Thursday, December 13, 2018

Review - Blood Lake (1987)

Blood Lake (1987)
Review By Tony Masiello

A group of six friends head out to a country lake house for some rest, relaxation, partying and water skiing. Little do they know that in a nearby shed a killer is lurking and stalking them one by one.

There isn't much of a plot to Blood Lake, it follows the typical 80's slasher formula: Group of isolated teens go out for a party weekend and are dispatched by a vengeful killer, standard stuff. So why I am I even bothering to write a review for this Oklahoma lensed SOV slasher, it's because someone needs to set the record straight about this movie.

Blood Lake has grown to be considered one of the worst horror films of the 80's which I think is a bit unfair. Instead of a standard review format I am going to break down in eight points why I think Blood Lake is not only a good movie but one people should give a second chance too (maybe I'm crazy).

1. It's entertaining. Blood Lake even with all it's padding to reach a feature length run time is entertaining throughout. It follows a typical 80's slasher plot (if the formula works why deviate from it) which I think helps as there was something special about those 80's slasher movies. Sense the 90's and the release of Scream (which really is a bad movie in my opinion) everyone seems to laugh at the conventions of the genre, personally I love them. Sure it's predictable but is that much different than your standard superhero movie coming out today. Every genre has it's tropes and an astute movie viewer can pretty much easily guess the twists and turns in most films based on previous entries into that genre. I will get into why I find Blood Lake so entertaining as we continue but my main point is a bad movie is a movie that is boring, which Blood Lake is not. You want a boring bad SOV check out Death Nurse.

2. Little Tony. If you've seen the movie than there is no doubt that Little Tony is the standout character of Blood Lake. Played by Travis Krasser, Little Tony is one of the most memorable characters in the 80's slasher genre hands down. Played by a real teenager, (something that didn't happen often in the genre) Little Tony is a foul mouthed kid who has one thing on his mind, "I got my beer, I got my sex partner, what else do I need". He constantly puts down the older kids and makes sexual advances towards his female love interest. Today Little Tony would probably be considered a creep (post Me To movement) but I think he is hysterical and steals many of the scenes he's in. One day I really hope I can track down Travis Krasser and thank him for his contribution to Blood Lake.

3. The kids seems like real kids. Most of the cast of Blood Lake are the right age for this type of movie (unlike the 30 year olds in Scream). One thing you notice when watching the movie is that the cast seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves. They have good chemistry and as you can see in some scenes there is some good improvisation going on. I think the main reason people criticize the cast is their Oklahoma accents and their lack of formal acting talent. To me Angela Darter who plays the lead girl Becky is pretty damn good as our heroine and this was her first and only acting role. Obviously the cast tried to do their best and sure there are times the acting comes of wooden but overall I think they do a good job.

4. The Water Skiing. Ok I know how can I defend this padding scene? One word, Voyager! Damn I love that “Feeling Free” song, I find myself singing it constantly. Every great 80's movie has a montage with a big rock track and Blood Lake is no different. Sure it's a silly scene but you can't help but smile when you hear those lyrics and see the enthusiasm (and scared-ness) of the actors as they ski along the lake.

5. The music. The haunting keyboard score is creepy and really builds a great atmosphere in the movie. Why has no one reissued this horror soundtrack on vinyl? God knows there are enough shitty regional horror films that have seen their soundtracks released in recent years, I want to advocate for the release of the Blood Lake soundtrack!

6. Tim Boggs. This one may be harder for some people to see but as someone who has interviewed Tim at length about the making of Blood Lake, Tim is the unrecognized hero of the movie. Tim was approached by Doug Barry (Actor, Producer) to help make Blood Lake due to him working at a camera equipment store. Barry who had a little acting experience (an no producing experience) could not have pulled off this movie without Tim Boggs. Tim gets some beautiful shots (my favorite being the sunrise over the lake) in the movie and worked hard trying to get the best out of his amateur cast. He was determined to make the best movie possible even with the limitations imposed on him.  He has sense gone on to become a very successful sound editor in Hollywood working on many big films and television shows. When I interviewed Tim it was like getting the best motivational speech ever. He worked hard to achieve his dreams and has accomplished many of them. To quote him "I've always wanted to ask one thing of the critics what have you done with your dreams?"

