Mini-Review: The Werewolf Reborn! (1998)

Starring Robin Atkin Downes, Ashley Tesoro, Len Lesser, Bogdan Cambera, Lucia Maier

Directed by Jeff Burr

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


The Werewolf Reborn! is the second of two Moonbeam films under the Filmonsters! banner, and while Frankenstein Reborn! was bad but kinda fun, this one is just atrocious. Very little of note happens in the movie, but at least it has the decency to be quick about it. The Werewolf Reborn! runs 43 1/2 minutes without credits and my sanity is eternally grateful. To imagine this movie twice as long, at “normal” movie length, is to imagine a horrific cinematic nightmare. Not exactly the usual way to strike fear in the hearts of the audience! 😛 There are definitely worse movies out there, although at the moment The Werewolf Reborn is the torchbearer in my brain, and it’ll probably remain the benchmark for some months to come.

As with Frankenstein Reborn, this film attempts to re-invent a horror classic for a younger audience. I don’t know what was wrong with kids just watching the original Universal films, but I guess some kids (and parents) might not want watch stuff in black and white. So enter Full Moon to create low-budget ’90s versions! In 2017, I’d be curious to see which one kids would rather watch; my money’s on the Universal versions, but it’s probably a toss-up depending on the person. Anyway… what this translates to is the coupling of the basic Wolf Man story with the well-used Moonbeam story of a kid sent off to live with a relative in another country. Frankenstein Reborn got a little more than this — it also had 60 whole minutes to work with! — but in The Werewolf Reborn that’s about it. The way the film handles the gypsies is a little different than the 1940s Wolf Man, but it’s nothing significant enough to set it apart. If the rest of the proposed Filmonster films were just going to be these relatively lazy productions of classic stories with teens shoehorned in, I guess I’m glad they stopped when they did.

I don’t really have anything else to say about The Werewolf Reborn. It’s one of the worst Moonbeam films I’ve seen, about as interesting as a bucket full of dust thrown in your face. It has a few moments of fun with the werewolf, but literally everything else had me clamoring for the film to end… and when it’s only 43 1/2 minutes long that really isn’t a good sign! Full Moon also combined the films in 2005 into Frankenstein & the Werewolf Reborn!, and I can only imagine the amount of fortitude and caffeine it would take to make it through both of them back to back.

Next time I get around to a Full Moon movie I’ll be watching The Vault! I hope whatever is locked up in that vault is better than the Werewolf’s rebirth! 😛 See ya then!

The Brotherhood III: Young Demons (2003)

Starring Kristopher Turner, Paul Andrich, Ellen Wieser, Julie Pedersen, Andrew Hrankowski, Landon McCormick, David Johnson, Matthew Epp, Carl Thiessen

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: Moderate. I liked the first two.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


The Brotherhood III: Young Demons is a disappointment in every way, and I say that as a fan of David DeCoteau’s brand of B-Movie. Those looking for something along the lines of the first two Brotherhood films will find only a shred of similarity, and while I love originality and films that dare to take their own journey, The Brotherhood III: Young Demons isn’t forging any new paths. It is literally almost entirely composed of people wandering through darkened school corridors. There is a slight plot to facilitate the characters’ wanderings, but even that is far from fresh.

Lex (Kristopher Turner) runs “The Game” after hours at his school. The players dress up in medieval fantasy garb and hunt through the school for clues, while Lex monitors them on the security cameras and taunts/helps them over the intercom. But tonight’s game is slightly different, because Lex has been given an ancient book of Egyptian magic. It’s a fun premise for a horror film, changing up the traditional “trapped in a location” story line… the only problem is that I’ve seen this specific variation before in 1990’s Shakma.

Continue reading The Brotherhood III: Young Demons (2003) →

Mini-Review: Hell Asylum (2002)

AKA Prison of the Dead 2

Starring Debra Mayer, Tanya Dempsey, Sunny Lombardo, Stacey Scowley, Olimpia Fernandez, Timothy Muskatell, Joe Estevez, Brinke Stevens, Matt Moffett, Trent Haaga

Directed by Danny Draven

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


My first exposure to director Danny Draven was with his most recent directorial work for Full Moon: Reel Evil. That movie stands firm as one of the worst Full Moon movies in my eyes, so to start up Hell Asylum and almost immediately feel similar vibes, I knew I was in trouble. While the plots aren’t exactly the same, from what I remember of Reel Evil you could almost call it a remake of Hell Asylum. Both films feature a group of people trapped in a “real” haunted asylum to film a show/movie, expecting scares/FX but getting killed by real ghosts. Reel Evil goes into a more direct, found-footage direction to capture the proceedings, but the seeds of that are in Hell Asylum as well, with headset cams that annoyingly cut in and out to static every few seconds.

