Archive for Exploitation

Frightmare (1974) Review

Posted in Frightmare with tags , , , , on October 7, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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FRIGHTMARE

**** Out 5

Tagline- What Terrifying Craving Made Her Kill and Kill and Kill

Release Date- November 6th, 1974

Running Time- 83-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- David McGillivray (Story Pete Walker)

Director- Pete Walker

Starring- Rupert Davies, Sheila Keith, Deborah Fairfax, Paul Greenwood, Kim Butcher

Released in 1974 Frightmare has often been dubbed the UK version of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and while these two films have a couple of things in common they’re also very different. As I write this review this is the 4th film by Pete Walker that I’ve seen. Schizo and the Comeback were ok films that had potential, but were a little sluggish in pacing and in the end were simply ok films that didn’t reach their fullest potential. The House of Whipcord was an excellent film and that’s the film that really made me a fan of Walker. Frightmare is one of those sneaky good films. It starts off ok and as the film goes along there really isn’t anything special about it, but by the end I was totally hooked.

In 1957 Dorothy Yates (Keith) and her husband Edmund (Davies) were sent off to an insane asylum for a series of brutal murders. Now released they live in a remote village, but soon Dorothy is back to old ways luring people to her house and killing them.

The screenplay by David McGillivray based off a story by Pete Walker is as much a drama as it is a horror film. For the good majority of the first half the focus is more on Edmund’s daughter Jackie (Fairfax) who is looking after her younger and rebellious sister Debbie (Butcher). Jackie also checks in on her father and stepmother and like I said the script is very much a drama early on and while in someways this does slow things down, but it also adds a lot of depth to the characters as well. For the most part, Frightmare is cleverly plotted and well written.

Thus far of the 4 films I’ve seen by Pete Walker the biggest problem I’ve had is the pacing can sometimes be a little sluggish with the exception of House of Whipcord. Sometimes a films biggest asset can also be its biggest flaw. In Schizo it mixes horror and drama and the same can be said about the Comeback and the horror elements themselves are a mixture of slasher and ghost story. I guess what I’m getting at is I like the fact Walker attempts to add more depth to his films, but they can sometimes lack an identity. Frightmare follows in tune with that as its very much a family drama through the first half and even the 2nd half it still plays a large part. The pacing of Frightmare can be a little sluggish in some spots, but never boring and with that said though there are moments where you might wonder where this is all going. The first onscreen murder doesn’t happen until the 54-minute mark. However be patient because when the final act comes all the family drama is very much worth it as this really adds to the intense final act, which featured some great suspense as there were plenty of tense moments with a total shocker of an ending.

I also love the visual look of the film towards the end with the bluish tint used outside of the farmhouse as this really adds a layer of tension. Frightmare though is most noted for its graphic violence and sure there is plenty of carnage on display and of all the films by Pete Walker I’ve seen this is probably his most violent, but its not as graphic as most cite. I suppose for 1974 there is a lot of carnage, but I can think of many films far more violent around this time or even before it. Though some deaths are nice and brutal with almost a meanness behind them, which in part makes them a little more shocking than they actually are. House of Whipcord is still my favorite Pete Walker film, but Frightmare is very close behind. Like I said through some of the film you might be wondering where all this is going, but just be patient as its all worth it at the end.

All the performances are quite strong, but Sheila Keith is brilliant as Dorothy Yates; she’s amazingly creepy and she’s also worked with Pete Walker on a few other films and she was great in those as well, but this was by far her creepiest role and its a shame she’s sort of forgotten. I’d rate her as one of the great horror actresses who deserves far, far more credit than given. The rest of the cast is also excellent in their roles with Kim Butcher besides Sheila Keith being the standout.

Overall Frightmare is an excellent film and the film is sometimes dubbed a Texas Chainsaw Massacre knockoff is way off base and for the record both films were released the same year. In someways, Frightmare can be a little slow and like I said before you might wonder where this is all going, but when it gets there you’ll better appreciate the first half of the film. Frightmare is creepy with a brilliant and chilling final act.

Frightmare like many European films goes under many different titles. Alternate titles were a little more common in non-English speaking countries, but Frightmare also goes under the title Cover Up, Once Upon a Frightmare and even Frightmare II. Back in 1983 there was another film titled Frightmare and its common sometimes for distribution companies to bill one films as a sequel even if unrelated. Peter Walker’s Frightmare pre-dates the 1983 production by 9-years!