7. The act of God. This one throws many people off but at the end of the film we see the killer standing over what used to be the lake but is now just a dried lake bed. After an earthquake the lake had dried up and hearing of this Doug and Tim traveled back to the location to get the final shot of the movie. Is it confusing? Sure, but it also gives the movie a surreal ending that makes it stick out from other 80's slashers. Not to mention it follows one of the best rules of filmmaking, take advantage of what you have. These guys had the brains to go "hey this is kinda cool and would make an interesting ending to our movie", and it does.

8. It's entertaining. OK I know I already did this one but I wanted to circle back for my final point about why Blood Lake is a good movie and deserves re-evaluation. The few good reviews for this movie tend to focus on one thing, it's so bad it's good. This is a term I really hate because if it's so bad it's good doesn't that mean it's good? To me watching a bad movie is like watching paint dry and Blood Lake is far from that. Weather the film is entertaining for the wrong reasons or not if you enjoy the movie isn't that all that matters? Sure Blood Lake has it's faults I'm not blind to that but to me and other young horror fans / aspiring filmmakers Blood Lake showed us if you got a camera, some drive and a lot of heart you too can make your own movie and get it out there. Regardless of what people say I give the cast and crew a ton of credit for making Blood Lake and getting it out there. I also want to thank them all for helping inspire me and many others to pick up a camera and make our own movies.

Overall maybe I'm crazy but I love Blood Lake and I hope after reading this review some more people check it out (with an open mind) and ones who previously mocked it give it a second chance. This small group of kids from Oklahoma went out and followed their dream and in doing so inspired others to do so as well, not to mention they made a pretty entertaining flick.

Long live Blood Lake!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Review - Nigel The Psychopath (1994)

Nigel The Psychopath
Review By Tony Masiello

When young Nigel's father died, he was told it's okay because his dad is in a much happier place now. Nigel takes this quite literally and the next thing you know he is killing everyone in sight to help them find that happy place. Wearing a gas mask and equipped with his trusty rake, Nigel goes on a rampage of happiness across the Virginia countryside as he is pursued by the police and his brother Chubby.

Nigel The Psychopath is an SOV made in 1994 by teenage Director Jim Larson and his small group of friends, who all play numerous roles in the movie. There isn't much of a story just Nigel going around killing people shaking his rake around like Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre while laughing maniacally.

Some notable scenes are Nigel going on a rampage at a playground in broad daylight massacring numerous kids, who all seem to be unaware of everyone dying around them. A kid getting his arm raked off (one of the few gorey kills). Also, an odd opening scene with weird placement of sound effects, such as a random laugh track and a baby crying?!?

Nigel The Psychopath is by no means a good movie and is very amateurish, but hell, it's a feature (barely) made by kids so what do you expect. I feel I can't be too critical of this one as obviously it's really just a group of young friends having fun attempting to make a silly slasher flick. The acting is bad, the music is annoying, the "story" is confusing but it's still a fun watch for what it is. SOV completists check it out.

Buy Nigel The Psychopath

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Review - Horrorgirl (1995)

Horrorgirl (1995)
Review By Tony Masiello

Horrorgirl is a weird, noisy, industrial goth band led by the sultry Creatura (Ghetty Chasun, star of Gorotica and Red Lips) that is just dying to get a break.

They're behind on their rent and their landlord wants to evict them. They have a gun totting pizza boy who wants the money for the pizza they stole from him. Oh, and their new guitarist / keyboardist Fang has just died via electric shock - watch out for those dixie cups of water when rocking. 

The only way for them to get out of their troubles is to win the local battle of the bands. Thankfully, Horrorgirl practices witchcraft and they bring their dead band-mate back to life (via magic and jumper cables) and set out to win the competition to square up their debts.

Once they arrive at the club things start to get really weird when one of the members, Slayme, gets possessed by a demon. She shoves plastic knives into her mouth (resembling giant vampire fangs) and into her fingertips (ala Freddy) and starts to go on a rampage. Now it is up to Creatura to enter Slayme's mind and exorcise the demon so they can win the battle of the bands.

Horrorgirl is a fast paced and fun SOV that keeps you guessing throughout it's brief 50 minute running time. You never know what is going to happen next, which makes for a fun ride. More of an art movie than a horror movie, it's a very stylistic flick that reminds me of the early films of Richard Kern.

