3 from Hell – Film Review

by Zakary McGaha

[NOTE: The passing of Sid Haig is quite a loss to the world of horror films. His iconic Captain Spaulding character from the original Firefly movie House of 1000 Corpses…created by Sid just as much as the person who wrote him into existence, Rob Zombie…was an icon. Everyone recognized the face. He was often-times quoted. For the early 2000s, he was basically Freddy Krueger for a short period of time. That being said, this review is not meant to be, in any way, disrespectful to Sid and his beloved character. Rather, it is a review of a film that, as fate would have it, didn’t feature Sid that much, despite the fact that he was originally going to be in it throughout the entire runtime. Health reasons prevented that from happening, and so we got Richard Brake’s new character: Foxy. Although I didn’t like 3 From Hell at all, it was worth it to see Sid in character as the demented, sadistic, business-savvy clown with a country drawl one last time.]

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ah, Rob Zombie. I have a love-hate relationship with his movies and music. The gist of it is: I think he’s okay, and sometimes pretty awesome…when he doesn’t have his filthy mitts on the Halloween franchise. See, he has his own style; his own flare. He’s a distinctive creator, and his music branches into his movies. It’s all one, cohesive whole. However, if you take said distinctive flare and mix it in a witch’s cauldron with the already-established, and much beloved, Halloween franchise…you get a nasty concoction that shouldn’t be.

Halloween aside, you could call me a Rob Zombie fan. The Devil’s Rejects, in my opinion, is one of the standout horror-films of the 2000s, and it’s probably destined to be remembered as such. In many ways, it was a perfect movie. You had great, interesting, psychopathic characters who were accustomed to having all the power. Various victims never escaped the Firefly family’s brutality. These killers were remorseless, wise-cracking hillbilly-esque folks who were very good at winning. They contrasted usual slasher villains in that they simply didn’t get caught, and when they were confronted by force…such as the police officers in House of 1000 Corpses…they always wound up on top. But The Devil’s Rejects changed that: the whole point of the movie was to see how these characters fared when they were being hunted not just by a crazy, vengeful cop and his deputies, but also by bounty hunters who were just as viscous, if not MORE viscous, than them. The end result was an amazing film that keeps the viewer constantly on the edge of their seat as the plot barrels forward to a super-climactic, ultra-violent, CONCLUSION in the form of a final blaze-of-glory that will forever be known as one of the best endings in horror history…

…At least, that would have been the case had 3 From Hell not come along and completely destroyed everything built in the previous entry.

To call 3 From Hell pointless would be an understatement. It’s a continuation of a story that’s already reached its conclusion and is resting peacefully in the Horror Graveyard. However, Rob Zombie came along, dug up the corpse, and then resurrected it in Frankenstein-like fashion. The end result is a story that’s half-alive, half-dead, with absolutely no sense of direction.

The movie opens in a cool-enough way: news-footage reveals that the Firefly family beat the odds and survived the shootout at the end of Devil’s Rejects, and they’re all ALIVE save for the recently-executed Captain Spaulding.

Also, Otis has escaped prison: while on a chain-gang, his half-brother Foxy…previously unmentioned in the past two films…comes along, shoots up the scene, and frees Otis.

Another familiar face had been on the chain-gang as well: Rondo, played by Danny Trejo. Otis promptly gets revenge and kills the defenseless bounty-hunter…who, strangely, doesn’t even remember who Otis is…before running off into the woods.

This is really where the movie starts going downhill and stops being new. Every plot-point from here on out is ripped from the previous film, down to the minute details.

