Beyond the Gates (2016)

Beyond the Gates

Directed by Jackson Stewart [Other horror films: N/A]

As much as so many of the elements of this film work, it’s main problem is that the story Beyond the Gates presents comes across as hollow.

There’s a plethora of things to like about this film. The whole 80’s aesthetic, from fantastic synth music to creative lighting, was fantastic. A few good gore scenes within also, and most of the characters themselves (especially the two bothers) are pretty decent.

Acting was a mixed bag. The brothers (Graham Skipper and Chase Williamson) worked well together, though Skipper’s acting, at times, was a bit dicey. Williamson was pretty solid throughout. Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, From Beyond, and Chopping Mall being her classics) was nice to see, despite most of the time she just stared awkwardly into the camera.

Matt Mercer (probably best known for his role in the Contracted films) didn’t have much screen-time, but was decent when he appeared. While I didn’t care for Justin Welborn’s character (and he didn’t really seem to add much), his resume’s pretty impressive: aside from this, he was in 2007’s The Signal, 2008’s Dance of the Dead, The Final Destination, Halloween II, My Super Psycho Sweet 16 (despite the title, that movie was actually pretty good), Southbound, and some film’s I’ve not seen, such as The Crazies remake, The Bay, V/H/S Viral, and Siren. Basically, if you’ve seen much modern horror, this guy might stick out. Lastly, there’s Jesse Merlin, who plays a goofy store owner. He had a pretty fun presence.

Still, despite a moderately strong cast, the story still came across as rather shallow. Great gore at points, along with well-done 80’s nostalgic aesthetics can only do so much when the story itself is lacking. Especially in the last 15 minutes of the film, things begin to fall apart, and the previous ominous feel the film had sort of gets thrown out the window. I did like the idea that the brothers were fighting to save their father’s soul (given how different the two brothers are, it was a fun dynamic), but there’s not enough meat.

Beyond the Gates certainly had potential. What they do well, they do really well. Again, I’ll direct your attention to the film’s score, filled with fantastic music. The special effects, lighting, and gore were all expertly done. But in the end, the film’s just missing something, and because of that, despite all that this movie does well, it falls below average.

6/10

This was covered on Fight Evil’s second podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss the film.

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994)

Phantasm III

Directed by Don Coscarelli [Other horror films: Phantasm (1979), Phantasm II (1988), Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998), Bubba Ho-Tep (2002), John Dies at the End (2012)]

A definite drop-off from the first two of this cult classic series, the third entry still has a lot of solid stuff that makes it worth checking out still.

By-and-large, this film isn’t really that far removed from the second Phantasm. It’s another road-trip, chasing down the Tall Man-type deal, with a few new characters thrown into the mix. It is, however, a bit lighter in tone than the previous film. It takes some odd turns (what they do with Jody – and perhaps Michael – was, shall we say, an interesting choice), and feels somewhat disjointed toward the end. Not even the dreamy disorientation such as the first film, but a ‘I have no idea what’s going on’ type thing.

Before that, though, let’s talk cast: Unfortunately, the stand-outs of this movie are pretty much the stand-outs from the last one: Reggie Bannister and, of course, Angus Scrimm. A. Michael Baldwin came back, but I’m not wooed by his acting. And as fun as Gloria Lynne Henry sometimes was as Rocky, more often than not, she came across as over-the-top. The young Kevin Connors did fine enough, but his character struck me as moderately pointless.

So you put together a, on average, less-than-stellar cast with less-than-stellar plot points (those three zombies that popped up multiple times toward the end rubs me the wrong way), and you get a pretty flimsy Phantasm. Which isn’t to say the film is particularly bad – despite the lighter tone, some of these characters can be pretty fun, such as Rocky – but compared to the first two flicks, this has been a let-down each time I’ve seen it.

6.5/10

Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987)

Hello

Directed by Bruce Pittman [Other horror films: Mark of Cain (1985)]

Nothing at all in tone or style like the first Prom Night, Hello Mary Lou drops the slasher aspect of the classic 1980 film and instead adopts a possession story, which actually works well to the film’s benefit.

