Cult Film Canon #5: Child’s Play

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I honestly don’t remember when I finally got around to watching this film. In fact, I definitely remember Child’s Play 3 being the first one I watched, because I taped it off of the USA Network when I was a kid. For the longest time though I was pretty fucking scared of Chucky, and had a deep irrational fear that my toys would come to life while I was sleeping and attack me at some point. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that the fear started after watching the 80s Disney Movie “Where The Toys Come From”. If you have never seen it, the movie is like a live action “Toy Story” about two toys who are trying to figure out where they came from (no shit it’s in the title!), and they find their way to Japan where they witness different versions of themselves being made. I can’t remember if the toys were horrified by this, but I would imagine so. I recently watch the RL Stine Masterclass, and he was saying something about how he couldn’t understand why people were afraid of Slappy. I’m thinking why the fuck wouldn’t he be? Dummies are creepy as shit to begin with.

The original movie serves as the origin for the Chucky doll as we’re introduced to the antagonist, Charles Lee Ray (aka The Lakeshore Strangler) as he is being chased on foot by Chris Sarandon’s character Detective Mike Norris. The two enter a toy store, and while bleeding to death from a fatal gun wound, Charles uses a Voodoo spell to transfer himself into a Good Guy Doll.  From here the point of view shifts and we’re introduced to Andy and his Mom. Andy’s Mom gets him a Good Guy Doll for his birthday, and sure as shit it turns out to be Chucky. He uses his new vessel to carry out revenge against the people who fucked him over as well as anyone who gets in his way. At one point Chucky discovers just because he transferred into the doll doesn’t mean he’s not bullet proof, and this is where Chucky decides he needs to use Andy as a new vessel.

This was only Tom Holland’s (not Spider-Man) second Horror Feature, with Fright Night being his very first film, and they are both phenomenal films in their own right, and classics of their chosen horror sub-genres. Granted the dude was responsible for some pretty awesome screenplays before he got behind the camera, but goddamn that’s an incredible achievement. Obviously the dude is not alone in this category, but it’s not like either one of those films were just slopped together. They’re both very well done, with great performances and memorable scenes.  Speaking of performances, Brad Dourif’s voice really makes Chucky come to life. Sure the practical effects in the movie were spectacular, but yeah Brad Dourif owns that role for sure.

My fears of toys coming to life have dissipated since my youth, and the first Child’s Play movie has become a personal favorite of mine since, and is one of those films I try to re-watch once or twice a year. I just really love the whole notion of no one believing the protagonist, despite the killer being in plain sight. Tom Holland also did this in “Fright Night” which is also a personal favorite of mine, except this time around the monster is obviously plastic. I’m also pretty sure Chucky’s height plays an important role in what makes him so terrifying to me. You could also lump Gremlins and the Puppet Master puppets in there as well. While the kills in the movie aren’t heavily steeped in gore, the movie relies more on suspense, as Chucky’s new doll body is a secret. As the films in the series went on, the kills become more over the top with amped up gore, as well as newer ways to keep the suspense of Chucky’s secret fresh to audiences.

I really did enjoy the last Chucky movie “Cult of Chucky” and I was excited to see there was a TV Series planned, and without spoiling the ending of the film I was hoping the Series would use it as their jumping off point. However, there is now a remake that is currently in production at MGM without the movie’s original creator Don Mancini not being involved. More often than not these remakes of Classic Horror Icons tend to be stale, as they lack the heart of the originals. We sometimes get New Classics like The Fly, The Thing, and Invasion of The Body Snatchers, but more often than not they’re duds. I guess I’ll have to wait for a trailer or two to make a final verdict. As far as I’m concerned Chucky is the king of the killer dolls. Don’t fuck with the Chuck! Cheers! -Samir

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Nightbeast Review

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I was familiar with Nightbeast as a Troma title, but for whatever reason I wasn’t that interested in it. It wasn’t until recently when I discovered there was a documentary out about the filmmaker, that I decided to look up the director Don Dohler to see exactly why he was worthy of one. It turns out he was involved in some pretty awesome shit. Don was involved with Underground Comix, he had a how to guide magazine for filmmakers called CineMagic (Archive.Org has many back issues FYI), and then of course he made a slew of low budget horror/sci-fi films. Since Nightbeast was the only one I knew about, I thought “why the fuck not?” and watched it. While I do not regret watching the movie, I would definitely describe it as being amazingly bad, and unintentionally hilarious. I’m not really sure if Don was in on the joke, but regardless it’s super fucking cheesy.

