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Ernest Troost Munchies
Should you burst a black-headed pimple on the side of your nostril, don’t you owe it to yourself to see it through to its conclusion? I don’t know about you but I’d milk it until I had sufficient length to floss my teeth with. Popping primed pustules can be a decidedly fun pursuit and so can watching bad movies. Neither can be considered particularly hazardous; more of a jolly little time-wasting exercise when afforded some downtime. It turns out that I’ve had a little too much recess on my hands of late and, as a result, I have fashioned an inventory so putrid that you’ll never again be at a loss for cinematic manure should you need to harvest the crops so to speak. As per usual there will be glistening diamonds within the dung. But be warned before you go rummaging in feces; as all that glimmers is not necessarily golden.
Not all the evil is on Elm Street..
Our first Z-Lister is John Grissmer’s Nightmare At Shadow Woods and I refuse to be too mean to our maiden entry as it was shot in 1982 and spent five years in limbo before eventually receiving its release under the new name Blood Rage in 1987. By the time it arrived it was looking decidedly long in the tooth but, had it not been plagued by post-production issues, then it would’ve nestled in nicely with the likes of The Prowler, My Bloody Valentine and the other slashers doing the rounds at the time. Recently Grissmer’s film has been given a luxurious re-release courtesy of Arrow Video and can finally be enjoyed in its entirety with all the grue reinstated. It’s cheaply made, occasionally beyond ludicrous, and lacking in tension as the killer is made known from the offset, but an atmospheric synth score and plenty of grisly dispatches make it one to consider seeking out.
Tim Boggs’ Blood Lake, also released in ’87, fares somewhat less well under scrutiny. This no-budget slasher is your typical labor of love which is all well and good but, when agonizingly drawn-out water-skiing montages provide the only way of padding out the running time, you just know it’s going to be a long haul. As for priceless movie magic moments; try this on for size. One victim is so utterly paralyzed with fear by the oncoming killer that his legs give way beneath him and he tumbles from the jetty like a newborn fawn in leg braces. Fairplay to Boggs for seeing this through but his achievement equates to 82 minutes of our brains becoming increasingly numbed and that makes for a questionable view in my book.
You’ll pray for Thursday!
1987 turned out to be a somewhat vintage year for outdated movies as attested by Mark G. Gilhuis. To its credit, Bloody Wednesday was actually shot two years prior and wastes no time in clocking up the kills, hence we are introduced to a well-populated crime scene before the credits have even cued. Keeper’s favorite moment comes courtesy of a man struggling to overcome a snake which has snuck into his boudoir intent on giving his face a midnight lick. After a full minute tussling, it is revealed that he is actually wrestling his rolled up bedsheet. Way to feel like an idiot. Later he reveals Dirty Harry’s magnum to a bunch of thugs about to give him a thorough battering; from behind a communicative cuddly toy. Now who are the idiots? Gilhuis actually touches on the archaic treatment of mental health in the United States at the time and the closing scene, where our now unhinged protagonist empties his seemingly endless machine gun chamber into dozens of unsuspecting diner patrons in slow-mo, is pretty well-staged. However, watching the waitresses attempting to dodge the shrapnel while still endeavoring to juggle their orders ensures its Z-List status.
“Linda, like don’t worry, we know where your arm is!”
While we’re on the topic of mass slaughter, Andy Gizzarelli’s Alien Beach Party Massacre from 1995 has plenty of carnage going for it. The moment the opening credits reveal that we are about to watch “a Gizz film” we know where it is headed and the director doesn’t disappoint. There is mid-fellatio decapitation and dismembered limbs galore although it’s hard to shake the distinct feeling that we’re watching Monty Python & The Holy Grail once the appendages begin to vacate their fixtures. Watching a doctor calmly rally the troops after having his arm torn from its bloody stump may well tickle you pink or that could just be me. Meanwhile, the surf-loving alien gatecrashers themselves are regrettably allergic to sun-tan lotion. I guess that makes sense, after all, decades of mincing about the red planet will invariably wreak havoc with an extraterrestrial’s eczema. You see Ripley; all that alien terror could have been averted with a simple dash of sun block.
“Professor? Have you been fucking fish?!”
