Vacancy 2: the First Cut (2009) The first Vacancy–which, unlike this typical prequel, actually had a theatrical release–was set at a hotel where three sickos film their own killings of their guests (aka snuff). That first film showed the demise of their business of selling copies of their work. In the prequel, which doesn’t do things much differently from the first film, we are informed of how these entrepeneurs got started. Or at least one of them anyway, as the other two are killed by the lead girl after they kill her boyfriend and his tag along friend. This girl is so tough she implausibly is able to shoot one of these guys from beneath a shallow pond in the dark. The remaining snuffer who gets away, we have to assume, is one of the masked guys in the first film, who somehow survives being set on fire and stabbed in the side of his face. The snuffers didn’t have those trap doors and underground passageways yet (as shown in the original), so a lot is left to desire. Three maniacs can be better than one (like in Mother’s Day or Wrong Turn). In this case, three’s a crowd. [rating: $3] –Kenyon
The Car (1977) “The car, he’s in here!” HE! i love you car. You are so smart you were able to get inside that guy’s garage. You are so much a better actor than those losers. Yes, Ronny “the ground was hallowed” Cox and James Brolin, who plays cat and mouse with a car from the depths of hell, while allowing his dumb girlfriend to get mauled by the car. Check out those sweet maneuvers by the car. Good job, car. [rating: $5]-Kenyon
Magic (1978) Ventriloquist dummies are creepy, and a young Anthony Hopkins and his dummy Fats more than fulfill that notion. Sort of a twist on Psycho and other movies with someone who has a split personality, Corky is a troubled guy who is overcome by the identity of Fats. Magic is well made and acted, though the only thing missing in this early psychological horror film is a clear reason as to why Corky is off balance (something with his parents?) and how and why he decided to acquire a dummy after failing as a magician. [rating: $5] –Kenyon
What a way to go. Being eaten by an enormous alien mutant monster brain. That’s some suggestive effing vore there. Hey, the brain was doing fine controlling minds until some meddling kids got in the way. Now it has to take breaks from its mind control room to eat them. Eating them will cause the brain to expand, and we’ll assume, become even more powerful. Now listen brain, don’t get a big head. The doctor assisting you just got decapitated! In other words, this is classic. [rating: $7] –Kenyon
April Fool’s Day (1986) One of several slasher films from the early 80s that uses a day of the year as a gimmick, April Fool’s Day features an all-star cast of actors who have been seen elsewhere in movies that were more memorable. This includes Thomas Wilson (Biff from Back to the Future), Deborah Foreman (Valley Girl) and Amy Steele (essentially reprising her role as a heroine from Friday the 13th Part 2). Unfortunately, their combined forces aren’t able to help this tongue in cheek horror flick stand out from its peers, even with it’s April Fool’s “twist.” A group of college kids are invited to a secluded home of a mutual friend, who has set up all sorts of tricks, like dribble glasses and chairs with faulty legs. Before you can say “formulaic” the kids start disappearing and heads and body parts are found. It wouldn’t be half-bad if the movie continued on a safe, well-traveled path. Instead, its effort to manipulate the viewer (and two lead characters) disregards important scenes in the movie’s plot development, as if the movie itself doesn’t know which way to go. Once the surprise ending sucks the life out of the party, April Fool’s has more in common with the mystery comedy Clue than an average and more honest vintage slasher. [rating: $3] –Kenyon
Alien Contamination (aka Contamination, 1980) Hundreds of watermelon-size egg-like things have appeared in New York City. The authorities are on it, and they find out that they explode onto people and then two seconds later the victim’s guts explode out in a gory manner, which is fairly impressive for this type of early 80s, lower budget film. The eggs are very important to the people that have a plan for them. And they are so important, these eggs, that men will sacrifice themselves to keep it covered. In one scene some dudes get caught in a warehouse with the eggs, so they shoot the eggs in front of themselves (!) and die instantly. Later, in a flashback, it’s shown that the strange eggs originated from Mars and one of two astronauts took back a “seed” to grow a cyclops. Yes, a cyclops. This sorta comes out of nowhere near the end, but it’s very entertaining. It’s an alien creature, the size of a large tree–and kinda shaped that way–that is in the basement of the facility housing the eggs. It is controlling minds and making its servants harvest the eggs, which apparently have no other purpose than to explode and release toxic substances. Anyway, the other astronaut saves the day, although one of the other hero lead characters is unexpectedly eaten by the cyclops. Wooops! [rating: $3] –Kenyon
