Suggested Audio Candy
 Jimmie Haskell “Night of The Lepus”
 Tanner King Barlow, Jefferson Craig & Thomas Hughes “Camp Blood”
 Michael Small “Jaws: The Revenge”
Once more into the trash heap. I’m not sure what is a more depressing thought: that I have spent so much time talking about bad movies or that there are still so many more to cover. The Z-List endeavors to cover the whole spectrum; from shot for video D.I.Y. dross with their hearts on their sleeves, to big-budget flops which really should have known better, it’s all fair game with the Z-List. There are many movies within these articles which should be avoided like a dose of Bubonic and others which are essential as oxygen. It’s all ultimately subjective and my word is no better than the next mans but all these films have one thing in common: they suck or at least on some level. Speaking of which, look what’s hovering at the window with intent not to do any actual damage whatsoever.
“Wait, wait, wait… the last time we we took detours we went into that cemetery, and you remember what happened? We were attacked by those zombies. I’m not going through that again!”
I concluded the previous Z-List by naming and shaming James Nguyen’s Birdemic and, if you thought he had gotten off lightly, then think again Grueheads. Birdemic 2: The Resurrection was our penance for heaping hero status on Nguyen and it turns out that the joke is only funny once. Despite a larger budget and evident spring in his stride, the director struggled to better himself and the resulting sequel made all the same blunders, while the low-rent charm of the original was now replaced with…more low-rent charm naturally. I’m sorry, I tried really hard to despise this movie but, to Nguyen’s credit, his feathered frightmare still makes the top three of films about murderous birds on a rampage. Meanwhile, Hitchcock is no doubt resting easy (or possibly turning in his grave).
Billy was a kid who got pushed around…Then he found the power
Michael Rae’s Laserblast from 1978 was an early Charles Band production and featured Roddy McDowell in a walk-on role although it appears as though he simply stumbled onto set in an unhappy accident and was accosted through way of extortion. This shameful sci-fi flick arrived hot on the heels of Star Wars and attempted to cash in on its success but instead reminded us why every VHS player comes with its very own eject button. In fairness, the laughably inept stop-motion aliens resembled tortoises which gave the film a certain campy appeal but it committed the cardinal sin of being as dull as muddy brown slacks and an exploding mailbox here and there wasn’t quite enough reason to hang on for its closing hurrah.
“Hey, what’s the matter? You okay? Feeling bad, huh? It’s cool, we just killed somebody. No big deal”
Jack Bravman’s Zombie Nightmare from 1986 could never be accused of false advertising as it did, indeed, feature one zombie. Having said that, the single shuffler in question, resurrected by the power of voodoo with the purpose of bitter revenge, was hard to take seriously considering he ambled about in a pair of jogging bottoms which looked like cast-offs from Verne Troyer. Said zombie was a formidable foe, strong enough to impale a man with a baseball bat (?!), but alas the movie moved at a pace which suggested Bravman may well have been bitten himself in pre-production. Whatever budget he did have went into hoodwinking Adam West, Tia Carrere, and Frank Dietz to get involved and when West uttered the words “Kill me Frank” just before being pulled down into a hole in the ground never to be seen again until his next bad movie, one would assume he wasn’t reading from cue cards.
“Attention! Attention! Ladies and gentlemen, attention! There is a herd of killer rabbits headed this way and we desperately need your help!”
Speaking of holes in the ground, William F. Claxton’s Night of The Lepus featured many of these warrens of despair and inside were the most savage creatures ever to hop the earth. Murderous rabbits! These weren’t just any murderous rabbits, we’re talking oversized growling carnivorous murderous rabbits hellbent on destruction. Cue various shots of bunnies, never the most formidable hunters at the best of times, charging in slow motion towards a giant carrot being dangled off-screen. This was rife with comedy appeal but Claxton’s cast played it entirely straight funnily enough. Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, and DeForest Kelley all decided they were onto a winner and sadly they weren’t. Hitchcock had already given us The Birds and, should Night of The Lepus have proved a success, then The Chinchilla Murders would likely have been the next illogical progression. Alas, it didn’t. The rabbits in question came down with Myxomatosis shortly after filming which meant that Night of The Lepus II: The Wrath of Bugs was scrapped. Oh the woe.