Massimiliano Cerchi’s 1994 delight Creatures From The Abyss is also known as Plankton and even Piranha 4 in some circles. I would imagine that Joe Dante would have something to say about the latter although it is the logical progression from Flying Killers but that still doesn’t explain what the fuck happened to Piranha 3!!! Plankton seems most fitting as this Cerchis’ film is the cinematic equivalent of algae. If that sounds like a blight against its name then let me assure you that I have a very special place in my heart for this particular bottom-feeder. After consuming radioactive plankton, a group of freshwater fish become murderous and also gain the ability to vocalize their annoyance as a group of stragglers take refuge on the yacht they have commandeered. Said trespassers are put to task in all manner of imaginative ways but the crowning moment occurs mid-coitus and words just can’t do this scene justice so track this baby down on YouTube, skip to the 59 minutes mark and don’t leave me hanging on the high-five.
The Fontanelles Kiss Kicker ’99
“The vault… I tried to warn you… those creatures… the vault… I tried… All my work! Thirty years, I have tried to prevent this from happening”
While on the topic of Dante, those pesky Gremlins have a lot to answer for. The late eighties were heavily populated with low-rent attempts at cashing in on their success and allow me to introduce to you the lowest common denominator. Rick Sloane’s Hobgoblins really scours the bottom of the barrel. Featuring a UFO which I’m fairly sure is a coffee thermos, a bunch of disorderly hand puppets which make the Ghoulies appear positively aristocratic by comparison, and performances which make said hand puppets look like thespians, Sloane’s stinker somehow makes Tina Heirsch’s Munchies, from the year previous, feel like a classic and that’s no small feat. Both films are deserving of Z-List status as, when the largest compliment you can pay is that they both feature a beginning, a middle, and an end, you know they’re just ripe for the picking. Speaking of which, our next entry cannot even make that boast.
The Stage Is Set… And The Dinner Is Served
If I were to mention that the roll call for André Szöts’ 1985 film Grizzly II: The Predator included Charles Cyphers, John Rhys-Davies, Louise Fletcher, Laura Dern, George Clooney, and Charlie Sheen (who turned down a part in The Karate Kid to be involved), then you would be forgiven for expecting something of merit. Alas, production for the sequel to William Girdler’s 1976 tale of mother nature’s most fearsome tenant gone wild was blighted from the start. Filmed largely in Budapest, the Hungarian government seized the production’s equipment for non-payment of bills after executive producer Joseph Proctor pocketed the budget and exercised his getaway sticks. To rub salt in the wound, proposed distributor Cannon Pictures went bankrupt during shooting which left no funds to add the Animatronic bear of the title. Be warned Grueheads, a bootleg exists cut from the original workprint and has been cobbled together somewhat haphazardly. Much as I would applaud the bootleggers for their commitment to a lost cause, it’s a tad off-putting when many of the scenes don’t even feature audio and the most we see of our Grizzly is a single paw and one laughable mug shot. Thank heavens Szöts knew a taxidermist. As for the runaway Proctor, he remains incarcerated to this day in a federal prison for tax evasion so I guess there’s your ending.
“If you want me, just whistle. You do know how to whistle don’t you? Just part your lips and blow”
Attempting to emulate Amy Holden Jones’ popular 1982 slasher Slumber Party Massacre six years on must’ve seemed like a win-win to Stephen Tyler at the time although The Last Slumber Party doesn’t quite pan out the way he’d hoped. These aren’t the smartest of sorority gals and leaving a ladder perched up against their bedroom window for the entire film may not be the most savvy move. Once the killer, clad in surgical scrubs and brandishing a scalpel, has gained access and done away with another guy clad in surgical scrubs and brandishing a scalpel, he commences to whittle the numbers down with hilariously bad results. This particular psychopath (played by Tyler himself) has a tendency to glare at the camera as though trying to convey his frustration to the assistant director. But it isn’t just him who is a prisoner of vanity. At one point, a female victim does the exact same in a snapshot moment which may just test your bladder. Meanwhile, special credit to the film’s editing rearguard Jill Clark and Paul McFarlane for being the only true slashers present. My five-year old would happily pitch in for the sequel; he’s rather nifty with a pair of safety scissors.
Stay Away From That Old House. Bad Things Happen In There!
