Society (1989)

Society

I first saw society 10+ years ago when it debuted on dvd via Anchor Bay. It was a double feature dvd with Spontaneous Combustion I believe and it was super cheap at a little shop in Davis, CA. I scooped it up and gave it a look and liked it but didn’t love it. I was expecting a gore fest since it was directed by Brian Yunza, of Bride of Re-Animator fame. It isn’t. But this time around I appreciated it for what it is, a very unique horror film.

Society is about a young man on the cusp of adult hood. His family starts acting weird as do some other members of their social circle and he begins to suspect that all is not what it seems in Beverly Hills. If you haven’t seen the film, I don’t want to give it all away but rest assured it goes above and beyond your normal horror tropes and into a very funky vision that only a guy like Yuzna could provide.

My main beef with the film on my initial viewing was that it wasn’t gory. At the time I had been tracking down every nasty piece of horror I could get my hands on. I wanted the most extreme stuff I could find, so I was a little let down. In the intervening years I’ve broaden my viewing habits and usually shy away from horror that is super extreme for the sake of being super extreme. I guess I’m getting older. This time around I knew it wasn’t going to be filled with arterial sprays and severed limbs. The film exists to show of it’s insane last 30 minutes or so, a portion of film filled with gooey, slimy nastiness mixed with strange sexual energy and imagery which was much more potent this time around for me. In a work: yuck. The acting is fair and the direction is solid. The whole film hinges on whether you dig the centerpiece or not and this time around, I did enjoy it.

This is the first time that the film has been released on Blu and looks good. The colors are vibrant, one scene where two characters wear¬† blue jackets come to mind, and the image is sharp. There is digital noise which often occurs with older films being placed on blu but it didn’t bother me. I know that true blu buffs hate to see that stuff smudged out so for those of you who want it, it’s there. For those of you that don’t like it, it’s not distracting. The Blu also features a bevy of new special features including nice interviews with the actors of the film, Brian Yuzna himself, and special effects artist Screaming Mad George (who is Japanese, I had no idea!). I always pictured him as being a middle aged balding dude with thick arms and a goatee.

If you’re a fan of the film, this is a worthwhile upgrade and if you haven’t seen it before, here’s your chance to see one of the funkiest movies of the 80’s in glorious high definition. Arrow again brings the thunder with this release.

So Bad, So Good 2: Electric Bookaloo (2015)

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A few weeks ago I got my hands on So Bad, So Good, a book covering over 50 films perfect for a bad movie night with friends. I love that kind of stuff and regularly watch cheesy flicks. In fact, I’m an aficionado of the stuff. I really enjoyed that book (I read it in a weekend) and so I really wanted to read the sequel. Is it as good as the first?

This edition of So Bad, So Good is much better in the editing department. There are far fewer grammatical errors and the cover art is much more pleasing to the eye. The overall structure of the book makes more sense and there’s uniformity in each review. This book does not feature as many reviews as the last but each film is discussed at a greater length. The movies covered in this book are largely newer films, whereas the first volume focused on older films from the 80’s and 90’s. As far as I’m concerned bad movies have to age like a stinky cheese. There’s a point, usually at least 15 years, when they reach their max potency. The clothes, music, and slang are all hopelessly dated and add to the unique bouquet of awfulness. Newer films that stink, just stink. It’s much harder to find a fun bad movie that was made less than 10 years prior to viewing. Now I haven’t seen any of the newer films mentioned in this book but the author has an excellent track record of finding the best of the worst so I might just have to give them a spin. Not every film covered here is new however. There are some great recommendations from the early 90’s that I will have to check out.

As with the first volume, the reviews themselves are fun to read though I prefer the shorter format of the first book to the longer reviews here. We also get some selections by actor Greg Sestero (The Room), and some background information on how Alien Opponent got made. I hope that in volume 3 we get more fun submissions like these alongside more reviews. If you haven’t bought either book yet, I’d say snag the first one first, then dive into this one.

I’m always on the lookout for new recommendations for good bad movies. It’s a rare film that is terrible and fun and not terrible and boring. I don’t think there are any other books out there that focus exclusively on this subject so these books are a real treasure for trash hounds!

