AUGUST 17, 2015

HomicycleIt's surprising no one's come up with a movie called Homicycle before, but at last here we have it courtesy of this 2014 horror spoof from Canadian director Brett Kelly (My Fair Zombie, Jurassic Shark). In fact, Kelly (sporting a lounge lizard outfit and gigantic fake mustache) kicks off the film itself with a William Castle-style bit of hoopla, leading to what amounts to an elaborate homage to films like The Exterminator, Nail Gun Massacre,and Vigilante (with, I guess, a dash of the "Chopper" episode from The Night Stalker). Someone's cleaning up the trash in a dangerous city, and he's riding a mean hog with a sleek motorcycle helmet obscuring his face. Our avenging angel is first seen taking out an abusive pimp by shoving his hand into the bike's spinning wheels, and as it turns out, his motive is tied to the brutal beating and death of a cop by some thugs just a short time earlier. The dead cop's widow, Julia (Candice Lidstone), is trying to take down the crime kingpin responsible, Brock (Peter Whittaker), who smacks people around and barks orders in the strongest Canadian accent you've ever heard, but the mystery avenger has his own plan to take Brock down at any cost. Featuring some hilariously excessive kills, a great rock club sequence, lots of women in bikinis, a thumping '80s-style electronic score, and an insane theme song, this one never wears out its welcome at 70 minutes and does a solid job of duplicating the scrappy look of 16mm indie films from the Reagan era without resorting to any obnoxious fake grindhouse scratching and scuffing. (There's a brief refreshment stand intermission that was presumably added to pad out the running time and could've been dropped, but you can just skip past that.) Plenty o' fun. The Bloody Earth DVD features a nice anamorphic transfer that captures the intentionally grungy look of the film itself, while extras include a fun audio commentary with Kelly (whose accent could give the villain's a run for its money!) and a bunch of bonus trailers like Animosity, Babysitter Massacre, Lizard Man, and Murderdrome.

ScreamwavesSpeaking of Bloody Earth, they've also unleashed another entertaining little gimmick horror film, Scarewaves, an omnibus fright fest centered around a literal shock jock named Amos Satan ((John Bradley Hambrick) whose final farewell night at the microphone has a few surprises in store. Surrounded by a stash of Fangoria back issues, he takes a string of calls about people's most terrifying real-life experiences but decides to share his own when the callers don't turn out to be up to snuff. The evening's tales start with one about a photographer named Linda (Erin R. Ryan) who gets tied up with a sinister painter named Garrett (Joe Kidd) whose models have a habit of disappearing under macabre circumstances. Garrett claims he's never killed anyone, but of course, there's a grim secret behind his creativity. Then we head down south where a heist leaves the thieves squabbling over a million dollars and an overnight stay at a one of the robber's grandmother's house turning into a bloody night to remember. In story three, an aging cop (Geoff Burkman) who's been way too trigger happy in the past starts a job as an overnight security guard, only to find out the ghosts of his past might have a bone to pick with him. Finally, a scheming girl named Jenny (JoAnna Lloyd) tries to goad her married boyfriend (Josh Miller) into whacking his wife's head in, but of course that turns out to be a really bad idea. Filled with equal parts horror and humor, this is a nifty low-budget batch of tales from Henrique Couto (who also brought you Haunted House on Sorority Row and Babysitter Massacre) with a punk theme song, crazy stylized lighting, and enough inventive turns in each story to keep you munching on your popcorn. The DVD looks great and also features a Couto audio commentary, a bonus "Fair Scare" audio drama, two minutes of alternate takes with much higher comedy content, an a sneak peak for "Awkward Thanksgiving," another Couto project with several of the same actors.

