November 20, 2014

The Little Mermaid (1976; Soviet Union)

Directed by Vladimir Bychkov. Starring Viktoriya Novikova ("Little Mermaid"), Valentin Nikulin ("Sulpitius"), Galina Artyomova ("Princess"), and Yuri Senkevich ("Prince"). Rated G.

Source: Streaming on The Movie And Music Network
Running time: 01:17:51
Country: Soviet Union, Bulgaria

As some of you know, The Death Rattle has formed a partnership with the folks over at Music and Movie Network, which is an online service that offers a shit-load of streaming movies for a low monthly price. And, like the film I'm reviewing in this post, there are a lot of obscure gems available to watch. Please take some time to check it out by clicking the links in this post or the banner on the side of this page!

This adaptation of THE LITTLE MERMAID (not to be confused with Czechoslovakia's adaptation from the same year) is much different from the animated Disney version that most people have seen. The obvious difference is that its live-action, but it's also darker - well, about as dark as it can get while still being a "family" movie anyway.

THE LITTLE MERMAID (or RUSALOCHKA) takes place in the 13th century when mermaids were believed to have existed and explorers sailed the seas on a regular basis. According to legend, mermaids are said to have carried diseases, caused shipwrecks, and preyed on the vulnerability of the lonely men on the ships. In this particular story, they're referred to as "children of the devil" - their heavenly appearances contrasted by a supposedly supernatural origin. All of that said, the film obviously revolves around one particular mermaid, just like the original 17th century fairy tale and every adaptation of it. The young mermaid rescues a handsome Prince after a shipwreck and falls in love with him, essentially going on to stalk him, waiting in the waters surrounding the castle where he's nursed back to health and later competes with another man for the love of a Princess.

The mermaid befriends a peasant, who in turn seeks out the help of a witch who can make the mermaid's dream of being with the Prince a reality. The witch uses a spell to turn the mermaid's fish tail into a pair of legs in exchange for her beautiful head of hair. And with such a bargain comes conditions - if she's rejected by the Prince, she'll die, but her life will could be saved if someone else willfully dies in her place. She then goes on to blend in with the humans and get close to the Prince like she planned, but not without complications of course.

This film adaptation skips over or changes some of what was established in Hans Christian Andersen's original fairy tale. For example, we see the mermaid's family but they're never acknowledged in the story and are reduced to brief appearances. Also, there's the compromising of the mermaid's hair as opposed to her voice. Strangely, the witch hints at wanting to take her voice but changes her mind. But, for the most part, it stays loyal to the source material.

The story does get a tad convoluted in the second half as the focus frequently diverts away from the mermaid towards the Princess and the men who are courting her, but it doesn't do much to affect the overall pacing considering how short this movie is. The young actress who plays the mermaid is adorable but doesn't show a lot of range. More often than not, she has the same pouting facial expression. But then again, that could have been the direction she was given as an actress, so I can't fault her for that.

As expected, with the knowledge that this is a Fantasy film from Eastern Europe, THE LITTLE MERMAID is a gorgeous and, at times, surreal movie with some amazing visuals - specifically during the opening scenes, which feature underwater shots of the mermaids swimming amongst jellyfish while an older merman (presumably their father) watches on. And some of the scenes involving the witch would be right at home in a Gothic horror movie. Most of the stunning visuals come early in the movie, but the film maintains an ethereal vibe throughout thanks to a sweeping and haunting score that sounds like something Bruno Nicolai or Ennio Morricone would have composed for a 70s Giallo. Overall, this is a neat little gem that whets my appetite for even more Fantasy films and dark fairy-tales from that part of the world. I personally love watching Russian and especially Czech films from back in the day because of the unique cinematic voices of those regions. If you feel the same, you should definitely give this a look. And, if not, I think this is something most fans of cinema and storytelling can appreciate anyway.

Score: 7.5

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November 19, 2014

Ninja Apocalypse (2014)

Directed by Lloyd Lee Barnett. Starring Christian Oliver ("Cage"), Les Brandt ("Surge"), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa ("Fumitaka"), and Ernie Reyes Jr. ("Hiroshi"). Not Rated.