Web Junkie (2014)

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Web Junkies is a documentary about a Chinese internet addiction rehabilitation camp in Beijing. According to the documentary the Chinese government has determined that internet addiction is a mental disorder (the first nation to come to that conclusion) and have built over 400 rehabilitation centers for teenagers suffering said addiction. We’ve all read the news stories of people dying at internet cafes there because they’ve been playing video games around the clock with out food, drink, or sleep. For the Chinese this is a serious problem.

The documentary is filmed primarily inside the rehabilitation camp and interviews several teenagers sent there by their parents, many of which were tricked or drugged into doing so. Once there they live in bunks, wear camouflage clothes and are treated like soldiers. They face intensive family therapy with their parents as well. The kids featured in the doc have given up on living normal lives. They have dropped out of school and sneak away to play video games non-stop. Think your average American gaming enthusiast turned up to 11. In a society that places value on supporting the whole, and denouncing the individual, this is wholly alien. Surprisingly the teens aren’t subjected to beatings, starvation, mental torture or any other thing you might imagine would go on at a military run Chinese rehab facility. The care takers seem to be very patient and understanding with the kids.

Internet addiction is a serious problem around the world but especially in China where a growing number of families have money for the first time ever but also fall prey to modern problems facing teens everywhere. The documentary isn’t very in depth, it’s more of a day in the life of these kids. We never find out what happened to them after the filming though many seem to be truly changed by their time in the camp with a renewed vigor for life. Forcing the teens to live together and deal with each other in reality may be just what the doctored ordered.

Day of Anger (1967)

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For a while now Arrow Video has dominated dvd/blu ray releases in the U.K. Savvy film buffs have been importing them to the U.S. and playing them on region free players but now Arrow Films has decided to break into the U.S. market and one of their very first releases is the spaghetti western, Day of Anger.

Day of Anger, starring Lee Van Cleef, is about a young man in a small town who is at the bottom of the social ladder. He was a bastard born from the local brothel and doesn’t even have a last name. In a shit smeared jacket he cleans the out houses and sweeps floors and is a stable hand for chump change. Everyone in town treats him like dirt despite is kind disposition. Then a rich stranger comes to town and takes a liking to the boy. As it turns out this stranger is one tough hombre and he takes the boy under his wing as he tries to take over the town.

Day of Anger is an exciting western and not your standard fare. We get plenty of scenery chewing from Van Cleef and plenty of action but it’s plot is a twisty one. The story is more of a tale involving the coming of age and the growth of a boy into a man. He struggles to decide what type of man he is to become, ruthless like Van Cleef, or kind and strong like his mentor the stable owner. I have to admit, the spaghetti western is a bit of a blind spot for me. Sure I’ve seen a handful but honestly they haven’t held my interest much but after watching Day of Anger, I want to dive in head first into the genre. Despite being nearly 2 hours long, the film grabbed my attention and didn’t let it go. Every time Le Van Cleef was on screen, he owned the film and no one could possibly touch him. He oozes menace and power in the film. I believed he wasn’t a man to be messed with.

The presentation is fantastic and for my first taste of Arrow, it was a delicious bite. The film has been completely restored from top to bottom. I now understand why Arrow is such a revered name among Dvd labels. I can’t wait to dig into more of their releases as they come out here. Keep your eyes peeled on this site for future reviews of their releases.

So Bad, It’s Good (2012)

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Every week I host a Bad Movie night in my small town. When I say Bad Movie, I mean movies that are hilarious, action packed and buckets of fun to watch. I don’t mean boring, which to my mind is the only truly bad film out there. Mediocrity is bad, having no budget or talent is not bad. It can be brilliant as many of the micro budget films I’ve reviewed here are. They can also be so awful that they are awesome. Films like Troll 2, Samurai Cop, and Miami Connection.

