Friday, May 10, 2013

Baby Blood (1990)

“Baby Blood” is not a run-of-the-mill low budget flick. In fact, at the Avoriaz Film Festival, it was the only movie to ever be given a Jury Award without even being in the competition. So, what on Earth is a movie that won an actual award doing on Cinemartyr? Apparently, my editor Zeke informs me, it is an “art film.” Only the magic of these two words can land a Cinemartyr-reviewed movie an actual award. I really still don't understand the branding of various films with this stupid pedantic label. In any case, “art films” frequently differ from other films in two ways: 1) they're focused more on emotion and mood than concrete storylines and 2) they're really fucking difficult and irritating to review. [Rant over.]

This movie follows Yanka (Emmanuelle Escourrou), a pregnant woman trapped in an abusive relationship with the head honcho of a shady African circus. The circus gets a new shipment of animals and little do they know that one of the leopards is carrying an aggressive parasite. Long story short, Yanka is soon “infected” with said parasite. This parasite is actually an ancient creature that's been waiting for millions of years to manifest on Earth and take over. In an especially creepy scene, akin to the tree-raping scene in the original “Evil Dead,” the thing slithers in tapeworm form across the ground before reaching Yanka's trailer. It makes its way into the trailer, into Yanka's bedroom, and proceeds to take over the brain of her fetus. The demon can then speak directly to Yanka's brain (as a voice in her head.)

It's essential that I give this thing a name, despite the fact that Yanka doesn't ever actually do so. On IMDb, the demon is dubbed “Roger Placenta.” The first 20 minutes of this movie are devoted to background and story. Since this is a mood piece, however, that background doesn't establish much and may as well be treated as filler. Without it though, we wouldn't get Roger and wouldn't be able to focus on the most important part of the movie: the relationship between Yanka and demon fetus.

Yanka shortly before committing her
first murder. Escourrou is excellent
in this role.
Initially, Yanka isn't thrilled to have a second voice in her head at the cost of her own child. Roger isn't the most pleasant individual to work with since he needs blood sacrifices to grow. Eventually, the demon destroys Yanka's willpower and she mentally surrenders to him. This results in the movie's first murder scene. The poor girl is nearly on the edge of psychological collapse as she scopes the victim out. The absence of music heightens the dramatic tension as Roger simply states: “Slit his throat. Go on. Slit his throat. Take the knife. Take it, go over to him, and plunge it into his throat with all your strength.”

Roger's appetite is voracious, so we're treated to a large number of graphic and demented murder scenes. All the while, Yanka's sense of morality becomes clouded and the two form what could possibly be referred to as a 'friendship.' Even though the woman is concerned for Roger's cause, she is prone to outbursts of psychotic contempt for the demon placenta. These scenes are extremely well-handled, particularly one scene where Yanka attempts to drown herself only to wake up on land mere moments later. According to IMDb, Emmanuelle Escourrou was picked from a cast of over 80 women to play this part, and you can tell.

Between the several murder scenes and the bizarre rape/baby-possession scene, you may be thinking, “Wow, this sounds like a pretty well-done movie!” Unfortunately, “Baby Blood” is a little too eager to please its audience. It spends all of its time attempting to create dynamic scenes, many of which fall flat. A great example of this is a later scene where a blood-drenched Yanka runs into a local auto shop. “Are you the mechanic?!” she demands. Instead of responding like any average human being, the mechanic simply affirms and walks out to get to work. Meanwhile, everybody else in the shop ignores that she's obviously a psychotic mess soaked in blood the entire time.

“Baby Blood” spends all of its 86 minutes eagerly swinging for the fences. When it connects, it really connects. On the other hand, when it misses, it really misses. I mean, this movie features four uses of “X month later” cutaways in the first 45 minutes; can anybody say “error”?

Despite of all its flaws and inherent eagerness, “Baby Blood” is worth watching just for Yanka and Roger. You could easily write a psychology essay on the dynamics of this relationship. I was astounded by how much this otherwise mediocre movie challenged my own moral compass. (In a scene where Roger fatalistically and flatly tells Yanka that he is going to be taking over humanity in 5 billion years, the two laugh together about it. Strangely, I couldn't help but laugh along with them.) This movie's all about the good stuff and the bad stuff. As your reviewer, I am decisively telling you that the good stuff outweighs the bad stuff in spades. Check this out.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Invisible Invaders (1959)

I'm surprised that “Invisible Invaders” hasn't gotten more attention in modern day B-movie circles. It's a competent flick with a healthy heaping of cheesy goodness. It features an original idea, above-average direction (as far as B-movies go) and great storytelling.

