Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Italian Horror Week 2017 Aftershocks - Dawn of the Sharktopus - A Look At Lamberto Bava's Monster Shark by Jordan Garren


When it comes to Italian Horror, I am still very much a neophyte. I first dipped my toe into this realm of genre cinema back in the late '90s when I worked at Suncoast Motion Picture Co. (Remember those?) Thanks to my Horror-loving coworkers, I discovered the joys of Fulci's ZOMBIE and CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (aka THE GATES OF HELL), Argento's SUSPIRIA and PHENOMENA, and the insane films of Bruno Mattei, Claudio Fragasso, and many others! But I never really gained a greater appreciation for it all until I met James "Doc Terror" Harris.

James was passionate about Italian Horror cinema, and was a walking encyclopedia on the subject. And his genuine enthusiasm for it was contagious to say the least! Because of the late and great Doc Terror, I ventured out of my comfort zone (e.g. slasher flicks, kaiju movies, and creature features) and viewed more Italian horror flicks in the past few years than ever before! He even talked me into visiting the historic Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville a year ago, to partake of their All Night Italian Splatterfest, and I could never thank him enough for that experience!

Though he is now gone, James' memory and love for Italian fright flicks has carried on, as evidenced by the first (and hopefully not last) Italian Horror Week since his passing. It is bittersweet, for I had promised to take part in previous years and failed to do so. But now I'm here to set things right, with a review for a film that only someone like James could truly appreciate: Lamberto Bava's MONSTER SHARK!

Something lurking off the coast of Florida is sinking pleasure craft, mauling scuba divers, and confounding the authorities. Clearly out of his depth, Sheriff Gordon (Gianni Garko) turns to marine biologist Bob Hogan (Dino Conti), and his colleague Dr. Stella Dickens (Valentine Monnier) for some answers. To help them indentify the mystery monster, they employ the aid of an electrician named Peter (Michael Sopkiw) and another marine expert named Dr. Janet Bates (Pat Starke).

But something strange is afoot as the team of "scientific experts" discovers that someone is trying to make sure their mission fails. They are constantly spied upon, their equipment is sabotaged, and a murderous henchman (with an ugly mug) named Miller (Paul Branco) seems to be at the center of it all. Who is this misogynistic thug? Who does he work for? And what does any of this have to do with the existence of a man-eating Sharktopus terrorizing the Florida Keys? All this and more will be answered if you dare to watch MONSTER SHARK!

I first discovered this film's existence when it appeared under its alternate title of DEVIL FISH on season nine of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and it instantly became a personal favorite. So naturally I couldn't help but utter many of the jokes from the MST3K episode while watching the uncut version of the movie. But in all honesty, that's the only way I managed to power through this Italian schlocker, because MONSTER SHARK on its own merits just isn't as much fun!

However, in this movie's defense, the cut of the film seen on MST3K is a godawful hack job. DEVIL FISH is an editing nightmare, and jumps around so much that it can be dizzying. (Dear god, who did this?!) Conversely, the shorter MONSTER SHARK cut actually has a narrative structure that makes sense, and doesn't feel like it was haphazardly slapped together. So as familiar as I already was with the movie, I was seeing it in an entirely new way that kind of blew my mind. (Even more so after realizing it had a lot more nudity and violence than I had initially anticipated.)

MONSTER SHARK features a relatively original story that was conceived by Luigi Cozzi and Sergio Martino, about a genetically engineered monster that escapes captivity, and wreaks havoc along the Florida coast. As an added bonus, the creature is actually pretty cool! The "Monster Shark" has the bulbous head and tentacles of an octopus, and is armed with a huge maw full of jagged teeth that shares some similarities with a "proto-shark" known as a Dunkleosteus. It's a design that I've never seen replicated elsewhere, so kudos to Ovidio Taito for creating this unique tentacled monstrosity!

But sadly the monster ends up playing second fiddle to a subplot involving a woman-killing goon that is spearheading some sort of cover up. This wouldn't be such a bad thing, but this plot thread is not handled very well, and you can easily guess who the ape-faced Miller is working for prior to MONSTER SHARK'S third act. Attempts are made to keep the identity of the villain a mystery, with the introduction of a red herring in the form of Professor Donald West (David Berger). But as quickly as the screenplay sets up West as the possible mastermind, it pulls the rug out from under that theory just as fast.

The cast of MONSTER SHARK is a mixed bag. Leading the pack is Michael Sopkiw (2019: AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK, BLASTFIGHTER, MASSACRE IN DINOSAUR VALLEY) as Peter, an electrician that leads an action-packed lifestyle outside of his repair shop. Peter can fix anything that has a circuitboard, is wanted by every woman, and cannot be defeated by any man. In a film populated by scientific experts, he is supposed to be the "simple everyman" that rises up to the task of defeating a marine monster. While it is admittedly difficult to buy Sopkiw as an electronics expert, he does have an air of confidence about him that makes it a bit easier to suspend your disbelief.

That's not the case with Dino Conti (ILLUSIONE, ENDGAME) and Valentine Monnier (2019: AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK) who portray Dr. Bob Hogan and Dr. Stella Dickens respectively. Bob is credited as a marine biologist, but all we ever see him do in the movie is drink Budweiser, try to record fish sounds, and manhandle a Nurse Shark. Stella on the other hand is supposed to be a specialist that researches the behavior of dolphins. But instead of putting that knowledge to any use, she's relegated to being Peter's main love interest after all of her competition is murdered by Miller.

