Avenging Angel (1985)

avengingangelThe saga of Angel the prostitute with the heart of gold and a thirst for vengeance reaches new levels of camp with “Avenging Angel.” While “Angel” wasn’t exactly high art, “Avenging Angel” makes the former film look like a John Ford Western by comparison. That’s not to say “Avenging Angel” is an awful movie. It’s just so deliriously stupid and absurd, and I couldn’t help but enjoy everything from the goofy protagonists we have to root for, to the shoddy stunt work. If you liked the transvestite fighting off the serial killer in “Angel,” prepare for two transsexuals getting in to a fist fight with two armed thugs. Try not to notice the stunt doubles wearing bad wigs during the fight scene.

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Angel (1984)

angel1984Robert Vincent O’Neill’s “Angel” is a fun mixture of a campy exploitation and a stern crime thriller that also conjures up some classic neo-noir overtones. The 1984 drama thriller about an under age prostitute trying to outwit a serial killer garners some clumsy plot elements but stands as a strong film overall. You’d figure it’d be distracting to be sucked in to a thriller starring a protagonist who hangs around an aged cowboy and a transvestite, but “Angel” gets the job done. Donna Wilkes gives a strong performance as young Molly Stewart, a high schooler by day who is also a prostitute by night.

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Cellblock Sisters: Banished Behind Bars (1995)

cellblockHenri Charr’s “Cellblock Sisters: Banished Behind Bars” (aka “Banished Behind Bars”) is one of the most nineties straight to video movies ever released. It’s a rip off of “Bad Boys” that pits nothing but gorgeous blond women against one another in a women’s prison and forces them to fight it out for control and petty grudges. Henri Charr’s crime thriller is surprisingly convoluted, but one that also gets a free pass for being one of the last of its kind before the early aughts indie resurgence of women in prison films. As children April and May were sold off by their drug addicted stepfather Sam, to strangers in exchange for drug money.

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A Short Interview with Miguel Rodriguez, founder of Horrible Imaginings Film Festival San Diego

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Q. First things first: What is Horrible Imaginings and why did you start it?
I started Horrible Imaginings Film Festival after moving to San Diego in 2009 to discover there was not a regular film festival in the city—or any film event really—that examined or celebrated the horror genre. I had to drive to Los Angeles for an opportunity to meet other people who loved horror or see new genre films.

So partially, I started Horrible Imaginings simply to give a life to horror in San Diego. More importantly to our mission statement, though, I wanted to expand what I have been seeing as a narrow definition people have for horror, and even to legitimize horror as a means for artistic expression.

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You Have to See This! Savage Streets (1984)

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Brenda is the leader of a pack of young girls in her town who spend their free time making trouble and raising hell. When they cross a male gang while partying and decide to wreck their car, they strike at Brenda by raping and violating her sister, Heather. Out of spite, they also murder her best friend. Having had enough, Brenda unleashes street justice on the bastards, with a slew of weapons, including her crossbow, switch blade and her street know how. Sure, Sure, Linda Blair. “The Exorcist” is a family drama, not a horror movie. No, we believe you. And “Repossessed” was a relevant Mel Brooks throwback. And “Chained Heat” was an indictment on the prison system. And “Savage Streets”? An honest look at the peril of American youths! What? Just because “The Exorcist” is my favorite horror film ever made doesn’t mean I’m at all bitter.

In either case, if you’re one of the few people that wondered what became of Linda Blair after “The Exorcist,” you’d be surprised to know that Blair became a B movie actress, and a bonafide grindhouse goddess. Once Blair went from adorable young kid to legitimately legal, Blair was a busty bombshell who could really dominate the screen with her curves and her fierce performances. Not to mention whenever she was on-screen, her gorgeous breasts seemed to act independently from Blair’s body. It’s shocking how much Blair’s bust seems to be their own character in “Savage Streets” as well as other noted films of hers like “Chained Heat.” Not that it’s much of a revelation, I mean I’m sure everyone seemed to notice this increase in bust size around “The Exorcist II: Heretic.” It just didn’t become kosher to point it out and enjoy it until Linda Blair began shedding her clothing and bathing with other women in grade A grindhouse fare. Her yaboes were only rivaled by the great Pam Grier. But enough about breasts for a while,

I digress. “Savage Streets” is that great youth gone wild film that would have been filmed in the fifties with a disclaimer in the finale, except it goes whole hog in to the dramatic revenge tale rather than calling attention to its ludicrous trappings. The film is inherently goofy, but you just have to love how Linda Blair takes charge in the finale.

