JANUARY 1, 2012

GurozukaYou'd think that groups of young girls romping out in the woods would have the sense to be on the lookout for horrific menaces by now, but thankfully for all of us, that's still not the case-- as demonstrated in Yoichi Nishiyama's bloody spooker Gurozuka. Shot in 2005, it charts the mayhem unleashed when some aspiring adolescent actresses in a film club head out to the middle of nowhere to put together a show. Faster than you can say Deep in the Woods, they and their chaperone realize that all is not as it seems, and faster than you can say The Ring, they've uncovered what looks like a creepy snuff videotape involving someone in an eerie white mask. Oh, and the folks in the house before them met a nasty end involving insanity and a disappearance. No one will ever cite this as the most original horror film of all time (heck, at times it even recalls Curtains and Hausu), but Gurozuka still wrings a few little chills and twists out of its formula along with some nifty, blood-laced kill scenes. Synapse has established an admirable track record of overlooked Japanese genre cinema both recent and classic, and once again they've come through with a solid anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer (as good as the digital source will allow) in Japanese 2.0 surround with optional English subtitles as well as a modest making-of featurette and the original trailer.

NecropolisThe precursor to monster studio Full Moon was Charles Band's Empire PIctures, an outfit responsible for films both masterful (e.g., Re-Animator) and ridiculous. The latter category definitely applies to 1987's Necropolis, a punk-laced oddity mixing witches, zombies, and motorcycles together into one wacko stew. Eva (Psychos in Love' LeeAnne Baker), a reincarnated sorceress from Salem with the ability to grow extra breasts, has come to New York City to whip up a new coven and finish the centuries-old ritual necessary to give her eternal life via a valuable devil ring. The lowlife denizens of the Big Apple provide plenty of fodder for her bloodthirsty plans, but when she tangles with a romantically involved detective and reporter, the last steps might be trickier than she imagined. Yes, it's all very cheap, trashy, and stupid (with Baker getting some dance moves you won't believe), but if you're looking for a chunk of prime '80s late-night exploitation, you won't find a more absurd example than this. The wonderfully dated electronic score is a blast, too, and viewers of a certain age might start regretting there was never a soundtrack LP for this baby. Released as part of Full Moon's Grindhouse Collection, this one looks exactly like a VHS tape (which is presumably the source), but hey, it's cheap; hopefully some good film elements will be used for a new transfer someday, but in the meantime, we'll have to make do with this. Like other entries in the series, Charles Band provides an intro explaining the gist of the collection, and a bonus featurette basically plugs all the titles in the series. You also get the usual six trailers for more recent Full Moon fare like Evil Bong 3 and Skull Heads.

DreamaniacAnother '80s Empire offering resuscitated for Full Moon's Grindhouse line, 1986's Dreamaniac, was passed off on home video as a variation on the popular Elm Street formula of a dream-dwelling slasher. Actually it's a very low budget, soft focus, shot-ono-video variation on the heavy metal horror subgenre, albeit with little actual headbanging content. The premise involves a metal songwriter named Adam (Thomas Bern) whose dabbling in satanism summons a hungry succubus, Lily (Sylvia Summers), who's been haunting his dreams and promises to bring him endless sensual pleasure if she can feast on his girlfriend, her sister (played by porn star Ashlyn Gere, credited as Kim McKamy), and all of their sorority pals. An amusing quickie filled with silly amounts of padding and even sillier dialogue, this one still delivers the necessary '80s VHS-era staples -- blood and bare skin -- in reasonable quantities during its trim 77-minute running time. It's mainly of interest now as the first legit film for director David DeCoteau, a genre pro who quickly became one of the era's busiest names with films like Creepozoids and Nightmare Sisters before initiating the immortal The Brotherhood series. As you can see, his fascination with college Greek societies was there from the beginning, though few could have anticipated the direction it would take. The whole film looks like a music video with loads of fog, diffused lighting, and bright shades of blue, and the music is... amusing. Once again the video source appears to be a vintage VHS copy; given this was shot on tape anyway, it's questionable how much better it would look if a superior master still exists. Again, keep expectations very, very modest and bear the minimal price tag in mind. The same extras (intro, featurette, and trailers) are carried over here as well.