Rounding out the rest of the main players are William Berger as Dr. West, Lawrence Morgant as Dr. Davis Barker, Dagmar Lassander as Sonja West, and Gianni Garko as the Sheriff. Amazingly this was Morgant's only screen credit (according to IMDB), but its not surprising after you witness his hilariously drawn out demise. I didn't recognize Dagmar Lassander in this film, but later realized that I have seen her in (the totally bizarre) WEREWOLF WOMAN and HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY. She has a minor role here as Dr. West's adulterous wife and resembles "Rip Torn in drag."

Gianni Garko is great as Sheriff Gordon, a smalltown lawman who is way in over his head. He is aware of this, which is why he calls in the experts. But when they fail to produce results, he takes matters into his own hands and, with Peter's aid, ultimately brings down the Sharktopus and its misguided creator. Garko is a great actor, and has been a mainstay in Italian cinema for some time, particularly in the Spaghetti Western genre. His presence in the film definitely helps raise the bar a bit! And speaking of Spaghetti Westerns...

Until today, I failed to realize that William Berger (Dr. West) was "Banjo" in 1969's SABATA, which is one of my all-time favorite Lee Van Cleef flicks! It's hard to believe that the subdued old scientist in this movie was once the red-headed, backstabbing, banjo-strumming gunslinger that foolishly crossed the "man with the gunsight eyes." Sadly, Berger doesn't have much to do here, but delivers a solid performance as a world-weary scientist who's wife "has the sensitivity of a slut!"

MONSTER SHARK's soundtrack is one of the best things about it, and was composed by Fabio Frizzi, who's themes have set the tone for various other Italian horror fare including ZOMBIE, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE BEYOND, and MANHATTAN BABY! I should also note that Bruno Mattei worked on the film as an Assistant Director, and Germano Natali did the effects. While Natali's name may not ring a bell, the films he has worked on will. He has done effects work in SUSPIRIA, DEEP RED, THE BEYOND, STARCRASH, TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS, and dozens more!

Steering the helm of this production was Lamberto Bava, the director of DEMONS and DEMONS 2, and the son of the late Mario Bava. Lamberto is a capable filmmaker, and made the most of his limited budget. He filled his aquatic monster movie with some inventive camerawork (and an overabundance of POV shots), as well as some great production value. (How the hell did he manage to get the Coast Guard to appear in this movie?) But regardless of the film's quality, MONSTER SHARK will forever be trapped in Mystery Science Theater 3000's shadow.

Is that a bad thing? I'm not entirely sure. On one hand, had Bava's film not appeared on MST3K, I doubt as many people would be aware of its existence today. On the other, MONSTER SHARK is not nearly as terrible as that episode would lead you to believe. So I suppose that until this particular Italian gem is given a proper release, it may very well languish in (non-MST3K) obscurity. That is kind of a shame, especially since this film's "Sharktopus" preceded Roger Corman's by twenty-six years!

While it isn't some lost or unheralded classic, MONSTER SHARK is certainly watchable. If nothing else, it is one of a kind, not only because of its antagonist, but also because it is not an unapologetic rip-off of something else. (As far as I can tell anyway.) Fans of Italian Horror (and MST3K) will delight in watching a cast of Italians pose as Floridians, while casual viewers may find this to be a great entry level film into the world of Italian horror!

If you do decide to watch MONSTER SHARK, I definitely urge you to seek out the ninety-minute "competent cut." It makes a great deal more sense than the more easily obtainable DEVIL FISH edit!

Jordan Garren has been reviewing Cult, Horror, and Exploitation cinema online since June of 2000! He is the proprietor of the long-running website The B-Movie Film Vault, its sister blog The B-Movie News Vault, and the quasi-monthly Vault-Cast (which is also available to listen to on YouTube)!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Italian Horror Week 2017 Aftershocks - Italian Horror Icons We Loves: Where Are They Now? by Danny Mozz

Giovanni Lombardo Radice, also known to audiences as John Morghen, is best known for his villain and simpleton roles in Italian horror films. Most notably for the spectaculary and gruesome death scenes his characters semi-regularly fall victim to, he has been fondly titled "Italian Horror's Whipping Boy".

Giovanni established a career in theatre before landing a role in Ruggero Deodato’s violent revenge shocker House on the Edge of the Park in 1980.
In an interview, he reportedly stated that he wished he had never portrayed Mike Logan in Cannibal Ferox. Radice created his stage name, John Morghen, by taking the anglicized form of his first name, Giovanni becomes John, and using his grandmother's maiden name as his last name Morghen. His family practically disowned him when they discovered he was using his family name to create incredibly violent films.

He is best know for such classics as City of the Living Dead (Lucio Fulci, 1980), Cannibal Apocalypse (Antonio Margheriti, 1980), Cannibal Ferox (Umberto Lenzi, 1981), Treasure Island in Outer Space (Antonio Margheriti, 1987), Stagefright (Michele Soavi, 1987), The Church (Michele Soavi, 1989), The Sect (Michele Soavi, 1991), Body Puzzle (Lamberto Bava, 1992).

Today, Giovanni is still very much involved in film. He has appeared in the remake of The Omen and in Scorsese's Gangs Of New York. He also ocassionally appears at cons, and he also works in physiotherapy, in which he earned his degree as a young man.

Cinzia Monreale was an active runway model before starting her film career. In 1975, at age 17, she made her film debut in a minor role in the Vittorio Sindoni's comedy Son tornate a fiorire le rose, then she got her first main roles again with Sindoni, in the comedies Perdutamente tuo... mi firmo Macaluso Carmelo fu Giuseppe and Per amore di Cesarina.

