Curse IV: The Ultimate Sacrifice (1988)

curse4_2Curse IV: The Ultimate Sacrifice (1988/1993)
AKA Catacombs

Starring Timothy Van Patten, Ian Abercrombie, Jeremy West, Laura Schaefer, Vernon Dobtcheff, Feodor Chaliapin Jr., Brett Porter, Michael Pasby, Mapi Galán, Nicola Morelli

Directed by David Schmoeller

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:
halfstar

On the B-movie scale:
onestar


At long last I have arrived at the end of my cursed journey through the unrelated Curse films, and unfortunately for me Curse IV: The Ultimate Sacrifice is the worst of the bunch. The film began life as Catacombs, a 1988 Empire International film that got shelved when the company went under. For reasons I’m not privy to, Catacombs was shelved for five years after it was completed, even though Empire head Charles Band had created Full Moon and become well-established in the meantime. And when it was eventually released it came out as Curse IV: The Ultimate Sacrifice. I suppose that any connection, even one as tenuous as this, to an ’80s horror film that some people like must have made it more “rentable” back in the day.
Continue reading Curse IV: The Ultimate Sacrifice (1988) →

The Secret Kingdom (1998)

51TZAVR8HJL._SS500_The Secret Kingdom (1998)
AKA The Tiny Kingdom

Starring Billy O’Sullivan, Tricia Dickson, Andrew Ducote, Gerald S. O’Loughlin, Jamieson Price, Andreea Macelaru, Florin Chiriac, Constantin Barbulescu, Bogdan Voda, Eugen Cristea

Directed by David Schmoeller

Expectations: Moderate.

On the general scale:
twostar

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


Like many Moonbeam films, The Secret Kingdom starts out with a fun premise and then drives it into the ground. Well, in this case they drive it under the sink, and I really shouldn’t be that harsh. Most of The Secret Kingdom is unadulterated WTF fun. The film opens in New Orleans, and surprise, surprise — it’s actually New Orleans! Later, the film transitions to the Romanian locales you expect from this era of Full Moon, but the series of events that opens the film would be fantastic no matter where they were shot.

The Secret Kingdom starts with a boy in his early teens, staring at his toy horseman. He compares it to the statue of the horseman in the square in front of the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. He goes back to staring at the toy intently, and then walks around New Orleans. Some might call this the most exciting introductory scene to a movie ever, but I thought it went on for a ridiculous amount of time… long enough for me to think, “WHAT IS GOING ON?” Thankfully, it gets a lot more interesting, real fast. And by “interesting,” I mean that it dives deep into WTF territory.

Continue reading The Secret Kingdom (1998) →

Netherworld (1992)

Starring Michael Bendetti, Denise Gentile, Anjanette Comer, Holly Floria, Robert Sampson, Holly Butler, Alex Datcher, Robert Burr, George Kelly, Mark Kemble

Directed by David Schmoeller

Expectations: Fairly high. Schmoeller has a good enough track record with Tourist Trap and Puppet Master.

On the general scale:

On the B-Movie scale:


Sometimes when a film is able to capture the vibe of a place it creates a film worth talking about. Other times this backfires and we’re left with a film like Netherworld. Shot on location in New Orleans, Louisiana, the film definitely takes on the slow-paced New Orleans vibe, but in a film about a cult turning people into manbirds, a degree of urgency should inform the film. OK, OK, it’s not exactly about manbirds, but Full Moon and director David Schmoeller do try to make you think it is within the first few minutes, when a stone hand adorned with Egyptian runes flies out of a crypt and onto the face of a violent rapist of a man and quickly transforms him into a crude man-sized bird (Think dude with giant cardinal head).

Now, I’d love to tell you that the rest of the film is about the stone hand rampaging around, turning men into hybrid manbirds; the flock eventually rising up against their evil creators. Or maybe an elder manbird taking a newly hatched manbird under his wing and showing him the ropes, training him for his ultimate finale against the evil creator. Nope, sorry. Instead, right after the massive manbird bomb (or egg, if you prefer) is dropped, the film completely, and I mean completely, drops that line of the plot and starts up a brand new one involving a son inheriting his father’s incredible New Orleans mansion.

Continue reading Netherworld (1992) →

Tourist Trap (1979)

Starring Chuck Connors, Jocelyn Jones, Jon Van Ness, Robin Sherwood, Tanya Roberts, Dawn Jeffory, Keith McDermott, Shailar Coby

Directed by David Schmoeller

Expectations: Pretty high, actually. This poster is pretty damn good.

On the general scale:

On the B-Movie scale:


Tourist Trap is an interesting movie in that it’s both boring and oddly enchanting, daring you to close your eyes and not be haunted by the creepy mannequins with the mouths that open too wide which populate the more tense moments of the film. It’s a hard film to rate because I genuinely enjoyed and got a lot of entertainment out of it, but it’s almost completely devoid of plot and what is there is pretty obvious right from the get go to anyone even remotely familiar with horror films.