John Carradine tells Phillip Tonge
that the human race is doomed.
After an accident at an atomic laboratory and the death of his colleague Dr. Noymann (John Carradine), Dr. Adam Penner (Phillip Tonge) is distressed by the effects of his research. He can no longer sleep at night knowing that his work is going towards military weaponry and consequently decides to resign. Shortly after this decision, he is visited by his former colleague whose corpse is re-animated by aliens. Carradine fits this unusual role well, and it's a compelling, emotionally charged little scene. As it turns out, our aliens are a very typical B-movie-esque race dead-set on interplanetary domination. They appoint Penner to deliver the message that they intend to take over the Earth. However, his futile attempts do no more than render him the town laughingstock.

Still less of a douchebag than
Chris Broussard.
The aliens are none too patient with humanity's blatant disregard and send down one of their own to directly inform the masses of their impending doom. Of all the places for this to be done, they send the alien to a local hockey game. ...I mean, I would've went with a multinational government agency or something, but whatever. He gets into the audio booth, renders the commentators unconscious and grabs the mic. It's pretty amusing, but not ridiculous enough to throw your interest off track.

To up the ante a little, the alien's warning is followed by a destruction montage narrated by a fellow who sounds exactly like Criswell from “Plan 9 From Outer Space.” The narrator is present throughout the entire film and does a pretty good job at making “Invisible Invader”'s scenes feel epic. Stock footage is rolled out to amusing effect as the man loudly dictates the synopsis for us.

The pseudo-Criswell's narration soon leads us to Penner's laboratory out in the middle of nowhere. It is now our scientist's mission to put an end to our invisible antagonists. Via special effects that were excellent (given the low budget and time period), Penner and his colleagues perform all sorts of experiments. Naturally, a few of the scientists have conflicts of ethics over said experiments. All of the actors handle this quite well; a particular argument between an overzealous Army Major (John Agar) and an anxious, dorky scientist (Robert Hutton) is especially well-acted.

A majority of “Invisible Invaders”'s run time is spent in this cramped little laboratory and it creates quite a claustrophobic feel. This only adds to the movie's emotive drive; you really do empathize with the characters in this dire time. After a long and virulent struggle, Penner and his associates manage to capture an invisible invader. We're treated to elongated action sequences complete with charmingly silly effects.

“Invisible Invaders”'s brisk 71-minute run time is a huge plus. This movie takes its original idea and squeezes as much interesting content out of it as possible without forgetting to throw in smatterings of classic 50's/60's B-movie goodness. The acting & storytelling are notably good as far as cult films go. Definitely recommended for any old-school sci-fi nerds out there.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sweet Insanity (2006)

“Sweet Insanity” is a great example of a movie that's so bad it's good. It's too funny to be scary, but too serious to be considered a “comedy film.” Completely lacking self-awareness, “Sweet Insanity” is just a mess. A big, beautiful, hilarious mess. I have absolutely no idea what director/writer Daniel Hess was trying to do with this movie. “Sweet Insanity” has a fair amount of silly characters, bad shots and all the standard B-movie fare. However, the majority of the movie's unintentional humor actually comes from the downright psychotic dialogue.

"He was about to make a move, then
he puked on my shoes." "Oh my god,
what shoes?" "I can't believe you
just asked me that."
After the movie opens with a trippy dream sequence, we cut to the next morning and are introduced to the main girl, Stacey (Rebekah Hoyle). She's visited by one of her fellow senior friends Rachel and, thus, we have the first conversation of the movie. As Stacey converses with Rachel, Rachel asks if she hooked up with her crush Ty over the weekend. Stacey proceeds to inform her: “I think he was about to [make a move]... and then he puked on my shoes.” In complete defiance of social reality, Rachel replies with “Oh my god! What shoes?”