Next up is a rare gem requested by our very own Kim McDonald. This one is for you Kim; now remember you owe me 57 minutes plus a further five for resulting paralysis. Ray Dennis Steckler’s 1971 effort The Chooper, or Blood Shack: Curse of The Evil Spirit as it is commonly known, effortlessly warrants inclusion as it is cinematic brie of the most putrid order. Pre-dating The Evil Dead by a decade, the cabin in question here is haunted by a vision far more terrifying than anything Sam Raimi could conjure up: a man in a black leotard who bounds after his quarry as though he’s late for his audition for A Chorus Line or simply desperate to take a whizz. Actually Kim; I’m with you on this one. Having grown up on Russ Meyer movies, I do find a degree of antiquated backyard charm to The Chooper and remember it just as affectionately. Best just keep this one between us dear. Fret not; my lips are sealed.
Jack Bravman cunningly named basketball themed slasher, Night of The Dribbler, was excreted in 1990, waited five years for copyright, and wasn’t granted a release until 2009 if that’s any clue to quality. Not enough for you? Well what about if I told you that half the cast consists of one actor in a number of various guises? Fred Travalena gets to show off his vast range and one of his characters is named Dick Airhead for hint #2. Still want more? Then how about the Batman-inspired DZZZZZZZ as our Jack-o-Lantern clad masked killer (who never actually offs one person through the entire movie) electrocutes Play’s stunt double from House Party in the pool? Okay, one more and I’m done. Travalena offers his best Michael Jackson impression before moonwalking out of frame. I kid you not. Night of The Dribbler lives up to its title as I suffered three strokes and a brain haemorrhage in the space of 87 minutes watching this one. Don’t. Just don’t!
Bruce R Cook’s Nightwish from 1989, on the other hand, is worthy of note despite its Z-List status. Cook seemingly has no concept of logic but what he does have is an ability to serve up tension and a fistful of decent grue courtesy of KNB Effects Group (amongst some admittedly lamentable optical effects). A clearly demented parapsychology professor and his unwitting subjects tackle paranormal abnormalities in an old dilapidated mansion and stir up all manner of malevolence in the process. The happenings here make David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive seem cohesive but any parallels with one of Keeper’s all-time favorite movies end there. However, should oddities such as Nightwish be treated as box-ticking exercises, then it gets one for atmosphere and another for grue, and that gives it an unassailable 2-0 lead over Night of The Dribbler.
“Medically, you’re a very fit young woman. No evidence of any abnormality in the brain, no tumor, you have a strong heart, your diet is better than average. You are under severe stress, of course, but otherwise Doctor Bowen, the psychiatrist you saw, says there’s nothing out of the ordinary. Aside from your exceptional extrasensory perception and your preoccupation with Japanese culture. No harm in that!”
Sam Firstenberg’s Ninja III: The Domination brings our current Z-List to a close with honor and virtue. Renowned martial artist Shô Kosugi returned for this second sequel to Enter The Ninja and was joined by the sassy Lucinda Dickey (Breakin’, Bloody Pom Poms) as Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus attempted to fuse genres after the early eighties slasher boom and gave us a bona fide classic for all the wrong reasons. Amidst numerous standout moments of hilarity, our villanous ninja goes berserk on a golf course, teeing off against anyone on hole six (including an innocent passing couple seemingly glued to their caddy cart seats by way of deception most cruel) and generally causing a ruckus before possessing our precious Special K and convincing her to do his treacherous bidding. Where the fuck are Ozone and Turbo when she needs them most? You want eighties cheese? Come get a slice but save some for Keeper. I’ll supply the crackers.
In other news, I am regressing back into a fetus. Currently the Z-List is almost one hundred movies strong and my already tenuous grip on reality has begun to slacken. Nevertheless, I shall soldier on until my very last chromosome has become irreparably tarnished. Think of how much we have learned Grueheads. The next time you watch The Karate Kid you’ll know exactly where Charlie Sheen was at that precise moment. Should you be a completionist then good luck finding Piranha 3 but be sure to pick up your copy of Plankton. Plus, you now know how Dickey warmed up for Electric Boogaloo. I trust you have been paying attention as I have been prone to dishing out homework assignments on occasion. The next time I ask you the year in which Night of The Dribbler was released I’ll expect a swift response. What? You expect me to do all the legwork while you sit about scratching your hemorrhoids? Miss MacDonald, come back and see me at the end of the lecture for your one hour detention. That is all.
The Loathsome Collection
Alien Beach Party Massacre
Creatures from The Abyss
Grizzly II: The Predator
The Last Slumber Party
Night of The Dribbler
Ninja III: The Domination
Sequence Thus Far
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
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Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2015