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Last House on the Left (1972) Review

Posted in Last House on the Left with tags , , , , , on September 3, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT

**** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- To Avoid Fainting, Keep Repeating It’s Only a Movie

Release Date- August 30th, 1972

Running Time- 84-Minutes

Rating- NR

Writer/Director- Wes Craven

Starring- David Hess, Sandra Cassell, Lucy Grantham, Jeramie Rain, Fred J. Lincoln, Marc Sheffler, Gaylord St. James, Cynthia Carr

Released in 1972 The Last House on the Left was the feature film debut for Wes Craven and while from a pure filmmaking standpoint this may not be his best film, but it is his most powerful and quite honestly its my favorite Wes Craven film. While there were films that pushed the envelope in cinema prior to Last House, Wes however goes one step further and regardless of how you feel about this movie Wes Craven changed horror filmmaking by pushing the limits for onscreen carnage. Last House on the Left is raw and brutal and you never know just how far the movie will go next and due to the low budget and inexperience of Craven, Last House is a bit rough around the edges and that’s where the power of the film comes from. It almost feels as if you’re watching a documentary rather than a film. If Wes Craven made Last House on the Left later on in his career I’m not sure if the movie would have worked as well as it does.

This isn’t an entertaining movie by any means; watching two girls humiliated and sexually assaulted isn’t fun, but Craven sets out to shock the viewer and he very much succeeds at doing just that as this movie is shocking and disturbing and quite honestly Last House is one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen. A lot of people think they understand the horror genre, but some of these people are kind of clueless. Wes doesn’t try to scare you the same way he does with say A Nightmare on Elm Street. While Elm St. was a scary movie, but at the end of the day Freddy isn’t real whereas all you need to do is pick up a newspaper and sadly there are people like Krug (Hess) in this world and that’s what makes the movie so scary since the idea of two girls abducted, raped and murdered is sadly something that happens far too much. Last House on the Left doesn’t feature a killer that cannot die, but rather has real people doing these horrible things to another.

The screenplay by Wes Craven was overall far better than given credit for; the characters are actually fairly decently developed. We don’t spend a lot of time with Mari (Cassell) and Phyllis (Grantham) before their abduction, but the scenes prior to it I felt Craven did enough to give you an idea on what these two girls are like. Both Mari and Phyllis have this naïve innocence to them and Mari is coming into her own and while Phyllis might be seen as the bad girl, there is toughness to her and sweetness as well. Mari & Phyllis are young and think they’re more mature than they actually are and what happens to these two girls is humiliating and just really sad and I almost found myself wanting to turn away since I felt so bad for Mari and Phyllis and there are very few movies that get that kind of reaction out of me. I took a liking to both characters since they feel like real people and some say they weren’t developed enough, but I totally disagree.

The villains are downright ruthless and vile and never does Wes Craven make them likable. Early in the film perhaps Krug and his gang are a little likable as their kind of goofy, but as the film goes on they get sadistic and after that any likable factor they had is gone and you wanna see them pay for their crimes. My biggest problem with these movies is sometimes the villains are too likable and it’s weird to like people who commit these horrible acts, but even though we spend a lot of time with the villains they always remain just that and Craven never makes them likable, but at times he does show a human side of them. The villains truly deserve everything that they get and the leader of the group Krug is one of my favorite villains if not my all-time favorite. Krug isn’t likable, but he is charismatic and you might even be drawn to him and David Hess delivers one of the all-time great performances; as I stated Krug is charismatic and you cannot help, but be drawn to the character as he’s quite interesting, but he’s downright evil and sadistic as well.

However the screenplay isn’t perfect; the comedic element with the two cops does slightly hinder the movie. I get what Craven was attempting and in many ways it works and I suppose it also helps even if it hinders the movie. At times Last House on the Left can really be hard to watch due to what happens to the two girls and the comedy at least gives you a break from the pain and humiliation the girls go through, but it does sort of feel out of place with the rest of the movie. But besides this problem I think Last House on the Left is far better written than people give it credit for. Wes Craven wrote a great screenplay and I urge people to take a closer look at it.

The intentions Wes Craven had while directing was to make the movie to look like a documentary and rather than cut away show everything as if it were a documentary and Wes Craven delivers one of the most shocking films ever made that to this day still holds up as a powerful and depressing movie. The villains as stated are vile and disgusting and never once does Wes Craven ever glorify them or their actions. Last House on the Left is far more than just an exploitation film and I almost hate to use that term when explaining the movie since exploitation films have this stigma about them that they have to be bad, but fun movies; and in many ways that does dominate the sub-genre, but if you think that’s all exploitation flicks are either you haven’t seen much or the movie is going over your head.

