Monday, April 30, 2018

The Conduit

Director - John Hale
Starring - Jason Turner (Withered World, WIH Massive Blood Drive PSA 2016), Rachel Stefursky (The Grave Caller, Meadow Bridge), and James Michael Shoberg (Corpsing, Fetish Dolls Die Laughing)
Release Date - 2018
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "They've been waiting to find a way in"
Format - Screening (Causeacon)

Rating (out of 5):
     Sometime ago some of my friends on social media started tagging me in a crowd funding campaign put together by aspiring filmmaker John Hale.  Apparently Hale had attended the same college as me and we had mutual friends but we never met.  I looked over his campaign and I immediately respected the man.  He was trying to raise funds for a short using practical effects and paid homage to little creature features like Critters, Gremlins, Puppet Master, and so on.  I started speaking with Hale online and I immediately picked up on his excitement and passion for the project.  This became contagious and I was excited to see what he was going to give viewers.  As time slowly moved on Hale would tease us with little images and behind the scene footage that made me want to punch him in his rectum.  The images looked fantastic and this teasing shit was getting old.  Last weekend I was in attendance at Causacon and the film was finally having it's premier.  Hale was able to pack the screening room and when the film was over he received a standing ovation.  I'm glad I was patient and made it to the premier instead of kicking Hale's ass for teasing us.  
     The film follows a young man who has to fight to stay asleep.  He is taking harmful products to stay awake but every time he falls asleep a portal to another dimension opens and strange beasts appear.  He has been dodging his girlfriend for fear she may become another casualty but her stubbornness leads to her finding herself in the middle of his beastly battle with creatures not of this world.
     The Conduit is one of those films that is for fans made by fans.  Luckily, Hale is a fan of the same kind of horror films as me so I was able to really appreciate what he brought to the table.  The acting in this one is great.  The film's lead, Jason Turner, delivers one hell of a performance.  His character and demeanor reminded me a lot of Ezra Godden in the 2001 adaptation of Dagon.  His character isn't written to be strong but he is intelligent and Turner does a great job at portraying that on screen.  I also enjoyed Rachel Stefursky's performance.  Rachel is a beautiful young lady who is completely natural in front of the camera.  Her performance was amazing and her emotions felt genuine.  She really needs to look into taking more roles.  The indie horror world needs a strong actress like Stefursky.  The story for this one works for a short.  It really does but it pisses me off at the same time.  This is my review of the film so I'm going to speak my mind.  Hale does a great job at giving the world a little creature feature with a running time of around 30 minutes.  The story flows very well but the story feels condensed.  I see the movie as a drumstick on Thanksgiving.  You have your feast before you but you only get one drumstick to gnaw on.  There is so much more to this story that we are not told.  This really does need feature length treatment with more backstory, character development, and a proper ending with the kaiju.  Finally, this film looks amazing.  When I say it looks amazing I mean like Sasha Grey and Erin Brown amazing.  The practical effects are fucking fantastic.  The puppets are the highlight of the film.  They look great and their movement takes me back to the days of watching Prehysteria and Gremlins as a wee Mac.  The film also boasts some impressive visual effects that work well for the film.  I typically rip apart a no budget film for using visual effects but Hale did a fantastic job.  Fans of Tory Haas' The Neon Dead aka Invasion of the Undead and Dustin Mills will enjoy the combination of practical and visual.  Overall, The Conduit is a love letter to my youth.  This film takes the viewer back to a time when bills didn't matter, work was taking out the trash, and Friday night was for watching horror films on VHS and Mortal Kombat tournaments.  I can't recommend this short enough.  Honestly, I hate you if you hate this short. 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge

Director - David DeCoteau (Curse of the Puppet Master, Dr. Alien)
Starring - Guy Rolfe (Dolls, Space 1999), Richard Lynch (Invasion U.S.A., Halloween), and Ian Abercrombie (Army of Darkness, Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman)
Release Date - 1991
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "When good puppets go bad"
Format - Bluray (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):

     Why not make it three films at once?  After watching and reviewing the first two films in the Puppet Master series I decided to continue on with the third.  I really liked the first two films but the second one somewhat rubbed me the wrong way with how they handled Andre Toulon after establishing him as a gentle old man in the first film.  While I was on a roll I decided to toss in the third film.  A lot of fans told me the series became stale by this point but I was too excited to stop.  I'm glad I ignored them because I loved this installment.


