Monday, June 20, 2022

Junesploitation 2022 Day 20: Regional Horror!



    Josh Becker's THOU SHALT NOT KILL... EXCEPT (1985, Synapse Blu-ray, 84 min.) for the first time.

    Sam Raimi's most significant contribution to celluloid (besides "Crimewave?" Mmphh...) during his awkward 80's period between "Evil Dead" and "Evil Dead II" was serve as attention-grabbing stunt-casting for this homegrown Michigan production. Shot in 1984 but set in 1969 (thanks to clever stock footage use and an abundance of people with cars from that era still in use at the time... I guess?!), Raimi plays a Charles Manson-by-way-of-"Mad Max" cult leader that leads a gang of undesirable followers (including brother Ted Raimi as 'Chain Man') through a rampage of home invasions and pointless murder. Too bad for this gang-that-couldn't-shoot-straight they run afoul of Sargeant Jack Stryker (Brian Schulz), a Vietnam veteran with a limp from a leg wound (as seen during a rather-elaborate opening war flashback), when they kidnap Jack's girl Sally (Brian Schulz) after home invading her grandparents' place. With a trio of armed and resourceful fellow U.S. military soldiers by his side, Stryker sets deep into the forests of Michigan to kick ass, save the girl and take out the trash.

    I knew of this movie's existence but never bothered tracking it down until this Junesploitation! OMG, what a hoot! Though it's closer to comedic Revenge! and War! than horror this is a flick that never came within striking distance of the butchering MPAA of the 1980's. Gory gags aplenty, cathartic violence (the good guys really have to work hard and go through hell to come close to winning the day) and just squishy blood squibs (with matching sound effect) like they don't make anymore. And are there scenes that scream MICHIGAN! louder than (a) drunk soldiers on leave demolishing an outhouse with rifle blasts and (b) the laugh-out loud funniest soldiers-vs.-bikers backyard alley brawl ever committed to film? :-D Goofy but earnest, entertainingly violent, horrific in what it implies (poor Whiskley! :'( ) and employing "Evil Dead" franchise veterans (Bruce Campbell as co-writer and "supervising sound editor," Scott Spiegel producing and art directing, Joseph LoDuca scoring, etc.), "Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except" is first and foremost... a love letter to Michigan residents willing to lend a hand to make someone's movie dream a reality. 4 RED BLOOD HAND PRINTS ON A WOMAN'S WHITE BLOUSE (out of 5).

  2. April Fool's Day (1986 – Fred Walton)
    I was unsure about the term “regional horror” – is it simply implying horror that is not set in L.A., New York or Chicago? Set in the wild, somewhere on the countryside? If yes, I guess this movie counts. I can see while people get offended by the end – it’s a stretch. I still had fun with the movie and its characters.


    John Water's DESPERATE LIVING (1977, 35mm theatrical screening at Brooklyn's Nitehawk Cinema this past weekend, 90 min.) for the first time.

    Don't you love it when New York City repertory movie houses make it easy for me to fill my Junesploitation! quota? :-P Divine is missing (and missed), but there are John Waters' Baltimore regulars aplenty (including real homeless people willing to take off their clothes for nudist colony volleyball scenes :-O) filling every tiny role with outrageous characters that just happen to mostly be leather daddy goons, LGBTQ and/or outrageously fabulous undesirables on the lamb from Baltimore authorities hiding in the homeless town of Mortville. Paranoid schizophrenic and "Supreme Court hater" Peggy Gravel (Mink Stole) and her private nurse (Jean Hill's Grizelda Brown) wind up in Mortville after "accidentally" sitting atop/killing Peggy's hubby. Blackmailed by a fetish-for-female-trousers cop (don't ask!), Peggy and Grizelda end up rooming with Mole (Susan Lowe in a rare leading role for a Waters film) and Muffy St. James (Liz Renay), who are as or more interesting than our lead couple. Alas, all the residents of Morville are at the mercy of cruel Queen Carlotta (Edith Massey) and her 'backwards' whims.

    You know the kind of movie "Desperate Living" is when the opening credits serve a real cooked rat for eating with all the fancy trappings of a reputable dinner. Although technically a comedic freak show and not horror, anything this far removed from the mainstream (even for a 70's era indie from Baltimore) is bound to repulse and/or upset a portion of its viewing audience. Not a fan of the WCU (Waters Cinematic Universe), since I run hot ("Cecil B. Demented") or cold on John's movies ("Pink Flamingos" and "Female Trouble" leave me 'meh'), but "Desperate Living" made me gag (that live roach on Liz Renay's butt crack... barf!), laugh (Mary Vivian Pearce's Princess Coo-Coo is a riot!) and just forget about my daily NYC life troubles for 90 minutes... by showing me the fabulous Baltimore shithole life chose not to accidentally settle me in for. 3.75 CHILDREN LEFT TRAPPED INSIDE A FRIDGE BY A COULDN'T-CARE-LESS NAUGHTY BABYSITTER (out of 5).

