MARCH 23, 2014

Bloodmarsh KrackoonIf your life has been an empty, killer animal-deprived shell without enough Birdemic movies to watch, then salvation is here with Bloodmarsh Krackoon, an under the radar horror franchise about a crack-addicted killer raccoon on a bloodthirsty rampage in the Bronx. Technically the DVD release from Independent International is a double feature as it also contains the original Krackoon, a one-hour wonder from 2010 shot on consumer video cameras. Here we see the racoon's origin after a ridiculously long pre-credits sequence in which a couple of underworld thugs beat up and kill a poor schmuck before tossing him in a landfill. There a raccoon start chomping on the body's remains (including a condom he swallowed filled with crack) before mutating into a savage monster. Meanwhile the denizens of the Bronx are upset about encroaching businessmen destroying their communities and forcing predatory wildlife into their neighborhoods, and when a young boy named Tommy makes friends with the raccoon, it sets the stage for a bloody finale.

The title beast (a bloody, bug-eyed stuffed animal) is barely shown, but that definitely isn't the case for the main feature, which opens with a quick recap of the first film before jumping into the main story (thankfully shot with better cameras). The media's jumped onto the story and causing unease among the cops and politicians, with the deputy mayor, Peter Rabbit (yes, you read that correctly), trying to get to the bottom of it -- while Tommy and his pal, "Redeye," try to find a new home. A lot more characters are introduced including a single mom stripper whose son sleeps in a room right behind the stage, a couple of wise-talking hospital orderlies, and the title character's lime green offspring, who make a meal out of a couple of middle-aged hookers in one memorable highlight. The stage is also set for another sequel thanks to two more twists, including a final scene that must be seen to be believed. With that premise, you should know exactly what you're getting into here: low grade DIY camerawork, hammy performances, fake blood aplenty, and lots of personality. Also included are a fun half-hour featurette (including a table reading and premiere footage) and trailers for the main movie as well as Atomic Brain Invasion, Bite Me, Ground Zero, Bacterium, and plenty more. This should be in every single Redbox in America.

LizardManNext we're head south from the Bronx to Lee County, South Carolina, where LizardMan is lurking in the woods and slashing up passersby in a flurry of CGI splatter. A team of professional guardsmen and amateur hunters (including cameos by alternative horror staples Peter Stickles and Dylan Vox) is dispatched to nab the valuable mutant, whom they corner and capture behind a loading dock. A rich businessman named Bill Hansen brings in an unscrupulous consultant named Professor Richardson (who faked a Bigfoot sighting) to keep the creature safely captured and ready for transport to the West Coast, where it will be turned into a cash-generating media darling. Of course, the plan goes horribly wrong and the title predator is soon attacked bikini-clad L.A. girls in their swimming pools. As such things must, it also closes with a trashy music video for "Lizard Rock," padding things out to an 81-minute running time.

There's an obvious '50s monster influence to be found here courtesy of the (pretty good) rubber suit and heavy emphasis on dialogue, though the aforementioned digital blood is a major distraction; in this case, old school all the way would've been better. However, if you want to just put your brain on hold and watch a lizard guy tear through a huge cast of characters, this should be just the ticket. The Camp Motion Pictures release looks fine considering the heavy color grading done on the film to give it a gray/green cast, and the sole extras are a lot of unrelated trailers.

Legend of Six Fingers Now we jump to another woodland tale with The Legend of Six Fingers, billed as being "based on the Native American legend of Yá·yahk osnúhsaˀ." This is the slightly more serious follow-up film for director/actor Sam Qualiana, who also brought you the astonishing Snow Shark. Once again this was partially funded through IndieGoGo and has that same labor of love feeling, even though the subject matter is a bit more serious this time around as we dip into found footage territory. Two aspiring documentarians, Neil (Andrew Elias) and Andrew (Qualiana), are reported missing, and through their footage we see how they into the woods to investigate some recent animal slaughters. Evidence points to a mythical creature with three clawed digits on each hand, and along the way they interview some locals including welcome appearances from Lynn Lowry (The Crazies), sporting a southern accent, and Debbie Rochon. Along the way they also have to deal with uncooperative rivers, campfires, drunk college kids, creepy fossils, and their ultimate target, which might be more than it initially appears.

