SEPTEMBER 23, 2013

Two Hours on a SundayIt's actually surprising no one's made a film called Babysitter Massacre before, but that void has been filled now with this sadistic homage to vintage exploitation films from director Henrique Couto (Bleeding Through). Actually the title might lead you to expect something close to Halloween or its ilk, but in fact this plays more in the same playground with Blood Feast and The Toolbox Murders as it piles on rampant nudity and gore to tell the story of Angela (Erin R. Ryan), part of a group of former babysitters who get together years later for a Halloween party where they can all try on fancy undies and swap stories. Soon they start getting texts containing gory photos of the missing alumni, and while they just seem like seasonal prank shots at first, it's soon clear that someone is indeed out for blood. Complete with over the top torture scenes (torn fingernails, abused gums, etc.) and a nude scene every five minutes or so, it's a really packed 78 minutes of vicious mayhem as well as a pretty effective tribute to the grimy heyday of horror/sexploitation hybrids. The insane amount of extras kicks off with an amusing commentary track featuring the director and much of the cast and crew (including the female leads), complete with an appreciative discussion of shooting every skin scene. There's also a "Behind the Massacre" featurette (eight minutes of enthusiastic talking heads), three minutes of minor deleted scenes, a blooper reel, a four-minute chat with the director about why he makes the movies he makes, a look at the film's premiere screening, and a pair of bonus Couto shorts, "Completely Defective" and "The Best Part of Being from Dayton." Also included are bonus trailers for Faces of Schlock, Bleeding Through, Snow Shark, Stiffed, Zombie Allegiance, Porkchop I and II, and Zombie Babies.

Two Hours on a SundayProving there's still a little kick left in the Italian horror film is the flawed but fascinating (and very, very gory) 2001 offering Bloodline, courtesy of filmmaker Edo Tagliavini. Here we have a nightmare in the boonies scenario when Sandra (Francesca Faiella) decides to go back to the location where her sister was taken fifteen years earlier by a psycho known as the Surgeon. Now she's covering the making of a gonzo porn film at a remote house, and before you know it, people are getting picked off, her sister's corpse and ghost are both tormenting our heroine, and everything's about go flying off the rails into serious Frozen Dead territory. Fans of Euro horror should find this one worth checking out just for the fact that it boasts an avalanche of queasy special effects by Dario Argento regular Sergio Stivaletti (Demons, Phenomena) and a score by the great Claudio Simonetti, the Goblin member who became Argento's solo composer for the majority of his recent projects. The plot veers all over the place, sometimes uncomfortably so, and the shaky cam really gets out of control at times; however, it's such a whacked out and weirdly unpredictable ride that any horror fan with a taste for some Neapolitan grue should find it worth checking out at least for sheer curiosity value. Chemical Burn's no-frills DVD features an anamorphic transfer framed at 2.35:1 with burned-in English subtitles.

Two Hours on a SundayJust when you thought the whole torture thing was played out in horror films, along comes 9 Days to prove there's still some material left to be mined in the whole "shackle 'em and make 'em bleed" scenario. In this case it's playing the story for black humor, as what amounts to a two-character chamber drama with a few splashes of blood turns into a strange black comedy of manners. Pretty young runaway Danielle (Maura Murphy) can't seem to catch a break from all the skeevy guys around her, and when she meets Virgil (Chris Schleicher), who seems like a nice guy - until he decides to chain her up in his basement and put her through a series of rituals designed to save her soul. He's determined to "save" her, not hurt her, but she decides to use the powers of logic and persuasion to point out the error of his ways. When that doesn't seem to work, well, you can pretty much figure out where it's all heading. Despite the subject matter, this isn't really all that extreme; the bloodshed is pretty minor and usually looks like ketchup, and the film really focuses more on the battle of wits than the travails of the flesh. That didn't stop either the filmmakers or releasing company to slap the weird subtitle "Whipped, Chained and Tortured by a Psychopath" onto the promotional art, promising something a lot sleazier than what's actually delivered. There's also a prominent mention that this was inspired by Dante's Inferno, though really it's a heck of a lot closer to The Collector (the '60s one, that is). The Kickstarter-funded film comes to DVD from Chemical Burn in a transfer that does its best with the digital lensing, which ranges from pretty good to awkward depending on the set up. The sound recording leaves a lot to be desired (with some audible humming and background noise in many scenes), but that's one of the risks you run with DIY horror movies. Not a classic, but hardly a waste of time either. The only extra is a reel of (incredibly loud) promotional trailers for the label's other titles.

