Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Prime Evil (1988)

I know it probably doesn’t need to be said but there’s nothing like a scourge of bubonic plague or the promise of living an extra dozen years or so to get people to renounce the triune God, sell their souls to the Devil, and sacrifice their relatives to eternal damnation. At least that’s the premise of “Prime Evil,” a late 80’s horror flick that tells the story of a Satanic cult which arose in the 14th century, arising out of the fear and superstitions that surrounded the black plague (sort of like how the Jonas Brothers got started). The cult has discovered that by dedicating themselves to the Evil One (Satan, that is, not Mel Gibson) and offering their children or grandchildren up for sacrifice, they are able to extend their lives, not for all eternity, but by a whopping 13 years without aging. Funny thing is I believe Rachel Welch was able to do that exact same thing largely with the help of modern surgery and without all that pesky mucking about with tiresome (and possibly illegal) human sacrifices.

Despite the story’s origins taking place in the ancient past, the vast bulk of ‘Prime Evil’ occurs in the present day where we primarily follow the events of two women. The first that we meet is Sister Angela who becomes involved in the story when she is nearly run over by an obviously traumatized priest (whose trauma, we are shocked to discover, was NOT due to the rejection of his sexual advances by his fifth altar boy that week). She follows the priest into a church only to discover that he has keeled over dead minutes later and is now being looked over by another priest, Father McCabe. A small demonic talisman is discovered on the dead priest’s body which links his death with an ancient Satanic cult, sort of like how multiple empty French fry containers link a heart attack victim to McDonalds. Sister Angela later arranges a meeting with Father McCabe and reveals to him that she knows about the cult that killed the priest. It turns out that this cult not only subjected her to ritual abuse as a child but also owes her 20 bucks for sharing a cab with her once in New York. Because of these sins against her, Sister Angela asks that she be used to infiltrate their group in order to undo them. The priest initially is against the idea but then, in about as much time as it took him to decide what color hat to wear that day, he wholeheartedly embraces it. Father McCabe then devises a plan with the nun. Since a number of the cultists masquerade as Catholic priests, he decides to have Sister Angela play the part of a disgraced nun who has renounced her faith, believing that this will allow her to join the cult. Sister Angela readily agrees to the plan. What is particularly noteworthy about this scene is that these two manage to devise a plan to defeat a Satanic cult that has survived for centuries and has the legions of darkness providing its enforcement arm in about as much time as it takes the average person to order a pizza over the phone.

We now turn to Alex, a woman who works at a local woman’s shelter who is also the granddaughter of one of the members of the Satanic cult. It turns out the grandfather had sacrificed other members of his family in the past in order to extend his life but his latest pack of 13 years is about to run out (and he lost his “Sacrifice 10 Relatives, Get 13 Years Free” punch card). As such, he now needs another descendent to give up to the dark one and begins weaving a web to ensnare Alex as the next victim. What’s more is that he will get bonus points of some sort since his grand-daughter is also a virgin. What those bonus points are is not made clear but I would hope, at a minimum, they involve a Wendy’s Double Baconator. By the way, the reason Alex is a virgin is that her father got her involved in pornography when she was a child and she becomes traumatized whenever she tries to have sex. I don’t know what you think, but a relative-sacrificing grandpa and a child-porno father make for about as dysfunctional of a family as the Lohan’s at a Fourth of July Picnic.

So, in any case, that’s the set up of “Prime Evil,” and for the next hour plus we are left sitting on our couch, covered in Cheeto crumbs, biting our toe nails and wondering: (a) Will Sister Angela be successful in defeating the cult before they kill again? (b) Will Alex escape the evil clutches of her Satanist grandfather? and (c) Is there any of that pint of Ben & Jerry’s still left in the freezer? The suspense is downright unbearable!