If you’re a fan of 80’s flicks in general, I can’t see how this film would disappoint you. The story, while not overly original, is still pretty fun. Decent special effects, and even a good atmosphere at times. First, though, let’s talk about the actors and actresses, who do quite a bit to boost enjoyment in this film.

There are a hell of a lot of solid performances here. Michael Ironside doesn’t disappoint as the principle with a dark past. An early performance by Louis Ferreira is probably more enjoyable than it should be. Brock Simpson (who actually not only had a small role in the first movie, but has appeared in all four Prom Night films, each time playing a different character) does pretty well as a rather spaced-out and, shall we say unique, high school student. Always a pleasure when he came on screen.

The two best performances, though, go to the star, Wendy Lyon, and though with only a few appearances, Beth Gondek. Lyon did commendable throughout, and really got the most of her role as she could. She had a lot of heart, and really helped make the film more fun. Gondek, despite being a bit of a no one (including this film, she has a total of seven credits on IMDb), really stole the few scenes she was in. There’s a rather emotional portion when she’s talking to Lyon, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t buy every word. I really wish she got more screen-time than she did, as she did amazing.

Special effects throughout were generally pretty good. The rocking horse was a bit odd, and there was a dodgy-looking electrocution toward the end, but the blackboard scene was pretty cool, as was a mirror sequence. There was some legitimate suspense during the locker room scene, and it ended in a decently gory way. That said, gore wasn’t a strong point here, but the deaths we do get all end up fun regardless.

At times, the film sort of felt like the fourth A Nightmare on Elm Street, albeit a bit more tepid. Lyon, all out of sorts after the death of a friend, keeps having visions while at school, and some of them are even decently creepy. There’s a good atmosphere during those sequences also.

And if none of this grabs you, if you hold on long enough, there’s some solid nudity nearing the end of the flick.

Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II is a lot of fun, certainly funner than the original. Solid performances, good story, and everything just seems to work out. It’s not perfect, of course – at times, I can’t pretend it doesn’t drag a little bit. And the ending, while sort of fun, in a cheesy way, doesn’t really do it for me. But overall, I really liked this when I first saw it some years back, and it still holds up. Definitely an 80’s horror flick I’d recommend checking out.

8.5/10

This is one of the films discussed on the Fight Evil show, so if interested, listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I talk about it a bit.

The Severed Arm (1973)

Severed Arm

Directed by Tom Alderman [Other horror films: N/A]

This early-70’s proto-slasher is a pretty enjoyable fair, especially if 70’s horror is your thing.

Occasionally a bit dry, I think for the most part, The Severed Arm keeps the interest of the audience. The gore is certainly lacking (though there are a few fun scenes, especially one toward the end), so that’s certainly not a reason to recommend the film. Still, the plot itself is decent, and I think anyone can see how it’s not too dissimilar from many slashers past this point.

There were plenty of enjoyable actors and actresses throughout. The two main characters, played by Paul Carr (later in The Bat People and Sisters of Death) and David G. Cannon (this is his sole film) – both do a pretty good job, Carr reminding me of Gary Oldman at times. Deborah Walley has a decent presence, mostly toward the end of the film, as her interactions with Bob Guthrie (who was in only one other film) were pretty enjoyable. And who couldn’t get a kick out of Marvin Kaplan (who appeared in the comedy classic It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World from 1964) playing radio host Mad Man Marvin? His over-the-top hamminess provided most of the fun for this film.

Which is true mostly in part because, like most 70’s horror movies, this film plays itself pretty straight. It even had a bit of a downer ending, which, given the sometimes television-feel this movie has, might take you by surprise. Still, despite the lack of solid gore, I still think anyone going to a drive-in to watch this probably got a kick out of it.

I liked The Severed Arm when I first saw it last year, and I still like it. The ridiculously lengthy flashback was good fun, and the final scenes really close this movie on a fun note. It’s a solid proto-slasher with a moderately decent cast and story. Certainly a 70’s movie worth looking into.