Short, sweet, and enjoyable, this one won't convert those who hate the whole found footage craze, but it's a lively offering with a love for the horror genre and solid payoff at the end complete with plentiful gore and some solid atmosphere. Qualiana even gets to tip his act with a blatant Blair Witch nod, too. The DVD from Bloody Earth Films comes with a transfer of the feature itself that's about on par with your usual modern digital projects, plus a genial audio commentary with Qualiana, Elias, and producer Greg Lamberson, who talk quite a bit about jumping into this after Snow Shark and go through the accent work and casting process for everyone else involved. You also get 16 minutes of behind the scenes footage (loaded with spoilers, so be careful), five minutes of outtakes, the usual avalanche of trailers, and a very early Qualiana hillbilly horror short film called "The Hunting."

A genre much, Dangerous Obsessionmuch older than found footage horror is that old favorite, the erotic thriller, which dominated video shelves from the late '80s well into the late '90s. One particularly dark, arty entry can be found in Dangerous Obsession, a Troma DVD (unrelated to the Lucio Fulci film of the same name) of a 1989 film better known to VHS hounds as Mortal Sins. Brian Benben (who was about to star in HBO's Dream On one year later) stars as Nathan Weinschank, a private eye with a fondness for '50s rock 'n' roll. He's hired on by a southern religious corporation owner, Malcolm Rollins (James Harper), to help do damage control after their head minister, Reverend Park Sung, has been found murdered with cocaine in his system. Rollins wants the gumshoe to protect his daughter, Laura (Deborah Farantino), whose sunny exterior conceals some dark secrets involving a business not as holy as it seems.

Heavy on '80s filtered lighting and big hairstyles but strangely low on skin or thrills, this one is mainly worth watching as an early vehicle for the likable Benben and a pre-Eureka Farantino, plus an early turn for Anthony LaPaglia; there's also a weird humorous streak running through it, too, including an ending that feels more like something out of Moonstruck. Not surprisingly, the DVD is taken from what looks like the same full frame master that used to air on cable in wee hours in the early '90s, in all its original interlaced glory. Even less surprisingly, the rest of the disc is filled out with completely unrelated Troma extras you've seen a few dozen times already.

NecronosMuch higher in areas like entertainment value and exploitation goodness is Necronos: Tower of Doom, a 2010 German gorefest billed with the claim that it "makes Cannibal Holocaust look like Bambi!" Well, no, not even close, but this 127-minute(!) opus definitely delivers the red stuff after an opening warning that "this film contains scenes which may be too intensive [sic] for persons under the age of eighteen," as we see a young medieval wizard monk carving out one of his brother's eyeballs and taking a big juicy bite out of his throat. Apparently this is part of a plan for him to achieve immortality by sacrificing those around him to create a supernatural army for the devil, who will return to walk the earth. There's a lot more backstory here about a virgin witch, the failure of that demonic army, powerful blades being forged, naked demonic women frothing at the mouth while chained to a wall, and lots of other mayhem before we jump to the present day. The revived evil wizard, Necronos, has come back in a modern German village where fishermen and horny teens provide fodder for the ingredients he needs to bring forth a new army, with some demonic assistants brought along as well to help him out.

Part of the latest wave in bloody zero-budget German horror, director Marc Rohnstock already had the enthusiastic if amateurish quickies Dungeon of Evil and Graveyard of the Living Dead under his belt when he made this far more ambitious outing, which features enough plot for an entire series of books, extensive period settings and costumes, elaborate makeup, and a virtually endless parade of atrocities including a nasty bit of business with a sharpened stake that probably inspired that comparison to Deodato's film. Character development isn't much of a concern here, but if you want a very, very squishy party disc, give this one a spin. Scalpings, stabbings, chainsaw dismemberments... yep, it's all here. Troma's disc, the film's North American debut, is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) from what appears to be the same source as the European release, with burned-in English subs. Since this was shot on video and prepared by the director for festival screenings, that's presumably all that's available unless a better source shows up. Bonuses include the teaser, trailers, a wonderfully grisly behind the scenes gallery, and some seriously graphic reversible sleeve art.