The movie begins with titular character “Nightbeast” crashing landing on Earth in some random ass woods, and immediately starts killing people. Unsurprisingly they (the main characters) kill the “Nightbeast” at the end. Now what happens in between is a lot of gun fire, killings, and running around. There was definitely no plot in sight other than “we have to evacuate the town, and get rid of that monster!” and that’s fine because it made for a fun viewing experience. There were mini sub plots, or at least parts of the movie that acted like they were sub plots, but if you were to remove these parts from the film, or even the characters who involved in these scenes, it would make no significant difference to this film whatsoever. The film could simply exist without them. This is one of the many parts of what makes this movie pretty fucking ridiculous. I mean, I watched Dohler’s first film “The Alien Factor” after this one to kind of give myself a reference point as to what the fuck I just watched, and I found that “The Alien Factor” had a more structurally sound plot to it. Both films have a similar beginning and ending, but the stakes seemed higher in that movie, where as in “Nightbeast” we never even see the townspeople being evacuated so we have no idea if there is something preventing them from leaving unless a character mentions it. The only thing that really drives this movie is, “We can’t seem to kill the beast! We must kill the beast!”, and at one point they realize “oh shit electricity seems to work, let’s use that!”, and they create an electrical fence and blow the fucker up.

Before I go on to give the movie some praise, I’ll go ahead and mention the acting, which was god fucking awful and just plain atrocious. Tom Griffiths who plays the same exact role in “The Alien Factor”, and holy fuck is this guy the most unlikely hero ever.

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Seriously look at this fucking dude. Since the acting is so fucking bad I couldn’t tell whether or not the dialogue was actually that bad or the people saying them were butchering them and making a mockery of the words. It ventures into Troll 2 territory at times, but nothing too memorable as far as one-liners go. As far as praise go, you can really tell Don’s strength is with his camera and special effects work. Given his extremely low budget, he definitely makes the most of it, and pulls off some really cool looking (retro at this point) practical effects. This also includes the music and the sound design to create the atmosphere of the film, and at this point I should probably point out that JJ Abrams worked on this film as a teenager working on the music and sound effects (credited as Jeffery Abrams in this film). The gore special effects were pretty sweet as well.

Overall, I give it an A for effort, especially because it had its charm. I was honestly engaged throughout this movie mostly because it was truly bizarre and I really wanted to see the train wreck unfold. I honestly didn’t feel the same way about “The Alien Factor”. Like I wrote above, the script was a little bit more solid, but it was hard to pay attention to it. Now that I have realized CineMagic is on Archive.Org I’m definitely going to look through them, as it seems like the filmmaking magazine I wish I had read when I was a teenager. If only I were born a decade or two earlier, I could see myself armed with a Super 8 in hand, scanning the pages for tips and tricks to try out on my own with friends on the weekends. I’m still going to look for practical shit to do. I’m sort of lamenting the fact the I’m unaware of a magazine that exists in this capacity now, but at the same time we have YouTube and Pinterest at our disposal to find tips and tricks and how to guides. Speaking of filmmaking how to guides, I’m currently trying to put together an article on ultra low-budget/micro budget/no budget filmmaking that I hope will be helpful to people who are interested. Keep your eyes peeled for that! Cheers! -Samir

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Cult Film Canon #4: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

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I saw Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 when I was in middle school. I saw the first one around this time, but I’m not what the time span was between the viewings. I was deeply disturbed by both movies for sure. I know with the first one is was definitely the unknown lurking dread and the overall depravity of the film. I think at one point I questioned whether or not what I was seeing was the real thing based on the way the movie was shot. With the second one it was definitely the blood, guts, and gore. At this point I’m pretty sure I had seen a handful of Halloweens, Friday The 13ths, and Nightmare on Elm Streets albeit they were probably edited cable versions I saw on USA Network or Sci Fi Channel. Needless to say this movie fucked me up a little bit. Even when I was younger I would pass the cover art for the movie whenever walking through the horror section at the video store, and just be totally mortified by it. The characters were so ghastly and grotesque. I was beyond horrified that Leatherface was wearing the face of another person. However, when I later realized that this VHS cover as much as it creeped me out, was actually a spoof of “The Breakfast Club”; this is when I started to see the film for what it really was. Which is a Pitch Black Comedy, with lots camp and cheese to go along with that Texas sized helping of gore.

