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 Maze (2010) Movie Review

by Zakary McGaha

Warning: This review has spoilers.

I don’t like writing bad reviews. I don’t enjoy using gigantic amounts of snark to tear things apart. But The Maze, a 2010 horror film directed by Stephen Shimek, deserves more than snark: it deserves super snark.

The Maze is a film I used to see all the time back in the days of video stores…as in, I saw the DVD collecting dust on various shelves. I don’t recall ever having picked it up, which is strange considering its poster is pretty neat. I guess it’s true what they say about psychic abilities: they’re stronger when you’re a kid.

I knew avoiding the thing was necessary without knowing anything about it. These days, my psychic abilities must have diminished greatly considering I was excited when I saw the familiar poster pop up on one of my streaming channels.

I went in expecting a fun, Halloween-tinted slasher story about people in a corn maze. I figured a nostalgic chord would be struck. Being a country boy, I have fond memories of corn mazes. They’re the perfect settings for slasher stories because anyone can easily hide along the trail, and if they know the layout better than you, you’re in for a doozy. Given this, how could a slasher film set in a corn maze NOT be good…or, at the very least, passable?

Watch The Maze if you want to see how the proverbial “they” can screw up the most foolproof of concepts.

It’s a common thing among people who love shitting on horror movies to say, “Them characters is stupid.” But, concerning this movie, they’re entirely justified. The “killer” of this film (who turns out being the most non-imposing dirty cop in the history of law enforcement) has everything going for him in terms of carrying out his sadistic fantasies with ease.

He finds himself up against the most incompetent, ANNOYING group of personality-lacking losers who’ve ever shamed the whole of cinema with their presence. We learn literally nothing about any of them (except stupid shit), and, unlike in good slasher movies, none of them are interesting enough to keep us entertained before they get killed. Hell, I don’t even care about “liking” the characters in slasher movies before they’re killed. I just want characters who are…I don’t know, “fun” to watch? Not boring?

Anyway, non-characters aside, let’s focus on the kills. Uniformly, every single one was lame. The “killer” (who I will continue to reference in quotes in order to exaggerate his lameness) carried around a wimpy switchblade or something, and all he did was shank and cut people.

The blood was minimal, and the “killer” spends the entire movie looking like some sort of “no-one-understands-me” teen in a red hoodie and jeans. He’s quite the scrawny villain, which made it hard for me to wrap my head around how he was able to swipe at everyone with his switchblade.

Said “killer” also spent a lot of time doing stupid shit, like putting his victims in chairs and placing hats on them.

Coming up with things to say about this movie is hard due to its overall emptiness. It was basically a generic, poorly done, passionless slasher movie that ended up being a dirty cop movie for the last twenty minutes.

There are no reasons to watch this movie: none of the characters (including the “killer”) are interesting enough to watch, there’s zero gore, there’s no style, there are no themes…there’s, simply, nothing.

It’s hard to imagine why this movie was made. They couldn’t have possibly thought that people would pay to see it.

I probably come across as a sour reviewer, but I’m not. I like cheesy, generic horror. It’s my thing. My only stipulation is that it’s at least made with fun. I mean, if watching this movie felt like a chore, I can’t imagine what making it felt like.

0/5 stars.

Films That Fell Through the Cracks: The Frightening

The Frightening (2002)

Film Review by Zakary McGaha

What you need to know going in: there’s a new kid at a weird high school, people start dying, and there are ghosts…sort of.

The Frightening, directed by David DeCoteau, is a mixed bag, to put it delicately. Still, it has a swath of charm that makes it memorable. With this whole “Films That Fell Through the Cracks” series, we want to focus on movies that aren’t viewed as classics by anyone’s standards, but, at the end of the day, prove a point most genre fans are well aware of: not every movie needs to be a fucking classic.

Some movies are mediocre when viewed separately, but if you add them all together, they create a genre of trash that imprints itself on your soul. The Frightening certainly fits in this category.

I was unfamiliar with David DeCoteau before stumbling upon The Frightening, but it has since come to my attention that he has a pretty strong cult following. His ‘Brotherhood’ films, which I haven’t seen, are said to contain a strong homoerotic pulse. The Frightening has the same pulse; it definitely fits into the sub-genre of homoerotic horror films, along with the infamous Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (I seriously love that one, by the way; always have).