We get:

  1. A clown, as opposed to the clown-wannabe of DR, unluckily interrupting the Firefly gang as they’re torturing their latest hostages. Like in DR, this clown also gets shot in the head.
  2. As mentioned in the previous entry, hostages…two couples, again…are held in their quarters by the family.
  3. One hostage, as opposed to the two in DR, is sent out to do the Firefly gang’s dirty-work while his loved-ones are held captive.
  4. Every hostage dies. One said hostage’s death even plays homage to both the “run rabbit run” scene from House of 1000 Corpses and the girl with the face-mask from DR who gets hit by the truck.
  5. The Firefly gang is on the lam.
  6. The Firefly gang takes up shelter at a seedy hotel in Mexico, where they party with hookers…which, of course, is a direct rip from DR when they were at Charlie’s bordello.
  7. The Firefly gang gets ambushed by Rondo’s son, who has been looking for them ever since Otis killed his father in the beginning. He is accompanied by his organized-crime outfit, The Black Satans, which run around wearing wrestling masks. Again, this is a direct rip from DR, when Sheriff Wydell, accompanied by his bounty-hunters, ambush the Devils at the bordello.
  8. Instead of killing the Firefly gang, Rondo’s son ties them up and tries to act tough, with heavy talk of justice and family and shit. Again, this is directly ripped from the last part of DR where Sherriff Wydell does the same thing.
  9. The Firefly gang escapes and kills the spurned family-member who’s only trying to avenge his father…which, OF COURSE, is what happened to Sherriff Wydell in DR, although he came closer to killing the Devils. If only he would’ve been privy to Tiny…

Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so. There are probably some other things I missed. To call this movie a derivative waste of time would be accurate and neither under or overstated. Was it fun? Yeah, but it didn’t have the UMPH of a good story, like in Devil’s Rejects, to accompany it.

1/5 stars. I would’ve given it 2/5 had it not completely tarnished The Devil’s Rejects and negated its importance in the overarching Firefly-family story.

‘Cynthia’ is a Surprisingly Touching Horror-Comedy

“Cynthia” (2018) DVD Review

by Bob Freville

Those of us who were alive during the latter half of the 20th century can remember a time when babies were the focus of a wave of excellent and, oftentimes, atrocious horror movies. 1974’s It’s Alive!, 1982’s Basket Case and the respective follow-ups to each of those titles introduced us to the perils of postpartum aggression and fetal abomination long before antinatalism penetrated pop culture.

Like Larry Cohen and Frank Henenlotter before them, writer/producer Robert Rhine and co-directors Devon Downs & Kenny Gage mine parenthood and pregnancy for satire. One would think that Cynthia‘s indie budget and the relative inexperience of the above the line creative team would result in a sub-par rip-off of the aforementioned films. Instead, they make it work to their advantage by going their own way.

This is not another tired bad seed movie of the kind that Hollywood keeps churning out. Rather it is a raucous dark comedy with heart that masquerades as an exploitation horror movie. Sure, an ancillary character is disemboweled mid-coitus and yes, a stark naked victim thinks nothing of attempting to escape from her predator with her tits out and her underwear hanging off…in a professional setting.

But Cynthia is much more than some bloody B-movie, it is a well-written and well-acted tragedy of sorts, a picture which spends more time on the human condition than it does on creature effects or bloodshed.

Halloween‘s Scout Taylor-Compton and Masters of Sex’s Kyle Jones are a young couple who have been struggling for some time to get preggers. After repeated fertility treatments fail, they are shocked to find that their very last shot took. They are going to have a baby at long last…but their baby has some odd company in the womb.

Their unborn child’s companion is eager to greet the world and it’ll stop at nothing to be with its new family. What follows is something quite different than what most viewers will be expecting.

The film is at its best when it’s lampooning the idiotic and selfish reasons why certain people want to have children. It also deftly explores the frustratingly clinical approach many couples take in order to bear fruit, so to speak.

The best scenes in Cynthia have little to do with what most die hard horror fans would consider the hallmarks of the genre. Robert Rhine hands in a script brimming with memorable dialogue, brilliant transitions and likable characters…even when they are being absolute shits.

What pic manages to illustrate is just how easily humans can disregard each others’ feelings when it comes to satiating their own desires and needs. Nowhere is this more clear than in the way the filmmakers make us empathize with the flick’s negligent father-to-be.

Earlier I mentioned antinatalism, but it bears mentioning again since Cynthia may be the first of the mutant baby movies to properly elucidate the suffering of the child who didn’t ask to be born. When Taylor-Compton’s Robin goes looking for her missing infant daughter in an air vent and discovers her with the hideously deformed Cynthia, her mutated offspring lets out a guttural whimper that effectively conveys the agony and yearning which are our birthright as humans.

