Oct. 28th: Flesh Eater (1988)

flesheater-lived-died-back-and-hungryOnce you’ve experienced enough completely atrocious or utterly unwatchable garbage, regular bad movies just don’t seem so bad anymore. Sometimes they even seem pretty fun and likeable, and some things that any normal person would completely dismiss become weird, small joys.

It was suggested to me that this is exactly happened when I watched Flesh Eater. Now, I’m almost inclined to agree somewhat, but I still think this one has a lot of legitimate good to offer.

It would appear that Bill Hinzman was pretty bored and not cashing-in enough on his former appearance as the cemetery zombie from Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead. So he set about writing, directing, producing and starring in this spin-off movie about just that zombie.

Sound pretty great? Well, it’s actually a whole lot of fun.

First and foremost, it’s got some great gore gags from Pittsburgh FXician and all around awesome dude Jerry Gergely. Bonus.

Plus, It’s got that low-budget, mid-80’s townie vibe that I just love in a horror movie.

Also, it’s got absolutely relentless, weapon wielding maniac-zombies that literally kill everyone they come across. This movie spares no one.

Additionally, it’s got all the weirdo dialogue, goofball acting, and almost unanimous under-reactions to all of its zombie chaos that make for an entertaining watch.

And last but by no means least, it’s got Halloween. There’s trick or treating, candy apple making, costumes, decorations and the requisite Halloween dance party.

While not quite the official sequel it imagines itself to be, Flesh Eater rather seems like some sot of bizarro Night of the Living Dead from another dimension where that movie was never made in ’68. This might actually be what Night of the Living would look like if it had been churned out in the mid-80’s by someone a lot less capable than George A. Romero and featured Halloween.

I can’t say you’ll enjoy Flesh Eater as much as I do, or at all really, but I’d gladly take this over any unnecessary remake, found footage nonsense, or whatever spooky ghostboy bullshit is clogging up cinemas, redbox and video-on-demand any old Oct. 28th of the year.

1 dead little angel and a drunk Dracula up!

Designation: Treat!

Oct. 27th: Slugs (1988)

slugs 1988Slugs is gross. Slugs is gory. Slugs is ridiculous. Slugs  is great.

But most importantly, Slugs, for no particular reason (other than that it’s more awesome if it does), takes place during Halloween.

Sure, it might appear to be an almost absolute afterthought, completely tacked on through some Godfrey Ho-style over dubbing and a sad looking Jack-O-lantern placed at an otherwise suspiciously unfestive party through reshoots…but it’s there goddammit and that’s all that matters.

Besides, Slugs doesn’t really need Halloween anyway. Between its grotesque death scenes, its gross slug photography, its bizarro performances and its intense, out of place score, Slugs is doing just fine without Halloween.

The unnecessary, and frankly half-assed inclusion of the holiday is merely one of many small touches that makes Slugs so great.

Now I may not have the authority to declare happy birthday…but I can confidently declare Happy Halloween and so can Slugs.

So, c’mon Weeners, get naked and get crazy!

2 Slugs Up!

Designation: Treat!

The Class of 1988

No year has produced as many movies set around Halloween as 1988.

1976, 1982, and 1985 all come closet, each offering 4 films.

The Hallowed Year of 1988 easily doubles their contributions producing 8 movies in total. I’m not sure what kind of cultural zeitgeist was taking place in the world of film in 1988, but it occurred never-the-less, and we were all thankful.

Perhaps it was the return of Michael Myers, who hadn’t seen the silver screen in 10 years, that inspired this resurgence. Maybe there’s something devilishly unholy about the year 1988. Who knows, but a bunch of filmmakers got on board.

Were these guys aware of what each other were doing? Were the screenwriters buddies? What’s the deal here?

The original 31 Days of Halloween Horror list contained 4 members. This year’s countdown features another 3.

The following is a list of all the known graduates of The Class of 1988 and their release dates.

and lastly…

The next 3 selections on our countdown here are all proud members of The Hallowed Class of 1988. Respect

Oct. 26th: House II (1987)

house-2-the-second-story-1987“It’s getting weirder!”

I’ll say. That might even be selling this fucker a little short, to be honest.

Seriously though, 0%, Rotten Tomatoes? That seems a little harsh guys, no? Yeah, yeah, you’re just a non-entity aggregator. It’s not your personal opinion, I understand how this works, thanks. But to the small critical community comprising that 0% though, c’mon gang. Ease up a little, huh?

