Film Courage Presents: “BETHANY” – Behind the Scenes

Hello Horror Lovers!  I’ve recently had the privilege of working on two incredible horror projects entitled “Bethany” and “Restoration,” directed by James Cullen Bressack & Zack Ward, respectively.  These feature films will no doubt chill you to your very bones and shock your system – that’s a personal guarantee.  While principle photography is wrapped and the films make their way into post, we wanted to give you a sneak peek into not only the films themselves, but the filmmaking process.

Film Courage, an incredible resource and supporter of indie films, visited the set of “Bethany” and shared some incredible behind the scenes insight for the project.  I’ve got the playlist here, so I HIGHLY recommend checking them out, especially if you’re an aspiring filmmaker yourself.  Enjoy!

We will keep you up to date on all things “Bethany” & “Restoration” as more emerges from the films.  Also be sure to follow Film Courage on Twitter!

VHS Spotlight: “The Brain”

Lots of great stuff in the very near future coming to LAHorror.com!  But until then, let’s take a look back to another classic VHS that still needs to be released on DVD!  Alex Ray has the scoop on “The Brain,” a horror flick that may be in your basement stash, and one that definitely deserves to be revisited!

VHS SPOTLIGHT: THE BRAIN

1988 * 94 minutes * International Video Entertainment * Directed by Edward Hunt

brain_01_150It’s often noted that politics seem to influence trends in horror. The Vietnam War ushered in an era of dark, cynical works like Night of the Living Dead and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. George Dubya’s time in office saw the rise of torture porn. So what did the Reagan years give us? Films like Larry Cohen’s The Stuff and John Carpenter’s They Live were fairly obvious responses to rampant consumer culture and a general brainwashing of the masses. But there was another un-subtle jab that went under the radar of our thoroughly manipulated collective consciousness: The Brain.

Yep, I’m waxing allegorical about a movie featuring a giant, floating brain that chases teenagers down steam tunnels. While it disguises itself with all the B-horror tropes, it’s pretty easy to see the not-very-hidden message: David Gale (of Re-Animator and Syngenor—look it up!) hosts a TV show called “Independent Thinking,” while he colludes with an alien brain that, well, brainwashes people!

Tom Breznahan (of Ski School) plays a lovable troublemaker just trying to get through high school. Too bad his parents and teachers think he needs a little psychiatric intervention to get him on the right track. So our young prankster goes to Doc Gale, who seems to have just the prescription for all wayward teens (the brain hypnotizes them or something). But when he sees more than he’s supposed to, it’s Three Days of the Condor time for Tommy B.

It really does feel like more of a conspiracy thriller than a monster movie for a majority of the ninety-four minutes, but every so often there’s a slithering tentacle or a topless nurse to remind us of what we’re really watching—which I’m nearly sixty-seven percent sure was pitched as Nightmare on Elm Street meets Videodrome. From there it must have mutated a little (as did a lot of things in those two movies), until they settled on this wannabe Robert Redford vehicle with shades of hentai (maybe intentional; probably not).

Of course, the classics mentioned above aren’t the only ones brought to mind by The Brain (see what I did there?). It owes The Crazies at least half a doff of the cap, and there’s a great Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibe to boot. Here’s a fun fact: M. Night Shyamalan took fifteen minutes of this movie and adapted it into his feature-length screenplay for The Happening, which, conversely, is one-sixth as entertaining.

Well, since I’ve now broken the record for number of movie titles referenced within a single review, I’ll hunker down and get serious. I really do like this movie. The story is compelling and generates a lot of momentum. Unlike with many teen horror flicks, we don’t spend the first act in a van, and the rest doesn’t hang on the suspense of guessing who will be next to hear a strange noise (not to cast aspersions; those movies are great, too). The characters are well-established early on, and then we’re off and running, all the way to the inevitable showdown with the brain—a proxy for any and all puppet masters behind politicians and spokespeople and celebrities. Yeah, this is deep stuff.

Not too deep, though. The subtext is pretty close to the surface at all times, and that’s kinda what makes it fun. The Brain really wears its heart on its sleeve—or its temporal lobe on its cerebral cortex, if you wanna get technical.

I proffer that this movie will only get more relevant, as our political and social landscapes get murkier and harder to navigate. It’s almost comforting to imagine that a big, alien, carnivorous brain might be responsible for all of society’s woes. Now that’s food for thought (yep, actual line!).

3 out of 4 stars

brain_02_150

VHS Spotlight is written by LAHorror.com contributor Alex Ray.