As I stated earlier I think the inexperience of Wes Craven is part of what makes this so great. Craven does a solid job with the characters and really creates characters that feel real and the movie itself also feels real, which adds to the power of the movie. It almost feels as if you are watching a documentary and thus it makes these graphic scenes even more graphic. The Last House on the Left isn’t the most graphically violent movie, but the raw power of the film makes it feel so real that in a sense it is more graphic than most other horror flicks. Movies like Last House on the Left aren’t for everybody, but Wes Craven truly did push the envelope and while the movie may not be held in as high regard as some of Craven’s other work or even a movie like John Carpenter’s Halloween, Last House on the Left however truly changed horror filmmaking regardless if you wanna accept that fact or not. One of the things I love most about the film is how what is happening to the girls are just a couple of minutes away from Mari’s house and she’s so close, but yet it feels like she and Phyllis are on the other side of the world.

The most powerful scene is right after Krug rapes Mari what follows are some of the most powerful scenes in any movie. As Mari gets up and begins to walk away, Krug, Sadie and Weasel have this awkward silence and for a moment it almost seems as if there is a little bit of regret and even they seem repulsed by what they just did and we see the blood all over Krug’s hand and this moment in the film stands out more than any other film of any genre I can think of. Just the look on the faces of Krug, Sadie and Weasel is a moment that will forever stick in my mind and this scene doesn’t only feature great filmmaking, but great acting as well. It’s like they all realized this went way too far. Afterwards they proceed to go into the water and wash away the blood and again these moments are some truly powerful filmmaking and acting.

Wes Craven keeps the pace of Last House on the Left moving at a nice speed and while the 2nd half when the revenge scenes come into play the pacing can get a little sluggish perhaps, but Craven always keeps an uneasy feeling and the revenge scenes are downright brutal and extremely fitting.

The performances are far better than people give the actors credit for. David Hess as Krug always gets his respect for his performance and rightfully so. Hess delivers an amazing performance and even though he’s such a vile character you cannot help, but be drawn to him as well. Quite honestly David Hess as Krug easily rates as one of my all-time favorite performances. I really can’t even put into words how amazing his performance was. Jeramie Rain as Sadie is almost if not more ruthless than Krug. Sadie takes part in the sexual assault and how another woman can not only watch, but take part is truly disturbing. Fred Lincoln has this great sleazy presence and Junior played by Marc Sheffler is quite an interesting character since in many ways he’s almost as much as a victim as Mari and Phyllis. Krug got Junior hooked on drugs as a way to control him and while Junior did lure Mary and Phyllis when in need of a fix people do bad things. Even though he never makes a real effort to help the girls he’s also terrified of Krug and he does try to help like suggesting Mari and Phyllis make it with each other, but his intentions weren’t to humiliate them, but he’s a drug addict and scared and in trying to help only escalates the situation.

Sandra Cassell and Lucy Grantham are great in their roles and no matter how many times I see this film it never fails to bother me what happens to them. It’s only a movie it isn’t real, but that’s how powerful the performances are that for that 80-plus minutes its ways to forget you’re only watching a movie. As I said David Hess gets his credit for the film and he’s very deserving, but the rest of the cast is also great and deserve far more credit than they get.

I think one of the things that really stands out here is the music, which was written and performed by David Hess. Besides being a terrific actor, Hess was also a truly brilliant musician and his music in Last House on the Left was epic and quite honestly a major reason why this film is what it turned out to be.

Last House on the Left is one of my very favorite films and one of my biggest influences as well. I can watch this film once every ten years and not forget one single frame. Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left is a masterpiece of filmmaking with great acting and one hell of a great soundtrack. This film forever changed the horror genre and for my money the best film in Wes Craven’s career.

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Female Vampire (1973) Review

Posted in Female Vampire with tags , , , , on March 11, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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FEMALE VAMPIRE

*** Out of 5

Tagline- Maailman Kuulu Shokki

Release Date- April 14th, 1973

Running Time- 100-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Gerard Brisseau & J.P. Johnson

Director- J.P. Johnson (Jesus Franco)

Starring- Lina Romay, Jack Taylor, Jesus Franck, Luis Barboo

At one time in the horror genre there was a saying horror films were one step above porn, but with Female Vampire you can make a case for this being one step below porn. The production values are cheap and at times the camera out of focus (not sure if that was a creative choice or Franco being a hack). The whole production does seem like something out of a porn film. As for the plot there is one sort of, but honestly porn flicks have had better plots. Female Vampire is a sexploitation film and while I have zero problems with sex in film I’ve never been overly fond of sexploitation films. I quite honestly don’t really see the point of them with that said it doesn’t mean I dislike them its more of I simply don’t seek them out. But with films like Female Vampire why not just make it a porn flick since the film is very sexual and feels like a porn film to begin with since more effort was put on sex than anything else. The film was co-written and directed by Jesus Franco under the name J.P. Johnson and those who know Franco’s work should more or less know what to expect.

