Night of the Demons, 1988 – ★★★½

If your looking for fodder to make up part of a 31 day Halloween marathon; then 1988’s ‘Night of the Demons’ is surely a solid contender. Is it an original movie? ABSOLUTELY NOT. This thing doesnt have an original bone in it’s body, basically taking ‘The Evil Dead’, ‘Return of the Living Dead’ and ‘House’ combining them together and watering down any of the more raw and impactful moments quite substantially. I can absolutely see why people would really enjoy this movie, I do somewhat stuggle to see how someone could out and out LOVE this movie.

The basic plot is that a group of fratty students are looking to party down on Halloween Night, when they get an invitation from a strange student in their class called ‘Angela’ to join her for a creepy night at ‘Hull House’ an abandoned and derelict building that supposedly contains ghosts and demons.

The gang kind of umm and ahh about going, but eventually decide that it’s better than the school organised dance, so they head over, little do they know that Angela is actually bringing the gang to the house with the express purpose of creating a little carnage. involving seances, human possession and a house seemingly out of time. It’s down to basically a bunch of horny drunk people and a clean cut virgin to figure out how to escape Hull House and survive, the ‘Night of the Demons’

and while I got on with this thing, I have to say I wasnt totally smitten by it, the scripts fine, its got even pacing, reasonable transitions between act structures, but it brings almost nothing new to the table in terms of ideas and all the way through this thing I never felt any kind of genuine sense of unpredictability or unease. The best horror movie usually are the ones where you have NO idea what direction the films going to go off in, and regularly take delight in ramping up the gore and violence when you least expect it.

This thing? I knew the ending before the opening titles even got done it was that predictable. It just, doenst have a whole lot of defining charictaristics. Theres nothing here that I can point to and definitively say ‘THIS is what ‘Night of the Demons’ is known for.’ Because every cool moment, is a somewhat neutered redo of a scene that exists in other, better movies.

The characters arnt particularly well defined or likeable, the demon action is kept to a minimum and the scenes where the demons do appear are largely played to try and create a sense of unease (which they kind of fail to do) with the few gory bits they DO show, being quite few and far between and not particularly any better than ‘passable’

The dialogues a bit cringey too in places. Like; cheesy dialogue is fun, and this film does have some great cheesy lines in it. But it also has a LOT of scenes of actors in their 30s trying to play frat boys in their teens and some of the lines they got these guys to read…eesh, I just ended up feeling bad for them honestly.

The direction and cine are decent enough, arguably some of the best elements that this film has going for itself. its a stylized film that uses colour very well and really DOES capture that ‘spirit of halloween’ vibe that the likes of ‘Trick r Treat’ and ‘WNUF’ manage to capture, it feels as much a part of the season as jack o lanturns or candy corn.

Shots are well composed, they clearly planned their sequence structuring carefully because the edit has plenty of room to breath and use B-roll effectively. the gore shots arnt the best i’ve ever seen, but are far from the worst. and I feel like Kevin’s managed here to direct the cast VERY effectively, getting several lively and animated performances out of the cast that do help bring a little more vibrance to the picture.

As for the performances themselves, well the clear standouts are Amelia Kinkade as ‘Angela’ and Linnea Quigly as Suzanne, the pair get a good meaty part of the script, bring a MORE than solid and well rounded performance to proceedings and they seem to have great fun just doing the horror thing. Which I suppose is all you can really ask for honestly.

Cathy Podewell as Judy works as best she can with the material she’s given, she’s supposed to play a bit of a ‘Vanilla’ sort who comes out of her shell more as the carnage begins. I feel she plays that part really well, though I was completley convinced of her ‘Transformation’ of character. By the end she pretty much felt the same but sadder bascially. Which isnt the kind of arc that wins me over unfortunately.

And as for the soundtrack? Well…Im not saying your horror movie CANT have a ‘punk’ soundtrack, but if you ARE going to have your horror movie feature a predominantly ‘Punk’ soundtrack. TRY not to make it sound like a dollar store soundalike of the ‘Return of the living dead’ score please? Because this thing really just felt like the ‘store brand’ version for like…90% of the runtime. and I couldnt get away from that vibe honestly, which did lower my opinions a little bit.