Source: Region 1 DVD (Naedomi Media)
Running time: 01:23:19
Country: USA

This review is another contribution to the Ninjavember blogathon hosted by Fist of B-List.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world in which the survivors apparently follow ancient ideals, the film revolves around a small group of warriors known as the Lost Clan. Shit pops off at a peace summit when the leader of the Lost Clan, Cage, is framed for the murder of the man responsible for organizing the summit, Fumitaka, as he attempts to have a bunch of rival clans call a truce. The other clans then use the assassination as an excuse to turn their attention towards the protagonists, at which point a fight for survival ensues. Sound familiar? Yeah, this is pretty much THE WARRIORS, but with ninjas and zombies (I'll get to the zombies a little bit).

NINJA APOCALYPSE draws influence from many sources, namely the aforementioned Walter Hill movie. In fact, it's a direct rip-off of THE WARRIORS, and the people involved with this didn't even have the decency to credit director Walter Hill or its writer Sol Yurick. For shame! But anyway, as Cage and his group are on the run, the film turns into a series of fight sequences as the Lost Clan plow through various gangs of ninjas, thugs, reptile people, and femme fatales.

Also thrown into the mix for no apparent reason are zombies, which clearly pose another obstacle for our heroes. This is set during the post-apocalypse after all, so I suppose it's a given that zombies are shuffling around, right? As if shit didn't get batty enough, it's also revealed that our heroes possess super powers in the form of electrical projectiles they can launch at people. So, for those keeping track at home: ninjas, zombies, super powers. NINJA APOCALYPSE throws a lot of shit at the wall and, surprisingly, most of it sticks.

On top of everything I already mentioned, the level of violence and the choreography of the fight sequences are pretty good. Something noteworthy about the action is that the protagonists (all of whom possess their own unique skills) split up and go their separate ways once the shit hits the fan, taking on whatever clan members and katana-wielding goons come their way, which allows for a variety of fighting styles and locations and whatnot. One of the highlights is a stairwell fight sequence involving the member of the Lost Clan who looks like a hippie and a bunch of ninjas. The fact that the characters are able to generate and throw electrical charges at their opponents adds a touch of MORTAL KOMBAT to the proceedings. For reasons that I needn't necessarily get into, you can expect some STAR WARS and BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA as well. Seriously.

And yes, NINJA APOCALYPSE is as fun and ridiculous as it sounds. However, its technical shortcomings should be addressed. For one, the film is low-budget as fuck. Parts of it make Asylum movies look like a Ridley Scott film by comparison. Some of the visual effects (the green screen shots and the CG blood) look amateurish at best. The acting? Laughable and, in some cases, even embarrassing. It's as if Tommy Wiseau himself was on the set coaching some of the actors (especially Christian Oliver during the film's climax) in the art of extreme melodrama. And speaking of embarrassing, the peace summit scenes were kinda brutal, and a lot of the so-called ninjas were as convincing as second-rate cosplayers. But all of those things are part of what give this movie its charm. Indeed it's a messy WARRIORS rip-off with zombies, but you have to admire how unapologetic it is when it comes to its "what you see is what you get" attitude.

On the plus side, lead actor Christian Oliver is absolutely amazing for all the wrong reasons; the emotional final showdown is something to behold. And of course let's not overlook the fact that most of the fight scenes are actually pretty good - if they're not well-choreographed, they're at least fun to watch if a bit silly. Lastly - and most importantly - I loved the group of protagonists. If there was a series of them just going around and having various adventures, I'd totally watch it.

Score: 6.5

November 16, 2014

Alien vs. Ninja (2010)

Directed by Seiji Chiba. Starring Masanori Mimoto ("Yamata"), Shûji Kashiwabara ("Jinnai"), Donpei Tsuchihira ("Nezumi"), and Mika Hijii ("Rin"). Not Rated.

Source: Region 1 DVD (FUNimation)
Running time: 01:21:00
Country: Japan

This review is one of my contributions to Fist of B-List's Ninjavember blogathon. Check there on a daily basis for all the mysterious ninja action, k?

When ALIEN VS. NINJA begins, it follows a group of ninjas out in the woods battling enemies with no context of what's happening. Specifically, we get an outstanding sequence where one of the ninjas single-handedly takes on a group of anonymous, masked bad guys who look like the Foot Soldiers of NINJA TURTLE lore. There are a lot of special effects used for this particular sequence but it allows for some dazzling swordplay and gravity-defying action.

