Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Review - Blood Red Planet 2000 by Tony Masiello

Blood Red Planet (2000)
Review By Tony Masiello

A strange planetoid has entered the galaxy and starts orbiting Mars. This causes the weather patterns to go crazy resulting in catastrophic carnage around the globe, as well as a loss of contact with the lunar base on the Moon.

A spaceship, Omega 1, is sent to investigate and figure out what the hell is going on. When they arrive on the lunar base they discover that everyone is dead and decide to blow it up in the hopes of containing whatever it was that caused the lunar massacre.

They then set off for the mysterious planetoid only to be besieged by alien UFOs which quickly blow up the ship (and causes the Captains head to explode).

Things are looking pretty grim so another spaceship Omega 2 is sent to investigate. Omega 2's crew consists of Captain Sterling played by SOV alum John McBride (Cannibal Campout, Woodchipper Massacre), his right hand man Malco played by the late great John Polonia (R.I.P.), the shifty Doctor Dawson played by Todd Carpenter (Splatter Farm), the drunken misogynist Frankie, the nice girl Becky, and the ship's control system KAL (not HAL).

 It's now up to our team of heroes to discover what's going on (trust me it's confusing) and to stop this alien menace before it's too late.

Blood Red Planet was co-directed by the Polonia Brothers (Mark & John) and their frequent collaborator John McBride. The one thing I've always admired about their work is that they never let small budgets get in the way of making their far-out features. For example, can't afford realistic spacesuit costumes? Just get some goggles, a surgical mask, strap a couple water bottles to your back and wallah instant spacesuit.

If you've never seen any of the Polonia's work before you may think this is done for laughs but the brothers are dead serious. They don't let small budgets get in the way of their vision. They just go for it with the limited resources they have, to varying degrees of success.

As you can imagine with this type of movie (a space opera) there are tons of special effects, some good (for the budget) and some bad. The digital effects are pretty dated at this point but back in 2000 you didn't see many visual effects in these type of movies and I'm sure a lot of hard work went into them. So regardless of how cheap and cheesy they may look today I give the Polonia's credit for being early pioneers in CG compositing.

The spaceship interiors consist of cupcake tins and other household items glued to walls. This could be distracting to some viewers not accustomed to the Polonia's style, but worked fine for me.

The final monster looks cheesy (reminiscent of a 50's sci-fi Corman monster) and it's obviously a small hand puppet, but I think it looks kinda cool. In one of the most memorable scenes in the movie it attacks one of the crew members and starts devouring him but it's obviously just chewing on some sort of doll which is pretty laughable.

The acting for the most part is pretty bad with the exception of John McBride who really tries his best and shows a good range of emotion throughout the movie. He makes for a good lead and is always a welcome addition to any movie he's in. Todd Carpenter is another story though. He is probably the worst actor in the movie and comes off like he's just trying to hard.

Overall I was kinda disappointed with this one but still enjoyed it for what it was. The story is hard to follow at times and even with it's short running time it just seems to go on and on (lots of long walking shots). Obviously though, the Polonia's have a great love for the genre and it shows in the end product.

If your a fan of the Polonia Brothers or enjoy movies "So Bad They're Good" (I really hate that term) then it's worth a watch, otherwise stay clear.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Review - The Paranormal 1998 by Tony Masiello

The Paranormal (1998)
Review By Tony Masiello

Kyle Jennings (Director Todd Norris) is a parapsychologist who has a theory that all paranormal activity radiates an energy signal of 12 and 17. He and his fellow researchers are trying to get a grant to continue their work but are rejected by the mean spirited Doctor Cass Charbonneau (Lisa Winegar), a scientist whose specialty is the study of alternate dimensions.

When a gamma ray and an earthquake (which the local townspeople cannot feel) occur at a movie theater with an energy signal of 12 and 17, Doc Charbonneau enlists Kyle to help her investigate the phenomena. The theater, located in the small town of Englewood also happens to be Kyle's home town and is managed by his ex girlfriend Lynn (Audrey Crabtree), and a street tough projectionist named Johnnie (Gina Tarantino).