The film is about Countess Irina Karlstein (Romay) who suffers from the curse of her ancestors, vampirism. But you see she isn’t the typical blood sucking vampire her thing is while going down on someone she drains the life from them.

The film opens with Irina nude, all she has on is a cape, belt and boots. The camera moves in on her breasts than a little lower if you catch my meaning. And as Irina is walking she bumps into the camera (I told you this was a Jesus Franco film). So right from the very start we know exactly what we are in for. For most of the film Lina Romay is nude and when clothed its see through. The film is quite graphic in its sexuality, which isn’t such a bad thing considering Lina Romay is stunningly beautiful. I’m not even sure this film should be called a horror movie. There are 2 cuts of the film; we have a 72-minute cut, which plays up to the horror (which is very little to begin with) and 102-minute version that is more sexually explicit. And yes there is that much sex that 30-minutes could easily be cut, and seeing as all the deaths occur during a sex act there would still be plenty of sexual situations. I saw the longer sexually themed cut and I’m not sure if there really is a point of seeing the shorter cut.

The screenplay by Gerard Brisseau & J.P. Johnson is more or less just filling in time until we get to the sex scenes. Outside of the sex scenes there really isn’t much going on and the script is what you would expect from this type of film and while not the worst written movie again it’s just filling in time until the sex scenes. There are some good ideas however, but neither Brisseau or Franco are competent enough to develop these ideas. We also have a pointless subplot with Jack Taylor (known to horror fans from the cult classic Pieces) and if anything like the non-sexual themes this is just there to fill in some required time before we get back to the sex and nudity.

Director Jesus Franco crafts an uneven flick and at 102-minutes it can be overly long at times and even a tad but boring until we get to the sex scenes. Having Romay naked throughout does help make up for the sluggish pacing. The film is also quite sleazy as one scene has Irina going down on another woman and when her head pops back up she has some fluids dripping from her lips and by that point the other woman is dead and Irina begins to rub herself (I’m sure you know what I am referring to) and yes we see all of the lovely Lina Romay. When the focus isn’t on sex, Franco delivers a very sluggish paced film that can be a tad bit boring at times. Like how the script had a few good ideas so does the direction, but Franco simply isn’t a good enough director to work these ideas.

The sex scenes are quite erotic and are meant to turn on the viewer and it is quite sexy even if sleazy. We have some long scenes of sex and again Lina Romay is stunning and it is exciting to watch as we have Lina Romay with men and women (2 scenes of girl on girl with the 2nd going for an S&M vibe). However the problem we have at times is things are sometimes shot too close up and here and there the camera is out of focus, but overall the film is very sexy and Romay so beautiful the film will no doubt turn the viewer on as its quite erotic. Jesus Franco does seem to have little interest in anything not revolving sex and perhaps that’s why the non-sex scenes are poorly paced and any decent idea Franco had is downplayed. When Irina isn’t having sex with someone she’s also pleasing herself as there is a crazy scene featuring Lina and a bedpost and while I get the appeal of these films and again it was quite erotic I think Franco would have been better off making a porn flick.

Fans of sexploitation films might wanna seek this one out and while I did like the film since its hard to dislike it since Lina Romay is so beautiful and the sex acts quite erotic I still really don’t see the point of these films since you’re basically watching a porn just without real sex scenes. Overall I did like the film, but wouldn’t rate it as a favorite or anything, but what I do find interesting is so many people complain about sex in cinema and while sure some films can be a little graphic, but not go too far so they can keep the R rating I often wonder what those prudes would think seeing something like this, which makes R-rated sex scenes PG material. So I guess moral of the story is I liked the film, but by no means a favorite, but if you can get past some of the sluggishly paced scenes its worth it for Lina Romay.

Besides co-writing and directing, Franco also appears as Dr. Roberts under the name Jesus Franck and was also the DP under the name Joan Franco and lastly was the editor using the name P. Querut.

