Return to Horror High (1987)

No this isn’t a sequel despite it really really really really sounding like one. Much to my disappointment I must add because this movies title sounds cool and very much in the same vein as classic horror comedy franchise The Return of the Living Dead. Well that’s what I thought anyway, I thought, gee this sounds like a cool classic 80’s horror gore fest, I wonder if there’s a movie called ‘Horror High’ that came first. Little insight into the way I think there for you all, well actually my reviews kinda do that any way don’t they…moving on!

The plot is a simple horror concept. Back in 1982 the small community of Crippen, South California was rocked by a series of grisly murders within the local high school. The killer was never caught. Years later a film company comes to Crippen high school to make a movie about the horrific incident. Unfortunately the same killer is still on the loose and starts his old habits yet again on the film crew. So as you can see this is a pretty generic horror movie concept.

But this movies plot is a bit different in a few ways. Firstly almost the entire plot is told in flashbacks from the narrative of a police investigation taking place after the incident. The bulk of these flashbacks come from the police interviewing the last survivor. At the same time there is a film-within-a-film (found footage) element from the film company as they film their horror movie. The plot jumps back and forth between these plot lines making you the viewer unsure if you’re seeing a real murder or a murder for the film-within-a-film.


But all that aside, what is the movies big selling point now? Its stars a very young, curly haired George Clooney. Yes Clooney is in this movie…for around five minutes before being unceremoniously killed off by the unknown killer. Admittedly I wasn’t entirely sure if this was a real kill or pretend for the film-within-a-film but that is made clear later on. By that I mean, when its a fake kill the sequence always ends panning away with us seeing the crew filming or the actor breaking his scene. If the kill is real that simply doesn’t happen and its more eerie.

In that sense the movie does feel more like a series of set pieces or shorts because its all so fractured. The plot is really quite incredibly jumbled and you’re never entirely sure what’s real and what’s not. Half the time everyone kinda comes across as play acting including the cops doing the investigation. One female officer leading the investigation seems to be constantly aroused and eating at the most inopportune times, its really quite odd. The film-within-a-film producer is played by the legendary Alex Rocco which does add much gravitas but at the same time he feels completely miscast. You get the impression he was simply cast for his movie star status because he does very little else except act frustrated and walk around.

The rest of the cast are completely hit and miss really, just faceless actors doing their bit that anyone could do. There isn’t really anyone pulling everything together, giving the movie any real punch, it all feels so meh. The visuals throughout are really drab and mundane, they don’t utilise the high school enough for maximum horror effect (not until they venture into the basement at least). The kills are rather boring, predictable, no sloppy 80’s gore, nothing to engage you. The actual killer reveal is a typical [i]Scooby Doo[/i]-esque turn that is so flippin’ hokey, not entirely predictable but not exactly shocking or exciting either. To top that the killers mask is a blatant rip-off of various other classic iconic horror movie killers.


All in all it was hard to know what exactly this movie was suppose to be. It wasn’t particularly scary, it wasn’t particularly funny anywhere, its definitely not for kids but I wouldn’t say it was for fully grown adults either. Fully grown adults wouldn’t find this very engaging methinks. It felt more like an attempt at a smart horror comedy for teens and young adults, but it just fails miserably. The final twist in the tale makes no sense simply because you’d think the cops and paramedics would have sussed it right away (surely?!). That in turn then puts doubt on whether there was a killer in the school or was it all a hoax. I think the killer was there but the others simply missed it, I’m honestly not sure.

This could almost be an early forerunner to the Scream franchise, its similar in idea and tone but simply not as clever or witty. Its a shame because the movies poster and title both have that classic 80’s vibe and promise. Alas it all looks cheap and tacky, its thoroughly convoluted and thoroughly dull.


The Giant Claw (1957)

Well 1950’s cinema gave us all manner of monsters, aliens, giant bugs, mythical creatures, doll sized people, invisible people etc…In the realms of over sized animals and bugs (arachnids) there was a large array including giant man eating grasshoppers, scorpions, tarantulas, praying mantis, ants etc…So it was naturally just a matter of time before a movie came along that had a giant man eating bird, because why not? If it can be even remotely scary there’s a chance there’s a 50’s movie about it.

