Aylmer the monster from "Brain Damage"

“Brain Damage” (1988): Social Commentary Served With Gore, Laughs, & A Brain-eating Monster

Writer/director Frank Henenlotter’s Brain Damage (1988) is a thoughtful and powerful exploration of the dangers of drug addiction. It also happens to be a gory horror-comedy featuring a singing, dancing, phallus-shaped, brain-eating monster. A young man awakens one day to find a strange creature somewhat attached to his body. The monster provides him with hits of its drug-like venom, but it demands to be fed human brains in exchange. Combining puppetry, stop-motion animation, practical effects, […]

Caltiki: The Immortal Monster - header

“Caltiki: The Immortal Monster” (1959): Boring Blob but With Bits of Bava

There is a certain charm to 1950s low-budget monster flicks, though that charm can only take one so far. Caltiki: The Immortal Monster (1959) is an Italian riff on The Blob (1958). Scientists investigating possible causes for the fall of Mayan civilization discover a hidden cavern filled with treasure — and occupied by an amorphous monster. After one of their number is killed and another member maimed by the creature, they take a sample back […]

Dead or Alive: Final

“Dead or Alive: Final” (2002): Lackluster Sequel Proves 3rd Time Is NOT the Charm

Sometimes, it can become painfully obvious when a filmmaker loses interest in a particular series. Dead or Alive: Final (2002), the third film in director Takashi Miike’s action series featuring Shô Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi, appears to suffer from lack of interest. Set 300 years from now in a run-down city in a post-apocalyptic world, the population is kept in check and under control by forced birth control. With the help of an android fighter, […]

Dead or Alive 2: Birds

“Dead or Alive 2: Birds” (2000): A Return to Innocence — With a Touch of Violence

Mention the name of director Takashi Miike and bizarre visions of violence and depravity come to mind for many fans of his films. While Miike’s body of work certainly is filled with more than its share of unusual and disturbing imagery, it also has its softer moments. In Dead or Alive 2: Birds (Dead or Alive 2: Tôbôsha) (2000), Miike shows that he is equally skilled with displaying touching and emotional scenes as he is […]

Dead or Alive - Jojima

“Dead of Alive” (1999): Depravity, Violence, & Social Commentary

Director Takashi Miike is known for his often bizarre and violent films, but, as with George A. Romero’s zombies, the more exploitive aspects of Miike’s movies are generally in service to a broader social commentary. In Dead or Alive (1999), Miike throws his audience headfirst into the Tokyo underworld, where a gangster is waging a private war against both the Chinese Triads and the Japanese Yakuza. A police lieutenant with problems at home is investigating […]

Donnie Darko

“Donnie Darko” (2001): Enigmatic & Slyly Funny Existential Classic

When it comes down to it, life and death can be quite funny, enigmatic, and hard to classify. The same can be said for writer/director Richard Kelly’s existential comedy, mystery, science fiction thriller Donnie Darko (2001). A teenage boy begins having disturbing visions, including ones of a six-foot skull-faced rabbit that tells him that the world is ending soon. Are these simply hallucinations brought on by improper medication, signs of a mental breakdown, or is […]

House II: The Second Story

“House II: The Second Story” (1987): Good-natured Comedy Sequel Swaps Horror for Adventure

Not all film sequels share strong ties to their predecessors. Sometimes, the only connection is thematic, resulting in an anthology-like feeling for the series. Such is the case with House II: The Second Story (1987), the sequel to the horror-comedy House (1985). House II: The Second Story takes the audience to a completely different haunted abode than the first film. A young man and his girlfriend move into an old mansion he has inherited, which […]

Torture Garden

“Torture Garden” (1967): A Horror Sideshow Where All the Acts Are Worth Catching

The fun thing with horror anthology films is that they are a bit like carnival sideshows — one is guaranteed to see a variety of oddities. Even if not all of the acts are hits, one almost always finds something one likes. With Amicus Productions’ Torture Garden (1967), director Freddie Francis and screenwriter Robert Bloch present a sideshow where all of the acts are worth catching. Five strangers enter the sideshow tent of Dr. Diablo […]

The Creeping Flesh - Painting

“The Creeping Flesh” (1973): Classic, Creepy, & Emotional Period Horror — With a Monster, Too

A healthy amount of fear is a good thing. It can help keep one out of dangerous situations and keep one focused. Unreasonable fear, on the other hand, can be a destructive force in one’s life. In director Freddie Francis’ The Creeping Flesh (1973), a man’s excessive fear leads to reckless actions and eventually tragic consequences. A Victorian scientist is investigating a prehistoric skeleton when he discovers a biological basis for evil. To protect his […]

“Invasion of the Bee Girls” (1973): A Fun, Silly, & Sexy B-Movie (Bee Movie?)

Not all exploitation movies are created equal. While many are pure trash, there are those that are smarter than they need to be. Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973) (aka Graveyard Tramps) is one such gem. A small California town is experiencing a rash of strange deaths, men are being found dead from sexual exhaustion, and a federal government agent is sent it to track down the cause. Little does he know, the killers are […]

“Don’t Look in the Basement” (1973): Drive-in Classic Starts Slow but Redeems Itself With a Brutal Finale

A good ending can often redeem what would otherwise be a less-than-stellar film. Such is the case with S.F. Brownrigg’s drive-in classic Don’t Look in the Basement (1973) (also known as The Forgotten and Death Ward 13). Based on a lesser-known story by Edgar Allan Poe, it is the tale of a young nurse who finds her first days at a small psychiatric hospital disrupted by the fact that the head doctor was recently accidentally […]

Demon minions that come from The Gate

“The Gate” (1987): Kids-vs-Creatures in a Creepy and Creative Scarefest

Sometimes PG-13 horror movies get a bad rap, being seen as too watered down actually to be scary. That is not always the case. Director Tibor Takács and screenwriter Michael Nankin’s The Gate (1987) shows that, when well done, a PG-13 horror film can be both kid-friendly and scary as Hell at the same time. When a couple of pre-teens accidentally open a gateway to Hell in the backyard, they find themselves battling otherworldly forces. […]

Motorcycle helmet with Skull Goggles

“Psychomania” (1973): Super Groovy Tale of Bikers, Witchcraft, Suicide, and Frogs

While not particularly gory nor gruesome, Psychomania (1973) is the grooviest undead biker gang movie you will ever have the opportunity to see. Director Don Sharp and screenwriters Julian Zimet and Arnaud d’Usseau mashup hoodlum biker and witchcraft/satanism genres to create a unique film. The leader of a motorcycle gang discovers that he can be resurrected if he simply believes that he will at the moment of his death. After successfully testing this theory, he […]

snake woman bite knee of a Scot

“The Lair of the White Worm“ (1988): Fun Throwback Monster Flick With Ken Russell’s Unique Flair

Question: What would a cheesy B monster movie look like if it were made by a visionary filmmaker such as Ken Russell? Answer: It would look like The Lair of the White Worm (1988). Based on the Bram Stoker novel of the same name, it tells the tale of a modern English country village whose local legend of “a great wyrm”, i.e. dragon, slain by a local nobleman may have its roots in truth. The […]

“Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth” (1992): Poorly-made Sequel That Tarnishes the Series’ Reputation

Some classic films really just should be left alone, as cheaply made sequels simply detract from their predecessors’ legacies. Such is the case with the 1987 classic Hellraiser. The first sequel, Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), is a big empty bore that strips the characters of their mystery. The second sequel, Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992) lowers the bar even further, turning the series most iconic character into a mustache-twirling cartoon villain. After witnessing a […]