Two Hours on a SundayNever a label to let anything go to waste, Troma has made a surprisingly durable cottage industry out of even the lowest, least professional crumbs in its library. Case in point: Mutantz, Nazis and Zombies: The Desecration Collection, a triple feature of DIY horror films with little money but lots of energy. First up is the most linear of the bunch, The Secret of the Magic Mushrooms, about a couple of morons who like to chug down poisonous amounts of hard liquor and go camping. Unfortunately their latest trip to the woods has them tangling with a weird batch of characters including a gun-happy military guy convinced Osama Bin Laden is hiding out nearby. One of them gets killed, and it's up to an axe-slinging hillbilly (with a weird dubbed French accent) to come up with the idea of using the titular mushrooms to do a little reviving from the dead. Sporting German credits and really obnoxious voices, this is one seriously perplexing piece of work. Where did it come from? No, literally, where on earth did this thing get made? In Teenape vs. the Monster Nazi Apocalypse, a guy named Bonejack who talks like a South Park character and leads the Paranormal Investigation Association to thwart a Nazi plan in the '40s to unleash mutants on the planet. He vigorously demolishes the eye socket of Hitler's female sidekick, Avon (a scene-stealing Debbie Rochon), who manages to survive to the present day. The remaining PIA members and their greatest discovery, the ageless Teenape, are called into action when Avon decides to bring back the Fuhrer courtesy of some mad DNA experimentation, leading to plentiful bloodshed and silliness. This is actually one of the many, many films by Chris Seaver and Low Budget Pictures, the prolific folks behind titles like I Spit Chew on Your Grave and Terror at Blood Fart Lake. Seaver plays Bonejack, of course, while other regular players like Casey Bowker and Meredith Host are on hand to fill out the small cast. This isn't their first outing for the Teenape character (a guy in a gorilla mask), but it's definitely the most ambitious. Yes, it's cheap and stupid, but there's rarely a dull moment to be had, and bonus points for the fastest closing credits in history. Finally we reach Attack of the Tromaggot, a "Troma fanfilm," with Lloyd Kaufman even putting in an appearance for what looks like the cheapest, quickest movie of the bunch (which is probably appropriate). Completely dubbed in post with wildly inappropriate voices, it's the very loose story of a bunch of scientists whose experiments result in lots of inconvenient toxic waste. Where to dump it than the nearest toilet? Of course, that bad decision results in a mutant maggot that terrorizes the citizens of Maggotown, who are unlikely to be saved by the prissy chief of police. A stogie-smoking stripper Santa Claus and a misfired kidnapping plan are also involved in this incredibly random slice of stupidity, which gives you pretty much what you'd expect from the title. All three look about par for the course for Troma projects shot on standard def video (and trailers for each are thrown in as extras), so adjust your expectations accordingly.