Unlike the two sequels that follow this one, TCM 2 is a direct sequel to the 1974 classic, picking up over a decade later. Even when I think of the plot in my head while trying to come up with a way to write it, I’m realizing more and more how ridiculous this movie truly is. So anyway, two preppy jock bros are heading to the Texas-OU game and they decide to call this radio station to harass the DJ named Stretch, not once but twice (on a fucking car phone in the mid 80s)! During the second phone call they are fatally attacked by Leatherface, and since they never hung up the phone, all of this ended up getting recorded live. At the scene of the crime we meet Lefty played by Frank Booth himself Dennis Hopper, who is a police lieutenant. He immediately detects foul play while the other cops write it off as just an unfortunate accident. Lefty seems to know who did it, and we find out that Lefty is in fact the Uncle of Sally and Franklin the Brother and Sister from the first film. So long story short, Lefty wants Stretch to play the audio of the murder live on air (without checking I’m pretty sure that’s a FCC violation). We later find out that Lefty made this request to use Stretch as bait to lure the backwoods cannibal Sawyer family out of hiding.

You cannot deny the amazing performances in this film. Dennis Hopper is like at ten once he really gets going. I mean this movie came out the same year as River’s Edge, Blue Velvet, and Hoosiers (which earned him an Oscar nom) so this was definitely a year full of amazing performances and characters from him. Compared to his acting in the first film, Jim Siedow really goes over the top in this one playing Drayton Sawyer (which I would say he also plays at a ten). Bill Johnson replaces Gunnar Hansen as Leatherface in this one. Compared to the first one, the depth of the character is eliminated in favor of a hulking bumbling oaf, who happens to have a crush on Stretch (played by Caroline Williams). In a performance that practically defines his career, Bill Moseley plays the unforgettable Chop Top (who was missing from the first film due to being in the Vietnam War).
Tom Savini’s Special Effects work is some of my favorite in this movie. The scene where the Preppy Bro dude gets part of his head sawed off with the blood squirting out and the “Incoming Mail” scene were super fucking gruesome and definitely the stuff of nightmares. I think even for the limited amount of murder set pieces this film had some really nasty gore parts in it. Speaking of limited, I do know there were deleted scenes involving more extensive gore parts. One of which included the cameo of Joe Bob Briggs, who is still credited in this movie despite the scene not making the final cut. I have only read about this, and my dvd copy I own doesn’t have the delted scenes on them. I have tried looking for the Joe Bob scene on YouTube but instead I only found extended versions of scenes already in the movie. I know that the Scream Factory Blu-Ray of the film has a shit ton of bonus features, so I’m guessing it has what I have been looking for. I’ll also make a point to mention this movie has the most memorable quotes of the entire TCM series. Anyone who’s heard the song “Jerry Was A Race Car Driver” by Primus will surely recognize the “Dog Will Hunt” line from the movie.

Now getting back to the plot. So I’m not trying to ruin the fun here, especially because I consider this movie very fun and highly entertaining. However, how the fuck are the radio listeners not going to call the police after hearing “Lefty’s Request”? Also how is it that some cannibal underground dwellers somehow know about this broadcast and the police don’t? It’s not like this was a make it or break it issue. I really do enjoy this movie, and it’s one of those rare movies that I make sure I revisit a couple of times a year. I’m pretty much writing this because this is one of the talking points I would like to make on the next Burnout Society Film Club Podcast which we will be discussing this film and Motel Hell. If you missed the last one, we discussed Rock ‘N’ Roll High School and Class of Nuke ‘Em High and I’ll post it below. Also posted below is the introduction we produced for the 8 Ball Movie Night Event that happened on 10/2.

In closing, not only is Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 one of my favorite films Cannon Films put out, but it’s also one of my Horror Films behind the original TCM. It’s definitely one of those Horror Films that made a big impact on me during my early teen years, and I have a soft spot for it for sure. Awesome gore, outrageous over the top performances, and funny dialogue; what more could you ask for? Cheers! -Samir

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Bloodlines: The Art and Life of Vincent Castiglia Review

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When I look at the works by Vincent Castiligia, I am instantly drawn into the dark and grotesque nature of his paintings. The use of death and decay is something that resonates with me and reminds me of my own interest in horror movies and heavy metal music where similar imagery is often conveyed through cover art or gore set pieces. Vincent’s attention to detail and the masterful quality of his art are reason enough to make a documentary about his life and his works. However there’s a twist here. What sets Vincent’s paintings apart from the rest is that Vincent does not use inks or paints. He uses human blood.