Monreale appeared in several films throughout the seventies, including the spaghetti western Silver Saddle, which was her first time working with famed horror film director Lucio Fulci. In 1979, at age 22, she starred in a leading role with director Joe D'Amato in Buio Omega ("Beyond the Darkness"), and in 1981, again working with Fulci, she appeared as 'Emily' in the cult horror classic The Beyond, with Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck. Other roles include Joe D'Amato's Return From Death (aka Frankenstein 2000), Lucio Fulci's Warriors of the Year 2072 and The Sweet House of Horrors, the award-winning Festival directed by Pupi Avati, Under the Skin, and When a Man Loves a Woman.

Since, Monreale has also worked as a producer. She served as a videographer in the 2005 original documentary Kill Gil: Volume 1 and she produced the 2006 documentary Kill Gil: Volume 2. She is also active on television, in TV-movies and series.

Ian McCulloch made his onscreen debute in the second episode, "Genesis", of the UK series Survivors. He also starred roles in the Italian horror films Zombie Flesh Eaters also known as Zombi II (1979) by Lucio Fulci, Zombi Holocaust (1980) by Marino Girolami, and Contamination (1980) by Luigi Cozzi.

Zombie Flesh Eaters was originally banned in the United Kingdom as part of the 1980s campaign against "video nasties". McCulloch stated that he did not see the film in its entirety, or on a big screen, until years later.

Over the years, McCulloch has had supporting roles in studio films like Where Eagles Dare (1968) with Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood, and Cromwell (1970) with Alec Guinness and Richard Harris. In addition, he has appeared in successful independent films, most notably The Ghoul (1975) with Peter Cushing and John Hurt.

He has also guest starred in many TV series, including: Manhunt (1969); Colditz (1974), as the mysterious Larry Page in "Odd Man In"; Secret Army (1977); Return of the Saint (1978); Hammer House of Horror (1980); The Professionals (1980), episode "Mixed Doubles", in which he played the physical fitness and close quarters combat instructor of Bodie and Doyle; and the Doctor Who, serial Warriors of the Deep[1] (1984).

Today he is enjoying retirement and making guest appearences at horror cons and festivals.

Catriona MacColl is recognised for her work on European television and film, mainly in Italy. She has gained somewhat of a cult status, by horror fans, because of her career as an Italian horror actress. MacColl began her career in the late 1970s, making her debut in the French romantic drama Le dernier amant romantique, in which she received a small role. In 1979, she received her first leading role in Lady Oscar, a historical drama directed by Jacques Demy based on the manga Rose of Versailles by Riyoko Ikeda. Following her part in the drama Le fils puni, she appeared in the first of director Lucio Fulci's 'The Gates of Hell Trilogy', City of the Living Dead, playing the role of Mary Woodhouse, with Christopher George.

In her second role in the trilogy, The Beyond, she plays the role of Liza Merril, a young woman who inherits an infamous hotel in Louisiana only to discover what lies beneath it is one of the seven doors to Hell. MacColl has stated that The Beyond is her most favourable of the trilogy, for the fact that she enjoyed working with the cast and crew, especially David Warbeck, and that it was filmed in New Orleans. The final of the trilogy was The House by the Cemetery, for which she played Lucy Boyle, the mother and wife of a family who move into an old house, unaware that someone or something lives in the basement. MacColl did not originally plan to work in films with such a violent nature, as she had thought that they would not attract an audience, but following the growing fanbase of the trilogy over the years and that the films have received worldwide recognition, she is proud of the success of the trilogy.

She has also appeared in such films as Hawk the Slayer (1980), Afraid of the Dark (1991), A Good Year (2006), and most recently, the 2011 anthology film The Theatre Bizarre. She also starred in the Swiss short comedy film Employé du mois.

MacColl has had a successful career in television. In 1978, she made her television debut in the French series Il était un musicien. Her credits include, the mystery series Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, the short-lived BBC series Squadron, the mini-series The Last Days of Pompeii, Dempsey and Makepeace, The Hardy Boys, and the French soap opera Plus belle la vie. She made her return to horror in 2014's Horsehead.

The brawny and imposing actor Bobby Rhodes was born in 1947 in Livorno, Italy. He first began acting in films in the late 1960s. Rhodes has been frequently cast as hard-as-nails two-fisted macho-guy types in various Italian war, action, and horror features made throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

Bobby was excellent as the funky, no-nonsense Tony the Pimp in Lamberto Bava's outrageously gruesome cult fright flick Demons (1985). Rhodes was likewise fine as rugged gym instructor Hank in the equally enjoyable sequel Demons 2 (1986). His other memorable movie parts include rough'n'tumble soldier Carlos in the thrilling The Last Hunter (1980); crafty, fearsome hunter Woody Aldridge in the exciting futuristic sci-fi/action opus Endgame - Bronx lotta finale (1983); narcoleptic soldier Private Wilbur Davis Jr. in the dreadful war comedy Ciao nemico (1983); a formidable mercenary in Hearts and Armour (1983); King Xenodama in Hercules (1983); and a profane P.O.W. mechanic in Afganistan - The last war bus (L'ultimo bus di guerra) (1989). Moreover, Rhodes has also worked in films as both a stand-in and a stuntman.

Today Bobby loves to keep in touch with his fans. He spends his time doing guest appearences at cons and fests, and can be followed on youtube to be kept up on whats going on in his life. You may be caught off guard when you hear his real voice is nothing like Tony The Pimp.