7.5/10

Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)

Hellraiser Bloodline

Directed by Kevin Yagher [Other horror films: N/A]

Quite possibly better put-together than the third movie, certainly with more ambitious ideas, my problem with Bloodline has always been that it just feels rather soulless.

Cenobites vs. the Merchant family during three different time periods (late 1700’s France, 1990’s New York City, and futuristic space time) didn’t enthrall me. None of the three ages did much to interest me at all. Part of this is possibly because it seems wholly removed from the previous attempts.

And it brings far more questions than it even gets close to answering, such as why Angelique became a Cenobite after the New York sequence, and why exactly didn’t the finale in New York finish up the Cenobite problem. None of these are really answered, and sadly, that’s not all they brought forth without explanation.

Aside from Pinhead, Angelique, and the Siamese Twins, there’s no additional Cenobites in the film, unless you count the Chatterer-based dog, which utterly sucked every time it was on-screen. Doug Bradley did well as Pinhead, again had some good lines (“Do I look like someone who cares what God thinks?”), but Angelique and the Twins bored me to death.

It’s not as though the movie didn’t have potential, especially with such an ambitious story, layered such as it is. There are a few solid performances, such as the aforementioned Bradley, Bruce Ramsay, and Kim Myers (Lisa from the second A Nightmare on Elm Street), but does anyone really stand out? Not quite. Possibly because, like I said, the final product didn’t have much soul.

There was a troubled production behind this film, and the director himself rather disowned it and left before filming was finished, so as to why it occasionally feels as some topics are left untouched on, this strikes me as being the most likely reason.

Regardless, the movie, as it is, isn’t worth much. Many of the death scenes were rather ehh (and that mirror scene was atrocious), and the special effects were, shall we say, not really worth mentioning in a positive light.

I didn’t care much for the third movie. However, if I were asked to choose only the third or fourth to watch again in the future, without much hesitation, despite the ambitions this movie possessed, I’d go with the third. I’ve seen Bloodline something like four times now, and it’s disappointed me for hopefully the last time. Might be worth a watch should you be a Hellraiser fan, but it didn’t do it for me.

5/10

Are We the Waiting (2017)

Directed by Michael Taylor Pritt [Other horror films: Fun Time (2015), Miles Before Sleep (2016), Night Howl (2017)]

This was the first 2017 movie I saw, and the second Michael Taylor Pritt film I was able to watch (Mile Before Sleep, which I previously reviewed, being the first one). And though this is one of Pritt’s newer films, I actually preferred Miles Before Sleep.

Before any of that, though, let’s briefly discuss this movie. A group of five friends go to a secluded house to party before two of them defect to Canada, but shortly after getting there, they’re stalked and killed off by a mysterious killer. The plot’s simple enough, and honestly, the film doesn’t throw many unique plot points out at you. The kills are decently done (especially one toward the end), but overall, I don’t know how memorable they’d be.

The design of the killer’s mask (which is partially glow-in-the-dark) is pretty cool, and other small things, such as the atmosphere (save for the ending, which I’ll expand on shortly) work out well.

The acting’s a mixed bag – I rather liked most of Pritt’s acting, and others, such as Alyssa Cordial and Rob Pemberton, did a pretty good job, but some of Bridgette Kidd’s lines felt forced. Actually, quite a bit of the dialogue was flaky, and sometimes fell a bit flat, but most of the time, that was tolerable.

One of the places this was most notable, though, was the reveal of the killer. It felt a bit rushed, and I think that’s something that could have been done better. The final ten minutes felt rather out of place, though. Obviously, I won’t go over plot points, but let’s say that the ending, in my opinion, came out of left field, and really, I didn’t feel the final ten minutes were necessary.

At an hour and 15 minutes (the final five minutes being credits), I think the movie could have been cut down a little bit, maybe trimming the ending (or removing it entirely) and a few scenes throughout the film. Miles Before Sleep, not counting the outtakes, was around 53 minutes, so given how this one was about twenty minutes longer, I couldn’t help but feel as though it was dragging a few times throughout the film.

