May 26 2015

Girlhouse (2014)

girlhouseLook, it’s very simple: Liken a fat kid’s sexual organ to an acorn, and he’ll grow up to be a cross-dressing serial killer. Moonlight as a porn model for college tuition, and that serial killer will target you. The digital-age slasher Girlhouse says so.

With a freshly deceased dad and a hilt-mortgaged mom, coed Kylie (Ali Cobrin, The Hole) puts her Topeka-born, apple-pie good looks to use to pay the bills by stripping online to the delight of masturbators the world over — people like, per the screen names we glimpse, WoodWizard, Tugboat and Cream_Slinger. (Was regular ol’ “CreamSlinger” taken, thus forcing the underscore?)

girlhouse1And then there’s Loverboy (unimonikered Slaine, The Town), the aforementioned overweight murderer. When Kylie understandably gets creeped out by the hulking sociopath and spurns him during a private webcam session, Loverboy snaps, dons a costume that makes him look like the drag Leatherface of Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, grabs a crowbar, walks to the website’s headquarters house and, despite supposed Fort Knox-level security, starts whacking away at the naked ladies! Er, by that, I mean with the tool in his hand — um, yes, of course, the crowbar!

Minus the biggest cliché of the slasher subgenre, everything you’d expect to happen in Girlhouse happens. First-time director Trevor Matthews (star of the 2007 horror comedy Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer) must have recognized this, and plastered the movie with scoops of female flesh to compensate for the lack of originality; the finale even rips off The Silence of the Lambs’ then-novel use of the night-vision POV.

Ironically, the fine Cobrin, so very nude in her breakthrough role in 2012’s American Reunion, is the one woman who doesn’t appear in the altogether. In a way, adhering to the rules of the subgenre, this makes sense; the Final Girl must be virginal, and compared to her housemates, she is. And compared to other stalk-and-stab exercises, Girlhouse is mighty slicker and easier on the eyes. —Rod Lott

Get it at Amazon.

May 23 2015

Reading Material: VHS: Video Cover Art

vhsvideocoverThomas Hodge’s VHS: Video Cover Art is hardly the only book to lovingly collect outré boxes from the dominant home-video format of the 1980s and ’90s, but it’s the first to feature this eyebrow-raiser from the back cover of the 1986 sex comedy Free Ride:

Superglue is not a penis enlarging cream
See inside for details”

Continue reading

May 21 2015

Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (2014)

lostsoulIf Hardware auteur Richard Stanley had his way, his adaptation of the H.G. Wells sci-fi novel he loved as a child would have featured such shocking scenes as a human man engaged and engorged in foreplay, sucking the many nipples of a panther woman.

But, as we know, he didn’t; New Line Cinema replaced the in-over-his-head Stanley with veteran John Frankenheimer (1962’s The Manchurian Candidate), and the tortured result, 1996’s The Island of Dr. Moreau, tanked. Today, the colossal boondoggle is regarded as one of the worst movies ever made. Personally, I think that’s a bit harsh, but whatever it is, at least it finally yielded some good, nearly two decades after the fact, with Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau, a documentary of What Went Wrong.

lostsoul1A whole helluva lot! That’s why, even with so many of its players dead or absent, Lost Soul can clock in at feature-length. Admittedly an outsider, Stanley is forthright about the mistakes he made before his dismissal; chief among them, he recalls, “I then made another strategic error: I met Val Kilmer.”

While Stanley is pegged as passionate and paranoid from both his supporters and detractors, no one has nice things to say about Kilmer. Then at the height of his Hollywood powers, the Batman Forever star was, by all accounts, an asshole forever. Further poisoning the well was the legendary Marlon Brando, bringing with him an ego larger than his don’t-give-a-shit girth.

