Film Review: Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)

Also known as: Communion (original title), Holy Terror (edited version), The Mask Murders (reissue title), Sweet Alice (Sweden)
Release Date: November 12th, 1976 (Chicago International Film Festival)
Directed by: Alfred Sole
Written by: Rosemary Ritvo, Alfred Sole
Music by: Stephen J. Lawrence
Cast: Linda Miller, Mildred Clinton, Paula Sheppard, Niles McMaster, Brooke Shields

Harristown Funding, Allied Artists, 98 Minutes, 108 Minutes (unrated version)

Review:

“She is a weird little girl. Did you notice her tits? When I put the tube around her she looked at me, like she wanted me to feel her up.” – Detective Cranston

Many people try to debate over which movie was the first slasher film. While this one isn’t it, it does predate Halloween by a few years. Although, it did come out after Black Christmas. But to me, none of those are the first and I feel like slasher films were born out of Italian giallo. The reason I even bring that up is that this is considered a slasher movie, and it is, but it has a strong resemblance to the giallo style.

This isn’t an Italian picture though. In fact, it was made in New Jersey. But it very strongly takes its cues from the films of Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci and others.

It’s lacking the visual allure of giallo, as it has a more natural and muted color palate but the story structure, the violence and the general tone just fits well with those cool flicks.

The story is about a little girl who is believed to have horribly murdered her younger sister in the church during her first communion. While things aren’t quite what they seem in this movie, the little girl is a real shit and she’s certainly pretty fucked in the head.

However, this seems to be more about tapping into the fear of the nuclear family breaking down in American society. It also might be a critique on the Catholic church. Many people seem to think so. Personally, I think it’s just a story that happens to take place in and around the Catholic church, which has a big presence in New Jersey and the Northeast in general, especially in the ’70s.

All things considered, this is a film that probably shocked some of its audience in its day but it’s hardly as shocking as a lot of the exploitation movies that were at their peak in the same decade. All the things that would’ve caught people off guard all stem from the fact that the title character is a young child.

This isn’t really gory. There’s some blood but the worst stuff is more implied and happens once the camera cuts away. That could also be due to the budget of the production.

Overall, this was a cool movie to check out. It has some cult status among ’70s horror aficionados but it doesn’t really hit the mark for me. At least, it doesn’t reach the heights of the best giallo pictures and I certainly wouldn’t put this above Black Christmas or Halloween.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other ’70s slasher pictures and Italian giallo.

Video Game Review: Halloween (Atari 2600)

I never knew there was an Atari 2600 game based on John Carpenter’s Halloween. That could be due to the age I was when this would’ve come out but it’s surprising that I still never got wind of it over the years.

Like most Atari 2600 games, it’s pretty basic. But that’s not a bad thing, as this game is at least really amusing and surprisingly violent and comical.

You play as Laurie Strode (I’m assuming) and you need to evade Michael Myers while trying to save Tommy Doyle (or some other little brat). If Michael catches the kid, the little shit is stabbed to death. If Michael catches Laurie, he decapitates her, which leads to her running around headless with blood spurting from her neck stump.

It’s pretty nutty that this was a mainstream video game and probably sold to kids. However, ’80s kids weren’t pussies and video games didn’t have fascist ass ratings back then. Also, life was better and people weren’t so miserable and overly sensitive.

Anyway, that’s about all there is to do in the game. But it’s still a cool game to mess around with.

Also, the 4-bit Halloween theme is badass.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other old school horror movie video games like the original Nintendo’s Friday the 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street.

Video Game Review: Splatterhouse (TurboGrafx-16)

Splatterhouse was one of those games I used to see in all the gaming magazines of the late ’80s. However, no one I knew had a TurboGrafx-16, so I never got to play it.

Anyway, the game was always highly touted but I think that was because of the gore factor, as video games didn’t have a lot of blood and splatter back then.

Having played it now, it was fun enough but nothing fantastic.

The TurboGrafx-16 runs and plays really smooth but I thought the controls were a bit wonky.

Also, the main character feels a bit large and chunky compared to what was the norm at the time. This feels like it’s scaled for a handheld console even though it wasn’t. Although, it probably looked good on the handheld Turbo Express.