Despite its issues, I still thought ‘Night of the Demons’ was reasonable fun. It’s (in my opinion) by no means a ‘classic’ but Its easy to watch and digest, it doesnt overstay its welcome and the halloweeny seasonal vibes feel very sincere throughout and could easily help set the mood. I’d absolutely say it’s worth catching at least once, but after that, your milage may vary.


The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield, 1968 – ★★★★ (contains spoilers)

This review may contain spoilers.

Oh this thing was just delightful in all honesty, largely shot in 1964 and posthumously released a year after her untimely death agred 33 in 1967. ‘The Wild Wild World of Jayne Mansfield’ is…well sort of a travelogue by way of the Mondo craze that was picking up steam around this time.

Basically we follow Jayne Mansfield as she travels around Rome, Paris, New York and LA looking at the landmarks, sights and sounds of those cities, before also exploring the more erotic underbelly of these European locations.

And if you ever wanted to know where John Waters and Divine got some of their key influences. This movie very likely holds the answers. Its SO camp, REDICULOUSLY campy, the cheesiest, most hammy delight i’ve sat through in a good long while. Jayne narrates a good chunk of the movie (and…due to her death a Jayne soundalike was bought in to finish the movie after a certain point) but her narration is just SO goddamn cheesy. she says such strange and wonderfully worded things. I was honestly captivated by this for about 90% of the runtime.

It’s a rather speedy trip through Europe which, for 1968 I imagine would have been quite exotic for the average american looking for dirty picture movies. It’s largely tame, plenty of topless scenes and the ocasional nudie shot where the more modest areas are covered. But even so I thought it was pretty wild given how restrictive studio pictures had to be at that time.

Whats probably the most bizarre thing for this film is how it progresses across its runtime (and the thing I fell in love with the most quite honeslty.) Y’see, around halfway through the second act this thing really begins to run out of steam. After all, theres only so many topless bars and erotic dancers you can capture before it all starts to look a bit samey.

they go to a Trans beauty pageant which is fascinating given the time it was filmed. But as is the case with pictures from this time, they seem to conflate Trans, Cross dressing and Drag interchangably. Which I imagine would create some more problematic moments to a more modern audience. I understand WHY they were so vague given its absolute illegality at the time. But I could easily see some being offended by trans portrayal in this.

What REALLY stunned me was the ending, as…10 minutes off the end of the movie we go from soft shots of Jayne wallowing around nude in a bathtub to a sudden STARK bit of tonal whiplash as we hardcut to photos from the crash scene where Jayne lost her life. The narration shifts to an unknown male and the rest of the 10 minutes is basically a HARSH recounting of Jaynes Car crash, death, photos of the crash site AND her dead dog, shots of her former mansion home, SHOTS OF HER ACTUAL CHILDREN where the narrator basically tells the viewer theres uncertainty about where her children will go and what they’ll do now their mums dead, FOOTAGE OF HER CHILDREN TENDING TO THEIR MOTHERS MEMORIAL GARDEN.

Basically, the whole thing 180’s into a SUPER hard mondo exploitation flick that absolutley takes advantage of Jaynes death for sensationalism. Its disgusting seedy and the WEIRDEST way to end what was otherwise a glam romp around Europe for 80 minutes.

Despite the totally out of left field ending. I really REALLY enjoyed this one, if you’ve ever seen anything put out by ‘Something Weird Video’ or you have an affinity for mondo as a genre, this things very much OF the genre but approaches the subject completley differently to the other mondo movies out there. I thought this was great fun, I’d easily recommend checking it out if you can find a copy. it’s just…SO damn campy.