Christopher George began acting in New York City, where he performed on the stage and in television commercials. His big break came when he was working as a bouncer at a New York waterfront bar and producer Robert Rafelson convinced him to begin an acting career. He studied acting under Wynn Handman and landed roles in Off-Broadway productions of popular plays of the day. Small theater productions in which he appeared while he was studying drama included All My Sons, The Moon Is Blue, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Stalag 17 and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Under drama coach Wynn Handman, he landed a sixteen-week engagement in the play Mr. Roberts with actor Hugh O'Brian; parts in Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams works followed. His career took off after he made a 60-second TV commercial for shaving cream, where he played the young man in the "Good morning, Mr. Gray" shaving spot, and won the New York Film Festival Award for best actor in a commercial. During this 1962 shaving-cream commercial, George played a groom lathering up before his first honeymoon night, with a line where he said, "It's all for you." The commercial earned him over $30,000. He also appeared in roles on the television series Naked City and Bewitched. While in New York City, George played in the Lemos Greek Repertory Theater because he could speak Greek fluently.

He first appeared on the screen when he landed a role in the film In Harm's Way (1965), playing a dying sailor for 30 seconds. This gave him his first opportunity to meet and work with John Wayne, who had been his boyhood idol and who would become a lifelong friend.

He first rose to prominence playing a supporting role in the Howard Hawks-directed Western film El Dorado (1966), starring John Wayne. He and Wayne became friends while shooting the film and would co-star in additional Westerns, including Chisum (1970) and The Train Robbers (1973). After a successful film careeer he then moving on to tv shows television work throughout the 1970s with guest roles on many popular series including Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law, Police Story, S.W.A.T., Charlie's Angels and Fantasy Island. In 1973, he starred opposite of Jim Brown in I Escaped from Devil's Island. He also surprised fans by posing nude for Playgirl magazine in the June 1974 issue. In 1976, he played a supporting role as Lieutenant Commander Wade McClusky in the all-star World War II epic Midway. That same year, he would play the lead role of Ranger Michael Kelly in the Film Ventures International independent film Grizzly. A thinly-veiled Jaws clone, the animal horror thriller became one of the most popular films of George's career earning more than $39 million at the box office.

He followed that success with a busy string of horror, action, splatter and slasher B movies over the next seven years, including Dixie Dynamite (1976) co-starring Warren Oates; Day of the Animals (1977); City of the Living Dead (1980); Graduation Day (1981); Enter the Ninja (1981); Pieces (1982) and Mortuary (1983). George also co-starred with his wife Lynda Day in multiple television films, including Mayday at 40,000 Feet! (1976) and Cruise Into Terror (1978). They also worked together in episodes of The F.B.I. (1970), Mission: Impossible (1971), McCloud (1975), Wonder Woman (1976), Love Boat (1977) and Vega$ (1978).

Sadly, George died of a sudden heart attack on the late evening of November 28, 1983 in a Los Angeles hospital at age 52.

-Danny Mozz The Shock Chamber

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Italian Horror Week 2017 - Go To Church: Examining La Chiesa As Demons 3 by Chris Beaumont

In 1985, Lamberto Bava and Dario Argento introduced the world to the reality of Demons. That film delivered fun and frights in an overly gory film that has become a cult favorite. They wasted no time in following that success with the equally crazy and perhaps even more unglued sequel in 1986 with Demons 2. Clearly they did not want to let up the momentum but also did not have a unified creative direction as to where to take the series, so in 1989 The Church (aka La Chiesa) was released and is often considered Demons 3, despite the lack of direct connection. Of course, it is one of three films to be referred to as Demons 3. If there is one thing fun about Italian horror, it is navigating the web of alternate titles.

Seriously, there are so many alternate titles and movie series that aren’t movie series that it is hard to keep up. For example, take Zombie, it is also known as Zombi 2. You see, in Italy, Dawn of the Dead was released as Zombi and this was released to try to capitalize on that. There is also Zombie 3, Zombie 4: The Killing Birds, and Zombie 5: After Death. None of them are related and the last 2 just had the name tacked on for marketing purposes. The same thing happened with the Demons series. Lamberto Bava and Dardano Sachetti made a TV movie called The Ogre, which is sometimes called Demons 3, and Umberto Lenzi made a film called Black Demons, which was retitled Demons 3 for video release. Then there is Michele Soavi’s 1991 film, La Sette, which is called Demons 4, and his 1994 film, Cemetery Man, called Demons ‘95. Can’t keep them straight, and thematically there is little to connect them to each other.

The Church was originally intended to be officially titled Demons 3. The problem was that director and co-writer (and frequent Argento collaborator) Michele Soavi (who appeared in the first Demons film, in 2 roles!), wanted the film to stand on its own separate from the series. This meant that any references to prior events was rewritten out of the film. Although, despite not being credited, Lamberto Bava and Dardano Sachetti did work on the script alongside Soavi, Argento, and Franco Ferrini. The movie does have more plot and flows in a more restrained manner than the prior Demons films, but there could still be a connection between the films.

Our story begins in the past, a band of Teutonic knights are led to a village of supposed devil worshippers. They proceed to slaughter the village and bury them in a mass grave. The pit is covered, blessed, and sealed with a cross. The only possible survivor is a young girl (Asia Argento) who watches from the nearby trees. She is spotted by a knight, who chases her down. We watch as he thrusts with his spear, but we never see the girl killed.

Jumping to the present, a gothic cathedral has been built over the mass grave, the cross seal being in the basement. Everything has been fine as the seal remains undisturbed and tucked away from prying eyes, but that is about to change. A new librarian, Evan (Tomas Arana, The Last Temptation of Christ) arrives at the church, hired to catalog all of the old books in the library. He joins a young woman, Lisa (Barbara Cupisti, New York Ripper), who is working on restoring the paintings. There are others around, Father Gus (Hugh Quarshie, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace), an old bishop, the sacristan and his daughter, Lotte (Asia
Argento). On top of those, you have a wide variety of victims to be wandering the church.

