Hey horror fiends! Today’s double feature is a jump into the fractured dark psyches of seemingly normal people. As we have all seen on the news, it’s always the quiet ones. Ordinary people can sometimes harbor dark and horrible secrets not visible on the surface. From feelings of weakness to an inability to heal the damage of tragic events, some people are incredibly tortured. Eventually, the damn of sanity cracks and madness seeps through, ushering in pain and violence once thought unbelievable. With this in mind, I give you today’s Cineray double feature: Prano Bailey-Bond’s new film Censor and David Lynch’s classic Lost Highway.Continue reading “Cineray Psychosis!”
Let’s take a deep dive today, fiends! Today’s double feature is all about monsters from deep down in the ocean. In my opinion, today’s double feature entries broke the ground for a film like last year’s Underwater to be made. That’s right, deep-sea diabolists, today’s double feature is Deep Star Six and Leviathan.Continue reading “Deep Sea Cineray”
Let’s get hairy, fiends! Today’s Cineray recommended movies are two of my favorite werewolf movies ever!
Ever since I was a kid, werewolves have been among my favorite monsters. Something about the lore and the look and the general terror associated with the creatures fascinates me. The concept of being a noble, good-intentioned person cursed to become a monstrous beast driven to attack people by the changing moon is mesmerizing. It’s not Jekyll who keeps taking his potion or an evil vampire driven by bloodlust. No, this is a person trying to control a beast within and trying to cure themselves of it. So today’s double feature is Werewolf of London and Dog Soldiers.Continue reading “Cineray Gets Furry”
Well, it’s that season again, fiends! That time when we get crap for watching horror movies during the “holidays.” It’s also when we get together with family and take part in that thinly veiled dance where we try not to get angry at family members we have not seen for a while. So why not watch a couple of horror movies that take all those thoughts about the holidays we have and take them to the violent nth degree. Today’s Cineray holiday recommendations are Red Christmas, directed and written by Craig Anderson and Secret Santa, directed and co-written by Adam Marcus, and co-written by Debra Sullivan.
Red Christmas is a slasher movie with an unusual killer and a mixed political message. This one starts at an abortion clinic that is bombed by a pro-life activist. In the aftermath, the bomber finds and takes with him the surviving result of a late-term abortion. Flash forward 20 years to Diane, played by Dee Wallace, hosting her family at her home in Australia. Tensions are high and old wounds show as the festivities begin. Her daughter Ginny is nine months pregnant and likes to smoke pit with her husband, supplied by her uncle, and her sister Suzy arrives with her pastor husband. The two clash and argue a lot with the family between them. And then a mysterious stranger named Cletus, wrapped in bandages, wearing a cloak arrives, and before they understand what’s happening, he is picking them off one at a time.
The slasher element of Red Christmas is pretty inventive, and once the kills start, they are pretty brutal. In typical slasher fashion, the killer has come for revenge, except here, his origin and rationale are pretty inventive. The kills could be a little more revealing, especially for a slasher, but it being an independent film, maybe that was the best way they felt they could keep down the cost. The special effect on the barely seen Cletus is cheesy looking, and honestly, the mystery of how he looks should have held for the entire film, but it’s quick and easy to see past. Finally, it’s a little muddled in its politics.
The next feature Secret Santa follows with more of a family killing spree but a lot more killing and some excellent dark humor. The film follows a family who meets for Christmas Eve dinner and their annual Secret Santa Ritual. Though blood, these are all different people with histories and issues between them. Tensions are high because, well, old wounds often do not heal. During a tense argument, violence ensues, and people start attacking others and complaining of feeling hot while others try to protect themselves and escape. But one of them has engineered the events of this evening and secretly knows what is going on.
The humor and violence of this film are entertaining, and the actors are great. It’s easy to hate some characters as the film progresses, but there’s a complicated family narrative afoot as well. Take the shrewish family matriarch Shari, played here in spiteful, vengeful glory by Debra Sullivan. Even though it’s an independent feature, the film spares no expense with the practical effects. The kills are fantastic, and some are outright funny. There is one WTF moment of particular gruesomeness in the film that will make you laugh out loud.