Once Upon a Forest, 1993 – ★★★

‘Once Upon a Forest’ is a rather simplistic, but non the less charming kids movie and is a latter-day offering from Hannah-Barbera. Its an animated talking animals movie for a starters, but the basic plot of the film follows three infant animals (a mouse, a hedgehog and a mole) as they set off on a grand adventure (well…as grand an adventure as can be had in 40ish minutes) to collect ingrediants for a remedy that will save the life of one of their younger friends after a freak accident on a nearby highway releases poisonous gas into the forest killing most of the plantlife and some of the animals in the process.

And this ones kind of difficult to get a read on, clocking in at just over 67 minutes, this thing really doesnt have time to do very much in the way of world building and the whole ‘adventure’ malarky. it’s quite literally, they head off to go do the thing, they do the thing, they come home with 3 minor trials that all get resolved in fairly unconvincing ways.

I think the film makers kind of realised it was a bit too short to really be able to drive home the ‘adventure’ element, so instead they rely on the strength of the characters they’ve created and some of the other world building elements to help try and win people over on charm alone.

I think it largely succeeds with that, the characters are all for the most part pretty likeable, the film develops them quite nicely, theres a reasonable humour to this thing (maybe a little mild for me personally but hey ho) and the script structuring, while a bit *too* quick to really be able to get a sense of a well earned arc, does at least have clear act structuing, character arcs and ends about as well as these things can do.

Its not the best kids film i’ve ever seen, but it does have a personality and vibe, which immediatley puts it above many of the botched offerings the mid 80s to mid 90s unleashed onto unsuspecting kids. I came away pleasently surprised by this thing, though not totally won over.

the art direction and animation is actually pretty impressive too, theres a nice fluidity to the characters movements, scenes have a nicely detailed depth to them and theres some lovely sequences that really pull the production up and above some of the mush put out around this time. The ONLY thing I really truely didnt like (and this is an odd one)…they give the animal creatures hyper realistic human hands. they’re super fluid and just…feel SO wrong to look at. Outside of that though, while I’d say the animation was maybe not up to the calibre of other kids films from around this time such as ‘The Pagemaster’ or ‘Rover Dangerfield’ it still is a colourful, bright and solid work.

The performances arrre a little grating in places, I think thats more of a ‘me as a grown adult watching a kids film’ problem though than an actual problem and Michael Crawford as Professor Cornelius is a mixed bag, but ultimately won me over before the end #Rrrrrrrumatism.

throw in a solid enough score that helps keep the whole thing tied together and I found this thing to be okay. I’d happily watch it again, I think kids would probably still kind of get on with it, though I think this will land MUCH better with quite young kids than it would,say, kids aged 6-10. Its just a kinda sorta, good film if you’ve gone through all the classics.

Oh, and because I couldnt really fit it in anywhere here. I dont know what Squirrels did to the folks at Hannah-Barbera, but there was NO need to make them just flat out racist to Badgers in this thing. NO NEED.


The Corpse Grinders, 1971 – ★★★★

What a campy little treat ‘The Corpse Grinders’ is. Dont let the name fool you this things as grizzly as a kitten in all honesty. While it’s subject matter is wonderfully dark, theres very little in the way of actual ‘gore’ here and instead we’re just…left to soak in the ambience of the films visuals and frankly strange plotting.

In a nutshell, the film revolves around 2 business owners of a cat food company who decide they can save some money and cut some corners by getting a grave robber to provide them with dead bodies that then get fed into a grinder and pulped into cat food. The only downside is, the grim ‘mystery meat’ turns out to be WAY more popular than initially expected and inadvertantly creates an army of cannibal Cats and kittens who turn on their owners looking for a second course.

The films kind of split down the middle as we follow the business owners and the grave robber as they try their best to evade suspicion and capture by the authorities (with their anxieties eventually overtaking them leading to several bloody encounters) and a young doctor and nurse who begin investigating an increase in the number of cat attacks that seem to be linked to the cat food.

This is another seedy, grimy looking 70s exploitation flick. But it’s clearly got a black comedy streak running right the way through it, you’re not supposed to take this thing seriously, you’re supposed to just enjoy it for what it is. a VERY light on detail 73 minute romp thats here to sensationalise and make people smirk.