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Schoolgirl Hitchhikers (1973) Review

Posted in Schoolgirl Hitchhikers with tags , , , , , on February 18, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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SCHOOLGIRL HITCHHIKERS

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Sex Kittens Who Stop at Nothing

Release Date- August 16th, 1973

Running Time- 79-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Natalie Perrey

Director- Jean Rollin

Starring- Joelle Coeur, Gilda Stark, Marie Helene Regne, Francois Brincourt, Reine Thyrion

Released in 1973 Schoolgirl Hitchhikers is a semi forgotten film by Jean Rollin as there really isn’t a lot of info out there about it. While this film by no means great I personally found to be a lot of fun. I’m no expert on the films of Jean Rollin, but what I have seen thus far I have actually enjoyed for the most part and Schoolgirl Hitchhikers is no different. Films like this are truly from another era and would never work in today’s world. The first 30-minutes features 3 sex scenes including girl on girl, which isn’t as exploitive as one might think and there is also a 3some, which is the tamest of all the sex scenes. The women often get naked even when there is no sex involved and we simply do not see this anymore due to everyone seemingly being PC. I don’t need sex and nudity to hold my interest, but its refreshing to see films like this since most filmmakers these days don’t have the nerve to do anything like this. After we get 3 sex scenes, Schoolgirl Hitchhikers get into what there is of a plot.

2 girls Monica (Coeur) and Jackie (Stark) head off to a house they think is abandoned and spend some quality time together. Later that night Monica comes across Fred also hiding out in the house. The 2 of them have sex and later Jackie joins in on the fun. The next morning they leave and when and Beatrice (Regne) shows up we learn she and Fred are jewel thieves and the jewels are now missing. The thieves find Monica and Jackie and take them back to the house believing they stole the jewels and torture the girls to find out where they are hidden.

The screenplay by Natalie Perrey is really fun and campy, but I don’t think anyone goes into these movies for a well written script. However I did like Monica and Jackie and all the characters are the very least fun even if they have zero depth not that it really matters in a film like this. The actual plot doesn’t get underway until roughly 30-minutes in and seeing as the film is only about 79-minutes plot isn’t very important. In a sense it’s the same scene over and over again, but yet the script retains a fun factor throughout. Besides the thieves trying to get back the jewels we also have a subplot of a bumbling private investigator (Brincourt) and his secretary (Thyrion). While I can’t say the script is very good, but again its a lot of fun.

Director Jean Rollin (under the name Michel Gentil) crafts a really fun and campy movie and despite the amount of nudity and sex I never found the film sleazy for the most part. In general it’s the same scenes over and over again, but yet Rollin keeps it fun and the pace never lags. From the start, Rollin establishes a fun tone and is able to retain that throughout the entire running time. The sex scenes aren’t very believable since put it this way when Monica and Jackie are having sex their heads are a little too high to be doing what they are supposed to be doing, but rather than be sleazy there is something sensual about it and believe it or not does come across as more 2 girls really into each other rather than exploitive. The other sex scenes are more exploitive however, but this film is meant to be sexual and again Rollin crafts a really fun flick. Though the film does slightly take a mean approach when one of the thieves begins to torture Jackie, but its also quite erotic at times as it borders S&M. Overall Jean Rollin may not make a film that’s great, but its a lot of fun, sexy and silly.

Overall Schoolgirl Hitchhikers isn’t a film for everybody and while there is a plot its quite light, but overall I actually really enjoyed this film and not just for the sex and nudity. Joelle Coeur and Gilda Stark are quite easy on the eyes so their scenes are a highlight, but the film always for me at least remains fun and at only 79-minutes the film moves pretty quickly.

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Beyond the Darkness (1979) Review

Posted in Beyond the Darkness with tags , , , , , , on July 31, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

By Dave Kaye

(This movie goes under several different titles and I have posters or lobby cards under some of the alternate titles).

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BUIO OMEGA AKA BEYOND THE DARKNESS

**** Out of 5

Tagline- A Fate Worse than Death

Release Date- November 15th, 1979

Running Time- 93-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Ottavio Fabbri

Director- Joe D’Amato

Starring- Kieran Canter, Franca Stoppi, Cinzia Monreale, Sam Modesto, Anna Cardini, Lucia D’Elia

Released in 1979 Beyond the Darkness has built a large cult following and is often dubbed one of the most gruesome exploitation flicks of the 70s and I would have to agree with that comment. I’m not an expert when it comes to the films of Joe D’Amato and has much as I know of him I’ve only seen a handful of his work. Of all his films I’d have to rate Beyond the Darkness as by far his best work. This movie truly is from another era as we don’t see movies like this and even in its era it still stands out as more is actually implied than shown when it comes to certain subjects.

