Category Archives: Horror-Camp Films

Bride of Chucky-1998

Bride of Chucky-1998

Director-Ronny Yu

Starring-Jennifer Tilly, Brad Dourif

Reviewed September 11, 2017

Grade: D+

Bride of Chucky is the fourth installment in the famed late 1980’s Child’s Play hit franchise. The late 1980’s was not the best time for the horror genre in general, but the film was quite the highlight in a slew of duds. By this time in the series, (1998), the child/victim of the doll premise is dropped in favor of dark humor, thus the series immerses itself more into the horror-comedy arena. A treat is the inclusion of a fantastic hard rock soundtrack led by the Rob Zombie classic, Living Dead Girl, adding some points to the films final grade, otherwise having been more dismal.

The film is certainly not a great film and I find perverse pleasure in reviewing poor films. However, Bride of Chucky does have its place- as a late Saturday night viewing choice amid strong cocktails it contains a certain charm. Not to be taken seriously, the placement of a love interest for Chucky gives the film macabre romantic humor. Still, the film suffers from lackluster acting and quickly turns into drivel by the time the credits finally roll.

The action picks up from where Child’s Play 3 leaves off and the appearance of Chucky is now a weathered, stitched appearance that gives the doll a more gruesome and maniacal look- this works given the elimination of a child lead character. Left for evidence in a police compound, Chucky is stolen by Tiffany Valentine, played by Jennifer Tilly. The girlfriend of a deceased serial-killer, Tiffany is convinced that the spirit of her boyfriend exists within Chucky and she is determined to bring him back to life using a voodoo ritual. When the act finally works, Chucky and Tiffany reunite, but shortly afterwards, Tiffany is also turned into a doll and the duo set out on a killing spree.

The best aspect to the film is the camaraderie between Tilly and actor Brad Dourif, who voices Chucky. The duo have a light, comic banter that is fun to watch, as well as fantastic chemistry. Granted the actors only voice the dolls for a large part of the film, but their back and forth works well. This is what makes Bride of Chucky tongue in cheek- let’s face it, with talking dolls as your main characters, director Ronny Yu wisely avoids making the killings too grisly or heavy-handed, but rather, frequently uses quips and one-liners throughout the film.

As Chucky and Tiffany slice and dice their way to Hackensack, New Jersey, their motivations are to embody a neighborhood boy, Jesse, and his girlfriend Jade, played by a young Katherine Heigl. Along the trek, the foursome are faced with ludicrous obstacles, such as the brief introduction of a con artist couple who meet their doom by flying shards of glass after stealing Jesse’s money. The side story of Jade’s overprotective police chief Uncle, played by a miscast John Ritter, does not work at all. His schemes to plant marijuana in Jesse’s van are little more than plot driven machinations to advance the thin plot.

The characters of Jesse and Jade are trivial and secondary and Heigl’s acting is particularly garish to say nothing of the lack of any chemistry between Heigl and actor Nick Stabile. In fact, Heigl seems to wear a pout throughout the entire film. But, not to worry, these characters are as meaningless as all the others.

The gimmick ending, surely meant to “spawn” yet another sequel is as interesting as it is grotesque and a small highlight in a poor film. Bride of Chucky provides a nice lineage to the history of the franchise, a killer musical score, and decent chemistry among the leads, but also suffers a similar fate of many horror films, especially sequels- poor acting, a silly tone, and no character development.

Zombie Strippers-2008

Zombie Strippers-2008

Director-Jay Lee

Starring-Jenna Jameson, Robert Englund

Reviewed January 25, 2009

Grade: C-

Zombie Strippers is so filled with campy moments and so over-the-top, that it is a film that is impossible to remotely take seriously. As they say, there is a time and a place for everything, and this includes films. It is completely a cheesy, campy B minus horror film.