While at the theater a mysterious reel of film manifests itself and in one of the best scenes of the movie it attacks the group!?! It then loads itself into the film projector and starts playing a low budget zombie movie entitled "Z Is For Zombie" (which cleverly is an actual trailer on the VHS before the movie begins).

 Soon-after the group discover they are trapped in the theater by an electrical charge emitting from all the exit doors. They also discover that whenever there is a reel change or splice in the film it opens a brief doorway into the movie. Johnnie, who recently made some splices to the film realizes that an upcoming splice happens to occur during a scene where the zombies are walking towards the camera, so if they don't do something soon the zombies will enter the theater and kill them all.

 It is then up to our hero Kyle to enter the film and prevent the hordes of the undead from entering our world.

 The Paranormal is a fun and original SOV from the late 90's released by Englewood Entertainment as #11 of their Modern Horror VHS line (other entries include Todd Sheets Zombie Bloodbath Trilogy which this movie pulls most of its movie within a movie footage from). It is also surprisingly slick looking for an SOV of this period, with great cinematography and lighting and a cast that are believable in their roles.

The only real downside to the movie is it's lack of gore which I am guessing was an intentional decision on the part of Director Todd Norris. They could have easily took some of the nastier bits from the Zombie Bloodbath movies and spliced it in there but didn't. Does the film need it? No, but I can't help but feel that if they would have added some more gore to the film it would be considered an SOV classic today. Don't let that detract you though from checking this cool underrated gem out. With it's fun inventive plot and slick production The Paranormal is a great example of what can be done with a lot of love and a limited budget.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Review - WNUF Halloween Special 2013 by Tony Masiello


Remember the days when Halloween programing would dominate the airwaves every October? Just about every program on the tube would have some kind of special showcasing the magical night of ghosts, ghoul's, candy and tummy aches. Unfortunately those days are long gone but thanks to filmmaker Chris LaMartina and the fine folks at Camp Motion Pictures you can relive those hauntingly good times again with the WNUF Halloween Special.

The movie presents itself as a fan dub VHS (with commercial and all) of a Halloween special recorded on October 31st 1987 for WNUF television. The story revolves around a local TV reporter named Frank Stewart who along with a husband / wife / cat psychic team The Bergers enters the Webber house (the scene of the spirit board murders) for the world's first live call-in seance.

I have to give Chris LaMartina and team a huge amount of credit for the realism of this tape. As I sat and watched it was like I was transported back to the 80's. The fake vintage commercials were a big highlight of the movie for me. It's obvious that LaMartina spent allot of time watching vintage ads to recreate them for this. They are really spot on and any fan of TV in the 80's will be familiar with many of the catch phrases and ways that companies once tried to get us to shell out our hard earned cash.

The acting for the most part comes off very believable especially by lead Paul Fahrenkopf who will stop at nothing to make sure his rating are through the roof. His character was really reminiscent of Morton Downey Jr in the Tales from the Crypt episode Television Terror and he did a great job carrying the movie. There were also a couple nice cameos by genre veterans George Stover (The Alien Factor) and Joe Ripple (Harvesters).

SOV fans will also notice a bunch of references and nods to SOV pioneers like  Bookwalter, Polonia, Sheets and Stanze. Astute fans may even recognize a couple stock shots in a few of the commercials from some micro-budget classics.

Overall WNUF is an extremely entertaining take on the found footage flick (did I really just say entertaining found footage flick?), especially for fans who are old enough to remember the good old days of UHF Halloween programing. This is one title you will want to put on your annual Halloween viewing list. What are you waiting for go buy it now.

Available at: 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Interview - Evil Night Actor Rik Deskin

Evil Night VHS
Interview with Evil Night Actor
Rik Deskin
By Tony Masiello

How did you get into acting? 
I started in High School is the easiest answer. I was a Junior and had been interested since I can remember.  As a Sophomore I had auditioned for The Wiz, did not get cast but I was definitely interested. I moved from Kentucky to Houston ¾ the way into my Sophomore year and my new school had a 4 year Theatre program, so as a Junior I entered into Drama 1, and later that year worked on my first student films. We were shooting them on Super 8. Old school! I acted in three and produced 1 within the two year span.