In this wondrous movie life is generally fine and dandy for all the characters concerned, that is until a giant bird comes out of nowhere and starts to attack planes and such. Naturally most of the main characters in this movie are military types because of course they are. Two of the protagonists aren’t military types but are in fact civil aeronautical engineers that appear to be working with military types, so its all military type stuff as usual.

Yep so this giant bird is attacking planes and causing lots of panic and alarm. The problem is no one can prove its a giant bird at first, many think its a hoax or a UFO. Thing is, this giant bird is really quite giant, its described as being as big as a battleship, sooo…how has this not been proven yet?? Cameras are apparently not in use in this movie and everybody seems to be somewhat shortsighted because I really fail to see how a battleship sized bird could go undetected. Then you gotta ask yourself where this thing came from? How did it get so big? What does it eat other than people and planes? Where does it live? Are there more of them? Oh wait it actually comes from an anti-matter galaxy, because of course it does. But how did it…ah who cares, don’t question it.

So the giant bird in question turns out to be an alien basically, from another galaxy. That doesn’t stop it from looking like a bird from Earth though (kinda like a cross between a Vulture and a Condor). Anyway I say that lightly because this giant bird is most probably the most ridiculous looking special effect ever. The main clear problem is the birds head, oh boy! This thing literally looks like a Warner Bros cartoon I kid you not. The shape of the head is all wrong, it has this comical tuft of hair sprouting from the top of its head, the beak is permanently open with no movement and the eyes are…umm…beyond farcical. The rest of the bird isn’t too bad truth be told, the body looks fine, the wing span, feathers, claws etc…all look perfectly reasonable for this type of B-movie. Its that head, that hideous, static, wide eyed, dopey looking Looney Tunes head.

Unfortunately like many of these really bad B-movies the film is padded out with lots and lots of stock footage, generally military footage. Next to that you have a load of narration to fill in all the gaps where they couldn’t afford to actually film. Much of the run time revolves around boring dialog scenes with the characters as they discuss how to stop the creature, where it came from, what it wants etc…Then numerous other scenes of people in planes (exceedingly bad plane sets) looking out of cockpits in shock and horror as a large shadow passes overhead. When we do actually see the giant creature you can even see the wires holding it up.

The weird thing is at times the effects aren’t too bad. When the giant bird attacks Manhattan the model skyline with overflying giant bird and military aircraft actually looks quite nice. Obviously the black and white helps cover any noticeable flaws but overall some scenes do look acceptable. In fact when the bird attacks the Empire State Building I can confidently say it actually looked pretty solid, the crumbling skyscraper did look pretty competent. Alas things take a nosedive when the bird eats the obvious model planes and the live action pilots who are shot against a poor rear projection sequence. Then of course there’s all that stock footage of crowds spliced with real footage of a very small group of people reacting and running in terror.

Would you be surprised if I told you this bird turns out to be impervious to all Earthly weapons? Didn’t think so, aren’t these monsters always somewhat invincible? No amount of gunfire, shells, missiles, rockets or even nukes can ever bring these fuckers down. Turns out this thing can create its own anti-matter force field that also gives it stealth from radar, handy huh.

Again its a shame really because the movies poster is so incredibly awesome, really striking. Other than that there really isn’t anything I can recommend here unless you like to see amazingly bad special effects. On that front the movie is top notch, a full riot to be sure, but I can’t give it a good score for that because the movie is terrible. I do believe this movie is only well known (or infamous) simply because of its terrible giant beastie model. Everything else is pretty much as you would expect and no different from all the other 50’s monster movies. Shout out for the epic Morris Ankrum who clearly made a mistake agreeing to be in this. He still manages to be epic though, its the hair and tash that does it.



Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)

The final chapter? Why do I somehow doubt that. Also, ‘Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter’, not really a good sign is it. Yet you could say this present day horror franchise is the modern equivalent of the trashy slasher franchise of the 80’s, just glossier looking. I mean lets be serious here, who in their right mind thought we’d be at movie number six with this franchise. Anyway this movie starts off by giving us a complete backstory flashback right from square one. This is presumably because many folk will have forgotten everything that has come before in this fast food throwaway franchise. I’m not really surprised, there has been so many characters dying, surviving, disappearing and coming back its easy to get confused.

