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In each issue, self-described "Videophiliac" Dave Lewis gives the low-down on indie horror flicks on video . . . because it's so much more fun to get scared in your own living room.

Blood Sucking Freaks Demons 2 Evil Ambitions Raiders of the Living Dead Spider Baby

Evil Ambitions    
Move over Darren McGavin (anyone remember Kolchak?), there's a new Night Stalker in town. Paul Morris plays Peter McGavin, an investigative reporter for The Times Tribune in B+ Productions' made-for-video release Evil Ambitions (1996), an upbeat look at Satansville, Cincinnati-style.
McGavin is gathering information on the case of the naked-women-found-in-public-parks-with-their-hearts-carved-out. Two bodies have turned up so far, and there are bound to be others. Detective Leslie Kellog (Renae Raos) is on the case.
Julie Swanson (Lucy Frashure) dreams of being a model and interviews with Brittany Drake (Amber Newman) of Inferno Media. Drake just happens to be the high priestess in a modern-day, hip Satanic cult, where cult members sip espresso and take cell-phone calls mid-sacrifice).
Discovering that Swanson, who is likely a virgin, has no living relatives and is "pretty enough," Drake schedules her for a photo shoot, then mentions to Councilman Gideon Jessup (David Levy) that this new girl might qualify to become the bride of Satan. (As high priestess, Drake has the privilege of determining who will carve the heart out of the bride during the ceremony.)
Sporting stylish underwear, Frashure later provides us with some action-packed self-defense moves against the cult, but you'll have to watch to see if she gets out of it.
(By the way, the councilman, an ex-minister turned "man of the people," has goals of becoming governor and eventually dominating the world. And thanks to Drake's connection with "The Big S," all he had to do to attain power over the masses and financial fluidity was sell his soul to the devil.)
Meanwhile, our reporter visits psychic Madame Natalie (Debbie Rochon), who reveals that the murders are likely part of a Satanic ritual called "The Bride of Satan," in which the bride of Satan must be a virgin, and her four bridesmaids must be sacrificed. They have a seance and discover that McGavin is "into some really deep shit."
Discovering that the last murder victim was a wannabe model connected with Inferno Media, Detective Kellog questions Drake. But the high priestess uses the ol’ Jedi-mind-trick on the detective, convincing her that Inferno is a "dead end."
In an admirable special-effects moment provided by special-effects master J.D. Bowers, Kellog is attacked and killed by Satanic sludge in a bathtub scene. While taking a relaxing bath, The thick, black-chromish sludge drips out of the faucet and into the tub, then engulfs Kellog’s body. (She’s toast.)
The cult needs effective media representation, so Drake uses psychic manipulation on McGavin to make him her servant.
In an excellent mighty-morphing digital special-effects sequence courtesy of Kinetic Visions, Satan (Randy Rupp) morphs from the Necronomicon (the Satanic bible) and joins the wedding ceremony. Rupp is the best Satan I’ve ever seen. The character portrayal is a unique, one-of-a-kind performance.
Will McGavin go through the sacrificial ritual as a willing participant? What twists and turns will the plot take in the film's climax? You'll have to see for yourself.
B+ Productions has situated themselves quite effectively. Originally slated as "Satanic Yuppies," Evil Ambition is an A-film> It is intentionally light-hearted and is full of perfectly timed humor with first-rate acting and good production values. It's the kind of film that you would tell your friends to rent . . . and you are my friends.
You can have a copy of this solid three-skull Satan fest by clicking here.


RAIDERS OF THE LIVING DEAD   
Every once and awhile a film comes out that is so spectacular that it jumps to the top of the video collector's list. Unfortunately, Raiders of the Living Dead (1983) is not one of them. This is a no-joke, C-minus film. (No problem for me, I actually like the bad ones.) So, if you like ’em bad, then you'll love this Brett Piper/Samuel M. Sherman celluloid refuse.
Piper's film was originally shot in New Hampshire in 1983 as Dying Day, which Sherman bought adding new footage he shot in New Jersey. Once Raiders of the Living Dead gets going, the patchwork-quilt style is tolerable.
Though it's heavily influenced by George A. Romero's black-and-white classic, Night of the Living Dead (1968) and falls severely short of the mark.
Raider of the Living Dead does have one redeeming quality: the makeup on the zombies. They had to talk a lot of folks into wearing facial appliances and marching around in tattered costumes in typical zombie-like performances.
There is a story line, and it goes something like this: Jonathan (Scott Schwartz) is a youngster who offers to fix his grandfather (Bob Allen) Dr. Carstair's laserdisk player, but accidentally kills his pet hamster with its laser beam. This gives Jonathan the idea of inventing a make-shift laser gun for use later in the film.
Morgan Randall (Robert DeVeau) is an investigative reporter from Fairfield, New Jersey, working on a story about renegade zombies running amok. He and his photographer are attacked, but Randall escapes and flags down a motorist who nearly runs him over. The driver, Shelly Godwin (Donna Asali) takes him to her home, allows him to clean up and feeds him a meal. He hitches a ride into town and buys a sawed-off shotgun.
One zombie quickly discovers the reporter's newly rented room and tries to kill him. Randall thwarts the attempt with his new 12-gage toy, then wanders the streets. The grandfather takes him in, and Randall spins his tale of the zombies. (Notably slow, it's a miracle that zombies catch anyone. Their one advantage is that they can comfortably hide in the shadows and emerge quickly enough to catch you by surprise.)
Meanwhile, the zombies attack Godwin.
Randall's investigation leads him to Rockmore Correctional Institute on Rockmore Island, where he hopes he'll be able to save Godwin. The prison was closed 40 years ago after a mad doctor had experimented on the inmates.
Armed with a bow and arrows, Dr. Carstairs follows, along with Jonathan and his girlfriend, Michelle (Corri Burt), who are armed with Jonathan's laser guns.
However, the laser "effects" were made by scratching the surface of the film frame by frame, a technique that was state-of-the-art when Forbidden Planet was made in 1956. It also seems that the film's distribution company, Entertainment Programs International in Marina Del Rey, California, doesn't want to let this out of the bag, because they doctored the cover art to show zombies being shot with real digital-looking laser beams and even added the caption, "SEE laser rays blast the Living Dead!"
First released in Europe, the film made its American debut compliments of Showtime. You can snag a copy of this one-skull wonder for $9.99 (a value at half the price) from sell-thru moguls, Suncoast. To find the location of the Suncoast retailer nearest you, dial tollfree: (800) 766-9998.