All this said, it’s a perfectly acceptable low-budget slasher flick. It’s more formulaic than Miles Before Sleep was (or at least that’s my impression), but I rather liked the group of friends as a whole, and thought that they did well together. It’s a bit below average, but for a fan of lower-budget horror, it may well be worth checking out.

6/10

Something Beneath (2007)

Directed by David Winning [Other horror films: Storm (1987), Black Swarm (2007), Swamp Devil (2008)]

For some reason, I’ve seen this television flick at least twice before I sat down and watched it this time around. I’m not sure why I’d have watched this again, but having seen it now at least three times, I will admit there’s a little charm to it.

Something Beneath doesn’t really have that interesting a story, and for the most part, the deaths and special effects aren’t all that impressive. One of the sequences in particular reminded me of a scene from the 2003 Fear of the Dark (a personal favorite of mine), which was sort of amusing. Overall, you can certainly tell this film has an amateurish quality to it.

So where’s the charm come from, you might ask?

Luckily, enough of the important actors were decent enough to bring some positives to this film. No doubt Brittany Scobie and Brendan Beiser were over-the-top, but Kevin Sorbo and Natalie Brown complimented each other decently well. Sorbo, playing an Episcopalian priest (a joke about it halfway through the movie always sort of made me smile) does a good job, and though he has some foolish things to say about faith now and again, Sorbo was certainly a highlight. Brown isn’t a name I’m well-acquainted with, but she was pretty attractive in this role, and more importantly, worked well with Sorbo (though the cheesy ending was a bit much).

Some of the actors weren’t great, but didn’t do too shabby either, including Peter MacNeill, Gordan Tanner, and Brett Donahue. While none of these three really stood out that well, at the very least they were competent in their roles, which, for a movie of this quality, is commendable.

The ending was pretty blah, but again, that’s sort of to be expected. Really, the movie is pretty generic throughout, and some of the characters are just, as I said, over-the-top. It doesn’t help that occasionally the film has a whimsical tone to it. All of this said, Something Beneath isn’t god-awful, and might be worth a look. Having seen it as many times as I’ve had, I find it below average, but it’s not really all that atrocious. Like I said, there is some charm to be found here.

6/10

Dark Echo (1977)

Dark Echo

Directed by George Robotham [Other horror films: N/A]

This obscure production (filmed partly in Austria) is, in many ways, partially a precursor to The Fog.

In a small lakeside village in Austria, individuals are being killed in mysterious ways. Though the townsfolk themselves are naturally superstitious, the evidence begins to point to the spirit of a captain blamed for a shipwreck causing the deaths of eighty people 100 years ago, those being killed in the present descendants of those who accused Captain Gohr. It’s a fun plot, and while it doesn’t have the atmosphere of The Fog, one can see how such comparisons can be made.

This movie boasts a decent cast, those standing out including Joel Fabiani (playing the main character), Karin Dor (who looked a lot like a young Allison Janney), and Wolfgang Brook (this is, in fact, his only movie). Fabiani played his character, a care-free, martini-drinking psychic, beautifully, and had some good lines throughout. Wolfgang Brook, despite this being his only film (at least according to IMDb) did well as an Inspector in a bad situation, getting worse by the day.

While the gore wasn’t the standout feature of this film (for the first hour and ten minutes, thereabouts, it had a television movie feel to it), there was a good stabbing about an hour and ten minutes in, along with a surprisingly violent scene in which a woman got the top of her skull chopped off, blood spewing and her brain falling out onto a table. Special effects in those scenes were done well, and the spirit/zombie of Gohr looked pretty good also.

The movie did lose a bit of steam, ironically enough, toward the end, and the final twenty minutes were a bit more unsteady than I’d have preferred, but overall, I thought the movie did well for itself. It’s certainly a slower flick, and it wouldn’t appeal to everyone, but the cast and the story did the movie justice. Quick note: some claim that the movie’s from 1986 (as does the copyright state at the end of the film), but it felt more like a 70’s movie to me, and as IMDb lists it as 1977, that year it will stay. Solid movie, and while not amazing, a good flick to watch on a rainy day.

