976 Evil (Horror Hotline Flick)

What is even scarier than being groped?  One of the most exciting yet under-the radar Blu-ray releases of the year is “976-EVIL,” a forgotten but very interesting 1988 horror film directed by Robert Englund. His tenure as Freddy Krueger in the “Elm Street” series serves him well here as he spins a ghoulish tale of sex, bullying and revenge. Stephen Geoffreys (Evil Ed in “Fright Night”) stars as Hoax, the most geeky, nerdy, creepy teenager since Carrie White. What a crazy actor. He was great in Fright Night. Did he overact in 976 evil? Yes!And he wound up not getting roles except as a gay porn bottom, which we will have to overlook in this review, and maybe takes this film down a half a star out of prejudice.

Loathed by his classmates, he idolizes his cousin Spike (Patrick O’Bryan). Spike has been using the creepy phone number that gives the movie its title and it has been helping him get what he wants. In the end, however, he decides the whole thing is too creepy and throws it away. Unfortunately, Hoax finds the phone number and starts using it to get revenge on his creepy, religious mother (Sandy Dennis), on Spike’s girlfriend, and on Spike’s card playing buddies. At the end of the film, he turns into a demon, and only Spike and a private investigator (Jim Meltzer) stand in the way of hell on earth.

This movie is very interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, everyone in the movie is evil on one way or another. With no “good” characters we are left wondering how things will turn out. Secondly, this is a very gruesome movie with some memorable kills and one-liners. Director Englund is presumably responsible for that. Thirdly, this is an early screenplay by Brian Helgeland (who went on to win an Oscar for “L.A. Confidential.” Lastly, Geoffreys is simply the man as Hoax; he owns the movie.

You gotta watch it for the line “can I enter this hand with two hearts?” while throwing two beating human hearts onto the poker table. And the line, “Can I give you a hand with that?”, while severing someone’s arm. This film has no redeeming value except for entertainment. It seems to relish in Satanism and depravity. Truly it is an evil film, that lives up to its title.

The new Blu-ray features an amazing high-definition transfer of the theatrical version of the film as well as a “retro VHS” transfer that is 12 minutes longer.  There is also a commentary track with Robert Englund and his wife.  If you’re looking for a scary good time, look no further than the new Blu-ray of “976-EVIL”!

Other Side of the Door: B+

If you think you would enjoy a cross between “Pet Sematary” and “The Changeling,” you’re in luck because “The Other Side of the Door” is a spooky flick! It’s about an American family living in India who lose their youngest child in a tragic accident. Devastated by the loss of the child, the mother learns of a way she can talk to her son one last time. It involves digging up his body, cremating it, and taking the ashes to a creepy temple. The mother can talk to her son there but there’s a catch: don’t open the temple door! As you can probably guess, the mother opens the door, and the terror begins! This is a very well-acted and directed movie and it is unique that it is set in India. The director made the recent “47 Meters Down” and is someone to watch. While not a masterpiece, “The Other Side of the Door” works very well and recommended to horror fanatics everywhere! And remember: don’t open the door!

Friend Request OK Despite Cliche’

Sometimes you learn valuable lessons from schlock horror films. In the case of “Friend Request,” it’s this: don’t friend people on Facebook who you don’t know. The film is a German production in English and similar to 2014’s “Unfriended.” The film combines real internet fears with spooky “Omen” style death scenes. The pacing is fierce and the body count high as the ghost of an unpopular internet girl kills off our unlucky protagonist’s friends one by one, making them look like suicides. The film gives us the opportunity to reflect that maybe we should concentrate on real-world friends as opposed to internet ones. If you’re looking for a scary time and have already seen “It,” you could do worse.