We're then gradually introduced to the various characters who make up the primary group of ninjas. Yamata is the unofficial leader of the group and a bit arrogant, but he has the skill to back it up. Nezumi is a maker of weapons and the comic relief. Jinnai is a vain, pretty-boy type of character. And finally there's the disrespected female of the group, Rin, who carries her weight but isn't taken seriously by her peers because of her good looks. Collectively, they're ordered by their "ninja chief" to investigate a mysterious fireball that penetrated the woods surrounding his fortress. Not a lot of time goes by during their mission when they're ambushed by an alien creature who's simply one of the many that's been terrorizing a nearby village. The ninjas then make it their mission to eliminate the alien species entirely. This leads to some entertaining fight sequences in the second act, one of which involves a perverted alien who makes sexual gestures towards Rin as it attacks her. On a side note, fans of ninja movies may recognize the actress who plays Rin, Mika Hijii, as the main love interest in Isaac Florentine's NINJA and NINJA: SHADOW OF A TEAR.

AVN is a fun little movie that breezes by thanks to a short running time. The character are great, the story is simple and easy to follow, and the fight choreography is solid and even quite innovative at times. Speaking of fights, fans of MMA and wrestling will be pleased with the "boss battle" that closes the film. Most of the fights involve a lot of weapons, but the final showdown is pretty much just hand-to-hand combat. One of the participants in this battle manages to incorporate a German suplex and an arm bar into his arsenal of offense. It's pretty "epic" as the kids would say.

Another highlight of AVN are the ninja costumes. They look great but are obviously impractical. The main ninjas wear a somewhat clunky-looking style of armor that theoretically doesn't lend itself well to being stealthy. They look more samurai-esque than ninja, but hey, what do I know - I'm just a stupid round-eye. And one could argue that the disposable ninjas who were swiftly eliminated in the opening fight sequence were defeated as easily as they were because they couldn't see out of their masks. But, again, it looks cool, so it's all good.

The main problem with this film is probably its bland, low-budget look. Quality-wise, it's like watching a soap opera or some generic TV drama. The special effects aren't great but they're fine considering this is clearly a low-budget movie. The creatures, who look like de-feathered versions of Big Bird from SESAME STREET, are very much in the spirit of old-school Japanese Sci-Fi cinema, in that they're clearly people in goofy-looking costumes. There's also some blood and gore in the film but it's nothing I wouldn't feel comfortable showing my children if I were a parent. You do get some of the high-pressure blood spray that seems to be commonplace in Japanese B-movies, but it's all very cartoonish.

Overall, AVN was a nice surprise. The humor fell flat with me for the most part (as does most Japanese humor), but the characters are very likable and the action choreography is outstanding for what's essentially a low-budget creature feature with ninjas.

Score: 7

November 10, 2014

The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)

Directed by Adam Robitel. Starring Jill Larson ("Deborah Logan"), Anne Ramsey ("Sarah Logan"), Michelle Ang ("Mia Medina"), and Ryan Cutrona ("Harris"). Rated R.

Source: Region 1 DVD (Millennium Media Services)
Running time: 01:30:10
Country: USA

A medical student named Mia and her 2-person crew follow around a woman named Deborah Logan who suffers from Alzheimer's. They spend a lot of time with Deborah and her daughter Sarah at their home in rural Virginia. The intention is to make a documentary/thesis film about Alzheime'rs with Deborah as their particular subject. Deborah reluctantly agrees to take part in the project but ultimately does so at the insistence of her daughter.

Not that it matters, but both Deborah and her daughter are strikingly thin, as if Mia and her entourage stumbled upon a family of living skeletons out in the woods. I half expected Zelda from PET SEMATARY to come walking downstairs at any given moment. But anyway, back to the story at hand...

THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN is essentially a found-footage film (sort of) made up of the footage shot by Mia's crew, surveillance footage, etc. What we're watching is all of the footage pieced together to tell a sad and horrifying story. You see, the crew learn the hard way that Deborah is prone to violent outbursts. And while her behavior is expectedly unpredictable given her condition, Deborah surpasses anything they could've anticipated in that respect. Without getting into details, things get out of control rather quickly and their documentary on a disease turns into a full-blown horror show.