     The film takes place in 1941 and the Nazis are searching for a way to reanimate the dead so they can be used as meat shield for living soldiers.  A Nazi spy catches Toulon's show and takes photographs under the guise that he is a fellow puppet enthusiast.  The Nazis want Toulon to get his secret but accidentally kills his wife in the process.  Toulon escapes with his puppets and vows to get revenge on the bastards that killed his wife.

     I really liked the third one.  Hell, I liked it as much as I did the first film but there was once again continuity errors.  The acting in this one is leagues above the previous installments.  The face of the film and leading man is Guy Rolfe who absolutely crushes it.  His rendition of Toulon will forever and always be how I see the character.  He's genuine and soft hearted until his love is taken from him.  His performance as Toulon is going to forever be one of my favorites in horror history and I feel like a turd for waiting this long to see this film.  The supporting cast is just as fantastic.  I was surprised Richard Lynch was in the film.  Lynch has made a name for himself for his portrayals in villains in horror films.  Having him cast as a Nazi is brilliant and borderline cheesy but I loved it.  The story for this one does have similar inconsistencies.  In the first Puppet Master film Toulon kills himself in 1939 while alone but this film is set around 1941 and he has a wife.  If you can look passed this like I did you will find a fun period piece on a budget.  I loved how deep into World War II this goes.  Involving Nazis and making the puppets anti-heroes works on so many levels.  The film does have a couple dry scenes but the "what happens next" factor keeps you watching.  Finally, the film does have a few kill scenes that have great practical effects along with the puppets.  The practical effects are perfect and one of the better Full Moon films.  Overall, Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge is going to be a hard one to beat in the Puppet Master series.  I loved the cast, the story, and the effects.  Check it out.

Puppet Master II

Director - David Allen (The Dungeonmaster, The Magic Treasure)
Starring - Elizabeth MacLellan (Friday's Curse, Jake and the Fatman), Collin Bernsen (Creep Van, Savage Land), and Steve Welles (The Addams Family, They Came from Outer Space)
Release Date - 1990
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "They're back.  No strings attached"
Format - Bluray (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):

     Here we go!  After watching the first Puppet Master flick I couldn't wait to see the sequel.  Many of my horror friends on social media told me that the second film in the series is the best.  I always find it strange that most fans cling to the classic sequels but refuse to give most modern sequels a chance. Many proclaim movies like Bride of Re-Animator, Dawn of the Dead, Evil Dead II, and Friday the 13th Part II to be their favorite films but then immediately start bashing a sequel as soon as it's announced.  Just some food for thought.  Anyway, after watching the awesome first film I went ahead and tossed in the second film in the Toulon Puppet Master Trunk Set.

     The follows the puppets from the first film who use the serum that keeps them alive to resurrect Andre Toulon.  Toulon has now been dead for 51 years and is brought back to life in a decomposed state.  He wraps himself in bandages and returns to the inn where he killed himself.  Inside is a group of parapsychologists.  There was a murder in the inn sometime ago and a woman had her brains removed through her nose.  There has been several instances of animals being killed in the surrounding countryside and their brains have been removed in a similar fashion.  While they are investigating they suspect Toulon, who has let his presence be known, is responsible for the murders and when their friends turn up dead they quickly learn why Toulon and his band of puppets are killing and extracting the brain.
       I can see why a lot of fans enjoyed this follow up.  Sadly, I didn't like it as much as the first film but I do see why so many can hold this one is such high regard.  The acting in this one is more of what we got in the first film.  The characters are very one dimensional so the cast doesn't have much to work with.  They do a decent job trying to give them personality and bringing them to life but they still fall flat.  The story for this one has a lot of potential but feels sloppy in a sense.  I had hoped that the opening scene with the re-animated Toulon rising from the grave would set the tone for the film but it doesn't.  This gruesome scene really got me excited for the film but the film mostly follows the same look and feel as the first one but was unable to pull together a story as well polished as the first film.  It almost contradicts the first film.  In the first film Toulon is portrayed as a genuinely kind old man who hid his puppets before the Nazi's could get their hands on them and then killed himself before they could torture him to get his secret.  In the follow up film Toulon is maniacal who becomes obsessed with a woman who he things is the reincarnation of his long dead wife.  He then sends his puppets to kill for him in order to get her along and to create more serum for himself.  This is not the same Toulon which takes away from the fun in the first film.  Finally, this one is a lot more dark than the first film.  We get some amazing practical effects.  Sadly, the best effects are delivered during the opening sequence and never topped throughout the film.  Overall, Puppet Master II is a fun watch but I don't see it being better than the first.  Fans of the first should check it out but continuity errors takes away from the film.