In HellHeavier on the torture but far less amusing is another European offering from the golden age of the 1970s, In Hell. Originally released as Gloria Mundi, this mixture of performance art, abrasive political statement, and full throttle sleaze is difficult to describe and even harder to watch as Euro regular Olga Karlatos (who was famously abused by a huge wooden splinter in Zombie and even more abused by playing Prince's mom in Purple Rain) stars as an actress, Galai, who's signed up for an extreme film about the violence between France and Algeria. To get into character she's put through extreme trials by fire at the hands of her producer, Hamdias, and you know things are going to get dark when she's first seen trying out some homemade e-stim in the bathtub. Things get even more twisted when her abusive Svengali dies, leaving the project to be completed at her own hands as her personal demons threaten to swallow her whole.

Credit definitely has to be given to Karlatos herself here for committing to a role most actresses wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole, especially considering she was making more mainstream fare like Keoma around the same time. (One scene involving a table, some French soldiers, and a beer bottle is a particular jaw dropper.) That said, if you're interested in seeing filmmakers push the outer edges of the line between art and exploitation, this one's definitely worth checking out. The One 7 release features an anamorphic 1.66:1 transfer from an Italian print with optional English subtitles, looking pretty drab and rough (which may be intentional). Print damage and splices pop up occasionally, but considering the extreme rarity of the title itself, it's a wonder this got released in America at all. The sole extra is a poster and stills gallery under the title Tortura.

Phantom of the GrindhouseIt was probably inevitable that someone would make a movie called Phantom of the Grindhouse, and here we have it with an extended homage to a certain Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino collaboration complete with an opening reel of fake trailers for movies like Invasion of the Mud Spiders and Something (about a killer black pug). There's also a host clad in a black hood and cloak to kick off with the film ("You'll kick off your pants and scream!"), with the whole thing running a very brief 65 minutes. Some very stupid, very dramatic kids in the Sleepy Hollow Heights Horror Club are upset that their local repertory theater (which looks way too nice and clean to be a grindhouse) is about to get shut down, so they decide to throw a 24-hour marathon to raise money to keep it afloat. Meanwhile a masked homeless psycho lurking in the depths of the theater is sharpening his butcher knife and fixating on his dream girl, goth goddess Christine.

Fart jokes, grade school fake mustaches and bald caps, ska music videos(?), and a climactic Prince cover song are the, uh, highlights of this quickie from Chris Seaver, the 99-cent-store auteur who gave you Terror at Blood Fart Lake and Teenape Goes to Camp. For those so who can't get enough of it the first time around, the IE DVD also boasts a random cast and crew commentary (no one bothers to introduce themselves) and nine minutes of bloopers only slightly more silly than the movie itself. Basically it is what it is, but I'd gladly pay good money to see Something turned into a real movie with that flesh-eating pug.

Adam ChaplinIf you like your horror with more artistic accomplishment and far more grue, take a gander at the Italian crime/gorehound curio, Adam Chaplin: Violent Avenger. In case you're wondering, Adam is a ticked-off guy (played by buff director Emanuele De Santi) whose wife has just been murdered by a psycho deformed crime lord in a creepy inverted cross mask. Now he's made a pact with a little devil (who lives on his shoulder) who calls the shots on Adam's path to find satisfaction at any cost, which basically means pulverizing, mutilating, and blowing apart anyone who stands in his way.