Body Shop (aka Doctor Gore) Even though it’s only 75 minutes, the truly terrible Body Shop could easily be edited down to 15. Every scene and every motion drags at a lumbering pace, which doesn’t help when half the plot is unclear. This seems to be the case though–a woman dies and her lover, a mad scientist, reforms her from body parts of other women. That’s where the body shopping and chopping comes in, and admittedly for the early 70s, this is gory stuff. However, even that slicing off of legs, etc, moves super slowly. These operations are assisted by a mute hunchback weirdo whose job is to dispose the unused body parts in acid. After the girl is assembled, she and her creator spend at least 15 minutes in the film getting “acquainted”. Plans for the doctor, however, go sour and before you know it the doctor is in a jail cell while his girl is out roaming the world meeting new people. Something like that. [rating: $1] –Kenyon
Eaten Alive (1977) The follow-up to Tobe Hooper’s influential Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the much lesser known Eaten Alive was inexplicably a large step down. Like Chainsaw, Eaten Alive was loosely based on a true story. Given the lengthy mundane scenes, low budget set and laughable killings, any truth to the story isn’t much respected here. Regarding the scenes that drag, most of it consists of a hotel owner in a swampy area of the southern states mumbling incorherently to himself (similar to Maniac from 1981). This sheds little light on why he kills (or nearly kills) people that come to his hotel and then lets his giant crocodile do the rest. And that’s where a majority of the laughs come in. The croc, which is usually hidden in an abundance of fog and for some reason in water right next to the entrance of the hotel, is utterly hilarious and the star of this sexploitation horror film (highlights include swallowing a dog and chomping on pre-Nightmare on Elm Street star Robert Englund).
Chainsaw, which had good perspective on location, showed a house hidden in the vast rural terrain of Texas. In Eaten Alive–which has gone under numerous other titles–we really have no idea about the location of the very few settings, which include the motel, a whorehouse and bar. We are shown the front and inside of the buildings and that’s all. And never at daytime. If anything it’s more comparable to a play in a theater. Aside from the presumedly unintentional comedy of the croc and its madman owner chasing victims with a scyth (that thing used for cutting cornfields) the only other redeeming aspect is the nearly constant red hues that provide the foggy atmosphere. Fortunately, Hooper was able to follow Alive with such classics as Funhouse and Poltergeist. [rating: $2] -Kenyon
P.S: by chance, both Eaten Alive and the below film, Intruder, have opening credits in front of the moon.
One of many works created by a combination of Sam Raimi, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Scott Spiegel, Intruder has been called the “last great slasher of the 1980s”. This is quite the overstatement, as the movie doesn’t possess any unique qualities and settles as a typical slasher with the usual “twist.” Beware, the twist is spoiled in the trailer! What’s worse is that Campbell is billed as a lead actor, but actually only appears for a couple minutes at the end. Sam and Ted Raimi, at least, play two of the several characters semi-inventively knocked off by an unknown assailant in a supermarket. This string of events occurs late at night after the employees are told that the store is permanently closing. From the start, you know they are all doomed when they split up and go searching for friends. All of Intruder is shot in and outside of a supermarket, although it’s much better than the Gingerdead Man, which shot entirely in a bakery. Sam Raimi uses camera angles which you may recognize from Evil Dead. Though of course, Intruder is no Evil Dead. [rating: $5] –Kenyon