The scripts light as a feather, it’s got a clean 3 act structure, its very rudamentary in what it’s trying to do, but i’ll always prefer a film that does ‘simple’ really well than one that tries to do ‘complex’ and stuffs it up horrendously. its a zippy little feature that despite having a lot of padding is still entertaining even in its more bloated moments. I like the tone, I think it’s quite well paced and the dialogue is SO quotable with characters who dont exactly get the *best* material to work with, and absolutely dont feel like fully fleshed out beings. But they feel right at home in this bizarre world the scriptwriters made for the 70ish minutes they’re here.

The directions pretty solid for a low budget early 70s exploitation feature. I’ve seen WAY worse from around this time, it’s nice to see they had a styalized and clear vision of what they wanted to show and despite the fact it doesnt really do anything MAJORLY standout, and the fact it’s a bit wobbly in places on the scene structuring and set design, I think it’s actually pretty passable, ESPECIALLY for the exploitation genre.

The cine too is about the same level, they try to ‘class’ up the joint by using hard coloured lighting for most of the scenes in the basement (where they keep the grinder) and that really adds to the horror moments (particularly in the 3rd act) but there is a bit of a sense of them trying to create a faux sense of styalization in these moments. again i’d rather one try and not fully convince me, than not try and bore me.

Other than that compostion work is a bit mixed…there isnt a lot of B-roll for them to work with and the effects of the cats attacking people is ABSOLUTELY laughable. But then, im not coming to a film like ‘The Corpse Grinders’ for accurate autheticity. Im coming to watch people get fed into a meat grinder and served up to cats.

The soundtrack was also kind of unremarkable…I mean, it’s fine, it more than does the job in punctuating key scenes and feeling tonally appropriate. it just kind of felt a bit generic and like library tracks for the most part. It did the job, but little more than that.

Throw in some campy, over the top melodramatic performances that arnt so much chewing the scenery, more gorging on it. and you have a movie thats manic, VERY eccentric, short and to the point that gets in, makes you giggle and gets out. I honestly cant ask for more than that. Definitely recommended, theres a lot of fun to be had with this one.


Effects, 1979 – ★★★

I had rather a soft spot for this one, shot by a ragtag group of George Romeros usual wrecking crew, ‘Effects’ is a very rough and ready production that was shot on a shoestring, largely for fun, by a group of effects aritists, cam ops and actors who were having a bit of a lull work wise and wanted to shoot a movie on the fly.

The plot of the film is that…well a film crew are shooting a slasher in the woods that deals with possession, and over the course of 80ish minutes we start to get into the crews heads as they reveal their loves and hates, fantasies and fears and eventually this melting pot of personality clashes boils over turning the set into an ACTUAL bloodbath.

Not a whole lot to say on this one honestly, I thought the script was pretty solid as a psychodrama come slasher up until the 3rd act where I feel a bit like I missed a couple of plot beats because it snaps into ‘slasher’ mode VERY quickly, almost without warning. very mild spoilers, but given the film is so special effects heavy (when you have Tom Savini in the casting and crewing, of course it will be) I kind of liked that you could never quite tell when the gory violence on screen was supposed to be part of the movie, or whether it was ACTUALLY happening in the films universe.

That did however come with some drawbacks though, as…I feel they kind of overplayed the ‘Gory thing happens, Ahhhh it was just for the movie!’ schtick, once or twice across the runtime is fine, but they overdid that pullback and reveal a little bit for me. It also caused problems for me in the 3rd act when things really started to get grizzly because I wasnt quite sure whether these were real murders or faux ones…maybe a little more distinction between the quality of the effects would have helped this thing a bit.

Outside of that though, it’s decently paced, theres clean act structures that mostly transition fine enough (barring a slightly bumpy shift between the 2nd and 3rd acts) The characters are reasonably written, feel naturalistic and believable for the time and the dialogue has a quite decent flow to it. There were a couple of dry moments and the odd scene or two that felt a little bit like padding. But on the whole I liked that this film had space to breath and didnt overstay its welcome.