Killer Eye Halloween HauntSpeaking of DeCoteau, one of his oddest Full Moon efforts was 1999's The Killer Eye, about a crazy scientist who creates a flesh-hungry monster from a homeless guy's peeper. Incredibly, it took over a decade for the premise to make another go-round courtesy of 2011's Killer Eye: Halloween Haunt, with Band himself taking over directorial reins and delivering an avalanche of cleavage and day-glo colors. The story here's a bit more meta than usual as a copy of the original film falls into the hands of a quintet of sexy young misses working on a haunted house; before you know it, the killer eye has broken through to this plane of reality (thanks to a crystal ball) and even gaining the ability to possess the girls, causing them to pop their tops and run amuck with butcher knives. You also get some budget-conscious eyeball POV effects rushing around the haunted house, which adds to the amusement value. Like most other Full Moon offerings, this one's very brief (barely over an hour of actual movie content, and that's including the ridiculed clips from the first movie) and mixes a variety of special effects ranging from practical models to CGI to, ahem, silicone. Shot on DV, the film looks pretty punchy on Full Moon's DVD (similar to appearance to their other titles within the same three year period or so), and along with the usual Grindhouse featurette and trailers, it also includes "Far Out YouTube Videos" designed to plug the film online.

Psycho SleepoverOf course, Full Moon hardly has a monopoly on movies about sweet young things trapped in an overnight bloodbath. The surprisingly witty and brisk Psycho Sleepover kicks off with a fun prologue involving a high school student named Debbie (Rachel Castillo), her boyfriend who's upset she won't go down on him, and a psycho in a clown outfit. After that all turns out badly with Debbie swinging a mean axe by the end of the evening, flash forward a year later as Debbie's invited to a slumber party involving some popular girls, some very odd boys, some lunatics escaped from the local asylum, and a killer inside the house who may be one of their own. Shot for peanuts, this rises above your average shot-on-DV title by several notches thanks to some clever verbal and sight gags, some surprising T&A and grotesque sex scenes, and a wild free-for-all climax that paints the walls red. The transfer on Troma's DVD looks as good as the limited source material will allow; the lighting fluctuates from scene to scene, but when it's bright enough, everything looks fine. The hefty roster of extras includes a couple of behind-the-scenes featurettes (probably shot with the same cameras), a director and writer commentary track that's breezy and candid about the several production limitations, six minutes of bloopers, a trailer, and five minutes of deleted scenes, mostly disposable except for a giddy addition to the finale. The bonus "Tromatic Extras" are mostly trailers for unrelated horror titles like Father's Day and Mr. Bricks.

Klown Kamp MassacreAnd speaking of psycho clowns, that concept gets a feature-length workout in another Troma title, Klown Kamp Massacre. This one also goes for a mixture of gore and chuckles as it revolves entirely around the concept of a clown training camp where newbies go to learn the ins and outs of pratfalls and pies in the face. Unfortunately the whole place is a bit cursed thanks to a massacre years earlier at the hands of Edwin, a guy who finally snapped after failing dismally at his trade. The camp's owner, Bozo, disregards the local warnings and goes ahead with the opening, so of course it's just a matter of time before the face-painted students start dying one by one. Equal parts kinky and gory (with a couple of gags that wouldn't have been out of place in Street Trash), this is a pretty funny, sick little puppy, also shot on the cheap out in the woods. It's surprising no one's ever done a slasher film with this premise before, and given the circumstances, it's pulled off pretty well. Again the 1.78:1 transfer for this DV production varies given the lighting conditions and limitations of the source, but overall it's a solid effort and watchable enough (if a long way from glossy HD or, heaven forbid, 35mm). The extras here are the usual suspects: a director and producer commentary (David Valdez, Philip Gunn, Darren Gunn), seven quick webisodes about the making of the film, some really amateurish early shorts from the same crew, a trailer, some extraneous deleted footage, a music video (basically a stills gallery really), a fun making-of featurette with the same guys on the set showing how they pulled off some of the grue and sex scenes (as well as a nifty look at creating the score on a Mac), an early 11-minute test version of the film called "Edwin," and more extraneous Troma goodies including bonus trailers (plus a promo for the same guys' "Boob-a-Minute"-guaranteed Mormon Bachelor Party).