7/10

Jockstrap Slaughterhouse (2016)

Jockstrap Slaughterhouse

Directed by Leopold Vincent Medley [Other horror films: The Ballad of Jeffrey (2015)]

Directed by Leopold Vincent Medley (his third “feature film”), Jockstrap Slaughterhouse is a low budget (boy, is it ever) slasher, with a school project mentality.

The story is simple enough: a bully and star football player was killed in 1980, and comes back present day for revenge, hunting down a circle of nerdy friends. There are elements of A Nightmare on Elm Street present (in the origin of Jockstrap Slaughterhouse – and yes, that’s his actual name), not to mention part four, with the first training montage scene (and yes, there’s a second training montage scene :P).

Apparently influenced by the works of Brett Piper (A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell, Psyclops, and Muckman among his more well-known works), Medley’s film has a lot of heart. Does it make up for the sometimes atrocious dialogue and scenes? Partially. The dialogue is at times deeply amusing, other times a bit too silly for me (example: both news reports). Still, the opening scene and the second death (“Not the wind, bitch!”) stood out in that department.

The makeup is low budget to non-existent; for example, when an individual’s head got knocked off, a prop was used that was very obviously from some Halloween store. But like I said, it has heart. Not without its problems, among them a training montage that runs a tad long even in this 40-minute movie, Jockstrap Slaughterhouse isn’t that bad of a low-to-no-budget horror film. I will say that I expected some twists to come at the end that I never got (whether deliberate or not, I’m unsure), but that’s okay. For what this is, an extremely low budget comedic slasher, this film does okay.

6/10

House of Whores (2015)

House of Whores

Directed by Paul Arnone [Other horror films: N/A], Tom Komisar [Other horror films: House of Whores 2: The Second Cumming (2016), Blood Moon River (2017)], Daniel Murphy [Other horror films: And Then YOU Die! (2013), Night of the Dolls (2014), House of Whores 2: The Second Cumming (2016), Blood Moon River (2017), Horror, Madness & Mayhem Vol 1 Snuff Party (2017), Slaughterhouse: House of Whores 2.5 (2017), Death Care (2020)] & R.J. Cecott [Other horror films: Blood Moon River (2017)]

I have to say, that was certainly something. In it, three women are sexually tortured and humiliated when three individuals in clown masks come to a home where a porno shoot was about to start.

The gore is cheap but done decently enough. Cheese graters to penises, power drills and electric saws to vaginas, and feces and urine to mouth. The film as a whole is 43 or so minutes (53 if you add in the extra ten minute footage of masked Nurse Hatchet dancing and spreading blood over her body), and has the unique feel of a slapstick movie to it. Corny sound effects, repeated scenes, some ragtime music thrown in, some animation and “amusing” captions, all juxtaposed with brutal scenes of rape and sexual abuse. This super low-quality film is pretty sadistic and sick, despite the playful nature much of the content is portrayed with.

Thinking on it, House of Whores makes me think that some friends watched House of 1000 Corpses one too many times and decided to make a film of moderately attractive girls being brutalized. House of 1000 Corpses, while an odd film, never had the level of slapstick that House of Whores has, though. I will say, the three clowns (Slasho, Smasho, and Shago) were acted pretty well. They seemed legitimately screwed up, and had that frantic quality and bizarre mindset you might expect from these types of people. Which brings me to another comparison, being Hate Crime (2012). Now, Hate Crime had a higher budget, and dealt with a family being tortured as opposed to three women, but the same idea permeates both: mentally unstable people torture and kill for kicks.

House of Whores isn’t a great movie, but if you’re going out of your way to find it, I can’t imagine you’d expect anything different. It’s watchable, and it’s pretty sick (did I mention forcing a woman to suck on her bloody tampon? No? Well, now I did). Is it something I’d watch multiple times? Not at all, but I am glad that I’ve seen it at least once. God help anyone else who suffers the same fate. An effective, if not a bit too silly, movie.

6/10