John Borowski’s portrait of the artist Vincent Castiligia in “Bloodlines” not only captures his unique process but also gives an in depth look into the heart and soul of the individual as well. It becomes clearer as the film progresses that Vincent’s use of blood is not just some gimmick or schtick, but truly a cathartic and therapeutic experience for him as an artist. While we are spared the graphic details of Vincent’s upbringing, the film does not shy away from sharing the trauma Vincent went through as a child living with his mentally ill Mother. Vincent’s art is born from this pain as an outlet and an escape throughout this, with his personal hell manifesting itself in the art itself. We see his macabre paintings progress throughout the movie as we are given a glimpse of the trials and tribulations Vincent has gone through. From the drug abuse, to the medical issues, and finally to the death of both his parents. “Bloodlines” presents a tormented artist, who’s battle with his own personal demons hasn’t defeated him. Vincent remains resilient, now sober, as he continues to (figuratively and literally) bleed new life into his paintings.

Not being too familiar with Vincent’s work prior to watching this, I immediately took a liking to this piece “Gravity” featuring the skull, which became a part of of Greg Allman’s personal collection. I also really liked “Stings of The Lash” featuring a Christ-like figure who from the chest down is all bones. Personally I’m not shocked by Vincent’s use of blood for his work. I honestly think it’s cool (not that I would do it myself). However, I can see how the inherent nature of his work, along with the use of blood could be seen as taboo and controversial.

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Again like I mentioned above I feel like this resonated with me, with my attraction to both Horror and Heavy Metal music. Since I’m a metalhead, Vincent’s ties to the general Metal world were a big selling point for me (He’s also a metalhead who loves cats like myself). Even prominent figures in the metal world such as Tom G. Fischer (Celtic Frost, Triptykon) and Kerry King (Slayer) make appearances in the film to discuss their appreciation for the art. Other highlights in the film for me were getting a tour of H.R. Giger’s art studio, and Margaret Cho’s art collection which now includes a portrait Vincent did for her done with her own blood. I also thought it was cool that John ended up getting a portrait done as well.

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John Borowski has definitely crafted a compelling story here. It’s interesting how this sort of connects to his other works even though this isn’t his typical oeuvre. While John is an accomplished filmmaker and author, the majority of his works are centered around Serial Killers and Serial Killer Culture. “Bloodlines” could be considered a departure from all of this, but clearly the themes of death and decay found in Vincent’s paintings are a common thread amongst Borowski’s other documentaries. Either way, “Bloodlines” is great documentary and this is due to the great work and thought that went into making it. I really dug this film. It’s harrowing story of a man who has been to hell and back a few times, and has lived to tell the tale through his art. I’m also glad that through watching this documentary I was able to discover a contemporary artist whose work I actually enjoy. The movie has now been picked up for dvd distribution on MVD Entertainment Group, and has a release date of November 13th, 2018. I highly recommend this one for sure! Cheers! -Samir

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Cult Film Canon #3: Chopping Mall

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I was kind of going back and forth this week over what to review. Initially I wanted to review something that was similar to Motel Hell / Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 because those are the films we will be discussing for our October Podcast. Episode 1 is the the can by the way and should be out sometime early next week. Anyway, I was torn between doing “Pieces” and “Chopping Mall”, and frankly while “Pieces” has its memorable moments and has a connection to TCM by way of their tagline, it’s not as enjoyable (in my opinion) as “Chopping Mall”. In Episode 1 of the podcast we briefly discuss Good/Bad and Bad/Bad Movies, and I believe “Pieces” belongs in the Bad/Bad category. There for I’d rather not waste my energy writing about it when I could write about a Good/Bad Movie like “Chopping Mall”.