Lights Camera BloodIf you'd The Joggerlike a little more Canadian horror, indie filmmaker Kevin Doherty and his company Magic Toaster Productions have been producing some quirky terror titles himself. For example, there's Lights, Camera, Blood!, a sort of riff on what it might be like if Andy Milligan were still alive and trying to stage a comeback. Here we have a long-struggling genre impresario named Mandalor, who tries to pitch his latest blood-drenched offering to Gorrific Pictures and its head honcho, Mr. Gelstein. Aided by his hunchbacked director of photography, he pulls himself up by his bootstraps and tries to make something more commercial... only to kill a particularly difficult actress when she refuses to play her scene correctly. The enthusiastic distributor response goads him to bring in more aspiring actors and off them for real, even donning yellow slickers to stay dray when one poor sap gets his cranium split on a couch. However, a concerned girlfriend and swarming cops turn out to be a major obstacle to realizing his magnum opus. Unlike some of its counterparts, this one nails the scratchy film look of early '60s gore films right down to a tee; you could easily be fooled into thinking this was a Something Weird title pulled out of a dusty movie theater basement. The wood-paneled interiors and oddball wigs are straight out of classic H.G. Lewis, and the old school splatter effects are an absolute joy to behold. Then there's the costumes, a cavalcade of late '60s fashions impeccably chosen from the finest thrift stores, and a crimson-soaked finale you have to see to believe. Running 82 minutes, it comes on a feature-only DVD in a flat 1.85:1 transfer. Considerably more compact is the 22-minute Doherty short film, The Jogger, which stars Dan Baker-Moor (also seen in the previous feature in a very colorful role) as the title character, who's fighting off declining health (including an uncooperative digestive system) by going out for an early job every morning before dawn. Unfortunately a detour into a filthy public toilet stall turns perilous when he's targeted by a maniac intent on getting in and slicing him up. Both darkly funny and gruesome, it's an imaginative achievement offering what amounts to a one-man show for its lead and a technical challenge with over half of the running time confined to a single stall.

Singularity PrincipleA heady attempt to generate hard sci-fi on a minimal budget, 2013's Singularity Principle manages to pull out a few welcome twists on the whole parallel universe idea. The main behind-the-scenes hook here is the fact that this was directed and co-penned by a real physicist, Dr. David Deranian, who intended to keep this as firmly in the plausible hard science realm as possible. Michael Denis (who looks like he could be Adrien Brody's brother) stars as Dr. Peter Tanning, who seems to hold the key to the disappearance of his mentor, a pioneering scientist (John Diehl) who's exploring the state of universes existing alongside our own. A mysterious operative (The X-Files' William B. Davis) interrogates Tanning about the research and the mysterious disappearance, which ties in with an experience in Tanning's childhood and motivates the inquisitor in ways that only gradually become clear. Though it features its fair share of technical jargon, the film manages to convey its complicated ideas with a compelling simplicity and some welcome dollops of emotional resonance, while the likable Denis holds the film down well enough that it's a shame he's mostly wasted in bit parts in larger Hollywood films. Technically the film can't disguise its low budget but features some effective visual effects, while Deranian does a better job of wrangling the acting and editing than a few of the other aspects (especially the sound mix and score, which could use another pass in a studio or even on a laptop). All in all, worth checking out if you'd like some meaty sci-fi, and the Big Screen DVD features a fine 16x9 transfer and the theatrical trailer.

Sexual Assault at a Hotel RoomBoasting a lyrical Morricone-inspired score and a complete lack of political correctness, the 1977 Nikkatsu sex melodrama Sexual Assault at a Hotel is actually the watered-down title for Koretsugu Kurahara's Rape Me: Sexual Assault at a Hotel. While the film delivers the usual nudity, heavy breathing, and a harrowing non-consensual set piece at its heart, there's also a very melancholy air to the tale of two working girls trying to figure out their place in what appears to be a world gone loco. The tone is set right off with a daylight tryst that doesn't seem all that fulfilling, which segues into our two main characters, the buttoned-down, self-professed virgin Ryoko (Yuri Yamashina) and her wilder friend, Rumiko (Erina Miyai), who puts the moves on her to rekindle some adolescent experimentation they used to enjoy. Rumiko decides to get her pal in the mood by taking her on a mini tour of sexual delights including body painting, profound misuse of an Asahi beer bottle, and exhibitionism, but things go too far when they wind up, yep, getting sexually assaulted in a hotel room. That's far from the end though as the pair soon become embroiled in a very dark scenario that leads to a borderline horror ending you'll never believe. As usual the running time's very compact (75 minutes) with enough depravity to keep fans happy, but the peculiar friendship tying it together makes this one stand out a bit from the crowd. As usual the Impulse disc is a fine presentation of what is easily the most visually drab entry in their Nikkatsu line to date; the earthy colors and very dark, moody lighting are effective and presented here well enough for a film that won't set anyone's home theater system on fire. The Japanese mono track sounds fine, with optional English subtitles that must have been a crazy assignment to translate, and the extras include the theatrical trailer and the usual excellent Jaspar Sharp liner notes covering the background of minor player Kurahara and the complex history of the term "rape" in Japanese media at the time.