My predisposition to dislike a movie like this is not the only concern with Hell Asylum, either. It’s barely over an hour long, but something like 20 minutes of that is just unnecessary setup and filler. First we see an overlong pitch meeting — scored with ominous music — where an executive (Joe Estevez, the film’s bright spot) is sold on the idea of five hot chicks in an old mansion/asylum getting scared for the chance to win a million dollars. Then we see the girls’ audition tapes, where they explain themselves and their darkest fears. Using their fears against them was the most intriguing part of the pitch, reminding me of the Stephen King novel It, but there’s nothing engaging that actually comes of it. Next is a lengthy explanation of the rules of the game. It all adds up to extreme boredom and disinterest. Lot of repetitive, meaningless talking heads do not make for a good horror film.

Other than the presence of Joe Estevez, the only redeeming quality of Hell Asylum is its approach to gore. Full Moon’s films are generally light in this department, and Hell Asylum looks like it wants to make up for lost time. There is a distinct choice in favor of ridiculously over-the-top gore, particularly featuring lots of ripped-out intestines. I appreciated this desire to spice things up where other Full Moon films have failed, but the thing I found most enjoyable was the very small diameter of the intestines they used. We all have a basic idea of what human intestines look like, but whatever is in Hell Asylum is much smaller and stringier. Whatever they were or were supposed to be, I don’t honestly know, but wondering about this was the closest thing to engagement that Hell Asylum provided.

I put a lot of time into my writing hobby, but I don’t consider amateur writing to be hard work. Sitting through Hell Asylum, though, was a tough day at the office.

Next time I get around to a Full Moon movie I’ll be checking in with Ted Nicolaou’s Moonbeam film Dragonworld! See ya then!

This Time I’ll Make You Rich (1974)

This Time I’ll Make You Rich [Questa volta ti faccio ricco!, 財星高照] (1974)

Starring Antonio Sabato, Brad Harris, Karin Schubert, George Wang Chueh, Danny Lee, Gianni Rizzo, Lam Yi-Wa, Ko Hung, Tony Ching Siu-Tung

Directed by Gianfranco Parolini

Expectations: Low. I almost skipped this, but what the hell.


This Time I’ll Make You Rich is one strange movie. I expect no less from Italian comedies of the ’70s (which I’m not fond of), but this one seemed especially odd. A few months ago I reviewed Supermen Against the Orient, and while that one was weird, it also had a fair amount of Shaw charm to hold my interest. This Time I’ll Make You Rich doesn’t really have anything in it that resembles a Shaw film. Shaw actors are present: Danny Lee is around and there are a number of smaller roles/cameos for character actors like Lam Yi-Wa, Wong Ching and Pang Pang. Even Ching Siu-Tung shows up for a bit (making me wonder if he choreographed the uncredited action). But simply casting Shaw actors and using them effectively are two very different things, and in This Time I’ll Make You Rich the Chinese actors are there more to mine Chinese stereotypes for jokes than to do anything else.

The film opens with Italian-American Joe Esposito (Antonio Sabato) flying a plane dropping money stamped with the word “Spaghetti.” He then skydives to the ground, and upon landing he gets into a van that says “Cheng Cheng Spaghetti” on the side. This is all an advertising scheme for his fledgling Hong Kong spaghetti business, and you might be inclined to think that said fledgling spaghetti business would figure into the story, but you’d be dead wrong. In fact, we never hear of it again, and the skydiving stunt is merely there to introduce us to the extravagant methods that Joe will go to in order to make money (and potentially get rich).

