Cineray Hits the Strip Club

Get ready for beauty with bite fiends! Strip clubs are very lascivious places where men throw their money down for sexy ladies to dance and reveal more of their bodies while alcohol is usually drunk. But what if the ladies who dance in these clubs were after more than the patrons’ wallets? What if they wanted a little more? Like, say the blood pumping through their veins, for instance. Today’s double feature is two tales of strip clubs filled with the most deadly dancers, vampires and riff-raff. The double-feature recommendation is Vamp and From Dusk Till Dawn. 

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Cineray: Slasher Fundamentals.

Class is in sessions, fiends! All right, today I am recommending a double feature of foundational horror. Horror, like any other film genre, becomes more entertaining when you know its history. For one, the work that became the foundational building blocks are usually fantastic movies in their own right and are still as entertaining now as they were when they were first released. Knowing these historically significant films can enhance the viewing of later entries because they typically reference them. For today I have picked two films that were the building blocks for the slasher genre. They also have their genesis in the true-life story of the notorious serial killer Ed Gein. Today’s Cineray double feature is Psycho, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, directed by Tobe Hooper. 

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Psycho Goreman Spoiler-Free Review

Steven Kostanski’s new film Psycho Goreman hit VOD on Friday and Anthony and Shawn have seen it and wish to sing its praises! Here’s their quick, spoiler-free review, which also walks viewers through a bit of Kostanski’s history as a part of the Astron-6, his other films, and where you can watch this gore-tastic new flick!

Castle Freak, Freaky, Max Brook’s Devolution, and the joys of Audio Books!

Chris, Ray, and Shawn meet up to talk about all things Horror! First, hear Chris talk about the joys of not only Max Brooks’s new novel Devolution, but the full-cast Audio Book performance of both that and Brooks’s seminal zombie novel, World War Z! Next, Shawn has seen the new, Barbara Crampton-Produced Castle Freak remake and he LOVES it! Hear why. And Ray continues to methodically educate himself on Shudder’s entire catalog; this week he talks about Fulci’s New York Ripper, Bava’s The Body and the Whip, and the not-for-the-weak-of-heart Angst! Plus… Christopher Landon’s Freaky, and a lot more!

A Thanksgiving CineRay!

Hey horror fiends! This week was Thanksgiving, and if you are like me, you had enough turkey to last you a while. But thankfully, we never get tired of horror. For this week’s Cineray double feature, I have decided on a couple of slasher movies. One is legitimately set on the Thanksgiving holiday while the other is not, but there is a theme that ties them together I will reveal later. Today’s recommendations are Blood Rage, directed by John Grissmer, and The Mutilator, directed by Buddy Cooper. 

Blood Rage is a great slasher that happens to take place on Thanksgiving. The story focuses on twin brothers Todd and Terry and their mother, Louise. One night while at a drive-in, Louise, played by Louise Lasser, begins to make out with her husband while her sons sleep in the back of the station wagon. Terry wakes up and wakes his brother and tells him to sneak out of the car with him. While out looking in car windows and around, Terry finds an ax. He happens upon a couple having sex in their car and gets caught pepping with Todd standing behind him in the distance. Terry hacks the man’s face to death, then gives the ax to Todd and smears blood on him. Todd is traumatized and left catatonic and institutionalized. Ten years later, after Louise visits on Thanksgiving, Todd escapes. Meanwhile, after Louise announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Terry gets triggered into a killing spree at the apartment complex where they live. 

Blood Rage is a fantastic slasher movie with lots of gore and a pretty inventive plot. Once Terry starts offing people, it’s pretty great. He hacks and slashes his way through his victims, and the effects are all practical and excellent. The dismembered hand clutching a can of beer is pretty memorable. Mark Soper plays the twin brothers Todd and Terry, and he does a great job of it. Terry is ruthless and cruel in his actions, while Todd, by comparison, is soft-spoken and just kind of lost in how to stop his brother. As the film progresses, there is an indication that there may be an incestuous Oedipal relationship between Louise and Terry. From a man killing to eliminate competition for his mother’s love, we shift to a movie whose action focuses on a man’s accidental murder of his mother. 

The Mutilator focuses on the story of Ed and his father, Big Ed. One day while his father is out, Ed is cleaning one of his father’s hunting rifles to surprise him when the weapon accidentally discharges and shoots his mother in the next room, killing her. When Big Ed comes home, he blames Ed and has a psychotic break. Many years later, Ed is now in college and decides to go with his college friends to his father’s beach home for Fall Break. What they don’t know is that Big Ed is hiding at the beach house, waiting to exact his revenge on his son after all these years. 

What makes this film fun is how odd of a slasher movie it is. It’s fairly formulaic in its plot and structure, with the killer ramp up in violence and the characters indulging in episodes of making out. But the tone of this film is bonkers. It starts with the very stark, almost overly dramatic mother’s death and then cuts to the friends meeting and deciding to go to the beach house, which is a very light-hearted scene. And then the film’s original title Fall Break, comes on screen over a music montage more fitting for a cheesy 80’s comedy. The film does this more than a few times. It will be a slasher movie one moment and then decide it wants to be a teen sex comedy for a moment or two. 