VHS Spotlight: “Evils of the Night”

Our dear friend and contributor in horror Alex Ray returns, this time with a VHS Spotlight that’s out of this world!  We love to feature flicks that aren’t widely available to the masses on LAHorror.com, so be sure to check out our growing collection of VHS Spotlights on our Behead-itorials page and be sure to drop us a line to let us know which ones you’d like to see!  Enjoy horror lovers!

VHS SPOTLIGHT: EVILS OF THE NIGHT

1984 * 85 minutes * Lightning Video * Directed by Mardi Rustam

evils_01_coverIf you’re trying to find the worst 80s horror VHS box art out there, look no further. The movie itself is a crazy good time—but the box makes it look like Lovers Retreat, the 1989 romantic dramedy starring Bobcat Goldthwait and Daphne Zuniga (this film does not exist). Yes, it tried harder to make me not watch it than The Witching (I defy anyone to rent a horror movie adorned with the bespectacled visage of Orson Welles). Point is: despite a complete lack of salesmanship on the part of Lightning Video—a rare oversight for a company that churned out a zillion lurid covers back in the day—I consider it a high value asset to my VHS collection.

And, okay, yes—there is a DVD. But good luck finding one for less than fifty bucks. It seems the fine folks at Shriek Show woefully underestimated demand and now it’s as tough to find as Shadow: Dead Riot is easy to come by. And that’s just downright shameful. But you know what? We still got some sweet ol’ magnetic tape to fall back on.

This really is a movie that should be seen on VHS anyway. It epitomizes what’s great about cheesy 80s horror—totally un-ironic and self-serious, but comprised of ridiculous and disparate elements. No matter how many times I put this in the VCR (I’m up to three), I feel like I’m missing something (and lemme tell ya: this ain’t exactly Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy when it comes to plot). I think I can summarize it somewhat concisely: beach bums and babes become the target of aliens who need their young people blood to survive. But if you start asking questions—like, any questions—things get complicated.

For instance, how did the mechanics get recruited to kidnap teenagers for the aliens? And why, with their spaceships and laser rings, would the aliens need a couple grumpy old men to do said kidnapping for them? How did the aliens come to inhabit a hospital? What happened to those lady aliens after they made bedroom eyes at each other for thirty seconds? Yeah, Evils offers up quite a few stumpers.

The trick is to not think too hard about it and just go along for the ride (to the hospital with the mechanics who are selling you to the aliens). You do that, and Evils of the Night becomes Goods of the Day. Or Night, still. If you watch it at night. I don’t judge.

evils_02_blackbgMuch as we all love how meta and self-aware everything has become, it’s sometimes nice to go back to a time when movies didn’t seem to know they were bad. Who can say—maybe Mardi Rustam thought he was making the ultimate satire, but he definitely fooled me. The charm of Evils lies in just how blissfully sincere it is about being pretty dumb. By any quantifiable standards it’s a terrible movie, and yet I’ve still watched it three times. So what does that tell you? Yeah, I don’t know either.

Look. It’s silly. It’s fun. Joe Bob would definitely say check it out, if you know what I mean (boobs). With the bland box art, you might just be able to convince a normal person to watch it. Take all that into consideration, and I think you can see the good in Evils of the Night (I do love it when titles lend themselves to this kind of scintillating wordplay).

Postscript: A random Amazon check has revealed that this is going to get a re-release on October 14! Now the masses will have easy access to this cinematic gem. But while the DVD may be of higher quality and have better box art (because it couldn’t possibly be worse), I must say I’ll always be partial to my VHS. However, I’ll concede that it’s worth seeing any way you can. And if you can’t wait that long, well, there’s an ex-rental with your name on it somewhere.

3 out of  4 stars

VHS Spotlight is written by LAHorror.com contributor Alex Ray.

Four Horror Films That We’re DYING To See…

So much great horror!!!  We thought we’d take a moment to show you a couple of bad-ass trailers for some indie horror films that we’re absolutely DYING to see!  Keep your eyes peeled for these flicks, especially if you like murder, monsters and horrifying GORE!  Enjoy horror lovers!

Truth or Dare”  (Facebook / Twitter)

This trailer just dropped TODAY and damn it looks fucking nasty!  I love a ton of gore in a horror flick so if this trailer is any indication of things to come, then this looks like a must see.  This flick has been absolutely killing it in the horror festivals, and major props to filmmaker / #ScreamQueen Jessica Cameron for showing us some of the gross stuff in this trailer!  Can’t wait!