Anabelle Sucks

 

OK, so the original “Annabelle” sucked pond water, but “Annabelle: Creation” got good reviews, so I decided to check out. It fucking sucks too! With a lame poster like this, who could go wrong:

They could not think of a better cliché , so instead the opening scenes were the only good scenes in the picture, as they detail the sad (and based on fact) story of a family that has a tragic accident involving a little girl named Annabelle. Where have I seen this before? Well like a thousand other movies (because its supposedly based on a true thing!). Well -so far, so good. But then we get this “Little Orphan Annie” bullshit about the bereaved family letting an orphanage of little Catholoc girls shack up in their luxurious (and creepy) estate which makes no sense. We also get a plot that exploits the disability (polio) of a little girl, including a creepy lift to the upstairs of the house. The little girl unlocks a door she’s not supposed to and soon the jump scares and “Exorcist” and “Conjuring” rip-offs begin. At no point is the orphanage, led by a nun who’s not very bright, ready to pack up and leave despite many terrible things happening. Geez. What’s wrong with the nuns these days??

If you’ve been following this review, you’ll notice that this film is not content with putting little girls in jeopardy, but has decided to double down and put a little disabled girl in jeopardy. Its a movie about whatever it will take to fill seats and sell popcorn basically. After a while, it becomes simply a succession of jump scares. You can go take a leak at any point in this film and you won’t miss anything. Go refill that $7 soda. When this happened, the packed audience became more entertaining than the movie. Dozens of cries of “aw hell no!” as well as predictions of what was going to happen provided the entertainment the film itself was lacking. It was one of those crowds where there is a really low IQ going on, and you have to duck and hide on the way out.

So although the film is slightly better than the first “Annabelle,” it still comes down on pandering to the audience rather than telling a good story. Its like sex with a fat chick, not very good!

Horror fans are advised to skip it and wait for “Stephen King’s It,” which generated more creepiness and atmosphere in a two-minute clip before the film than both “Annabelle” films combined. I have no idea why the crowd applauded loudly at the end. My cash would have been better spent at the racetrack frankly.

Re: Autopsy of Jane Doe

If you’re disheartened by the overly commercial movies being put out by Hollywood and you like horror, I’ve got a movie for you. “The Autopsy of Jane Doe,” starring Emile Hirsch and Brian (Hannibal Lector in “Manhunter”) Cox, is a small-scale but very frightening experience. It is about a farther (Cox) and son (Hirsch) who work at a mortuary, and their new patron, “Jane Doe,” has died a very unusual death, and they can’t figure out what killed her. Is she even dead

This film has two things going for it: great acting and an incredible sense of mystery, atmosphere, and dread. Brian Cox delivers his best performance in years as the father, a decent man with dark secrets. The director, who made “Trollhunter,” has a field day with the possibly haunted mortuary. Not only do we get jump scares galore, but also some truly disgusting and disturbing scenes. It all builds to a satisfying, dark conclusion.

In short, “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is a good sleeper horror film. Rent or stream it and turn off all the lights. You will definitely be scared!

Night of the Demons / Nightmare at Noon

Tired of big Hollywood stinkers like “Assassin’s Creed” and “Beauty and the Beast”? Ready for some serious B-movie fun? Prepare yourself for two movies out on DVD that are way more entertaining than that “Boss Baby” crap.

First up is the 2009 remake of “Night of the Demons,” which stars Shannon Elizabeth (from “American Pie”), Monica Keena (from “Freddy Vs. Jason”) and Edward Furlong (no introduction needed). This film follows the basic plot and features many of the same exploitative elements (read: boobs) that made the 1988 movie with Linnea Quigley (who cameos here) so much fun. In short, a bunch of dorky college kids plus a drug dealer (Furlong) get together at an old New Orleans manor to celebrate Halloween. Soon they discover that the house is a conduit for demons who want to possess seven of them and take over the world. Can Edward Furlong and company stop taking heroin and playing spin the bottle long enough to save the world?

This is a $10 million film that went straight to video, probably because the original film is not nearly as famous as classics like “The Omen” and “Halloween.” The story is acceptable and the special effects, makeup effects, and other technical attributes are really good. The only actor to make an impression is Furlong, who plays his part convincingly and with pathos. He deserves a chance at a comeback. Overall, the film is about as good as the original, which means it’s undistinguished but tons of fun. Readers are advised to rent it on Netflix.

