Monday, January 14, 2019

Review - Metal Noir (1990)

Metal Noir (1990)
Review By Tony Masiello

We open on a crazed guy (Charles Pinion) in an old dark cellar clutching a metal crown of spikes, tightly gripped in his hands. He has a look of madness in his eyes as he suddenly starts bashing himself in the skull with the crown. In shadow, we see him repeatedly smash the weapon into his cranium as blood spurts all over the dirty walls.

Welcome to Metal Noir!

Laurel, a young horror novelist has just moved into a new house to work on her latest novel. As the real estate agent leads her through her new home she informs Laurel that the previous occupants possessions are still in the house, as he had committed suicide. She also adds that some say the house is haunted and that it has a strange and mysterious past. It had previously burned down in a fire, and all that remains of the old structure is the cellar which was not damaged from the blaze.

The previous occupants were an anthropologist named Mr. Madly and his wife, who was ridiculed by his peers and ostracized after he had supposedly plagiarized someone else's work. He then traveled to the Middle East where he had claimed to have made a great discovery. After he returns home from his travels, he murdered his wife and committed suicide.

Laurel is not taken aback by the houses dark history at all. She thinks it will be great inspiration for her new book. It starts to do the opposite though as Laurel starts to struggle with writers block and begins to be plagued by strange dreams.

Laurel and her boyfriend are now thrust into a horrific nightmare of pleasure and pain, lead on by the sinister Madly's and their dark demonic metal god.

Metal Noir is a lost classic of the genre begging for rediscovery. I came across it when a friend gave me an old VHS tape he had obtained from Hugh Gallagher which featured Gallagher's first movie, Dead Silence. There was also another movie on the tape called Metal Noir which I had never heard of before so I was very intrigued by it to say the least. When I popped the tape in and the opening credits rolled, I immediately noticed the names of Hugh Gallagher (as Director of Photography and a small acting role) and Charles Pinion (Director of Twisted Issues, Red Spirit Lake, and We Await) and got very excited. As I sat back and watched the movie unfold I was not disappointed.

Some notable scenes include the Madley's having wild sex while covered in gallons of blood. A dream sequence where Laurel is crucified on a cross as zombies devour her flesh. Another sequence where Laurel comes across an RV that looks like it was decorated by the family from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

It is kind of like a surrealistic hybrid of Clive Barker's Hellraiser and Shinya Tsukamoto's Tetsuo The Iron Man. As Hugh Gallagher was the DP on this project it has a similar look to his early SOV epics like Gorotica and Gore Whore, but with more of an artsy experimental flair.

 As I started to research the movie by searching the net and scouring old issues of Draculina magazine. I made a shocking discovery. Metal Noir was never released. I couldn't believe that somehow this hybrid of art and gore film had never seen the light day. Thanks to Hugh I was soon put into contact with Director David R. Williams (FrightWorld) and asked him if he would be willing to license the title to me for a release. He agreed and now I am proud to announce that in 2019 SOVHORROR.COM will be releasing Metal Noir on DVD and VHS!

Is it unethical for me to make a review for a movie I plan on releasing? Maybe, but I really enjoyed this flick and I think fans of micro-budget SOV movies will as well. To hold you over until the release check out some promo stills from the film below, as well as the complete soundtrack courtesy of composer Scott Virtes.


Metal Noir Soundtrack

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Review - Twisted Issues (1988)

Twisted Issues (1988)
Review By Tony Masiello

After an altercation with some local punks, a straight edged skateboarder is hit by a car and killed. Soon after, a wacky doctor and his equally crazed assistant come across the body and decided to bring it back to life. This happens after they contemplate if they should have sex with the corpse first. The pair of wackos then decide to graft skin from the skater's face to his injured leg, leaving the skater a deformed monstrosity.

The skater, unhappy about his new appearance, offs the demented medical duo and drills his skateboard to his foot so that it is permanently attached to him. He then grabs a strainer which he dons as a mask in order to cover his horrendous mug. He then sets off on a trail of bloody revenge against the punks responsible for his death.

Simultaneously, as all this carnage is taking place, there is a young skater named Charles (Director Charles Pinion) who watches over the proceedings voyeuristically on his TV set as his punk friends are murdered. Charles and his girlfriend both seem to be immortal, as they continually attempt to murder one another but do not die (their wounds consistently heal themselves). Charles is almost a godlike figure, observing his punk friends and influencing what happens to them via his television set.