Pernicious”  (Facebook / Twitter)

I’m a sucker for what some people call “torture porn,” and while this trailer definitely has some of that vibe, it also has a mysterious beauty about it, not to mention a very intriguing looking villain.  This film is from James Cullen Bressack, an LAHorror.com featured artist, so you know it’s going to be sick!  And for God’s sake people…don’t fuck with ancient artifacts.  Like, ever.

The Bunnyman Massacre”  (Facebook)

I love bizarre stories where anybody can be a victim, and judging by this trailer “Bunnyman Massacre” looks like it’s going to be super violent and over the top.  We interviewed Director Carl Lindbergh a while back about this film, and since he has been knee deep in horror with several projects coming up, including “Bunnyman 3,” which begins filming soon.  This horror blogger may even be making an appearance…

Brutal”  (Facebook)

Okay, so this doesn’t necessarily look like a horror movie per say, but damn it looks disgusting!  While I’m sort of a noob when it comes to MMA, I definitely think this flick looks like a knock out.  Director Donald Lawrence Flaherty certainly knows how to ramp up the intensity, and it definitely looks like this flick will live up to it’s own name…brutal!

Thanks for visiting LAHorror.com!  Be sure to “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

VHS Spotlight: “Some Nudity Required”

Alex Ray is back with another VHS Spotlight!  These are films that are not (yet) available on DVD, but still have a special place in our heart!  If you’ve seen any of our VHS Spotlight films or have a dusty tape of your own that you’d like like to see on DVD, be sure to let us know!  Enjoy, Horror Lovers!

VHS SPOTLIGHT: SOME NUDITY REQUIRED

1998 * 82 minutes * New Video * Directed by Odette Springer

A documentary featuring Roger Corman, Jim Wynorski and Julie Strain? Guaranteed good time, right? Eighty minutes of crazy anecdotes set to goofy visuals?

Yeah, this is not that.

somenucover2Unlike recent documentaries chronicling the work of Roger Corman, such as “Corman’s World” and “Machete Maidens Unleashed,” there really isn’t anything fun or whimsical about “Some Nudity Required.” But then, it isn’t so much a documentary about Corman as it is an indictment of the movies he makes, and others like them. There’s also a self-reflexive through-line that goes into some fairly dark territory. So it’s not exactly a light-hearted romp exploring the wacky and wild world of B-movies.

Director and star Odette Springer scored some of Corman’s flicks in the nineties, and makes no bones about how much she despised the material. Based on her experience and insight–and maybe some personal issues (that’s not a dismissal; her background is used to drive the narrative)–she feels very strongly that B-movies degrade women, and the people making the movies exploit those women on screen and off.

Springer comes out swinging with Maria Ford’s death scene from “Slumber Party Massacre 3.” In or out of context, it would be hard to defend (imagine if a scene from “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” got spliced into, well, “Slumber Party Massacre 3”). Maria’s interviews go on to paint the B-movie factory as dishonest, lecherous and sometimes downright vile. If what she says is true, then there are some pretty shady people making movies (okay, not the hardest thing to believe). Numerous references are made to her and others being encouraged to get breast implants, and if you watch “Perfect Fit” (made three years after this doc), it’s fairly apparent she was eventually convinced to go under the knife. Of course, me noticing that might just confirm one or two of the movie’s assertions, so I’ll digress.

I initially saw this about ten years ago, and, as a young horror and exploitation fan, it did color my opinion of how some of my favorite movies were made (yes, I consider “Chopping Mall” one of my favorite movies). While it was clear this doc had an axe to grind, it features a lot of real actors and directors speaking candidly–and mostly negatively–about the movies they’re in.

somenu_pic_01

The only people really in favor of this brand of filmmaking besides Corman don’t always help their cause. That irascible Jim Wynorski comes off as the quintessential sleazy producer (but do check out his documentary, “Popatopolis”–it’s great). We’re left with a somewhat one-sided view of the B-movie biz, although that doesn’t automatically discount the points being made.

Why am I prattling on about a 15-year-old documentary that sounds like kind of a buzzkill? Couple reasons. For one thing, it was made at a time when you couldn’t just throw a rock at the internet and hit a documentary about genre movies. Deserves some kudos for that. Also, it happens to be really compelling. Think nineties art-house version of an E! True Hollywood Story–but without the bars and blurs hiding the nudity. And whether or not it wins what seems to be its main argument–that exploitation movies demean and mistreat women–it poses some important questions and provides a lot of food for thought. I’m an unapologetic fan of this stuff, but it doesn’t hurt to consider why that is.

somenu_pic_02I would love to see a DVD release featuring a new interview of Springer and Corman, to see how everyone feels about everything now. Corman’s interviews imply he was unaware of the tone this documentary would take (or was just totally cool with it), and I would be really interested in hearing what he might say if his hackles got raised. He’s such a distinguished and eloquent guy, I think it would be fascinating to see him get into a serious debate.

