Friday, February 8, 2019

Holy F*ck! It's a Goddamned Clownado!!

“Clownado”. There. I typed it. Where do I begin?

Indie auteur, Todd Sheets’ new love letter to coulrophobia, “Clownado” is a film whose very premise is rooted in absurdity. Luckily, for fans of balls-out, over the top gore, and ultra-violent fun, Sheets absolutely wallows in that absurdity by playing things completely straight, and rubbing the viewer’s nose in the fact that they are, indeed, watching a film about a tornado full of evil clowns.
Sadistic circus owner Big Ronny (played by the gleefully evil John O’Hara) catches his cheating wife Savannah (Rachel Lagen) and her boyfriend, in the midst of their plan to abscond with his hard earned cash. What’s an old clown to do? Murder and an extended spousal punishment set the stage for Savannah to enlist the help of a gypsy witch. Soon a revenge spell results in the titular “clownado”, and a cadre of supernatural, homicidal clowns are unleashed upon a small, Southern town.

Bambi the stripper (frequent Sheets collaborator Dilynn Fawn Harvey), African-American Elvis, Dione (Antwoine Steele), homespun hero,  Hunter (Bobby Westrick) and teen runaway,  Rachel (Sierra Stodden) are running for their lives from the grease painted ghouls. 

Sheets always, and I mean always, delivers the Fulci-esque gore in spades, but, what good is all that splatter without an actual story? Well, clown freaks, what we have here is fun, relatable characters, and a plot that, while it won’t put a strain on your brain, definitely keeps you entertained as Hell, and puts a goofy smile on your face while it does so.

Amazing (especially on this budget) special effects are perfectly complimented by gorgeous camera work and smooth, unobtrusive edits. But the real star of this flick is the cast! Everybody brings their A-game, and it really comes across onscreen that they seemed to have a fucking blast making this film! Westrick and Steele are flawless as the reluctant hero and his sidekick, Harvey shines as the bad ass female foil (and thank you Mr. Sheets for her wardrobe...seriously, thank you), Lagen seems to relish her femme fatale role, and really stands out, O’Hara is just flat out frightening, like, really scary, Cayt Feinics is sexy as fuck as the (literal) man-eating clown, Satchel, Linnea Quigley pops up as the bitchy manager of “Stinky Pink”, and Douglas Epps steals a scene or two as the mysterious creeper.  Virtually the entire cast set out to make an excellent film, and succeeded. 

In trying to remain as “spoiler free” as possible, I can say that, with “Clownado”, Sheets and company have definitely outdone themselves. Can a micro-budget feature, featuring a clown tornado, be a perfect little film? “Clownado” comes really fucking close. As a filmmaker who seems to get a little better with every project, Sheets has definitely delivered a career high point.

A near perfect storm of gore, violence, fun performances, great camera work, attention to detail, and a “you can’t make this film without these exact people” cast, “Clownado” will make you forget all about: Killer Klowns, Pennywise, and, fuck, even “Twister”…

There’s a storm coming…run for your lives!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

What I've Been Watching...

Okay, I’m back. Yes, loyal subjects, your Scream King is delving back into reviewing films for your delight and comfort. 

My musings will feature: new stuff, indie stuff, foreign stuff, old stuff, and basically what I’ve been watching lately. Often, I’ll be wading through crap so you, dear reader, don’t have to. So let’s begin this installment with 3 recent releases (not necessarily “new” films), sit back, enjoy a refreshing adult beverage, put your feet up, and hey, if you’re reading this on your phone whilst taking a shit, all the better! Here we go…

“The Nun”

