film but he seems severely powered down and acts more like a supernaturally strong slasher when he kills. He almost feels like a miniature, festive Jason Voorhees with the ability to teleport.

Another thing Lions Gate did was that they updated the Leprechaun’s look. And they did a good job, as he looks a lot cooler, menacing and more serious in this installment.

Additionally, compared to the previous movie, the cast in this one was a lot more likable. I especially loved Page Kennedy in this, as he made me smile every damn time he was onscreen. He has tremendous charisma and even though he’s had a pretty good career since 2003, more people should hire him.

My only big gripe about the movie was the the Leprechaun’s death scene was heinously weak. Especially considering that this is his final sendoff.

Still, this fixed the damage created by the two previous chapters in Warwick Davis’ six-film Leprechaun run.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Leprechaun movies starring Warwick Davis.

Book Review: ‘Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction’ by Grady Hendrix

If you grew up in the ’80s (and I’m assuming the ’70s), you probably remember walking into book stores and seeing amazing but terrifying artwork adorning the covers of hundreds of horror paperbacks.

Some of those images were burned into my mind for life. Some of them I forgot about. However, this book brought them all back and it was cool as hell seeing all these covers once again.

This book is more than just some art book full of classic horror novel cover art, though.

The author, Grady Hendrix did a superb job of outlining the history behind the art that decorated these book covers for a few decades.

He talks about his own experience and appreciation for these books but he also breaks down all the subgenres and discusses the history and details behind them.

There is a lot to digest here between the great chapters that Hendrix wrote, as well as the hundreds of pages of stupendous art.

Plus, this book is top notch with high quality paper, images and construction.

This will definitely be a book I pick up and reference over the years, especially when looking for inspiration for my own stories.

Rating: 9/10