Twisted Issues is a surreal splatter punk horror film that is more a work of art than your typical shot on video movie. Director, Charles Pinion, crafts a tale that is not only fun but also captures the skate / punk youth culture of the late 80's in all it's DIY glory. The movie is inter-cut with a bunch of stock footage - wars, slaughtered animal photos, and live performances by bands that do not serve as filler, but compliment the movie (at times seeming to bring deeper meaning to the proceedings). Though ultimately a splatter comedy, the aforementioned elements make it much more than that. The film embodies more of a surrealist snapshot of the 80's punk/ skate youth culture that would make Luis Bunel proud.

The movie is shot well with some nicely eerie lit set pieces, especially the segments focusing on Charles and his girlfriend. Most of the movie takes place at night and, in true punk rock fashion, they use flashlights to light the actors in these scenes. That may sound cheap and cheesy, but it actually works quite effectively. At least you can see the actors as they deliver their lines.

Speaking of lines, the dialogue in this movie is completely over the top, giving rise to many memorable lines you are not soon to forget.

One of my favorite scenes has Charles cutting a bunch of sprouts with a pair of hedge clippers as his girlfriend watches on. She declares, "I hate sprouts". Unhappy with her  dissenting opinion, he taunts her to "Say it again". When she does he thrusts the hedge clippers into her cranium.

Another notable dialogue scene is an exchange between a couple of punks looking to score some weapons to defend themselves from the killer. One of the guys is spurting out bible lines as he sees the arms dealer watering his plants to which he suddenly asks:

What the fuck are you watering your plants with raspberry soda for man?

Arms Dealer
Water makes my plants burp.

But your plants are dead.

Arms Dealer

The soundtrack is a mix of punk, thrash, and alternative rock which really compliments the movie nicely. Being a fan of this type of music, I really enjoyed it.

The special effects are good, and I especially liked the look of the makeup on the killer's disfigured face. There are also some nice gory kills, including one where a punk gets his eyes gouged out.

Overall, Twisted Issues is a movie I think all fans of SOV cinema should check out. It's an original, inventive, funny horror flick that wears its punk DIY aesthetic proudly. Highly recommended.

Order Twisted Illusions here:

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Review - Lisa's Nightmares (1994)

Lisa's Nightmares (1994)
Review by Tony Masiello

For those unfamiliar with Lisa Cook, she was the wife (now ex) of Texas based SOV pioneer Todd Jason Falcon Cook (Evil Night, Death Metal Zombies). Her first acting role was in Todd's 1992 awesome debut feature, Evil Night. The story of a nerd who, with the use of a formula that gives him telekinesis, exacts a bloody revenge of the classmates who ridiculed him.

From there on Lisa Cook became a staple of Todd's work by acting in most of his movies, usually in the starring role. With Todd's help Lisa soon started to market herself as a Scream Queen (or Horror Princess), boasting a large fan club, many convention appearances, and even making a horror workout video (similar to the then Queen of Scream - Linnea Quigley's Horror Workout).

Lisa was by no means a great actress. Often she would come off very stiff in her delivery of lines, but she definitely had a certain quality about her. You could tell she, just like her husband, was very passionate about making movies and the horror genre in general. For all intents and purposes, Lisa Cook was the closest the early SOV scene had to a true Scream Queen.

Playing off this Scream Queen status, Cook produced a series of videos (5 in total) starring Lisa - entitled Lisa's Nightmares. Originally released on VHS through his Cemetery Cinema label, these long out of print titles have been recently re-released by his new label, Screamtime Films. So let's take a look at the first volume of Lisa's Nightmares.

The movie is more of a series of vignettes opposed to a straight forward feature. There really is no real narrative to it, instead we just see a topless Lisa sleeping and being plagued by numerous nightmares. The nightmares mainly consist of scenes of Lisa working out, cleaning house, cooking dinner, washing the car, stripping, showering and then being attacked by a POV killer who has a thing for navels.

Most of the death scenes involve Lisa either being stabbed or shot in the belly button, which was due to the fact that many of these vignettes actually came from a custom naval fetish video Cook produced for a fan. This is all revealed during a lengthy interview sequence with Lisa (topless again) inserted near the end of the flick.

It's really hard to judge this as a real movie due to the fact that it plays more like one of those horror fetish videos produced by WAVE Productions. I presume most viewers (except for people really into belly buttons) would be pretty bored watching this. Lisa is a pretty girl and there is tons of nudity in Lisa's Nightmares, but after staring at someone nude for most of the movies run-time it kinda loses it's sex appeal.

Don't fret though, there are definitely some highlights that make this at least worth a watch for SOV enthusiasts. My favorite sequence is one where Lisa is lying in bed and Todd is licking her navel and she suddenly stops him informing him she needs to poop?!? To which Todd responds, "What is it about someone licking you navel that makes you want to take a dump?"