The music is wacked out and crazy. A sort of noisy, gothy, industrial sound that benefits from Chasun's maniacal vocals. It goes very well with the transgressive visual style of the movie and I really dig it, though some may find it to be too noisy for their taste.

Horrorgirl probably isn't for everyone, but if you like weird artsy transgressive stuff this ones for you.

Book Review - Playgore By Hugh Gallagher

Review Playgore (2011)
Author Hugh Gallagher
Review By Tony Masiello

It's no secret I'm a huge fan of Hugh Gallagher's work. Not only did he make one of the best SOV trilogies of the 90's (The Gore Trilogy) but he was also the publisher of one of the best independent horror magazines of the 90's, Draculina. So when I started the S.O.V. The True Independents project, Hugh was one of the first filmmakers I contacted to be part of the it.

For those unfamiliar with his work, his movies are cleverly scripted erotic horror films that always deliver the goods, and show what can be done with a limited budget and a lot of heart.

For further reference check out the episodes we did covering his movies Gorgasm, Gorotica and Gore Whore, as well as the great article about the Draculina Empire written by SOV alum, Tim Ritter (Truth or Dare series).

Playgore is a compilation of articles Hugh wrote for Draculina about the making of his Gore Trilogy, as well as some newly added recollections and reflections on his work. Also covered in the book is his early childhood, the creation of Draculina, and the making of his first movie Dead Silence.

Hugh is a very good and engaging writer. It's really interesting to read about his early life and struggles (you thought your childhood was bad), and how he overcame them to follow his dreams. It is truly an inspirational story and a good read.

Available on Kindle, this book is a great snapshot of early SOV filmmaking in the early 90's that is a must own for fans of his work and for fans of micro-budget cinema in general. What are you waiting for? Go buy it now!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Book Review - B-Movies In The '90s And Beyond By J.R. Bookwalter

B-Movies In The '90s And Beyond (2018)
Author J.R. Bookwalter
Review By Tony Masiello

Something very sad happened recently in the world of independent cinema. After almost 30 years of bringing great micro-budget movies to the masses, Tempe Video has decided to close shop. Lead by filmmaker J.R. Bookwalter, Tempe Video was one of the most important independent production companies / distributors of the 90's.

When I was a teenager, scouring every mom and pop store for new horror movies to sink my morbid teeth into, I discovered Tempe Video. The movie that first exposed me to Tempe was 1995's Ozone (an SOV classic!). From there on I started to seek out other titles from the Tempe catalog. I also started reading Alternative Cinema, a magazine founded by Bookwalter, that was one of the first magazines catering to fans and filmmakers alike of micro-budget cinema. Since then, I followed his career. Regardless if he was directing or producing, if the name J.R. Bookwalter was attached to the video, I was in.

I was fortunate enough to meet J.R. at the first Fangoria convention I ever attended in the early 2000's. Not only was he a really nice guy, but he had some of the best prices on DVD's ($5!).

When I heard of the sad news and the big blowout sale Tempe was having, I quickly made an order (followed by another a week later) to complete the holes in my collection. One of the items I ordered was the newly revised edition of his book, B-Movies In The '90s And Beyond.

B-Movies In The '90s And Beyond follows J.R.'s career from his early super 8 movies to the six titles he produced for legendary filmmaker Dave Decoteau (for his then new Cinema Home Video label). Most people will probably be attracted to the book for it's coverage of J.R.'s first movie - the Sam Raimi produced, The Dead Next Door (still one of the best zombie movies ever made). However, I was most excited to read about the SOV's that he produced for Cinema Home Video.

J.R. goes into great detail about the insane deal he made to pretty much produce a movie every month for Cinema Home Video and the stresses of doing so with such a small budget per movie - a meager $2,500 a piece. J.R. holds nothing back as he gives an honest, sometimes self-deprecating, view of his creations and the sacrifices it took to make them.

This newly revised version of B-Movies In The '90s And Beyond (first self published in 1992) also has a short chapter about his work post Cinema Home Video. My only complaint is that I wish it longer.

B-Movies in the '90s and Beyond is a great book and I urge you all to pick up a copy before they're sold out. While your at it, get some DVDs (some as low as $1)! Even though he is closing shop for Tempe, I truly hope one day J.R. will get back in the directors chair or maybe even give us another book covering his later DTV work. One can only hope.

R.I.P. Tempe Video you will be missed.