“Sweet Insanity” is supersaturated with moments like these. Even Stacey responds with “I can't believe you just asked me that.” As if this scene weren't enough of a mindfuck, Stacey's girlfriends then come to pick her up for school. Suddenly, the quiet scene is interrupted by blaring loud pop-rock music that drowns out the final snippets of dialogue.

Once at school, Stacey runs into the new kid, Christina (Mackenzie Firgens). Christina is a 'goth.' Stacey warms up to Christina very quickly, and after school they leave together chatting. I'm honestly surprised that the movie didn't just portray her like the goth kids from “South Park.” Instead, Christina turns out to be one of the movie's deeper characters. She comes from a dysfunctional family and later forms a romantic relationship with Stacey.

In addition to Stacey and her friends, we're introduced to her next door neighbor, an ex-cop named Mr. Sutherland (David Fine). Rumors abound about his having killed a kid while drunk on duty. That sounds promising, right?

After all the character introductions, it's revealed that Stacey's parents are going away for the weekend. Despite her intentions, the word gets out immediately and she becomes the impromptu host of a typical high school house party. Predictably, things go badly. The party-goers decide to bother Mr. Sutherland; consequently, they are hunted down by the psychotic ex-cop as well as an unforeseen cast of other antagonists.

For those of you who were here for “Spring Break Month,” you may be thinking: “Oh, great. Drew's gonna spend the entire review complaining about the resultant pointless scenes.” Amazingly, “Sweet Insanity”'s obnoxious dialogue provides enough charm to pull anybody through the protracted party scenes. The oddball direction also pumps these scenes full of charm and color. (One particular scene where shy-guy Ty gets into a fight with popular kid Joey nearly plays out like the Mark and Johnny party scene from “The Room.”)

This is a good time to take a look at the aforementioned 'popular kid,' Joey (Chris Ritti). At his core, Joey is little more than a stereotypical dirtbag. However, “Sweet Insanity's” writing over-amplifies his douchebaggery. It also adds a lot to his charm. It's immensely entertaining to watch Joey converse with his buddies about such topics as: “that one time he took Ecstasy,” that “psycho stalker they have on their hands,” and his self-awareness of his stupidity.

The fun doesn't even stop there. In “Sweet Insanity,” Joey speaks the single most bizarre line in my entire VHS/DVD collection. In fact, it's the single most bizarre line I have ever heard any character speak in any movie I have ever seen. Joey is sitting in an English class as the teacher drones on about how a literary character is going through a subconscious struggle. When he asks the class for input, Joey immediately raises his hand. He proceeds to state, and I quote:

"Okay, well, I got a question. Um... this subconscious thing is like really taking over, you know? Like... you know? Uh... subconsciousness is coming in for the consciousness, right? And then, and then the consciousness is going in for the subconsciousness and there's... he's subbing. Do you know what I mean? Okay, just look. If I'm in the game and I'm playing the game, right? But then I go out, I'm no longer playing, here comes the sub, someone's subbing in for me. Listen, okay? If I'm... um... the subconsciousness and the consciousness comes BACK in for the subconsciousness, I'M saying that a sub... It's entirely possible that a sub will sub for a sub. That's... does that make sense?"

To this day, Zeke & I will make “subbing for a sub” references. But in all seriousness, my response to this line of dialogue is: “Why?” What would possess Chris Ritti to speak this line? (It was more than likely ad-libbed.) And if it was actually in the screenplay, what would possess Adam Weis to write this line? Like any film, there must have been at least 50 people working – did nobody object to this scene? Why didn't one of the editors simply tell Dan and Adam, “You have to cut this scene out. This is ridiculous!”? This line is so perfectly bizarre that it should be considered a piece of surreal humor in its own right.

“Sweet Insanity” is one puzzling film. It's extremely difficult to tell if this flick takes itself seriously. I've seen crazier stuff in other movies that took themselves seriously, but “Sweet Insanity”'s patent blend of “stupid” is just disorienting. Nonetheless, it's a charmingly stupid movie, super-saturated with horrific dialogue, insane direction and characters that are absurdly over-the-top. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Kickboxer From Hell (1992)

“Kickboxer from Hell” should be used in college media courses to teach students how not to make a film. When I started Cinemartyr, I never thought I'd find a movie that was funny, interesting, abhorrent and boring simultaneously. In terms of directional competence, this movie definitely scratches the bottom of the bottom of the barrel due to its utter disregard for the rules of both cinema and reality.

