Sunday, November 08, 2015

Farewell Leatherface

Sorry to hear about the passing of Gunnar Hansen after a bout with cancer.

The original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE was one of the first things I ever rented on VHS and it immediately became part of the heavy rotation that also included THE EVIL DEAD, BLOODSUCKING FREAKS, THE TOOLBOX MURDERS and RE-ANIMATOR.

Many nights after my pals and I had pulled an all-nighter of trash film viewing we'd head outside to get some much needed fresh air and do "The Leatherface Dance" under the streetlights. RIP.

And, oh yeah, cancer sucks.

Friday, November 06, 2015


I have to give credit to Brunello Rondi for somehow keeping me watching 1976's BLACK EMANUELLE, WHITE EMANUELLE (aka VELLUTO NERO) a plotless softcore romp through Egypt. It's hard to even classify this as an Emanuelle flick as star Laura Gemser isn't playing the same photo-journalist character as in EMANUELLE IN AMERICA or EMANUELLE AND THE WHITE SLAVE TRADE.

This time out she's "the world's most famous model" and is in Egypt for some reason with boyfriend / photographer Carlo (played by real life husband Gabriele Tinti), a repugnant douchebag who verbally, physically and sexually assaults Laura when he's not making her pose next to rotting dog corpses or piles of dead bodies. And, if that's not enough to make you hate him, in one scene he wears a Boston Bruins shirt!

On the plus side all four of the female leads including a nympho mother and her two daughters – one a borderline psychotic, the another a manipulative minx with Annie Lennox's haircut – all get nude. Frequently.

Al Cliver (ZOMBIE, DEVIL HUNTER) shows up as some kind of mystical deep thinker who gets oral from the mom then gets it on with her and the oldest daughter (the oddly hot Ziggy Zanger) while an aging Hollywood queen caresses them all. The whole perplexing thing climaxes at some Egyptian ruins, though Laura is nowhere to be found, probably exhausted from the previous night's hypnotism and goat sacrificing.

While the flick has a beginning, a middle and an end that's about the only things it shares with, you know, movies. The story meanders along at its own head-scratching "pace", teasing the viewer with the thought that something of consequence might happen, only to toss in some nudity and then move on. By the end I found myself so fascinated by this non-film that I couldn't turn it off or guess what happens.

A wildly different type of flick than Joe D'Amato's EMANUELLE IN AMERICA, though I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor and publisher of Exploitation Retrospect. He is old enough to remember when Emmanuelle had two m's in her name and was played by Sylvia Kristel. For more reviews check out the ER website, like us on the Facebook and follow us on the Twitter.


Thursday, November 05, 2015


"Rick Myers... your must animate The Decapitron."

The legacy of Full Moon really does start with the Puppet Master series, and PUPPET MASTER 4 (aka PUPPET MASTER 4: THE DEMON) has finally found its way to Blu-Ray in a nice new transfer to join forces with the first box set that contained the original trilogy of tiny terrors.

As someone that truly looked forward to these films when they first appeared in the late 80s and early 90s, Jeff Burr's third sequel holds a special place in my heart because I was working as a purchaser for a small video store chain at the time and was totally gobsmacked by the hype train Charles Band and crew were building not just for a fan base, but for retailers as well. As a full-time film nerd and lifelong comic collector, the Puppet Master series – in my mind – really started to become more amazing than ever when PM4 was announced. Anyone could do a low-budget trilogy (well, not ANYONE, but Band made it look easy), and the series starts strong and has a great third entry that takes us back to the early years of Toulon and crew... but where do you go when you've done a "secret origins" issue? Why, to the netherworld of a giant angry puppet, where else?

What makes PUPPET MASTER 4 even more exciting – especially when it was first released – was that Jeff Burr, the director of the anthology of excellence, THE OFFSPRING, was really the numbers champion of the time, having already banged out the worthy STEPFATHER II, PUMPKINHEAD II: BLOOD WINGS and the criminally underrated and shockingly surviving post-production dissection LEATHERFACE: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3. Every flyer that came packed in my ordering materials had me foaming at the mouth.