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Blair works very hard to own the role of Brenda, the alpha female of her school who runs a gang and gets in to spontaneous fights in the school showers in the near nude. Blair, with her cherubic face and warm smile struggles to convince audiences she’s this hard boiled no nonsense female hood, and likely spent hours in front of a mirror practicing her scowls and holding her cigarettes. But god help her, she just can’t pull it off. Granted, the woman is gorgeous, but not quite the street wise chick who leads a pack of young girls in to trouble and mayhem. Compared to the more realistic femme fatales in “The Switchblade Sisters,” Blair and co. are somewhat laughable. Her only salvation is her younger sister Heather, an innocent mute teenager who follows Brenda on her overnight adventures cruising stores and breaking laws.

Heather is played by the gorgeous Linnea Quigley in one of her earliest roles, where she is pretty much propped to be an angelic young girl who keeps Brenda from going over the edge in to full on criminal mode. Imagine the switch when Quigley would play the iconic punk goddess Trash in “Return of the Living Dead” years later. After crossing a group of guys in town by hijacking their ride and trashing it, they seek revenge by gang raping Heather in the lockers. Brenda of course was too wrapped up in a shower fight to notice her sister being tortured and sexually violated the entire time. And Heather is a mute, so she very well couldn’t scream for help. Angered and enraged, Brenda sets out on a path of violence, systematically eliminating the men that took her sister’s life, while the men retaliate by murdering Brenda’s friend. All of which culminates in a final showdown between Brenda–in full black leather regalia–and leader of the male gang that almost seems to be for a sequel.

Sadly, there was never a “Savage Streets II” and Blair went on to better–well–other things. No, but I kid Blair. All things considered Blair in her prime was a gorgeous curvaceous sight for the movies, and “Savage Streets” is a fine installment in the later repertoire of Blair’s career, where she embraced grindhouse and exploitation at every turn and looked for any excuse to show skin. And I thank her for that. Linda Blair never really could convince anyone that she was a hardcore gangster woman, but “Savage Streets” is still a tasty bit of eighties exploitation with a fun premise, and a one two punch of the almighty Blair and Quigley.

Bound to Vengeance (2015)

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José Manuel Cravioto’s “Bound to Vengeance” is exploitation in its ugliest form. I’d love to be one of the many to decry the film as misogynist, but exploitation is by nature misogynist. Truth be told, “Bound to Vengeance” is unpleasant but it’s also not the worst movie I’ve seen all year. In its rare moments it’s a fine revenge thriller about a woman getting her vengeance on her kidnapper. In its worst moments, it’s unpleasant and kind of stupid.

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Monster of the Nudist Colony (2013)

MoNCCan you really call it a nudist colony if it’s comprised of eight people total? I was never quite sure, but I wish nudist colonies actually looked like this. Based on documentaries I’ve seen about nudist colonies, it’s not all comprised of people like Lexi Belle bouncing around and scampering like a pixie. And I’d wager it’s not filled with hedonistic orgies and drunken parties. But I guess that’s the fun of “Monster of the Nudist Colony.” Everything about it is so ridiculous that it comprises a surreal and amusing experience. At the seemingly deserted Circle Double D’s Nudist Colony, a monstrous ape begins wreaking havoc on the residents, rushing out from the woods to terrorize them mid-coitus and little else.