So Bad, It’s Good is a book dedicated to bad movies that are fun to watch in a group and gives us over 50 to choose from. Sure there are plenty of books out there with the sole intent of tearing movies apart (Roger Ebert wrote a few himself, as well as the Razzies book, The Golden Turkey books and many more) but there were no books dedicated to terrible movies that were actually fun to watch instead of a chore. The other books on the subject of bad movies serve as warnings to the viewer to stay away. This book is the opposite, it champions these bad movies and encourages the reader to seek out each and every one of them, though the author smartly suggests the movies should be watched with a group. Some movies are impossible to watch alone (I’m looking at you Things) but are a hoot in a group.

The book covers a lot of ground in it’s small size and it’s all killer with no filler. You want a book with succinct reviews with reasons why the movie works with a group? You got it. You want a book with unneeded fluff? Look elsewhere, this one’s lean and mean. I’ve been showing bad movies for nearly a year (and watching them privately for many years) and there were films even I had never heard of. I watch 500+ films a year so that is a grand statement. Honestly there were no films I disagreed with either. The author knows his stuff. His coverage of films like Robowar, Pocket Ninjas, and the Italian animated Titanic movies had me laughing and hungry for more. I plowed through the book over the weekend and I can’t wait to see some of the films listed.

If you’re looking to host a bad movie night with friends but need some recommendations, this book is for you. If you’re always on the hunt for the next greatest super bad flick, this book is for you too. I’m happy to report there is also a volume 2 available and I can’t wait to get my hands on that one too!

Motivational Growth (2015)

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We here at Toxic Graveyard have always been staunch supporters of small indie films that deliver the goods. Horror being our normal stock has always had an explosion of worthy films coming from nowhere. The genre has a rich history of regional auteurs trying to say something or at least trying to make a buck. It’s a genre that welcomes newcomers and no-names as well as supporting and sometimes worshiping film makers from the past. I love finding new interesting voices in the horror genre. Motivational Growth is my newest discovery and I can’t wait to share it.

Motivational Growth is about a sad sack guy in his 30s who hasn’t left his apartment in over a year. His house is covered with filth from the ceiling to the floor and yes even our hero is a boiling cesspool of disgusting things. He decides to kill himself in his bathroom but doesn’t do it right, hits his head and wakes up to see that a huge pile of mold in the corner of his bathroom is alive and talking to him. He begins to coach our hero on how to be a better and thankfully more clean person. But then things go bad as the mold’s appetite grows.

Our hero Ian is obsessed with television and it’s only when his television dies that he tries to live again with the help of the mold. This commentary is a very contemporary one. His obsession is the same as many of us have with television, social networking, video games or just plain old apathy. The film breaks the 4th wall immediately in the film as Ian talks to us directly. This is not common in film because we usually like to be voyeurs instead of being engaged directly. This is hard to pull off without the film feeling too talky and I’ll admit at times the dialogue between the characters or the dialogue directed at us is a bit over the top but honestly I was never bothered by it. Usually films that take that route end up sound like bad Kevin Smith ripoffs, and in my opinion he isn’t worth ripping off generally, but here it works. It never becomes overwhelming, I never feel like the writer (who is also the director among other things), is trying to show off. It feels as organic as it can. Far from being a straightforward creature feature, the film has Cronenburg-esque mind bending qualities which I value greatly in films. This could have been just a stupid gross out movie and although there are disgusting scenes, it is not what the film hangs it’s hat on. It’s about the main character and his probable psychosis. We’re in his head seeing things how he sees them. It’s a trippy ride and I loved it.

The puppet itself, which is brilliantly voiced by Jeffrey Combs, looks fantastic. There is no CGI in the film. Everything is done with practical effects and the end result is great. This may be the best performance from Combs I’ve seen in a long time. I hope to see him get more voice work because he’s damn good at it. The main character Ian is also very well played since the film really is about his reaction to the mold. The film hinges on his ability to believably talk to a pile of mold and he does so very well. The special effects on the whole are very well done. Everything is very gooey and gross and most importantly believable.

The soundtrack is also great here. It consists of super nintendo inspired electronic type stuff that works well with the film, helping to create mood and atmosphere while keeping the film light and jovial. We also see some super nintendo graphic animations that don’t detract from the film but rather give it a unique flavor.