Now we have a lot of time and distance to look back at the films and, for me, PUPPET MASTER 4: WHEN BAD PUPPETS TURN GOOD (according to the Full Moon screening materials) holds up really well. When dodgy CGI would overtake low-budget off Hollywood films it put me through a ringer that makes me enjoy David Allen and team's puppet work even more now. Sure, it's puppets and they aren't exactly the most animated ones at that, but each has a personality, and Allen even brings in some zippy new action as not only the giant monster is charming, but also his Blind Dead with Bug Eyed Acolytes and some new puppet Totems appear to have some gory fun.

So this time around, we skip back to post-PUPPET MASTER PART 2 and head on back to the Bodega Bay Inn as a goofy and obviously brilliant researcher named Rick Myers works on a project concerning artificial life. Fate must have smacked him in the head (or the rather large horde of writers on the film all agreed it was the only way to make sense of this) because Blade is just kind of sitting there in the background watching. A mysterious government operation called Phoenix Division is also working on the project, but after a totem is dropped on them from the netherworld of Lord Sutekh, the bug eyed beast from below, it's obvious that the original Puppet Master, Andre Toulon, was into some nasty mojo.

Seems Sutekh wants his magic back and young Rick is about to find the only allies he can find. They are hard, they are stiff, they tunnel and pummel and slice and shoot... THE PUPPETS ARE FOUND! THE PUPPETS ARE BACK! And they are, kind of nice. Heck, they even play a game of laser tag. I shit you not, friends... But it ain't all happy times when Rick has some friends (and one amazing performance of "late 80s/early 90s science team asshole with perma-stuck hair" by Ash Adams as the douchey CAM character) to the old Puppet stable and Sutekh comes calling. Toss in a beautiful (and I mean hubbahubba I wish I had more of her in the film) psychic played by Teresa Hill and it's hell meets technology meets underworld bulgy muscles and eyes in a Puppet Arena Battle Showdown Deathmatch. And there is a new puppet... DECAPITRON! Say it out loud. You smiled there, didn't you?

At under 80 minutes the film plays fast and is never boring. It manages to add a bunch of new elements that distinguish it from the horror stylings of the first two and the backstory shoehorning of the third into a totally unique – and very Full Moon – production. If may be a selling point or insult to you but this is my definition of a good "comic book" film. You can pick up here if you want or enjoy the layered connected story bits from previous films, but never once will you be stuck wondering why things happen or what is going on. Because, you know, if you can pull off DECAPITRON you can certainly pull off a bunch of semi-animated puppets playing laser tag!

A must have for enthusiasts and another HD entry in one of the fundamentally Full Moon series'. Now, we need to get PUPPET MASTER 5 out fast, for it is more Burr, more of these characters and you even have a bonus of SUPERFLY himself – Ron O'Neal – as a detective.

Toulon is truly with us, always... PUPPET MASTER. – David Zuzelo

David Zuzelo is a tireless mangler of media whose story Ascension of the Black Death was recently published in Heavy Metal magazine. He writes the Tomb It May Concern blog and is a frequent contributor to the Exploitation Retrospect blog and magazine. Look for more from David in issue 53 (out later this year). And, for more on the Puppet Master Series, check out our review of the series box set featuring the first seven movies in the direct-to-video horror franchise.

PUPPET MASTER 4 is available from Full Moon Direct.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

31 DAYS OF FRIGHT: Cannibal Ferox aka Make Them Die Slowly (1981)

"You get off on ecology, eh twat?"

Back in the 70s and 80s our local drive-ins and trashy movie theaters advertised heavily on the mom & pop radio station that played constantly in our suburban kitchen. So it wasn't odd to hear Phillies recaps and Four Seasons tunes lead directly into ads for the traumatizing THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN or the sounded-too-good-to-be-true freakfest SCREAMERS ("You will see a man turned inside out!") while chowing down on some sugar-bombed cereal or a mid-week Heart Attack Breakfast (bacon, eggs fried in bacon grease, white toast, butter, towering glasses of whole milk).

But two ads that still stick out in my mind are the over-the-top spots for BASKET CASE (you received a free surgical mask "to keep the blood off your face!") and Umberto Lenzi's cannibal gross-out MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY (aka CANNIBAL FEROX).

