2018, US

Director: Drew Pearce

Starring: Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Jeff Goldblum

Viewed: Streaming

Transfer Quality: Not bad

In the near future, city-wide riots erupt in Los Angeles over the privatization of water and the streets are literally ablaze. Amid this disturbingly plausible scenario, a rogues gallery of casualties from LA’s criminal underworld admit themselves into a high-tech, underground clinic for villains called the Hotel Artemis where the drama plays out.


After re-watching Blade Runner (for the millionth time) I had a hankering for similar futuristic neo-noir and this fit the bill. It’s a flawed film, but it does try. It’s more of a character and dialogue driven stage production than an action film and it succeeds on that level. The performances and characterization are all pretty solid and these are the film’s strengths amid a muddled plot.


Jodie Foster is great as the clinic’s tormented nurse. Sterling K. Brown is excellent as always as a wounded, noble bank robber. Charlie Day is obnoxiously sleazy as a creepy arms dealer. Jeff Goldblum makes a walk-on performance as a powerful Malibu mob lord with Zachary Quinto, in an uncharacteristically aggressive role, as his ruthless son. And for a little bit of badass, hand to hand combat action we get Dave Bautista as a monster orderly and Sophia Boutella as an ass-kicking acrobatic assassin.


Overall, the actors and their relationships hold the film together, but unfortunately, the off-kilter story crumbles into an uneven climax with an abrupt open ending. I can’t really imagine a reason for a sequel to this film. I mean it doesn’t have as much edge as, say, John Wick, which seems to be the movie’s main influence. Still, it is watchable and it is set in a cool, dark world.




2013, USA

Director: Bobcat Goldthwait

Starring: Alexie Gilmore, Bryce Johnson

Viewed: Streaming

Transfer Quality: Great

You can usually count on a Bigfoot movie to automatically suck. We all believed in him when we were children, but most of us outgrew it. So, once you’re and adult, any film with a Sasquatch in it looks ridiculous by default because it’s nearly impossible to take a monster that looks like Chewbacca or Andre the Giant in a gorilla suit seriously. You could put millions of dollars into making Bigfoot look awesome and the end result will always look stupid.

Still, though, each of us has a primal feeling that there is a large, subhuman thing lurking right behind us when we hike through the woods. And that’s precisely what Bobcat Goldthwait explores in Willow Creek, a heartfelt, genuine and convincing Bigfoot movie that doesn’t suck.

Goldthwait, as you may remember, is best known for his screaming, insane stand-up routine in the 80s and his onscreen roles as Shakes The Clown and Zed in Police Academy. He’s also known to be a Bigfoot believer and part of a community of enthusiasts that’s pretty much dismissed by everyone as group of crackpots, hoaxsters and who Joe Rogan might call “white dudes who can’t get laid.” I’m not sure if Bobcat is a hundred percent believer, but he sure has enough skill as a filmmaker and storyteller to sell it.


The movie is done in the Blair Witch/ Cloverfield pioneered “found footage” format, that somehow often works and is sometimes more convincing and realistic than actual found footage. The story is simple: a couple from LA ride up into Northern California Sasquatch country just for the hell of it. The girl, Kelly (Alexie Gilmore), is a skeptic along for the ride and her dorky boyfriend Jim (Bryce Johnson) is a casual believer. They view all the touristy sites in the area and go hiking into the forest. Guess what happens? 

The first and second acts are quirky and fun, lightheartedly running through some standard horror film tropes while the couple meets offbeat townsfolk and harbingers warning them of strange and evil happenings in the forest that could either be Sasquatch or feral druggies. The third act awakens in darkness and goes into high tension and anxiety pretty quickly, carried mostly by Gilmore’s performance.


I remember hearing a Bigfoot story when I was a kid about some lumberjacks in a log cabin that were accosted by creatures in the forest that where making whooping sounds and throwing rocks at the camp. I’m not sure where I heard it, but that story always stuck with me. I’m pretty sure Goldthwait is familiar with it, too.   (AD)

ASTRAL BUTCHER Jan 2020 cassette


Demo Cassette Tape Jan 2020

A Great Bad Transfer


I got this tape in the mail on Friday and it made for a great start to the weekend.  I had zero knowledge of who these guys were and had never heard them before so I had fun digging around “the google”, while listening to this metal rawness.  The tape was packaged like it came straight out of the 1980’s and a hesher handled it from start to finish and dropped it off to the post office on his way to the mall (to score weed).

Upon the first listen I could hear some demo styled Possessed from like 1984 or something.  Straight up noisy and raw blackened metal that sounded kind of like Chuck from Death had come back from the grave to help them record it in a ’85 sorta way (you know… on a boom box).

