Phantasm IV: Oblivion – 1998 – United States
I first saw Phantasm IV: Oblivion about fifteen years ago. I never forgot the scene of a zombie puking yellow slime directly into a person’s mouth. It is totally gross despite the slime looking sort of like banana pudding.
Like the two Phantasm sequels before it, Phantasm IV makes no sense if you haven’t seen its prequels and barely makes sense if you have. Reggie, Michael, Jodi, and the Tall Man are back, all played by their original actors. Former ice cream vendor Reggie is a likable everyman. Even while driving his muscle car and shooting his four-barreled shotgun, he still seems like a dork. Michael has psychic powers and his skull has been replaced by one of the Tall Man’s metal spheres. Jodie transforms into a sphere and might be a villain. The Tall Man does what he always does: grimacing, saying sinister things, and commanding his killer spheres and hooded dwarves.
The Bloody Brood – 1959 – Canada
The Bloody Brood is about homicidal beatniks. It’s notable for two reasons. One: A person dies by eating a hamburger full of ground glass, which is totally outrageous and disgusting. Two: The beatnik leader, Nico, is played by Peter Falk, better known as Columbo from the TV series Columbo. I’m really into Peter Falk because, despite being an actor, he looks like a normal dude. He even has a glass eye. His performance as Nico, the coolly amoral beatnik, really carries this movie.
Time Stranger – 1985 – Japan
Time Stranger is not entertaining at all, but it’s very interesting. Thankfully, after reading this review, you’ll know all its interesting parts, so you won’t have to watch it. You’re very welcome!
Time Stranger is an anime movie and a sequel to the 1981 anime series GoShogun (a.k.a. Macron 1). GoShogun is about a team of robot-piloting superheroes kind of like Voltron. But Time Stranger is awesome because it totally subverts the premise of GoShogun. When it was released, fans of the series must have been totally baffled. That doesn’t make Time Stranger good, but it is remarkable.
Hellraiser: Judgment – 2018 – United States
I’ve only seen a few Hellraiser movies. I guess they’re okay. Pinhead and his sadomasochistic cenobite cohorts are an interesting twist on horror characters. I especially appreciate how mysterious and morally ambiguous they are, and their kinky outfits are pretty cool too. That being said, I don’t really understand why Pinhead does what he does. Obviously, he enjoys torturing sinful mortals, but it feels like his grand scheme is never clear. His inscrutability is probably intentional, but it’s a little unsatisfying to me.
Hellraiser: Judgment is the tenth installment in the Hellraiser series. Since it’s a late sequel in a horror series, I expected it to be crappy, but amazingly, I liked it! The plot follows three police detectives on the trail of a serial killer who commits murders based on the seven deadly sins. The murders are imaginatively disgusting and sadistic (you’ll see those words a lot in this review). For example, a dog is sewn into its owner’s stomach while both of them are still alive. The characters are generic but just interesting enough to keep the story moving. The cool part is still coming though. Keep reading.
Glitter Goddess: Queen of the Sunset Strip – 1991 – United States
According to its prologue, Glitter Goddess: Queen of the Sunset Strip is a “tribute to the unconventional in all walks of life who have survived the surface superficiality of plastic presupposed role models”. It continues, “This story is dedicated to the fragile imperfections of humankind and the gray matter between all the black and white.” All of this is written in rainbow text that is kind of hard to read but also gnarly-looking.
So what is Glitter Goddess? Good question. It’s a docudrama about Llana Lloyd, a groupie in the 1970s rock and roll scene in Hollywood. Apparently, she was friends with Alice Cooper. Later in life, she became a journalist and started an organization called Children of Gays. If you have no idea who Llana Lloyd is, that’s normal. I googled her, and the only info about her seems to have come from this movie.
Death Kappa – 2010 – Japan
I watched Death Kappa because I wanted to see a kaiju movie. Forty minutes in, I thought, “I guess this isn’t a kaiju movie.” Five minutes later, I was like, “Holy cow! It totally is!” Watching Death Kappa feels like that. The whole time, I had no idea where it was going, but it just kept getting better and better.