If I close my eyes I can still see the standard issue yellowish green appliances that dominated our small kitchen, the five burner stove, an inexplicable bowl of bacon covered with a paper towel, and the pot of half-regular/half-decaf coffee made who knows how many days ago that my parents would simply reheat in the microwave till it was gone. It should come as no surprise that I preferred tea for the entire time I lived under their roof.

And there I sit, hair parted in the middle, oversized tortoise shell glasses that would make A Flock of Seagulls proud, wiping away the drool as I hear – for the fifty-seventh time that week – "for what they have done... MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY..." as the bass vibrates the tiny transistor radio halfway across the kitchen table.

To tell you the truth, I'm not sure HOW the hell I missed out on seeing MTDS at the Super 130 Drive-In that weekend. It had been banned in something like 57 countries! What if the United States was next?! What was I waiting for?!

Fortunately, that banning never took place and MAKE THEM/CANNIBAL FEROX soon became a VHS gorefest staple thanks to the oversized Thriller Video box that depicted scantily clad victims, jungle savages with machetes and black & white stills that – as far as I knew – might as well have escaped from the set of a snuff flick. As the box copy read, "Too disgusting to watch. Too bizarre to resist." Damn straight.

While PSYCHO, RE-ANIMATOR, DAWN OF THE DEAD, BLOODSUCKING FREAKS and NIGHT OF THE CREEPS easily top my list of most seen horror flicks, I'd venture that countless viewings via VHS, laserdisc, DVD and theatrical revivals definitely push CANNIBAL FEROX into the Top 10, perhaps higher.

And you can add another viewing to the list thanks to Grindhouse Releasing's definitive (to date) Blu-Ray release which out cannibals every previous release of this gut-munching sinema classick.

If you've never seen CANNIBAL FEROX I'm not really spoiling anything by saying it plays out like most of its ilk: an expedition to prove/disprove cannibal rumors goes horribly wrong, our protagonists see some crazy shit, there's a smattering of guerilla-style NYC footage and some Mondo-esque animal cruelty (an unfortunate trademark of the genre that gives the flicks a somewhat sordid rep), and the inevitable retribution for what they have done which leads to some "who are the real savages?" moralizing and hand-wringing. Fin.

But of all the sleazy, gross, sweaty, grimy, sleazy and sweaty – did I mention sleazy? – 80s cannibal gut munchers, FEROX is far and away my favorite, though that seems like an odd word to use. Maybe it's the performance from Eurotrash icon John Morghen (Giovanni Radice) as Mike "Emeralds and Cocaine" Logan, a two-bit dirtbag who lit out of NYC with $100,000 in syndicate cash and leads our hapless trio into the misery that awaits them. Maybe it's the way the flick jumps from the harsh jungles to the urban jungle, packing in those cinema verite shots of late 70s/early 80s New York that highlight all the era's true sleaze epics. Perhaps it's the iconic Budy Maglione score that mixes jungle beats and prog rock rhythms into a haunting soundtrack for a road trip to hell.

Ahh, who am I kidding? Deep down FEROX plucks at my aging gorehound heartstrings and piles on the eyeball knifing, dick hacking, coke snorting, turtle thwacking, native torturing, penis chomping, boob hanging, castration cauterizing, hand chopping, skull popping and brain chomping with so little regard for the viewer's senses that it's exhausting. Don't believe me? The box features glowing endorsements from such trash luminaries as Rick Sullivan (GORE GAZETTE), Bill Landis (SLEAZOID EXPRESS) and Chas. Balun (DEEP RED, THE GORE SCORE) so you know you're in for a real treat.

Grindhouse Releasing's Deluxe Edition is a spectacular package that includes an uncensored, unrated director's cut with deleted footage, a remixed score, commentary tracks from Lenzi and Morghen, interviews with cast and crew, liner notes from Landis and Eli Roth (whose interest in the genre led to his own GREEN INFERNO), a bonus CD of the unforgettable soundtrack and even a feature length documentary on the rise and fall of cannibal cinema. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor/publisher of Exploitation Retrospect and loves him some cannibal movies. For more on what we're watching, what's coming up at ER and when the next issue will hit the streets, be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CANNIBAL FEROX is available from Amazon

Friday, October 09, 2015

31 DAYS OF FRIGHT: The Zombinator (2012)

"You're in Youngstown... no one cares."