The direction was pretty tight for this kind of production, it’s clear that the midnight movie craze had hit this film pretty hard as everything has a grimey rough and ready ‘run ‘n’ gun’ vibe to it that suits the tone of the film perfectly giving it a seedy and sleazy edge that really helps take it to the next level.

As such the cine is a little rough around the edges too, but that works in the films favour, allowing them to mask some of the less than perfect effects shots and smooth over some of the more gratuitous gore shots VERY effectively. some scenes really do feel quite real. sequences are edited quite frantically, but it’s clear they had a decent editor on board who knew when to slow scenes right down to let the character development bed in. I do feel that they go a little *too* manic in the final acts around the woods as I regularly lost my a way during those sequences. but on the whole, I think this looks about as good as it can do fro the circumstance and budget.

The cast are all Romero regulars, so as you can imagine theres a certain standard being adhered to. I wont say its perfect because this is clearly being made for fun, and noone heres trying to win an academy award. But i’ve seen much MUCH worse in my time, and even for goofing, these guys do a decent job of keeping animate when they need to, but knowing when to play quiet for maximum effect.

What sealed the deal for me really was the soundtrack which is AWESOME. its a synth based work and…I dunno, for lack of a better word its a ‘vibe’ unto itself. easily one of the best things about and already pretty okay movie. and one thats worth checking out.

All in all? This is a fun little movie that really seems to be functioning more as a tech demo for gore effects and ‘tape’ for a cast in between movies than anything else. Above average for slasher thrillers of this time. I’d say if you like Savinis work and 80s low budget exploitation you’ll have a hoot with this thing! it’s gore wall to wall for the most part and it reminded me a little bit of early 80s ‘found footage’ mondo movies. I’d say give it a go if you can find a copy for a good price.


Die Hard Dracula, 1998 – ★★★½

I’ll be posting a longer form review for this one later in the year. But in short. This is one of the most tonally unusual, demented and ‘all over the place’ quality wise movies that i’ve sat through in a long LONG time.

I’ve never encountered a movie that, in one scene can look like a fairly competent softcore feature, and in the next look like the guy who made it didnt even know which way to point the camera.

Some fantastic moments hindered by a feeling of it being a bit overlong and I still havent quite decided if the constant repetition is super annoying, or one of the funniest thing’s i’ve ever seen.

Dracula vs anyone should NOT feel like two neighbours having a spat about what day is ‘bin collection’ day. and yet…here we are.

This would pair up ASTOUNDINGLY with ‘Franky and his Pals’…go double feature this and that with a bowl of nachos and forget the world exists. In that sense. I recommend this.


Camp Blood First Slaughter, 2014 – ★

Barring the ‘unofficial’ ‘Camp Blood 3’ film ‘Within the Woods’ from 2005, there hadnt been a ‘Camp Blood’ movie in just over 14 years. It was largely considered a dead ‘IP’ until David Sterling (while acting as producer) decided to basically do a soft reboot on the series, bringing in Mark Polonia (of ‘Feeders’ 1-3 fame) to write and direct the film that would effectively relaunch the franchise…What could possibly go wrong?

‘Camp Blood 3: First Slaughter’ is essentially a clean slate reboot for the series. The only thing that carries across from the first 2 ‘Camp Blood’ movies is the name ‘Camp Blood’ and the backstory of the ‘clown killer’ (basically that a husband came home to find his wife in bed with another man, and was driven insane with jealousy and rage to the point that he dragged them both into the woods, murdered them and then became a hermit, killing anyone who stayed in the woods for longer than a brief jog.)

The film (clocking in at a paltry 73 minutes, 7 minutes of which is made up of titles and credits) cuts all ties to the events of the first two films, instead focussing on a group of students who are taking an ‘extra credits’ class on ‘Urban Legends’. The professor on the course informs the kids about the disturbing history of ‘Camp Blackwood’ (AKA Camp Blood) and the infamous Clown killer.

