Friday, 30 August 2013

Alien Terror (1980) - review

Alien Terror


Starring: Belinda Mayne, Marc Bodin, ‘Michael Shaw’ (Michele Soavi)

Cave explorer Thelma (Mayne) has been invited to appear on a TV talk show to discuss her experiences. At the same time, a space shuttle is due to return to Earth. Thelma is asked about the most recent cave she and her friends have visited, but as she begins to speak, she receives a telepathic warning to stop her from revealing the location of the cave. The space shuttle lands in the ocean, but there is no trace of the astronauts who should have been on board. Thelma meets up with her friends (who, in a laughable attempt to appeal to the American market, have names such as ‘Jill’, ‘Cliff’ ‘Bert’ and ‘Roy’, are hanging out at the local bowling alley, drinking sodas and prone to using such sayings as “far out!”), who are planning to return to the cave which Thelma was prevented from discussing. On a beach nearby, a little girl wanders away from her babysitter and finds a weird blue pulsating rock. She picks it up and soon after, the babysitter finds her with a bloody, mutilated face. En route to the cave, the explorers find a similar blue stone, and decide to take it with them.
They arrive at their destination, an immense network of tunnels, and split into small groups. The stone, which Thelma has been carrying in her backpack begin pulsating; it explodes and a red gooey thing flies onto Jill’s face. She falls into a pit and one of the guys goes to help her. When he is doing so, the ‘thing’ breaks out from under Jill’s face (a great gooey effect) and attaches itself to the guy’s neck, gorily decapitating him. The film then goes into body count mode as the others try to escape; the splattery highlights including Bert’s face being eaten off and Cliff’s entire body exploding. Thelma and Roy manage to find the exit and they head back into town, however it is entirely deserted. In the film’s one genuinely eerie scene, they return to the empty bowling alley to find the equipment operating by itself. Roy disappears and Thelma soon encounters the mother alien – rendered by a shot of the creature’s gaping mouth). Thelma, the town’s only survivor, runs out onto the street, and the film ends with the el cheapo caption ‘You may be next!’

This unashamed Alien rip-off (released as Alien 2 in some territories – this is actually the title that appeared at the beginning of the Australian VHS release!) is as corny and cliched as hell but it’s also a lot of fun. The gore effects are surprisingly good, and the caves, though not visually outstanding, are quite effective, full of stalagmites and stalactites. The film has a generally more upbeat atmosphere than most Italian horror films, with its use of bright sunshine, dumb humor and pleasant Guido and Maurizio De Angelis (under the pseudo ‘Oliver Onions’) title track. On the downside, Ippolito wastes far too much time on unimportant shots, padding out the movie’s running time with endless scenes of people driving around in cars. Ippolito’s direction is routine, with his main intention (in the Italian tradition) to cash in on the latest Hollywood blockbuster quickly and cheaply. Switch your brain off and enjoy!   

Friday, 23 August 2013

The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio (1971) - review

The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio
Director: Eric Jeffrey Haims
Starring: Sebastian Brook, Mady Maguire, Rene Bond

The pre-cert Intervision VHS release of THE JEKYLL AND HYDE PORTFOLIO is well-known amongst collectors to be one of the rarest Australian tapes around and even back in the golden age of video this was never an easy title to find, due to an extremely limited release. A near-mint copy showed up on Ebay a couple of years ago, pocketing a cool $2000 for its lucky owner. Unfortunately that, and the fact that it’s evidence of the dumping ground Australia was in the early 80s for obscure trash rarities, is the most interesting thing about this exercise in tedium. In the 19th century, a professor, under the influence of ever-changing multiple personalities and the zodiac sign he was born under, goes on a murderous rampage. Filled with headache-inducing Milliganesque bad camerawork, bad editing, bad lighting, bad acting, bad plot, bad effects, bad sex scenes. And no, none of this is in the 'so bad it's good category'. Somehow I don’t see a Blu-Ray or DVD release in the near or distant future, thank Christ...

Blood Bath (1976) - review

Blood Bath
Director: Joel M.Reed
Starring: Harve Pressnell, Jack Somack, Curt Dawson

Acclaimed horror producer and actor Peter Brown is holding a dinner party in his “New York horror film studio” for the cast of his latest movie. The table conversation revolves around superstition, the occult and Satanism, and each guest tells a “true” story of how someone they know has come to a bad end, with no other explanation apart from  supernatural forces. The first is about a hitman getting a taste of his own medicine via a series of uncanny coincidences; the second a meek husband escaping his domineering wife via a magical talisman which transports him back in time into one of Napoleon’s wars; the third a money-hungry loan shark being trapped in a safe with the vengeful ghost of a man he’d ruthlessly stood over for money years before; and the forth a hedonistic kung-fu student who betrays the masters he studied under by selling secret martial arts techniques he learned there for cash. However the student pays the ultimate price when the masters seek revenge.  And finally Peter has his own tale involving a pact with Satan’s daughter and a murderous Devil’s spawn but that won’t be told until after his guests have left...
Before directing the notorious BLOODSUCKING FREAKS, Joel M.Reed helmed this comparatively tame horror anthology (mild enough for the MPAA to rate it a PG). The segments move along at a decent pace and the amateur cast doesn’t take itself too seriously, which allows for a few funny and engaging moments. However, the postage stamp-sized budget stifles any further potential BLOOD BATH could have had. Much of the movie seems to have been filmed in dank, dark, cluttered New York basements, the effects consist of stock footage and mannequin limbs, and the music score sounds like it was cobbled together on a toy keyboard. A fitfully entertaining curio, BLOOD BATH is definitely not the worst no-budget film I’ve seen, but certainly not the best.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

My Reviews column at Cinefear Video

Recently I've began reviewing product for Keith Crocker's Cinefear Video (a legendary mail-order outfit mentioned in an earlier blog post). All my reviews can be found at the Cinefear Blog - my column is also called 'Chelle's Inferno', as a 'companion' to this blog. So far there's write-ups for GUYANA: CULT OF THE DAMNED, GIALLO IN VENICE, SHADOW OF ILLUSION, ABBY and SEXORCISMS and coming soon detailed reviews on Crocker's own memorable contributions to horror/exploitation - THE BLOODY APE and BLITZKREIG: ESCAPE FROM STALAG 69. And while you're there do yourself a favour and check out my fellow reviewer, author Allen Kupfer's column 'Cupfuls of Kupfer', who enlightens us on everything from CARNIVAL OF BLOOD to BLACK EMANUELLE, WHITE EMANUELLE.