So what’s the new angle this time? There is no angle, its back to Raccoon City! ugh!! Yep all the way back to the hive where it all began, but why? (other than cash grabbing on nostalgia porn). Because there is in fact an antivirus to the T-virus which has been developed by Umbrella. But why would Umbrella develop an antivirus? Well because they intend to keep all the rich and important people frozen in cryogenic pods underground in the hive. Then once the T-virus has wiped out mankind (Umbrella released it on purpose), they will wake up, release the antivirus to kill off the T-virus and then start Earth over as they want. Was this the game plan all along? I dunno because I can’t remember and there’s no way in hell I’m rewatching the last five movies.

This beginning does also mean that we don’t get to see the rather epic looking mega battle that was hinted at in the finale of the last movie. You know, where the last remnants of the human race were all holed up and barricaded in the White House with a humongous army of undead creatures and mutants trying to break in. Yeah that looked awesome…but we don’t see it, just the aftermath where everyone has been killed and Wesker apparently betrayed everyone…again!


So Alice must reach the hive and retrieve the antivirus within a set time limit. Why the time limit? well according to the Red Queen the remaining human outposts will fall when this time limit expires. Not really sure how the computer would know this, how could it tell when every last human is dead? Anyway one of the earlier things we learn is not everyone from the previous movies is actually dead. There are still numerous clones running around which all equals lots of convenient and contrived twists and reveals. And as to be expected, the movie raises many many questions concerning the plot and possible errors.

So on her way to Raccoon City Alice inevitably comes across numerous obstacles or traps, obviously these are Umbrella orchestrated. There appears to be a small band of survivors in Raccoon City and Umbrella are determined to kill them off. They aim to do this by moving towards the city in tanks very slowly (led by the thought to be dead Dr. Isaacs, same actor), leading a vast undead army behind them, no clue why. Eventually Alice winds up with the survivors, gains their trust (mainly due to the reemergence of Claire Redfield, same actress) and decide to make a stand against the incoming hordes. Low and behold Alice and co win, destroying both tanks in the process. Yet in the next scene we see Alice and co using one tank (was there more than two? only saw two).

Stage two, off to the hive with her new band of gun totting badasses (some white blokes with beards and muscles, a few sexy women, one token black guy, the usual), which is briefly interrupted by zombie dogs. Cue a sequence where most of the team somehow manage to outrun said zombie dogs accept for the obligatory odd member who gets mauled. Once inside the hive they discover it to be a giant funhouse of deadly traps being controlled by Wesker (whose face looks oddly plastic and CGI). Here most of the team get killed off at various stages by various traps. Its all highly obvious but actually highly entertaining. In fact the whole deadly funhouse angle is actually a neat way to go, shame it doesn’t last very long.


In the meantime there are more Umbrella tanks with armies of the undead moving slowly towards Raccoon City, not really sure why though. One tank picks up Isaacs (he survived the first attack with his other tanks), he informs one soldier to head for the hive. Said foot soldier says he can’t he has other orders…but from who?? Is there someone else we don’t know about higher than Isaacs? Its at this point that Isaacs kills the foot soldier. These movies amuse me, in a world where the human race is on the brink of extinction, people still go around killing each other en mass. And apparently Isaacs can afford to kill his own Umbrella foot soldiers, surely they must be running out?

Stage three, Alice reaches hive central so to speak and confronts Wesker who has thawed out some of the rich important people. Said people turn out to be the real Isaacs (UGH!!!) and an old lady in a wheelchair. So I don’t wanna spoil anythi…ah fuck it, the old lady is actually the real original Alice. Yes the Alice we’ve all been following through all these shitty movies was in fact a clone all along…oh…my…God! We then get a whole load of spiel from Isaacs who explains his entire dastardly plan and how much he hates both Alice’s. The real Isaacs also has the antivirus which he goads clone Alice over. Thing is, if Isaacs hates old lady Alice so much, why doesn’t he just kill her? If he doesn’t want clone Alice getting the antivirus, why not lock it up in a hi-tech safe?