If genre fans need added incentive to see Cynthia they can count on the always game Bill motherfuckin’ Moseley (Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, House of 1,000 Corpses) for a bizarre cross-dressing cameo and Moseley’s Devil’s Rejects co-star Sid Haig as a sleazy cop to rival most of the grotty punks he played in the Seventies.

Check this picture out today if you like genre films that have more on their mind than gore and one-dimensional throwaway victims. If I was prone to giving things a rating, this one would easily earn four bloody diapers.

You can watch Cynthia now on DVD and Prime Streaming.

Exclusive: Lance Henriksen Tears Up The Sky in “Exorcism at 60,000 Feet” [Review & First Look Trailer]

by Bob Freville

Genre fans are going to lose their shit when they get an eyeful of Exorcism at 60,000 Feet. A balls out tribute to horror’s golden age from the boys and girls at Girls and Corpses, Exorcism at 60,000 Feet is everything you would expect from the title and so much more.

Director Chad Ferrin (Someone’s Knocking at the Door, Easter Bunny Kill! Kill!!) has rounded up all the best and bloodiest talents from the genre, unleashing them on a plane for what promises to be this year’s most garish, gory and unforgettable splatterpiece.

Only Ferrin could give us an aesthetic worthy of William Friedkin while acknowledging the playful silliness of the Robert Rhine and Daniel Benton script. Each sequence is imbued with knowing camp and plenty of sight gags.

Those with a special nostalgia for the rotten and strange will relish the presence of Kevin J. O’Connor (Lord of Illusions, Deep Rising, The Mummy), however ephemeral, but serious nostalgia nuts will cream their Puppetmasturbating asses almost at once with the oh-so-familiar orchestral score by none other than Richard Band.

Indeed, there is something so Eighties about Exorcism at 60,000 Feet, but not in the mass marketed way that Stranger Things or even the It reboot is considered reminiscent of the Eighties. More interestingly, it is the film’s subtle spirit of the Eighties, something that recalls cult classics like Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, Combat Shock and even Night of the Demons.

From the exorcist’s struggles to hoist a dead body into the back of a hearse to the nonchalant way that the plane’s pilot (Lance Henriksen) and co-pilot (O’Connor) share some harsh hooch, everything about this screams the Age of Excess, a time when things could be dark and fucked up without fear of earning a detention demerit for its wickedness.

It’s a common cliche to write that a location in a movie is a character in and of itself, but I’d be lying if I didn’t note how the deliberately seedy airplane interior lends a distinct je ne sais quoi to the proceedings. Viet Kong Airways is one airline I would love to get lost on.

In terms of stars there really is no equal to Bill Moseley who gives his most indelible performance since The Devil’s Rejects or, at least, Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2. With that said, the show really belongs to Bai Ling (The Crow, Crank 2: High Voltage) who keeps us pissing our pants with laughter until the final scuzzy frame.

This is one of those movies where you can’t help but fall in love with each and every character, regardless of how offensive or obnoxious they are. And it is to the filmmaker’s credit that he has managed to turn this love of the annoying and ugly into a career-long endearment.

Frankly, I can’t think of a single Chad Ferrin title that didn’t feature at least two hideous ghouls as major players and the more hideous these so-called humans are, the more we cheer.

This delightful subversion of the traditional filmic formula reaches its apex in Exorcism at 60,000 Feet, a celebration of trash and travel hell…or heaven, depending upon your particular(ly) warped perspective.

It’s rare that you come across a horror-comedy that honors the legends of comedy as much as it does the masters of the macabre. ‘Exorcism’ is one of those flicks, a movie that owes as much to High Anxiety-era Mel Brooks as it does to Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone.

One of the lamest offenses perpetrated by many B movies is their unwillingness to acknowledge what they are. Consequently, viewers get stuck with a crappy film starring second-rate actors trying their damnednest to turn laughable material into something genuinely dramatic.