Learning of this homoerotic through line in his work after watching the movie confirmed my suspicions about DeCoteau. He has a distinctive style and isn’t just one of the many directors of straight-to-video horror flicks who work on things without consistent vision. You’re probably thinking, “Come on, you’re just saying that to make yourself seem more observant.”

To that, I would say: No, once you watch The Frightening, you’ll realize it has that certain type of charm that indicates the people working behind the scenes had a passion for the genre they found themselves in.

Still, though, I can see why people wouldn’t like this flick. It fails miserably in a couple areas. First off, the deaths, save for one in which a cowboy-looking fella gets his face melted, are lame. They’re all laughable and fun, but tiresome at the same time.

Basically, a group of elite-ish type teens is running around dressed like burglars with the sole purpose of offing the “different” kids at the high school (there’s more to it than this, but I don’t want to get into spoiler territory). Needless to say, all of these kills come off as clumsy and stupid. Nothing scary to see here, folks! Just bumbling preppies trying to be FBI-like assassins.

Secondly, the dialogue is horrible, but this is to be expected in a lot of low budget horror. It wasn’t so bad that I felt compelled to write down notes of horrible word exchanges, however I’m unable to decide at this moment if it all adds to the film’s charm or detracts from it.

The last area of concern is the half-formed explanation or “mythology”, perhaps. It was fun in a Twilight Zone way, but it could have been handled better. It’s never a good sign when a character has to spend a long time explaining the “why” of supernatural occurrences.

Despite those things, The Frightening deserves a 3/5. It’s got problems, sure, but that it was a labor of love is apparent. It’s a gleefully bad genre film that’s never boring, continually hilarious…and its singular cool kill is pretty wicked. Not necessarily ultra-gory, but wicked.

If you’re like me, you’re a sucker for anything that mixes “school” culture and horror. This film delivers on that, although it could’ve been better. This is no Heathers, certainly, but it’s pretty good if you want to catch a brain-numbing flick before bedtime.

Zakary McGaha is a dog lover, film buff, and horror hound living in Tennessee. His horror-comedy novella Locker Arms is available from Kensington Gore Publishing. Soothing the Savage Swamp Beast is forthcoming from JournalStone/Bizarro Pulp Press.

Why Mainstream Horror is Still Dead: Part II

By Zakary McGaha

This tiny article isn’t really a continuation of my last write-up on mainstream horror, because there won’t be many (if any) new points. It’s more of a response to an article debunking some Vogue piece, in which my article was referenced (in said debunking article; not the Vogue piece).

Anyway, it was said, incorrectly, that I claimed horror was dead. I was then excused for the claim which I didn’t make.

In Why Mainstream Horror is Dead, I said just that “mainstream” horror is dead. I mentioned that the indie front was awesome and wasn’t slowing down, and I said that mainstream horror movies are still being made, but I pointed out that the mid-list for horror fiction went belly-up forever ago.

I also said that the token blockbuster horror movies don’t signal prosperity for the genre as a whole, but, instead, show what little demand for it there is. Your typical theatergoer is apt to say, “Halloween, that was a good horror movie! But that’s enough for one year.”

Horror is kept alive by fans, these days, and is pretty much a niche genre. Sure, it’s giant compared to super niche genres, and it has many sub-genres, but it’s still not thriving like it was in the 70s, 80s, and early -90s when publishers were churning out mass-market horror left and right…by authors who weren’t just named Stephen King. Back then, you couldn’t walk down the street without seeing something Friday the 13th related or turn on the TV without seeing a ton of lesser-known horror movies that were still holding their own.

Perhaps there’s one thing I should clear up: by today’s standards, the lesser-known and indie horror books and movies of the 70s, 80s, and 90s were mainstream as hell. The audience was much larger; there was prosperity to be had for all. However, that changed once mass-market horror died. Sure, small things stayed around…niche presses, which pretty much describes the small-press scene today, kept the ball rolling for the people who wanted it kept rolling, but it was no longer EVERYWHERE. Horror went the way of Metallica; what was edgy way back when is “Dad Rock” today.

Another thing I should clear up: I thought the new Halloween ruled, and believe it’s the second best sequel of the franchise, and I’m well aware that it made tons of money, but I still think mainstream horror is dead because Halloween was the token horror movie of this year, along with The Nun.