While certainly not the finest piece of cinema to escape 1987, it may just be the best horror-comedy-inter-dimensional-prehistoric-Aztec-fantasy-western ever produced, and there’s some fun to be had from this in-name-only mess.
You have 80’s goofball Arye Gross paling around with the weird man-servant from Fright Night and banging Tina from Friday 7. Bonus. Then they dig up Royal Dano from Killer Klowns (in a killer Chris Walas makeup) and later Cliff from Cheers shows up. And then you got Bill Maher just hanging around for no reason whatsoever being an 80’s prick. Bill Maher? Yep.

You get a crystal skull, stop-motion dinosaurs, awesome pterodactyl and dog-caterpillar puppets and the girl from Society as an Aztec virgin sacrifice. What more do you want? Halloween? Well you’re in luck pal, because House II somehow found the time to cram that in there too.

The whole beginning feels very Halloween-spooky, with the arrival at the mansion and the grave-digging, both of which lead to a fun (and obligatory) Halloween party. The festive vibe sort of tapers off after that, and so does any semblance of a coherent tone as House II officially flies off the rails and starts resembling something like a bastard child of Brisco County Jr. and My Science Project.

Yeah, this is a goofy, schizophrenic madball of a movie that throws so much bizarre shit at you it’s hard to make heads or tails of it at a point, but it’s still kind of fun. And the Chris Walas creature work is great as always.

I give this 1 dancing Frankenstein up.

Designation: Treat

Oct. 25th: Tales of Halloween (2015)

tales_of_halloween_ver4On the whole, I’d say the last…oh, 20 years or so of horror have left me feeling pretty cold.

But, I had to give this a go, right?

While I certainly didn’t love The ABC’s of Halloween…I mean Tales of Halloween, it has a few things going for it to where I can toss it a treat.

1.) It presents its tales story by story, eschewing the modern convention of interweaving its parts into a big soupy jumble that doesn’t let you just be done with a dumb segment and move on.

2.) With its 10 different stories clocking it at just over and hour and a half, you get a median length of 9 minutes per tale. That’s a good window. It means the lamer segments (and there’s enough) don’t hang around too long. That’s nice.

And

3.) It’s Halloweeny as all get out. It’s an All Hallows’ overload with moments large and small colored in all manner of decorations, lights and ambiance. It’s a good visual treat for any October evening.

That being said, I doubt I’ll ever sit down and watch Tales of Halloween again. The few bits I did enjoy didn’t bring me so much enjoyment I’ll revisit this as a whole.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t watch it or you won’t enjoy it. I’m kind of a prick I imagine and I’m probably hard to please. An anthology to me should be more enjoyment than not, and this one starts out sort of promising, dips hard and then somewhat rights itself again by the end. It never reaches a point where I’m fully on board, though.

The only segment I found myself really enjoying was “The Bad Seed” and honestly, that felt a little rushed. I think more time spent here instead of other places in the movie could have done this tale a fair bit of good. It was still the best of the bunch for me.

“The Night Billy Raised Hell” has a fun Tales from The Darkside vibe, but it’s basically a more sinister Satan’s Little Helper that is at times too goofy for its own good.  But it totally features an awesome guest spot from Barry Bostwick (Megaforce!).

“Sweet Tooth” has a neat Halloween legend to it and is serviceable.

Falling into a similar category is “The Ransom of Rusty Rex.” It’s sort of fun.

Pretty much everything else here left me either bored or wanting. I enjoyed Pollyanna McIntosh in “Ding-Dong” but I hated literally everything else about it. Likewise for Alex Essoe in the boring and predictable (but cameo studded) “Grim Grinning Ghost.”

I was enjoying “October the 31st” until it went all Evil Dead, but there’s some fun gore there to help it along.

“Trick” was too Trick ‘R Treat-lite for me, with none of that segment’s vintage spookiness, build-up or charm.

“The Weak and the Wicked” felt posturing and irritating and “This Means War” totally squandered a great premise.

Adrienne Barbeau’s Stevie Wayne-styled audio-wraparound is a nice touch. There’s also more cameos here per-capita than maybe any horror movie ever. Some are very fleeting and for only the most eagled-eyed viewers among you. Seriously, did I catch Grady from Freddy’s Revenge in there? Any movie that throws a fucking bone to a Tommy Hook has got to get a little credit.

Ultimately, I think this makes for a good Halloween watch though, for just how much of the season it imbues. There’s few movies out there that have this much Halloween shoved up their pumpkin. I can’t say I really liked Tales of Halloween, but it’s got spirit to spare and definitely amped me up for the big day.

I’d give it a couple fistfuls of candy and a Neal Kennemore mask just for knocking.

Designation: Treat

Oct. 24th: Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

arsenic-and-old-lace

Gotta be honest with ya here Warner Brothers,…this original poster art is awful.

C’mon, Halloween’s been around for more than 40 years, right? So why do we have 23 different Halloween movies and nothing older than 1976?