Stage four, the finale. Its incredible but somehow, some bloody how, that flippin’ laser beam corridor is back. You know, the one that cuts people up…well except Alice. Yes the finale sees clone Alice and the real Isaacs having a good brawl which leads them into the laser beam corridor. Alice again manages to dodge the beams, for some reason the beams don’t form the deadly diamond mesh formation which allows Alice to evade them. Alice then sticks a grenade in Isaacs pocket which doesn’t blow him up? and doesn’t kill Alice also? I guess it wasn’t a grenade? whatever.


Stage five, the final part of the finale (oh please!). Well what do you thinks gonna happen here?? Clone Alice manages to kill everyone of course, Wesker (wasn’t he a monster at one point or something?), the real Isaacs and even all the cryogenically frozen people (geez!). The antivirus is released into the atmosphere and literally wipes out all the zombies within seconds, doesn’t even need time to spread through the air apparently. We could of at least seen some cool decomposing or melting or breakdown of the zombies as the antivirus destroys the T-virus, nope they just drop like flies. Luckily it will take years for the antivirus to spread across the globe so that leaves plenty of time for yet more undead monster killing adventures from Alice, hurrah!

OK credit where credits due, this franchise started way back in 2002 for Pete’s sake, its now 2017 and its still (apparently) going strong. Despite the fact I literally cannot understand how this is happening, I have to admit that’s impressive, come on admit it, it is. Considering almost every one of these movies is virtually the same shit but in different locations, I have to give congrats even though it pains me to do so. Yet despite all the questions, flaws and stupidity this movie is actually one of the better ones in the franchise. Its not completely ridiculously overblown nonsense as you might expect, its actually a little bit toned down, much darker, a smidgen more serious and you don’t get as many mutants, monsters or zombies. Its still a total videogame-esque rampage of blood ‘n’ gore that feels like its played out in stages with boss fights, of course (obviously nothing like the actual videogame). Its simply not as daft and thusly that little bit more engaging in a good way.



Reptilicus (1961)

Well its not often you come across a mainstream Danish flick, let alone a Danish monster flick, and yet here we are. Interestingly there are actually two versions of this movie, a Danish version directed by Poul Bang and an America version directed by Sidney Pink. Apparently the same cast had to do the same scenes both in English and Danish, which seems a bizarre decision. The American version also had new scenes shot with extra gore, more dialog, removed original Danish scenes and dubbed over the Danish actors. The Danish version had more shots of the young cast in swimsuits for one scene, and more comedic relief from Danish comedic actor Dirk Passer. Overall the US version seemed to cut out more footage whilst adding weaker stuff in the process.

But what’s it all about? I hear you say, well take a guess. I think this basic idea must be the most over used idea in movie history. Some Danish miners discover an ancient fossil (part of a tail) deep underground, frozen; they quickly fly it to Copenhagen for various old scientist blokes to examine. No one knows what it is but they know to keep it frozen. Alas some dumbass allows the fossil to thaw because he leaves the door open to the cold room. When this is discovered the scientists realise the fossil is regenerating, somehow, so they just let this happen apparently. Before you can say holy Godzilla rip-off! the creature has fully regenerated, escapes and is now running amok in downtown Copenhagen. Yes it really is that simple.


Now let me just start by saying there will be some piss taking here because this movie was pretty bad, but I do this in a loving way. So the effects, my God the effects; the monster in question is simply a marionette on strings/rods. I’ll just let that sink in there, yes that’s right its a puppet…and boy can you tell. The creature is supposed to be a cross between a large reptile and a Brontosaurus I think, but it comes out looking more like a skinny, tatty dragon. The monster lurches around some very obvious model sets and merely slams into them with its head, causing them to topple over likes models do. Another silly factor being you only ever see its head and neck at any one moment (unless you see the Danish version which has a flying monster), we never really see its body. This makes it even more obvious that its a puppet because you can almost see the marionette rods popping out from behind the models.