Billed as “the darkest chapter in the Conjuring universe”, “The Nun”, from horror writer/director/super-guy James Wan (just writing this time) is the latest installment in the aforementioned “The Conjuring” universe.  As far as franchises go, I sort of dig the way they thread all of these films together with seemingly mundane scenes that totally make sense if A. you’re paying attention, and B. if you see all of the sequel/spin-off films.
Director Corin Hardy does an excellent job in the first two acts of this film, strong characters are established by the sketchy priest, Father Burke (ably played by Demi├ín Bichir) and virginal not-quite-a-nun, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga, keeping it in “The Conjuring” family with big sis Vera), and amazing atmosphere courtesy of a real life castle, as well as some truly creepy effects.
Without giving away too many spoilers, the film scoots along at a great clip, managing to achieve a groovy little combination of gothic horror and supernatural evil. Unfortunately, after a promising first half or so, the movie kind of smashes the gas pedal to get to the “jump-scare-a-thon” ending by revealing virtually all of the answers to what was, until then, a great mystery set up, in a single scene. While this was really disappointing to me, personally, as a viewer, the movie actually bounces back with some truly frightening moments, even though, thanks to the scene mentioned earlier, you can see them coming a mile away. So, despite the film culminating in the cinematic equivalent of a 6 foot, neon orange, ball peen hammer bashing you between the eyes, in slow motion, “The Nun” is a lot of fun, and a decent example of a “studio” film that hits most, if not all, of the marks.

“Dracula: Prince of Darkness”

Disclaimer—I am a HUGE Christopher Lee fan. I think he’s the best screen Dracula in history, and “Horror of Dracula” is one of my “Top 5” easily. So imagine my excitement when Scream Factory announced they were doing a 4k restoration of Terrence Fisher’s direct sequel to HoD, 1966’s “Dracula: Prince of Darkness”. I immediately pre-ordered the Blu-ray from the pleasant people at Scream Factory and anxiously awaited it’s arrival. And waited. And waited some more. Finally, the disc, and it’s accompanying poster arrived. A WEEK AND A HALF AFTER THE RELEASE DATE!! Pre-order? Give me a fucking break! Buncha dicks...
Anyways, the film proper, an entertaining and worthy sequel to the original Hammer masterpiece, has never looked better. Beautiful, vibrant colors, amazing lighting and cinematography, and super rad little tidbits, visually, that you may have never noticed are all front and center here. SF did an impeccable job with the transfer, and even with all of their crappy/lazy business practices, I am impressed.
I won’t bore you with the story synopsis, as any self respecting fan of gothic horror has probably already seen the tale of 2 young English couples stranded in the wilds around Karlsbad multiple times through the years (for the uninitiated, virtually ALL of the awesomely eeeeevil stills of Lee as The Count have come from this film), but I will strongly recommend this release to both first timers, and salty veterans—this transfer is gorgeous!!

Lee, from Dracula PoD, on the wall of my movie lounge...

As far as extras go, this disc is lit (as the kids say…) an encyclopedic “making of” featurette talks to freaking everyone associated with the production, as long as they’re somewhat alive, and leaves no stone unturned for the hardcore fan and/or Hammer Horror Historian. There’s also commentary with Lee, Suzan Farmer, Francis Matthews and the comely Barbara Shelley. This is definitely laden with all the extras a fan could want.
Run, don’t walk, to pick this little gem up. This release blows up any of the Warner Archive releases of the other Hammer classics away easily.


Fulci's "Zombie" and beer, two of my greatest loves...

Ohhhhhh fuck, did Blue Underground ever make my sick, twisted, gore hound dreams come true with this “balls and all” 4k, super-fucking-duper, release of Lucio Fulci’s seminal chunk-blower “Zombie” (aka “Zombi 2”). Featuring a variety of lenticular 3D slipcovers, (I opted for the “worm face” version showcasing the poster boy rotter), this 2 disc tribute to the ultimate non-Romero undead opus is an absolute MUST for fans of the Italio-splatter genre.
This film has never looked better—breathtakingly clear shots of all of your favorite moments: underwater boobies, zombie vs. tiger shark, eyeball/splinter mayhem, snaggletoothed throat chomping…it’s all here, and like you’ve never seen it before.
Personally, I think it’s kind of  a shitty, cash grab, dick move insult to fans and collectors when labels do multiple “ultimate editions” of beloved films (I’m looking straight at you “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, seriously Dark Sky…what the fuck, man?). But this is well worth the “double dip”—extras ported over from previous release, new stuff—they talked to everyone, even Fulci’s daughter!—and even the soundtrack on CD.
We Are Going To Eat You...
With “Zombie” being among my favorites, this release is like Christmas in a very cool little package! I’ve seen this film, literally, hundreds of times, across all of the various formats (Hell, I own 3 earlier DVD and 2 earlier Blu releases of it, just because I’m a nerd…) and this monument to Spaghetti Splatter has finally reached it’s full cinematic potential. I’m just glad it’s not in Smell-O-Vision.
“The boat can leave now…tell the crew…”
"Paging Dr. Menard...Dr. Menard..."
There you have it, you sick little fuckers, until next time...