Thursday, April 26, 2018

Puppet Master

Director - David Schmoeller (Tourist Trap, Crawlspace)
Starring - Paul Le Mat (American History X, The Twilight Zone), William Hickey (Mousehunt, The Jerky Boys), and Irene Miracle (Last Night on the Night Train, Inferno)
Release Date - 1989
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "Evil comes in all sizes"
Format - Bluray (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):

    Every independent horror production company has their trademark film.  That one film or series of films that brought them recognition and possibly funded future projects.  Troma has The Toxic Avenger.  Troma fans the world over know Toxie and love him.  This film has spawned several sequels, a children's television show, and ushered in revenue for other projects like Terror Firmer, Tromeo and Juliet, Class of Nuke 'Em High, and Poultrygiest.  Full Moon Features is no exception.  Charles Band was making a name for himself with Empire Pictures before the company went under.  After Empire Pictures Band created Full Moon Features and released Puppet Master.  The film was completed in 1989 and released in 1990 launching Band into the home of almost every horror fan and movie goer alike.  These killer puppets have became the face of Full Moon and spawned a series unlike the world has seen.  Recently, I was sent the Toulon's Puppet Master Trunk Set which houses all the Puppet Master films on blu with the exception of one.  I want to thank Full Moon for sending the set my way.
     The film begins with an aged Andre Toulon who is known the world over as The Puppet Master due to his ability to make the puppets look as if they are alive.  What most don't know is that the puppets are actually alive.  The Nazis want his secret and when they finally track him down Toulon kills himself after hiding the puppets in a wall.  We jump 50 years and the hotel Toulon was living in is now owned by a young lady who is about to bury her husband.  He had psychic abilities and left a will requesting a group of others that shared his gift come pay their respects before he is buried.  What they don't know is that he was aware of Toulon's puppets and plans on using their gifts to live forever.
     I have a confession to make.  Growing up I was an avid Full Moon fan but you have to consider the timeframe that I grew up in.  I was born in 86 and grew up with the 90s productions from Full Moon.  I had never seen the first Full Moon film but I had seen Curse and Retro Puppet Master.  I really enjoyed both films and I'm glad I was able to watch the series on blu in the proper order.  The acting in this one is solid.  The cast is far from perfect and won't be winning any awards anytime soon but they did a solid job.  The characters are easily forgettable but the cast does a good enough job to move the story along so the puppets can do what they do best.  The story for this one is fun and adds a unique spin on the killer doll/toy sub-genre of horror.  There has been so many killer doll flicks over the years and the late 80s was when they shined.  Sadly, they all used similar stories which involved the doll or toy being possessed in one fashion or another.  Throwing in the Egyptian ritual and Nazis made it bigger in scope which made for a solid film with endless possibilities.  Some of the scenes are slow moving but the story is intriguing enough that you don't mind.  Finally, the film has several kill scenes.  The deaths themselves fit the film and the puppet doing the killing but they are somewhat forgettable.  What makes the kills stand out is the puppets doing them and how they kill.  The puppets killing is what makes the film so enjoyable.  The puppets looks great and the effects are top notch.  Overall, Puppet Master is a fantastic film and deserves to be seen.  Fans of low budget horror and killer dolls needs to check this one out.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Cars 3

Director - Bobby Hacker (Betmax, All the Wrong Reasons)
Starring - Bobby Hacker, Tyler Jones, and Richard Bain
Release Date - 2009
Genre(s) - Action/Comedy
Format - DVD (Personal Collection)

Rating (out of 5):

     I decided to get an early jump on Tromatic Thursday.  I really want to post a Troma review every Thursday but the last two week made it difficult and I almost missed my deadline.  This week I tried to get a head start on it.  I was working through my collection of Troma flicks when I remembered I purchased the cleverly titled Cars 3 sometime ago on Amazon and never opened it.  As you can tell, this Cars 3 is not the Disney/Pixar film.  Instead, it is a movie directed by Bobby Hacker based on the popularity of his YouTube Cars series where he portrays a car salesman.
     The film follows Tim who is a sleazy cars salesman who almost lost his used car lot.  After a failed series of commercials and a rock band he makes a deal with the devil.  He is given supernatural powers and the gift of sale and in one year the devil gets his soul if he cant sale a Mercury Topaz.  With his final days winding down he sets out to force anyone on his lot to purchase the car before he loses his soul.

     I had no idea what this movie was about but I had watched a trailer sometime ago and knew I would love it.  The trailer does not do this film justice.  This one was of the craziest movie experiences I have ever had and that is why I love Troma.  The acting in this one is batshit crazy and over the top.  Bobby Hacker is completely ridiculous but his over the top performance makes the film what it is.  The supporting cast takes their rolls a little more seriously but Hacker's performance is so outlandish that it makes the film worth watching.  The story for this one is fun and works for a short but the short running time is disheartening.  I was expecting a feature length running time but was given a film barely running 30 minutes.  The story fills the 30 minutes very well but I was expecting more.  I loved what Hacker brought to the table and this only makes me even more excited for more Troma and how unique they are.  Finally, this film is a visual feast.  The visual effects are cheap and low grade but they are done to capture that cheap local commercial look.  This worked very well where the film doesn't take itself too seriously.  There is some blood but it is using the same visual style as the rest of the film.  Overall, Cars 3 is balls to the wall anarchy on film.  I can't recommend this film enough.  Check it out.

The Corpse Grinders

Director - Ted V. Mikels (The Astro-Zombies, Dr. Sex)
Starring - Sean Kenney (Star Trek, Get Smart), Monika Kelly (Love Minus One), and Sanford Mitchell (Marsha: The Erotic Housewife, The Harem Bunch)
Release Date - 1971
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "Bone crushing terror.  Spine-tingling chills"
Format - Bluray (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):

     Director Ted V. Mikels had one hell of a career before his passing.  His career spanned 50 years and during that time he released the classics The Doll Squad, The Astro-Zombies, Dr. Sex, and the more known The Corpse Grinders The Corpse Grinders is one of those films I've wanted to see for so long that I actually forgot about it.  One version of the film or another has been on my Amazon wish list for some time but every time I remembered to buy it something would happen and I couldn't.  A few months back the fine folks over at Vinegar Syndrome released this Ted. V. Mikels' classic on blu.  I reached out to them and they were kind enough to send a copy my way.  Thanks guys!
     The film follows a doctor and his nurse who are attacked by their pet cat.  Soon they are brought the body of an older woman who was killed by her cat when it attacked her.  This prompts the two to investigate where they learn that cats get a taste for human flesh after being exposed to it.  They quickly track down a common factor which is the brand of cat food the two were feeding their fur babies.   They track down the factory responsible for the cat food and learn that the two owners are money hungry criminals that will turn anyone that gets in their way into their brand of cat food.
     The Corpse Grinders is one of those films I had heard about and knew it had a dedicated cult following.  Most notably because Cannibal Corpse front man's stage name draws on the film.  I had heard it was a fun flick in the style of HG Lewis' trashterpieces. After seeing it I can safely say that I love it.  The acting in this one is far from perfect but it works.  The characters have interesting backstories that add to the story.  The cast does bring out some personality but for the most part they are underwhelming which is standard at this time for exploitation and grindhouse flicks.  The story for this one is great and leaves open so many possibilities.  Its difficult not to compare this to Motel Hell but this movie had to be the inspiration for Motel Hell.  I really liked the scummy business angle where the crooks turned corpses and people into cat food creating cats that crave flesh.  This was fun and clearly the slight inspiration for Farmer Vincent Fritters.  I liked how the story started and how the film ended.  The story could lead to so much more and now I can't wait to get my hands on the sequels.  Finally, the film doesn't really have the gore one would expect with the title The Corpse Grinders.  In fact, the film was not that bloody at all which was a total let down in that regard.  Overall, The Corpse Grinders has a great story but does lack the blood and gore one would expect.  If you want blood you may want to skip it but if you want a well written story with a solid cast and that great grindhouse look then toss this one in.  I love it.