About as gory as Necronos above, this one ladles on the splatter in truckloads for 84 hyperactive minutes. Whether this is a good or bad thing will depend on your tolerance as the overall effect can be akin to having a kid on a severe sugar bender screaming in your ear, but there's no denying this one delivers exactly what it promises. The whole film is also shot with a very dark, murky, deep blue aesthetic that works more often than not, though the fake grindhouse-y scratches used for the flashbacks and credits have really overstayed their welcome by now. That tricky look means there's only so much you can expect from the DVD released by Autonomy, which copes as well as it can with some scenes that often look like mud. The Italian two-channel stereo mix (with optional English subs) is fine and suits the film's energy level, which pays off with an undeniably spectacular final ten minutes. Extras include a handful of featurettes -- "H.A.B.S. (Hyper-Realistic Anime Blood Simulation" and "Mechanisms of Gore" about the nonstop special effects, "From Idea to Screen" about the development process, and "Building Up Adam" about the director/star's rigorous training process -- as well as trailer for this film along with Blood for Irina and The Bunny Game.

PsychophanyNow from Germany and Italy we hop over to Spain for Psychophony, a 2012 ghost story about a doctor named Helena (Mercè Montalà) who thinks schizophrenia is possibly attributable to the influence of supernatural forces. To test her theory, she rounds up five patients all suffering from different mental conditions and takes them to a supposedly haunted house. Along with a nurse and a psychic researcher, their weekend in the country turns from slightly spooky (with sightings of a dead girl by one of the patients) to flat-out horrifying when one of them seems to be spirited away by dark forces.

Thanks to better acting and writing than usual, this one delivers a few respectable chills and even manages to avoid any outright violence or sadism, a rarity nowadays. (The cover art is easily the most extreme thing about it.) There are a few nods to the whole found footage craze with surveillance cameras capturing some of the action, but thankfully most of it is shot traditionally with a few sparing but creative special effects to goose the viewer. Chemical Burn's DVD sports a solid if unspectacular anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer, with 2.0 Spanish audio and burned-in English subs.

An uProfile of a Killernusual, evocative twist on the seemingly exhausted serial killer tropes, Profile of a Killer marks an assured debut for Caspian Tredwell-Owen and delivers more than its bland title might indicate. Buoyed by fantastically chilly Minnesota locations and a talented cast, the film managed to use some canny online marketing to compensate for the lack of any big studio support and should hopefully lead to more for everyone involved.

The plot is essentially a three-way battle of wits involving Saul (Gabriele Angieri), a middle-aged profiler, and an FBI agent, Rachel (Emily Fradenburgh), who are hunting the "H-61 Killer" (named for the highway where he picks off his victims). Partially buried skeletons are his calling card, but things take a twisted turn when Saul is apprehended by his quarry who turns out to be an underaged boy, David (Joey Pollari). The predator poses a challenge to Saul to use his profiling skills to stop the next murder, and from there things just get more dark and complicated. The independent release from Grand Entertainment Group is available both as a DVD and through most digital channels, so either way you see it, you're in for a memorable ride.

I Heart UThere haven't exactly been a lot of gory romantic comedies over the years, though you certainly have your standout efforts like Psychos in Love and Zombie Honeymoon. To that list you can now add I Heart U from Stiffed director Billy Garberina. Here he steps in front of the camera as well to star as Walter Fletcher, a home inspector who's dissatisfied with his marriage to culinary school head Liz (Psycho Holocaust's Raine Brown). She pretty much controls every aspect of his life right down to all of his eating habits, but he finds an emotional outlet by, uh, killing random strangers and making the news as the "Central Stalker." Little does he know that Liz is a psycho as well, the "Sweetheart Killer," who's prone to slipping hemlock into unsuspecting womanizers' food and tearing out human hearts. Soon they're both making the news, unaware that they're stealing each other's headlines.

A zesty little DIY number, this one is much more gruesome than you'd probably expect as Brown (who steals the film with one heck of a performance) comes up with a variety of extremely splashy methods of dispatching her prey. (Just for kicks, keep an eye out for quick cameos by some familiar homegrown horror faces on the TV news reports, too.) The usual limitations of indie video shooting are still an issue here (namely some crappy sound recording in a few scenes), but overall it's a punchy, entertaining, deliciously nasty surprise. The Camp Motion Pictures DVD as usual looks fine for an SOV title and features an enjoyable audio commentary with the two leads, who start off "demoralized" by the fact that they'd already gotten halfway through it once without it being recorded. The two have great chemistry together and make for good company, so be sure to give it a spin. There's also a whopping 48 minutes(!) of behind the scenes coverage featuring cast interviews galore and lots of effects footage, plus the 26-minute Brian McGinley short film "Deceit," a far more serious study in twisted relationships.