The story, if one can call it that, involves a small strip club, in Nebraska, in the middle of nowhere. The star stripper is played by former adult film star, Jenna Jameson, who, I am pretty certain, was not hired for her acting talents. One day, a government controlled virus is released by the government, causing Jameson’s character to be transformed into a flesh-eating zombie. The motivation is not really there, and, who cares anyway? This is not the film to watch for compelling plot.

The acting all around in the film is poor, and the story is completely unrealistic- laced with stereotypes galore. However, how nice to see horror legend, Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm Street) in a prominent role, even in a bad film. Also deserving of credit are the makeup and prop department, clearly having a small budget, for making the film look better than it might have.

If you are looking for a cheesy, after midnight, and after a few drinks fun film, this is it. Otherwise, don’t waste your time.

Piranha-2010

Piranha-2010

Director-Alexandre Aja

Starring-Richard Dreyfuss, Ving Rhames

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Reviewed January 24, 2011

Grade: C-

2010’s Piranha is a tongue-in-cheek (I hope!) horror comedy that saves itself from being complete drivel by having some sense of humor. Remarkably, it stars some decent talents- Richard Dreyfuss, Ving Rhames, and Elisabeth Shue. The film is pure fluff- not high art in the least, with nary a message or a purpose to be found.

The film is basically terrible, but kind of fun at the same time. It’s complete camp and not to be taken at all seriously. The plot is simplistic and standard horror fare- a school of piranhas are unleashed after an underwater earthquake, kill a fisherman, and ravage a college vacation party on a lake. The college kids come to Lake Victoria to party and lounge on the beach, and typically, are dressed precariously. They are unceremoniously ripped to shred by the angry and hungry killer fish.

Shue and Rhanes must have hit rough times, and have been in need of a paycheck to star in this. They play a Sheriff and Deputy- laughably unbelievable- as they try to protect the beach-goers from a grisly fate. Dreyfuss plays a ridiculous and unnecessary role as the aforementioned fisherman.

On a serious (and sour) note, the objectifying of women is shocking in this day and age. Haven’t we seen enough stereotypes for one lifetime? A few cool kills and humor, but basically a dumb, popcorn horror film.

Horror Express-1974

Horror Express-1974

Director-Eugenio Martin

Starring-Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing

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Reviewed December 30, 2015

Grade: B

Horror Express is a fun 1970’s Spanish/British horror film starring legendary horror actor’s Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. A sort of horror version of Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express with a bit of camp thrown in, it is an entertaining late night experience, certainly on a low budget level.

It is the early 1900’s, and while traveling from Shanghai to Moscow, via the Trans-Siberian Express, a British anthropologist named Professor Alexander Saxton (Lee) brings an enormous,  mysterious crate on board that contains a creature he discovered in a cave. What we know is it has something to do with human evolution. A fellow passenger, Doctor Wells (Cushing), and various other passengers, become suspicious of the crate and demand to have it opened.  Things go awry and victims begin to be murdered by the creature (an ape-like monster) and left with eyes completely white with missing pupils and irises.

The best part of Horror Express is the setting. The cozy train is a perfect backdrop for the events taking place and it makes the film exciting as the different cars are set-decorated in a nice way. This lends itself to a sense of entrapment and being unable to escape the creature as it roams freely from car to car. For being a low-budget film,  the train sets are quite believable, as are the sounds of the train. It feels like the actors actually are on a real train as the tooting horns and the sounds of the tracks are authentic.

Certainly, having stars as big as Lee and Cushing give the film respect in horror circles and both actors do believable work. This film would not have been as good without the talents (and name recognition) of both. There are also interesting supporting characters and I did not find the acting to be too over-the-top as is known to occur in similar type horror films. Specifically, the countess role and the appearance of Telly Savalas as a Cossack officer investigating events are interesting.