Deborah rapidly ages (visually at least) and her already fragile mental state deteriorates at an accelerated pace. Again, excluding all the juicy details, it would appear to everyone involved that Deborah's condition is the result of something far more sinister than anything the world of science and medicine could explain. This is even a revelation to her own daughter. It's as if whatever was taking control of Deborah finally had the audience it was waiting for.

If you're nit-picky about the presentation of found-footage movies, you might have issues with this one. I used to be guilty of being overly critical when it comes to that and asking too many questions instead of accepting the product as is. The whole found-footage motif at this point it just a means of using a certain visual style to tell a story, not for people to perceive the films as legitimate footage a la BLAIR WITCH. That said, there are definitely a few things to be nit-picky about with DEBORAH LOGAN, but my only real issue was that one of the characters was a bit much in terms of his douchebag behavior. Almost every time he was on screen and opening his mouth, it sort of took me out of the movie.

One of the things I like about this is that it's in the context of a medical documentary that turns into something horrifying rather than it being a group of people investigating something for whatever reason. The characters in DEBORAH LOGAN are constantly driven to keep going so they can help someone in peril, which makes sense, especially when it comes to Deborah's daughter. That said, the film is paced well. After a point, there's always something happening and there's revelation after revelation in regards to the eponymous character's condition. There's even a murder mystery element to the story. I also like that there are characters who bail once shit gets too crazy; they peace out and you never see them again.

As a horror movie, DEBORAH LOGAN is very effective. There are at least two or three really good jump scares and the film has a lot of creepy imagery. Unfortunately shit gets a little too crazy and fast-paced towards the end for the potentially terrifying moments to register. Similar to another found-footage movie called EVIDENCE, the back end of this film is just one crazy thing after another. Overall, I think I wanted to like this movie more than I ultimately did. It's a buzz movie with some hype behind it thanks to an enthusiastic horror community. I'm not saying it isn't a good movie - I think I'm just too jaded at this point to be blown away by it. I was someone who defended and supported found-footage horror for a while after a lot of people got sick of them and moved on, but I've reached a point in the last year or so where I'm tired of them and not as easily impressed as I once was. I'd still give this movie a "thumbs up", though, and recommend it. It's the perfect movie to watch on a quiet night with the lights turned off, and you'll get to see an amazing, brave performance from lead actress Jill Larson to boot.

Score: 6.5

November 9, 2014

The Evictors (1979)

Directed by Charles B. Pierce. Starring Vic Morrow ("Jake Rudd"), Michael Parks ("Ben Watkins"), Jessica Harper ("Ruth Watkins"), and Sue Ane Langdon ("Olie Gibson"). Rated PG.

Source: Region 1 DVD (Scream Factory)
Running time: 01:32:22
Country: USA

Directed by Charles B. Pierce (THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN), THE EVICTORS opens very similarly to a certain Rob Zombie film. A reclusive and sort of notorious family are defending their home against unwanted visitors. But instead of a police raid like in DEVIL'S REJECTS, the family in this film are being harassed by someone from a bank who wants to evict them. They resist and it turns into a full-blown firefight, ending tragically for the family of hillbillies.

Subsequently, over the years, bad things would happen to anyone who tried to make the doomed home their residence, and such is eventually the case with the happily-married Ben and Ruth Watkins (Michael Parks and Jessica Harper respectively) who are introduced after the opening flashback sequence when they purchase the home and move in. Initially, things are going almost too good for Ben and Ruth. They get an amazing deal on the house (hmmm.....) and Ruth is seemingly living out a fairytale when it comes to her ideal domestic situation; she gets to be Suzy Homemaker while her devoted husband is winning the bread. However things slowly but surely begin to get weirder and weirder for them, beginning with a threatening note that turns up in their mailbox. There's even a Prophet of Doom character in the form of a black man who sells various goods out of the back of his truck. As he so eloquently puts it to Ruth upon their first meeting:
"Been a lotta strange things happenin' 'round here. Ain't you heard about all those folks that was killed here? You ain't heard about all these killin's out here, ma'am, all them people dyin'? It's all in the newspaper but I tell it better than all the newspaper do (laughs)."