Swinging SororitySpeaking of dodgy sound recording, today's video projects have nothing on the muffled incoherence of Swinging Sorority, a 1976 drive-in cheapie revived on DVD from Code Red. You get a fresh new 16x9 transfer from the VCX vaults that blows the old Media VHS out of the water. However, you're still stuck with the fact that movie looks like it was shot on toilet paper with audio recorded on ancient microphones stuffed under pillows. There's really not much plot here apart from the device of a bunch of loose sorority girls having sex with everyone in sight, with a cast populated mostly by '70s sexploitation actors like Rick Cassidy (whose opening scene almost pushes this into hardcore territory), Cindy Wilson, Wendy Sanders, and anonymous faces who never appeared in anything else again. The girls are all having problems with grades or studying, so they sit around drinking and getting picked up when they aren't sleeping their way to an A with their professor. Then there's a doofus named Poochie and his buddies who, in a scene that feels way too close like gang rape for comfort, con the dumbest sorority girl, Marybeth, into cooperating with them to become homecoming queen, a slot the school hasn't had in quite a while. Basically this feels like a feature-length storefront loop with most (but not quite all) of the hard stuff taken out, which is probably what actually is. As mentioned, the DVD does what it can with the underwhelming source material, and not surprisingly, the only extras are bonus "swingin' trailers" for My Old Man's Place, Vengeance, The Guy from Harlem, Blind Rage, and The Visitor.

In HellOf course, this wouldn't be a Sick Picks without a little vintage smut thrown in, and this time we have another immaculately remastered pairing of early '80s offerings from Vinegar Syndrome on one DVD, both directed by the prolific Bob Chinn. First up is Sadie, a colorful, stagebound updating of W. Somerset Maugham's Miss Sadie Thompson (most famously filmed with Joan Crawford as Rain in 1932). Here the action shifts to 1971 in Borneo as prostitute Sadie (Talk Dirty to Me's Chris Cassidy) contends with a bunch of new arrivals during the rainy season as a bunch of passengers get stranded on the island. The women aren't happy being under the same roof with a "cheap tramp" like that, especially when her sleazy Vietnam past is exposed by Senator Daniels (Joseph Darling). Meanwhile Sadie has her own bedmates to keep satisfied, while the senator thinks she's still one of the "children of the lord." Shot with lush colors and better dramatics than usual, this is a fun slice of overheated hokum complete with blaring '70s rock music and lots of retro production placements. (Keep an eye on the dog-eared paperback racks.) Even at 74 minutes, there actually isn't as much sex as you'd expect; the plot winds up taking up a sizable amount of screen time, with the couplings only popping up every 15 minutes or so. A fun little slice of cinematic humidity. The sole extra for this one is the theatrical trailer, comprised almost entirely of different takes and angles than the finished film.

Sharing space on the same disc is Chinn's The Seductress, a neo-noir look at the antics in a fleabag Las Vegas motel where a black-gloved, chain smoking photographer is catching all the action going on inside. A hooker named Renee (Lee Carroll) is working with him to get the goods on a politician (Richard Reynolds) she's bedded, and when he goes home to his wife, Cindy (Lisa De Leeuw), who's being blackmailed by Renee into putting on a show of her own after trying to set up her hubby to get a divorce. Complications mount as bedmates swap out at the motel, revealing a more complicated plan with a particularly grim payoff waiting at the end. As usual, De Leeuw takes center stage here as the bitchy wife who gets the tables turned on her, and the scuzzy Vegas atmosphere makes for an appropriate backdrop for this carnal crime story. Again the (very spoiler-y) theatrical trailer is sole extra.



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