Astron-6However, the prize for the strangest offering from Troma by far in recent months goes to the two-disc release of Astron-6. Basically this is a troupe of '80s-obsessed Canadians who enjoy making short films (and now features) that play like sketch comedy gone very, very wrong. These range from quick Grindhouse-style fake trailers to sprawling mini-epics about infected zombie genitalia. That latter concept is the centerpiece of one standout short, the fake Euro-horror "H.I.Z.," which takes place at a summer camp where one attendee's infected junk causes an outbreak of rampant undead sex and bloodshed. That's just the tip of the iceberg, though, as you also get a slasher spoof about a rampaging "Fireman," a miserablist John Hughes parody called "Punch-Out," another domestic zombie sketch called "Inferno of the Dead," the '80s beach movie spoof "Cool Guys," and... well, to give you an idea, here are the rest of the titles: "Ghost Killers," "Nobodies," "Goreblade," "Sebastian & Alan," "Kris Miss," "Heart of Karl," "Insanophenia," "Siam I Am," "Lazer Ghosts," "Ena Lake Blues," and most notably, their "Father's Day" trailer which was funded by Troma to become a real movie. The mountain of extras includes commentaries for pretty much every single short, bonus trailers, making-of footage, galleries, and weirdest of all, surprise appearances by directors Guy Maddin and Uwe Boll (the context of which I'll leave out to avoid spoiling any surprises). If this deliriously excessive package is any indication, these guys will be worth watching for quite a while.

Time AgainThe do-it-yourself spirit on recent indie filmmaking can also be found in another homage to '80s pulp films, the sci-fi/action hybrid Time Again. Also shot for scraps, its ambition definitely rises above the usual first time feature as director Ray Karwel constructs an elaborate time travel scenario revolving around some mysterious coins originating from ancient Rome which can propel the owner through various points in time. The receipient here is Sam (Tara Smoker), who gets them as a tip after switching shifts with her sister/co-worker, Marlo (Angela Rachelle). When Sam is killed under mysterious circumstances during a violent mob hit, Marlo is approached by an old woman who offers her the chance to go back in time to undo the tragedy -- no matter how many attempts have to be made. You won't see any big stars here, obviously, but scattered among the sun-scorched urban California locales are a few familiar character actors including John T. Woods (Zombie Strippers) and Gigi Perreau (Journey to the Center of Time). The press material cite Timecop as a significant influence, though anyone familiar with that narrative device ranging from The Termiantor and Back to the Future to Timecrimes will spot other references, too. Of course, that also means you could get a serious migraine if you try to unravel all the logical necessities of a narrative bouncing back to the same point in time over and over; however, if Terminator 2 can get away with ignoring all of its internal logic without most people noticing, it's easy to give a pass to a micro-budgeted spin on some of the same ideas, too. This film actually hasn't officially gotten a home video distributor (you can keep track of it here), but hopefully it will get wider availability to provide a more accessible look at this twisty, inventive example of resourceful genre filmmaking.

Not Another B MovieConsiderably less respectable though certainly more star-studded is 2010's Not Another B Movie, an exercise in random spoofery most notable for its roster of supporting actors: Ed Asner, Robert Z'Dar, Erin Moran, Larry Thomas (aka the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld), Reggie Bannister, Joe Estevez, and David Faustino. Got your attention yet? Three writing partners decide to work on a movie but can't decide which direction would be best for the narrative, and the feature itself bounces back and forth between the writers' challenges (including their not particularly interesting love lives, courtesy of a waitress at their restaurant) and the trashy cop film they're working on. It's all very arbitrary and sometimes amusing, including a weird detour into undead territory, and while the script is wildly uneven, the cast (especially Asner) manages to wring some surprising chuckles out of their delivery and physical comedy flourishes. Not surprisingly, this Troma title also features Lloyd Kaufman in a bit role, and you'll find the company's trademark approach all over the DVD itself. The transfer looks fine given the recent vintage (it was presumably shot in HD video), and Kaufman and actor James Vallo (as well as many of the participants in brief on-set chats) appear for a nearly half-hour featurette, another part of Kaufman's multimedia "Make Your Own Damn Movie" project, which offers a more constructive and beneficial look at the indie cinematic process than the main movie, for obvious reasons. You also get a lengthy chunk of footage from the film's premiere and filmmaker Q&A, plus the usual unrelated trailers.