Distributed by Roger Corman’s Concorde Pictures in 1986, one might assume by the title and looking at the movie poster (especially if you have never seen this film before), that the movie is a Slasher film (with a Terminator-esque cyborg as the killer) that takes place in a mall. However, this is slightly misleading. There isn’t a Cyborg like the poster art suggests, and instead it’s three evil robots, who unlike the title indicates, do any chopping whatsoever. The film was written and directed by Jim Wynoski, whose “The Return of Swamp Thing” was a favorite of my as a kid (still is but I prefer the original by Wes Craven). It also has some memorable cameos from some Corman regulars such as Mary Woronov and Paul Bartel, who play a couple that act like Statler and Waldorf from The Muppets, and Dick Miller plays a disgruntled janitor who gets electrocuted by one of the Killbots. Also making a cameo is Gerrit Graham (Phantom of The Paradise, TerrorVision, CHUD 2: Bud The Chud) who plays a robot technician that gets killed just as quickly as he’s introduced. The movie also features Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, From Beyond, and more recently Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich) in one of her earlier roles.

So the movie is about this mall that is using a new security company to do after hour surveillance, and they have robots doing the late night rounds. It doesn’t take long before lightning strikes the mall, and that somehow affects the robots and turns them into murderous Johnny Fives. At the same time this is going on, a group of teens are planning an all night party at the mall, and you can probably imagine what happens next. I think this movie has its charm, which is probably why it won me over. It has the right amount of campiness and cheese without it being too over the top. I think one of the more ridiculous scenes is when the teens are all hooking up with each other in the same department store (within close proximity of each other) and the meek and timid Ferdy and Allison are watching “Attack of The Crab Monsters” while all these noises are going on around them. I just thought it was funny how unphased they were about what was going around them, only up until the end of the scene where they were sort of giggling about it. I also noticed upon this viewing of the movie that the Mike character says to the one of the Killbots “Klaatu Barada Nikto” as he shows it his ID. I thought it was hilarious because I was like oh shit he said then verse from “Evil Dead 2” and “Army of Darkness”, but I was totally unaware they originally lifted that from “The Day The Earth Stood Still” (Thanks Google!). However the most memorable moment in the movie has to be when Barbara Crampton’s  head explodes after being shot with a laser. The movie itself is pretty light on gore keeping it pretty standard in that regard, but the head explosion more than makes up for that and is definitely a holy shit what the fuck just happened moment in the film.

So overall I consider this a pretty decent Cult Horror movie, and definitely one of my favorite Corman related projects from the 80s. At the moment you can currently catch it on Amazon Prime, but I also found it on YouTube, and posted it down below (Shhhhh…). So yeah check this movie out if you haven’t already. I have a couple of films lined up for me to watch, so i’ll definitely have something new to post for next friday, and of course the podcast should be ready on Monday (formats pending at the moment). Cheers! -Samir

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Fear Town, USA Review

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On the heels of writing the review for “Class of Nuke ‘Em High” I present you another Troma Film that was put out more recently. “Fear Town, USA” is a Slasher/Ghost/Cult (as in actual cult worshipers, not Cult Classic) Horror Comedy that’s pretty fucking ridiculous and heavy on the gags. The movie was written and directed by Brandon Bassham who also made The Slashening for Troma, and is currently working on its sequel. He is also the screenwriter of Troma’s newest in house production “Shakespeare’s Shitstorm” which is based off of “The Tempest”. Troma and its head honcho Lloyd Kaufman have been extremely generous with posting behind the scenes footage, and so far “Shitstorm” looks like Troma’s craziest movie to date. However, I digress. I’ll get back to writing about Fear Town USA. The movie pokes fun of a lot Horror cliches, and does not take itself very seriously at all, which definitely pairs well with its micro budget charm.

The premise of the movie revolves around a few different story lines. All of which are connected to the central event of the movie, The St. Blevins Day party. Hilarity and horror ensues as we watch a car full of virgins, a teenage girl, a mental patient, and woman with a terrible secret make their way to this party. During all of this there’s a masked murderer going around killing people off. We learn ***spoiler alert*** the terrible secret is the young woman witnessed a friend drown to death, but now she’s back as a fat shaming ghost. I’m pretty sure this was my favorite aspect of the movie, as she pushes everyone to eventually kill themselves. There is also this sinister cult thing going on as well, and the car full of virgins end up getting sucked into that by the end.