How did you get involved in Evil Night? 
As I recall, I think I answered a newspaper  ad. Or my girlfriend at the time, Holly Aeck (also the lead in Evil Night) may have told me about it. I had been working as an actor in Houston for about  three years after a 4-year stint in the U.S. Air Force. This was a Horror film and I was a fan of the genre so was happy to get cast as Rob.

Rik Toking it up in Evil Night
Any recollections about the shoot?
 At some point, the guy playing Spencer was either fired or quit. He had a bad attitude apparently. So we needed someone to double him in the mask. That was me. Throughout the film it was actually me, as Spencer, killing everybody. What was brilliant is that not only did I get to kill my own character, Rob, but then Rob comes back as a zombie at the end and kills me as the killer once again. I felt like I really got meta in this. I was also helping Todd behind the scenes with some of the effects and possibly some of the camera work.

Can you tell us anything about the Director Todd Cook? 

He was a few years younger than me, but shared my affection for the Horror genre. I think he appreciated my dedication to both acting and behind the scenes work. Plus he was the director. Needless to say, he and I got along very well.
Can you tell us anything about the cast and crew? 
Holly Aeck had been my girlfriend, but I think we started breaking up during the shoot. I don’t remember much about the rest of the cast and crew, but this was Houston, so some of us were connected to the theatre scene of that time. I remember several late night shoots on Evil Night that resulted in sleepovers at Todd’s house. He was basically shooting around his own house and was generous with food and shelter.

Can you tell us about your death scene?
Hah! Rob, described as a stoner delinquent, was basically stepped on, with head being crushed: by me!  Todd had devised a dummy version of my head, with a blood pack. The rest is history.

Rik's demise in Evil Night
Did you get paid for your part? 
No. This was a non-union shoot. And I did not know better. I’m in SAG-AFTRA now. But I will say that my experience working on this first film was invaluable. Not only as an actor but as a crew person.

What are your opinions of Evil Night?
 Meh. I like my scenes obviously. And I think for that time, some of the death scenes effects were being figured out as we went. It was an entertaining first effort for me as an aspiring professional. But lacking in quality.

Can you tell us about Demon Dolls?
That was more fun for me! We shot that elongated prologue with the puppet coming to life, and I got to double as the puppet. Then I get killed off a few scenes in. I think that for comedy appearances, my character was funny, and Todd and I worked in an inside joke about another Houston filmmaker that only we three would have got. I did a lot of camera work on this project.  Again, it was a learning experience.

Demon Dolls VHS

Was the shoot smoother than Evil Night?

Yes, because the cast and crew were much smaller. Less people to wrangle.

Any interesting stories about Demon Dolls?
Hmm. Well I remember shooting some scenes at not only Todd’s house but at my apartment. And I remember spending a good deal of time with Todd and Lisa, who were married (I think?) Beyond that, I don’t remember much.

How do you feel now looking back at the early work you did for Todd Cook?
This was the start for me as a professional actor. I believe my experience on both of these films has served me over the years in my work as an actor and a filmmaker. It was very DIY on these projects and I was totally open to it all.

What has Rik Deskin been up to sense those early SOV days?
I moved to Seattle in 1994 with my new wife and two kids. We added two more boys after. I worked as a non-union actor through 1997, finally went to school at Cornish College of the Arts, got a BFA in Acting, and founded my own theatre company. In 2003 I joined SAG. In 2005 I joined AEA and then in 2009 I joined AFTRA. And in 2012, SAG & AFTRA merged into SAG-AFTRA. I’ve been a volunteer Board Member since 2006. I’ve been in a lot of short and student films, commercials, and the occasional TV show. I’m a current cast member of a SAG-AFTRA New Media Series called Look Up In The Sky. You can watch online here and specifically I’m in Episodes 6 & 9:

Plus you can hear  me in Episodes 3 and 11 of Sandbox Radio Live:

And I will be playing the role of Carlson in an Equity Member Project Code presentation: Of Mice And Men, June 19-July 12 at Eclectic Theater in Seattle.
More about me here:

Rik Deskin 2014