Depraved Degenerates

Released: Pendulum Picture

Been a while since I chewed my way through one of these six-packs from Pendulum, but have to say, I found this one tough going. As previously, it's good that they do bring out films that you wouldn't see elsewhere, and you can't beat the price, but even allowing for the low- to zero-budget nature here, a lot of these are very tough to watch. In particular, the audio quality is a major issue on a lot of these titles. I've read this is in part because, on at least one of the titles, the content was reproduced off a DVD screener rather than the master tapes but, while that might be some of the reason, it doesn't explain why sound balance is way out of line, with music being overly loud, or one character's lines in a scene being totally inaudible. Memo to B-movie film-makers everywhere: nothing screams "amateur" like bad sound.

Maintaining consciousness was a major issue in almost all of these, even for someone who had been a fan of low-budget horror for decades. I sometime wonder if the easy availability of technology works against the genre here: now that any idiot with a camcorder can make a film, sometimes it seems that said idiots are doing just that. As if these six-packs weren't enough, Pendulum are now offering fifty-packs for about $30; don't hold your breath on a review of these though, as life is just too short. These include both titles released on their earlier six-shots, and a number of exclusive titles. From this DVD, Abberdine County Conjuror and Kill Them and Eat Them can be found on the Tomb of Terrors 50-pack, while Burning Dead, The Dead Live and Suburban Sasquatch are on Decrepit Crypt of Nightmares. Old Man appear unique to this collection.

Overall: C-
December 2007

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Kill Them and Eat Them

Dir: Conall Pendergast
Star: Richard Archer, Francoise Snobel, Lloyd Cameron, Hugh Gibson

Admittedly, this film really didn't have much of a chance to begin with. The previous night, we'd been at a city planning meeting until 2 am, so had about four hours sleep before going to work that day. We barely coped, opted for an early night and chose this feature - based, it must be admitted, largely on its short (80-minute) running time. We were less than ten minutes in when Chris, defeated by the muffled, badly-recorded dialogue and despite the amusing scene where someone throws a rock and knocks a monster's hand off, began breathing heavily. I think she got the better end of the deal: I soldiered bravely on, more or less conscious until the end. It may only have been eighty minutes - it felt more like a full eight hours. There's a mad scientist. He is unleashing hideous mutations. A bloke and his girl go to investigate.

To describe this as dreadful would be...about right, actually. Said scientist may be the only one who has any acting experience, with the rest of the cast apparently a bunch of the director's mates. The monsters are nothing at all like the picture on the right, though in the film's defense, that comes from the single-disk release, so expectations here were...basically non-existent. Imagine something made of latex, papier-mache and model paint, wielded by an enthusiastic, but somewhat backward six-year old. Well, these are worse than that. The only element of note is some bizarre animation occasionally intercut throughout the film, sequences whose point entirely escapes me. I note that, according to the director, he didn't get paid a penny for its inclusion in the collection. Fortunately, I didn't pay a penny for this collection, so I guess that makes us even.

December 2007

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M-asking for trouble

Old Man

Dir: Guy McConnell
Star: Erika Stone, Jason Kulas, Kevin Crone, Melanie Connolly

Hang on, didn't we see this film a couple of weeks ago? Only, it was called Carnage and was directed by Andy Milligan? Well, kinda. As there, we have a happily-married couple who move into their new house, only to find that its murderous past comes back to haunt them. There's not much hidden here, as the introduction reveals the house was owned by Walter Bowden, who killed a dozen people, including his son, before hanging himself. It's not long before Linda (Stone) is hearing things, though can't convince her husband (Kulas) that there's anything up: then a stranger (Crone) knocks on the door, and explains the house's history. Will the restless spirit of Bowden wreak revenge or can he be stopped?

The script is not awful, and Stone actually good in the role; she might have a future beyond the community theater level which would represent the peak for most of the cast here - Kulas is particularly weak. It's McConnell's direction that sucks the life out of the scenario, generating virtually no tension whatsoever. He relies far too much on false scares, and as a result when the real thing comes along, the effect is severely diminished. The threat posed by the spectre is also too vague for much of the running time, only becoming more than indistinct, poltergeisty nonsense in the final reel. Mark D'Errico's score seems to have strayed in from a better movie, and the final scene manages a certain poignancy that is probably the most effective thing in the entire feature.

December 2007

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Old Man Drivel

Suburban Sasquatch

Dir: Dave Wascavage
Star: Bill Ushler, Sue Lynn Sanchez, Juan Fernandez, David M. Sitbon

We do have to say, we enjoyed this one - albeit for almost entirely the wrong reasons, which would get us thrown out of any film society in the world. Rubber severed limbs; copious amounts of CGI gore and explosions; a nonsensical plot; nonsensical dialogue, culminating in the immortal line, "This is no ordinary sasquatch"; the director's family apparently being involved in every aspect of the film (let's face it, the name "Wascavage" is unusual enough to merit notice); and a monster which looks like it was made out of a gorilla suit rescued from a costume-store dumpster. This is the kind of film which appears to have been created purely for the purpose of generating sarcastic comments from the viewer, and in that regard, it performs admirably.

The story, such as it is, has reporter Rick (Ushler) teaming up with Native American shaman-huntress-whatever Talla (Sanchez, easily the best actor in the film), to track down the beast, which seems to have migrated from Oregon to suburban Pennsylvania in pursuit of the local sherriff. It also kidnaps and ties up local women, though this angle is, curiously for a B-movie, never fully exploited. Talla does, however, have a natty sense of style - think Old Navy Indian - and lives in the forest, though her tent is less teepee and more Carry on Camping. There's one great scene where the Bigfoot tears apart a group of hunters, which is insanely gory; however, it's largely at odds with the rest of the film. When your budgetary limitations and premise mean it's impossible for viewers to take it seriously, you should just go with the flow, like Peter Jackson did in Bad Taste. When it does, this film is a joy to behold, and it's a shame that route is not taken much more often.