Beyond the Darkness is driven more by the characters and the story than it is action and while both characters and story might be lacking a bit this isn’t the type of movie with constant action and while the movie is very gory it’s only a few scenes that feature any gore. If you’re expecting a constant gore-fest one might be disappointed, but there are still some cringe worthy gore scenes, but I love the way the movie turned out and for me this is one of the best exploitation flicks out of Italy or America for that matter as well.

After the death of his girlfriend Anna (Monreale), Frank (Canter) a rich orphan is driven mad and steals her body and takes it back to his mansion and keeps it perfectly preserved; Frank also begins killing young women he comes across and his housekeeper Iris (Stoppi) helps him dispose of the bodies.

The screenplay by Ottavio Fabbri focuses more on the characters, which was a nice idea and while this works it also hinders the movie in certain areas. When we first meet Frank he seems a bit weird, but was he always so crazy? When someone you love dies the first idea isn’t to steal their body and murder people, but we never really get much of an idea on what Frank was like prior to Anna’s death. Regardless for an Italian exploitation flick, Fabbri actually delivers a fairly well written script with a few shortcomings. The characters are odd, which helps keep them interesting and while necrophilia is the main basis for the story we actually never see any such actions.

Director Joe D’Amato delivers an excellent and eerie flick; D’Amato makes perfect use of his locations and delivers a movie loaded with atmosphere. Rather than focus on gore scenes, D’Amato lets the story unravel, but when it comes to the gore, D’Amato really delivers a sick and gruesome movie and some scenes may even have the most hardened gore fans a little squeamish. The pacing of the can be a little slow in some spots, but due to the eerie feel and the total weirdness of the movie, D’Amato almost always keeps things interesting.

I’m not really an expert on Joe D’Amato’s career and while I know a lot about him I’ve only seen a handful of his directorial efforts and while they had their moments I was never really impressed with him as a filmmaker, but Beyond the Darkness shows D’Amato was a filmmaker with talent as he makes one of the best Italian horror flicks of the 70s. Besides directing D’Amato was also the cinematographer and he’s credited under his real name Aristide Massaccesi, D’Amato was also the cinematographer on the cult classic What Have You Done to Solange also using his real name and I think he’s a much better DP and really knows how to get the most out of each scene and I think that also is what elevates this movie perhaps more than his direction.

It’s quite difficult to rate the acting seeing the movie dubbed in English, but based on movements and all the other things that go into acting besides dialogue Kieran Canter does well in the lead, but it’s Franca Stoppi as Iris that steals the show; Stoppi delivers one of the most strangest performances I’ve ever seen and she’s really creepy; Franca Stoppi is truly memorable in the role of Iris.

One of the things Beyond the Darkness is best known for was the score by Goblin; most fans of Euro horror no doubt are big fans of Goblin from their great work in the genre and best known for their work with Dario Argento. Beyond the Darkness just might be their best work or at least the main theme. Goblin has had many different line ups and this one is without Claudio Simonetti, but even without Simonetti, Goblin is still solid and with their score for Beyond the Darkness they add a whole new dimension to the movie.

Overall Beyond the Darkness is an excellent movie and while it has a few shortcomings it has more than enough going for it to make up for it. This is classic exploitation cinema.

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The Toolbox Murders (1978) Review

Posted in Toolbox Murders, The (1978) with tags , , , on April 18, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

Review by Dave Kaye

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THE TOOLBOX MURDERS

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Bit by Bit He Carved a Nightmare

Release Date- March, 1978

Running Time- 93-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Neva Friedenn, Robert Easter, Ann Kindberg

Director- Dennis Donnelly

Starring- Cameron Mitchell, Pamelyn Ferdin, Wesley Eure, Nicolas Beauvy, Tim Donnelly and Aneta Corsaut

Released in 1978 The Toolbox Murders has built up a cult following over the years and has also been criticized for its violence and for being sleazy, but personally while the movie is violent it’s actually not anywhere near its reputation even for the time it was released and HG Lewis starting doing splatter flicks as early as 1963 and as far as the sleaze factor it stems really from one scene in, which Dee Ann (Marianne Walker AKA Kelly Nichols) pleasures herself in a bathtub before meeting a grisly end, which was the best death scene of the movie, but point is the reputation of the movie isn’t quite up to what it has been made out to be.