  4. Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977)

    When I first saw Death Bed in the wild — 1989, I think, and at a Uni-Mart convenience store back in those magical days when every single retailer was renting VHS — I know that I wasn’t ready for it. I remember a friend showing me and laughing about it, saying that it had to be bad. I had not yet arrived at the place where I believe that there is no such thing as so bad it’s good. Today, I don’t feel right laughing at a movie because of its faults. I’d rather celebrate them and enjoy how happy they make me.

    I’m glad I waited to watch this movie.

    Centuries ago, a demon fell in love with a woman and created the bed upon which they would consummate their love. Yet human bodies weren’t made for demonic lovemaking and she died, causing him to weep tears of blood which gave life to the bed. Every ten years, the demon awakens and the bed is able to satisfy its hunger by eating a human. Only one person — artist Aubrey Beardsley — has been spared, if you can call it that, by being trapped forever inside a painting that must watch the bed forever.

    The story is broken into meals for the bed, such as Breakfast, a time when a young couple trespasses into the mansion and use the bed for their own desires. As they start their horizontal dance, the bed does what it does and devours them as the artist makes fun of it. In response, the bed telekinetically tears the house apart and blows my mind mere minutes into this movie.

    Three women discover the bed: Suzan (Julie Ritter, who went on to become a composer), Diane (Demene Hall) and Sharon (Rosa Luxemburg). Minutes after disrobing on the cursed mattress, Suzan is swallowed in the Lunch part of the story, soon to be followed by Diane. Only Sharon survives because her eyes remind the bed of the woman whose death created it. She’s also saved in the Dinner chapter by her brother, whose hands are eaten when he tries to stab the bed. He sits there, his flesh and blood digits replaced with crumbling skeletal fingers.

    Finally, as the demon goes back to sleep, the artist reaches out to the mind of Suzan and helps her complete a ritual that will destroy the bed. It teleports it from its room and revives the dead mother of the bed at the cost of Suzan’s life. The mother and Suzan’s brother immediately do what you think they should — have sex on the evil bed — which sets it on fire and allows the artist to die.

    Me telling you all of this should in no way spoil anything for you in a movie where we watch amber liquid dissolve body parts, a bed eat an apple, an orgy turn into an orgy of death and strange voiceovers in the place of dialogue. It’s also a movie where a bed drinks Pepto Bismol.

    Creator George Barry — originally only his name was on the film — didn’t even release the movie other than showing it to a Los Angeles-based distributor to hopefully release the film on VHS in the UK. The distributor offered to pay Barry $1000 for a VHS release if he could supply them with a print of the film, complete with credits. Those credits would have cost $3000, so Barry declined and got his print back.

    That’s how a British VHS label called Portland got the film, which they released as a bootleg. I have no idea how a copy ended up in a gas station in a southwestern PA mill town. Yet another mystery!

    Somehow, Barry was making this movie in the woods at the same time as Royal Oak, MI — they shared the same hometown — horror icon Sam Raimi was making Within the Woods, which was the proof of concept for Evil Dead.

    Barry sadly never made another movie and opened a bookstore instead.

    What he did create is an absolutely deranged piece of film that would in no way pass through a Hollywood so-called idea factory. That’s why regional horror is such a vast resource, a place where anything can happen, plot is fluid and magic is everywhere.

    For more background (way more) visit:

  5. PSYCHO SISTERS (1994)
    D/W/P: Peter Jacelone
    D/P: Gary Whitson, Sal Longo
    After their younger sister (Tina Krause from LIMBO, SORORITY SLAUGHTER) is raped & killed by home invaders, Pamela Sutch (PSYCHO CHARLIE RETURNS PART 1) & Christine Taylor spend time in a mental institution. When Dr. Peter Jacelone releases them, they set about getting revenge. The only problem is, the death-dealing foxes don’t spend too much time finding the right villainous trio to attack. They waste zero time launching a campaign of capturing any guys they happen across, stripping them to their undies, strangling them & collecting a trophy. This SOV adventure in serial killing, rape-revenge & satire from W.A.V.E. Productions puts a bit of a twist on their usual fetish-fixations. It’s the guys who spend more time in their undies being strangled in PSYCHO SISTERS. Not to worry, Sutch & Taylor spend time in bra & panties, nylons, saucy night wear, short skirts & short shorts. Remarkably, there’s no actual nudity in this New Jersey backyard adventure set to hard rock. W.A.V.E. remade PSYCHO SISTERS in 1998 with a different trio of women playing the Sicole sisters. Highly recommended for folks who would go to a “bar” with a VICIOUS LIPS poster.