The Prophet of Doom's info-dump and yet another flashback sequence set the stage for the impending trouble that Ruth and her husband face, if legend proves to be real. This all coincides with a physically-imposing man making his presence known at various hours of the day (and night). Perhaps Ruth and her husband will end up as part of the tragic folklore surrounding the house and star in their very own sepia-toned flashbacks when the black man warns yet another oblivious family who later moves into the home. Or, if they play their cards right, they could outsmart the mysterious assailant and pull off a Scooby-Doo style unmasking, which would in turn lead to a long-winded confession from the antagonist. You'll have to see this for yourself to find out!

The third act of EVICTORS is essentially Ruth left to her own devices while her husband is at work, but not before she's trained in the ways of operating a firearm. This is when the film's stalk n' (sort of) slash element kicks into gear. Most horror movies that primarily take place in a house, more often than not, earn the same critical question from viewers: "Why don't they just pack their shit and leave?" In this case it's because Ben wants to fulfill his professional obligations, hence why Ruth somewhat reluctantly takes advantage of her constitutional right to bear arms when he's not around. Despite this, the mysterious attacker is hellbent on terrorizing Ruth for whatever reason.

THE EVICTORS is a solid little rural slasher that sort of marches to the beat of its own drum due to the fact that there weren't any "rules" established for slasher movies at the time. Director Pierce is mostly known for TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN or LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK, so I went into this expecting one of his lesser films considering it doesn't get talked about as much. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by this film. One of the more surprising elements of EVICTORS is its score. The music ranges from pulsating, foreboding synth music to squealing, string-heavy compositions accompanied by what sounds like the wails of restless spirits crying out from a blackened cemetery, which would sound right at home in SUSPIRIA coincidentally enough. The music is one of the key factors in turning what could otherwise be a creepy slasher into a very unsettling and atmospheric Southern Gothic horror tale. If THE EVICTORS has alluded you over the years and it looks like something you'd be interested in, it will more than likely deliver the goods if you check it out - and then some. Bonus points for the cast as well.

Score: 7

November 6, 2014

Slaughterhouse (1987)

Directed by Rick Roessler. Starring Joe B. Barton ("Buddy Bacon"), Don Barrett ("Lester Bacon"), Sherry Leigh ("Liz Borden"), and Bill Brinsfield ("Tom Sanford"). Rated R.

Source: Streaming on The Movie and Music Network
Running time: 01:25:19
Country: USA

This is another review of one of the many films that the Movie and Music Network has to offer. To watch this movie for free, check it out HERE. And if you plan on signing up for the site (which you should!), be sure to click my banner on the top of the sidebar or click HERE to sign up with my special promo code. Either way, be sure to at least take a gander at their site - there are tons of horror and exploitation movies available to stream for a low monthly price.

As with your traditional slasher, SLAUGHTERHOUSE opens with a couple of good-looking 20-somethings being dispatched to the big pig-pen in the sky in what appears to be a territorial killing when they stray from the path and set foot where they don't belong. However, the aptly titled film quickly goes in a rather unconventional direction during the subsequent opening credits as we see actual footage of pigs being prepped and eventually butchered as a playful jazzy number accompanies this confrontational montage.

As SLAUGHTERHOUSE progresses, it plays out like the inbred cousin of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 and MOTEL HELL for obvious reasons. We're introduced to one of the antagonists, Lester Bacon - a stubborn old butcher whose refusal to accept a pay-off causes the County to foreclose his property and give him and his monstrous, dim-witted son Buddy the boot. In the midst of all this, a group of college kids are trying to make some kind of horror movie, which adds a "teen slasher" element to contrast the adult characters like the local sheriff and other authority figures and business types who pose a threat to the Bacons.

Again, lots of similarities to TEXAS CHAINSAW lore. It feels a lot more like the sequel to TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE because of its lighter tone, but, if this were set about 15 years earlier and the names of the characters were changed, this could easily have been a prequel to the original 1974 classic directed by Tobe Hooper. Lester, for example, in the wake being put out of business by a mechanized slaughterhouse, laments the old-fashioned slaughterhouses and the hands-on approach to butchering animals as if it were an unappreciated art form, which echoes the Hitchhiker's rambling diatribe in the original TCM. Also, Lester's son, Buddy, is essentially Leatherface minus the flesh fetish. On a side note, the film sort of alludes to Buddy being the product of an affair between his father and a pig, but the only evidence is that Buddy grunts and squeals as a means of communicating.