The ape is also collecting the gorgeous women from the Colony for its own nefarious purposes, too. Like making them dance for him. This oddly enough gets back to detective Arch Hammer, who is investigating the ape attacks, and celebrates the case by diddling his gorgeous wife, as played by Melissa Jacobs. Now they plan to go undercover as nudists to investigate, and sleep with just about every resident in the colony. Considering there’s only under a dozen people staying in this luxurious ranch, that’s not much of a task.

Two my favorite aspects of “Monster of the Nudist Colony” is the viciously bad acting, and the deliriously laughable soundtrack. Comprised of soft jazz and oddly self aware rock music, Robbie Breastnut composes much of the hilarious soundtrack that plays over the softcore sex scenes. It’s worth keeping the sound up if only to hear the ridiculous lyrics and wonder if she’s in on the joke, or is actually serious with this soundtrack. Breastnut even appears as a local officer who does nothing but lounge around in a skimpy police uniform and come very close to blowing her own brains out. As for the acting, there isn’t a single competent performance in the group.

Considering this is mainly just a movie for the gorgeous women to strip and grope one another in tame girl on girl, I doubt acting was a big requirement. Nevertheless the furiously bad acting provides the most laughter. You have to see the random girl on girl mid-way where performer Hannah Reilly literally struggles to get through her scenes and finish her lines without tripping up. I’ll place money it took at least ten takes to finish her portion. “Monster of the Nudist Colony” is a trippy bit of softcore soft horror, and is worth watching for the self-awareness brought to the horrific production quality and sheer non-existent plot. Plus, you can’t hate anything featuring Lexi Belle too much.

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Hard to Die (1990)

hardtodie1990What Jim Wynorski’s “Hard to Die” has in common with “Die Hard” is that it features a high rise. And that’s about it. But I don’t blame it for being so shameless in exploiting the aforementioned action film, when “Hard to Die” is purposely exploitative and shameless to begin with. 1990’s “Hard to Die” also known as “Tower of Terror” and “Sorority House Massacre 3” is seventy minutes (Well if you cut out the montage from “Slumber Party Massacre,” the film is a cool hour) of goofy ridiculous fun intended to mock the horror genre at every turn. It’s a horror movie, a comedy, a slasher, a demon possession film, and a softcore porn romp all in one. And damn it, it’s still a lot of fun.

There’s really not much to say about “Hard to Die” except that its narrative is nothing but a hodge podge of plot elements mashed together for the sole purpose of featuring our buxom cast run around in lingerie. A group of gorgeous busty women working in a lingerie shop have to pull an all nighter sorting out stock for their sleazy boss. They’re also easily startled by the building janitor Orville, as played by Peter Spellos. He survived the previous confrontations from the past “Sorority House Massacre” movies and is still suspected of murdering the poor girls. Deciding to pass the time, they put on lingerie and scamper around, all the while taking showers together, bouncing and jiggling and making pretty funny jokes that reference previous scenes.

When a pizza delivery girl is called up to the building through the elevator, the mysterious killer of the movie sets her ablaze. Cut to one of the characters moaning “Where’s the girl with the food already? It’ll be char broiled when she gets here.” Yes, it’s that kind of movie. While “Hard to Die” is a loose sequel it’s also very much a horror comedy that spoofs all of the eighties film tropes, right down to the action flicks. Suffice it to say if that isn’t enough, the girls accidentally receive a package in the form of a locked box that unleashes a demonic spirit. When released, the murdering begins as someone is knocking off the buxom troop. Could it be Orville? Or could it be someone entirely unexpected?

For a movie that doesn’t require much in the way of acting ability, the cast of gorgeous women pull off their performances well, and Peter Spellos is very good as the enigmatic Orville. “Hard to Die” has a narrative that’s just absolute nonsense, but I enjoy how it seems aware of that, and uses it to deliver a hilarious and entertaining horror comedy. When the girls happen upon a gun store in their high rise, and one of the characters justifies being able to inexplicably handle a machine gun like a pro by declaring “My dad was a marine!” you just have to laugh and enjoy the ride.