DEMONS 2: THE NIGHTMARE RETURNS    
If you're into seeing grossly disfigured, gnarly demons wreak havoc on helpless humans, then Dario Argento's spaghetti fright flick, Demons 2: The Nightmare Returns (1987) will satisfy your need for blood, guts and gore.
Sally (Coralina Cataldi Tassoni) is celebrating her birthday with an apartment full of friends in a 12-story building in Munich. While her friends prepare her birthday cake, she retreats to her bedroom, where she gets engrossed in a TV show depicting a group of young adults in search of the remains of demons. One of the group cuts herself, and the blood drips onto a dried-up demon corpse and revives the beast (killer transformation #1).
The demon kills the girl, approaches Sally's TV and transcends the media gateway, exits the television (killer transformation #2) and entering Sally's room, where it attacks her.
The partygoers chant for the birthday girl to re-join the party. Sally slowly makes her way to the cake and blows out the candles, then transforms into a grisly ghoul (killer transformation #3). She attacks the entire group of friends and turns them all into demons.
Acid demon blood eats its way through the building's 12 stories and its electrical system, causing a power outage and spreading the demon contagion throughout the tenants.
Neighbors George (David Knight) and Hannah (Nancy Brilli) are expecting a new baby any day. Hannah's cravings request that George visit the party to retrieve a piece of cake for the expectant mom (not a good idea).
Meanwhile, the demon birthday guests, led by Sally, break down the door in search of human victims, beginning their reign of terror.
Then a tenant's dog licks at the dripping blood, transforms into a mad demon-dog (killer transformation #4) and attacks its owner.
A young boy-demon attacks Hannah, then falls face up on the floor. In an Alien-inspired catastrophe, a 2-foot-tall rabid demon claws and rips its way through the boy's chest and goes after the would-be mom.
The film may not be thick on plot, but the pace is set well, and you've got all those wonderful effects to keep you interested throughout the film. Note that demons are similar to zombies in their passion for human flesh, but, unlike the living dead, demons are extremely agile and powerful. They are quick on their feet and can leap cars in a single bound, making them a more formidable foe to reckon with.
Behind the scenes, music by The Cult, Art of Noise and Dead Can Dance offers an exciting backdrop for the killer American Werewolf-ish transformations by Sergio Stivaletti.
Stivaletti's effects are so bitchin' that this film would still be worth a three-skull rating even if the rest of the film were removed from the print! In an agreement with Best Film and Video Corp., a limited-time value-priced edition will be available from your favorite retailer at under 10 bucks. Check it out.