The Toolbox Murders is a very frustrating movie to watch since it has all the elements of a great horror movie, but it just never reaches that level or comes close to it even if enjoyable. The movie gets off to a really quick start with about 4 death scenes in the first 25-minutes, but after that not a whole lot happens and the movie also lacks in real direction and it’s not until the final act when things begin to pick up again. While Toolbox Murders is a totally different movie from When a Stranger Calls the basic structure of the movie is sort of like that with the middle sections lacking any action, but at least When a Stranger Calls had a direction and it’s not nearly as boring as people sometimes make it out to be and while Toolbox Murders isn’t totally boring there are moments where I sort of started to zone out of the movie.

The screenplay by Neva Friedenn, Robert Easter, and Ann Kindberg was rather weak and never really had a clear direction; there isn’t any character development and the victims are introduced and killed off right away without any hint of depth; Laurie (Ferdin) was the only interesting character and likeable character, but she only has a couple of scenes before her abduction and therefore it does make it tough to get attached to the character or fully sympathize with her.

After a quick start the movie slows down and the script isn’t strong enough to keep things interesting. The identity of the killer should be fairly obvious as soon as he first appears on screen, but halfway through the movie the killer is revealed and the motivation was a bit weak more because we never know what he was like before he had his breakdown. I think the biggest problem with the script is plots never really go anywhere. The police investigation feels more like a filler to pad the running time and Laurie’s brother Joey (Beauvy) starts his own investigation, but it never really goes anywhere and also feels like filler scenes; all of this would be ok if there were more action, but since after the opening act there aren’t any more death scenes until the final act these scenes after a while start to lag the movie down. Though there is a pretty decent twist and that sort of saves the script a little bit.

Toolbox Murders marked the feature film debut by Dennis Donnelly who prior to this directed TV episodes and this also happens to be his only feature film to date as after this it was back to TV productions. Despite getting off to a quick start Donnelly never sets a tone for the movie and we go from one death scene to another with no real set ups and zero character development; even with the limitations Donnelly could have given the characters a little bit of depth and therefore the suspense and tension are nonexistent. Despite the lack of suspense the death scenes do have a mean spirited feel behind them and are rather strong even if again there isn’t much of a set up. The death scenes have gotten quite a reputation, but the gore is fairly tame when compared to other flicks of the time.

After the opening act as I stated things really slow down and Donnelly isn’t able to inject much life into the movie and while some of this might be due to the script a lot of it however falls on Donnelly. I never felt as if Donnelly set a tone for the movie and I’ve seen several horror flicks that have a weak script or an ok script, but the director was able to create an eerie tone with suspense and tension that make up for any flaws with the script, but Donnelly isn’t really able to do that. Even the opening act had some sluggish pacing despite the amount of deaths due to the poor set ups, but regardless the opening act is the most fun and exciting, but Donnelly is unable to carry any of that over. All in all Dennis Donnelly does make an enjoyable if not overly flawed film and despite the middle sections I quite enjoyed the movie maybe more due to the potential than content.

Like many slasher flicks The Toolbox Murders came under fire for its graphic violence towards women and for being overly sleazy, but I don’t think the reputation is warranted since as I stated I found this rather tame when compared with many other movies released within the same time. Were the attacks justified or just another case of people with nothing better to do other than complain? Overall The Toolbox Murders was an alright film; it has a strong first act, but after that never really goes anywhere until the end and even the final act isn’t all that exciting, but fans of exploitation cinema should check this out since despite the flaws it does have its moments.

While my review may not sound overly positive I did enjoy the movie for what it was and it was later remade by Tobe Hooper and despite a few connections it’s a totally unrelated film with a supernatural killer. My advice skip the lousy remake and get the original.

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Cannibal Ferox (1981) Review

Posted in Cannibal Ferox with tags , , , , , on April 17, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

Review by Dave Kaye

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CANNIBAL FEROX

**** Out of 5

Tagline- The Most Violent Film Ever Made

Release Date- April 24th, 1981

Running Time- 93-Minutes

Rating- NR

Writer/Director- Umberto Lenzi

Starring- John Morghen, Lorraine De Selle, Bryan Redford, Zora Kerowa, Walter Lloyd and Robert Kerman as Lt. Rizzo

Released in 1981 Cannibal Ferox, which also goes under the title Make Them Die Slowly is a film from another time and place. Only in the 70s and early part of the 80s could a movie like this be made and released. At the time of the release Italian films were starting to become mostly knockoff films of either American or other Italian films and not long after this Italian cinema would slowly start to fade. Cannibal Ferox is obviously inspired by Ruggero Deodato’s infamous Cannibal Holocaust, which is probably the holy grail of the cannibal film; prior to this movie Lenzi would release Eaten Alive, which featured gore scenes from Deodato’s Jungle Holocaust, but oddly enough it was actually Umberto Lenzi who got the ball rolling with this style of films with Man from Deep River, which was originally released in 1972.