These films are worth a watch because they have largely been forgotten about, even amidst the increased market for regional slasher movies. Plus, both films both focus on killers motivated by family relationships and anger. If you have been on either a zoom call or a small family gathering, this season chances are you may feel homicidal too. The Mutilator is on Amazon prime video, and Blood Rage is on Prime, Kanopy, and best of all Shudder. Now you can watch Blood Rage all on its own, but as I always do, I recommend it watched as part of the

The Dark & the Wicked, AHS 9 Season Marathon & a Tribute to Movies that feature Drive-Ins!

Tori spent her October doing the unthinkable – watching ALL 9 seasons of American Horror Story start to finish. Hear her talk about the experience. Ray does a tribute to Drive-ins in cinema with Psycho Beach Party and Chillerama, and Shawn watched The Dark and the Wicked! Plus, Joe R. Lansdale’s The Drive-In, The Driller Killer, Shudder’s WNUF Halloween Special, and a bloody lot more. (Really bloody!)

Cineray at the Drive-In!

All right, all you hip horror hounds, it’s time for another groovy Cineray double feature. If you are picking up what I am putting down daddy-o’s, today’s recommendation is a couple of films that celebrate the hay days of 60’s drive-in horror movies with a modern twist. But first, perhaps I should offer a little backstory on how all this got started.

Movie theaters are still shut down here in Cali for the most part. Yours truly and Shawn – who is kind of the Horror Vision podcast group CEO – have recently attended a handful of drive-in presentations. For me, it’s been many years since watching a movie from the car, and these recent experiences have rekindled a lot of great old memories. So in celebration of the drive-in experience, today’s double features are Chillerama and Psycho Beach Party. 

Before I get into each movie, let me get into a bit of drive-in trivia and the movies of the drive-in. For those too young to have experienced the drive-in experience or did not have one in your area, the drive-in is a pretty different experience from the theater. For one thing, you are in a car with whomever you have come with and are somewhat isolated from the other patrons. This isolation allows you to make comments or even talk during the movie without worrying about bothering other parties (But not too much, Ray! – Shhh!ing Shawn).

The Drive-in was also known as a popular make-out spot, something which both films I will talk about today showcase. And there was a particular type of cinema that thrived at the drive-in. These films were second-run, independent ones, not the big, new releases that played at the then-burgeoning multiplexes. So giant monster movies and the more schlocky or cheesy movies were the more popular fare. Therefore, I wanted to make both films I recommend today homages to that time and those types of films. 

First up is Chillerama, a horror anthology featuring the directing talent of Adam Rifkin, Bear McCreary, Adam Green, Joe Lynch, and Tim Sullivan. The connection to the drive-in is both the setting, the framing device, and the subjects of the short films within the film. 

The wrap-around or ‘framing’ story surrounds a group of characters at the drive-in for the last night before it is closed and demolished to watch a presentation called Chillerama, a set of short films we as an audience watch along with them, checking in between films to see their story as it unfolds.

The first story in Chillerama is a giant monster movie called Wadzilla, followed by I Was a Teenage Werebear, a monster movie called Diary of Anne Frankenstein, and the wrap-around story called Zom-b-movie. All of the shorts are filled with humor that verges on parody. Sometimes the jokes get a bit juvenile, but ultimately they are all gruesome fun with gobs of modern gore. 

Similarly, our second feature, Psycho Beach Party starring Lauren Ambrose and Nicholas Branden, is also infused with a lot of humor. The film centers on Florence, a 16-year-old girl in the 1960s who enjoys going to drive-in movies with her best friend. One night a girl is murdered at the drive-in, and the police investigate. Meanwhile, Florence is invited by the popular Marvel Ann (Amy Adams) to the beach and sees Starcat (Brendan) and his friends surfing. She asks to learn, but they laugh her off. Florence goes to the surf guru the Great Kanaka and, after freaking him out by exhibiting an alternate personality, intimidates him into teaching her. While the bodies pile up, Florence earns the nickname Chicklet as her surfing improves, and she experiences more strange episodes. 

These films are enjoyable without any prior knowledge of the genres referenced but even more so with said knowledge. It’s worth your time and enjoyment to watch some old horror movies for those looking for some of that knowledge. Particularly giant monster movies like Them, Tarantula, or similar giant monster movies, Frankenstein, the Bride of Frankenstein, the early zombie movies of George Romero, I was a Teenage Werewolf and the teenage Beach movies of Annette Funicello. Knowing these films enhances your perspective of how well these movies reference the material and help with some of the more subtle jokes. The first time I watched Chillerama, I only liked it a bit; however, after viewing a lot more of the material it references, I enjoyed it a whole lot more. 