The film suffers from that aspect where some shots actually look OK, but others are bloody terrible. Now if you’re watching the US version you will also see extra footage specially added by the Yanks or whoever. That being green acid which the monster spits at the hordes of Danish troops. The acid in question is actually a very crudely superimposed effect that has been tacked on after the films completion. One minute you see a shot of Danish troops, the next some green goo seems to hit the camera lens and apparently the troops in question are dead. Along with that is probably one of the most horrific effects I’ve come across. The monster manages to scoop up some poor Dane and eat them, but the human in question seems to be an actual paper cut out or crayon-like drawing of a person. It clearly doesn’t even go into the monsters mouth because its clearly a tacked on horrendous effect. It happens fast but its so so bad looking it sticks out by a good country mile.


What makes everything so stupid is the fact that the monster can’t be killed with traditional methods. The reason being if a limb is lost or a chunk of the beast comes away, apparently that piece of monster will start to regenerate itself into yet another monster…because reasons. So there is no way in hell that you could possibly try to blow it up or shoot it or whatever. Cue a shit load of stock footage and real footage of troops firing guns, machine guns, tanks, anti-aircraft guns…the whole fecking enchilada. The monster even retreats into the sea at one point but they still go after it…with depth charges! (oy vey!). Yet despite this constant (and I mean constant) bombardment from the Danes the monster never seems to get hurt or loose any body parts. Hell it doesn’t even rampage that much, merely sits behind buildings and slams its head into things as if its retarded or something. In the end the monster is poisoned but not before a limb is blown off leaving the film open ended.

So other than the hilariously bad monster sequences what else is there? Well there are a whole load of scenes inside a main HQ type room where military leaders and scientists discuss things whilst Copenhagen gets crushed. This happens often, blokes standing around in suits and uniforms; with a large map with little toy soldiers on it, talking in a gruff manner. The more serious we act, the more shit gets done. But the really good bit, the highlight of the show has to be the travelogue section. Yes midway through this extravaganza we are treated to a sequence where some of the characters enjoy Copenhagen (more specifically Tivoli) by day and night. This overly long sequence shows us various landmarks in Copenhagen and generally what a great place is it (before its ruined by a gigantic reptilian dinosaur). It all ends in a nightclub in Tivoli with a musical number that has also accompanied this visual holiday brochure the whole time.

I saw the US version here so I can only wonder at how superior the Danish version might be (ahem!). This is really one of those tight corners you tend to get forced into when reviewing these old cult sci-fi/horror/monster flicks. On one hand the movie is generally complete garbage, none of it makes any real sense, nothing adds up and it honesty looks dreadful. Yet on the other hand some of the effects are quaint and charming, the acting is so bad its enjoyable and finding gaping plot holes is fun. I can’t really give this a top score because it is legitimately poor (the modified US version anyway), but it just about makes it into the ‘so bad its good’ bracket.



From Hell It Came (1957)

Horror (and sci-fi) movies back in the good old 50’s were silly, real silly at times, literally anything you can think of was most probably at some point used in a horror/sci-fi movie. Almost every type of bug you can think of, crabs, bats, octopuses, blobs, giant people, tiny people, bipedal lizards, X-ray vision, rocks, dinosaurs, ape men with space helmets on etc…The list just goes on, but here we have something a bit different, original for sure. What else could you possibly make a horror movie about when even killer rocks have been done? How about a killer walking tree? sound stupid? Not on your nelly sir, lets review this fucker!

So there’s this killer tree, it hobbles around and kills people, somehow, and that’s your story folks. Oh you want more?? well there isn’t really much more to tell, OK lets look a bit deeper. On an unknown south seas pacific island a Prince is put to death by having a knife driven into his heart for supposedly killing his father. The thing is he didn’t murder anyone, the real murderer was the local witch doctor who didn’t like the good relations the Prince was having with American scientists on the island. This was his dastardly scheme to get rid of the Prince and hopefully the Yanks too. The Prince is buried in a hollow tree and that’s that, well it was until his body gets reanimated by nuclear radiation (always with the nuclear radiation). The Prince (or his body at least) comes back from the dead as the Tabanga, a well known myth in the local folklore that is said to allow someone revenge if they are wrongfully killed.


Right there you already have a plot hole. In the local folklore it is said that the Tabanga only comes back when a person is wrongfully killed, so surely all the locals in the tribe would know straight away (going by their own folklore) that someone has been wrongfully killed, and all evidence probably points to the recent killing of their Prince. Also, if the local folk know about and believe in this myth, why provoke it by doing exactly what you’re not supposed to do?! Then of course you have the old plot problem with many of these old black and white horror pictures, why is the monster killing everyone??