Of course, the seal is discovered. As Evan tries to figure out its purpose, it breaks open releasing the hell that has been kept trapped beneath for hundreds of years. This triggers a lockdown of the cathedral, trapping everyone inside. The demonic infestation begins to spread and infect everyone. People begin to act strange, see demons begin to infect all of those in the church. This leaves Father Gus to follow up on the revelation that the cathedral can be brought down to stop the spread of evil.

The latter half of the film splits its time between between batsh*t crazy demons, kills, rape, and sacrifice, while the more serious portion involves trying to survive and bring the cathedral down to stop the demons. It is artful, cheesy, and so very entertaining. Then, much like the two official Demons films, ends on a note that is open to interpretation and could be seen as bleak and foreboding, but at the same time it is strangely comforting.

Taking the film on its own merits, as Soavi intended, is a rewarding experience. There really is a lot to like here and it doesn’t need the influence of any other films to give it a sense of worth, on that level Soavi succeeded. It presents a compelling story all on its own, involving the sins of past being unleashed on the present and relying on the altruism of the hero, although his role is not immediately seen, to save the day, or at least as much of it as he can.

The Church is not all about visceral reactions, it has that story of the knights and the evi and how its been trapped. Still, when it comes to the guts and gore, it delivers the goods. There are impalings, decapitations, clawing, even getting smashed on the front of a train. This is a move to enjoy, whether you want to watch for the horror aspects, the story parts, or something in between.

The fun comes in if you want to tie it to the mythology of the two demons films. On the surface, they appear to be unrelated, and that is by design, but the good thing about the franchise is that through two films it continues to reinvent itself and change the rules. It is a franchise that is not afraid to shake itself up a little bit and play with the reality it is creating and reshaping. It is because of this that you can still work The Church in. It doesn’t hurt that a lot of those involved with the initial Demons outings have their voices involved here.

I look at this film as something of a prequel to Demons. I see this world as having a number of portal possibilities between our reality and the demon reality and the burying of the evil by the knights weakened the barrier between worlds, the seal creating a tenuous wall holding the evil back. Once broken, they gateway was opened and the evil flowed into our world.

Now, you have to ask, if it is the same universe, why don’t they look at least similar? I suspect the demon world has multiple types of demons and the ones congregated around this gateway are this type, while the ones on those other films are a different breed, if you will. I know it is a stretch, but we are talking about linking demonic movies into one universe, there is going to be a little stretching going on.

It is a prequel because I see these events happening before the events of Demons. As this film ends we watch Lotte climb into the ruins and see a blue glow from the gate and her smiling. To me this says the collapsing of the cathedral did not seal the gate, just slowed their process. This results in Lotte becoming a demonic envoy, working from this side of the gate. She probably encounters the man with the metal face seen in Demons. Of course, this would be some point later and she is grown up and he is not yet masked. She enlists him to help open the gates and they encounter the new type of demons and set up the Metropol trap.

I don’t know, perhaps I am reaching. Perhaps I am stretching too far and the tenuous connection has snapped under my revisionist views on how they connect. Still, it is interesting to contemplate what might have been and what could be, and also try to apply logic in the absence thereof. Don’t you think?

Christopher Beaumont

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Italian Horror Week 2017 - Freddie Young on Cannibal Ferox

Another year, another Italian Horror Week. Unfortunately, the man
responsible for bringing the bloggers of the horror world together
lost his battle to cancer in March. We still miss you. Doc Terror! But
thankfully, many of us have come together for Jimmy to keep what he
started alive.

This year, I decided to review the controversial 1981 cannibal horror
film CANNIBAL FEROX. The irony of me picking this film didn’t hit me
until it was approved. For those not in the know, I had planned to
discuss CANNIBAL FEROX back in June of 2015 for Midnight Confessions,
the podcast I co-host with Reverend Phantom and Moronic Mark. It had
been planned months in advance for a Italian Horror Month that June
for the show, which I was really excited for. Unfortunately, I was
privately dealing with being a caregiver for my mom, who was suffering
with a severe bout of cancer for 10 months. She passed away on June
3rd, 2015, forcing me to take a month hiatus from the podcast and
missing that entire month altogether. So CANNIBAL FEROX now seems
connected to a horrible disease that took away two important people in
my life. Not really the type of film any one would connect with
cancer, but it somehow fits within my strange and bleak world. It is
what it is.

What CANNIBAL FEROX isn’t is a film that’s catered to everyone, as it
will please some and disturb others. It also isn’t a film that is
nowhere close to being as memorable, or as good quality-wise to its
counterpart - 1980’s CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. But CANNIBAL FEROX still
manages to be an important film within the horror genre, for better or

Gloria Davis (Lorraine De Selle) is a student writing a college thesis
to disprove the idea of cannibalism in the Amazon in order to receive
her PhD. To get prove for her piece, she takes her brother Rudy
(Danilo Mattei) and friend Pat (Zora Kerova) along as witnesses to her
findings in Brazil. Once they arrive to the Amazon, bad things happen
to the trio. Their transportation gets stuck in a big mud puddle. The
coati given to them as a distraction to the local tribes in the area
is murdered by an anaconda. And trying to find a way out, they run
into Mike Logan (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) and his injured friend Joe
(Walter Lucchini) - diamond smugglers who claim to have been attacked
by cannibals. As the group witnesses Mike’s psychotic behavior due to
drug use, they realize that Mike’s story isn’t all that it’s cracked
up to be. Learning the truth, Gloria and company realize that they’re
now seen as guilty in the eyes of the local tribe due to associating
themselves with Mike - unfortunate victims of their revenge. Gloria
finds out the truth about cannibalism, making sacrifices along the

While many see CANNIBAL FEROX as a poor copy of Ruggero Deodato’s
highly infamous CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, the two films couldn’t be more
different. While certain elements do remain similar in both films,
Deodato’s film had more of an artful element to it - with the director
actually trying to make a film of high quality while spreading a
message that even the most prim and proper people could be more savage
than the supposed uncivilized people who inhabit a jungle. It made you
question who the real monsters using disturbing imagery that has
repulsed people for decades. CANNIBAL FEROX has repulsive imagery as
well, but Umberto Lenzi seems to care more about shocking his audience
rather than making us question what we’re watching. That’s not to say
that’s a bad thing, but FEROX doesn’t work quite as powerfully as
HOLOCAUST does for that very reason. However, both films have their
place within the cannibalism sub-genre.