“The woman is all we want! The others must die! They ALL must die! We do not even want the woman!”
Harold P. Warren’s Manos: The Hands of Fate must’ve sounded like a stellar idea on paper. Despite boasting a catchy title and an interesting premise about a family that unwittingly stumble across a satanic cult, the crimes against cinema were just too hideous and the audience were left crying out for a herd of murderous rabbits to spice things up. There can be a number of translations for the word “bad” and one of these is “good”. Here it just meant abysmal. By the time we were introduced to the malevolent Master, we had been flogged to death by so much hilariously bad dialogue and utterly pointless exposition that harakiri seemed like the only bankable option. This stinker is fully deserving of its place on the Z-List but only because Z is the final letter of the alphabet. If there were a ZZ-List then it would make that too.
“Once you’ve killed Alice, you’re a killer for life. You’re just like me Alice, you’re insane”
Dennis Devine had one ingenious conception and that was a good old-fashioned play on words. Alice in Murderland. The words “based on true events” don’t sit right with a movie about a murderous Jabberwocky but I guess it could have happened. I was once attacked by a Jabberwocky myself, on my way home from school. I managed to fight him off with The Staff of Manos but the experience left me scarred for life. However, as hard as I try, this is one movie which I just cannot be too harsh on. At least Devine had a try and, with a résumé currently 27 movies strong, you can’t fault the man’s commitment. Now all he needs is a budget. Maybe someone ought to introduce him to James Nguyen, he must have some of that twenty grand left right?
Another indie film-maker who deserves kudos for perseverance is Brad Sykes. The risible Camp Blood was one of his earlier efforts and somehow went on to spawn two sequels. Not bad for a film made on a micro-budget right? Wrong. Very bad for us should we choose to spend nearly four hours of our life watching the entire trilogy back-to-back. Keeper called it quits after the first film but others may not have been so fortunate and I pray for their souls. I never like knocking the guy that puts his pocket-money where his mouth is and crafts a movie from peanuts, using his affection towards slasher to make this so. Having said that, I would prefer to applaud Sykes from afar than watch the victim from the last scene pop back up in the next as an entirely different character. If that wasn’t bad enough, then how about costume changes mid-kill? If nothing else then Camp Blood proved to all the rookie film-makers that all you need is a camera, a clown mask, and some Ragu to make your dream a reality.
“No televisions and no telephones, just our raging teen hormones”
Astonishingly, something good came of all this as Tanner King Barklow, Jefferson Craig, Thomas Hughes, and $200 gave us the rousing Camp Blood: The Musical in 2006. Considering I generally loathe musicals, the 30-minute running time was a shrewd move. Despite the fact that none of the cast could either act a lick or hold a tune, songs like When The Tops Come Off and It’s a Chase made everything better and it was fruitless not humming along. While I doubt a Broadway run is on the cards here, this was by no means the disaster it sounded. Actually it was exactly the disaster it sounded and more disconcerting is the fact that I regard that as a positive. I fear my brain is slowly dying.
Thrown out of heaven…they’ll take you to hell…
Johannes Roberts’ Forest of The Damned is a curious affair. Boasting the likes of Sultan of Splatter Tom Savini and horror novelist Shaun Hutson in small roles and featuring no end of creepy lingering atmosphere, this could very well have ended up a classic. For all of Roberts’ best intentions, it didn’t. However, it made up for any shortcomings by filling its murky mist with butt naked nympho sirens, and managed to make them creepy as all hell to boot so, in that respect, he hit pay dirt. A sequel followed in 2011 but I decided to quit whilst ahead. Forest of The Damned is one Z-Lister that I urge you to investigate further but please don’t feel like you have to go out of your way or anything.
“I just want to get my clothes on, and get the hell out of here!”