Second up is 1988’s “Nightmare at Noon,”(aka “Death Street U.S.A.”) a truly whacko ripoff of “The Crazies” about a mute albino (played by Brion James) who starts a government experiment by contaminating the water of a small town, turning those unfortunate people who drink it into crazed killers. Meanwhile, a scummy lawyer (played by Wings Hauser) and his wife pick up a hitchhiker (Bo Hopkins) on their way into this town while the sheriff (played by George Kennedy) and his daughter try to figure out what’s going on.

Basically this starts as a zombie film, turns into sort of a western (“High Noon” is playing at the town drive-in.), and then it turns into a high-concept “Blue Thunder” kind of thing. It’s completely crazy and absolutely never dull. George Kennedy is great, the technical credits are good and the music by Stanley Myers and Hans Zimmer are very effective. Bo Hopkins and Wings Hauser are quite the team, having also starred together in “Mutant,” In short, this is a crazy killer B film that is worth seeking out.

I should note, in closing, that I had never heard of either of these two films before picking them up. As a result, they were much better than expected. Check out “Night of the Demons” (2009) and “Nightmare at Noon” if you want good old-fashioned B-movie fun! –CoolAC

Phones That Kill

Imagine if you could be killed for answering the phone at the wrong time. Well, that’s what veteran director Michael Anderson (“Logan’s Run,” “Orca”) did and the result is “Murder by Phone,” a 1981 thriller so outlandish that I’m shocked it hasn’t been available since a 1982 VHS release. The idea is this: a disgruntled former phone company employee has found a deadly phone signal. First, you make the mistake of answering his call. Then, he pushes a button and the signal is transmitted. First, you go deaf from the signal. Then, your head fries. It all takes about 10 or 20 seconds.

Who can stop this maniac? Well, ecologist Richard Chamberlain (from “King Solomon’s Mines”) is on the case, while Academy Award winner John Houseman looks on. While not a well-known film, this film delivers great cheesy deaths and a rousing anti-corporate message. The strange electronic score is by John Barry. If you can find this movie, you will amaze your friends with this bizarre and entertaining film. After seeing this film, you will be very glad that everyone can now screen their calls. In short, “Murder by Phone” (aka “Bells”) dials the right number for terror.

More Dystopian Cinema

Love him or hate him, Donald Trump has irrevocably altered the American political landscape. That can clearly be seen in two new low-budget horror films, Roger Corman’s “Death Race 2050” and Greg McLean’s “The Belko Experiment.” Although neither of these films is a cinematic masterpiece, they are both worth seeing because they perfectly show the fractured political landscape America is in right now.

“Death Race 2050” shows how we live in a very violent society presided over by a very strange man (Malcolm McDowell at his most outrisageous) who resembles Donald Trump. In the society portrayed in the film, nothing seems to matter except getting good kills. The film brings back the Frankenstein driver character from “Death Race 2000” as well as the dystopian future where nothing matters except hedonism and violence. The film attempts to make its low budget a virtue with deliberately cheesy special FX, but the concept of a deadly car chase is what works particularly well here. The point seems to be that our society is headed in a more nihilistic direction, and it is a point I do not disagree with. The film is new to DVD and Blu ray and is streaming on Netflix.

“The Belko Experiment,” which just opened in theaters., is written and produced by James Gunn, who gave us “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Slither.” The director gave us the “Wolf Creek” films. This film is about American employees at a corporation in Colombia who get locked into their workplace and forced into the ultimate corundum: kill or die. The film is about how the previously friendly employees at the corporation deal with the fact that to survive, they will apparently have to kill each other. This film is more disturbing than most horror films because:

1. The reasons for this deadly corporate psychological experiment are never explained.
2. The most likeable characters generally die first. I particularly felt bad for the black security guard who ends up getting killed for doing his job of holding onto the keys to the armory. Rarely have I seen a more likeable character bite the dust in a horror film.

This film will be criticized for being too cynical and having no apparent point, but in fact it shows the arbitrary divisions that are springing up between us in America right now, and how violence is being shown as a solution to our problems in some parts of our society. If you doubt this, look at the vitriol on both sides of the political aisle right now. This film shows us that we need to be careful before signing our rights away to a corporation (or, for that matter, the government) because the people in charge cannot be trusted.