After 30 years of watching and writing about trashy horror movies and violent action flicks I've adopted some definite maxims. One is that if you can't tell me your story in 90 minutes or less I probably don't want to hear your story. Another is that every movie would probably be improved by sticking some zombies or zombie-like creatures in it.

For example, I love NIGHT OF THE CREEPS but without the slug-infested frat boys it's just another teen sex comedy with a depressing sub-plot about some local cop who killed himself. DEMONS? Take out the titular creatures and it's an Italian arthouse flick. RE-ANIMATOR without Dr. Hill and his sexually aggressive head is just one in a long line of med school dramas. No thanks!

Luckily, the producers of THE ZOMBINATOR realized that the world did not need yet another documentary about the Youngstown, Ohio fashion scene and decided to amp up the proceedings with an improvised docudrama-cum-horror flick featuring a Schwarzenegger impersonator who looks like Steven Seagal and NFL coach Gary Kubiak had a big trenchcoat-wearing baby.

Sure, that'll work.

Set in the aforementioned and horrific-looking Youngstown – in the news recently for this hysterical story – THE ZOMBINATOR begins as an excruciating faux fashion doc filled with local fashionistas blabbing about stuff. And fashion. At a wake for Bobby, a local serviceman who lost his life in Afghanistan, they stand around, talk about projects and going to "the city" (Cincinnati? Pittsburgh? Dayton?!). Also in attendance is The Colonel (co-producer Patrick Kilpatrick), a no nonsense military type who brought Bobby's ashes back from the Middle East and remarks – with a straight face and not a hint of sarcasm – how these numbskulls are the greatest generation.

When a set by Youngstown's finest zombie metal band is interrupted by a little undead girl, THE ZOMBINATOR finally begins morphing into the zombie outbreak thriller we were all hoping for, though director Sergio Myers punishes us by maintaining the reality show/documentary conceit until somebody finally blurts what we're all thinking – "why are you guys still filming this?!".

Oddly fascinating and surprisingly entertaining in a "how did this get made?" way, THE ZOMBINATOR eventually takes over its host and turns into a full-blown rip-off of a low grade, straight-to-video Seagal flick, complete with government conspiracies and a mano-a-mano showdown between The Colonel and The Zombinator (Joseph Aviel).

Filled with eye-rolling improv, metalhead ghostbusters, smoking priests and thick legged fashion gals in short skirts, THE ZOMBINATOR clocks in at a relatively painless 81 minutes. I guarantee your mileage will vary with this one. – Dan Taylor

THE ZOMBINATOR is available from Amazon and as of 10/9/15 is currently streaming free as part of Amazon Prime.

Dan Taylor is the editor and publisher of Exploitation Retrospect and makes no apologies for liking THE ZOMBINATOR at the same time he hates RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. For more head scratching sinematic admissions visit our website, follow ER on Facebook and like us on Twitter.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

31 DAYS OF FRIGHT: Isis Rising - Curse of the Lady Mummy (2013)

"This place is older than time. It's just the wood settling..."

Of all the movie monsters that populate the horror landscape, I'd have to say that mummies have to be my least favorite. Give me a bloodsucking vampire, stitched up monster, drooling werewolf, horny sea creature, teen-stalking killing machine or any variation on the above and I'm pretty happy for the next 90 minutes. But throw down some dross about a sack of ancient sawdust shambling after its victims and it's like a big old cinematic shot of diphenhydramine.

So when ISIS RISING: CURSE OF THE LADY MUMMY hit my mailbox it should have gone right into the pile reserved for other reviewers.

However, I am a simple man and one look at Priya Rai on the cover convinced me that maybe it was worth a look. Not familiar with Miss Rai's um, body of work? I'll give you a minute to check out her filmography, though you might not want to use your employer's computer. Or the one in your family room.