3 Scream QueensOne of the oddest tributes to horror icons imaginable is 3 Scream Queens, the bazillionth game of cinematic musical chairs involving a trio of beloved cult favorites -- Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens, and Michelle Bauer -- and director David DeCoteau, whose cinematic fixations have remained remarkably consistent over a wide range of genres. This certainly isn't the first time all three actresses have appeared together (with ties going all the way back to Nightmare Sisters), and unlike the meta horror offering Trophy Heads from Charles Band, this one only tangentially tries to be a horror movie. Three horror actresses -- Alexis (Quigley), Ellen (Stevens), and Sylvia (Bauer) -- are brought together one afternoon in a movie theater (well, more like a screening room) to watch a film, and whoever provides the best ending will get a desirable acting role. That means they get to sit back and watch a lot of footage of young men in tight clothing (if even that) running around, getting chased, and soaping up in the shower. Most of these scenes are pretty par for the course for DeCoteau's Rapid Heart brand, which means lots of beefcake and shorts and undies, though actor Adam Graff throws in a curve ball with a scene that's far, far more explicit (and borderline proctological) than the usual fare. Eventually it all leads to a macabre twist ending of sorts as we find out how the three ladies' story plays out. As long as you know what you're getting into (the usual digital videography, amusing banter between the always welcome leading ladies, and a lot of anonymous guys posing for the camera), this is an amusing piece of cheap, trashy cinematic junk food with everyone fully aware of what they're doing. The Rapid Heart DVD features a 1.78:1 anamorphic presentation that's a fair enough approximation of the HD consumer camera source, as well as a typically candid DeCoteau audio commentary in which he reveals the meager shooting schedule (with his three leads only available for a few hours) and the way he assembled the other scenes together into a more or less coherent whole. There's also a 32-minute trailer reel including this film and titles like 90210 Shark Attack, Knock 'Em Dead, and pretty much every entry in the extensive 1313 series.

666: Kreepy KerryFeaturing a bit more of a traditional plot is another DeCoteau horror-ish offering, 666: Kreepy Kerry, which lifts both its title and basic concept from a certain beloved Brian De Palma adaptation of a Stephen King novel. However, in this case the bullied adolescent is a boy, Kerry (Conner Sorensen), who's first seen rolling around groping himself in his tighty whities on a bed. As it turns out this is a special supernatural power he has since his ecstasy can also allow him to control others, specifically the bullies who have targeted him at his new school. (Those same bullies are also prone to spending every minute of screen time shirtless and swimming at their off-campus house, of course.) Anyway, Kerry soon progresses to mind control through other means, namely by sticking out his hands and glaring really, really hard, which of course leads to some nasty consequences. Also on hand in the obligatory nostalgic screen queen slot of the cast is Darcy DeMoss (the veteran of Return to Horror High, Reform School Girls, and most notably Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives), who pops up as his well-meaning aunt and headmistress. There are actually a couple of interesting twists on the usual tormented kid formula, though as usual there's quite a bit of amusement to be found in the high drama and wildly uneven acting on display. The audio commentary by DeCoteau on the Rapid Heart DVD (which also has a trailer) is one of the stronger ones from the 2014 batch as he talks about how this was made after but came out before the first 666 film (Devilish Charm) and his happiness with the end result, which was put together in a breakneck two days of production.