Did I mention I’m a huge fan of Corman? Even so, it was easy enough to see Springer’s side of things, and I invite you to decide for yourself. I mean, if you feel like tracking this down. And paying a lot. And getting a little depressed about the kinds of movies to which you’ve sorta devoted a good chunk of your life.

Maybe just wait for the DVD.

3 out of 4 stars

VHS Spotlight is written by LAHorror.com contributor Alex Ray.

VHS SPOTLIGHT: “Spookies”

Alex Ray is back with our second VHS Spotlight, shining the light on some VHS only horror movies that need to find their way onto DVD!  If you’ve got a copy of one of these then take good care of it…now let’s all adjust our tracking…

VHS SPOTLIGHT: SPOOKIES

1985 * 85 minutes * Sony * Directed by Eugenie Joseph, Thomas Doran, Brendan Faulkner

spookies_coverFirst, a little business: this is available on DVD in the UK. But I’m not counting that. If it ain’t on good ol’ region one in the US of A, it’s fair game for this column. I shouldn’t have to figure out the pound-to-dollar conversion rate just to get my DVD fix. (Tangent: I was totally willing to do so for the awesome Jake West documentary, “Video Nasties,” which is only available on PAL digital video disc–and so worth it.)

Now, on to our show…

The terms “visually stunning” and “special effects extravaganza” don’t carry much weight anymore, but they both apply to “Spookies.” Kind of like “Return of the Alien’s Deadly Spawn” or “Bad Taste,” it’s got a heaping helping of indie charm, along with FX work that puts the big boys to shame–at least as far as quantity goes. Even if the creatures and gore aren’t always on par with KNB or Savini, this is still one of the most ambitious ’80s horror flicks I’ve seen. It’s got a menagerie of monsters to rival “Cabin in the Woods,” and they don’t just pop up late in the flick–it’s a non-stop barrage of cool critters and creepy setpieces.

Let’s play Horror Mad Libs: some ______ get lost and end up at ______ , where they’re attacked by ______ . In this case, the blanks are filled by random New Yorkers, an old mansion, and a cross between Grandpa Munster and The Tall Man. The setup is pretty standard, but once we get past the pleasantries, things start moving along at a good clip. Our characters are picked off by a wide variety of monstrosities (my favorite of which would definitely be the fart monsters, or, as the box describes them: “lust-crazed muck men”) under the command of Old Man Greasepaint, who needs some souls to bring back his dead wife. Of course, things don’t quite go according to plan.

The narrative might not be the strongest (it’s basically the cinematic equivalent of walking through a funhouse), but it’s still a heckuva ride. That is, if you’re feeling nostalgic for ’80s cheese. This is by no means a forgotten masterpiece–just a fun movie with a lot of heart and a few nods to the horrors that came before (“Evil Dead” being the most obvious). If you’re looking for something that lies somewhere on the spectrum between “The Dead Next Door” and “Waxwork,” it fits the bill.

spookies1An R1 DVD would be nice, especially if the original Richard Corben poster/box art is used. The UK disc kinda makes it look like something more along the lines of “Demons” or “Night of the Demons” or the aforementioned “Evil Dead”–which it is not (it also refers to the cast as “teenagers,” which they are definitely not). “Spookies” is an entirely different beast (several different beasts, actually), and worth a look–whether you wanna shell out a few pounds for a disc from across the pond, or considerably more in US currency for the VHS. Either way, it’ll make you remember why you fell in love with this stuff in the first place.

2 1/2 out of 4 stars

VHS Spotlight is written by LAHorror.com contributor Alex Ray.

Behead-itorial: Slasher Studios “Women in Horror”

Slasher Studios has been honoring “Women in Horror” all month, and I was fortunate enough to be able to contribute to their collection of bad ass horror ladies!  As some of you may know, I’m a die-hard “Sleepaway Camp” fan and when women in horror are the topic it’s impossible not to think of Angela Baker.  Check out my thoughts on brutal female slasher as well as all of the other “Women in Horror” pieces that Slasher Studios has compiled!  Enjoy horror lovers!