The CarpenterOf course, when it comes to B-movies, you can't beat the real article -- and you can get much more real than Wings Hauser. A fearless actor who spun cinematic gold out of his juicy roles in films like Vice Squad, The Wind and Street Asylum, he's always worth watching even in films that aren't worthy of him. One of his wildest leading man roles came in 1988 with The Carpenter, an unusual Canadian horror offering which became something of a VHS hit for Republic and was one of the few earlier films at the time released in both R-rated and unrated versions. The latter has finally made it to DVD courtesy of Scorpion, offering a ripe opportunity to see Wings at his most unhinged. The initially ambiguous story features a couple, Alice (Lynne Adams) and Martin (Pierre Lenoir), moving into a new house that's still under construction. She's getting over a stay in the nuthouse (brought on by her husband's infidelity), and her situation isn't helped by the weird carpenter (Hauser, natch) working like a demon on their new basement. He also has a habit of taking his power tools to anyone who tries to interfere with the house, and the heavily medicated Alice has to put all the pieces together as the bodies begin to pile up. A mixture of supernatural thrills and gory slasher kills, this isn't a perfect film by any means (the budgetary limitations alone are definitely an issue), but its surreal plot structure and weirdly nonchalant attitude to the nasty mayhem give it an off-kilter feel that lingers long after the closing credits. The Scorpion disc looks just fine given the gritty nature of the original production (definitely a few notches above the old VHS and laserdisc copies), and as part of their entertaining Katarina's Nightmare Theater series, it features the cheeky horror hostess (with a few appropriate tool props) offering wraparound segments complete with trivia about the making of the film. Apart from that you get the usual bonus previews for films like The Pyx, The Devil within Her, Final Exam, and Humongous.

Porkchop A far more traditional slasher offering (at least in terms of plot) can be found in 2011's Porkchop, which manages to get the most important thing right: a memorable killer. This time you get a husky guy in overalls with a scary pig mask wielding a chainsaw, and that's certainly not an image easily forgotten. However, the wrinkle here is that this is also at least half a parody, featuring an array of teen victim stereotypes (a cheerleader, a slut, a nerd, and even a sassy robot) heading out into a van in the woods (where, as we see in the pre-credits sequence, a skinnydipping couple has just been butchered). Naturally the terrifying Porkchop is out there waiting for fresh blood, and soon each interloper is being picked off. The protracted half-hour climax turns into a pretty astonishing bloodbath, including one stalking scene that climaxes with a girl climbing a tree and meeting a fate more shocking than an Avon porn roughie. This was shot digitally out in West Virginia, and not surprisingly, the Independent International looks nice during the daylight scenes and much more problematic once the sun sets. You can always tell what's going on, but it ain't all pretty. Extras include a commentary wtih director Eamond Hardiman and actor/FX artist Chris Woodall, a long (and fairly gory) making-of featurette with the cast and crew, and a single-camera "Ian Speaks" actor interview which features lots of baseball bat swinging and thoughts on working with naked American girls.