This film is directed by Godfrey Ho, a Chinese director known as the Ed Wood of Chinese cinema. The man has a signature formula for creating movies: 1) Make your own new movie; 2) Gather footage of old/lost movies; 3) Combine the results of previous two steps and attempt to make a coherent production.

This approach would obviously take a deft hand to execute appropriately. Instead, our director is Godfrey Ho. For the entire 90 minutes of “Kickboxer from Hell,” you are distinctly aware that you're watching two movies at once. The result is a “movie” that would be nearly impossible to review in a linear fashion. Instead, the movie should be broken into two parts which I'll dub “Movie A” and “Movie B.”

“Movie A” is an American kung fu movie about Sean, a man who has 
"They want to sacrifice me to Satan!"
"Awwh! That's horrible!"
committed his life to the art of kickboxing. One day while training, he meets a nun named Sophia who is being pursued by Lucifer and his powerful kung fu warriors. After defeating said warriors, there's an extremely clumsy cut to a living room where Sophia explains to Sean that one of her fellow nuns, Sister Ilene, is also being pursued. One would think that this would be a cause for concern for our warrior devoted to protecting others with his skills. Instead, Sean exhibits absolutely no form of shock, disbelief, or anything. The two have an entirely emotionless, monotone discussion about how Lucifer's warriors want to sacrifice Sophia to Satan. After a slight disagreement about the role of violence, Sean calmly states he is not interested in helping her and leaves the room. None of this is set to any music. Perfection.

We then cut to the Underworld, inhabited by Lucifer and his minions who are clad in potato sacks and wearing face paint. Lucifer himself is a dude in his mid-30's who looks like a cross between King Diamond and The Joker. He has the vocal patterns of a depressed Mandark. His laughs are particularly poorly done. Simply speak the phrase “Ha, ha, ha, ha!” to yourself right now. If you're an adult male, the chances are you've just replicated a piece of his performance.

Lucifer is aided by Scorpion, a lanky, super-stylish fellow with short red hair, a faux leather jacket and a pair of Aviators. Scorpion's job is to be the movie's Chuck Norris; he kicks ass and takes names all throughout “Movie A” right up until the final minutes. He employs multiple weapons and fighting styles, but not too much kickboxing, surprisingly enough.

The funny thing about “Movie A” (and “Kickboxer from Hell” in general) is that in the past the paragraphs, I have exaggerated nothing. The above doesn't even begin to describe how conventionally bad “Movie A” is. Piss poor production values and non-existent character development abound. Most importantly, the acting is terrible. Do you remember when you had to do those crappy little stage plays in elementary school? That's honestly the caliber of acting we're talking here.

Let's talk about “Movie B” now. Whereas “Movie A” is the main source of the film's awful acting, this is the main source of its awful special effects. “Movie B” is a dubbed Japanese ghost movie about Ilene's troublesome honeymoon with her new husband Robert. As it opens, Ilene and Robert are walking along a shoreline. We're conveniently informed that Ilene has “given up” being a nun and is now quite content with her life. There goes that plot point. Ilene is later woken up in the middle of the night by an “evil” cat. It doesn't harm Ilene or Robert; however, via the magic of bad special effects, it jumps right onto the pillow that Robert attempts to hit it with before jumping across the room and out the window. We abruptly cut to Robert and Ilene's mansion.

Lots of artificial-ish mood light coloring and... stuff.
Anybody aware of 2000's era American remakes of foreign horror films should be right at home with the downright lunacy going on in “Movie B.” When “Movie B” shifts to displaying the ghost in its humanoid form, we get some hysterical scenes. For example, one night, Ilene wakes up in the middle of the night and walks down to the kitchen by herself. After noticing a noise in the dining room, the terror music slowly ramps up and the ghost suddenly introduces herself. “Want some watermelon?” Ilene turns and screams in terror as a ghostly figure laughs hysterically, a slice of watermelon in her hands and a red mood-light shining directly on her face.

I can't truly speak for the actors' performances in “Movie B” because of the awful dubbing but, for the most part, they carry themselves with a fair amount of conviction. It pains me to imagine that legitimate Japanese actors put forward an earnest effort at some point that was somehow transformed into what I am now reviewing.