The body-count slasher elements are present, as in there's a select group of young people being picked off by the killer (Buddy), but it also plays out like a revenge movie of sorts as we get a lot of insight into the struggle of Lester and his wild offspring. They take their frustrations out on the people who matter, but they also turn their collective attention towards the regular townfolk, which is where the slasher element truly comes into play. Things come to a head between the Bacons and their potential victims when, in an attempt to film their horror movie, the protagonists infiltrate the territory of the killer and his deranged father.

Personally, I found the bad guys to be considerably more interesting than everyone else, especially the bland Final Girl with the peculiar name of "Liz Borden". But I guess this shouldn't come as too much of a shock considering how much time the movie spends with the antagonists; instead of mysterious figures who periodically emerge to claim victims and retreat back into the shadows, the Bacons get a lot of screen time and are even sympathetic to a degree. And despite not saying a word, Joe B. Barton makes up for it with a great screen presence as Buddy. He's one of the more likable cold-blooded killers I've ever seen in a slasher movie.

Speaking of slashers, there's a high body count but this isn't a creative kill type of slasher movie with elaborate death scenes. The kills are somewhat basic but satisfying nonetheless in terms of getting the slasher pay-offs. People get bludgeoned to death, throats slashed, and ran over with cars, etc. So yeah, SLAUGHTERHOUSE isn't one of the all-time great slashers, and it's far too similar to some of the aforementioned movies to be groundbreaking, but it's very watchable, with the only major flaw (aside from a lack of originality) being an ending that falls a little flat.

Score: 6

October 29, 2014

Death Rattle Radio's Halloween Mixtape 2014

This is a little mixtape I put together for Halloween! My inspirations for this project are the two fellows who comprise The Illuminoids of the now defunct Illumination Radio. They put together a Halloween mix on their podcast way back in 2007, and ever since I started podcasting last year and learned how to edit audio, I always thought it would be cool to take a stab at something similar. But anyway, who cares... just check it out if you need some background (or party!) music as we lead into Halloween. I don't have any download links available, but if you'd like an mp3 sent to you, leave a comment with your e-mail address. I hope you guys dig it.

Running time: 01:06:42
Quality: 320kbps

October 23, 2014

The Witch Who Came from the Sea (1976)

Directed by Matt Cimber. Starring Millie Perkins ("Molly"), Lonny Chapman ("Long John"), Vanessa Brown ("Cathy Brown"), and Peggy Feury ("Doris"). Rated R.

Source: Streaming on The Movie and Music Network
Running time: 01:28:09
Country: USA

This is the first of hopefully many reviews I'll be doing for The Movie and Music Network. As part of our partnership, you'll be able to watch the movies I review for FREE. At the bottom of the review, you'll find a link that will let you stream THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA. So do it! And if you feel like signing up for the site and getting access to a ton of great movies for a low price, please click the banner on my sidebar.

As an enthusiast of the Video Nasties, THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA is a movie I've been wanting to check out ever since I discovered what the fuck a Video Nasty was. It was never high up on my list to check out though; it's a relatively obscure movie and one that I'd never heard much about other than it being more of a slower-paced art film in comparison to the rest of the cannibal and zombie movies that were banned by the BBFC back in the day and declared too "nasty" for public consumption. Not that I have a problem with that, but if I go out of my way to watch one of the Video Nasties, I want to see what all the fuss is about, and by that I mean people getting their brains eaten and faces ripped off.

Set in a coastal town, THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA follows a troubled woman named Molly, who has all sorts of issues - a lot of which are gradually revealed until the depressing finale. As the film goes on, Molly's dark history consumes her and, appropriately enough, causes her to drift further out into a sea of madness. Certain resources would lead you to believe that this is a character study under the guise of a slasher movie, in which the lead character seduces men and kills them. There are indeed moments of Molly being portrayed as an empowered seductress who kills unsuspecting members of the opposite sex, but there's much more to it than that.