Given that the students all live VERY locally to the woods, the professor decides to set an assignment, the students are to go into the woods for a weekend and document any happenings that may occur, they’re reluctent, but agree to.

The rest of the film more or less from that point onwards is then presented as a ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ style ‘found footage’ movie as we piece together the students recovered video footage to try and find out what happened to them and gather any information about the killer that we can.

and…thats the movie. And the biggest overhanging issue with the film is it’s UTTER cheapness and desperation to try and JUST about meet the basic standards of professional cinema and not a jot more. and even then it fails.

What we have presented here is the bare minimum or less for the full runtime. The script is basically the most barest of slasher films with plot twists you can see from 2 acts away, HORRIFICALLY slow pacing (if you like shots of people slowly walking from their neighbourhood into the woods for 5 minutes, you’ve hit the jackpot with this film)

It cant decide the tone it wants to go with so you end up with weird melodramatic humour intercut with just…REALLY dull by the numbers slasher fodder. The dialogues dry, awkward and stiff. because half of the film is presented as a linear narrative piece and the other half is presented as found footage it makes building an act structure really difficult, letalone transitioning between them.

The reason that type of script writing/pacing worked in movies like ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ was because even though the majority of the film was being presented as ‘Found footage’ we still regularly cut back to the here and now, and we still made sure to present what was happening as a progrssive linear piece. We learnt about the found footage characters at the same time as the characters WATCHING the found footage, which gave it a bit more depth and helped smooth over the jarring nature of found footage movies.

That isnt the case here…instead about halfway into the running time, the film just goes ‘This is foung footage now.’ and that’s it. no nuance, no context. it’s just presented as found footage from that point onwards with a flimsy pretence that a news stations gotten ahold of all the police evidence and is presenting these ‘snuff’ movies uncut for the viewers amusement and in the hope someone will come forward (which doenst make any kind of sense at all)

Add to that that the script itself just…CANNOT show people plot point, and HAS to stop and explain them in vivid detail for large chunks of the runtime, things get unbearable FAST. and; while I wont go into spoilers here, the reveal of who the killer is was incredibly predictable, to the point that I guessed more or less how it shook out 15 minutes in. HOWEVER, the motivations of the killer are BIZARRLEY convoluted to the point that I felt I needed to jot down exactly who was avenging who, what revenge had led to what vengence and who was even supposed to be IN this movie…it’s an ‘info dump’ ending that is very dissatisfying and left me just feeling cold.

The direction is a total mess, The role of a director is to curate the production, to make sure the cast and crew are following a clear vision and to make the big decisions about how the film should look, feel and to basically shape and mould the film into their ideal vision. This film has NON of that. it’s rammed to the gills with TONS of padding the opening 10 minutes or so of the film has NO relevence to the rest of the movie, other than a brief decpitation sequence which does get a nod 50 minutes later.

Add to that that the cine is equally a total shambles too and you have a even more compounded problem. This is a film that thinks styalisation is just shaking the camera a bit every few seconds and dumping 40 million ‘damaged VHS’ effects filters over HD footage with a ton of ‘film reel spinning’ noise in the background (as if THAT makes any sense) and then calling it a day.

Shots are terribly composed, have ZERO stabalisation on them, sequences are poorly constructed and seem to almost be a patchwork of whatever they shot and figured they could get away with inserting into the film, over trying to build ANYTHING consistent. it’s a clunky, lumpy mess of an edit comprised of uninteresting and irritating to look at shots that have been drenched in filters and flashing imagery to the point that it all just looks ugly.

As for the performances? Im just gonna treat it as a broad statement, it’s horrendous. I thought the border ‘porny’ style acting in the first two ‘Camp Blood’ movies was bad. But the performances here make those guys look like they were part of the royal shakespere company.