Thursday, October 26, 2017

"Bonehill Road" (2017) Review

Underground legend Todd Sheets (writer/director/editor) wears his influences on his sleeve. I like to picture him making a movie like a chef, standing in front of a big ol’ boiling pot, throwing comfort food ingredients in, and then, just as things boil, he throws some “special spices” into the mix and makes the soup wholly his own, tearing down the familiar and taking the participants for a ride they NEVER expected.  His new film, “Bonehill Road” is exactly like that!

Combining elements from the greatest werewolf films like: “The Howling”, “Ginger Snaps”, “An American Werewolf In London” and “Dog Soldiers” among others, “Bonehill Road” seems familiar, then the director throws some of that patented (or it should be!) Todd Sheets stank on the proceedings and conventions go out the smashed, blood spattered window.

Mother and daughter Emily and Eden (Eli DeGeer and Ana Plumberg) are fleeing a domestic violence situation and soon hit a strange animal on the highway. Growls, scratches and a chase ensues (Hey! I’m trying to keep this spoiler free, okay?) and the harried duo soon find themselves seeking refuge in a less than ideal place—think the dinner scene in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” with more sick, sexual undertones. With the help of Tina (the uber talented Millie Milan), Lucy (indie horror bombshell  Dilynn Fawn Harvey) and Suzy (Linnea Quigley, who shows up long enough to school lesser “Scream Queens” on who the OG bad-ass REALLY is), our heroines soon find themselves up against not only a psychopathic Lothario (Douglas Epps), but also some hungry lycanthropes waiting outside.

Gritty, brutal and fast paced, “Bonehill Road” brings the miasma of shock cinema that we’ve come to expect from Sheets. At times artsy, atmospheric and blackly comic, Sheets never lets the viewer relax into any of these elements without  eventually reminding them that he has one foot firmly planted in gut-bucket, Fulci-esque gore. And that’s what we, as genre fans, love about him. He’s one of us, and he makes movies that he (and by association, we) wants to see.  Sheets keeps getting better with each film. I’m, by no means, familiar with all of his body of work, but from what I’ve seen, this guy has a passion for horror. And “Bonehill Road”, no matter what tangent it may veer off on temporarily is an abject horror film!

It features great performances, gritty story-telling, practical effects,  plenty of gore, some real terror inducing moments, and some World class werewolves. While there’s no high tax bracket Rick Baker style transformations, Harvey’s, in particular, looks genuinely painful, and the end product just shits all over the cuddly thing Dee Wallace became in the final act of “The Howling”. Kudos to GFS-FX and everyone involved in the creature creation!

All in all, and without giving too much away, one gets the feeling that “Bonehill Road” is exactly the film Todd Sheets set out to make. Brutal, unflinching, entertaining, frightening and metal-as-fuck, “Bonehill Road” is destined to become, much like it’s creator, a legend in indie cinema. The bar has been raised.

9/10—Scream King Tom

Saturday, February 18, 2017

"Blood Moon River" Review

Combining a "found footage" feel, with an old school "creature in the woods" mentality, "Blood Moon River", the new feature from HM&M Films ("Night of the Dolls", "House of Whores"), is quite a departure from the rapist clown antics we've come to expect from Tom Komisar and Daniel Murphy. Have these whackos gotten serious on us? Read on...