Jim Wynorski’s Hard To Die was the third in the ever popular Sorority House Massacre trilogy and is commonly regarded as the series’ high point. I regret to inform you that there appears to have been rather a lot of smoke and mirrors here as, outside of a few lingering soap downs and the sight of women in lingerie brandishing semi automatic weapons, there was little to recommend. When the killer’s name is Orville, you know where a film is headed and any memories of Carol Frank’s mildly entrancing original faded fast soon thereafter. Compared to some of the turgid tripe on this Z-List this is practically Children of a Lesser God and I don’t remember Marlee Matlin flopping her breasts out at any given moment so take from that what you will.
“OK, slime-buckets, listen up! The phrase for today is: ‘I myself prefer a big, fat cucumber.’ Let’s hear it”
Things are looking decidedly skyward with William Fruet’s Killer Party gaining its well-earned Z-Plates next. Fruet genuinely attempted something different here and his tale of horny hazing sorority babes, malevolent spirits, and an outbreak of bees was something of a designer original. Heaps of fun were there to be had and it marked a distinct change of pace from the droves of lifeless slasher fare stanking up the marketplace by 1986. Killer Party has gone on to amass something of a cult following and, while they may be a touch misguided, it was certainly worthy of its place in time.
“Wait, wait, wait, I just thought of something so cool. What if we got into a wreck and we crashed into a car in front of us and we all died. They could write a song about it!”
Kim Henkel’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation is culpable of crimes so heinous that there can be no forgiveness for being reasonably entertaining. Renée Zellweger’s performance as final girl Jenny was highly suspect, Matthew McConaughey fared much better as the unhinged Vilmer, but the true crime here was the decision to break out the lipstick and blusher for Leatherface. Suddenly the towering inferno of pain made infamous by Gunnar Hansen was reduced to a cross-dressing deviant and that’s just shameful. I have nothing whatsoever against female impersonators and have been known to glam it up on occasion myself but…Leatherface?! Why? For God’s sake. Why him? Had he not been through enough already? You think it was fun for him Henkel? That rickety door and a pile of bird bones was the closest Leatherface ever came to creature comforts and now you’re gonna force him to walk in wedges too? You callous, callous bastard.
“I’ve always wanted to make love to an angry welder. I’ve dreamed of nothing else since I was a small boy”
By 1987, I was pretty confident that it was safe to go back into the water but I was wrong…dead wrong. The clue was in the title of Joseph Sargent’s Jaws: The Revenge and the once indestructible franchise finally sank without a trace, failing to recoup its $23m outlay and hilariously preventing Michael Caine from accepting his Oscar for Hannah and Her Sisters as he was too busy shooting. Sargent offered Roy Scheider a cameo as the shark’s very first victim to which the actor replied “Satan himself could not get me to do Jaws part 4”. The whole concept of a great white shark who, after eating her beloved son, tailed Ellen Brody to the Bahamas to continue its foul retribution was, dare I say it, a tad flawed. Jaws wasn’t the only predator on the island as Caine had designs on her too and even took her out on his personal jet to help seal the deal. There he commenced to frighten the remaining daylights out of her by relinquishing the controls, which is perfectly acceptable behaviour when you consider she was mourning her infant. Romance blossomed, Jaws attacked a banana boat, walked on water, ate Mario Van Peebles and spat him back out, before Ellen managed to spear her foe with her fishing trawler causing it to explode, and our 89 minute nightmare was finally over. But the scars still remain.
“When I get back, remind to tell you about the time I took 100 nuns to Nairobi!”
Nearly thirty years have passed since Jaws failed in his revenge bid but one thing has become abundantly clear in that time…it still ain’t safe to go back in the water. We’ve had Jurassic Shark, Shark in Venice, Sharknado, Two-Headed Shark Attack, Sand Sharks, Ghost Shark, Super Shark, Raging Sharks, Swamp Shark, Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, Dinoshark, and Finding Nemo, just to encourage us to hang up our flippers. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a few of them in later Z-Lists but, for now, I’m off to watch Jaws 3-D burst through the undersea observatory window as that shit just never gets old.
The Lamentable Collection
Birdemic 2: The Resurrection
Night of The Lepus
Manos: The Hands of Fate
Alice in Murderland
Camp Blood: The Musical
Forest of The Damned
Hard To Die
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
Jaws: The Revenge
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2015