Continue reading This Time I’ll Make You Rich (1974) →

Supermen Against the Orient (1974)

supermenagainsttheorient_1Supermen Against the Orient [Crash! Che botte… strippo strappo stroppio, 四王一后] (1974)
AKA Three Supermen Vs The Orient, Three Fantastic Supermen in the Orient

Starring Robert Malcolm, Antonio Cantafora, Salvatore Borghese, Lo Lieh, Shih Szu, Tung Lam, Alberto Farnese, Jacques Dufilho, Isabella Biagini, Kong Ling, Lau Wai-Ling, Yeung Chi-Hing, Chan Ho

Directed by Bitto Albertini (with an uncredited assist from Kuei Chi-Hung)

Expectations: Super low.

onestar


No one expects to like every movie they watch, but I generally enjoy most Shaw Brothers films, even the ones that don’t really capture me. I have enough affection for the studio, its stars, and its production style to get me through a boring film. For better or worse, that’s how it is. So it’s surprising when I run into one that I pretty much hate. To be fair, there are some things that I liked about this co-production with Italy’s INDIEF, but overall Supermen Against the Orient has to be one of the worst Shaw films I’ve seen. At least it’s only barely a Shaw Brothers movie, which is partly why it didn’t play well for me.

In 1967, Gianfranco Parolini directed The Three Fantastic Supermen, and it was so popular that it spawned an entire franchise. I’ve heard of them, but this is the first I’ve seen. From what I can tell, it’s a loose series, swapping out characters and actors regularly, but there is a core framework that remains constant. Similar to James Bond, our main character is an FBI Agent who is sent to far-off exotic locales to thwart some kind of devious behavior. Along the way he teams up with a pair of well-meaning thieves who possess bulletproof super suits, and together they all save the day from the bad guys. This vague description of the formula can also serve as a plot description for Supermen Against the Orient, since none of the specifics about the villains or what they’re doing actually matter. There’s a drug deal and some kidnapped people, but I couldn’t tell you much else about why everything was happening.

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Speck (2002)

Speck_1Starring Doug Cole, Beverly Sotelo, Stacy Cunningham, Flynn Beck, Kaycee Shank, Sunny Lombardo, Cinderella Gatcheco, Dawn Hawley, Erin Shayla Cullen, Debra Mayer, Larry Dirk

Directed by Keith Walley

Expectations: I don’t know. Not much.

halfstar


Speck is of the rare breed of low-budget horror films that go the arthouse route. This is always shaky ground, because unless the filmmakers are very competent, “artful strokes” very quickly devolve into boredom and pretense. In the case of Speck, this is definitely the case. To be fair, Speck is made with some amount of skill, but its arthouse leanings never translated to any kind of meaning for the audience. I had lots of thoughts about the film while watching it, but instead of looking for insight into its murderous lead character, I found myself wondering more about the filmmaker behind it and why anyone would want to make this movie.

Speck seeks to dramatize a true story. On July 13, 1966, Richard Speck entered a Chicago home and one-by-one murdered eight student nurses who were living there. This brief description also serves as a plot synopsis for the film, as Speck is very much focused on this night and not much else. The film shows us the world from Richard Speck’s point of view, and it’s colored with hateful narration that informs us of his views on humanity and how we’re basically all worthless maggots. His victims are nothing more than women in a room in Speck — we know nothing more about them than Speck does — and their status as student nurses is only conveyed to us through some on-screen text as the film opens.

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Cemetery High (1989)

cemeteryhigh_1AKA Scumbusters, Hack’em High, Assault of the Killer Bimbos

Starring Debi Thibeault, Karen Nielsen, Lisa Schmidt, Simone, Ruth Collins, Tony Kruk, David Coughlin, Frank Stewart, Kristine Waterman, Michael Citriniti

Directed by Gorman Bechard

Expectations: Bechard’s other movies have been pretty good, so I’m hopeful.

On the general scale:
halfstar

On the B-movie scale:
onestar


Ah man, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie this bad. Cemetery High is awful, but in this case there’s something of a story that might explain why it came out as bad as it did. I don’t claim to know any specifics, but when the film’s director posts a public message on the film’s IMDB page stating how much he detests the film and how it was re-edited and drastically changed in post-production, you know something’s not right!

Cemetery High began its life as Assault on Killer Bimbos, and it was a dark, black comedy about a group of women killing scumbag men. For some reason, Band decided that the title should be used on another movie, one that it doesn’t really fit at all (especially after seeing how well it would’ve fit Cemetery High), so that’s how Assault of the Killer Bimbos got its name. Band apparently also wasn’t fond of the dark tone (which makes sense, his films are rarely dark), so he set about re-editing the film and re-shooting a bunch of stuff to make Cemetery High the “masterpiece” it is today! Gee, I can’t imagine why Cemetery High ended up as the final film in the relationship between director Gorman Bechard and Charles Band!

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