The moon is on fire!

It seems like it’s been a while since I saw a truly trashy horror movie, but that little streak ended this weekend when I got to see The Burning Moon, a German anthology film from 1997.  Shot on video (with all the mediocrity that medium implies) and looking more like something from the 1980s than ’90s, this movie eventually does prove to have some merit.

The framing story involves a teen who forty years earlier would be called a juvenile delinquent.  Now, he’s just a punk who loves causing trouble, never more so than when he is forced by his parents to babysit his young sister.  He shoots up some heroin (at which point, he hallucinates the title image) and then decides to tell his sister some bedtime stories.  Of course, the fare he has in mind is not suitable for a ten-year-old, except for the fact that only a really young kid would not notice the glaring plot problems that are about to occur.

The first story, “Julia’s Love”, has a college-age girl going out with a man she just met, unaware that he is a serial killer who just broke out of a mental hospital.  As a viewer, you might think there’d be a plot twist where it turns out he’s not actually the killer (we never see his face during the escape scene), but writer-director Olaf Ittenbach is not interested in any cleverness, merely excuses to show gory murders.

We do get a few of those.  After Julia realizes who her date is, she runs away, but he follows her home and proceeds to kill off all her family with effects that are more cheesy than disturbing.  The only really bit of cleverness is when he forces her to eat an eyeball and we get the viewpoint from within the mouth.  There are some weird dream sequences which don’t really seem to fit in to the story but would be (I guess) a chance for Ittenbach to show off.

Don’t worry, the killer gets it when a throwaway character returns to save the day.  Julia survives though she might be insane.  That’s how the story ends, and the punk’s sister is not very happy with the tale.  He doesn’t care, however, and proceeds with the second tale, “The Purity”.

This story takes place in the 1950s in a small farming community.  A young woman is bicycling home at night when she’s attacked by a middle-aged man who proceeds to rape and kill her.  The next scene is her funeral, presided over by the killer, who’s also the local priest (and a secret devil-worshipper).

The locals suspect the neighborhood loner, and eventually, after more murders (and the priest’s suicide), they hire a killer of their own to do him in.  Things get supernatural at this point as the loner rises from the dead and literally sends the assassin to Hell.

Now it is like a firework show; after you ooh and aah for a while, all the real big bangs are saved for the end.  Hell, or at least this bargain-basement version which probably was shot in someone’s basement, is a complete gorefest, where all sorts of mangled creatures maim each other while meanwhile the assassin gets his own special torture, including disembowelment and a drill to the teeth and culminating in being torn in half by the legs (an effect seen previously in Lucio Fulci’s Demonia).

Thus the second story ends, as does the life of the little sister, who big brother, sometime during “The Purity”, has stabbed in the chest.  In a sudden burst of guilt, he decides to kill himself as well.  The end.

If you want to watch The Burning Moon, don’t feel I’ve spoiled that much.  The stories in this movie are purely incidental; it’s all about the gore.


Horrors Part 3

What better way to kill time than to spend time watching killings (and other sadistic activities) in a spree of horror films?  Actually, there are lots of equally good or better ways to spend time, but horror movies are pretty nice too.  And over the past few days, I watched ten of them.  That’s sixteen movies in seventeen days.  Maybe I’ll make 31 in October after all.

First up, Scream 4.  This is one I think of as technically horror – it’s got lots of scenes that make you jump and a fair share of blood – but it’s actually another parody of the slasher genre.  With Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courtney Cox all older, it’s time for a new generation of victims.  It is actually a pretty good movie, an improvement over the series nadir of Scream 3 (when you have Jay and Silent Bob appear in a movie, you go from satire to farce).  Quality 7/10, Fun 7/10.

For a different sort of serial killer movie, there is the (deservedly) obscure 2:13.  This one was written by and starred Mark Thompson, half of the radio duo Mark & Brian.  Now I’m a big Mark & Brian fan, so I had a lot of goodwill towards this movie.  Sadly, it is just another slightly below average generic slasher flick.  Thompson is a profiler out to stop a killer; of course, Thompson has his own inner demons to contend with.   It’s not an awful film, but it’s far from a good one.  Quality 4/10, Fun 3/10.