The film opens with a guy rolling a tire down a dirt road. He’s hot, tired and obviously a long way from home. He finds a gas station/restaurant and goes inside seeking some help with his tire. No one is around, but he hears something that makes him check out the backroom. He approaches the figure laying in the bed and it quickly springs up to surprise him. It’s just a mannequin, but when the guy turns to leave the room, the door slams shut and everything starts to go completely apeshit. Windows shut without anyone near them, chairs rattle, mannequins burst forth from closet doors. He’s eventually killed by a hurtling lead pipe that pins him to the door he’s been desperately trying to claw his way out of the entire scene. And this is only the beginning of the nightmare for this guy and his friends…

Continue reading Tourist Trap (1979) →

Mysterious Museum (1999)

Mysterious Museum (1999)
AKA Search for the Jewel of Polaris

Starring A.J. Trauth, Brianna Brown, Megan Lusk, Michael Lee Gogin, John Duerler, Adrian Neil, Eugen Cristea

Directed by David Schmoeller

Expectations: Low, a Full Moon kids movie can’t be good right?

On the general scale:
twostar

On the B-Movie scale:
threestar


This week I’m taking a chance on a new realm of the vast Full Moon catalog, the dreaded kids film. I’ve been begrudgingly pushing this moment aside for a while now because I’m not generally a fan of kid’s movies (which is understandable as I’m no longer a child) and for some reason a Full Moon kids movie just sounds like an unneeded castration (unlike the necessary castrations in Hong Kong films so kung fu masters can achieve all the wonderful powers of the eunuch!). This is essentially what Mysterious Museum is, but instead of tanking, it actually works marvelously.

Continue reading Mysterious Museum (1999) →

Mini-Review: Crawlspace (1986)

Starring Klaus Kinski, Talia Balsam, Barbara Whinnery, Carole Francis, Tane McClure, Sally Brown, Jack Heller, David Abbott, Kenneth Robert Shippy

Directed by David Schmoeller

Expectations: It looks like it has potential, but I’m not expecting much.


To say that Crawlspace is a weird movie is an understatement. Instead of creating characters you love and then slowly killing them off as most horror films do, Crawlspace focuses its attention almost entirely on the murderer played by Klaus Kinski. Don’t worry about spoilers, the first scene lets you in on his dirty little secret. By focusing on Kinski, I get the feeling that I’m supposed to identify with him and that later in the film he might perform some redemptive act with his dying breath. Thankfully, Crawlspace isn’t nearly so predictable and Kinski is all evil, fulfilling the premise of following his character to the bitter end.

Beyond Kinski crawling around the giant ventilation system of his apartment building spying on/killing people, there’s not much of a plot in Crawlspace. This makes the film pretty hard to enjoy and be interested in. If the FX moments were more plentiful than I could forgive the lacking plot, but there’s not nearly enough for this. In addition to being rather bare in the story department, the fact that Kinski is an ex-Nazi continuing his deranged work and fulfilling his sick desires comes off as clichéd and obvious. Of course he is, because every wild-eyed film German since WWII has been. Nazis are the ultimate on-screen villains, but they need some innovation or variation once in a while to keep it interesting. Perhaps Crawlspace was an innovator in the “crazy German who fled the war crimes rap to become a serial murderer in America” genre at the time, but if so, its magic doesn’t hold up.

With that all said, Kinski is easily the most interesting actor and character, so it only makes sense to focus on him. No one else in the film is really given anything to work with. This really hurts the film in the end, as during its climax the viewer doesn’t care about the fate of the girl in any way other than a gut primal instinct. Crawlspace is similar to an empty coloring book in this way. If I colored in her character in my head the scenes could have had an emotional impact, but without that extra work on my part the scenes are but outlines of their potential. Visually, the chase through the crawlspace was pretty awesome though, I gotta say. Technically the film is shot very well and it definitely has some great moments of terror and thrills, but overall it’s kind of boring and lacking in a lot areas.

Next week, I take on Full Moon’s sci-fi western flick from 1994, Oblivion!

Puppet Master (1989)

Starring Paul Le Mat, William Hickey, Irene Miracle, Jimmie F. Skaggs, Robin Frates, Matt Roe, Kathryn O’Reilly, Mews Small, Barbara Crampton

Puppet Cast: Blade, Jester, Pinhead, Tunneler, Leech Woman

Directed by David Schmoeller

Expectations: High. It’s THE Full Moon movie.

On the general scale:
twostar

On the B-Movie scale:
threestar


The film that launched an empire! After the fall of Charles Band’s Empire International company he quickly regrouped and released Puppet Master, which was to be their next film, direct-to-video under the newly formed Full Moon Pictures banner. It’s a landmark film in the history of low-budget independent horror, but also one that divides me right down the middle. I love the premise. I love the puppets. I don’t love most of the human characters. This logic can be applied to many horror films with inhuman murderer protagonists, but there’s just something about Puppet Master that makes it hard to believe that this is the one the entire Full Moon company is built upon. Regardless, Puppet Master did gangbuster business at video shops across the country and just judging off of the box art and my love for the premise, it’s easy to see why. And to be fair, while this may be a lesser film in scope compared to most of the Empire films, it does deliver a lot a fun stuff in a much better way than a good portion of the direct-to-video fare I’ve seen over the years.

Continue reading Puppet Master (1989) →




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