Bigfoot vs D.B. CooperHowever, that's nothing compared to the conceptual nuttiness of Bigfoot vs. D.B. Cooper, which must be one of the most maniacal ideas for a cinematic mash up in the Rapid Heart library. On top of that it's a period piece set in the early '70s, which means the parade of scantily-clad guys looks way more anachronistic than usual. Said men (Liam Watkins, D.J. Aiken, Kyle George, Keith Metcalf, and Graff again) are seen congregating at a lodge for a weekend of hunting only to find themselves targeted by the legendary bigfoot, who's running around clawing the local populace. Fortunately the famous D.B. Cooper (Terence J. Rotolo) arrives after his daring real-life feat of air piracy, which leads to an explanation for his legendary disappearance that's wholly plausible and most likely exactly what happened: a showdown with a giant, bloodthirsty Sasquatch. In between we get lots of camera lingering over the young male cast as usual, ths time never really crossing over the PG-13 line. Basically if you want a DeCoteau monster movie with an usually cracked gimmick at its center, give this one a shot. Again the DVD features an anamorphic transfer that's par for the course for a 2014 HD production from Rapid Heart (very bright with lots of flesh tones) along with another DeCoteau audio commentary and a trailer.

My Sinful LifeLas Vegas GirlsMoving into naughtier waters, Vinegar Syndrome's spectacular Peekarama line of vintage adult double features has unearthed some amazing time capsules previously consigned to the degradation of ancient '80s VHS fuzziness. For example, 1983's My Sinful Life, a former Caballero title, kicks off another pairing from Carlos Tobalina, whose entire filmography is presumably one of VS's primary goals. The whole thing is essentially a vehicle for Danielle, a California blonde who featured in dozens of '80s smut titles and participates in all but one of the big scenes here as she relates to a friend what a filthy, filthy life she's had. The saga starts off when her adopted family uses bath and bed time to initiate a foursome, which is less skeevy than it sounds since fellow participants Don Fernando, Rita Ricardo, and '80s mascot Tom Byron look absolutely nothing alike. From there it's a (very) slippery slope to a San Francisco whorehouse where she tangles with some big money cowboys (including Jamie Gillis), and... that's pretty much it. Then it's off to Nevada for Tobalina's Las Vegas Girls, a priceless snapshot of '81 Vegas tied together with a threadbare storyline about a missing girl whose parents (including mom Liz Renay!) hire a couple of detectives (Dan Boulder and Karen Hall) to track her down. That means they have to comb every burlesque club, brothel, and swingers' hangout to find clues, which ranges from watching an orgy around a swimming pool to partaking in a penthouse bash held by Bill Margold. Naturally the missing girl turns out to be right under their noses, albeit not where they would expect. This one holds a bit more curiosity value thanks to the kitschy atmosphere and high volume of sex scenes, and both films are shot through with that trademark ultra-saturated Tobalina look that makes them look like psychedelic playgrounds today. The 1.85:1 anamorphic transfers of both features look fantastic, of course, and the disc also comes with theatrical trailers for both films, loaded with alternate takes and angles compared to what's in the finished products.

AnticipationFlesh PondAnd it's Tobalina time again with another Peekarama two-fer, starting off with the virtually plotless SanFran flesh fest Anticipation. The gist here is that brothers Joey Silvera and Jesse Adams want to bed each other's wives (Sheila Parks and Kara Amakoto), and after some minor inconveniences involving the law, the film spends most of its time on a gigantic orgy in typical Tobalina fashion. This one feels like it was cranked out in a hurry with a lot of indifferently shot action, but if you have a soft spot for porn circa 1981, there might be some novelty value here. Tobalina even pads out the running time with silly additions like an instant replay, which just throws you further out of the film. A bit more interesting is the bizarrely named Flesh Pond, a hostage orgy in a cabin made two years later. Basically some wife swappers have gotten together for a weekend in the woods, but when two escaped inmates show up, all bets are off. Rita Ricardo shows up again to do the film's weirdest scene, an early bit involving a creepy male sex doll, while Parks and Margold drift in and out of the action before it truly gets wonky at the end with Tobalina himself showing up to deliver some third-act exposition that caps a minor twist on the whole affair. Most of the film is shot in wide master shots which gives it a strange clinical air, and your brain will hurt by the end trying to rationalize everything from start to finish. Again the transfers are immaculate and as colorfully peach-tinged as other Tobalina releases, while the trailers are also accounted for in all their scruffy glory.