Here are a few points worth noting (** Warning: Hail! Spoilers! **):

  • “Prime Evil” was one of the last films to be directed by Roberta Findlay (aka Robert W. Brinar aka Linda Michaels aka Ann A. Rifkin and about a dozen other names, both male and female) who is probably best known by horror fans as the co-director (along with her husband, Michael) of the quintessential movie-whose-notorious-reputation-far-exceeds-what-it-deserves film, “Snuff.” She was also known to have directed a number of soft porn films earlier in her career such as “A Thousand Pleasures” and “The Kiss of Her Flesh” which, if the nude and erotic scenes in “Prime Evil” are any indication of her talent in that arena, are probably nothing to run out and stock up on tissue and hand lotion for.
  • In an early scene in the film, Alex is shown at the shelter helping a young woman, Cathy, get back on her feet. Despite the fact that Cathy is a drug addict that has only been drug-free for only a month as well as a prostitute, Alex manages to secure a job interview for her on Wall Street (!) as a paralegal because of Cathy's “good resume.” I’m guessing that it didn’t mention Cathy’s ability to consume illegal drugs or turn tricks on the street or the fact that she has a parole officer (though who doesn’t on Wall Street these days). It must have been a tight job market at the time.
  • Alex’s mother is murdered by the Satanists in one of the strangest (and possibly most ridiculous and inefficient) ways I've ever seen, that is by making it appear that she died by choking on her own vomit by pouring booze into her mouth. You’d think that having Beelzebub covering their behinds these donut-holes could get away with a faster, less cumbersome and more believable murder methodology such as, say, having the victim run herself over with her own car. During the murder it should also be noted that, despite her blood curdling shrieks which could probably be heard in Zanzibar, her daughter somehow can't hear her a few doors down the hallway.
  • This film contains one of the worst on-screen relationships I've ever seen, second only to that of Sid and Nancy. The characters of Alex and Bill (her boyfriend) are continuously fighting and then forgiving each other only to immediately start fighting again! Why these two were a couple was beyond me.
  • In probably what was the director's sorry attempt at creating "atmosphere," a number of the non-scary scenes are shot in rooms that are poorly lit to the extreme, creating large shadows which are cast all over the walls. Such lighting techniques might be effective during a tense or suspenseful scene, but are pointless in moments showing, for example, two cops discussing a case they are working on.
  • The demon, which is very small and looks like the mutated fetus of the Taco Bell Chihuahua, arrives rather nonchalantly to the final scene of devil worship and, despite being one of the powerful minions of Satan, is defeated pretty easily. In fact it’s so anti-climatic that I’m thinking the director should have had Sister Angela dropkick the midget-demon through some goalposts or explode it in a microwave (ala “Gremlins”) just to up the ante a bit.

About the best thing I can say about this movie is that at least it has a title that warns the viewer of its quality right up front because “Prime Evil” is just that. It is 100% LOATHESOME. The plot feels like someone put a bunch of half-baked ideas into a blender and then pressed the “Clusterfuck” button. Furthermore, the dialogue is terrible, the characters are annoying, the acting is horrendous, the editing is a hack job, and the cinematography is uninspired. This is actually the second time that I’ve watched this celluloid power dump. The first time I watched it was a version that was obviously a “TV-friendly” edit because every time there was a scene of someone getting their head cut off or disrobing, the shot would quickly cut away. I originally thought that the edited footage may explain a few of the film’s problems (particularly the horrid editing), though I highly doubted that the few minutes of film that I missed out on could make up for this unforgivable waste of time. My second viewing of the film, which was of the unedited version, confirmed my suspicions as the film remained a rank turd…only with some blood and nipples thrown in. If you are into devil worship films, you can certainly do a hell of a lot better than ‘Prime Evil’ (the gawd-awful “Devil’s Rain” alone kicks this movie’s ass and then, when it’s down, kicks it again). In any case, for lovers of bad cinema, it’s worth at least one viewing though a second viewing may leave you without a soul. With that being said, I have to leave now and go look for mine. Shrew out!