Now, to be completely honest, my fondness for Secret Santa transcends how great I think the movie is. This is because, when the Horror Vision podcast was only into its fifth episode, we got the chance to sit down and interview Adam Marcus and co-writer and star Debra Sullivan, and the film’s producer Bryan Sexton about the film. They were all excellent guests and very personable and open about the film process. Adam is generous in his advice and very positive, and Debra could not be farther from her character onscreen. She is very friendly and a great actor, considering how much you hate her character onscreen. That being said, more people need to see this horror film, and it’s always part of the reason I pick my Cineray features. Red Christmas can be rented from all the usual places but is free with Prime, Peacock, and Shudder, while Secret Santa is available for rent or purchase through Prime and YouTube.
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
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.
Hey fiends! So Halloween has come and gone, and if you were like me, it was somewhat uneventful while you sat at home being safe. But maybe you are not ready to let the season go by quite just yet. So why not take in a couple of great anthologies that are perfect for saying goodbye for the season with Scare Package and Tales of Halloween.
Scare Package is a fun anthology of horror shorts all tied together by a couple of framing devices and tons of fun horror and gore. The film is not just an homage to the horror genre but is also how most horror fans over the age of 30 were first introduced to horror movies, the local video store. The film’s primary framing device is Rad Chad’s video store, where the stories usually have their genesis as either a story or a videotape being played or discussed. Rad Chad is the know-it-all horror guy, and Sam is one of his customers, the attention-seeking horror nerd. Later Chad acknowledges his role as a know-it-all horror guy and that he is a part of a horror movie. Most of the characters in the meta situations are easily recognizable in horror, and the way they are used and displayed is comic and fun.
Many genres of horror are referenced, and usually, every short references more than one. From slashers to monsters to devil worshippers to body melt to black government scientists, so many troupes are referenced and made fun of but in the most loving of ways. The people involved in this love horror movies and wanted to create something that showed that love. There is a fun reference early on to a horror icon who later makes a cameo as a character. Among some of my favorite moments are a short involving body melt and a secret government experiment. There is also a wrap-around framing device and an entertaining character in it.
Tales of Halloween is a lot less meta but still pays its share of homage while utilizing a more cemented location and a fun run start to finish. The film takes place on Halloween in a suburban town. A local DJ, played by Adrienne Barbeau, narrates and is heard throughout the film when characters listen to the radio. For fans of the Fog, you will live the use of Barbary. Some of the stories are very horror focused while others are horror-comedy. Among the genres referenced are urban legends, vengeful ghosts, devils and imps, slashers, aliens, witches, and demons. I tend to like the more comedic, but a couple took me by surprise with their twists.
I think the order of Scare Package and then Tales of Halloween is the better choice because of how the stories are presented. Scare Package tends to ramp up and even ends with a bang. Continuing with Tales of Halloween is a good way to end the night because it’s almost a cool down and all of the tales take place on Halloween night. If you feel ambitious or just have lots of time, you could always make this a triple feature with Trick-r-Treat if you did not already watch it this past Halloween season. I would probably place it right between the two or after Tales of Halloween, but that one I will leave for you to decide.
Finally, both Scare Package and Tales of Halloween are available on Shudder, where I suggest watching them. For one, they are both conveniently streaming in one place, so whether you are watching from a computer or smart tv you can stay in one application. Tales of Halloween is on the main page under a Shudder Halloween and Scare Package is in the separate category Exclusive and Original. But I would recommend looking up the Last Drive-In presentation of Scare Package just to add another element of fun with Joe Bob Briggs.
Hey there horror fiends, for some summertime vampire fun, this week’s double feature is Vampires directed John Carpenter and Near Dark directed by Kathryn Bigelow. The weather is starting to heat up, and it’s the perfect time to watch vampire movies that take place in desert settings. Locations like these present some interesting problems for sun-sensitive creatures and the people or victims who interact with them.