Interactions between “Movie A” and “Movie B” are exceedingly rare. Rather than using “B”'s dubbing to glue the two movies together, Ho attempts to mash the two storylines using wildly disparate cutting techniques that are more confusing than anything. In “Movie B,” there are zero references to Ilene's established camaraderie with Sophia. In fact, I can only remember two moments in “Kickboxer from Hell” where a character from “A” even speaks about a character from “B.”

Don't look at me like I've spoiled
anything for you; a movie this
stupid couldn't possibly muster
an original ending.

Also, while “A” and “B”'s storylines nearly never touch for the entirety of “Kickboxer from Hell,” the moments where they do come together are utterly disorienting. The movie concludes with a sequence from “A” where Lucifer is defeated. That's where the movie ends. Vital plot lines from both “A” and “B” are abruptly thrown to the wayside, the movie practically shouting, “Well, as long as Lucifer has been defeated, everything is a-okay!”

In summation, aside the fact that there is little kickboxing, “Kickboxer from Hell” bizarrely lives up to its title. It is a stupid, hysterically awful film that assaults the audience's intelligence from the first second to the last. The acting in “A” is unspeakably abysmal. Even the audio of this AMERICAN ENGLISH PORTION is slightly behind the video, making it appear dubbed. The ghost effects in “B” are hilarious - not even 2006's masterpiece of awfulness “One Missed Call” is this loony half the time.

Honestly, if you enjoy Cinemartyr but are too lazy to take a look at all these movies, do yourself a favor and just buy this one. It features every “aspect of badness” I've ever covered on this blog and it's a great drinking movie, too. HIT IT UP.

Amazingly, Cinemartyr does enjoy a (very) small amount of new viewers from time to time. Therefore, I will re-explain why this week's header is all yellow and award-like. It's because this movie has won an award (GASP!). As the writer of this blog, I give "Kickboxer From Hell" the "Downright Disorienting" award; said honor is only given to films that are extreme explorations of human mindfuckery. Congratulations!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Reptilian (2001)

Released in 2001, “Reptilian” was South Korea's attempt to hop onto the big monster movie bandwagon. Featuring laughable CGI, nonexistent acting and dimwitted characters, the movie was poorly received by both local and global audiences. It was thus cast into a level of obscurity so deep that it's being reviewed on Cinemartyr. Yikes.

While watching this movie, there's certainly an identifiable fervor behind what's going on. You can tell that director Hyung-Rae Shim did his best to create “something big,” a movie meant to compete among the likes of “King Kong” and “Godzilla.” However, “Reptilian” is littered with so many errors that it's impossible to take seriously.

Brilliant archaeologist, or total
douchebag? You make the call. 
We open up to Dr. Campbell (Richard Livingston), an egotistical archeologist leading a crew through an underground cave where they come across some hieroglyphics. The overzealous Campbell seizes control of the operation and orders the crew to dig immediately, resulting in a spontaneous, gargantuan explosion and the death of everybody in the crew excepting himself. This incident sparks the concern of Campbell's colleague, Holly (Donna Philipson, a woman who never acted in any other movies). She pulls Campbell aside and urges him to cool down a little bit, but Dr. Campbell can't be bothered to cool down [because he's an over-the-top antagonist with no motivation but his own personal gain.] He's an entertaining character, but simple Darwinian principle dictates that he dies a half hour in.

Campbell's foil is Dr. Wendell Hughes (Harrison Young), an older man who had originally been on the digging project. Once he realized how dangerous it was, he dropped out; now he spends night and day trying to convince government officials to stop Campbell. He later teams up with Holly to put an end to what the moronic Campbell started. It's worth mentioning that the acting is hilariously bad. It feels very much like these people were just dragged in off the street and ordered to act.

Anyways, once Dr. Campbell is gone, our antagonistic focus shifts to a spontaneously-arisen monster. Thus, the movie instantly loses all structure and the rest of our time is spent with a heaping helping of the typical “impervious monster, machine guns & explosions” deal. It's obvious that “Reptilian” takes cues from the sorts of monster movies that disregard the story for the sake of mindless action. However, there's one little problem: the CGI.