If the Tabanga is the Prince and he’s come back to enact revenge on the ones who killed him, why he is killing anyone and everyone?? As for the radiation, not really sure about that, they seem to discover the ground is full of it where the Prince was buried. I’m guessing fallout from nuclear testing going by the location. Again I’m not really sure but I think the Princes rotting corpse has slowly transformed into this gnarly, rotten wooden log and starts to grow from the grave in order to free itself. Not sure why it needed to grow though, couldn’t it just dig itself up? The large stump also has an actual beating heart and the same knife used to kill the Prince still lodged in it.

Anyway the Yanks dig up the Tabanga after wisely coming to conclusion that something is just not right with this. Yep this definitely isn’t a new species of tree (you idiots), clearly the local folklore has been proven right in this case. Large tree stump with a heartbeat, green ooze, clearly visible beating organ and the same dagger that was used to kill the Prince lodged in the heart. Yep that’s definitely a supernatural event in progress right there people, time to pack. Just one thing that still bugs me, did the Tabanga come back from the dead because of supernatural powers or because of the radiation? I suppose it was supernatural powers because back in the lab the Yanks discover the radiation is killing it, that’s why the lead female scientist decides to inject a new anti-radiation formula into the stump to help it. Yep they’re trying to save a living tree by injecting it?? How do you do that exactly?


In all honesty, all sideswipes aside at the immensely ludicrous plot this movie isn’t too bad. Lets be frank, if you enjoy corny black and white horror flicks then this will really rock your world. Watching this obvious man in a rubber suit waddle around the location awkwardly, is a pure joy to behold. You can almost see the blokes trousers in some scenes because the suit had split in the legs. This monster suit is beautiful in a terribly shitty way, it doesn’t move at all, the arms only go up and down (just about), and the facial expression is fixed, although it is a tree so…The lack of movement could be seen as realistic (ahem!) but its hilarious when its trying to actually kill somebody.

Most of the time it just leers and leans over the victim, they scream and die for no real apparent reason. Basically you could say this is the perfect representation of a walking, stiff lump of wood. But we all know its simply because the suit was limited and there wasn’t the money to make anything better. Overall the suit is effective and it does actually look a bit eerie in some scenes, mainly when its by its grave, like some large spooky overgrown headstone.

The casting is unknown to me but as with many of these movies its all highly predictable. The leads are all middle aged men and they are accompanied by one female for a bit of sex appeal. Totally sexist of course but you come to expect this in these old flicks. The same can be said for the blatant racism and stereotyping of the locals, all of whom seem to be played by white people (the main characters at least), oh the horror! You’d never get away with this these days of course but I can’t deny it does make the film so much more amusing. LOVE the actors trying their best to speak in native tongue which basically sounds exactly like a 1950’s impression of a native American in a western. I also just adored all the lame cliched trinkets they’ve stuck on the natives costumes. One guy (and many of the male natives) has a headpiece made of clearly plastic large teeth, by the looks of it. Like what the hell?! Where did he get those from a saber-toothed tiger?? The chief has little seashells dangling from his headpiece because of course you would have that living on an island in the pacific. They all look like prehistoric tribes people, oh and all the women are hot in mini skirts.

Its a shame that with something so unique and quirky as a killer walking log, you don’t really see much killing or action. There is an amazing amount of boring dialog and exposition is this movie, watching American scientists discuss what to do, how to go about it, methods, their experiences, their loves, their lives in general…ugh! It can be quite painful and dull for most of the run time. When the monster pops up things inevitably get much more interesting but for obvious reasons these scenes don’t last too long. The finale is anti-climatic and makes no sense (wood floats right? right??!!), the music seems to be merely stock, the acting is pretty dire or bog standard and the fact that the monster moves slow, SLOW slowly begs the question, why can’t anyone simply run away from it? Its literally never gonna catch you. Yet despite all the crud there is something about this movies monster that does appeal, it actually looks like a live action version of Treebeard from Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 animated flick ‘The Lord of the Rings’.