Fans of this genre of horror will understand that suspension of disbelief is necessary as the plot gets a bit goofy- something about the creature taking the information from the victims brain and the victims subsequently turning into zombies- it does not make a whole lot of sense at times, especially towards the end, as some drunken Russians, and some weird resurrections happen, but that is somehow okay. For a late night viewing with some spirits, you can’t ask too many questions and Horror Express is a decent flick.

Madhouse-1974

Madhouse-1974

Director-Jim Clark

Starring-Vincent Price, Peter Cushing

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Reviewed April 3, 2015

Grade: B-

Madhouse, a 1974 British horror film, stars horror icon Vincent Price who portrays a sympathetic Hollywood actor who is unsure of his sanity after the grisly murder of his trophy fiancé whom he may or may not have been responsible for murdering. Mainly set in London, Madhouse also stars famed British actors in the latter stages of their careers, such as Peter Cushing, and is a treat for classic British horror fans as the look of the film is stylistic and effective in mood- the story, while silly, is also fun.

Paul Toombes (Price) is a famed actor notorious for his character of Dr. Death in a successful film franchise. He seemingly has it all and is the envy of his contemporaries- wealth, notoriety, and a glamorous blonde fiancé named Ellen. After Ellen is murdered by someone dressed as Dr. Death, Paul is unable to remember the circumstances or his whereabouts during the murder. After spending years in a mental institution in a confused state he is summoned to London to mount an acting comeback of sorts, reprising his Dr. Death alter-ego. As the bodies begin to pile up, a whodunit commences- is Paul Toombes the killer or is someone impersonating him?

The film itself is quite pleasing to a horror fan like me. The deaths, while silly, are fun and campy. Mostly all female victims, a comical aspect is how the victims, when cornered by the killer, simply scream and stand there waiting to be sliced. Wouldn’t they fight back in real life? This film is certainly not realism at its finest, but rather is a fun horror film. It is a bit exaggerated and over-the-top in a campy way, but is also true to the 1970’s style with point of view scenes from the killer’s perspective. A wonderful aspect to this film is real clips of old Vincent Price films (The Raven, The Pit and the Pendulum, and House of Usher) to name a few, featuring deceased horror god Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone. Since the plot involves Price’s character being a former horror actor this is a wonderful opportunity to showcase long ago classic horror films and it works perfectly.

I enjoyed the television scenes within the film plot as Paul revives his career and shoots a series for the BBC- the film chooses interesting, haunting sets and Cushing’s character of Herbert Flay and his zany wife reside in a spooky, vast mansion with eerie spiders that the wife is obsessed with. The set pieces are great and very Halloween-like. And the spider-eating-flesh scene is excellent!

The tag team of Price and Cushing is fun to watch- both horror stalwarts they connect well and both actors play off of each other successfully. It is evident they had a ball while making this film.

Towards the end of the film the plot becomes confusing and the big reveal as to the killer’s identity and the motivations surrounding are a disappointment. The conclusion to the film is silly and makes little sense, although that is secondary to a film of this genre that borders on camp. Madhouse is an enjoyable midnight flick starring two of the top classic horror icons.

Theatre of Blood-1973

Theatre of Blood-1973

Director-Douglas Hickox

Starring-Vincent Price, Diana Rigg

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Reviewed March 21, 2015

Grade: B

Theatre of Blood stars Vincent Price, a long-time fixture in the classic/campy horror scene, as a demented Shakespearean theatre actor who enacts revenge on the critics who fail to recognize him with a coveted award that he cherishes. Price, as always frighteningly good, delivers a campy, but not ridiculous, turn as the crazed actor. Price’s appearance alone- tall, wiry, with sinister facial expressions, poises him perfectly to believability in any dastardly role he portrayed in his heyday and the performance he gives as Edward Lionheart is no exception.

Not solely a campy, melodramatic horror film, Theatre of Blood rises above that categorization with humorous tributes to Shakespeare and a very unique chronicle of the Shakespearean works, used to systematically off the critics one by one in reference to the Shakespearean story- quite frankly in a comical and witty way. Price eerily dresses in many different elaborate costumes to commit the murders- a wine tasting expert, a television host, among other interesting characters and oftentimes taunts his victims before permanently dispensing of them.