It would be easy for a film with all of these decidedly retro elements to come off as a throwback film obsessively worshiping past films but it doesn’t. It feels fresh, new, and most importantly original. I’ve got a new director/writer to keep my eye on. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

 

Braineater Jones (2014)

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Last weekend I took a long trip to visit a friend. On trips such as these it really helps to have something interesting to listen to when you have to drive alone. It just so happened that Stephen Kozeniewski emailed me about his new book Braineater Jones that was available from audible.com. Perfect! Now I had something to listen to and keep me entertained. The problem? It was a zombie book and I’ve made it pretty clear that zombies have worn out their welcome with me unless the work has something new to offer. Thankfully Braineater Jones isn’t just another zombie apocalypse book.

Braineater Jones tells the story of a man that wakes up one day, dead. He doesn’t know who he is or was or why he was killed. In fact he doesn’t even have any clothes, just a bullet hole. It’s up to him to figure out the mystery that is his new un-life.

The book, which takes plays in 1934 Chicago, is a whole bunch of gumshoe fun! I had a great time listening to the book the whole way up and the whole way back on my trip. There are some novel innovations in the book (for instance the ghouls have to drink large quantities of alcohol to keep their brains properly pickled), and a whole host of interesting characters and situations. The way the book was read made it seem like I was watching a film the whole way up, the images vivid in my mind. I love crime/detective stories and blending the hard boiled private dick with zombies works very well here. It’s the type of story that begs for sequels and hopefully the author will supply them to us. The book never strives for any amount of seriousness and simply tries to entertain. it succeeded big time for me. Don’t worry though, the book isn’t a comedy, nor is it filled with cheesy puns or goofy characters. It’s a well told tale that’s meant to make the reader smile.

On a more serious note my drive back was a perilous one. I was very ill and decided to drive back early hoping to get home and get some solid rest.  The book kept my attention up so I never got drowsy behind the wheel. It sounds silly but thank goodness for this book, without it I may not have made it back in on piece!

Skinless (2014)

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A few years ago I was checking out the dvd section of an awesome record store when I stumbled up on the Puppet Monster Massacre. It was cheap and so am I, so I took it home and was very entertained. Sure, we’ve all see Meet the Feebles so the idea of a gory puppet movie isn’t new but isn’t common either. It was fun, gory, and sleazy. Just what I was expecting. When I saw the logo from that movie slapped on Skinless, I knew I wanted to see it.

Dustin Mills has made a career for himself as a true auteur. In a short time he’s made several films using his own unique twisted vision. He’s usually the writer, director, makeup, sfx, editor, etc. You get the idea. He’s a guy that gets it done even if it means doing it all himself. Some might say that’s megalomania, I say it’s resourceful and DIY at it’s best. Skinless continues on that path, and it’s a path covered in goo.

Skiness is about a doctor who want to cure cancer (who doesn’t?) and thinks he’s found it. He’s found a rare parasite that eats cancer. The problem is he’s out of funding and out of time. He’s got cancer himself and decides to test his theory on his own body. It works, at first. After the parasite eats the cancer, it’s hungry for more! It turns him into a big gloopy mess, a mess that needs to feed.

Skinless is an obvious riff on the invisible man and I’m ok with that. What better source material to crib from? The film isn’t as fun as his debut but it wasn’t meant to be. It’s meant to be taken seriously and I appreciate that. It’s rare today to see a movie staring a mad scientist/monster that isn’t meant to be laughed at. The monster looks pretty dang good too. Mills refuses to use cgi in his films, relying entirely on his own makeup fx skills and has never been shy about the red stuff. This one however is less gory (though that’s a relative term, it’s still gory), and more gooey and slimy. He’s certainly perfected the snot aesthetic. The film is well directed, filmed using a high quality camera (probably a dslr?) and is well lit throughout. The film also sports some rather distracting nudity. The two female actresses in the film have zero problems with being very naked. I hate to say it but I was too busy watching them and wasn’t as engaged with the film as I should have been but then again that’s hardly much of a criticism is it?