"The Witch Who Came from the Sea" isn't just one of the coolest movie titles of all time - it also evokes imagery of a supernatural slasher with an aquatic antagonist. Well, this is definitely not that, so be warned. The title is merely a reference to a drawing of a mermaid that Molly obsesses over and eventually gets tattooed on her body as part of her transformation. That said, the title isn't completely misleading, but the equally amazing poster artwork of a sickle-wielding babe holding a severed head doesn't exactly help the film's cause. But, aside from the mermaid and the coastal setting, the ocean plays a big part in the back-story of the lead character in a rather disturbing way that involves sexual abuse.

Whether or not you like this movie from a pure enjoyment standpoint, there's definitely something to be said about how it portrays mental illness and the trauma caused by sexual abuse. It does so with visuals and sound, which allows the viewer to relate to Molly's mental and emotional instability, and this is where a lot of the film's horror elements are revealed - psychological horror but horror nonetheless. It also allows lead actress Millie Perkins to play Molly with subtlety and rely less on physicality and theatrics to get the point across. One of the movies that came to mind when watching this was Lodge Kerrigan's CLEAN, SHAVEN, which also takes us inside the head of a person suffering from mental illness through visuals and especially sound. There's also a strange coincidence that the two films share, in that they both feature shaving scenes that wind up getting a little bloody. This would also make a good double-feature with LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH, which shares a similar type of unreliable narrator (much more so in the case of JESSICA) by way of a disturbed female lead character.

Judging this based on its "worthiness" of being labeled a Video Nasty, or even just as a horror movie in general, THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA is a disappointment. But, once you get over the fact that it's more of a drama than anything, there's a lot to admire about it. The journey of the lead character over the course of the film is an interesting one at the very least. It's like watching a car slowly drift across lanes of traffic before eventually hitting a tree and bursting into flames. Overall, this is an interesting portrait of a young-ish woman who's far too damaged to live up to her potential. From a technical standpoint, it's also a nicely shot film, but that shouldn't come as a surprise to those familiar with the work of cinematographer Dean Cundey (HALLOWEEN). There are also moments of effective humor and tons of a politically-incorrect dialogue, which is one of the film's many elements that make it very much a product of its time.

Score: 7

To watch this movie for free, click HERE to stream it on The Movie and Music Network.

October 17, 2014

Dangerous Alliance: The Death Rattle teams up with The Movie And Music Network

The folks at the Movie and Music Network have decided to form a partnership with yours truly that will involve some cross promotion, but I mainly just wanna help spread the word for their growing site, which offers a number of streaming movies for you to dig into for a low monthly price! By signing up, you'll have access to a bunch of channels that host feature-length films, television shows, children's shows, and even "adult programming" for you freak-a-leaks.

You can head over to the Movie and Music Network HERE and see for yourself - and keep in mind that by clicking the banner on the sidebar to the right, it will allow you to sign up for the site with a special promo code that kicks me back some scratch so I can feed my kids! So, feel free to click the banner or follow this link to the Movie and Music Network to see what they're offering. But, if you're too lazy to do that, you can scroll down a little and see some of the channels that might be of interest to you fans of horror, exploitation, and sleaze. Click on the pictures to see what each channel has to offer. And remember: please use my banner if you plan on signing up.

Also, as part of the partnership, I'll be reviewing a couple of their movies a month and you'll be able to watch those movies for FREE on a new "Reviewed" channel they'll be including on the site. Stay tuned.

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The Terror Channel has the most extreme, outrageous insanity, depravity, debauchery, skullduggery and evil ever captured on film, featuring all manner of lunatics, sadists, torturers, psychopaths, murderers, zombies, sexual deviants, flesh-eaters, cannibals, monsters, goths, witches, Satanists, vampires, and all others generally up to no good.


October 16, 2014

Kickstart My Heart: Carl Bachmann's horror-comedy PARTY SLASHERS

Carl Bachmann is a filmmaker who's trying to get his latest project off the ground - a horror-comedy slasher called PARTY SLASHERS. He reached out to me regarding his project, so I thought I'd share it with the millions and millions of Death Rattle readers, and by "millions" I mean "tens" (on a good day).

According to the film's Kickstarter page, the synopsis for PARTY SLASHERS is as follows:
A group of high schoolers must survive a Halloween party crashed by undead mass murderers accidentally summoned during a D&D game.

For more info check out the PARTY SLASHERS Kickstarter page HERE and be sure to watch the video, which includes a test scene of what you can expect from Bachmann's feature-length in the event that his campaign is successful.