By the time 1981 rolled around exploitation flicks were starting to fade away in favor of slasher flicks, which would dominate the 80s and while after this exploitation films were still being produced the tide was starting to turn on them and by the mid-80s there were plenty of them still around, but not like they used to be. I suppose one can label Cannibal Ferox the poor man’s Cannibal Holocaust, but despite Ferox still works well and while it may not be as good as the film it tries to be like I’ll be honest when I say I kind of like both films about the same and much even prefer this over Cannibal Holocaust; I also happened to see Cannibal Ferox first so I suppose that could play a part in why I slightly prefer this one.

Let’s be honest when it comes to Italian horror cinema these films were never about the writing, but with that said there are plenty of well written horror flicks to come out of Italy, but it was much more about the visuals or violence. More often than not common sense sort of goes out the window and these films often had poor screenplays, but they still had a certain charm going for them. With Ferox, Umberto Lenzi does nothing to dispel that notion, but however I found Lenzi’s script rather interesting and entertaining despite taking elements from Cannibal Holocaust and offering nothing to really separate it from that movie I still again found the script rather interesting.

Some people talked about the social commentary in the movie, but I don’t really think there was any since any social comments in the film were lifted from Cannibal Holocaust so therefore this is just a balls to the wall exploitation flick. The characters were actually fairly interesting and while they may not be the most developed characters they do however have their own identities and some of the characters are sympathetic and others like Mike Logan (Morghen) are rather ruthless and vile. The subplot revolving around mobsters in New York City ties in with Mike Logan, but it doesn’t really impact the story and it only seems to be there to simply add to the running time and while these scenes don’t hurt the movie had they been removed nothing would feel like it was missing. The screenplay is far from great, but for an exploitation flick from the early 80s, Lenzi actually does a fairly good job.

I’m not really an expert on Umberto Lenzi since most of the films I’ve seen by him are from the 80s when he started to become more of a knockoff director and while I wouldn’t rate him as one of my all-time favorite filmmakers I have mostly enjoyed his work. Cannibal Ferox in my opinion would probably be his best film of the ones I’ve seen. The action is spread out, but mostly contained to the 2nd half, but the pacing was still pretty good due to the gritty and nasty feel of the movie. Even though this film again very much follows Cannibal Holocaust I think this is one of the few knockoff films that’s just as good as the film it was inspired by. This one might lack the social commentary of Cannibal Holocaust, but it works on being a really dark and twisted movie that really makes you feel dirty after watching it.

You know you’ve seen one too many of these movies when you pretty much know who all the actors are; Lorraine De Selle is excellent as always as is Zora Kerova (as Zora Kerowa). The standout however is Giovanni Lombardo Radice who uses the name John Morghen, which is an alias he often used when doing these kinda flicks. Radice is rather sadistic and evil and the performance was excellent. The acting may not exactly be Oscar worthy, but for a low budget Italian exploitation flick the acting is actually pretty good; Robert Kerman who starred in Cannibal Holocaust has a small role here as Lt. Rizzo and like always he’s fun to watch.

Cannibal Ferox is extremely graphic and even though I’ve seen plenty of films like this I’ll admit several scenes even had me cringing and the gore F/X are excellent as well. We have not 1, but 2 castrations, an eyeball being cut out, scalping’s, body parts chopped off and one of the most memorable hooks through the breasts. The reputation Cannibal Ferox has is very deserving and it’s one of the more graphic movies of its era. Slasher flicks of the 80s often came under fire for their violence, but most of those movies are PG-13 when compared to Cannibal Ferox.

Overall Cannibal Ferox is an excellent flick and even though it totally rips off Cannibal Holocaust I still felt this movie was every bit as good. Ferox receives mixed reactions from viewers, but I think it’s an excellent movie that is dark, gritty and disturbing and while it may not have any real social commentary it works on being flat out disturbing. A lot of the negative reviews stem from the animal killings and while I don’t agree with the killing of animals for shock value, but if you can look past that I think you’ll see Ferox is actually a pretty good flick.

In one scene Giovanni Lombardo Radice’s character is supposed to kill a pig, but Radice refused to do it and walked off set and a stand-in had to be used instead.

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