Vampire at Midnight Hey, want some vampires? Of course you do. Vampire at Midnight earned a reputation as a bit of a burn back in the late '80s when it debuted on VHS from Key Video (the awesome, long disappeared genre/indie offshoot of Fox Video). It sported one of the era's coolest cover boxes and irritated a lot of horror fans when it played like an episode of Hill Street Blues with a dash of The Night Stalker thrown in. However, time has been surprisingly kind to this cockeyed crime flick with fangs, which also tosses in legwarmer aerobics scenes, Jason Williams (Flesh Gordon himself) as the hero cop who chugs beer for breakfast in his undies, gratuitous S&M, and lots of flashy music video lighting. Lord know it still isn't a great movie, but the entertainment value has increased exponentially in the past couple of decades. The plot's a simple cat and mouse game between unorthodox cop Roger Sutter (Williams) and a new age guru/shrink, Dr. Radikoff (Gustav Vintas), who recruits his patients and then drains them in a string of savage murders. The kill sequences actually boast a few quirky twists, and the depiction of the "hero" as a weirdo who spies on and stalks his sexy pianist neighbor (Lesley Milne) certainly makes this more peculiar than your average horror movie. Part of Code Red's "Maria's B-Movie Mayhem" series (though you might not guess it from the menu setup), this one features optional wraparounds with the auburn-haired hostess in a tiara doing her best '80s theme song ode to the main feature. The full frame transfer looks similar to the VHS edition, and though it's no beauty, at least it's a few generations up in quality if still from an obviously dated source. The biggest extra here is an audio commentary with Williams and director Greg McClatchy (billed as "McClatch" on the menu) in which they talk about the various evolutionary concepts of the storyline, the various shooting locations around the L.A. area, and the funding necessary to shoot in the first place. Scene stealer Vintos gets a video interview of his own in which he explains the genesis of his acting career, his horror icon inspirations, and the odd real-life relationship to his villainous screen counterpart.

Voodoo Dolls Okay, one more Maria's Mayhem title -- well, technically two in this case. Two cheap Canadian thrillers adapted from novels by supermarket horror team of Ed Kelleher and Harriette Vidal (also the screenwriters of Lurkers and Prime Evil) get paired up for a weird '90s double header that will only seem familiar to really die-hard VHS trash hounds. Voodoo Dolls revolves around the supernatural ooga booga unleashed when drama student Vanessa (Grace Philips) arrives at a "Louisiana" college and runs across a lost play called White Darkness connected to the school's own dark, mysterious history, including the author's own murderous background. Under anonymity, Vanessa manages to get a production of the play mounted, but soon history starts repeating itself when people connected to the show start dying, little "voodoo dolls" appear to induce all kinds of mayhem, and Vanessa becomes involved in romantic betrayal herself. With production values that scream "cable TV movie" and only a bit of blood and skin, this is marginal horror all the way but a bit of a curious find for those who think they've seen everything. The co-feature, Madonna, doesn't have as much going for it and doesn't qualify as horror at all; however, the hilarious tagline on the poster ("A Case of Blood Ambition") and the convoluted revenge storyline at least make it a bit more weird than your average Lifetime movie. Laura (Deborah Mansey from the Terence Hill Lucky Luke series) is a mysterious beauty who seems to bring death in her wake, often disappearing only to resurface in other people's lives to seduce and destroy men at random. However, her last victim's father, Richad (Michael Sullivan), becomes entangled with her and wants to leave his spouse for this dark siren, which might not be the wisest life choice. Both titles went straight to video from the start and appear to be taken from the same masters used back in the day, which means they're obviously closer to the original source but still interlaced as all hell and fare better only on smaller TV screens. They're watchable, but the appearance will mainly please nostalgia junkies. Maria does her best with the intros and outros, offering plenty of intentional camp surrounding two films that also supply it accidentally in abundance.

Zombie Allegiance For some reason, zombie movies have proven to be the most durable source of political and social commentary in horror films ever since the heyday of George Romero. More recently we've had films ranging from Shaun of the Dead to Meat Market and Zombies of Mass Destruction, and perhaps on the cheapest end of the spectrum is 2010's Zombie Allegiance. After America has been decimated by nuclear destruction, the shuffling undead have outpaced the human population. The living haven't coped too well, either, resorting to some shockingly extreme means to survive. Two examples are the reclusive Saul (Rich Tretheway) and his deranged, frizzy-haired roomie, George (Andre Boudreau), who thinks he's the President -- complete with a cabinet of captured zombies out in the barn. While chaos increases in the outside world, these rural survivors have to contend with the occasional accidental visitors -- including a batch of young folks who will turn everything upside down for good. Though it features a few dollops of the red stuff, this one doesn't rely on gore and guts to get its points across; instead, director Tony Nunes and company keep things chugging along with a variety of plot twists and pokes at the very divisive current political climate, which gives the film enough tonal distinction to stand out from the rest of the pack. Don't expect anything terribly slick or hi-tech (most of it was shot on found locations, after all), but if you want a flesh-chomping way to kill the evening with a bit more substance than usual, give it a shot. The Independent Entertainment DVD looks good overall, and the filmmakers wisely keep all of the action in clean, bright, well-lit locales. No extras though, apart from unrelated trailers like Defiled, Faces of Schlock, and Diary of a Sex Offender.