As with any crowdfunding project, there are a variety of rewards available for whoever backs this particular project. The rewards for PARTY SLASHERS range from digital downloads, physical copies of the movie, custom Grindhouse posters, and being involved in the actual creative process. Again, check out the Kickstarter page HERE and give PARTY SLASHERS a "Like" on Facebook HERE if you're into that sort of thing.

We here at the Death Rattle wish Carl Bachmann the best of luck with his project!

October 13, 2014

Full Eclipse (1993)

Directed by Anthony Hickox. Starring Mario Van Peebles ("Max Dire"), Patsy Kensit ("Casey Spencer"), Bruce Payne ("Adam Garou"), and Tony Denison ("Jim Sheldon"). Rated R.

Source: Region 1 DVD (HBO)
Running time: 01:37:07
Country: USA

Following the abrupt death, resurrection, and second death of his partner, a gung-ho cop names Max Dire gets an invitation to join a group of vigilante anti-hero police officers with a dark secret. All of the members have been screwed over in some way and have taken to dishing out their own brand of justice... werewolf justice! That's right, Max is slowly but surely recruited into a group of werewolf cops. As part of his orientation, he witnesses the wolf-cops (wolf-pigs? yeah... bad joke, sorry) singlehandedly take out a heavily-armed criminal organization while dresses in X-Men-like black spandex, but not before injecting themselves with some sort of drug.

The initial reluctance and skepticism on Max's part as far as joining the group eventually goes away when he's seduced by one of the female members, leading to an awkward-looking sex scene, in which Max's pants are inexplicably ripped at the crotch and ass like he tried to do the splits and the actress playing the seducer has large pieces of tape visibly covering her nipples.

There's really not much to say in terms of my observations on the film. I don't know if I'd outright classify this as a horror movie. It's also an action movie and a crime drama - a true mash-up of genres if there ever was one. If there's a problem with the plot, it's that there's no clear-cut objectives for Max and the group of werewolf cops he aligns himself with. They're not trying to take down any specific antagonist and there's really no "black hat" to contrast them. All of the conflict stems from turmoil within the group, specifically as it pertains to Max and Adam Garou - the literal leader of the pack. As the film goes on, there's more revealed in regards to the lore of the group and especially their leader. That said, FULL ECLIPSE is basically a movie about a jaded cop who goes to the darkside and later has second thoughts about it, except with werewolves added to the mix. And, it should be said, that these aren't typical werewolves. The film addresses lycanthrope traditions, like the lunar cycle and physical reactions to silver, but the main catalyst for the transformations are an experimental drug that the Garou creates.

As far as the actual transformations themselves, the characters grow claws out of their knuckles like Wolverine. They also sprout fangs and there are some temporary facial deformities to emphasize their monstrosities, as if the bones in their faces were trying to break out of their skin. In other words, they're not covered with fur, however there's a pay-off towards the end if you prefer your werewolves to be a bit more traditional-looking. All of that being said, the makeup effects are far between but good nonetheless. I especially loved the visuals of the group in action. There are some great shots of them all dressed up in their black spandex and tearing shit up, but the action mostly takes a backseat to the plot and character interactions, which is fine.

FULL ECLIPSE is directed by Anthony Hickox, who I mostly know from HELLRAISER 3 and the WAXWORK movies. That said, this is very reminiscent of HELLRAISER 3 from a visual, stylistic, and atmospheric perspective - minus Pinhead and the Cenobites destroying shit and killing people of course. This is evident right off the bat during a shoot-out sequence in a nightclub at the beginning of the movie. The club itself looks identical to the Boiler Room with its weird props and decorations. This also features the main supporting actress from HELLRAISER 3, Paula Marshall, who also worked with Hickox on at least one other occasion that I'm aware of. Other things of note that are unrelated to Hickox's involvement are a BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD reference and the excessive use of stock Panther sound effects during the werewolf attacks. Also, other noteworthy actors include Jennifer Rubin (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3) in a disappointingly small role and Dean Norris (BREAKING BAD).

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. I'm a tad disappointed by the emphasis on action and drama over horror, but hey, what can ya do. It's entertaining for what it is and the cast is pretty good. I'll definitely be giving this one a watch again at some point down the line. I'd even be happy to buy it and add it to my collection if it had a decent release.

Score: 7