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.

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.