The film is quite British in tone and humor and done in a tongue in cheek manner so that the murders are not to be taken at all too seriously. The critics themselves- seven or eight of them- are deliciously fun. One is a loud boisterous fat man who always has his beloved poodles at his side. What happens to him and the dogs is better left unsaid. Another is an uptight, sophisticated woman (played by Price’s real life wife Coral Browne). Several of the critics are created as comic villains so their demises are not all too devastating for the audience as they are rather unlikeable characters to begin with. In fact, I found myself rooting for Lionheart and looking forward to the next murder!

One criticism involves Diana Rigg, who plays Price’s daughter Edwina, accomplice to his dirty deeds. Well known for her starring role in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and for the 1960’s Avengers series, Rigg has little of substance to do in Theatre of Blood. Perhaps by 1973 her film career was on the downturn and she was not winning the coveted roles any longer. I would have loved to see her sink her teeth into a meatier role. Clearly a side-kick, Edwina could have done much more.

The film belongs to Price and the unique storytelling of Shakespearean works made only possible by this great actor. Not overly serious and played for some laughs, Theatre of Blood is successful in its telling of an interesting British horror story. Theatre of Blood is a nice late night treat for fans of the British horror genre especially.

Argento’s Dracula-2012

Argento’s Dracula-2012

Director-Dario Argento

Starring-Thomas Kretschmann, Marta Gastini

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Reviewed August 22, 2014

Grade: C-

As a huge fan of Dario Argento- His classic horror films such as Suspiria and Deep Red would surely land in my Top 50 of all time, not just in the horror genre, this film is a bit of a mess.

The story, as I understood it, involves a young man named Harker, who is hired by Count Dracula to work in his castle as a Librarian. His wife Mina arrives later in the story and is the focal point of the film from that point on. Another female named Tania, rises from the dead to seduce and bite Harker. Dracula intervenes and wants to claim Harker as his own. From this point on, Harker’s wife Mina attempts to look for her husband within the halls of Dracula’s castle.

The plot is difficult to keep track of, not compelling, and certainly not one of Argento’s finest efforts. Clearly an homage to Hammer horror films of the 1950’s and 1960’s, the film comes across as too campy, poorly performed, and some miscasts among the actors. The actor who plays Count Dracula is not convincing and seems a strange choice for the part- too nice looking? It felt like Argento did not know whether to make the film serious or go for being completely over the top. Since when can Dracula change forms into a grasshopper, owl, and other creatures besides a bat? Other characters like the Priest were introduced for no other purpose than to be killed. On the positive side, the art direction is amazing. The film is filled with creepy sets especially inside the mansion and has a distinct 1970’s feel to it. The ambience is highly effective at portraying a spooky, dark setting.

All in all, though, Argento’s Dracula is a disappointing experience and much better films of the same subject matter have been covered in the past.

The Evil Dead-1981

The Evil Dead-1981

Director-Sam Raimi

Starring-Bruce Campbell

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Reviewed July 30, 2014

Grade: B+

For its time The Evil Dead was a unique, creative, visually impressive horror classic and far different from the wave of mediocre slasher films from this time period (1981). In the story, five teenagers head to a remote cabin in Tennessee for spring break. From the beginning of the trip there is trouble- they are almost killed in a head on collision, their car almost falls into a rickety bridge, and finally, at the cabin, they stumble upon a haunted book. From this point, even stranger event begin to develop and the haunting, crazy action begins.

Director Sam Raimi does an excellent job from a visual standpoint- the camera racing through the woods from the demons point of view is very effective and scary. The ambiance is creepy- fog, mist, smoke, and the lighting are great. The film has all the elements- darkness, remote cabin, woods coming alive for a genuinely scary horror flick. Yes, the film seems a bit campy watching it now, but at the time the special effects were brilliant.