Upon the second listen I could hear black metal in the bands sound, but that comes straight from the vox.  Not much can be determined about songs, and the titles etc… this is done pretty mysteriously.  I love the solos that basically hover over the entire recording, and after some digging I found out it was Shaun from Annihilation Time, Gordon Solie, Wetbrain, Midnight, etc. was partially to blame for this nastiness.   The rest of these guys are lifers from Life’s Halt, Annihilation Time, Holier Than Thou?, California Love, Letcherous Gaze, Yarrow etc.  Again, after scouring the inter web I found the bands bandcamp, and can honestly say the band sound totally different than on the cassette tape I got in the mail.  First off, the vox are way to loud for my tastes on their bandcamp and everything sounds cleaner there.  The tape is/was done 100% how it should be done.  It sounds so old, real, and raw that it seriously leaves me wondering how they accomplished this feat.  I was tape trading in the early 80s and this tape could have fooled me.  Do yourself a favor and figure out how to score the actual tape… don’t listen to the digital until after you listen to the tape mix.  Email addy on the tape is  Otherwise try to contact them on their bandcamp. (NW)


Justin Dratson: JD   Nate Wilson: NW   Matt Average: MA


Wake In Fright

1971, Australia

Director: Ted Kotcheff

Staring: Donald Pleasence, Gary Bond, Chips Rafferty

Viewed: Streaming on Amazon Prime

Transfer Quality: Good enough

Man this movie is deranged and completely fucked up.  I’d seen this poster around forever, but the trailer and story line just never really grabbed me enough to give it a go.  Well last night I took a chance and gave it a shot based on not being able to find anything else to watch.  I’m glad I finally made the decision to spend the time with this weirdness.


The story is that of a under paid schoolteacher in Australia who has been working in a remote town for the government.  When the school year ends the teacher goes on holiday trying to visit the city of Sydney to see his girlfriend. His train stops in a small Australian redneck town, and he has one night in Bundanyabba (the Yabba) and ends up getting ridiculously drunk and gambling all of his life savings away (doesn’t seem like much of a savings really).  The teacher has nowhere to stay and no money to catch another train or bus to get out of this drunken violent hell.  He ends up waking up on different people’s floors and beds after many nights of debauchery. The teacher starts hanging out with an alcoholic doctor who doesn’t believe in money (played by the infamous Donald Pleasence of Halloween).  This might be DP’s best role ever as he steals the show in this one.  I actually was wondering if the director got Pleasence completely shitfaced and just let him have at it with the character he was playing.


The pair goes out drunkenly hunting for kangaroos with some red neck miners driving them around shooting in the bush. They chase and kill many a kangaroo.  They also drunkenly fist fight and wrestle these beautiful beasts.  Some of this film is hard to watch.  As (DC) said to me about this film when I told him I was viewing it… “Donald Pleasence is Satan in that movie”.  When (MA) asked me what film I would have as a double feature with Wake In Fright I immediately said Last House On The Left.


MANIAC (1980)

MANIAC (1980)

Director: William Lustig

Starring: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Abigail Clayton, Kelly Piper, Tom Savini

maniac review

Maniac is the gold standard of slashers. I’ll go as far to say that Maniac is better than the original Halloween (Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the original Halloween, it’s a personal long time favorite. In my top three, to be somewhat exact), and easily the first two Friday the 13th movies, or, really, any of the Friday the 13th movies, to be honest. Friday the 13th may have had more imaginative kills, but with Maniac there’s more of a story here, and there’s more of a character as opposed to a faceless killer with minimal backstory. It’s a movie you can watch over the the years and not grow bored with. Characters aren’t essentially marched in front of the camera and killed off.  Something else that elevates Maniac above all the others, and  what makes it the most disturbing is that this killer could actually exist. He’s not some super villain endowed with insane powers of bouncing back to life from every attempt on his life.

Joe Spinell’s performance is excellent. He’s absolutely believable as the tortured Frank Zito who lives a sad and mundane life vacillating between cold ruthless murderer to an emotionally destroyed soul who spends most of his time in isolation. He’s not someone who stands out. You would pass by him on the street without a second thought. He’s a Norman Bates type, but fully aware of what he’s doing. After some kills we see him reading about it in the morning paper, or watching the news, and you can see hints of shame and remorse in his reactions.

As the story progresses we learn he was physically and emotionally abused by his mother who died while he was still young, which did his head in for good. He sees her in the women he kills, which is confirmed when he murders Rita, as he keeps asking, “Why did you leave me? I was scared. Now we are together again, and I will never let you go. I’m just going to keep you so you won’t go away ever again.”