I think what tripped me up about the movie the most was its flow. There’s definitely a beginning and an end, but the in between is kind of a slow burn to the eventual reveal of everything such as who the killer was such. The scenes seemed to be more akin to sketch comedy pieces, and they kind of move from one joke to the next progressing the story somewhat along the way. It’s not to say that any of it was boring. The movie is highly entertaining, and it was well acted. I attribute that to the fact that the actors are involved with the UCB (Upright Citizen’s Brigade). Plus it’s obvious the actors know what kind of movie they’re making. Like I mentioned above, the movie really tries to drive the point home that it doesn’t take itself seriously at all, which I think was very integral to the integrity of the film. It’s more spoof than anything else. The limited amount of blood and gore in the movie are more for shits and giggles rather than shock and revolt.

So overall I dug it. It’s definitely one of those so bad they’re good movies you eat pizza and drink beers watching with friends, except it’s also self aware of what kind of movie it actually is. Like I said in the previous post, starting the film club also helped get me back into Troma after years of not being in the loop, and they definitely have some gems like this one that are worth checking out now. I’m looking forward to watching “The Slashening”, and I might catch up on that sometime this weekend. Also looking forward to both “The Slashening 2” and “Shitstorm” when they finally get released. I’m definitely keeping an eye out for whatever Brandon Bassham does next. Check it out below as it’s free on Troma’s YouTube Channel. Cheers! -Samir

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Cult Film Canon #2: Class Of Nuke ‘Em High

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I first discovered this movie as a kid, looking at VHS boxes in the comedy aisle at the video store. I was already a fan of Toxic Crusaders, and was aware it was based off of The Toxic Avenger like a handful of other cartoons adapted from R Rated movies in the 80s/90s (Rambo, Robocop, Police Academy, Etc…) , but once I saw the cover for Class of Nuke ‘Em High, I realized this was somehow related to The Toxic Avenger, even though he wasn’t in the movie, because it also took place in the fictional town of Tromaville. I had no fucking idea what Troma was back then, and it wasn’t until I started working at video store during high school, that I truly discovered the Troma Universe, with Class of Nuke ‘Em High being a movie that had been in the back of my mind that I needed to watch but never got the chance to.

Class of Nuke ‘Em High is definitely one of my favorite Troma films for sure, if not one of my favorites that Media Home Entertainment put out in the 80s on VHS. Following its predecessor The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke ‘Em High retained the gore, humor, and social commentary that would continue to be a staple of Lloyd Kaufman’s work, but also seemed to steer Troma into becoming the company it is now known for today. What may have ended up appearing as a cheap knock off of Class of 1984, is definitely not that in the least bit. Like the leaky nuclear barrel in the basement of Tromaville High School overflowing with toxic waste, this movie is also filled to the brim with disgusting madcap fun and low budget gross out mayhem. It also features a super rad looking monster at the end as well.

The movie’s story is focuses on teen couple Chrissy and Warren and the pressure they are facing from their peers to hook up with each other. To make matters worse, strange fucking shit is going on at their high school, like the honor students turning into a gang of misfit cretins and straight A student Dewey having a toxic meltdown after he drinks water contaminated with radioactive waste from the drinking fountain. The teens give in to the peer pressure after smoking weed that had been growing with radioactive gunk dripping on it. Shit gets even more complicated when Warren turns into this raging toxic beast with herculean strength, and Chrissy gives birth the next day to a slimy amphibian monster of sorts. When the monster gets flushed down the toilet and falls into a barrel of nuclear waste in the Tromaville High basement, and the Cretins get expelled for trying to exact revenge on Warren for killing one (maybe two?) of their members, the shit really hits the fan, and the movie arrives at its raucous climax.

The movie was followed by four sequels. I have actually seen 2 and 3, but not the Return to Nuke ‘Em High films Vol. 1 and 2. While 2 is fun, and it’s full of colorful costume choices, funny gags and more monsters it’s not as good as the original. I think I have only seen 3 once, and I thought it was totally abysmal. For whatever reason, I haven’t gotten around to Return to Nuke ‘Em High, but I would like to change that for sure, especially after revisiting this one.

