Sunday, June 28, 2015

Scream Machine (Deadly Indie DVD)

Junkfood Horror Fest. Death by VHS. Horroroma, Nightmare Ally. I love the titles of these movies, but try as I might I have not enjoyed a single one. In fact Death by VHS pissed me off. Not many movies actually get me mad enough to :gasp: shut a movie off. I usually watch em all to the end whether they're terrible or not. I'm pretty sure that at the end of my life I'm going to have to account in some way for all the time I wasted reviewing movies that should have been shut off in the first five minutes. My life might be more productive; for all I know the precious moments wasted on movies that I despise may be the very same moments in which I could have created a truly magnificent presence in the horror-verse. You guys remember the Nightmare Ally review crisis, right? When a reviewer negatively reviewed Nightmare Ally and was subsequently attack on repeat by the filmmaker? It sort of made the filmmaker a pariah. It created bad blood in certain circles and quite frankly I wouldn't want to review one of his pictures either if I was to be met with an amplified hatred and disdain for my honest opinion. Until now... Consider this a sort of suicide by cop.

Scream Machine (not to be confused with the roller coast at Six Flags) is an anthology of five short horror stories pasted together with horror host-esque segues. When Lloyd Kaufman does the introduction for your movie and it's not being distributed by Troma and he has to look at a paper for a second to remember the title, you can only imagine the schlock that is about to befall your poor brain. I love Lloyd and Lloyd is a staple of independent film cameos these days which is truly something that I admire him for. He's giving back (paid or not). I've met him once, and his energy is super fun, his charisma is insurmountable and his salesmanship is carnival barker-lite. There are warning signs when you watch horror pictures and those are especially important to look out for when watching indie flicks. You can have a "scene missing" or "reel missing" in the middle of your picture at a key moment but to randomly place it in the middle of a digital camera image without comedic effect... well, let's just say that milk right there may have expired. So within the first the first minute you have TWO warning signs. Kaufman in a non-starring role and a cheap grindhouse gimmick that mocks one of my favorite eras in film history (and Ruether's next effort is called Grindsploitation! Fuck me running covered in gasoline while holding a lit blowtorch).

The credit sequence has back masked vocals over a heavy organ score that sounds monsterfic but canned. You won't be familiar with the cast save for maybe Walter Ruether III who is Scarlet Fry, but you'll get all of their names in alphabetical order on a black background. Credit sequences like this are the movie equivalent of leaving your fly down. We can see what color briefs you're wearing.

Now the introduction and segues are quite funny starring "Dr. Fry" in an originally crafted mask, strange hat and scrubs (none of this ensemble works together). So after this Ebola death apocalypse thing... the doctor and his associate (now only a slimy head... Mr. Head for short) are pulling a sort of screening room for the end times. Lloyd Kaufman sent a gift to the doctor in the form of five films. So now you get to watch them.  Tales that will make you  "vomit your innards" and make you "beg to see more".  I do not fault this opening segment or the production in general for its low production value in fact in contrast to the production value in the rest of the film which is only slightly less amateur. Some of my favorite films are budgetless movies with plenty of heart, and the opening to Scream Machine is cheesy enough to make you laugh and then realize that your laughing and get embarrassed.

The stories have terrible canned music. The general concept behind the first couple stories are actually interesting. They suffer from dialogue delivered with plenty of starch and wasted time and exposition. Still.. you can tell that this effort is supposed to make you laugh. At least there are practical effects, right? The Sledgehammer story features a pitcher named Dutch Ruether? ... you can see why this is hilarious right? This is the kind of shit you'll find in each story. How can you take it seriously as a horror picture or even as a horror comedy when the suspension of disbelief is completely unsuspended.  Still... I can admire some of the effects work with ground chuck gore that makes me think of 80's direct to video and shot on video efforts.

Your second tale involves a guy who hates his wife, is gay and loves to kill and fuck decapitated heads. Furthermore he is having a love affair with Jeff Dahmer of all people. Some funny dialogue in this one but the sax music balanced with synth, hit stings with strange industrial noise mixed with um some kind of "crazy sounds mix" is completely off-putting.  Watching the lead masturbate with a dead guy's head should be fun or at least creepy, but it isn't funny enough to inspire a reaction. Not enough gore to keep it interesting. This scene should be hot and sweaty and sticky and a mess and it looks like some guy bought a Halloween mask, stuffed it and was playing a prank on this mother.

April Fool's Party is the third entry. Involves an April Fool's Day gag on a drug dealer by a bunch of junkies. The joke isn't a good one (not really much of a joke at all). The punchline to the whole story is bland, and it fails to meet the gore factor especially for the length of time you're forced to watch it.

Septic Shock features a "watch tortoise" and a shameless plug of Scarlet Fry's Horroroma. From there you have to watch cross cuts between a tortoise eating a vegetable and a guy seemingly drowning and rotting in what looks like a box. The end is abrupt. Throw some Halloween decorations and some fake blood in a toilet and call it a day. Do you know what you just watched? Nope. You have no fucking idea, but if you go to Party City this Halloween you can live it in your own bathroom. Tortoise not included.

The last tale features a couple at a drive-in. One of them forgets their meds, starts hearing voices through the radio and within minutes she's cutting his guts and ripping them out of his body while the guy obnoxiously screams. Forever. Are we sort of paying homage to City of the Living Dead here? Strangest intestines I ever did see, but I kinda like them. This one finishes like cheap box wine and tries to go for screaming supernatural psychosis but only delivers lack of believability and a stabby lady who figured out how to kill someone on the other side of the drive-in movie screen (in the film itself).

I realize that filmmakers make short films and then put them together as anthologies to release them and attempt to capitalize on their work. That makes sense, and I approve of this model. The problem: some of these guys are giving anthology horror a bad name especially when they're marketing savvy and know how to put a descent looking cover on the goddamn thing and sell it on Amazon. I'm not going to recommend Scream Machine to you as a whole, but you have to watch the Sledgehammer segment at least you get to see a guy murder someone while wearing one of those damn baseball masks. I always wondered what they were for. I admire the energy Ruether puts into his work. I truly do. I just don't seem to be the audience for it.

You'll be able to order Scream Machine now, coming September 29th.

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