Exorcism at 60,000 Feet flips the script, giving us a glorified hornet’s nest of seasoned performers doing their absolute best to convey the sheer absurdity of the source material and relishing in the unbridled madness of the same.

Few microbudget genre movies spend this film’s time on character development and the effort pays off. The jokes and jabs are that much nastier once we’ve been properly introduced to the victims of their folly.

This is a flick for those who were weaned on a diet consisting of equal parts The Monster Squad and Vice Squad, a gnarly romp that recalls the best of those late twentieth century direct-to-video titles without feeling like anything other than one man’s singular vision of amusing insanity.

In keeping with The Motorist’s spoiler policy, I won’t give up the ghost when it comes to Exorcism‘s funniest and most memorable line (Hint: It takes place in the bathroom), but suffice it to say that this one is a feast for both the eyes and the ears.

As with most low-budget genre fare, particularly sub-genre flicks, ‘Exorcism’ has its moments where the jokes (and special effects) fall flat, but this only serves to make the overall picture that much more charming. Think of the first time you saw an early John Waters movie or a 90s direct-to-video National Lampoon entry and you’ve got the general idea.

Unrelenting, irrational, irreverent and impossible to not enjoy on some primal level as people dealing with the ludicrousness of the modern age, ‘Exorcism’ is for anyone who’s jaded by their own social media presence (what one character ends up doing in her time of peril is what so many of us would do nowadays). It’s also for anyone who is just curious to see what might happen if you put a bunch of contemporary nincompoops on the same aircraft with absolute evil.

Prepare to enjoy a very different kind of Purge, one that’s green and nauseating but never dull. Not even for a second.

Peep the film’s trailer here and keep your eyes peeled for festival and release dates as they come in…

Like the lunacy right here.

The Grim and the Grit: An Interview with Genre Veteran Chad Ferrin, Part II

 

Read Part I here.

A figure in a giant bunny mask murders the wicked with whatever implement is at hand, sending them to the Lord at the wrong end of a broomstick or the working end of a power drill. When the masked avenger’s not slaughtering the damned, it’s defending a damaged young man with a learning disability who still believes in the Easter bunny.

A cadre of cagey med students are introduced to a potent synthetic drug that leads them from the heights of sexual ecstasy straight into the arms of an unfathomable death.

A group of friends find themselves lost in LA’s notorious Skid Row district and must grapple with a vengeful gaggle of territorial homeless people hellbent on isolationism.

These are the unique and brazen horrorscapes that filmmaker Chad Ferrin gives us. They are picture books of a crappy world, restless meditations on the ethnocentricity, excess, insanity and addiction that blight our own society. This is fitting since Ferrin’s production company is called Crappy World Films.

 

But there is nothing crappy about the craftsmanship that this low-budget auteur brings to bear on his signature works. As you will see in the following bit of our conversation, Chad has come close to losing everything to bring his vision to the screen and, in some cases, he has been scammed for his efforts.

Like all or, at least, most artists toiling in the film industry, Mr. Ferrin has had projects fall apart before they could even begin. But it’s interesting to note that the projects in question were largely those written by other scribes. This seems like a certain strange but deliberate machination of destiny as it is all too obvious to someone who knows Chad that he’d be better off directing his own original material.

Whenever Ferrin puts poison pen to paper, the results are positively bugfuck. From his early shoestring gross-out pic Unspeakable to his reworking of Roham Ghodsi’s script for the contemporary cult classic Someone’s Knocking at the Door, Ferrin always leaves his grimy fingerprints on the words, resulting in image after image that cannot be shaken from one’s consciousness.

If you don’t know the kind of images I’m talking about then we have nothing to talk about. The films of Chad Ferrin hit you in much the same way a Saigon Kick song hits you the first time you hear it. Eventually they come to an end, but the the vestiges they leave linger behind your eyes forever.

One such flick is Ferrin’s 2016 picture Parasites which found its inspiration in an unlikely place. See, Ferrin isn’t a filmmaker like Tarantino who splashes common genre homages all over every frame of his canon. Instead, he is a meticulous artist who calls back unlikely or even forgotten films of old.