  6. November (2017, dir. Rainer Sarnet)

    Estonian horror film that takes place in a rural village where the townsfolk have to deal with ghosts of their dead loved ones, and kratts, which are anthropomorphized garden tools and sticks that turn into weird creatures and cause havoc (really). I love foreign films and art films as much as the next guy, but this one is about as impenetrable as it gets. This is not outright horror, but uses bizarre images and atmosphere to cause dread. The black and white digital photography is truly stunning and spectacular and worth the price of admission. Every shot seems like a beautiful, contrast-y, bizarre work of art. Recommended for those who can let the images wash over them while not really caring about a traditional narrative story.

    1. I watched November last October and found it a strange and beautiful film. It definitely is more about the depiction of a world than an linear story.

    2. Cool! Glad I'm not the only one. I've especially enjoyed reading everyone's reviews on Regional Horror day. I think it has pushed people outside their comfort zones and brought out so many movies I've never heard of. I hope it becomes a Junesploitation staple.

    D/W/P: John & Mark Polonia
    M: Richard Coveleski
    Horror author Bob Dennis (BAD MAGIC, TERROR HOUSE) has written Feeders 1, 2 & 3. Now he’s renting a supposedly haunted house in which to write his own spooky tale of a demented domicile. Hauntings happen! The Polonia Brothers have made movies about adults for much of their career, but many of them didn’t star any grown-ups. This story has a classic horror premise & concerns adult life. Dennis’ wife & child died in a house fire, his boss wants another Feeders book & somebody wants his autograph. Along the way he meets a horny ghost, a sexy ghost, a Civil War ghost, a child ghost & hammers away at the keyboard of his Brother word processor. Things move by themselves & the mist pours out. I don’t imagine this will be particularly scary to anyone, but it’s got a comfort-food vibe that made me think of reading Stephen King stories. This flick also refrains from getting unhinged in the way that some of the Polonia twinsanity does, for better or worse. John Polonia plays a shady mechanic & the boys made HELLGATE: THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED 2 the following year with their old friend Jon McBride (FEEDERS, CANNIBAL CAMPOUT). This flick is unconnected to Serrador’s 1969 film of the same name.

    A psycho is murdering actresses by making them think they're cast in a low-budget horror movie. The twist is that the psycho is making the movie Kill the Scream Queen -- the one you're watching! This comes to us from zero-budget Bill Zebub (get it?) who had something of a direct-to-video cottage industry going in the early 2000s. Despite a few hokey speeches trying to say something about the importance of extreme horror, the movie is just misogynism on parade. I agree that horror should be provocative and push the envelope, but treating actresses like garbage isn't the way to do it. (It's not the way to do anything.)

    Bonus Lloyd Kaufman-sploitation, day 20: PARTS OF THE FAMILY (2003)
    Troma picked up this Belgian zombie for distribution, and Kaufman shot additional for it, naming himself co-director. The movie doesn't announce itself as a zombie flick from the start, spending a lot of time as a hostage drama before anything supernatural happens. This is not a good movie, but it's a good #Junesploitation movie. It's total sleaze, all sweaty and grimy in that classic grindhouse way. (And sadly, this is not related to Full Moon's Head of the Family).

  9. The White Reindeer (Valkoinen peura) (1952, dir. Erik Blomberg)

    Surprise! I picked a Finnish film for today!

    Set in Lapland, the northern parts of Finland, a newly-married woman misses her husband who spends weeks at a time away from home herding reindeer, so she visits a Sami shaman for help. The magic spell they perform goes awry and turns her into a vampiric were-reindeer.

    The story's a simple morality tale rooted in old Sami folklore and the movie looks gorgeous (the beautiful landscapes help), even on my crappy old DVD (there's also a newer 4k restoration on Blu which I just added to my shopping list).

    And in the name of international cooperation, something from our neighbors too:

    Frostbitten (Frostbiten) (2006, dir. Anders Banke)

    Vampires terrorize a Swedish town inside the Arctic Circle, where the sun doesn't come up for days in the dead of winter. So basically a Swedish version of 30 Days of Night.

    It's not like it reinvents the wheel when it comes to vampire movies, but it has some fun with the familiar tropes.

    1. The White Reindeer sounds like a great choice for today, Mikko. There are likely a lot of examples outside of English-language cinema to explore.

  10. SATAN’S CHILDREN (1975)

    Judging by the number of Florida-shot horror films I have discovered for today, the state had a very active independent film scene. What can I say about one of those films, Satan’s Children? First of all, it is very messy on a technical and narrative level. The script and acting are terrible. Secondly, it is definitely not politically correct. Is it worth a watch? That depends on how much you like shoddy 1970s drive-in movies. I found the film intriguing for its 1970s post-hippie vibe. It also goes down some weird paths. It is available on Tubi in an excellent restoration from the fine folks at AGFA.