Well, that’s about to change with tonight’s selection, Frank Capra’s 1944 adaption of the popular stage play Arsenic and Old Lace.

Keeping with this year’s motif, Halloween frames our events but isn’t their focal point. In fact, it’s a little touch Capra and screenwriter Julius Epstein added to the film version, as the original play does not take place on Halloween night. It fits though, giving a spookier air to already sinister happenings of the story.

Newly married theater critic and author Mortimer Brewster has just discovered his sweet and unassuming Aunts have been mercy-poisoning old, lonely bachelors and burying them down in the basement. Oh, ok then. He doesn’t handle that so well, and his reactions are pretty great.

When Mortimer’s brother Johnathan returns home after years of estrangement, he has designs to do the same, unaware that his aunts have been engaged in exactly the same criminal activities.

What follows is mad-cappery as only the early 40’s could provide. Which means you will either find all this goofy nonsense and shouting charming or it will annoy the hell out of you. I’m somewhere in between. I enjoy a good classic, but the board comedy on display and Gary Grant’s over-the-top performance can be a bit much at times. Rumor has it all of this was to be toned down in the editing, but  Capra reported for assignment in WWII, and his changes went with him. There’s another things you can blame on Hitler.

There’s a lot to love here, though. There’s a ton of great one-liners, subtle verbal quips galore, and for the most part, Cary Grant is really quite funny.

Peter Lorre is his usual unnerving and enjoyable self as Johnathan’s personal plastic surgeon, who has given John the ghastly appearance of Boris Karloff – the original actor who portrayed Jonathan in the stage production. Warner could not get Karloff on loan, as the production was still running and the theater company feared losing its big-name draw. This becomes sort of a running gag throughout the film, as Karloff is referenced several times.

Stepping into Boris’ scars is his Old Dark House chum Raymond Massey, who does a wonderful job underplaying his villainous Johnathan admits the buffoonery surrounding him.

One great sequence involves Mortimer’s critique of a scene he recently saw performed on stage where a purportedly intelligent character foolishly allows himself to be bound and gagged despite knowing full well he was in danger. At the same time, this exact scenario is taking place in front of us, with the act being perpetrated against Mortimer. It’s a great piece of comic staging that works perfectly.

Then there’s the matter of the Brewster home’s exterior, which contains a great family graveyard, covered in whirling autumn leaves and spooky ambience perfectly befitting the holiday.

There are a few small references to Halloween, and a quick scene of children arriving at the house for some holiday treats, but otherwise this is simple dark comedy of murder and coercion that carves out its own little niche on the 31st of October.

If you’re in the mood for something old that isn’t the tried-and-true Universal mainstays, but also includes a tinge of the season, Arsenic and Old Lace is a good bet. That is assuming of course the whole affair doesn’t just irate the fun right out of you.

I give it 1 jack-o-lantern up, because what? I’m sorry, did people use to just hand out jack-o-lanterns to trick-or-treaters on Halloween? Cause that’s awesome.

Designation: Treat

Oct. 23rd: Retribution (1987)

retribution-1987Like most of the film’s this year, Halloween doesn’t play a very prominent role in this weird little supernatural revenge slasher from 1987, but what’s there is pretty cool and it makes Retribution than much cooler than it would be without it.

Essentially George Miller is a depressed painter who decides to jump off the roof of his apartment building on Halloween night. Incidentally, local street gambler Vito is being gunned down at the same time on the other side of town.

For no apparent reason, Vito’s soul travels into George’s body at the moment of death and George is spared. However he then becomes a vessel for Vito’s ethereal revenge, and his psychological nightmare begins.

This is a fun, sometimes grisly and effective horror yarn that starts off with a bang on Halloween night. It’s the kind of thing slashers started becoming in Freddy’s genre-changing wake. But it’s not a bad use of post-Elm Street supernatural elements and it comes correct with the violence and intensity. It also crafts an interesting story around it’s horror that belies its 1987 release. This one feels a bit more 70’s that it is.

While it’s pretty much one-and-done with Halloween after the opening, the plot is intriguing, the death scenes are neat and Dennis Lipscomb makes for a good conflicted villain/hero. When he’s in revenge-dream mode he’s formiably intense. When he’s not, he’s convincingly feeble.

Plus there’s a suitably 80’s synth score from Alan Howarth, frequent Carpenter collaborator and composer for Halloweens 2 through 6. A solid draft.

So, if you’ve seen ’em all, toss on Retribution this week for a slight dose of Halloween horror. If you haven’t seen ’em all, we’ll get to it, you only have a week left.

I give it 1 hotdog-eating, mask-wearing, lookie-loo up.

Designation: Treat!