December 2007

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The biggest ape-disaster in the world

Monster movie

The Abberdine County Conjuror

Dir: Jeff Cooper
Star: Teresa Deasey, Jeff Cooper, Liz Goddard, Natalie Geneva

Cooper has been involved with the media industry for about 20 years; this is his first feature and, to be honest, he's likely over-reached himself. First point: it runs for 136 minutes, and that's not a mis-print. Most B-movies last the bare minimum necessary to qualify as a feature (around 75 minutes), allowing them to concentrate their micro-budget and get most bang for their buck. Instead, the $10,000 spent here - hardly a fortune to begin with - ends up being spread perilously thin. I don't think the idea here is necessarily the problem: Meg (Deasey) and Mike go into the Texas back-country in search of missing friend Bev, and find themselves cut off, and under threat by a 150-year old magician and his army of zombies. But it falls a long way short of being sufficient to sustain the length required here, and we are instead bored by phenomenally dull scenes such as a woman taking a 'magic' potion and rolling around for what seems like forever, pretending to be tripping.

There is also far too much 'wandering around the woods' footage, the female characters look, sound and act confusingly similar, and the number of lengthy sequences of them being tied up and/or abused, leave me wondering about writer-director Cooper's own predilections in this area. On the plus side, Cooper is likely the film's best actor, playing zombie-hunter Sean Steel, managing what seems to be a fairly-convincing British accent, though one wonders what Steel's purpose in life is. Does he just sit around the forest all day, making sure the conjuror's zombies don't get out of control? And, indeed, what has said conjuror been doing for the past century or more? I mean, if I could re-animate the dead, I sure as hell wouldn't be sitting around a forest in Texas. You will undoubtedly have plenty of time to consider these issues during the two and a quarter hours it takes this to unfold.

December 2007

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Wish I could make this film disappear

Burning Dead

Dir: George A. Demick
Star: D. Vincent Ashby, Cindy Pain, Brian Canada, Catherine Curtis-Ament

I want to give this an A+, but that would only be relative to the other films here. However, it was a joy to have a film that was a) not apparently shot down a coal-mine, b) audible, and c) had some thought put into it, since the rest of the set managed no more than one out of those three, and that only sporadically at the best of times. Okay, this is not exactly classic cinema, but a drowning man will clutch at any straw, and after the bulk of this collection, I'll settle for any movie that does not have the same effect as a handful of Vicodin, washed down with half a bottle of Jack Daniels. Even when said film is so obscure it does not appear in the IMDB, and this appears to be the first review ever written. Guess I'd better be a bit more specific then, eh?

Jim (Ashby) returns to the town where he grew up, and is reunited with cousin Ben (Canada) and his wife Joan (Curtis-Ament) and former childhood sweetheart Shelly (Pain). However, the town was devastated by a disastrous fire, and Jim is still tormented by nightmares of that event, and the ghosts of those who perished. Is this just post-traumatic stress, or is there something more malevolent behind these apparitions? To the film's credit, the answer is probably not what you expected [our guess - "He's already dead" - was incorrect], though Ashby is probably not up to the emotional and dramatic depths required of him here. There are occasional technical gaffes, such as the opening scene, where Jim is supposedly driving his car, but his violent motions of the steering wheel makes it appear, somewhat distractingly, as if he is driving a rally slalom course. Still, on the whole, this is neither painfully incompetent nor mind-numbingly tedious, and as such, can only be welcomed.

December 2007

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No pictures available for this one; the director's IMDB entry doesn't even mention it, which seems strange, given he also made the universally-loathed Asylum of Terror.

The Dead Live

Dir: Darrin Patterson
Star: Emily Hughes, Tom Hughes Jr., Mike Jones, Mike Berube

I thought I'd never see worse use of CGI effects than Suburban Sasquatch. Less than 48 hours later, this film proved me wrong, not least with the most unconvincing car explosion in cinema history, which proves that if you can't afford to blow up a car, don't put it in your script. The inspiration is clear, right from the time we hear we are in 'Savini County': TV reporter Alex (Hughes) is covering a siege at a farmhouse, but it becomes clear more is going on, and the dead are now walking the earth. She goes on the run, accompanied initially by her cameraman, but after he is eaten by the zombies, she teams up with some other survivors and takes refuge in a church. However, the greatest danger may not be outside, but psychotic redneck Lucas (Hughes), who is seizing the chance to act upon every murderous impulse he's ever had.

Actually, I may have to rewrite the above, as it sounds far too interesting, and may actually encourage someone to see this film. A word of advice: don't. At 126 minutes, it may be shorter than Abberdine County Conjuror, but that's not exactly a ringing endorsement. The flaws are painfully obvious, from a lead actress with no talent, whose character is utterly at odds with the dialogue put into her mouth, through to outrageously bad sound, which ranges from inaudibly quiet to painfully loud - sometimes in the same scene - with music often drowning out the actors. The film grinds to a halt once they arrive at the church, and that's where a good half-hour should have been excised. Some of the physical effects aren't too bad; that and a cheerfully gratuitous bit of full-frontal nudity are all that salvages this from utter wretchedness.

December 2007

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The dead live - the film doesn't