After opening with a super hot lesbian sex scene in a tent involving Crystal and Angie (Nikki Strange and Sara Ingram respectively), 6 twentysomethings, shooting a reality haunt show called "D' Bunkt", go off into a wooded area, notorious for strange disappearances, to shoot footage and look for a missing friend (the aforementioned Crystal). Strange noises interrupt the requisite partying and skinny dipping, and soon a run in with some local rednecks (played to brilliant perfection by Murphy, Komisar, and my pal, Cam Scott) adds to a thickening plot and a sense of impending dread. Things go from not-so-bad, to really-fucking-worse in the 56 or so minute running time, culminating in a twist of an ending that even the most jaded fan of fright flicks may not see coming.

 "We're not in Kansas anymore..."

The cast, including frequent HM&M co-conspirators like Strange, Lindsey McIntire and Eric Reaume, is heavy on the good looking: Stan Traylor, RJ Cecott, Naphatia Edwards, and the awesome Sydney Dean all combine to bring an excellent sense of chemistry and believability to the proceedings.  And in the "holy-shit-where-have-they-been-keeping-HER?" column is Cara McConnell, easily the hottest indie horror actress this reviewer has seen in a while, Yowza!

Nikki Strange needs a Motrin
Murphy, in particular, seems to be channeling Edwin Neal as "Skeeter", especially in a scene that is very reminiscent of the dinner table setpiece in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre". Lofty goals, but Komisar and Murphy manage to reach them more often than not with "Blood Moon River". It draws from a lot of obvious influences, but never ends up in danger of becoming a "Blair Witch" knock off (BMR has actual likeable characters, more action and lacks the crushing boredom elements of TBWP).
"Them's some purty words yer sayin' 'bout us"
Chilling, suspenseful and seriously entertaining, "Blood Moon River" shows what two knuckleheads can do when they doff the clown masks, pen a truly frightening story and couple it with elevated direction and an amazing ensemble cast, it's a triumph in micro budget film making. Hands down, HM&M's best film to date!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Women In Horror-April Burril

10 years ago, whilst thumbing through Fangoria Magazine (remember that?), I came across a full page ad for an indie horror film called "Chainsaw Sally". Being a sucker for punk/goth/sexy, I looked for, and eventually rented, the DVD. 

Indie horror, for me anyways, changed.

A long and fanatical relationship with Sally Diamon was started with that little low budget gem. And who knew that the woman who brought Chainsaw Sally to such vivid, bloody life would be such a sweetheart (her husband ain't bad either)?

Gorgeous, talented, and a complete bad-ass, April sliced and diced her way through two sanguine soaked seasons of “The Chainsaw Sally Show” and cemented her place in the pantheon of indie horror icons. Often copied but never equaled, the Sally character was the sexy, fem-powered, semi-cynical/semi-sweet shot in the arm the genre needed at the time. No “final girls” here, a violent, unhinged female protagonist broke the decades old rule of women in horror falling into two categories: the frightened cupcake or the avenging bitch-goddess. Combining over-the-top gore, in-jokes, nods to writer/director JimmyO’s favorites, and genuinely funny gags (for horror fans, I’m thinking “normals” might not laugh as hard), “The Chainsaw Sally Show” pushed the envelope of what a web-series could accomplish. Season 2 upped the ante, featuring a much darker tone and more focused stylized writing, and April transitioned like the seasoned performer she is, showing off a range only hinted at before.

Not resting on her laurels, in between all of the above, the amazing Ms. Burril also teamed up with genre legend Debbie Rochon for “The Good Sisters”, a superb little slice of erotic/occult nastiness that remains one of my all time favorites.

April seems to shine in everything she’s in, check out: “Silver Scream”, “Post Mortem, America 2021” or “The Hospital” and others if you don’t believe me!

I’ve met, interviewed, and basically bugged the shit out of April for most of her career thus far (I own a grand total of 14 items bearing her signature, I cherish my signed chainsaw!) and she’s always been gracious, friendly, funny, intelligent and charming as fuck. I think I may own the largest collection of Sally memorabilia in private hands! April, JimmyO and the fam are truly fans-making-films-for-fans-that-fans-will-love, more than earning the “First Family of Indie Horror” moniker I tagged them with years ago. Long may their particular freak flag fly, and here’s hoping for more Sally adventures to come!
See that sweet-ass one sheet poster up top there? I own one of those too, signed by everybody…