Two Hours on a SundaySpeaking of shot on video, you'll find something a lot more polished and professional in Crimson, a sort of scuzzy drive-in take on the apparently endless fascination for big screen super heroes; think of it as Hancock or Unbreakable for psychopaths (or, if you will, Dexter in a red hoodie). Our protagonist is a comic book artist named Walter (Michael Leszczynski) who lives in a bad neighborhood where even grabbing some lunch at the wrong time can get you violently assaulted by a robber. He's been facing more rejection than usual lately but thinks his salvation may lie in his newest character, Crimson, a red-faced avenger created in a hot vat of melted red crayons. After a brutal beating outside a bar, Walter winds up losing his memory and taking on the persona of Crimson, which turns out to be a bit of a problem when he comes home to find his sister being muscled by some thugs trying to force her off her property. This incurs the wrath of the local crime family, with our non-gifted superhero using a baseball bat to even the score. Violent, profane, and very cheap, this will appeal more to horror and trash fans with a taste for homemade exploitation than anyone expecting something along the lines of, say, Watchmen or Kick Ass, which deal with similar ideas on a far bigger scale. The acting is also wildly inconsistent, but Leszczynski's hamminess (including an amusing pseudo-Christian Bale growl at times) keeps things from getting dull even at a longer-than-usual 98 minutes. Extras include a behind the scenes featurette (almost half an hour with a cool look at the "actors workshop" prepping for the shoot) and a hefty trailer vault of other titles from Bloody Earth Films including Bacterium, Interplanetary, Come and Get Me, and Stash.

Two Hours on a SundayShot in 2010 but held for over two years, the batty horror/sci-fi anthology Doomsday County is actually one of the stronger recent Troma offerings and a pretty zesty example of what can be accomplished with a little money and a quartet of directors. As the title implies, the connecting story here is the location of the title, which is prone to bizarre events and unearthly visitors. The first, which is more of a fleeting prologue, features some drunk college students getting a bloody surprise when they order a pizza, and then it's on to a goofy but grisly short about some film students who break a special light bulb that leads to a "Xenombie" outbreak and a serious disruption of the class syllabus. It's up to their teacher to strap on a crossbow and take out the fiends with stakes(?!), but at what cost? And a couple of cops find another public threat from nearby madman Dr. Mongoo, who's wanted for questioning when a guy in a bar turns into a steaming, gloppy mess on the floor. When they try to infiltrate the doctor's suburban house, they might not make it to grab donuts in the morning. Finally in the strongest installment, a tough chick named Betty Beretta (Tara Lightfoot) turns out to be an undercover government agent forced to break out the heavy artillery when the same doctor's work appears to be tied to an imminent alien invasion, which won't remain much of a secret for long. The idea of looping all of the stories together is a pretty good one (sort of along the same lines as The Signal, albeit much, much loonier), and while it isn't all consistent, the high points make it worth a rental, particularly due to Lightfoot. Be sure to stick around after the credits, too. Extras include a final trailer, an early pitch trailer, and an individual one for "Xenombies," plus a couple of Mongoo Industries fake TV ads and the usual arbitrary collection of Tromatic extras you've probably seen 800 times by now. prepping for the shoot) and a hefty trailer vault of other titles from Bloody Earth Films including Bacterium, Interplanetary, Come and Get Me, and Stash.

Two Hours on a SundayAnother Troma-certified spin on the ol' horror anthology format can also be found in Open 24/7, a French three-tale omnibus centered around customers at a remote diner swapping outrageously macabre stories. The actual DVD is a tad confusing as it also refers to this film on the menu screens under its French title (Ouvert 24/7) as well as the alternate name of Backroad Diner, but whatever you call it, what we have here is a shot-on-video gorefest with folks spending the afternoon at an eatery spinning yarns kicking off with a couple of homicidal lesbians who castrate a revenge-hungry cop in the opening minutes and turn out to have a monstrous secret only he can uncover. Then there's a twisted fairy tale told as a bedtime story to a little girl, which quickly morphs into a semi-comical yarn involving a flesh-eating lady ogre, a bullet-riddled trip to a cabin in the woods, and another supernatural twist. Finally, a couple of country girls living with their dad find out that going off to the nearest town isn't quite the simple process it might seem to be at first, including a memorable visit to the theater. It's pretty strange to see a Troma-style melding of SOV horror and splatter comedy executed in French with English subtitles, but here we have it complete with a gratuitous (and very silly) Lloyd Kaufman appearance at the end (yes, speaking French... more or less). Extras include a brief making-of featurette (sans dialogue), a one-minute peek at the ogre effects, a 13-minute look at Kaufman's appearance on the set, a couple of gory deleted scenes (running a mere minute), and a behind-the-scenes slideshow, plus the usual array of unrelated Troma tidbits.