After her career as a pop idol fails, Kanako returns to her remote, seaside hometown. Her grandmother gets run over by a drunk driver, and Kanako replaces her as the priestess of her family’s shrine. The shrine is built in honor of the kappa, a mischievous turtle-like goblin from Japanese folklore. One day, Kanako is surprised to discover an actual kappa living near the shrine. The kappa is drawn to Kanako’s singing and cavorts blissfully to the tunes of her old pop records.
But something sinister is afoot. Kanako’s town is also home to a mad scientist who is using kappa DNA to create an army of fish-men commandos. With her mutant soldiers, she plans to restore Japan to its pre-World War II glory. The scientist kidnaps Kanako to lure the kappa. When the kappa comes to the rescue, he and Kanako fight the scientist and trash her lab. In revenge, the scientist blows up the whole town with a nuclear bomb.
Meanwhile, a city is under attack by a giant dragon-like monster. The kappa, now transformed into a giant “death kappa” by the nuclear blast, shows up and kicks the other monster’s ass with cool wrestling moves. As the monster dies, the Japan Self-Defense Forces rejoice, but they stop immediately as the kappa starts destroying the city instead. It’s up to Kanako, who somehow wasn’t really annihilated by the mad scientist’s nuclear bomb, to pacify the rampaging kappa with her music.
Bugged – 1997 – United States
There are tons of horror movies about bugs but surprisingly few about exterminators. In Bugged, a scientist develops a serum to make people super intelligent. When the scientist tests the serum on himself, he turns into a freaky mutant and kills himself. But that’s just the movie’s prologue. The real story starts after some exterminators end up with the serum and mistake it for bug poison. While working in the mansion of a wealthy client, they spray the serum and inadvertently create hyper intelligent, hyper aggressive, mutant roaches. The roaches encircle the house and cut the power and phone lines. The exterminators fight back with a handgun, a baseball bat, pipe bombs, and sprayers made from Super Soaker water guns. In the end, the house explodes, and almost everyone dies.
Beware! Children at Play – 1989 – United States
Beware! Children at Play seems like a pretty unremarkable horror movie until the last scene. The story is about a writer of paranormal nonfiction and a sheriff investigating a bunch of missing children in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. The paranoid, religious townies are resentful and secretive, and the local kids swap stories about the “woodies”, a group of feral children that roam the forest. Of course, the stories are totally real. The woodies are a cult of cannibal kids that kill people with homemade traps and, for some reason, quote lines from Beowulf.
In the notorious last scene, the parents of the community (who are just as insane as the kids) attack the woodies’ camp and stab them with pitchforks, blast them with guns, and chop with them hatchets. There are lots of gory shots of children being murdered (sometimes as they beg for their lives). There is even a head explosion. It’s a real downbeat ending, and the protagonists are killed as they try to stop the massacre.
The Bat – 1959 – United States
The Bat is a remake of The Bat (1926) which was also remade as The Bat Whispers (1930). However, in my opinion, this is the best version of the story, and not just because Vincent Price is in it.
The Bat’s twisty plot defies a brief summary, but here is my attempt. The owner of a bank embezzles some money and hides it in an old mansion. He asks his shady doctor (played by Vincent Price) to help cover up the crime, but the doctor inexplicably kills him instead. Meanwhile, the Bat, a murderer with clawed hands and no face, is after the stolen money and repeatedly breaks into the mansion where it is hidden. The protagonist of the story is a middle-aged mystery novelist who is renting the mansion for the summer. She is pretty awesome really. She is tough, has lots of personality, carries a gun, and might have a gay relationship with her housekeeper. I’m just speculating, but they are both single, have lived together for 20 years, sleep in the same room, and hug when they are surprised or scared.
Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter – 1966 – United States
Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter does what it says on the tin. After fleeing from Vienna for crimes against humanity, Maria Frankenstein is masquerading as a normal doctor and living in an awesome castle-like monastery above a Mexican village. When Jesse James’ partner is wounded in a stagecoach robbery gone wrong, Jesse takes him to Maria for treatment. Instead, Maria transforms the dying man into a brain-dead Frankenstein’s monster. There is also a love quadrangle with Jesse James, Maria Frankenstein, Jesse’s partner, and Juanita, a feisty Mexican senorita. Unfortunately, this ends badly for everyone.