Mystery GirlFor a much more experimental side of adult-only filmmaking, Mr. E (aka cult filmmaker Ramzi Abed) delivers a veritable epic of tattooed flesh, delirious lighting, and atmospheric coupling with Mystery Girl, sold directly from Popporn. Basically a spiritual successor to Mystery World of Sex, it features Gabriella Paltrova, Mr. E himself (as Brock Doom, another alter ego), and a handful of other alt-goth actresses, all tossed into a swirling stew of writhing and bodily fluids. Again the feeling here is as much an art film as a DIY adult Peep Show Collectionproject, clocking it at nearly two and a half hours and resulting in the kind of heady delirium you'd run into in late period Jess Franco. The no-frills DVD appears to be true to the source, which ranges from music video colorful intensity to deliberately blown out and distressed lighting in a few shots.

Returning to our old pals Impulse Pictures, their 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Volume 12 is another boon to homegrown DJs with a hardcore streak as it presents another plateful of silent 8mm loops from yesteryear. With titles like "Fireside Fun," "Lap It Up," "Lez Housewives," "Geisha Girls," and "Dildo Derby," it's two hours of scratchy, vintage bumping and grinding with a few kinks thrown in to add some variety. Oddly, the most memorable moment might be an enthusiastic lesbian loop set in front of a poster for Cinderella LIberty, which kind of says it all. There's also an odd Germany entry about a wedding night gone haywire, and keep your eyes out for some familiar faces like Desiree Cousteau, Sharon Kane, and Mike Horner. Once again Cinema Sewer's Robin Bougie provides liner notes providing some context for these rough-hewn excavations from the porn dust bin.

Savage SadistsSavage SadistsNow something of a legend in vintage adult collecting circles, Avon Productions was one of the primary forces in getting the powers that be (especially Ed Meese) to crack down on kinky cinematic fare in 1984, the chilling effects of which were felt for decades. Phil Prince (whose life story would make an unbelievable movie) was the primary director of their films, which often ran between 30 to 60 minutes and featured depictions of S&M and nastiness that ran counter to the more commercially palatable porno chic offerings in larger theaters. Other familiar names drifted through Avon films over the years, such as director/actor Shaun Costello and switch-hitting star George Payne, but the Prince formula was the one that defined the Avon name and its enduring status as a symbol of New York filmmaking at its most dangerous. Several Avon films have been bootlegged from cruddy VHS dupes over the years, most notably in massive multi-disc packs from Alpha Blue, while After Hours turned out some okay Avon sets of its own. However, Vinegar Syndrome's Avon Triple Feature DVD offers the first really pristine presentation of their work on American home video with a noteworthy triple feature. In Savage Sadists, porn peddler Martin Patton is having a fling on the side with his secretary (inexplicably dressed to look like a silver version of Little Nell from The Rocky Horror Picture Show); in the meantime, two criminals (Danny Stevens and David Christopher) invade his home and have their way with his wife (Nicole Bernard) before she bolts for hubby's office, setting up a particularly perverse finale. In feature number two, Den of Dominance refers to an underground massage joint masquerading as a bar where Stevens performs domination demos before a small but appreciative audience. Newcomer Patton and his girlfriend become so engrossed they decide to put on a show of their own. Finally, Daughters of Discipline is a pretty goofy S&M tale about two sexually curious girls (Victoria Sands and Robin Thorn) who stumble on a parental stash of kink mags and decide to practice on a local male neighbor (Christopher). However, when mom and dad (Bernard and industry vet Dave Ruby) get home, things take a more depraved turn. All three feature fresh transfers in their original 4:3 aspect ratio and look light years better than the old muddy video versions, which were almost entirely desaturated and so blurry you could barely tell what was going on. Interestingly, apart from the first film these represent the more light and playful side of the Avon formula as the once-edgy content is couched in very safe fantasy or comic terms. Should Vinegar Syndrome opt to explore their library further, it'll be interesting to see what they choose next.



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