Check out the trailer for 'Prime Evil'! (*Warning* Contains Nudity)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Night of the Bloody Apes (1969)

I gotta tell ya, if there's one thing that I love better than punching myself repeatedly in the stomach until my navel hemorrhages, it has to be watching "B" grade movies! And that's especially the case if they involve hideous, murdering bloody apes! And today's Killer Shrew review fills the bill quite nicely as it is just brimming over with hideous, murdering bloody ape action! So grab yourself a banana and snuggle up for a rundown of yet another weird, wild and wacked movie!

"Night of the Bloody Apes" (aka "La horripilante bestia humana" which, I believe roughly translates to "Make Love to Me, Monkey-Man!") begins, after a series of blood-soaked opening credits, in a shocking and bold new scenario for Mexican cinema: A wrestling scene involving masked wrestlers! But not only are these masked wrestlers, these are female masked wrestlers! And despite our desire to get down to the business of watching some serious bloody-ape action, we are subjected to an extended scene of watching two women pummel the shit out of each other (SPOILER: There WILL be more wrestling scenes later in the film). The wrestling scene continues until one woman tosses her opponent out of the ring and seriously injures her. [Note: The connection between female masked wrestlers and bloody apes escapes me for the moment, but I think it has something to do with the director needing to find some sort of an excuse to include masked female wrestlers in his movie.] The story now shifts to a Dr. Krallman who we soon learn has a son dying of leukemia. Apparently, despite all that he and his fellow doctors have tried, there is nothing that can be done to save the lad (who, by the way, resembles an even more emaciated version of Jude Law). Since time is running short, Dr. Krallman decides to take matters on a serious new angle so, with the aid of his assistant (who obsequiously always refers to the doctor as "master" ala Igore ala Torgo), he visits the local zoo and locates the nearest gorilla (which, via the magic of stock footage, poor editing and general goofiness, transforms into an orangutan and then into a man in a cheap gorilla suit). In one of the most memorable (read: laughable) scenes in the film, he fires a tranquilizer dart into the gorilla which does the classic grabbing of his heart with both hands gesture (I shit you not) and then keels over backwards flat on its back. The doctor and his assistant get the zonked-out ape back to the doctor's home laboratory where we soon discover their intentions. Krallman, despite the fact that it is deadly to transfuse human blood of the wrong type to another person, is going to transfuse the gorilla's blood to his dying son. And what is more, to make this more effective, he is going to transplant the gorilla's heart to his son as well. So, giving modern science "the bird" he proceeds with the operation which amazingly seems to work! But before you can say, "Planet of the Apes is THE greatest movie of all time!" 17 times really fast, we find out that not all went as well as originally thought. In fact, we soon discover that not only will the transplanting of a gorilla's heart and blood into a human cause the patient to suddenly, and without adequate warning, transform into a pasty faced version of Michael York after freebasing too much Jagermeister, but will also cause him to gain body weight faster than DeNiro between movie roles. Yes, you guessed it... the transplanting of the gorilla's heart and blood turned the young lad who is dying of leukemia into a murderous, raping, blood thirsty ape-man who is dying of leukemia. Well, you can't win 'em all, I suppose. But in any case, the bloody ape escapes from the doctor's home and, of course, goes on a murderous, raping, blood thirsty rampage. When the doctor and his servant discover this tragedy, they realize that they need to undo what they have done and stop the bloody ape before he throws poop at anyone!