The star of such adult offerings as MOMMY GOT BOOBS 2, TITTY SWEAT and BRA BUSTERS, the tiny but top heavy Indian (by way of Minnesota) stars here as Isis, an Egyptian princess who swears vengeance on her hubbie's brother after he has her lover's body cut into pieces and cast about green screen Egypt.

Cut to present day as a professor, an Egyptologist and six students out of central casting (Jock, Rocker, Trashy Babe, Busty Skank, Asian Nerd, Dork) set out to spend the night in a museum on an archeology project, unaware that the centuries old resurrection incense is going to, you know, resurrect Isis.

What follows is a slow, surprisingly talky horror flick in which Isis possesses the female members of the team while the dudes get their comeuppance. Luckily, the ancient Book of the Dead – which looks suspiciously like a dictionary – holds the key to surviving the night.

Shot with the same bright SOV porn vibe as Bruno Mattei's THE TOMB, ISIS RISING fails to deliver on whatever promise the box held. Priya Rai is in the film for maybe five minutes and while I don't know if she has the acting chops to pull off a feature-length performance, her other assets could have made the 80-minute running time not feel like it was soaked in molasses.

What might have been a good opportunity to crank out a sexy, bloody, low-budget mummy movie is instead wasted on masturbating security guards, oral sex gags and meatheads who say things like "what's up, Reading Rainbow?"

Yo! Reading is stupid! – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor/publisher of Exploitation Retrospect and really should be working on the new issue instead of watching stuff like ISIS RISING. You can get all the latest about new reviews and the upcoming issue by following ER on Facebook and Twitter or keeping tabs on this blog and our website.

ISIS RISING is available from Amazon.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

31 DAYS OF FRIGHT: Necronos – Tower of Doom (2010)

"Throw a mortal into the zombie vaults."

Those Germans know a thing or two about beer and over-the-top gore flicks, so it was with great anticipation that I matched up a Schneider Weisse Aventinus Wheat Dopplebock Ale with NECRONOS: TOWER OF DOOM (2010). And while one is rich and bold and filled with ripe fruit flavors the other is, well, an insane two-hour gorefest.

Opening centuries ago, NECRONOS tells the story – if I understood the borderline incoherent, occasionally Germanic title cards correctly – of a wizard who makes a fatal pact with The Devil. After he has been captured, tortured, killed, chopped up AND burned, the wizard toils in Hell until he rises to the rank of head demon.

Sent back to Earth by Satan – whom he communicates with in a tour de force of forced perspective – the wizard aka Necronos is charged with the task of plunging the world of humans into darkness via a berserker but he'll need to send his monstrous assistant Goran (Timo Fuchs) around to collect a pretty complex list of ingredients in order to carry out the recipe. To be quite frank, I'm not sure Goran is up to the task.

What follows is one of the grimiest gore flicks you'll ever witness as Goran makes his way through fishermen, trysting campers, metalhead snuff film auteurs and "the chosen one" in an attempt to get Necronos the ingredients he needs.

Thomas Sender – who also worked as the set decorator for the flick – cuts an impressive figure as the titular demon wizard. For my money there are few things more terrifying than some hooded dude in black face and black teeth barking German. He could be reciting the words to the 'Sofia The First' theme and it'd still make my skin crawl.

There's not much story but Rohnstock and his Infernal Films comrades pack every second of NECRONOS' 127-minute running time (!) with enough decapitations, bone gnawing, naked nubiles, mouth hammering and fountains of blood, gore and nastiness that - like the accompanying beer – you won't want it to end.

I'm not sure NECRONOS: TOWER OF DOOM is for everybody. Clearly, if you're looking for story to go with your horror imagery, you may want to take your entertainment dollars elsewhere. But if you dig the rocking, shocking wave of Teutonic Terrors a la Andreas Schnaas and Timo Rose (both of whom appear in NECRONOS) you won't regret checking into this particular tower. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor and publisher of Exploitation Retrospect. You can read hundreds of reviews like this one at our website and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates and exclusive content.

NECRONOS: TOWER OF DOOM is available from Amazon.