Finally, if nothing else, I hope these films serve as a jumping-off point to consider more of the classic cinema that has become the road some of our beloved movies have walked down. The filmmakers who made movies like Hatchet and Mayhem that we love now grew up on these older movies and informed who they are and what they created. Also, consider finding where your nearest drive-in is and having a night at the drive-in. Besides the other great attributes I already listed, drive-ins usually feature double features and allow you to bring in your own refreshments, which is a tremendous deal over the theater experience. Both of these movies can be found on Prime video, Chillerama is free, but you will have to rent Psycho Beach Party

Cineray Double-Feature!

Grindhouse time, baby!

Welcome to Cineray, the first article of a new column where I will write movie reviews and suggest cool flicks for you to spend your time watching. I’m a guy who loves cinema, but what’s more, I have a bit of education in the field as well. I have taken a couple of cinema courses, and I’ve studied screenwriting in a classroom environment. I also read film theory for fun, and I watch A LOT of movies. 

I jumped at the chance, and here we go. 

For my very first recommendation, I am going to start with a double feature: Planet Terror, directed by Robert Rodriguez, and Death Proof, directed by Quentin Tarantino, collectively known as Grindhouse.

You can certainly search and watch the two films separately, but I can’t strongly recommend the Grindhouse presentation enough. For one thing, the entire presentation will include the faux theater ratings and the Acuna Boys restaurant ad, but it also contains the great mostly fake trailers made by some famous director. I say ‘mostly’ because the first faux trailer before Planet Terror is Machete, which Rodriguez eventually turned into a film. When that happened, I held so much hope that we would eventually see all those trailers turned into movies by the same directors, but it never happened. 

The flick that brought the gindhouse aesthetic to the masses. Sort of.

What’s great about the whole presentation is how the creators involved tried to recreate the entire Grindhouse experience of the ’70s for an audience in the present day complete with missing reels, and all the pops and scratches that were present in the films of that era. 

The trailers themselves are mini works of art that reference 70’s films in various ways. Machete harkens back to films like Death Race 2000 where the fun is the body count as well as the lone hero films like Billy Jack.

Rodriguez has upped the violence and gore and brought a more current political climate to the tale. The rest of the trailers appear after the presentation of Planet Terror and I will discuss them in the order presented.

Werewolf Women of the SS from Rob Zombie references Nazi exploitation films with a great historical reference twist. The regency is after the fall of Nazi Germany in WWII, there was a German Nazi resistance movement called Werewolves. Knowing his history, Zombie takes that knowledge and smartly twists it into a concept of a Nazi scientist trying to create werewolf soldiers and hey why not throw in fictional supervillain Fu Manchu played by Nick Cage.

Again this is Zombie flexing his knowledge as Fu Manchu was not just a villain of comics and films but a literary creation of the 1920s and would have certainly been a part of movie serials. 

Then there is Don’t directed by Edgar Wright who blends the style of Hammer and haunted house movies like the House on Haunted Hill into a demented little gem with shocks and laughs.

What I have also found so impressive about this one is that it no only references the films but if you have ever watched film trailers of the era it very much has that pattern starting with one jump scare into another until it builds to a mania of them. Finally, there is Thanksgiving directed by Eli Roth that is not only a reference to the Halloween films but even more so to the gorier slashers of the 80s like Blood Rage and the Mutilator. When I saw this film in the theaters I literally heard gasps during this trailer. 

Moving onto the films, Planet Terror is a fun gory quasi-zombie movie with lots of great moments. The scenes involving Dakota and her needles have been known to make several of my friends squirm for example. Its storyline is not so much an homage to a single film or genre as several from the siege films of Carpenter to the zombie movies of Romero with a lot of Rodriguez’s trademark violence and humor. And of course, there is a memorable cameo from Tarantino. The one thing to note about the story of this one is that it moves a lot quicker and has a lot more substance to its characters than most of the grindhouse cinema of the era. The one-story element I feel like is a throwback to those movies is the lack of explanation of El Rey’s infamy and Dakota’s quick turn around after the death of her son. A characteristic of grindhouse is honestly thin backstories and bizarre character evolutions and motivations. 

The second film Death Proof by Tarantino is not so much a horror movie per se and a lot slower but still very enjoyable. Tarantino has stated he wanted to make a slasher film but felt the genre to constraining and so decided to blend another of his favorite genres to create a style closer to his style of filmmaking. This movie is more of an homage to the road/car movies of the ’70s, several of which are said by a character in a conversation. I have often heard the pace of this movie is too slow but when you realize the films he is homaging you understand what he is trying to do. 

Finally going back to the audience’s reactions I experienced is another reason I love this one so much. It was Tarantino and Rodriguez making something they wanted to see and were not as invested in what would work for audiences. It’s probably why it was one of the more unpopular ventures of the two men but that’s also why I champion the movie whenever I can. It is going to be easy to find the movies separately but the film is available for streaming in its entirety on Vudu and iTunes and best of all free on YouTube in HD. Finally, get some popcorn and a soda or your favorite beer and a pizza and seat down and watch it all in one big 193-minute viewing, trust me it’s the best way.