Troma holds a special place in my heart, and was there from day one when I became infatuated with Cult Cinema. I have recently rediscovered my love for Troma especially after starting the Burnout Society Film Club and writing for the blog. As a matter of fact, my next couple reviews are going to be for two Troma films both written and directed by Brandon Bassham, who is also the screenwriter for Troma’s newest production “Shitstorm”. So if for whatever reason, you have never seen this movie, do yourself a favor, and watch it now! For fuck’s sake it’s fucking free on multiple YouTube channels! I’ll even put it in this review! Cheers! -Samir

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The Theta Girl Review

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Holy shit is this movie fucking bonkers! If Gregg Araki directed a script by David Cronenberg of his version of “Savage Streets”, you would get something that closely resembles “The Theta Girl”. Equal parts existential psychedelic mind fuck and blood and guts grindhouse blowout; “The Theta Girl” is an unapologetic drug fueled, gore permeated, revenge movie escapade. Directed by Christopher Bickel, with an amazing script by David Axe, the movie pulls no punches, and gives zero fucks with its graphic depictions of sleaze and violence. This is definitely one of those movies that you pass around or watch with your friends telling them shit like “You have to see this fucked up movie!”.

The movie follows Gayce, our anti hero protagonist, who is a drug dealer slinging Theta; a drug that produces similar effects as DMT, except the hallucinations seem to be a shared experience of seeing this metaphysical being. We get to our first big what the fuck moment in the film, when Gayce’s friend/dealing partner Leonard (a mute homeless dude), is found by Gayce totally disemboweled with his intestines being used to create a theta symbol. From here, everything goes south, and its nothing but a depraved downward spiral joy ride all the way to the end. I don’t want to spoil too much more of the plot, so I’m going to stop right here, but there are some twist and turns throughout.

If you can’t tell already, I was sold on the gore. This film has ridiculous amounts of extreme violence. However, the lurid nature of the movie doesn’t take away from the movies solid script/story. It would be very easy for a micro-budget feature to offer up the gore gags without any substance, but that is definitely not the case here. The film simply uses elements from revenge/slasher movie tropes as a plot device, and its in the down moments and the hallucination sequences where we get to the core of what the movie is really about. This is where the existentialism makes its way into the film. Meditations on Life/Death, Heaven/Hell (personal and figurative), Loneliness/Interconnections all get explored here, and it really fleshes the movie out especially with the characters.

Technically speaking, I was really surprised how well the gore effects were done here given its extremely low budget. It’s so fucking brutal. It definitely shines over other aspects of the film, mainly the acting, but I’m not going to diss on the performances. Nothing was over the top, so if you’re expecting any camp here, it’s not that kind of movie. It’s dark, gritty and blunt the acting is reflective of this.  In fact, Victoria Elizabeth’s performance was pretty inspired. I liked in the very beginning during the credits where we’re exposed to the seedy underworld of Gayce’s environment, and it’s like we’re being lead to believe that maybe she is out of place in this dangerous place. However, once she is approached from behind by her mysterious supplier, we see that Gayce is the one everyone should be afraid of. She’s tough and downright cold, however she has a strong sense of loyalty to her friends, which I found admirable.

“The Theta Girl” is the kind of movie that will leave you asking yourself “what the fuck did I just watch?”, but in the best way possible. I really liked this movie, and I’m also really excited to see the kind of work that director Christopher Bickel and screenwriter David Axe produce next because goddamn if they can make this with such limited resources (I’m guessing based on their Indie Go-Go page this was made for between $17k-$20k) , who knows what they could accomplish with a little extra money? It’s not everything, but there is some real talent at work here, and I’m looking forward to their future films. Highly Recommended! Cheers! -Samir

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B-Documentary 2 Review

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Simply put, B-Documentary 2 (the sequel I’m presuming to B-Documentary 1) is a behind the scenes look at the creation and the process of making… you guessed it! B-Movies! Filmmaker Nick Charles went around an interviewed veterans of the underground horror scene like Joe Bob Briggs, Lloyd Kaufman (Troma Films), Lynn Lowry (Shivers), and Kevin VanHentenryck (The Basket Case Movies) as well as a handful of others (Including Greg DeLiso who has been interviewed in this very blog!), about advice, making movies, the culture, and the general ins and outs of B-Movie Filmmaking.

I’ll just come out and say this right now, this is a pretty niche documentary as its basically one giant pep talk for anyone who has wanted to make movies but for whatever reason, haven’t gotten around to it. There’s definitely some history and storytelling involved, but nothing in the way of an actual narrative. The movie is divided into sections where new advice is being given. I’m definitely into this, as this is something I’m truly interested in, and I need a lot of pep talks when it comes to getting off of my ass to make something.