    Satan’s Children involves a naive young man named Bobby Douglas who runs away from home to get away from his uncaring stepfather and flirtatious step-sister. His experience of freedom goes downhill quickly with a nasty encounter with predatory homosexuals and then a meeting with a satanic cult. Unfortunately for Bobby, the cult is not the welcoming group it at first appears to be. There is some horror here, but you can also see a lot of influence from the 1972 film Deliverance.

  11. BOG (1979)
    D: Don Keeslar
    “Ginny, is it possible that we have a, a walking, breathing, living, 100% cancerous organism out there?”
    “The slime sample seems to indicate that possibility.”

    A mark in one of my Psychotronic guides indicated that I'd seen this, but other factors made me feel I hadn't. But three things brought it back home:
    -the aggressive couples-conversations in the beginning
    -the weird bog-hag
    -the older-folks romance angle
    Dark Force Entertainment BluRay

    my ongoing list of regional fun:

  12. Desperate Living (1977)

    Wanted more Waters after PINK FLAMINGOS yesterday and Letterboxd lied to me, claiming that this was a horror. It's not, but it's definitely horrific. Cool to see J.M. check this one out as well.

  13. Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971)

    Today's category is still a little unclear to me but I've seen this movie included in several lists so I believe it qualifies.

    Jessica is a New York woman with a history of mental problems (basically she hears voices and sees things) whose husband brings her to a house he bought in the middle of nowhere for some much needed peace and quiet. Peace and quiet doesn't seem to be on the menu, though, because people in the neighboring town are inexplicably hostile, the house itself has a tragic history dating back to the previous century, and most importantly, someone's already there when they arrive - a mysterious, hippie-ish woman who may in fact not be as friendly and harmless as she initially seems.

    I really enjoyed the movie's dreamlike, increasingly menacing atmosphere meant to underline Jessica's sense of alienation and her fragile state of mind as she slowly uncovers the disturbing truth. Or does she? Is it all just happening in her head? Who can tell?

  14. Nail Gun Massacre (1985) dir. Bill Leslie, Terry Lofton

    Almost hypnotic dusty highway horror from a stretch of rural northern Texas soon to be consumed by a commercial sprawl transforming the landscape of a state known for stubborn independence suddenly finding itself at the mercy of developers following the early 80’s collapse of American oil. The new economy is measured by the linear foot or sold in collated strips, cheap and easy to fire, made to build but just as easy to use to destroy. Empty frames line the roads, new starts for new families, built by the old ones, who can’t afford to turn down the work building their own displacement. Cheaper than a chainsaw…

    There’s not a lot of what you’d call proficiency here, but it does the thing I maybe love most about regional horror- throwing you deep into the deep end of a specific time and place with all the tenderness of being kicked out of a car at an unlit intersection. Nothing quite functions as it seems like it should, but you are the interloper- cheap but overbearing synths, bizarre conversations, a vocal effect that sounds that may or may not come from a children’s toy- these are all strange to us, but here maybe they make sense here?

  15. Satan's Children (1975)

    With all the blatant homophobia, definitely was a weird choice for pride month...

    While watching I had the thought that somewhere in the bones of this script is a movie I want to see.

  16. Winterbeast (1992) dir. Christopher Thies

    I dunno why but I thought this was gonna be more “whoa bro wasn’t that crazy” than I normally dig, and I’d put off watching it accordingly… but I picked up the box set during the VS sale and todays theme seemed like a pretty appropriate reason to dip in, and well- WHOA BRO THAT WAS CRAZY… but also CHARMING. So many capital C choices here that I don’t want to rattle off because this is the rare case I think going in blind really makes it that much more special. I will say that I haven’t been legitimately creeped out by a scene in a horror movie in a long time, and I sure as hell didn’t expect the next one to get me to be Winterbeast, yet here we are.

    1. Junesploitation is a good prompt to get around to those discs that have been sitting around for a while. I have listened to many Youtube discussions about Vinegar Syndrome's best releases, and Winterbeast is a title that gets mentioned frequently.

  17. Also- while we are talking Regional Horror: for anyone whose dipped their toe in and wants more- I can't recommend Nightmare USA by Stephen Thrower enough! Because all horror books are seemingly legally required to be coffee table sized and small press, it's annoyingly expensive to get ahold of (it's also, ironically, an import), but it is reallly worth it if you even have a passing interest in independent horror in the exploitation era, and it really is a beautiful piece of publishing to behold. At the very least, there's any number of Letterboxd lists that are inspired by the text that are worth a skim for new title suggestions.

  18. Alice Sweet Alice (1976, dir. Alfred Sole)

    I found this Tubi movie on a "regional horror" list, and it ended up being much better than anticipated for a random movie. There is a child who is killed and her sister is suspected of killing here. It's almost like a Giallo. Interestingly, the killer is revealed to the audience about 2/3 of the way through, but isn't known to the movie characters until the last scene. It's got a ton of atmosphere.