Two Hours on a SundayTaking the home movie aesthetic in a particularly bent direction, let's now turn our attention to Sloppy the Psychotic. Our title character is a clown character created by Mike (Mike O'Mahony), who puts his all into his day job entertaining kids. Unfortunately a snafu involving a girl's drawing gets him fired (for reasons that are actually kind of murky and don't jibe with the actual circumstances at all), and after going on a bender and impulsively killing a bum in a pool of urine, he slaps his clown paint back on and goes on a murderous rampage against those who wronged him. Okay, this is obviously no Shakes the Clown, but the sheer quantity and perversity of the kill scenes here makes for a film you probably won't forget anytime soon, for better or worse. The children's party finale is a particular show stopper, offering up a sequence that somersaults past the tasteless barrier and will either tick off or tickle viewers depending on their sensibilities. The Chemical Burn DVD sports a pretty middling non-anamorphic widescreen transfer (seriously, not even 16x9 in this day and age?) with a fairly quiet and sparse audio commentary from O'Mahony (who also directed) and his editor. This is actually the second feature for Pennsylvania-based Maniac Films after the endurance test known as Deadly Detour, so considering how much they already improved with just their second go-round, it'll be interesting to see where they go from here.

Two Hours on a SundaySubtitled "A Deadhunter Chronicle," the zero budget oddity Killing Twice is another import from the Troma folks, though this one's been sitting around for a bit since 2007. This time we hop over to Spain for a cheapo action/horror slice of weirdness about a high school besieged by demonic forces that like to pummel people to death with severed limbs. Enter the Deadhunters, a squad of military monster fighters (equipped with explosive GPS watches) who team up with a guy in a Catholic monsignor outfit to take down the rubbery menace. Of course they have to worry about some straggler students, too, including some girls who stand around pondering the size of ghost genitalia. The usual exploitation elements are all accounted for here (including a topless woman trussed up inside a classroom for the entire third act), but the tone here is way too silly to take seriously. At times this plays like an amateur spoof of Aliens with the protagonists hauling artillery up and down the school halls, and the quirky dialogue keeps it at least a cut or two above your average monster spoof. Keep your expectations modest, and there's some solid retro fun to be had. Unfortunately the DVD transfer looks pretty unimpressive thanks to a non-anamorphic widescreen presentation with burned-in English subs, but it's unlikely a better option will come around in the near future. Bonus material includes the trailer, a 13-minute making-of featurette, and, of course, "Tromatic Extras."

Two Hours on a SundayFinally we reach the most professional production on our list, Zombie eXs, whose title -- look our first entry here -- pretty much says it all. A slacker named Zack (Alex Hammel-Shaver) has managed to collect a hefty number of ex-girlfriends in his young life, and when his latest one throws him out on the curb to go drink his troubles away, he winds up getting talked by his friend Dan (Scott Keebler) into going on a local dating TV show. Alas, all of the ladies he's pitted against turn out to be his exes as well... and they're still bearing a grudge, even when they wind up turning into the hungry undead after gulping down a new brand of vitamin water with brutal side effects. Accompanied by tough-as-nails gal pal Lily (Madison Hart), the guys have to find out how to escape with their lives as the plague of Zack's exes starts to spread out into the streets. Drawing obvious inspiration from Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, this winds up being an amusing time killer with enough quirky twists and dialogue exchanges to compensate for some pretty unappetizing characters scattered through the storyline. It's also nicely mounted and smartly lensed in scope, which compensates for what was obviously a very low budget. The Bloody Earth disc is about on par with their previous releases, which treat small films with enough respect to make you notice what might have otherwise slipped by without leaving a trace. There are two fast-paced audio commentaries (one with the major cast, the other with director George Smith and producer Paul Manoogian), a time lapse Mohawk Rob Femme FX featurette, an unedited Cast Confessions reel, a making-of photo montage, the trailer, and previews for other releases like Ground Zero, Trippin', Red River, and Come and Get Me.



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