Aesthetically there are issues with the movie, but I’m guessing that wasn’t really the point of making it. It ends up playing like a lot of filmmaking channels on YouTube do where you can simply just listen to the audio, without needing to stare at a continuous shot of the subjects. It was all talking heads. Again, I find the subject interesting, so this wasn’t anything that deterred me from continuing to watch it. I think the general message of the film is, the time is now more than ever to make your own fucking movie, so there aren’t a whole lot of excuses anymore. This is exactly what Nick Charles did, which in a way was also meta of him that he was making a movie about making movies.

Overall I dug it, but if you’re a non creative type who is looking for a more comprehensive film on the history of Grindhouse, Drive In, and B-Movies this might not be for you. That being said B-Documentary 2 is interesting, informative, and entertaining. The filmmakers assume you know about this shit already, and that your sick obsession with the subject matter has lead you to the point to where you think “Hey maybe I want to make my own damn movies!”. There are definitely some nuggets or knowledge bombs that are dropped throughout, and some advice you’re probably not going to hear from Film Courage or Indie Film Hustle. With that being said, I’m wondering if adapting this over to a YouTube channel to produce more like minded content would be better suited for this sort of documentary style format. I’m not knocking it in anyway, but there is definitely an audience for this type of stuff, especially in the wonderful world of podcasting (I would like to follow up on this in an interview with Nick). Kudos to Nick Charles for the time and energy that went into putting this documentary together, especially a #2 in the series, and hopefully it gets a lot of people to realize all you need is a camera, a laptop (maybe not even that), a script, and some friends to make movie in our modern digital age. Cheers! -Samir

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Cult Film Canon #1: Troll 2

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Troll 2 is a mind fuck of a movie. Every new scene in this movie takes whatever notion you hold dear about what and how a film should be, shreds that notion, and sends it to a dumpster on fire. If you’re like me, all you can do is stare in awe and dumbfoundedness and think, how the fuck did this movie get made? Even when trying to come up with a pitch for this movie I struggle to grasp that this movie is real and not the fever dream of someone revisiting repressed childhood anguish. A boy and his family are going on vacation to Nilbog to exchange houses with a family there (what the actual fuck) so they can live like farmers, despite the ghost of the boy’s dead Grandfather telling him not to do so. Complications arise when the Grandfather’s warnings about the townspeople being Goblins in disguise were true all along!

I’ll spare the behind the scenes details of this film, as it has been well documented in the movie “Best Worst Movie”. Besides true devotees of the film already know this, and I’ll save the extra reading on that to get to the real point here. Which is this movie totally warped my mind. I always read bits and pieces about this film years ago when it was reemerging as a cult classic amongst fans of so bad they’re good movies. It wasn’t until I read a scene for scene breakdown about the total ludicrous nature of the content that I felt it was finally time for me to put in my Netflix que so I could receive the movie in the mail (yes it was that long ago when I actually received DVDs from them). I felt like this movie needs to be seen to be believed, and that sentiment was absolutely true. I bought the movie immediately after watching it, and shared it with as many people as I could.

At no point do I feel like this movie was grounded in reality, or at least the world that I live in. I often felt that this movie is the work of aliens in outer space, who have been transmitting content and information on how to make a horror movie, and this is what they ended up making. It’s something that for sure baffles the viewer. Laughter is often followed by confusion in a sort of, what exactly did I just watch sort of way. This movie is filled with lines that make absolutely no sense, loads of bad acting, and cringeworthy filmmaking. The only.other movie that has given me this sort of feeling is “The Room”, which I would also describe as a movie made by aliens.

I absolutely love this movie though. I couldn’t imagine a world where this movie didn’t exist and I think it makes the world that much better. If this film has achieved anything, it has definitely united and connected people on a quest to find the holy grail of bizarre movies. Despite this movie being a nightmare to work on for the actors and a permanent blemish on their acting careers, I think the movie has a proud legacy of holding a unique place in the annals of film history. At no point do I feel like anyone could make or recreate a movie like this. It lives and breathes in its own plane of existence and defies comparison (outside of maybe The Room) to any other movie. This movie is one of a kind, and I will continue to cherish it for its bizarro world qualities and champion it for its weirdo excellence. I love this movie! Cheers! -Samir

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