CANNIBAL FEROX is a film that wants to be many things, but falls short
on some of them. What it does succeed on are the scenes in the Amazon
with Gloria, Mike and company. Unlike HOLOCAUST, the group of
so-called “civilized” people aren’t at the Amazon to hurt or look down
at the local tribes that may or may not be cannibals. Only Mike Logan,
the film’s clear antagonist, shows any sort of vile behavior towards
the locals. While he claims to have been attacked by cannibals, we
soon find out that Mike was the one attacking these so-called
cannibals because he didn’t receive the prize he was promised by one
of them and killed some of them out of greed and anger. Mike is also a
pretty disgusting drug dealer who calls women a “twat” and molests
them any chance he can get. Because of Mike, Gloria’s plan to just
visit an Amazonian tribe to study them and take notes for her thesis
becomes a nightmare - as she and her friends are now guilty by
association due to Mike’s actions. Mike’s actions also disproves
Gloria’s idea of this cannibal myth, as his cruel behavior unleashes
the barbarism of the tribe wanting nothing more but revenge on the
“white people”.

In a way, Mike acts as a imperialist. He went to an island to steal
their resources for his own benefit, turning on the island only when
the resources aren’t enough to satisfy his greed. The locals revolt
against him and whoever they believe is friendly with him, leading to
an ugly and gory war that leaves many scarred and damaged. Like
CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, FEROX seems to be taking a stance that the real
barbarians are the civilized folk who enter an unfamiliar location and
believe they’re above it all and feel entitled to everything that
location possesses. It’s clear who the real monster in this film is.

Mike isn’t the only misguided character in the film. Gloria, who’d you
would think would be a bit more open-minded about foreign traditions
or history, is completely misguided as she heads to the Amazon to
disprove this idea of cannibalism. There are stories about this kind
of thing for centuries in many facets of the world. Yet, Gloria is so
caught up in her civilized world that she can’t fathom this idea that
indigenous people might consider eating human flesh as a sort of
lifestyle and habit. While she’s not as evil as Mike, her ignorance
leads her to dangerous territory that changes her life forever. And
judging by the ending of the film, she doesn’t really learn her
lesson, even though she’ll suffer with her ignorance for the rest of
her life.

The others are just victims of their own stupidity. Rudy joined his
sister Gloria to take photographic proof for her thesis, but should
have known a few common things about where he was going. After all,
how does one go to the Amazon and not know that piranha inhabit the
river before dipping into it to hide? Joe just follows Mike’s lead
throughout the entire thing because he’s scared of him, leading to his
unfortunate fate. And Pat? Well she would rather get high or have sex
during an educational venture, making her the biggest idiot of
CANNIBAL FEROX. She even almost helps Mike rape and kill locals at one
point. She’s no better than Mike really. At least the characters have
development and you can somewhat relate to them on some level - even
if they are pretty unlikeable people.

While the Amazon scenes work for the most part, the scenes in New York
City should have never been in the film to begin with. I get that Mike
needed some sort of backstory to explain why he went to the Amazon. I
understand that learning about Mike through people who knew him - his
girlfriend, the mob guys after him - was meant to show what a lowlife
the guy was. But these scenes just ruin the flow of the film. In fact,
they don’t really lead to anything important. The cops are looking for
Mike. The mob is looking for Mike. Mike’s girlfriend is looking for
Mike. But Mike is caught up in his own crap during this film, making
these subplots meaningless. None of these people accomplish their goal
at the end, so why even bother?

I’m also not a fan of these animal cruelty scenes in these cannibal
films. Both CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and CANNIBAL FEROX are infamously known
for these scenes, making many horror fans not want to watch these
films more than once because of how the animals are treated in these
films. I’m not a vegan or anything like that, but who finds pleasure
in watching animals suffer or get murdered on their television?
Deodato tried to make these scenes a bit more artful and meaningful in
HOLOCAUST at least, even if I look away whenever these scenes pop up.
Lenzi doesn’t even try in FEROX, mainly using these scenes to shock
and disgust viewers to get a rise out of them. Do I really need to see
a helpless coati, that’s tied to a pole, be smothered to death by an
anaconda for three minutes straight? Do I really need to hear this
coati cry for help and in pain at what this huge snake was doing to
it? Do I find pleasure in this? No, I was disgusted that I had to
watch that scene as part of this review. It’s not fun. It really
bothered me. It’s made worse when the camera just lingers on this
murder as if that’s okay. I’m all for the “survival of the fittest” in
the animal kingdom, but that coati was murdered against its will
without a chance to defend itself. There are also other scenes,
especially one with a tortoise getting decapitated so it can be eaten
(also disturbing). But that coati and snake scene really upset me, to
the point where I almost regretted taking on this film for a review. I
know things like this happen. It doesn’t mean I need to see it on film
for some sort of shock value.