These films will be regarded as exploitative trash by most people, but I found them to be well worth watching. They both show the consequences of a violence-obsessed society. I recommend them as good beer-drinking drive-in movies and as food for thought. Until next time… –CoolAC

Ring Around Blair Witch

Sometimes I just can’t stand today’s generation. Whether it’s the shit that passes for music or selfies or”Duck Dynasty,” sometimes I just want to enter a time machine and go back in time to 2002, or, if I’m really drunk, 1999. That desire brought me to watch and review “Rings,” which just came out, and “The Blair Witch,” which is new to Bluray and DVD. Both are the third installment in their respective series, and both received rather negative reviews. Are they really that bad?

I dunno. They both deliver about what you’d expect from their respective series. “Rings,” for example, has a college professor who passes the curse of the deadly videotape onto his students, in the hope of blunting the effect of the curse. Two of the infected decide to investigate further into the curse, which <SPOILER!> leads them to a blind murderer pedophile priest, played by Vincent D’Onfrio from “Full Metal Jacket.” Can they stop the curse? Will there be another sequel? Do we get to vote twice?

Look, I know this isn’t a good movie. But it does give you what you’d expect from a “Ring” movie. It’s creepy, it’s claustrophobic, it’s ridiculous, and it’s fun. Except for D’Onfrio, the acting sucks, but that doesn’t prevent it from being entertaining.

“The Blair Witch,” the sequel to the 1999 found footage classic and, theoretically at least, the botched first sequel, is another story altogether. In fact, I am willing to call it a good movie, and that’s because I do find it scary. It follows a group of student filmmakers who decide to go back into those Godforsaken woods in the hope of finding out what happened to Heather, the Final Girl from “The Blair Witch Project.” Since one of the characters is Heather’s brother, I have to congratulate the filmmakers for finding a good reason for why anyone would go back into those woods. Anyway, it starts slow, then turns into “The Twilight Zone,” then gets really scary in the last 20 minutes, Anyway, this is the best Found Footage movie since “District 9.” It should make people scream and jump a lot, and it has some interesting speculations on What is Really Going On. Plus <SPOILER!> everybody dies, so that’s always good entertainment, much better, I’m sure, than “Hidden Figures” or “La La Land.”

Basically, if you have refined, sophisticated taste, you’re probably not reading this. But if you want to watch a bunch of annoying people bite the dust in spectacularly gruesome fashion, you’re in luck. Now I’m just waiting for the upcoming 2-film remake of Stephen King’s “It” so I can party like it’s 1986! –CoolAC

Bye Bye Man : TeenieSlayer

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I went to check out this flick because the trailer made it look like a cool rip-off of the 90’s classic Candyman. Knew there was a chance that there would be a bunch of annoying teens at the theatre because this film is only PG-13. So while standing in line there were a bunch of 14 year olds buying tickets in big groups ahead of us, one after the next. The film was pretty basic, a boogieman of sorts exists, who shows up and kills you when you become aware of his existence. Well actually he gets you to kill yourself and anyone else who knows by causing hallucinations. The Bye Bye Man appears as a tall skinny mute albino demon looking type thing and he has a burley hell-dog that munches on you after you perish. That part is pretty effective, and the visuals are good.

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And a lot of people die in this film (for a PG-13).

The down side of this film are that there is no character development. The main character’s only personality is that he wears different punk rock t-shirts everyday. The Bye Bye Man is killing teen after teen, and for better or worse, the viewer is indifferent to their plight since they are just another pretty face. Another minus is that the crowd of pubescent teens are talking over this film about the various 9th grade parties going on later that night, complete with their puberty fantasies , while the movie is playing. I would recommend going to see this film after curfew so that you don’t have to deal with annoying teens. The lady from the Matrix has a small part as detective, which is well acted. The acting in the flashback scenes was a bit weak though.

Some might say that the film fails to give an explanation for the Bye Bye Man’s origin. I think its good that it avoids that cliché. The film is from a pretty acclaimed director. And its pretty good overall for a teeny bopper film. It could have been better had it been rated R and took more time with character development and took itself more seriously, because the villain is horrific.