“It’s my take on one of my favorite films, The Naked Prey,” he tells me, referring to the 1965 Cornell Wilde picture that was shot in Rhodesia and was based on “the amazing true story of John Colter’s Run.”

As Chad puts it, “I just replaced the Blackfoot Indian pursuers with homeless bums.”

“I know you had a really rough time shooting this one all guerilla-style on Skid Row,” I say. “You wanna rap about that a little?”

Chad doesn’t pull any punches in his response. “We saw the homeless fucking in the middle of the street, pissing and shitting on the sidewalk, junkies shooting up, close to a 100 illegal street racers doing doughnuts in the parking lot of our base camp, gang members tagging buildings and, finally, a mob of bums chased after us for filming their tent homes. Every night was was an episode of Cops but without the cops.”

“What compelled you to risk life and limb to shoot in the wilds of Los Angeles like that?”

“It’s my love letter to Downtown LA,” Chad as he stares off somewhat wistfully. “With gentrification quickly changing the landscape down there, I had to catch the grit and grim before it was gone.”

It’s this grim and grit that will one day draw devoted crowds to revivals of Ferrin’s movies. But for now, fans will have to wait for such screenings to take place. In the meantime, they can look forward to the 10th anniversary edition of Someone’s Knocking at the Door which Chad says he is working on with Breaking Glass Pictures.

When Chad breaks this news to me it’s music to my ears because that’s exactly how we first met and I first discovered his catalog of films. “Back in the day, you said that you had a fairly positive experience working with Breaking Glass compared to other distributors. Is there any reason you haven’t worked with them again?”

“I can’t say enough nice things about BGP and Rich Wolff,” Chad says. “They’re top notch! We have been trying to get a film off the ground for years now, one a these days something will come together.”

I float the idea of Chad revisiting his body of work. “I still see Someone’s Knocking at the Door as your masterwork and the creative team behind it as the perfect marriage. Have you thought at all about doing some sort of follow-up with those people, whether it’s working on another movie with the screenwriter or getting the proverbial band back together for a pseudo-sequel?”

Chad is quick to respond, his eyes lighting up like a dumpster fire in an alleyway. “I have a prequel bouncing around in my head that would be about John and Wilma Hopper as they rape/murder in the 1970’s.”

“I know we could probably trade war stories all day,” I tell him. “For me, I’d probably cite the time some chick with Munchhausen Syndrome impersonated a producer so that I’d get on a train and meet her in midtown Manhattan and talk with her over coffee for four hours. Or there’s the former made-for-TV movie producer who verbally agreed to finance a web series I’d written only to pull a 180 and reveal that he didn’t actually have any money to contribute (“I’ll take your cast out for bagels, get you some wardrobe if you need it”). That sort of thing. I imagine it’s less absurd and a bit bleaker for you. What would you say is your most ridiculous industry experience?”

“Ugh! A while back I was in talks to direct an action film shooting in Mexico. The script sucked but I was assured it could be tweaked, so I met with the writer/investor/producer, lets call him Tito. After a three hour meeting, he agreed to my terms and went fourth to come up with the 200k budget.

“Next day I saw that he added my name as director to the IMDB page for the project. A month later, he says come meet me and my team, sign the contract and lets move forward. So, on the hottest day of the summer, I arrive at the restaurant fifteen minutes late and sweating like a pig. I find the group in the back sitting in a booth. Tito shakes my hand as he introduces me to his wife and 100 year old grandmother.

“I sit down and order a Margarita, I whisper to the waiter, ‘Why is it so hot in here?’ He responds, ‘No A/C today. Brown out. Conserve energy.’ I roll my eyes and think to myself, boy, I hate this town sometimes.

“Tito then grabs my arm, pulls me close. ‘Chad, here’s your contract and the new script.’ I take hold of the two-page contract and the slimmed down script that he’s shoving in my face. He then starts rambling in my ear as I scan the contract. I quickly notice that he has changed my pay from 20k to 10k with 5 points on the back end.