I thought that the level design was pretty mediocre and while some of it looks cool, it’s just repetitive side scrolling fare. Plus, many obstacles were hard to avoid, especially while being overwhelmed by other enemies. Also, since this doesn’t play arcade style, where one can just continue off from where they die, it makes advancing difficult without a lot of experience.

Frankly, I don’t want to play this long enough to get that experienced.

Additionally, the boss battles I did play were confusing and disorienting. It wasn’t clear what you were supposed to do in some cases.

If I can get my hands on the sequels, I’ll check them out and give them a playthrough too. Maybe they improved on some of this game’s faults.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the sequels in this series, as well as other TurboGrafx-16 games and arcade beat’em ups.

Film Review: Cannibal Girls (1973)

Release Date: April, 1973
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Written by: Daniel Goldberg, Ivan Reitman, Robert Sandler
Music by: Doug Riley
Cast: Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Ronald Ulrich

Scary Pictures Productions, 84 Minutes

Review:

Strangely, I didn’t know about this movie’s existence until a few years ago. The reason I find that strange is that I’m a fan of Ivan Reitman’s work and I also really loved SCTV and that group of Canadian comedians.

I also find it odd that Reitman did a cannibal movie that starred two major players from SCTV before any of them had any real notoriety. As one might expect, this isn’t just straight horror and it sort of parodies the cannibal and gore movies that were popular with audiences of exploitation film.

All that being said, this was a cool experiment. It didn’t hit it out of the park or leave much of a mark but it was one of the very first steps in the careers of three talented people.

Now compared to the things it parodies, this is pretty light on gore. It’s more about capturing the same sort of vibe but having some cheekiness thrown in. It still has a gritty and brooding atmosphere that definitely feels authentic to the time.

However, also like the films it is channeling, it’s also mostly dull. While the black comedy sort of makes up for the lack of real exploitation, it isn’t enough to carry the picture or really salvage it.

Although, I liked seeing Levy and Martin play characters that were somewhat serious. They hadn’t quite grown into decent actors by this point but they are the best actors in the picture.

Reitman would go on to make some of the most memorable comedies of all-time but he was very raw as a director here. The film feels very green and there are some noticeable issues but to be fair, this was also better than similar films that lesser directors put out that wouldn’t go on to do anything worthwhile after starting in schlock.

This really isn’t a blip on the radar when looking back at exploitation cinema but this is something worth checking out just to see some of the earliest work by Reitman, Levy and Martin.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: the exploitation films it sort of parodies: Blood Feast, The Organ Grinders and The Wizard of Gore.

Film Review: Eaten Alive (1976)

Also known as: Brutes and Savages, Slaughter Hotel, Death Trap, Horror Hotel, Horror Hotel Massacre, Legend of the Bayou, Murder on the Bayou, Starlight Slaughter, The Devil’s Swamp (alternative titles)
Release Date: October, 1976 (limited)
Directed by: Tobe Hooper
Written by: Kim Henkel, Alvin L. Fast, Mardi Rustam
Music by: Wayne Bell, Tobe Hooper
Cast: Neville Brand, Mel Ferrer, Carolyn Jones, Marilyn Burns, William Finley, Roberta Collins, Robert Englund

Mars Productions Corporation, 91 Minutes

Review:

“Name’s Buck… and I’m rarin’ to fuck.” – Buck

A film that was directed by a young Tobe Hooper that features both Robert Englund and William Finley is enough to hook me. Now add in great TV legends Neville Brand and Carolyn Jones and you’ve got me hooked even further. Toss in Mel Ferrer, Marilyn Burns and Roberta Collins and this picture is now boasting some serious f’n talent!

But overall, this isn’t a classic and from a historical and cultural perspective, doesn’t hold a candle to Hooper’s previous film: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

However, this was still an awesome experience and even though I know that I had seen it in my youth, I barely remembered anything about it other than it taking place in a shitty bayou hotel where the owner chases people with his scythe until they fall into a pit where he keeps a large man eating crocodile.

But you don’t really need to know more than that. And frankly, that’s all the film needs to be. One doesn’t need to get bogged down by details and an elaborate story. This was ’70s horror. Just throw boobies and blood at the screen every few minutes and consider it a job well done. Granted, this could’ve used more boobage.

This is gritty and pretty brutal but not so much so that it’s a gore festival. But if you like watching people get slashed by a madman and then chomped by a large animal, this should satisfy.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Tobe Hooper’s other earlier films: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Funhouse and Salem’s Lot.

Film Review: Monster Party (2018)

Also known as: Killer Party (UK)
Release Date: October 1st, 2018 (Beyond Fest)
Directed by: Chris von Hoffman
Written by: Chris von Hoffman
Music by: Felix Erskine, Nao Sato
Cast: Sam Strike, Erin Moriarty, Kian Lawley, Julian McMahon, Virginia Gardner, Brandon Michael Hall, Robin Tunney, Lance Reddick, Bill Engvall

RLJ Entertainment, AMC Networks, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Here I am, a functioning member of society.” – Roxanne Dawson

As a Shudder subscriber, I’ve been trying to work my way through the Shudder exclusives. This one is a pretty recent addition to the streaming service and it boasts a pretty capable cast with Julian McMahon, Robin Tunney and Lance Reddick. Hell, even “blue collar” comedian Bill Engvall shows up in this.

This also starts off fairly well with a good, engaging premise.

However, as the film rolls on, it all fell apart for me.

There were a lot of interesting angles that this film could have had but ultimately, it took a pretty pedestrian and derivative route, marking cliches off of the checklist and trying to throw a mix of craziness and gore at its audience without really providing anything new or fresh.

The acting was better than average for something like this but it gets lost in the mess of a movie, which tried really hard to be overly stylized and hip but felt more like a direct to video horror film from the ’90s that you never would’ve heard of if not seeing it taking up shelf space in Blockbuster by the register.

All that being said, the film isn’t a waste of time for fans of the slasher or psycho family sub genres of horror. I did like it for the most part but in the end, it was predictable, far from shocking and quite tiresome by the third act.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other recent slashery films but nothing good comes to mind.

Film Review: The Ranger (2018)

Release Date: March 12th, 2018 (SXSW)
Directed by: Jenn Wexler
Written by: Giaco Furino, Jenn Wexler
Music by: Wade MacNeil, Andrew Gordon Macpherson
Cast: Chloe Levine, Jeremy Holm, Granit Lahu, Jeremy Pope, Bubba Weiler, Amanda Grace Benitez

Hood River Entertainment, Glass Eye Pix, 77 Minutes

Review:

“I kept your secret. I protected you.” – The Ranger

I really wanted to like this film and I did find it fairly enjoyable but there is nothing new here and it’s pretty mundane and weak, as far as slasher movies go.

The story is about some punk teens on the run, following a drug bust at a concert that was capped off by one of them stabbing a cop. The teens make their way to a cabin in the woods that once belonged to the uncle of one of the girls in the group.

However, the mountain where the cabin sits is under the watchful eye of a psychotic park ranger that has a past with that same teen girl. When she was a child, she did something bad and he took her in, protected her from the law and tried to train her to be more like him: a predatory wolf, living off the land and surviving by any means necessary.

So it doesn’t take long before these cliche punk teens disrespect authority, throw the word “fascist” around and start fucking up the woods, drawing the ire of the park ranger.

One problem I have with the movie is the characters. Except for the proverbial final girl, everyone here is completely unlikable. Plus, they all just kind of fit played out archetypes and their punk schtick feels forced. They’re not real punk rock, they’re like the punk that Target tries to sell on t-shirts to 12 year-old girls in Wisconsin. If you are looking for something in the same vein as the punk rock teens of The Return of the Living Dead, these kids aren’t them.

I do like the main girl though and the park ranger is pretty awesome. I just wish he had a bit more backstory. Maybe they’ll tap into that if there’s ever a sequel to this but I don’t think that very many people even know about this movie. I didn’t until Shudder suggested it within the app.

Also, this film has a bit of gore and blood but it implies gore more than it actually shows it. A lot of the kills are weak and maybe that’s because they didn’t have the budget to sever teenagers from limb to limb but some of these moments could have been done much better with practical effects and for not a lot of money.

The Ranger had a neat premise and two characters good enough to anchor it. However, it falls short of my low expectations and is pretty forgettable.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other films currently streaming on Shudder: Revenge, Monster Party, Boar and What Keeps You Alive.