The direction by Umberto Lenzi isn’t stylish or anything memorable
visually. The editing is off at times and the flow of the film is
definitely questionable at times. But Lenzi does manage to get a
reaction out of you through his visceral camera work. Lingering on
animals getting killed will either make you regret continuing to
watch, or make you shut off the film entirely. The gore effects are
pretty well done, making certain moments like cutting out an eye, a
scalping, and castration make you cringe in disgust. Or maybe it’ll
make you giddy. Whatever floats your boat. Lenzi also seems to follow
Deodato’s book by telling the viewer that we’re all savages on some
level through our main characters and the actions they make in order
to survive. Deodato had a more artistic vibe in his direction,
however, while Lenzi would rather shock and disgust us with his work.
If that’s what Lenzi was going for, he succeeded big time.

The score by Roberto Donati and Fiamma Maglione is more subtle than
not, which adds to the atmosphere of CANNIBAL FEROX. We get funky
music, jungle beats, and synthesizer riffs that grab you during the
more violent and uncomfortable moments in the film. I believe some
music was taken from Lenzi’s previous cannibal film, EATEN ALIVE! The
score is probably not as memorable as the score from CANNIBAL
HOLOCAUST, but it works nonetheless and adds to the overall mood of
the film.

The acting in CANNIBAL FEROX isn’t the main focus of the film, but
there are some pretty memorable performances here. Probably the
highlight in terms of star performances is, without a doubt, Giovanni
Lombardo Radice - known as John Morghen here - who plays one of the
more memorable and vile villains in 80s horror in Mike Logan. Radice,
a well known actor in the Italian horror world, probably provides one
of his best performances as a con man who can charm you into bed, but
is nothing but the scum of society. He’s smooth while still being a
twitchy, sweaty creep. Radice’s vile and maniacal performance stems
from the fact that he hated even starring in a film like CANNIBAL
FEROX, displeased with the story and the treatment of certain
characters and animals. Using that frustration and anger, he channels
a misogynistic performance that rivals David Hess’ Krug from THE LAST
HOUSE ON THE LEFT as one of the more despicable characters ever
portrayed in a horror movie. If there is any reason to watch CANNIBAL
FEROX, it’s for Radice’s performance.

The other actors fare well in their own right. French actress Lorraine
De Selle is spot on as the misguided and naive Gloria. She’s
responsible for the best body language and facial expressions during
the entire film, pretty much displaying the same feelings about this
entire scenario as the audience watching. I bought her transition from
snooty graduate student to traumatized survivor. Danilo Mattei is the
male hero of the film as Rudy. He carries a masculine and strong
performance that makes you want to see him survive, until the script
betrays him for being stupid when it’s most convenient. The only other
notable actor is Robert Kerman as a NYC police detective looking for
the whereabouts of Mike Logan. It’s funny that he also starred in
CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, where he actually has a better performance in.
It’s unfortunate that he doesn’t get the chance to do much in FEROX,
but it’s always nice to see him in these kind of films.


- A drug pusher was murdered over something stupid Mike Logan did to a
bunch of mobsters. I had no idea CANNIBAL FEROX was the influence for
every opening scene in every Law & Order episode.

- Gloria refuses to believe that man wouldn’t eat other man, as
cannibalism doesn’t exist. It’s obvious she’s never visited PornHub.

- The group find a local sitting alone, eating bugs. I guess we know
who’s winning on a future episode of Fear Factor…

- A big ass snake unfortunately murdered a poor coati. I guess this
anaconda don’t want none unless it got buns, hun.

- Rudy finds the village, thinking a machete will help him. It’s 1981,
so unfortunately Machete won’t be able to text. Sorry, bro.

- Some locals ripped open Joe’s body and ate his insides. I guess he
was an organ donor…

- Mike gets castrated by the tribe. Lorena Bobbitt probably had her
big O during that scene.

- Gloria and Pat sing to keep their spirits up while they’re trapped.
This is no time to audition for Amazon’s Got Talent, ladies.

While CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST is the “better” film, CANNIBAL FEROX is no
slouch either. It’s sleazy, disturbing, and sometimes hard to watch.
The animal cruelty is a big no-no in my book [I don’t need to see that
in a film, I’m well aware that stuff happens], and the scenes that
occur in New York City feel as if they’re from a different film that
Lenzi wasn’t able to complete for some reason. However, it does what a
cannibal film should. It provides a simple message that we are all
monsters on some level, no matter if we’re civilized or not. The gore
scenes are pretty cool. And the acting, especially by Giovanni
Lombardo Radice, is worth the price of admission alone. CANNIBAL FEROX
is definitely a polarizing film that’s not meant for everyone. But if
you’re willing to take a chance on it, you could do a whole lot worse
in this sub-genre. Definitely one of the better cannibal films out

Freddie Young writes for Full Moon Reviews
[], a movie review site [for horror, sci-fi,
fantasy, B-movies, and action]. He is an avid film lover with an
honest mind and a dirty mouth. He doesn't kiss anyone's ass, and he
tells it like it is. He’s also the sarcastic member of the Midnight
Confessions Podcast trio, which you can find on iTunes, Stitcher,
Soundcloud, and PodOMatic. He also contributes to,
offering insight on bad movies and writing occasional retrospectives
on certain movie franchises.

Italian Horror Week 2017 - Jon Wamsley Takes Burial Ground To Task

I would like to start this off by thanking Shawn and Danny for letting me contribute to the awesomeness that is Italian Horror Week, and commend them for taking up the Doc Terror mantle. I can think of no one else better suited to do so.

In the late 70s and through the 80s, Zombies were hotter than Studio 54. It all started with Romero’s legendary Dawn of the Dead. Being such a fan of Night of the Living Dead, Dario Argento got involved and even edited a cut for the European market entitled, Zombi. It was a massive hit and oft imitated. Lucio Fulci even made a loosely based sequel called Zombie, or Zombi 2, if you’re a purist. After that, zombies were fair game.