My problem with the film is how serious it is. Like I said, I appreciate the attempt but it’s a bit hard to take seriously. I’m glad the film wasn’t a self-referential spoof but a bit of levity in the back half would have been nice. Again, not too harsh of a criticism for this micro-budget flick.

Check out the poster. What you see is what you get. If you like DIY micro-budget horror that isn’t afraid to be gory and loaded with T & A (who doesn’t?), check out Skinless. It’s a fun gross ride.

Come Morning (2014)

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I believe that when it comes to making a film on a budget, the smartest method is to tell a small story. I’ve seen countless films ruined by their lack of budget because the film maker had a vision and had to execute it even if there wasn’t enough money to do so. Small stories have their place in cinema and can often resonate much better than a bloated budget film. Indie film makers are best at this method and know how to squeeze every drop out of a dollar. Come Morning is one such film and does so very well.

Come Morning is a story about a little boy and his grandfather going out to hunt one evening. The little boy shoots what he thinks is a deer but turns out to be a man. The grandfather not wanting to attract attention from the law decides to move the body and what follows is a harrowing night for the little boy.

Come Morning is a tight little film that has all the fat trimmed. Inexperienced filmmakers often make the mistake of having too much content shoved into their film, wanting to say everything they have to say in one movie. Not so here.

But how does the film look? Yes the film is shot on video but really what indie flick isn’t these days? The question is of the quality of video isn’t it? Let me put away your low budget video qualms, the film is shot very well using a very high quality camera. Honestly these days that is becoming far less of an issue than it was even just five years ago.

The actors here are all quality too. Sure there’s no recognizable faces but that doesn’t mean that the actors won’t go on to do great things. A film like this is tough on actors. They don’t get to have fun and cut loose like they could in a horror flick. They have to play everything straight and subtle. Everyone here acquits themselves well.

Come Morning is a nice gritty little southern gothic flick. It sticks to telling a small story, most of which take place in one night. The film plays to the actor’s and director’s strengths. I’m looking forward to seeing what the crew do next with perhaps a bit more money and a bit more experience. I have no doubt that we will be seeing great things from those involved here. I’ll be here waiting.

 

 

 

 

 

Trancers (1984)

trancersI first saw Trancers several years ago and went on a bit of a binge watching all the films I could get my hands on. Honestly they all sort of blur together for me now which is why I was so glad to hear that the original film was getting the Blu treatment.

Trancers stars everyone’s favorite Full Moon tough guy Tim Thomerson (who also played Dollman in several films) as a cop from the future named Jack Deth sent to the past (1985 to be exact) to stop a criminal madman who also time traveled to kill the ancestors of his rivals. It’s up to Jack to protect the ancestors and save the future from destruction. He’s sent back to 1985 into the body of his own ancestor who just happens to be having a one night stand with Helen Hunt, who looks like she’s 12 here, whereas Tim looks like an old catcher’s mitt.

Trancers is a 76 minute fun ride of a film. Blending elements of Blade Runner and the Terminator, it’s Full Moon cheese all the way (despite this actually being an Empire film). Directed by Charles Band, edited by Ted Nicolaou (Subspecies, TerrorVision, Dungeonmaster, Bad Channels) and special effects by John Carl Buechler (Cellar Dweller, Ghoulies Dungeonmaster), it’s a Full Moon alumni film. It also has Howard Burger from KNB FX credited as a visual effects supervisor. Tim chews the scenery the entire film and Helen is spunky and cute. Given the short runtime the film is fast paced and filled with action. It’s no wonder the film spawned so many sequels. It’s breazy easy fun. It’s one of those films you might have rented at your local mom & pop and thought, hey that was pretty good I guess I’ll watch the rest. Not nearly as over the top and awesome as Doll Man (directed by cheese king Albert Pyun), it’s still solid fun.

I’ve read that the dvd release of Trancers was an awful vhs dub, not so here. It’s obviously from the original film elements and looks good. The film was shot on a budget so there isn’t tons of detail to be found in the original film stock but the colors are solid and smooth and you can indeed see every wrinkle on Tim’s face. If it’s true that the dvd was a vhs dub then this is a fine upgrade for the film. It also includes interviews, commentary, and a documentary about the film so the extras are good too.