My personal favorite is the long shot of the twitching dismembered body and the various, hysterically funny chattering and gibberish among the demons. The ending of the film is very well done.

Blood Feast-1963

Blood Feast-1963

Director-H.G.Lewis

Starring-Thomas Wood, Connie Mason

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Reviewed July 9, 2014

Grade: B-

Blood Feast is the debut film by horror master H.G. Lewis, who invented the gore genre. The film is simplistic and makes his later films almost seem big budget. This film is clearly not meant to be taken seriously and anyone who does is completely missing the point. It is exploitation, but completely over-the-top, with wooden performances for laughs, specifically by Connie Mason who stinks.

The story involves a demented caterer who is hired by a mother to cater an Egyptian themed dinner party. He, of course, uses real body parts to complete the meal and is obsessed with some silly curse and owns a female Egyptian statue who talks to him. The kills are laugh out loud in their basic shock value and all the victims are women. One victims tongue is torn out, as another is whipped to death, which, in a more modern film like Saw would be horrific. But the kills are so comedic, and the gore blood so amateurish, that the audience cannot help but chuckle.

The highlight for me was the intentionally (let’s hope) horrendous acting by all involved. I much preferred H.G. Lewis’s later films, but this blueprint is a nice introduction.

2000 Maniacs-1964

2000 Maniacs-1964

Director-H.G.Lewis

Starring-William Kerwin, Connie Mason

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Reviewed June 28, 2014

Grade: B

Two Thousand Maniacs is a 1964 offering by gore director H.G. Lewis set in the south. The premise of the film is a southern town, ironically named Pleasant Valley, slaughtered and destroyed during the Civil War, is resurrected every 100 years to enact revenge on northerners who are unlucky enough to stumble upon their town. 5 nice looking, fashionable tourists, headed to Atlanta, are duped by local townspeople into making a wrong turn and given the hero’s welcome by the town folk for a festive centennial celebration. The welcome is, of course, a guise to a sinister plot to dismember and barbeque the tourists as part of the feast of the celebration.

The film takes a bit to get going, there is no killing until 30 minutes into it, but then kicks into high gear as some of the most graphic, brutal deaths ensue. A woman is tied to a platform as one towns person after another attempts to hit a bulls eye so that an enormous boulder falls, carnival dunk-tank style, stoning her to death. Another victim has each limb tied to a horse as they gallop in different directions, thus dismembering him. Still another is forced into a barrel laces with nails and sent rolling down a hill. Another has her thumb and arm chopped off and served for dinner. These are gruesome deaths.

Certainly, a film like this is done for fun, thus the term horror-comedy, but surely heavily  influenced other macabre films that followed- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Deliverance. The southern rednecks are played to the hilt by mostly real townspeople and the cheerful song “The South will rise again” sticks in the viewer’s mind long after the film ends. In fact, the entire tone of the film is bright, cheerful, and the town people, on the surface, seem happy-go-lucky and warm. They even kill with charm. Two Thousand Maniacs is a fun, splatter film from one of the genres most revered film makers.

Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat-2002

Blood Feat 2: All U Can Eat-2002

Director-H.G. Lewis

Starring-J.P. Delahoussaye, Christy Brown

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Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: B

Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat is a sequel to the original Blood Feast from over 30 years ago. It is not necessary to see the original before seeing this film (I hadn’t). The original killer’s grandson is the gruesome caterer/maniac in this installment.

Director H.G. Lewis heavily influenced John Waters, who has a fantastic cameo as a perverted reverend. This movie is so over the top and campy it is certainly not to be taken at all seriously. The premise, if one can call it that, involves a lunatic caterer intent on using various female body parts to concoct a scrumptious meal to serve at a wedding. The film is more of a comedy than a horror film in the traditional sense. The victims are clearly bubble-heads, mispronouncing words and traipsing around in skimpy outfits (or less) for no reason. The mean spirited mother of the bride is a delight. Scenes of taste testing and the presentation of “lady fingers” are hilariously creative. Campy in every way and poorly acted, but good late night fun.