Bloodsucking Freaks   
In 1982, the Troma Team (the same folks that brought us The Toxic Avenger in 1985) bought the rights to The Incredible Torture Show (1976 and at that time sporting an X-rating) from Joel Reed (originally slated as Sardu, Master of the Screaming Virgins) and re-released it as Bloodsucking Freaks with an R rating.
You might feel like this is a rip-off, but until then there was no way to view The Incredible Torture Show on home video. Right out of the can film was controversial. Its release launched protests by feminist groups like Women Against Pornography, who picketed its showings. Why, you might ask, would they do such a thing?
This is an extremely exploitative film: It features the torturing, dehumanizing and caging of a lot of naked women, S&M, B&D among other atrocities of the alphabet (which makes it a damn interesting view) and was partially funded by Directors of the American Ballet.
On to the show: Sardu (Seamus O'Brien) is master of the Theatre of the Macabre, a way-off-Broadway show in Soho that depicts "simulated" acts of torture and killing of naked women (of course the theater actresses' performances are flawless, as the acts are not simulated).
The show includes dimemberment, head squishing via vice, Ralphus (Louie de Jesus), a dwarf that plucks out victims' eyes and eats them on stage for your viewing pleasure. A theater reviewer refuses to mention the show and is kidnapped, bound and gagged. He is held hostage and informed that he will be part of Sardu's greatest show ever, an S&M Ballet titled Seduction and Death of a Critic, starring the famous ballerina, Natasha Dinatelli (Viju Krem).
During the day, Sardu and Ralphus are running a white slavery ring. Naked women are caged in the basement and fed fresh human remains. Nude women take the place of ordinary furniture, tables, chairs and alas, the bum of one is used as a live dart-board: "Bullseye!" (Nasty!) You can also see electro-shock therapy to the nipples (don't try this at home, boys and girls).
Natasha is abducted and forced into submission to Sardu's dominating persona. Sardu celebrates by having himself bound and tortured throughout the film.
Not to be missed is the doctor's visit. He exchanges his services for the opportunity to "operate" on his choice of the women. Let's see, first he'll play dentist, removing teeth one at a time with a pair of pliers (now that was fun). But he's not finished yet. Next up, the ol' electric drill through the top of the head. Hey, look at that perfect little hole, guess he'll suck her brains out through a straw. (What else?)
In another notable scene, a school girl is placed in a guillotine, holding the release rope in her mouth, then is whipped from behind. She screams and lops off her head. Ralphus picks up the head and kisses it, then uses it to give himself some. (Sick!)
Makes you wonder why this was the late Andy Kaufman's favorite film.
OK, if you're into exploitation films, this weird-ass, two-skull flick will bubble to the top of your list. Click here for your own copy of Bloodsucking Freaks.


SPIDER BABY OR THE MADDEST STORY EVER TOLD    
I have admired this film for a long time. Previously, I was only able to view it on a nasty 10th generation dub from a scratched original print. Johnny Legend has released a collector's edition, full-screen format video of Jack Hill's Spider Baby orThe Maddest Story Ever Told (also known as The Liver Eaters and Cannibal Orgy), from a superior master print (ahhh, finally!).
This film has gotten a lot of bad reviews, but you won't see that here, no sir-ee. One of those wonderful under-rated masterpieces from the ’60s, Spider Baby is filmed in glorious black-and-white strangoid-vision.
What sets this apart from the normal fare of weirdo flicks? First of all, Lon Chaney Jr. (The Wolf Man, 1941) sings the title song! You get two skulls for that, and the third skull is earned because the film, although intended to be humorous, is actually quite sophisticated and the performances (albeit tough character portrayals) are way there.
Here's the plot: The Merrye family suffers from chronic brain rot -- the unfortunate result of inbreeding. The adults who are too far-gone are kept locked in the basement, except for Daddy, whose rotting corpse lies in his own bed.
The active members of the family are three teenagers: Ralph (Sid Haig), a bald-headed dementoid who is the eldest and furthest gone of the three; Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn) the middle child; and Virginia (Jill Banner) the youngest.
The family caretaker is Bruno (Chaney) who promised the deceased father he'd take care of the family and not let them be made spectacles of.
Cousins Emily (Carol Ohmart) and Peter (Quinn Redeker), who have their sights on gaining control of the family estate, arrive with their lawyer, Schlocker (Karl Schanzer) and his Wolf-Man-fan-girl-Friday, Ann (Mary Mitchel), to attain custody of the children and the estate.
These kids obviously have big-ass problems. The most delightful by far is Banner's performance as the Spider Baby. She befriends tarantulas, stalks, kills and eats "big, fat bugs" caught while combing the property surrounding the estate. She even catches unsuspecting humans in her "web" and stings them with her pair of butcher knives.
The relatives invite themselves to dinner and feast on broiled cat (they think it's rabbit), then insist on staying the night.
Bruno knows what's in store for the children, and, in a touching, dramatic (possibly inspired by Old Yeller, 1957) moment, he assures that nothing will happen to them, then goes into town to get a new "toy" for them to play with.
In his absence, the kids run amok and terrorize Schlocker and the relatives.
OK, that's it; I'm not telling you any more. If you don't see this film, you should be punished. This sparkling, pristine gem has been digitally remastered and is only $19.99, you can get a copy by clicking here. Plus: it's also available on DVD. All right, so you're on a budget; tell your favorite video store to get it, tell the manager that you'll rent it once and tell 10 other renters about it. Then tell me what you think of it or send me a note telling me I'm full of it.

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Dave Lewis, a non-recovering videophiliac, is constantly on the lookout for strange and unusual videos. If you have an independent film (with or without good production values) or know of a rare or unique film that may be good for review, please write:
Dave Video Addict, P.O. Box 1753, Aberdeen, WA 98520. Or, e-mail Dave at webmanabc@hotmail.com.
This review was featured in Bloodsongs Magazine Issue number 10. You can obtain a print copy from the publishers for $5, payable to: Implosion Publishing, 777 Twenty-Eighth Street, Orlando, FL 32805

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