Who doesn’t adore Mexican sci-fi/horror cinema? Whilst consuming everything from 1968’s The Batwoman to 1970’s Santo and Blue Demon vs. the Monsters, I stumbled upon the poster for Harry Essex’s Octaman and I knew I had to track down a copy of this 1971 creature feature! There was something reminiscent about the humanoid octopus… As it turns out, I was already quite familiar with Essex’s monstrous creation! Even if you haven’t seen this movie, you’ve likely seen the titular creature.
Ladies and gentlemen start your engines and prepare to burn rubber for contemporary comedy-horror Spree. Honk, Honk! Spree stars Joe Keery as Kurt Kunkle, an obsessed boy who wishes to be a popular social media influencer like his idols Bobby Basecamp and Jesse Adams. The only problem is he has a limited audience watching his channel as he is an excruciatingly dull person. He has tried everything to get noticed on YouTube, like playing video games, promoting shoes, and doing tutorials. But none of those are helping him in getting his foot through the social media door.
“Murder is trending…”
If you’ve ever wanted to break into indie filmmaking, read on because you’ll find what I’m about to say uplifting. Strip Club Massacre, co-written and directed by Bob Clark, proves that anyone, regardless of skill, equipment, money, or talent, can make an independent film and find a distributor for it. So grab a camera, get on out there, and start filming: the light is green.
The best thing about Strip Club Massacre is the title, because it perfectly sets up exploitative expectations. Where things sort of fell apart was in all aspects of the execution…
“She has a killer body.”
Special effects in the style of 1990s TV series Mighty Morphin Power Rangers are what attracted me to PG: Psycho Goreman. Within the first few minutes, and throughout PG, I had spotted several tributes to Power Rangers, from the soundtrack to the concept of a villain trapped underground, freed unwittingly, to the Planetary Alliance. That’s not to say PG wasn’t an original film, as Mimi’s family, and Mimi in general, are unusual characters.
Mimi is a spoilt brat who obtains a gemstone that can control the ultimate intergalactic supervillain, Psycho Goreman.
“I do not care for hunky boys. Or do I?”
Benny Loves You is an original comedy horror about a possessed, jealous toy that will kill anyone who gets too close to his grown-up owner. This film has it all! Comedy, horror, gore aplenty, and a sympathetic main character in Jack. The dialogue in Benny Loves You is frequently funny; the awkwardness of Jack as he sneaks around the office to avoid his boss or to dodge Dawn’s advances isn’t laugh-out-loud, but more the quaint British humour you see in films like Extra Ordinary. There’s also plenty of black humour surrounding Benny and his murders, not least with the dog, Precious!
“Don’t throw him out.”
At the Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia (otherwise known as PZYK) I was introduced to Zamrock – a musical subgenre that combined African rhythm and sound with psychedelic rock – and arguably the most successful Zambian band of the 1970s: WITCH (an acronym for “We Intend To Cause Havoc“). Under the leadership of charismatic lead vocalist Emanuel “Jagari” Chanda, WITCH dominated the PZYK stage from the moment the band re-introduced themselves during ‘Introduction’.
“I had no idea where Zambia was, or how such incredible music could be recorded there, by what looked like a bunch of misfits.”
In 2016, Spring Break Zombie Massacre was unleashed upon audiences across the United States; the DIY brainchild of both Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt. Sam and Mattie have been best friends since they were 10 years old, forging an unbreakable bond fueled by their passion for movies, so it was inevitable that they would eventually make their own. Jesse Suchmann and Robert Carnevale’s documentary, Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie, captures this inspiring story and the end result; Sam and Mattie’s punk rock spirited, horror extravaganza!
“Rock on, go wild!”
Remastered onto BD-R/DVD-R, Carnie Features have released the definitive edition of Thomas Lee Rutter’s Bella in the Wych Elm; a West Midlands phantasmagoria based on the world-famous unsolved Hagley Wood mystery. Part documentary, part experimental horror, Bella in the Wych Elm is a delight to watch and never comes across as exploitative.
“Mysterious, terrifying, and true.”
Kingdom, in a nutshell, is about a group of people surviving Korean fast-moving zombies in medieval times, with court intrigue thrown in for good measure. The setting – including locations, costumes and values – is what immediately sets this apart from other zombie media. Being set over 500 years ago makes the Netflix series all the more terrifying, as the rural communities try to survive against zombies when they lack food, weapons, and live in squalid overcrowded villages. In several episodes the zombies catch fire and because everything is built on wood, it doesn’t end well.
“Blood will spill.”
Easter 1985. Anthony Smith, more commonly known as The Easter Ripper, is executed after being convicted for the murder spree of several young children he had abducted from a shopping mall – under the guise of The Easter Bunny – and tortured at his “murder house”, leaving lives shattered and families ripped apart.
“Tonight, we’ll go inside his vacant home, where 11 innocent children spent their final moments in agonizing pain and terror.”
Funny, heartfelt, and unconventional are three words that sum up the Irish horror comedy Extra Ordinary. Rose Dooley reluctantly has to use her talents in talking to ghosts (and sending them to the afterlife) after Christian Winter, a one-hit-wonder rock star makes a deal with the devil to be on top again.
Despite its dark subject matter, there isn’t anything really scary about this film, and if it wasn’t for the language and sexual content, it could be rated 12. The humour throughout most of the film is more silly than laugh-out-loud. Each character has their own quirky trait, like Rose and her awkwardness.
“Putting the normal in paranormal.”
Unless one is of a certain age it might be difficult to relate to VIPCO’s feature-length release of the documentary VHS Forever? Psychotronic People. It harkens back to the dawn of serious movie watching, especially those of a subversive and transgressive nature. The documentary manages to capture the thrill of so many cinephiles to be able to access obscure, forbidden and strange films, but at the same time, shows the paranoia and very real legal concerns operators of video stores faced during the era.