“Reptilian”'s most glaring error is its CGI without a doubt. This can easily be attributed to the movie's nine million dollar budget. (For context, the 1998 remake of “Godzilla” had a budget of $138 million). When watching a CG movie, an oft-pondered question is: “When can I tell that this CG sorta looks fake?” Conversely, “Reptilian”'s CG is amazingly fake to the point of wondering if there's a moment that looks real.

When the CGI kicks in, “Reptilian” also dives into a world of convoluted plot points and missed opportunities. For example, Hughes has been legally dead for two years. This could have been an interesting twist if handled properly. It wasn't. This may cause you to tentatively ask, “How many pointless, convoluted plot points can they toss in here?” Try this on for size: the monster, named Yongarry, was actually placed on Earth by aliens for humans to eventually dig up. Once unearthed, the aliens activate him via a transmitter in his head. Once the humans discover that they can deactivate the transmitter, it turns out Yongarry actually wants to help their race fight the aliens. In result, the aliens send ANOTHER monster down to fight Yongarry. You followed all that okay, right? I know I did after watching this 100-minute movie FIVE times.

“Reptilian” fails to hold the audience's attention with its action scenes alone, but the interestingly bad acting
and convoluted story turn its charm factor up quite a bit. Since all giant dino monster movies are more or less the same, you'd probably be better off watching old Godzilla flicks if the previously mentioned charm factor isn't enough to reel you in. It's worthy of a single viewing, but that's about it.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill! (2006)

If I had to use one word to describe “Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill!,” it would be “grotesque.” When I happened upon this thing on Amazon, I figured I'd be getting a goofy Easter horror-comedy. Dear Christ, was I wrong.

Mindy (Charolette Marie) is a widowed mother who spends her time caring for her severely mentally handicapped son, Nicholas (Ricardo Gray), when not working as an on call nurse at the local hospital. The movie begins on “Easter Eve” as we watch Nick thoroughly enjoying making colored eggs with his mother. The tender youth is infatuated with Easter and the introduction even finishes with a charming little moment (...well, this movie's definition of the word “charming”) where he's given a pet rabbit by a random hobo.

“Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill!”'s characters are truly what make it great and they're portrayed in a very stark manner. This is especially true for Gray's performance – Nicholas flaunts every stereotype imaginable. Even the most jaded viewers will find themselves cringing through Nick's scenes. The fact that Mindy isn't the best mother in the world only worsens things. As irreverent as Gray's portrayal is, however, it's impossible not to feel sorry for the boy. He truly seems like a character that could be broken at any second. That's where Rem comes in.

Remington (Timothy Muskatell) is a hardened criminal who quickly cons his way into Mindy's heart from the local dating scene. His looks alone would be enough to indicate that he's bad news but Mindy doesn't get the hint. When Mindy is called into work a double-shift, she desperately needs a babysitter. She decides to leave Nicholas in Rem's care and the carnage begins the moment Mindy shuts the door. Muskatell gives an extremely convincing performance as a felon with a black soul. Whenever you see this character, you want him to die.

Immediately, Rem grabs Nicholas and throws him into the couch like a rag doll. The brutality of the scene escalates as Rem verbally assaults Nick into submission. After threatening to snap the rabbit's head off, Rem establishes the standard set of ground rules: 'You do what I say, you tell your mother you like me, and you don't tell your mother about any of this.' In order to make it a real “party,” he proceeds to call one of his drug-peddling pedophile friends, Ray (David Z. Stamp) over. In exchange for blow, Rem allows the crippled pedo access to the boy before leaving the house to score a pair of hookers.
It sure says something about a
movie when this is the brightest
shot of the villain one can find.

Rem's dream night is suddenly transformed into a nightmare by an unidentified psychopath in a rabbit mask. Just like the other characters, the killer is brutally portrayed: he introduces himself by ramming an electrical drill through someone's eye socket.

Mindy's house is currently under renovation, so there are plastic coverings over all the furniture, adding to the bleak aesthetic. This setting fits all of the murder scenes extremely well. “Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill!” also uses a distinct lack of both lighting and music to a level that is truly impressive. With absolutely nothing to distract you, you feel as if you're right there watching this psychotic lunacy unfold.

“Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill!” is not for the faint of heart. However, for how deplorable the premise is, it's a pretty enjoyable flick. It's notably well done for a B-movie. I'd recommend it for those who like “Hostel”-esque flicks. It's definitely on the same level in terms of the “Holy crap, I've gotta take a shower right now” factor. Enjoy! ^__^

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sting of Death (1965)

“Sting of Death”'s premise is 60's B-horror: A killer monster ambushes a group of college party-goers on an isolated island during spring break. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't have a heck of lot going for it aside from said killer monster. Also, whether intentional or not, this movie doesn't follow the conventional 60's B-horror formula. My theory is that this odd formula is due to there being two writers working on this movie, Al Dempsey and William Kerwin. After “Sting of Death,” Dempsey went on to do nothing. On the other hand, Kerwin went on to have a successful stage, movie and TV career. That difference shows strikingly. The best way to show this difference is by splitting the movie into two halves.

Karen & her friends get ready to
engage in protracted & unnecessary
party scenes, sorta like every single
fucking movie I've reviewed this
We open to the Florida Everglades where Dr. John Hoyt (Joe Morrison) is planning a reunion party for his daughter Karen (Valerie Hawkins). Hoyt, Karen, and a cast of unimportant characters engage in some playful banter about how excited they are for the party. Among these characters is Hoyt's misfit lab assistant, Egon (more about him later). This form of character establishment is an utter bore. You could picture this “playful banter” scene going on for 3, perhaps 5 minutes at the most, right? Well, try twenty straight minutes of this. To boot, there aren't even any minor conflicts among Karen and the cast of faceless partygoers. Between all the notes I took on “Sting of Death,” I lost count of how many times I typed the phrase “STOP TALKING!”

This abysmal opening is (just barely) saved by one thing: throughout the conversations, Hoyt has a hideous, overgrown mole the size of a half-dollar on his forehead.

No, I'm not kidding. While the movie strolls along at its leisurely pace, Hoyt sports the frightening black growth nonchalantly. It shows itself prominently all throughout the first thirty minutes, and it's nothing less than a small miracle in the world of B-movies. It is as strangely hypnotic as it is disgusting; as hilarious as it is genuinely concerning. The mole cuts through banal dialogue and rivets your attention to it. I shudder as I type about it. (Seriously, what the hell!? You couldn't just wait the 3 months needed for the thing to heal?! What?!!)

At around the halfway mark, however, “Sting of Death” begins to pick up as the movie focuses in on Egon, a depressed and reclusive man obsessed with pushing the limits of Hoyt's marine biology experiments. Take a moment to think about the aforementioned killer monster, and then back to what I just said. Unless you have an IQ of negative W, you should be able to draw the connection immediately. Hoyt and his colleagues never connect A and B together, instead assuming that Egon is an “odd seed.” This goes on for the entire movie, even during the vital horror scenes. It's hilarious. Despite the unintentional comedy surrounding his invisible status, Egon is an extremely interesting character. Once it's established that Egon has unrequited love for Karen, he basically becomes a ramped-up version of Torgo from “Manos: the Hands of Fate.” (In "Manos," Torgo is an awkward, hilariously-underplayed maniac with unrequited love for a female protagonist.)

John Vella invests a great deal of effort into portraying Egon. The unfortunate man's history is never explained, and he's never truly respected as an equal among Hoyt and his crew. From the moment he's rejected at the beach party to the moment he's rejected by Karen, you can see our anti-hero's inner turmoil build and build, resulting in an emotional and bittersweet ending.

On top of all of this, “Sting of Death” has a few excellent horror scenes. William Kerwin is well-known as Detective Pete Thornton in the 60's cult classic “Blood Feast”, and it shows. These scenes feature intense dramatic build-up and fake gore especially graphic for the 60's. Director William Grefe did a decent job given his budget, but when he hits, he hits hard.

In “Sting of Death,” it literally felt as though William Kerwin kicked Al Dempsey off the set halfway through and did everything in his power to revive the movie. I truly wish I could have rated the movie a 6 or a 7, but the first half of the movie is one hundred percent fast-forwardable. It's a shame, too, because Kerwin did an excellent job, here. I feel just as sorry for this movie as I do for Egon.