Here are a few points worth noting: (WARNING: Keep your SPOILERS off of me, you damn, dirty ape!!!)
  • The film's USA title is somewhat misleading, as it actually takes place over the course of several nights and, in fact, only involves a solitary bloody ape (actually an ape-MAN). The film should have, therefore, been titled: Nights of the Bloody Ape. Makes you wonder if there was ever a large outcry of people demanding their money back due to the lack of a plurality of bloody apes in this film.
  • Fans of MST3K (or of Mexico produced holiday fare) may recognize the actor who plays Dr. Krallman, Mexican cinema standard José Elías Moreno, who also played the title role in the jaw-droppingly surreal Santa vs. Lucifer epic, "Santa Claus" (a film which, by the way, has to be watched either with the aid of MST3K riffs or copious amounts of illegal narcotics to be fully appreciated).
  • Don't get your bananas in a bunch...there IS a link between the injured masked wrestler shown at the beginning of the film and the bloody ape, though the connection isn't made until about an hour into the film. I won't tell you what the relation is, but I will say it DOES NOT involve the bloody ape and the masked wrestler getting together and going off on love-fueled killing spree road-trip that ends with the two of them driving off over a cliff while being chased by the police. So you know that much, at least.
  • There is abundant amounts of gore in this film and it's not for the squeamish...particularly because much of the gore is REAL. That is, during the transplant scenes they used actual shots of heart surgery being performed...yeesh! This shrew's gotta admit that there were moments during those scenes that he wishes he hadn't been eating leftover lasagna at the time of the viewing (*pukes slightly in mouth*). However, on the other hand, there is also cheezy stage blood up the wazoo to complement the real blood and guts. And I mean cheezy enough to make a chunk of Velveeta look like a delicate slice of Brie de Melun. Some of the most memorable money-shots include a "scalping" performed by pulling the blood-soaked toupee off of a bald man (no joke) and an eye gouging which reveals the human eye to only be a half sphere type of thing backed by what appears to be a racquetball sized amount of grade-school paste (or some kind of hot breakfast cereal).
  • The skin factor is fairly decent, at least in comparison to other "bloody ape" movies, of which I'm aware of none, though many of the nude scenes involve the monster ripping the clothes off a screaming woman in pseudo "rape" fashion or killing a woman as she steps out of the shower. Funny how all the men conveniently die fully dressed. Is it just me or does it say something about the filmmaker's views towards the opposite sex that all of the woman in the movie die or are attacked in this manner? Hm... (*strokes beard*)
  • One of the more WTF moments of this film is a brief appearance of a "beat" cop who is clearly Mexican, but who sports an Irish accent. All one can say is, WTF?
  • The version of this film that I own is the one issued by the incomparable "Something Weird Video," purveyors of some of the finest in grade B and exploitation movies. The print and transfer is surprisingly good considering the age of the film, the grade of the film, and the typical quality that you get from SWV. As is typical with these DVDs, you get a second feature on the disc ("Feast of Flesh") as well as a number of trailers, shorts, and even some outtakes from the main movie. There's even an Easter Egg! For only $10 you could do a lot worse!
Despite it's definite "B" grade status, inane plot, hideous make up effects, and goofy wrestling scenes, "Night of the Bloody Apes" is quite an enjoyable film for its class. It's fairly well paced, has enough blood and boobs to keep your lower nature satisfied, and is just plain fun. And if you are looking for hideous ape monsters, masked female wrestlers, heart surgery footage, cheezy eye gouging, and blood soaked toupees being removed from bald heads, then this is a film for you!

Check out the trailer for "Night of the Bloody Apes" here! (Warning: Contains nudity and violence)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Blood Freak (1972)

It’s time for me to now pay homage to what I truly believe to be the greatest “B” movie that I have ever considered myself privileged to witness. You’ve seen “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” “Eegah,” “Manos, the Hands of Fate,” perhaps even “Ishtar,” and you think that you can now die a happy, fulfilled individual because you believe that you have thoroughly plunged the depths of human incompetence and inadequacy. But you are sadly wrong. For there is one film that beats them all; one film that, in this shrew’s opinion, is the true holy grail of bad movies. One film that glowers at all the other “B” movies and shakes its wang at them, saying, “Bow down and prostrate yourselves before the supreme ineptitude that is ‘Blood Freak!’”