Enter 1980’s Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror, a full-on schlock-tastic good time from director Andrea Bianchi. It follows a horny group of people staying at a huge villa for a weekend of rest and fun. Little do they know that Professor Aires, has discovered something astonishing at an archaeological dig in an Etruscan catacomb. Apparently, the ancient Etruscans found a way to beat death and go on living in their tombs, peacefully pondering the afterlife they’d never see because they can’t die. That is, until the Professor came back and started banging on the walls of the cavern, waking up the long-dead Etruscans.

Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror is a text book example of a fun film. Obviously, you’re not watching this to be enlightened on filmmaking or to study the intricacies of story; you’re expecting to see gore, at the very least, with a bit of comedy and maybe some T and A. Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror is totally absurd and that is ok. At one point, one of the protagonists suggest to let the Zombies in the house because, “maybe they aren’t after us, but something in the house.” Right? Apparently, this was some sound-ass logic because, they just let the Zombies walk on in. There is also a scene, and it just so happens to be my fave, where the Maid was pulling 2 shutters closed and a moldy Zombie bullseyes her hand with a throwing knife, pinning her to the wall. As if that ridiculousness wasn’t enough, the Zombies then lift a scythe over her head from the ground, and pull it down slowly until she’s decapitated. Oh, and who doesn’t love a hot breast being munched on by an undead Oedipal son?

Speaking of, the truly creepy part about this film wasn’t the Zombies, but rather Peter Bark, a little person playing the role of a 10-12 year old boy, Michael, who really “loved” his mother; who was portrayed by the stunning Mariangela Giordano. Peter Bark was cast due to child labor laws, and due to the fact that he had to perform an unsavory act on his Mother. He’s also responsible for perhaps the most iconic frame of the film: the creepy eye opening!

The look of the Zombies is wonderful. Most are just grotesque masks worn with the actor’s faces blacked out. There was even a nod to Fulci’s titular Zombie, with one of them rising out of the ground maggots pouring out of its eyes. It’s never known how long these Zombies have been “sleeping”, but it was long enough for their skin to deteriorate…but not their clothes! Designers back then must’ve had access to the most supremely durable fabric. Actually, it worked out well, budget-wise because they producers didn’t have to worry about showing the grotesqueries under the robes.

If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path, mindless, horror film, look no further than Burial Ground: Nights of Terror. It’s a truly great B-movie and has everything you could ask for: awesome day for night shots, great music, an inane plot, awesomely bad makeup/masks, and just a smidge of Sleaze sprinkles.

Jon Wamsley is the founder of and loves all things horror. His favorite horror film is Phantasm, but his favorite director is Lucio Fulci. He's also a production associate for Eibon Press.

Italian Horror Week 2017 - A Few Words From Mrs. Terror

Italian Horror Week used to be a period of time which I dreaded. I would not see my husband for at least eight solid days. He would be glued in front of his laptop and the tv in the family room. I have no idea where he gathered that driving force and energy. I thought this time around, I would dread this week for different reasons. Right now, I welcome it.

It has been just about five months since we lost Doc Terror. Our decision to continue Italian Horror Week was the right choice to make. It was, conceivably, one of the most important times in Jimmy’s life. It meant so much to him. I would even say that it was just as important as the birth of his children because this idea was something he gave birth to and treated it just like his babies.

Grief is a strange thing sometimes. For some reason, it is not a topic widely discussed. This is bizarre because everyone in life, no matter how big or small, experiences grief in some way or another. I want all of you to know that we are not alone in this grief. We are all together, no matter how big or small. We all lost Doc Terror, however continuing his legacy with ideas like Italian Horror Week will make the grief feel less strange.

I wish I could put into words what the horror community had done for my family. Each of you may not realize your impact and it would take me lifetimes to repay my gratitude. Starting with the Go-fund me to as far as the t-shirts and everything in between, you have helped my family pay for medical benefits, memorial blankets, clothes for our children’s backs, put food on our table, etc. etc.

Jimmy was my best friend in the entire world and I know I am not the only one who feels that way. I hear his voice in his wacky you tube videos, and it takes my breath away just the same as it did when he told me he loved me or when he saw his children for the first time. I see his facial expressions and mini idiosyncrasies carried on in our children every day. I was a lucky lady to be his wife and friend for these past few years. I am a lucky lady to have all of you in our lives.

Thank you all for continuing the spirit of Italian Horror Week. I may not know what the future holds for the Doc Terror legacy, but right now, I welcome it.

-Nicole Harris

Italian Horror Week 2017 - Giveaway #7 - Big Ass Final Day Giveaway!

Hello hello hello, ladies and gentlemen, and we are the ex presidents... er, Doc Terror, and welcome to the final day of Italian Horror Week 2017. Today we have a huge, special giveaway for you. Including stuff from Vinegar Syndrome, Chad Young of Horror Movie BBQ, some more Blue Underground stuff, A Quiltface Studios print of the limited edition Doc Terror Presents Creepshow screening at the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, some stuff from Danny Mozz of The Shock Chamber, and some things from Doc Terror's personal collection, provided by his amazing wife Nicole.

Again, to enter, share this post on Facebook or Twitter, make sure your post privacy is set to public so we can see you, and use the hashtags #IHWGIVEAWAY7 and #ITALIANHORRORWEEK. That's it. A winner will be chosen shortly after the event ends, and contacted for shipping information.

Thanks for all of the supporter. Italian Horror Week was very important to James, and he would be pleased with this year's turnout.

Have fun, and happy Italian Horror Week!