Stiffed And if you really wanna see how far a zombie premise can go... Three career criminals named Frank (Kevin Sentry), Keno (Daniel Cornish), and Milton (Phil Duran) screw up and hire an inexperienced driver for their latest heist, which results in the trio dying in the aftermath. However, they get a chance to resume their activities when Frank's stripper girlfriend, Chloe (Jamison Jontry), also happens to be a satanist with a new agenda: bring the boys back as zombies to resume their jobs without fear of bullets or car crashes. However, the cops also start to figure out what's going on with these seemingly indestructible crooks. That's the premise behind Stiffed, a mordant crime/horror hybrid with a goofy vein of humor. Director Billy Garberina and writer Devin O'Leary really pull out all the stops here with minimal resources, and along with cinematographer Craig Butler, they chime in with a fun commentary track covering everything from removing crew reflections from the sides of cars to the problems with writing comic relief devil worshippers. Other extras include a lengthy making-of featurette (50 minutes!) consisting mainly on on-set footage and the cast yapping between takes, a bonus video interview with Garberina lounging on a sofa, a quick and goofy "Dan and Bill Get Nerdy" snippet, and the usual IE bonus trailers.

Jessicka Rabid A deliberately gritty attempt to recapture the nasty charm of rural horror from the drive-in era, Jessicka Rabid aims high but only occasionally scores with its portrayal of sadistic hillbillies using their cousin Jessica (co-screenwriter Elsa McCain) as a personal caged plaything to bat around and sexually assault. Of course, it's only a matter of time before the mentally challenged Jessica goes rabid (it's in the title, after all) with fury and unleashes nasty retribution against her captors. The most substantial name here is Trent Haaga, a Troma vet who first made a splash in Terror Firmer, but everyone does their best at capturing the sincere, brutal charm of '70s-era exploitation films. Naturally there's no way you can really capture that particular lightning in a bottle again when you're shooting in a different era on digital video, but hey, give 'em points for trying. McCain, co-producer and actor Cisiany Oliver, and graphic artist Gregory Mannino provide the obligatory commentary here, while a featurette and photo gallery cover the behind-the-scenes coverage well enough. (Another "super hot" gallery features McCain in an objectified setting that sits a little oddly against the movie itself.) Lloyd Kaufman (again!) pops up for another blooper reel, and the trailer and a pdf comic round out the disc.

Lady Football As for objectifying women, though, that gallery's got nothing on Lady Football, an astonishingly goofy Italian comedy from 1983 designed for a single purpose: to prove Carmen Russo has huge boobs. Originally titled Paulo Roberto Cotechiño centravanti di sfondamento, it features tubby goofball Alvaro Vitali (Amarcord) in dual roles as Paulo, a soccer star from Brazil, and Idraulico, his lookalike who dresses up in drag to spy on Alvaro's busty fiancee (Russo, seen earlier in the Italian horror films Patrick Still Lives and Ring of Darkness). Paulo thinks she's cheating on him and is far too distracted at an important point in his career when he's about to be signed for a huge paycheck, and a scheming businesswoman has her own agenda to keep Paulo from becoming a huge new player as well. Lots of mistaken identities and bedroom shenanigans ensue, most of them beyond idiotic but certainly never boring. Russo is never remotely as bare as she appears on the airbrushed cover art of the Mya DVD, but she still fills up the frame in every single medium shot and will keep a lot of viewers distracted from what passes for a plot. Surprisingly, this is also one of Mya's most visually pleasing releases to date; the anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer is very fresh and colorful, with optional English subtitles for the original Italian audio. The original trailer is the sole extra.