If you have never heard of this movie (let alone have never seen it), the back of the DVD package sums up nicely what it’s about: “The world’s only turkey-monster, anti-drug, pro-Jesus, gore film!” And that’s putting it lightly. Here’s the story in a nutshell. Herschell (played by Steve Hawkes, who has an accent as thick as Arnold’s but none of his charisma) is a lone biker who one day meets and befriends two sisters. One is Jesus-lovin’ Angel, who continuously tries to convert him to the ways of the Lord, while the other is bad-girl, Ann, who always tries to covert him to the ways of drugs, sex and generally having a good time. Herschell, of course, takes the path of least resistance and hooks up with Ann and her party loving friends and, as a result, soon becomes a drug addict. He also meets the girls’ father, a turkey farmer who offers him work doing odd jobs around the farm which drifter Herschell accepts. Upon arriving at his new job, he meets up with other employees at the turkey farm: two lab scientists who perform experiments to improve the quality of the turkey meat. They quickly convince Herschell to become a guinea pig for them and eat some chemically enhanced, highly experimental turkey meat to see if there are any side effects. But the combination of the drugs and tainted turkey meat eating are too much for Herschell’s system and he quickly mutates into a turkey headed monster which must kill and drink the blood of drug addicts to keep it satiated. And from there the movie gets even goofier.

What causes this film to suck on such a supreme level, and go beyond (and below) what the typical bad movie can only dream of becoming, is that it not only sucks in its execution, its terribly annoying music, its festering acting, its god-awful script-writing, and its horrendous make up effects (the turkey head is basically a papier-mâché mask), it also sucks at the very core of its story idea. Most bad films, if you look at them close enough, have at their core at least the germ of a good idea that, if polished and honed in the hands of a competent producer and director, might produce a semi-decent flick. ‘Blood Freak,’ however, doesn’t even have that going for it. Its story and premise are so appallingly ridiculous that no director, no matter how competent, could make anything good of it.

Here are a few moments worth noting (** Spoilers, shmoilers! Keep reading! **):

  • Peppering this atrocity are frequent interludes with the director, chain-smoking Brad Grinter, who sits in what looks to be a cheap trailer (complete with warped fake-wood paneling), wearing pseudo-silk pajamas and sucking down cigarettes like someone was going to snatch them from him at any moment. During these sections of the film, Brad gibbers on about the largely incomprehensible philosophy that is supposedly the “meaning” of this film.

  • The acting in this film is repulsive through and through, but the cream of the crop has to be the two lab-scientists that the turkey farmer employs. No amount of written description can properly convey how badly these two doorknobs act.

  • Probably the most jaw-dropping scene in the entire film is when the now drug-mutated, turkey-headed Herschell goes to his girlfriend, Ann, and she has a one-sided conversation with him (he can only gobble back in reply) in which she ponders how their relationship will continue and what their children will look like. What then ensues in an implied amorous encounter (with Ann saying “Oh, Hershell” and him simply gobbling).

  • One of the Blood Freak’s victims is a local drug dealer (played by a Clint Howard look-alike). The monster knocks the dealer out, places him on a buzz-saw table, and then proceeds to saw his leg off. The victim then proceeds to scream endlessly while the camera focuses on his bloody stump. By the way, the actor playing the victim is obviously an amputee and the filmmaker obviously just had the monster cut away the fake part of his leg.

  • The cherry on the top of this vomit sundae comes at the very end when the cigarettes finally get the best our beloved narrator/philosopher and he goes into a hilarious coughing fit. As the picture fades, he then smiles weakly to the camera as if to say, “What the fuck. We don’t have enough money to re-shoot that.”

Well, I think I’ll stop now, largely because I can’t think of any more synonyms for “inept,” “bad” or “horrid.” This film will take you down roads of such pure, rank cheese that, while in the midst of it, you feel that you could never stomach watching it again. But when it’s over, and you walk out into the sunshine of a new day, you suddenly feel yourself aching inside, yearning to see more of it. Such incompetence has rarely been seen on such a grand, almost epic scale. So do yourself a favor. Do not just rent this film from Netflix or Blockbuster or whatever. Run out and purchase it. And if your local bookstore or video store doesn’t currently carry it, pound on the checkout counter and say in a bold, yawping voice so that all may hear, “By the power of the gods and all that is holy, I demand ‘Blood Freak!’” (or, as an alternative, you can simply order it from By purchasing this DVD, you are casting your vote and telling your world that you are a lover of horrible, be-sodden films of only the utmost rankness and that nothing better will satisfy you.

Check out the trailer to this "turkey" here: