Blood On Screen (Kolobos, 1999)

Kolobos_coverSo, in the early 90’s, MTV decided they needed to expand their programming. One of their first greatly successful experiments was an “unscripted show” that put a bunch of young people from all over the country into a single house that would film the events. The Real World became a phenomenon.

In the late 90’s, three young filmmakers were trying to make their first film…their original idea was a road movie which was then ruined by weather that would have made outdoor shooting really tough. The filmmakers came up with a horror movie idea that could be set in one location and mostly indoors.

The result the thriller Kolobos. Several reality show wannabes seeking fame show up at a home and goof around, but then things get serious. Not like on the Real World, where personalities clashed-not that clashes don’t happen- but rather the sudden terror that they are trapped in the house and it has a who lot of traps meant to kill them.

At the center of the film is Kyra, a withdrawn artist, who keeps seeing faceless killers. Has Kyra lost connection to reality? Is she the killer? Or is there someone else? Is the hulking scarred man real?

Long before Saw, Kolobus explored the potential of watching people suffer horribly for entertainment (and honestly, are less preachy about it, the filmmakers do clearly have fun coming up with crazy death traps).  The film has decent gore effects, and the acting is passable for the horror genre.

So, why does nobody talk about the film? One of the first to toy with the idea of reality-TV based horror? Well, it got released directly to DVD…right before this little movie called the Blair Witch. Blair Witch ushered in the era of found footage and steam rolled right over Kolobos.  Arrow films recently re-released the film on Blu-Ray (for the first time in HD, it had been out of print for some time otherwise).

I recommend the disc and the movie, it deserves wider recognition.  A lost indie horror film from the late nineties, you really should check this one out.

Fear of Santa Claus Pt 1 (Silent Night Deadly Night, 1984)

sndn_posterSilent Night, Deadly Night opens with little Billy and his family visiting Grandpa.  Gramps is a bit senile and instills dread in young Ricky of Santa Claus.  He warns Billy that Santa Claus will punish the wicked…on the drive home, his dad stops to help Santa on the side of the road…Santa is actually a ruthless criminal who kills Billy’s family as he hides.

Billy ends up in an orphanage, run be mean nuns way into corporal punishment.  At 18, the nuns get him a job in a toy store where he ends up playing the store Santa.  When he witnesses a guy attempting to rape the girl he likes he loses it and goes on a rampage killing the naughty.

This film was highly controversial at the time, as it featured a guy in a Santa suit killing people and that was beyond the pale.  Mickey Rooney blasted the filmmakers as scum for attacking the sacredness of Christmas.  This will become very ironic in a few days.  The thing is, the movie is not worthy of the outrage.  It is pretty terrible, even by the standards of the slasher genre.  This is no Black Christmas or Halloween.  t is not even Friday the 13th part two.  The acting is stiff, and the setup is ridiculous.  And to top it off, the film tends to indulge in sleaze in a way other slashers of the time did not.  The nuns are the worst stereotypes of nuns…they lack any sense of humanity.  They angrily delight in physical abuse of their charges.

Black Christmas was the father of modern slashers and is a solid winner.  And more recent fare, such as Krampus, indulge a fun side.  But Silent Night, Deadly Night lack neither the spirit of fun or the thrills.  It is not unnerving, but rather simply unpleasant.

I Try To Not Think About Death Much (Return of the Living Dead, 1985)

rotld_posterIn 1986, Alien Screenwriter Dan O’Bannon made a deal to direct (he had directed a short film seventeen years earlier) a film.  He was to make an unofficial sequel of sorts to Night of the Living Dead.

An effects heavy zombie film, the big twist of the Return of the Living Dead is it is a comedy.  A gory one, but a comedy none the less.  We are quickly introduced to Frank and Freddy, employees of a medical supply company.  After Burt (the boss) leaves for the weekend, Frank starts to show Freddy around, skeletons, half dogs and cadavers and the like.  He also tells Freddy that they have some canisters with real zombies (and proceeds to proclaim the Night of the Living Dead was a real thing, just altered for the film).  They look at the canisters and accidentally release an ominous gas.  When they wake up, they find all the dead things seeming to be alive.  This leads to some hilarity as they call Burt in and the three try and fix the problem.

Meanwhile, Freddy’s girlfriend Tina is hanging out with her friends (a bunch of punks) in a graveyard waiting for Freddy to get done with work.  This includes a bizarre moment Trash (Scream Queen Linnea Quigley), obsessed with death starts expressing a fantasy of being eaten alive (foreshadowing, folks)…she then strips and dances upon a tombstone.  Burt, Frank and Freddy go across the street with a cut up cadaver and check in with mortician Ernie.  They ask to use the crematorium to dispose of rabid weasels.  But as the body burns, it creates more ominous smoke which causes a storm and in turn the rain soaks the ground, re-animating the graveyard.

What follows is the characters trying to survive the hoards of zombies.  Everyone gets trapped in the mortuary or the medical supply warehouse.  The film finds a lot of humor in it’s gruesome subject.  Thom Mathews (Freddy) and James Karen (Frank) have a great rapport and are very entertaining as the two discover they are slowly turning into zombies.  Really, the entire cast is entertaining.  Along with Mathews and Karen, Clu Gulager (Burt) and Don Calfa (Ernie…get it?) are very funny.  It helps that everyone seems to be in on the joke, leading to fun performances.

The effects are terrific, still holding up for the most part.  There is one especially well done zombie effect with a “half” zombie.  Another memorable character is the Tar Man…a slimy decomposing zombie.  The actor in the outfit moves with a creepy fluidity.  The film actually pays little attention to traditional film zombie lore.  They cannot be killed by damaging the brain, even cutting them up, the zombie parts all act independently.  The zombies can also talk.  This is one of the first incidents of zombies being focused on eating brains (In Romero’s films, they just want to eat flesh).  And they constantly announce “Brains!”  But they can form sentences.  One zombie even explains why they  desire to eat brains.

Oh, there are some question to ask…for example, why, after being eaten alive, is Zombie Linnea Quigley have not a single bite…instead she has perfect porcelain skin.  How can the zombies with no lips (some zombies do, some don’t) say stuff like “Brains” and “More Brains”?

Shout!Factory released a Blu-Ray special edition through their Scream!Factory imprint.  It is loaded with special features.  There are four audio commentaries (two are brand new), zombie subtitles (which is an amusing feature for a short time, featuring subtitles like “Arggh” whenever zombies speak), an extensive documentary “More Brains: Return to the Living Dead”, a final interview with the late O’Bannon and many more features.

The picture (from a 2K scan) is clean and looks good.  The two disc set is worthy of any fan’s collection.

Got Religion? (Girls Gone Dead, 2012)

girls_gone_dead_posterI kept my expectations pretty low for Girls Gone Dead. Considering the biggest names in the film are Beetlejuice (of Howard Stern fame) and Ron Jeremy, wrestler Jerry Lawler and Linnea Quigley (all in bit parts) I aimed pretty low for this one.

Jumping on the Girls Gone Wild craze about ten years to late, the film follows a young woman with a m0m to the right of Margaret White. The girl in question is going on Spring Break with her slutty friends. Once out of the house, everybody gets changed into their “I’m naughty” outfits and start partying.

Then a hooded killer with a medieval war-hammer shows up and starts killing people entirely at random. It ultimately turns out to be the girls really religious ex boyfriend and her mother.

The movie (which apparently needed two directors) is poorly acted, weak in script and general story and lacking a single original moment. I suspected as much going in. Why cover it? Because the film covers one of my least favorite thriller/horror tropes.

The Religious Killer. Not because it cannot be done well. John Doe in Fincher’s Se7en is positively chilling in his logic and reasoning. But the truth is, it is almost consistently done poorly. It is usually revealed that the killer is a sexually repressed deeply religious person. And they are always out to punish sexually active young people. Because, you know…virginity drives people homicidal…?

The reason John Doe worked is that he was not hung up on sex…he was hung up on the society’s lax and casual attitude towards sin. The religious killer in most films seems completely unconcerned about other sins. I am pretty sure most Christians believe murder is a sin, and do not make an exception for the sexually active crowd. Where are the religious killers obsessed with liars or people who cheat the poor?  There are ways for it to be interesting, but filmmakers never seem to aim for interesting with this trope.

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