The kills in this movie are brutal, and Tom Savini’s effects are in top form. A woman sees herself ran through with a sword as she looks into a mirror. One woman is forced to agonize in terror before she’s finally snuffed out, and that one shot gun blast scene still stuns to this very day. Even the most jaded, and most modern of audiences will be visually shushed into silence.

Maniac isn’t the sort of movie one would, could, or should love, but I do. It’s sleazy, violent, and grim as hell, but it lures you into the the filth and it’s hard to resist. Even the soundtrack by Jay Chattaway with it’s downer mood anchors you down solid into the muck.  There’s nothing pretty about this film and you should see it.  (MA)


Nate Wilson: NW  Devon Cahill: DC  Matt Average: MA




Eaten Alive (aka Death Trap)

1976, USA

Starring: Neville Brand (Judd), Marilyn Burns (Faye), Robert Englund (Buck),Stuart Whitman (Sheriff Martin), Mel Ferrer (Harvey Wood), Crystin Sinclair (Libby Wood) Carolyn Jones (Miss Hattie), William Finley (Roy), Roberta Collins (Clara Wood), Kyle Richards (Angie)

Director: Tobe Hooper

Viewed: Streaming

Transfer Quality: Very nice transfer!

Probably my biggest takeaway from this film is that while a scythe looks cool and makes for great promotional poster art, it is ridiculously cumbersome as a murder weapon. Oh, and that Nile crocodiles in Texas can both shrink in size when pursuing prey in tight quarters and eat several adult-sized humans in a single night.

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Hooper again exploits our deep-seated collective fear of backwoods Texas to explore something I’m still not quite able to put my finger on in the horror hotel genre meets Jaws flick, Eaten Alive. Apparently Hooper had some creative differences with the producers that lead to some scenes being helmed by a different director. Perhaps this can explain away why this movie has so many elements that could have made it great, but still manages to fall short. In the end this is a pretty clunky film, but with some cool components, great cast and soundtrack, and a campy plastic crocodile that morphs into different sizes that make it worth checking out.

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So the set-up: The film opens at a sleazy country brothel run by Miss Hattie (Carolyn Jones, The Addams Family) with “Name is Buck, I’m rarin’ to fuck,” Buck (Robert Englund, Nightmare on Elm Street) trying to force newbie prostitute Clara Wood (Roberta Collins, The Big Doll House) to do pervy stuff she doesn’t wanna do. Of course, Miss Hattie takes the good ‘ol boy Buck’s side in the dispute and banishes Clara from the whorehouse. Well, it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire for poor Clara as she stumbles over to the Starlight Hotel, a dilapidated mess of a place in the swamp where she meets a similarly dilapidated mess of a mental case, Judd (Neville Brand, Mad Bomber, Stalag 17), who owns it. Not to spoil too much, but it doesn’t end well for Clara or just about any man, woman, monkey, or small dog that happens to find themselves at the Starlight that evening.

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While watching this I kept wondering what Judd’s motivation is for undertaking all these killings. At first, he seems to be exacting revenge for all of the abominations and iniquities of the world embodied in the guests he encounters at his hotel. We know he’s definitely got a thing against prostitutes, but it’s certainly not a consistent motivation to kill. For example, he also chases a little kid under the house, with the scythe, no less…a pursuit that smolders throughout the film, but he ties her mother up to the bed without killing her. He mumbles to himself at times, so I’m guessing he’s hearing voices, but that’s never clarified. There’s also this thing where he takes off his glasses when he kills. Maybe an alter ego he takes on? Anyway, don’t expect any of this to be explained at any point. Judd’s just a creepy guy who acts nice and then ends up killing you for no real reason…first with a pitchfork and then with a scythe. And, yes, as the title gives away, Judd doesn’t quite finish off any of his victims, so they’re each “eaten alive” by a giant crocodile that Judd keeps in the bog next to his hotel.

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While leaving things unexplained is what gives the horror in Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre such depth and intensity, it just doesn’t work here. In my opinion, this comes from Hooper’s decision to film the entire movie on a sound stage. I will say first that the genius of this is that it allows him to create a discrete and completely fictional universe, where the rules of the real world don’t necessarily apply. The dominant red hue cast in the hotel scenes really does create an alternate reality kinda feel that intensifies just how cut off from sanity the hotel is. The downside, of course, is that in the process it cuts the viewer off from any sense that this is real, and forces us to start finding holes in the narrative leaving us asking questions like “why any of this is happening?” In Chainsaw, it’s precisely the documentary feel that allows the viewer to abandon need for explanation and join the fictional victims in full panic mode. In Eaten Alive, only confusion results.