She then goes to bathroom for her poop session and is confronted by the POV killer to which she responds, "Don't kill me like this!". The POV killer then shoots her (in the navel of course), and in the throes of death we hear her shit.

Some other highlights include Lisa being devoured by flesh-eating rubber rats. As well as Lisa being hacked up with a machete (complete with Savini machete gag to the boob). Also Lisa being accused of witchcraft, getting tied up, whipped, and having her heart ripped out.

Another notable thing about this movie is the use of unlicensed music by such groups as Goblin, Soundgarden, and Nirvana. So you get some pretty rocking tunes for a micro-budget SOV movie.

Overall, there are some fun moments in Lisa's Nightmares, but it tends to be very repetitious (seriously how many times can we watch her clean the house) and starts to get boring after awhile . If you're a fan of Lisa or a fan of WAVE movies you may dig this. Otherwise, I recommend checking out some of Todd's other work instead, such as Evil Night or Death Metal Zombies.

Buy Lisa's Nightmares from Screamtime Films

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Review - Satan's Place: A Soap Opera From Hell (1988)

Satan's Place: A Soap Opera From Hell (1988)
Review By Tony Masiello

Satan's Place is a rare SOV horror anthology directed by Scott Aschbrenner and Alfred Ramirez that was produced in 1988. The movie contains four comedic horror stories that are tied together by a wraparound with a young woman who meets the main characters of each story, while she is the main character of the last. So let's take a look at this wickedly fun SOV story by story.

The first story entitled "Disposable Love" centers on an ageing couple who don't get along very well. The husband is a beer drinking misogynist who demands that his wife beckon to his every call for beer and food. One day when she doesn't give him his beer fast enough for his liking, he accidentally kills her. He then decides to chop her up and dispose of the body down the garbage disposal. Soon after, strange things start to happen which ultimately end with his dead wife getting her revenge.

This segment was my favorite of the movie and gives you an idea of the mix of comedy and horror to come. There is some great dialogue exchanges between the couple - one of my favorite being the following:

Maybe we can go dancing?

Fuck you

This tale also has some cool squishy gore effects. There is a fun dream sequence where the wife kills her husband western style. There's another part were the husband boils his wife's head and pours the liquid from her mouth into a glass, drinks it, and then pukes.

Next up we got "Say Goodbye Sophie". This story follows a beer swelling redneck who accidentally runs over an old man in his pickup truck. The old man barely conscious keeps saying the same thing - "Sophie". The redneck takes the man to the hospital and upon learning that the old man will be okay decides to leave, and do what else but go out to the bar for even more beer. While at the bar the old man dies and when the redneck leaves he hits him again!?! Afraid of what may happen to him for hitting the same guy twice he takes the body home (a pretty hilarious sequence) and soon after gets his comeuppance.

This story was fun but the ending didn't make a ton of sense. I really loved the sequence when he takes the body home and is dragging it to his apartment. To top it off, when he gets inside he gives the stiff a beer!?! It's a fun segment but the payoff is a little weak.

Up next is "Too Much TV". This one is about an old crabby lady whose daughter is the queen of the couch potatoes. The mother just wants to spend some quality time with her daughter, but the daughter is too involved in watching a horror host show on TV, hosted by a guy named Dick Slasher. While watching the broadcast she fantasizes of ways to kill her mother based on segments from the movie she is watching. Things then take a twist towards the supernatural when Dick Slasher tells the daughter that she should kill her mother.

Another fun tale but not as good as the previous two. The highlight of this one is all the great fake movies playing on the TV. Titles such as:

Don't Go In The Kitchen
Bathroom Bullies
Missouri Mop Massacre
and a commercial for Disposable Dildos

The final tale, "Sally Satan", follows the young woman who essentially carries the wraparound of the movie, meeting each main character before their stories begin. I presume she is a prostitute but it is not very clear. Anyway, she has a date with a guy and he starts to notice suspicious things about her and her home but ignores them as he is eager to get his dipstick wet. Things start to get weird and it all culminates in a visit from the dark lord himself, Satan.

This last story was a lot of fun and puts a nice cap to the movie. My favorite scene is when the guy finds a severed head in the microwave but ignores it, because he's going to get lucky.

As you can tell the stories in Satan's Place are played more for laughs opposed to trying to scare the audience. It has a fun playful tone throughout and some pretty good performances from the cast. It also has some really good production values for an SOV from this time (1988), and some pretty squishy and fun gore effects. Overall I think fans of SOV horror will love this one. It's not an easy movie to track down but is well worth the effort. All praise the dark lord!

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!