Now; partial credit to them, the dialogue for this film is awkward, overly wordy and just plain written weird. Even the most seasoned actors would have trouble getting a decent delivery out of this thing. But these guys dont strike me as professionals, they strike me as friends and family of the producer/director/crew members who were promised a hot meal and some tape for giving up a couple weeks of their time to shoot a thing for a thing. They have NO screen presence, most fo their line deliveries are monotone and hollow, not ONE of them breaks above ‘neutral’ they’re all either just short of passable, or worse.

In fact, the only thing I WILL give them part credit on (hence the one star rating) is both the fact that I didnt out and out HATE this movie, and that the scoring was probably the best thing about it. Its not winning any awards any time soon, but its easily the best ‘Camp Blood’ score i’ve heard to date…not that that’s a particularly high bar to clear given the first 2 films only had 4 synth tracks played on a loop and the unofficial ‘Camp Blood 3’ sounded like someone raided ‘Full Moon Features’ sound library…it’s not half bad, it does have some character to it. it’s the best thing about this movie.

‘Camp Blood: First Slaughter’ clearly has a team behind it that enjoy slasher movies, but I dont think you’ll find a better example of the old addage that ‘Just because you like something, doesnt mean you’re good at it.’ This, for all intents and purposes, is a poor quality and low/no budget slasher wearing ‘camp blood’s skin. it has nothing to do with the other Camp Blood movies, [mild spoilers] but for 90% of the films runtime we’re dealing with a TOTALLY different killer who doesnt even wear a clown mask (despite almost all the promotional material selling this as a killer clown movie)

It has poor direction, poor cine, poor performances and honestly, it just feels like they were pressed into a corner where they were FORCED to make a ‘Camp Blood’ movie for some reason, so they just crapped out ANYTHING to keep things going. it was an abysmal watch and had it not been for the occasional weird moment and the score, this would have absolutely been a bottom of the barrel watch, easily the worst horror movie i’ve seen this year to date (And given I watched all the ‘Ray Dennis Steckler’ movies recently THATS SAYING SOMETHING!) Avoid like the plague. Stick with ‘Within the Woods’ it may not be an amazing ‘Camp Blood’ movie, but at least it TRIES to be a ‘Camp Blood’ movie…which is more than can be said for this thing.


Beyond the Seventh Door, 1987 – ★★★★

I was put onto this film by a friend who caught it totally at random and immediatley knew it would be my kind of party….and man oh man, she was NOT wrong.

Beyond the Seventh door is a…strange STRANGE canuxsploitation flick that seemingly had it’s biggest circulation on cable TV in the late 80’s and early 90’s, it was shot on film, edited on tape and as such is often mixed in with the SOV subgenre. Though i’d argue this is more filmic than a lot of the SOV fodder thats out there.

The plots ultra simple, a guy named Boris gets released from a stint in prison for robbery, he meets back up with an old flame called Wendy who wants nothing to do with him, promising that he’s changed his ways and that he’s getting out of the business after just ONE last job.

He wants Wendy to act as an insider at her place of work, a castle owned by a certain ‘Lord Breston’. Breston has apparently been maintaining and protecting a HUGE fortune in treasure within his family for the best part of 200 years, and Boris wants Wendy to give him an ‘In’ late at night so that he can find the treasure and quit his life of crime, taking Wendy with him so they can start anew as multi multi multi millionairs.

What Boris didnt back on is that ‘Lord Breston’ has hidden the tresure at the end of a series of trap filled puzzle rooms, and in order to secure the fortune, they’ll have to work together with little to no hints in order to solve all 6 rooms (and the final seventh puzzle) to escape with the treasure…and their lives.

and, I cant in good faith say that this is a particularly well made film, but what it lacks in technical and written ability it more than makes up for in little eccentric flourishes that really helped keep me on board.

The scripts SUPER basic. The whole film runs to only 76 minutes and at least 15 minutes of that is titles and credits or our cast slowly wandering around set spaces or just…emoting to camera. each new scene is best described as ‘They walk into a room and the entrance closes up behind them, they’re given a puzzle, they say ‘WE CANT SOLVE THIS!’…they try to solve it and fail (nearly dying in the process), they try again and succeed, they move into the next room, scene resets’

Thats the whole movie. and had this film been ANY more professionally shot, this would have been a TERRIBLE movie. But the eccentricity of the cast and director combined with a lot of onset stresses has transformed this repetition into something all together much more interesting.