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Finally, as ludicrous as the plastic croc is in this, I will say it is pretty absurdly amazing every time it appears on screen. Also, the crescendo of carnage in the final scene is intense enough not be missed. Unfortunately, it’s the only scene that even comes close to the level of anxiety that Chainsaw produces.

Although not quite a “for Hooper completists only,” and not among his top films, I would definitely recommend checking it out.

(DC)Screen Shot 2020-02-19 at 2.51.43 AM.jpeg

FEAR X (2013)

Fear X

2013, Denmark

Starring: John Turturro (Harry), Deborah Kara Unger (Kate)

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Viewed: Streaming

Transfer Quality: I would say…good? Looked like a DVD basically.

I’ve been a fan of Refn’s work since I first saw Drive. When Only God Forgives came out to middling reviews, I went to the trouble of actually buying a digital copy instead of waiting for a DVD or BD release, since it wasn’t playing in any theaters around me. I loved it for seemingly all of the reasons many reviewers hated it. Since then, I’ve played close attention to Refn’s new releases and his unique film streaming service, byNWR. For some reason, though, I never took a deep-dive into his work before Drive. When a friend recommended that I watch Fear X, I jumped in almost completely blind; the only knowledge of the film I had was its title, poster, and the Rotten Tomatoes aggregate review score that pops up when you Google it (58%).

I was disappointed, at first, with the beginning of Fear X. The basic premise is straightforward: protagonist Harry Caine, played by John Turturro, is a mall cop whose wife was shot and killed without explanation. There are some long, moody shots that prepared me for a meditative, thoughtful film, but the first half hour was populated with cut-and-paste thriller plot motivations and tropes (a dead wife, a man pouring over camera footage, the obligatory shot of news paper clips and photographs stuck to a wall used as shorthand to communicate the protagonist’s obsession). However, there were small moments that captured my attention enough to continue, like brief visits from widow Harry Caine’s murdered wife and an inexplicable cut to an abstract red mindscape.

I appreciated scenes in the beginning of Fear X much more after viewing the entire film. Many of them border on parody, but rather than being humorous, they deliberately couch you in the comforts of genre while depriving you of its joys. The most explicit example of this is a quintessential diner scene. Harry finds a small-town restaurant where he questions a waitress about an individual he believes is connected to his wife’s murder. There is a shot of Harry sitting down with a cup of black coffee and a plate of apple pie. On the wall behind him is a big mural of an American flag. The scene ends with a slow zoom on the flag, making the scene’s intent obvious. It made me wonder, “Do people really go to diners alone and order apple pie and coffee?” Probably, but not as often as cinema would have you believe, and, perhaps, even less so when they’re on the hunt for a murderer. It’s not laugh out loud funny, but it’s clever and signals Refn’s intentions.

As I watched, I started to realize that this isn’t a thriller at all. It’s an anti-thriller, a story about a world where vengeance is impossible and, even more importantly, knowledge is out of our grasp. This goes for both Harry and the viewer. Fear X certainly isn’t a movie for anyone who wants easy answers, because there aren’t any to be found. As Harry pushes forward on his quest to know why his wife was murdered, his anger and frustration grow. We watch his feelings get increasingly intense until it’s no longer possible to interpret what is being shown to us literally.

Watching this film from 2003 after being introduced to Refn’s work in 2011, I couldn’t help but see the signs of him honing his craft as a director. There is some serious obsession with heavy unnatural lighting, blood orange creeping on red in particular, though not to the extent of his more recent work. Harry, like many of Refn’s characters, is a man of few words, and his motivations are extremely simple. He walks a path from point A to point B, going along with whatever he needs to get there without undue deliberation while the camera lingers and zooms just to the point of discomfort, without overstaying its welcome.

While Fear X is not as refined and definitive as my favorite Refn movies, it stands on its own merits and has interesting ideas that subvert genre expectations. This is not a graphic movie; when there is violence, it is intentionally restrained, awkward and uncomfortable. Some of the scenery, with colors that manage to look beautiful despite their garishness, and dialogue delivery, often stilted in a naturalistic way that doesn’t usually play well on the screen, remind me of Dario Argento’s giallo cinema. The ending is unsettling and cathartic at the same time; it is this uneasy mix of both that makes Fear X so effective. The movie seems to tell you that you will never have the answers or catharsis you want, but never allows you to accept that. Bonus points for being creepy right until the end; be sure to stay for the credit roll accompanied by copious security camera footage utilized throughout the movie proper.

Recommended for people who like asking questions without expecting answers in return.


Bloodied hand