I would recommend Vampires as the first of these to watch as its fast-moving and pretty action-packed. The film centers on Jack Crow (James Woods) and his Vatican-sponsored group of vampire hunters. Crow’s group of mercenaries are not men of god, but killers who enjoy the hunt, and when they are not exterminating vampires, they are hard-partying. This is something the priest on the team objects to, but Jack allows because of the horrors they experience fighting and killing vampires. After a day of successful vamp killing, the group celebrates with a party and hookers at a hotel.
During their party and with most of the team drunk, a master vampire named Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith) attacks and kills most of the team and the hookers. Only Jack Crow, his second in command Tony Montoya, and prostitute Katrina (Sheryl Lee) survive the attack. Katrina, however, gets bitten. After the attack, Crow is assigned Father Adam Guiteau by the Church. This new, three-man team brings Katrina on their pursuit of Valek, who is searching for a relic that turned him into the first vampire.
Katrina is a quasi-prisoner, and the bite is slowly changing her into a vampire, which gives her a psychic link to Valek, which Crow exploits to aid in their pursuit of him. Complications arise from Montoya’s empathy and attraction to Katrina that threaten the team. As they get closer to Valek, the danger gets worse, and there is more going on then they may suspect.
Vampires is not Carpenter’s best film, but it is an enjoyable movie. Woods is perfect as the anti-hero Crow, the kind of guy you are glad to see do his job, but not someone you would ever want to meet. The film moves at a nice brisk pace, and the action is great. The team’s method of harpooning and then dragging vampires into the sunlight using vehicle hoists is impressive, and considering the strength of these vampires proves a great solution for helping them keep their distance from the creatures. The film also has somewhat of a western feel that leads into the second feature nicely.
Near Dark, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, is an excellent horror movie with western elements that has thankfully only grown in popularity and cult status since its modest release. The film stars Adrain Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Janette Goldstein, and Joshua John Miller. Henriksen, Paxton, and Goldstein were all featured in James Cameron’s film Aliens, leading to their casting in this film after Cameron suggested them to Bigelow.
Near Dark concerns a young man named Caleb (Pasdar) living on his father’s farm in a small town who meets Mae (Wright) one night. Mae is a pretty drifter, and after spending the night together, she bites Caleb just before dawn. She then takes him in the RV the group she travels with calls home.
The new addition to their group causes problems in Mae’s vampire family. Severin ( Paxton) wants to kill Caleb, but Jesse (Henriksen), the group’s leader, decides to give it a week to see if Caleb can hunt and kill. Caleb refuses, however, Mae helps him survive and hide this from the others. Paxton is fantastic and terrifying as the bloodthirsty and murderous Severin. Henriksen is excellent as well. Miller is also great as the child vampire Homer, a decades-old vampire trapped inside a child’s body. There is a fantastic line of dialogue that implies Jesse is an old confederate soldier and that he and Severin are responsible for at least one tragedy in history. The desert setting adds a nice challenge for the group, providing some fantastic cinematic moments. Watch for the bloody bar scene – you’ll know it when you get to it. Near Dark is on the moody and slower-moving side, but its fantastic moments of intensity more than make up for that.
So, why these two together, you may ask. It’s interesting to see how two different directors handle the vampire mythos in similar settings. Carpenter’s approach is a lot more pedestrian and very clear on what the movie is about, from the title through the film to the clearly delineated protagonists and antagonists. Near Dark, on the other hand, is a lot more moody and subtle; the term vampire is never used in the film, and it’s a lot more ambiguous as to who are the protagonists and antagonists. The only problem with these picks is availability. Vampires is readily available from all the usual streaming rental sites; however, Near Dark is unfortunately not only out of print at the moment, but also not streaming on any services. This one is a used copy find, but honestly, very much worth buying.