What I need to do here is detour slightly on my thoughts on the script to explain that…our main cast consist of two people, and our entire cast only comes to about 4-6 people. and every. single. one of them is ABSOLUTELY nuts.

You have ‘Lazar Rockwood’ (his actual name) an actor who claims that you can learn to be a master actor by studying cats. he plays our leading man ‘Boris’ in this thing, in a role that was SPECIFICALLY written with him in mind. and when I tell you that this guy is basically 80’s Tommy Weisau, I mean that in EVERY sense of the word. the guys a total out and out eccentric and his performance is completley and utterly mesmorising, as he hams his way through 99% of the film chewing through the scenery as if he hadnt eaten in years. his performance is delightfully daffy, manic and just…plain ODD for lack of a better expression.

He’s easily this films absolute saving grace, I think he’s amazing whenever he’s on screen and I think, having JUST watched this film, I could happily sit through the whole thing again just for him.

Bonnie Beck as Wendy is also playing things very melodramatic, but theres an awkward stiffness to her performance, which is only exasserbated when Lazar goes off on one completely at random. The two work together about as well as lemon juice and milk. and it’s HILARIOUS to me to learn that the guy in this who plays ‘Lord Breston’ was going out with Beck at the time, he was a lawyer who CONSTANTLY had arguements with the director about what he felt Bonnie should and shouldnt be doing AND he had a PAINFUL dislike of Lazar. which made the scenes where Lazar had to caress and kiss Bonnies theighs all the more horrendous for all involved.

This frictions spilt out to the crew too, who were having long arguements with the director about how the film should be shot (all while tremendously running overtime and over budget)

Oh! and for some reason a chap called Ben Kurr has a cameo in this thing…apparently he was a street performer who was renowned for his ultra positive attitude and 30+ year attempt to become mayor or Toronto. he just rocks up in this film for like…10 minutes and then leaves. *Shrugs*

ANYWAY! the reason I mention this is because, while this films script is super basic, it’s the flourishes the cast bring to their roles that really help sell this thing. they both just….have a way with the crumby dialogue to make it always sound just…hilarious. Everything is SUPER awkward, poorly paced out, the tones all over the place. but this gaggle of eccentric characters are SO watchable, it almost negates any of the poor technical choices.

The closest thing I can compare the script to this film to is the old ‘adventure gameshows’ of the 80s and 90s such as ‘The Crystal Maze’, ‘Fort Boyard’ or to a lesser extent ‘Legends of the hidden temple’ It feels like they took the gameshow mechanic of those shows, but instead of just having ‘Joe Public’ take part, they scripted the ‘member of the public’ element and turned it into a movie.

You’d expect, given the explanation, that the style would be similar to something like ‘Cube’ or the ’13 Ghosts’ remake. But no. this literally does just feel like a slightly better shot TV episode of one of these adventure gameshows.

Beyond that, what more can I honestly say? The direction and cine are *technically* above average for the SOV genre. maybe a little on the low end for a film production. Given the rucus going on behind the scenes its amazing the film turned out the way it did, and it’s nice to see a low budget film have SO much spirit. Like…they have water filled pits, random mystery elevators that spring out of nowhere, a spikey ceiling drop sequence. There’s a LOT of really cool and novel moments that happen here that you just dont see in low budget film making.

Throw in a SUPER cheap, but…oddly compelling synth score and a 3rd act plot twist that is quite frankly jawdropping. and…This isnt really a *clever* movie. But it is a movie that I felt absolutely at home with, something I could easily see myself putting on as a comfort watch in future and something I could absolutely recommend checking out.

Its a nippy, lumpy little movie that has a HELL of a lot of heart and seems to be genuinely trying to entertain…and I have a lot of time for movies like that.