Long before Night of the Living Dead brought the zombie genre to “life”, there was White Zombie, the first zombie movie.  Starring Bela Lugosi, this deals with voodoo-raised zombies (in this case, not truly dead, merely magically enslaved) who are used as very cheap farm labor at a Haitian sugar mill.  A local plantation owner wants to win over the beautiful blonde he has recently met and arranges with Lugosi to make her the title character.  Made in 1932, this fits right in with the great Universal horror movies of the time.  Quality 6/10, Fun 7/10.

Lucio Fulci was one of the great Italian horror directors of the 1970s and ’80s, especially if you liked lots of gore.  Demonia is one of his later works, a tale of evil nuns killed in medieval times but still haunting a Sicilian village.  A young archaeologist feels a strange connection to the monastery where their corpses remain, and soon enough, the deaths begin.  Compared to some Fulci pictures, this one is almost mild in the gore department, but there is one late scene featuring a man being torn in half.  Also, since it is a Fulci movie, there’s got to be a scene involving a gouged eye, and Demonia doesn’t disappoint.  On the other hand, if you’re looking for a fully coherent story, you don’t watch Fulci.  Quality 5/10, Fun 5/10.

Following up on my viewing of Dracula 2000 last week, I watched the straight-to-video sequels Dracula II: Ascension and Dracula III:  Legacy.  This pair of movies really forms two parts of a single story so I will review them together.  Contradicting the conclusion of Dracula 2000 (which had the vampire’s remains safely tucked away in a vault), Dracula II begins with the corpse appearing in a New Orleans morgue and soon winding up the property of some medical students and their professor (who is wheelchair bound, and like seemingly all wheelchair bound scientists, is actually a mad doctor).  Dracula is resurrected but restrained while he is experimented on; the idea is to capture his healing powers without the accompanying evil.  What could go wrong?  Fortunately, Jason Scott Lee is around as a low-rent version of Blade:  he’s a partially vampiric vampire hunter.  By the second movie, Lee and Jason London (the only survivor from the first movie) are off to Romania to stop Dracula once and for all.  By the way, the reason Dracula is played by different actors in all three movies is that he apparently changes form (a la Doctor Who).  Both movies look cheap, have only so-so writing and forgettable acting (except for Lee, whose acting I wish I could forget).  Quality:  4/10, Fun: 3/10.

The three Dracula movies were part of a bargain four pack that also included They.  This movie has Laura Regan (looking very Bridget Fonda-ish) as a psychology student terrorized by demonic beings who lurk in the dark and have a talent for knocking out electronics.  Of course, no one really believes her (except for others who soon disappear themselves).  This film is effective enough, even if it seems like one of those movies you’ve seen a dozen times before.  Quality: 5/10, Fun: 4/10.

Having previously watched White Zombie, I was in the mood for a more typically representative movie in the zombie genre.  The Living Dead of Manchester Morgue is one of the movies made between Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of Dead.  A machine that is designed for pest control has the extra effect of raising the dead (and making infants vicious).  A hippie-ish shopkeeper and a young woman are stuck together after a minor accident (in a romantic comedy, this would be a “meet cute”, much as in Good Against Evil).  Even though they catch on about the zombies relatively quickly, the authorities not only don’t believe them, they think the pair are actually the killers.  This is actually a pretty decent movie, and the pastoral setting is a change-of-pace from the normal claustrophobic places.  Quality:  6/10, Fun: 7/10. 

The low point of all the movies would be The Corpse Grinders 2.  The first movie was reasonably awful, but also had a certain charm.  The second one, no.  Although technically a sequel, it’s actually something of a remake dealing with a pair of businessmen out to sell cat food using human corpses as the meat.  Thrown in to the plot for the second movie is a subplot involving aliens who want the cat food to supply their people.  Ted Mikels (who also directed the original) acts in this one in addition to directing.  His casting decisions were apparently based on the idea of finding people who act even worse than he did.  The writing is horrendous; it seems like half the time, the characters don’t even know what to say.  Yes, it is supposed to be a horror-comedy, but it fails as both.  Looking like a home movie, it gets the absolutely worst rating:  Quality 1/10, Fun 1/10.

Finally, there was The Horror of Dracula, Hammer’s semi-remake of the Universal horror classic.  Christopher Lee stars and winds up being arguably the best Dracula of them all.   Though there are many of the classic characters (Mina, Jonathan, Lucy, etc.), their roles are a bit different here.  It makes no difference:  this is a lot of fun to watch.  I’d ramble on more about this one, but this posting is long enough as it is.  Quality 7/10, Fun 8/10.