Uncle Tad Baker's Loon Show While gigantic mammaries are certainly enough to merit a film, you'll have to dig harder for the social merit behind Uncle Tad Baker's Loon Show, billed as "the most dangerous comedy show ever invented." Shot with consumer camcorders (a caveat spelled out at the head of the DVD), it's basically an exercise in how to piss off an audience armed with tomatoes as much as possible for two hours. It's all completely improvised, insane, and loud, and while it probably isn't as "dangerous" as your average Jackass movie, there's something to be said for guys willing to subject themselves to this level of public vitriol. Shot in San Francisco, it's sort of a cross between performance art, punk posturing, and sketch comedy with Uncle Tad Baker, Myron the Moron, Al Starr, Lee Howard, Dave Lommen, and others parading back and forth, with enough filthy jokes, gratuitous male nudity, and splattered tomatoes to make any unprepared houseguests run for the door. Imagine a bunch of G.G. Allin and Henry Rollins' poor brain-damaged cousins banding together to put on a show, and that sums up the anarchic, unpredictable, and definitely brutal experience waiting ahead.

Bite Marks For a very different audience (or maybe not, depending on the mood), we never switch gears to Bite Marks, a bloody and somewhat unique entry in the subgenre of gay horror movies (which ranges from HellBent to, ahem, Interview with the Vampire). When his brother misses his truck driving shift, Brewster (Benjamin Lutz) has to leave said sibling's wife in the sack and hit the road with a mysterious cargo of five coffins hauled in the back. To pass the time, he picks up a hitchhiking couple, Cary (Windham Beacham) and Vogel (David Alanson), only for the trio to find out the hard way what kind of fanged, bloodthirsty inventory is actually in the back of the truck. Featuring some surprisingly effective blood and vamp effects and a potent nocturnal atmosphere, this modest film misses the mark sometimes (the monster rules aren't laid out or followed very well, and some of the pop culture references will only elicit winces). Oh yeah, and Evil Ed himself, Fright Night's Stephen Geoffreys (pay attention to the hero's name!), pops up for a fun appearance as well. Fans of American Horror Story should especially appreciate the depiction of a lead gay couple with relationship issues against the supernatural, for obvious reason. The Breaking Glass DVD looks very slick and impressive, making the film look a lot more expensive and polished than it actually is. The provided screener had no extras.

Crowbar A slightly more straightforward twist on a well-worn genre with less finesse can be found in 2010's Crowbar: The Killings of Wendell Graves, a slasher "mystery/thriller" about a house cursed by the brutal crowbar murder of a married couple, witnessed by their young son. Years later, the new occupants are also a young couple (, and before you know it, everyone around the place starts dropping dead, and not from natural causes. Unaware of the house's history when they moved in, they decide to get to the bottom of the slayings (rather than, you know, moving), resulting in the usual horrific revelations and climactic showdown and yadda yadda yadda. Complete with a ludicrous theme song (I won't spoil it; you should Netflix this puppy just for that surprise discovery yourself), some splashy blood effects, and a few stylish visual flourishes, this isn't terribly different from your average straight-to-video slasher; however, if you've seen all the other ones and want another stroll around the same block with a couple of nutty new wrinkles, this could kill a slow evening well enough.

Crowbar And what better way to wrap things up than a Wild Malibu Weekend? Though made in '95, this feels like an '80s beach movie all the way as a bunch of SoCal bimbos decide to drop what they're doing (which mostly appears to be genteel variations on stripping) to make it big on a naughty T&A game show up in Malibu. That's basically it for the plot, which exists mainly the string together a bunch of vignettes showcasing the assets of the cast. In this case there's a pretty high quotient of models including Playboy's Barbara Moore and Penthouse's Shauna O'Brien (and for variation, Playgirl's David Salas as a jerk boyfriend). Then you get to see pretty much every female cast member doff their tops, spray whip cream on each other, play Twister, throw beach balls all over the set... you get the idea. Though it received decent cable play for quite a while and obviously caught a lot of horny teenagers' attention on video shelves, this one took its sweet time to come out on DVD. The Code Red release is taken from a full frame video master and looks about the same as what you'd expect on a late night Cinemax broadcast; it's better than VHS by a few notches, but don't expect anything too spectacular. Oh, and remember Jason Williams from Vampire at Midnight a few titles above? He wrote and produced this one and appears onscreen in a supporting role this time around, and even weirder, future Oscar-winning editor Bob Murawski (The Hurt Locker), a founder of Grindhouse Releasing, was one of the exec producers. Hey, everybody's gotta start somewhere.

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