The Lair of the White Worm-1988

The Lair of the White Worm-1988

Director-Ken Russell

Starring-Amanda Donohoe, Hugh Grant

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Reviewed April 5, 2014

Grade: C+

This is a very strange film. Set in Scotland, it tells the tale of a giant snake skeleton found in the ground that leads to a series of strange events.

A wealthy Lady, brilliantly played by Amanda Donohue, begins a sinister plot to sacrifice the townspeople. The film is campy and way over the top, though Donohue is delicious and seems to have fun with the role of a slithering, sexy, bisexual creature. The gloomy ambiance is fantastic, mixed in with many psychedelic sequences that entertained.

It’s a somewhat fun, late night B-movie, to be sure, but the plot did not seem to make much sense to me, especially in the final act. It is a trippy experience.

 

The Gore, Gore Girls-1972

The Gore, Gore Girls-1972

Director-H.G. Lewis

Starring-Frank Kress, Amy Farrell

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Reviewed May 14, 2014

Grade: B+

The Gore Gore Girls is a fun, late night, campy horror film by the “Godfather of Gore”, H.G. Lewis.

An unknown assailant is hacking strippers to bits using very unusual methods. An investigator is hired to find out whodunit. It’s an entertaining experience and I love the use of the whodunit mixed in with horror. I enjoyed the outcome when the killer is revealed.

Another influence to John Waters (even the music seems identical!) and it’s a hearty viewing of wildness, merriment and debauchery. Comedian Henny Youngman appears, though he later denied being in the film.

The strippers are over the top and unique and the investigator (sort of a Sherlock Holmes type) wonderful to watch. Quite low budget as the audio is tough to hear at times and the video fuzzy, but this only enhances the fun. Continuity errors for miles, but it hardly matters.

 

Girly-1970

Girly-1970

Director-Freddie Francis

Starring-Vanessa Howard, Michael Bryant

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Reviewed June 14, 2014

Grade: B-

Girly is an unusual British horror film about an affluent, bored family, clearly deranged, who kidnap victims and force them to become “members” of the family by participating in game playing escapades for their delight.

The premise of the film is appealing and intriguing as to how it will play out. The family members (Mumsy, Nanny, Girly, and Sonny) are played with gusto by the cast, but are never over the top. My favorite is “Mumsy”, wickedly played by British actress Ursula Howells. The film itself has a fairy tale quality to it with the sets of the house they share. The main victim (a male gigolo) is miscast (too old, not sexy enough) and begins a cat and mouse game of trickery, plotting the family against one another until the inevitable bodies pile up.

The film loses steam midway through and the ending is not satisfying. Why the victims are not able to escape the vast property is weak (a 7 foot tall flimsy fence??). “Curious” film that becomes a tad boring towards the conclusion.

The Gruesome Twosome-1967

The Gruesome Twosome-1967

Director-H.G. Lewis

Starring-Elizabeth Davis, Gretchen Wells

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Reviewed April 25, 2014

Grade: B+

This offbeat treat is an incredibly strange, super-low budget horror film from influential director H.G. Lewis. This film is definitely an enjoyable, campy, midnight-movie type of experience. The acting is completely over-the-top and played for laughs, purposely. It felt like watching a horror version of a John Waters film and the atmosphere and acting style surely influenced Waters.

Apparently, shots were added to fill the running time to warrant a film release. KFC and Michelob product placed and one favorite scene is a sorority type slumber party as the girls danced while eating KFC.

The 7 minute intro of the talking foam heads is wonderfully strange and not to be missed. While campy, there is one intensely gruesome scene towards the beginning of the film and a must-see for cult horror and/or late night film fans.