Those stories of bad behavior are well-documented. What justifies Lost Soul’s existence is director David Gregory, co-founder of the Severin cult-video label and contributor to The Theatre Bizarre, allowing more time for anecdotes that didn’t make Variety’s front page. For example, before a single frame was shot, New Line toyed with taking the reins from Stanley and giving them to Roman Polanski; understandably frustrated, Stanley did what he had to do: Enlist a genuine warlock on the other side of the world to cast a spell exactly as the filmmakers met in Tinseltown.

Giving lip service to both sides of the fray, Lost Soul may be executed as a glorified DVD extra, but it’s no puff piece. Between this and 2013’s Jodorowsky’s Dune, the case could be made that any high-profile picture that ends up unmade — or not as intended by its original shepherd — deserves a documentary about it as a severance package. —Rod Lott

Get it at Amazon.

May 20 2015

Camp (2014)

campCamp is titled that because that’s where it largely takes place, and not — repeat: not — because it bears the qualities of camp. Oh, if only! You’ll wish for some levity, as the Japanese film is as much fun as having the campfire singe your wiener — the edible kind or the sexual tool. Take your pick, but one guess as to which route this flick trafficks.

Sisters Kozue and Akane — respectively, the smart, pretty one and the one who’s not so much — go camping, which is a little strange since the last time they did, Kozue was raped by Akane’s boyfriend. That night is nothing compared to this return trip, when the girls are accosted in the lodge by a party of five hardly reformed sex maniacs, each of whom is code-named for his particular fetish; Copro treats urine like vintage wine, while Pilo, who likes to burn things, fellates a fireplace lighter. A round or few of brandy-laced tea later, they pit the siblings against one another in a game neither will win. You’ll never be able to look at a vacuum hose the same way. The guys are not sick, though; they prefer the term “more affectionate.” In other words, just a typical Tuesday night at the Fiji house, brah!

camp1Call it what you will, but I call Camp utterly misogynist trash. While director Ainosuke Shibata (whose 2013 debut, Hitch-Hike, double-features with Camp on the Troma label’s From Asia with Lust: Volume 1 DVD release) allows for female revenge, those relatively few moments of comeuppance seem like an afterthought, following an agonizing hour of general torture, poop-chute molestation and other acts of extreme deviance. These are depicted fairly graphically and one would assume they are simulated — then again, one of the siblings is played by adult film star Miyuki Yokoyama, so who knows — but they are bothersome nonetheless. That they are portrayed in a manner to titillate is exponentially most distressing.

It’s no I Spit on Your Grave, that’s for sure, and that’s really saying something. So is this: At least Camp mercifully runs fewer than 90 minutes. —Rod Lott

Get it at Amazon.

May 19 2015

Death Curse of Tartu (1967)

deathcurseWith his gal pal at his side, a clueless archaeology student asks their chaperone (Fred Pinero) during a school-sponsored camping trip, “Is it okay if we go to the lake and, uh, roast a few marshmallows?”

First of all, ick. Secondly, of course it is! I mean, it’s not as if they’re camping on a sacred Indian burial mound! Because if they were, they would unleash the Death Curse of Tartu.

Correction: They totally are, so they totally do.

deathcurse1Sounding like a cross between Hervé Villechaize’s Fantasy Island character and a sauce popular at all-you-can-inhale seafood buffets, Tartu (Doug Hobart) was a witch doctor with the hit-at-parties power to transform into wild beasts. Today, he haunts the swamps despite being a crusty sarcophagus, which is why those who dare disturb his eternal resting place risk being choked to death by a giant snake, chomped by an alligator or being ass-bitten by one of those ferocious lake-water sharks the media always crows about.

Luckily, all the dumb humans would have to do is listen for the drums-and-chants soundtrack to kick in, because every time writer/director William Grefé (Mako: The Jaws of Death) presses that “PLAY” button, danger is afoot. For viewers of this Florida Everglades-lensed, barely budgeted, half-charming oddity, the sound loop also acts as a wake-up call to snap out of your half-attention stupor and prep for actual action. —Rod Lott

Get it at Amazon.