“I drop the contract into a bowl of salsa, look him in the eye and ask, ‘What happened to the deal we agreed on?’ He smiles, ‘That’s too much money, Chad.’ I lean back, ‘You think 20k is too much to direct and edit a $200k budget film in Mexico?’

“With a shit eating grin, he mumbles, ‘How about 11k?’ My eyes bulge out as I hiss through grit teeth, ‘NO!’ He looks over to his wife and mother. They begin to speak in Spanish. Smiling, he touches my arm. ‘How about 15k?’ I stand up to leave. He grabs me, ‘Okay, I’ll give you the 20k to direct and edit. You drive a hard bargain, my friend.’

“Sitting back down, I smile, look over to the wife and grandmother. They’re both staring at me like I had just raped their son with a Coke bottle. The waiter arrives with my drink, I gulp it down. I ask Tito about other investors and when he expects to have the budget in place. ‘I don’t want other investors’, he exclaims. ‘I want to own the whole film myself because it’s going to make millions and win an Oscar for best picture.’

“Taken aback, I nod my head in disbelief, ‘Excuse me, I need to go to the bathroom.’ I walk into the bathroom, wash the sweat off my face, take a deep breath of the humid air and scream to myself, ‘Jesus H. Christ, he doesn’t even have the FUCKING MONEY!!!’

“Delirious from the heat, I stumble back to the table just as a gaggle of waiters arrive with a small cake, singing happy birthday in Spanish to the grandmother. Holy shit, I can take this, I grab the script, say my farewells and exclaim, ‘Happy Birthday, grandma!’ Tito shakes my hand, says, ‘I’ll email you the new contract tonight.’ I nod, wave goodbye to all.

“That night, I flip open the new script. Lo and behold, it’s 80 pages of unpuncuated nonsense. Alas, I never got a chance to discuss improving his opus because little Tito never sent the new contract or called me again. I checked IMDB only to find my name removed from the project. First time I have ever been fired via IMDB. Probably not the last.”

This story is a severe skullfuck, but it’s one that all too many of us have had to suffer at the hands of cheapskates, con artists or wingnuts.

“Why as artists do we do this to ourselves,” I ask him. “Must we suffer fools and

scumbags in order to make cinema? Is it a necessary evil or are we all a bunch of masochists?”

“Masochists!” Chad bellows.

The subject smarts too fucking much, so I decide to change the subject. On a more positive tip, I them him that I’ve always known him to have a feew irons in the fire at any given time. “Is it safe to say that you’re developing a film right now? What have you got cooking?”

“I have two revenge scripts, El Camino and God’s Lonely Woman that are getting a little traction,” he says. “Don’t want to jinx it by saying too much. Fingers crossed they get made this year.”

As I’ll learn in a few minutes, this is Chad’s way of being modest. The truth is that he’s just completed a project that’s gonna leave a lot of horror fans shopping for fresh underwear.

“Gimme three words that describe the fundamentals of indie filmmaking,” I tell him.

“Passion. Crazy. Driven.”

One could easily see these three words appearing in blurb form on the front of a DVD jacket for one of Chad’s movies. It encapsulates everything that’s vital and noteworthy about the man and his creations.

“Feel free to plug anything you’ve got going on, brother.”

Chad’s furrowed brow relaxes for the first time all day and he smiles. “We just finished post-production on a really fun feature called Exorcism at 60,000 Feet with a great cast including Robert Miano, Bai Ling, Lance Henriksen, Bill Mosely, Matthew Moy, Kevin J. O’Connor and Adrienne Barbeau. And to top it off, we had the master himself, Richard Band, doing the score. And man, he really knocked it out of the park.”

I am pleasantly surprised by this development as our conversation was supposed to revolve around development Hell. At the end of it all, we actually got a happy ending from the last guy one would associate with such. “The whole experience was a wonderful creative collaboration between everyone,” Chad added. “Especially writer/producer Robert Rhine and myself, probably the best of my career so far. It should find distribution shortly, so keep an eye out for it!”

You heard the man, make like Un Chien Andalou and keep them peepers peeled! If you want to live in the Crappy World, click here.

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