What do they both have in common besides money? They were franchise flicks. The vast majority of original horror films were, as usual, direct to VOD and DVD. The other in-theater examples were the exceptions, but they deserve a look.

Hell Fest was awesome, but it wasn’t nearly as successful as Halloween or The Nun, nor was Strangers: Prey at Night, although it wasn’t necessarily a failure. As far as Overlord, it’s too early to tell. And I won’t even talk about The Meg, because it was awful and didn’t do the book justice.

Still, though: despite the movies listed above, we’re not seeing the plethora of awesome material genre fans were used to in the golden days, that have since gone on to become classics today. Instead, we’re still seeing continuations and reboots of those classics!

Most indie, direct-to-video horror today is clearly targeted at horror fans who need their appetites whetted, while the other in-theater horror films of the year were successful because of horror fans and the convenience of the theater, which drew some of the mainstream folks in (which is why they had smaller box-office numbers).

In other words, the token mainstream horror franchise films did well because everyone needs at least one bender a year, while the other ones achieved what they did only because of hardcore horror fans and their normal family members they drug to the theaters.

Just because there are a couple big, token hits along with some smaller, already-forgotten films isn’t enough to convince me that horror is thriving today. Am I saying this to be negative and all FUCK THE MAINSTREAM-like? Nope. I’ve been pleased with what the studios have given us this year, and I’ve been pleased with the indie stuff I’ve seen.

I’m not a hard horror fan to please, as I love it all.

However, I do feel that horror is not in a healthy state.

A Blumhouse sticker stuck over horror’s wound like a bandage isn’t going to keep it from bleeding out. If you recall, some of the highest-grossing horror films as of recent all have the same aforementioned production company: Get Out, Happy Death Day, HALLOWEEN, and The Purge.

I’m not gonna debate the quality of these films, because some of them I like and some of them I loathe, but the point is this: we’re seeing a lot of stuff from the same people, and not enough from new people, at least not in theaters. The indie front, however, is where it’s at. Too many examples of great films abound. If you know where to find the good stuff, stream it (or buy the DVD)!

There aren’t enough horror films in theaters from different people to justify mainstream horror being a thriving industry. Yes, certain people are thriving, but their “industry” is quite small, and the doors aren’t necessarily always open for new talent.

The people who saw Halloween aren’t going to fund legions of horror production companies, publishers, etc. They’re going to jump on whatever bandwagon comes along next, and that bandwagon is probably gonna be started by the same people.

Meanwhile, horror fans everywhere will gladly be enjoying a genre that is still very much alive, although it’s definitely not in a “boom” period. Its mainstream appeal lasts for all of about ten seconds at a time, while the indie front runs continuously in the background, with films like The Devil’s Candy, Hold the Dark (who some may classify as a thriller, but I say it’s horrifying as fuck, and it’s my favorite new movie as of recent), and Jug Face, as well as extreme flicks like American Guinea Pig: Song of Solomon keeping people satisfied.

Perhaps it’s not a popularity thing so much as a question of medium. I already mentioned streaming: long-form horror is on FIRE here, with shows like The Haunting of Hill House and Stranger Things dominating Netflix. Maybe that’s where the true “mainstream” horror lies these days, but one thing’s for sure: horror films are moving away from the big screen, and it seems to be getting worse each year. Maybe it’s a failure on theaters’ part (as in, specifically the venue, not Hollywood)? It would take statistics and whatnot to answer this question, which isn’t what this article is about.

This article is about taking notice of the culture. As someone who gorges on horror every day, I try to pay attention to everything: from indie to mainstream, new to old…and I can say with certainty that the majority of the “mainstream” stuff I get into is from years past, while the majority of new stuff is indie.

Mainstream horror today is dead, but horror is still as alive as it’s ever been: the way in which we consume horror is simply growing radically different, which is draining the blood from the concept of mainstream, theatrically-released horror.

Alternative Cinema Goes Bye-Bye: A Final Farewell to Tempe Video

By Bob Freville

Tempe Entertainment was founded in 1991, but I didn’t hear about them until the mid-90s when I happened upon an enthralling profile of Tempe founder J.R. Bookwalter in Fangoria magazine. The article in question painted a picture of DIY innovation before DIY was part of the pop culture lexicon.

Upon reading about Bookwalter’s debut film, The Dead Next Door, and the bloody shoestring production of his next movie, Ozone, it became clear that this Akron, OH resident was at the vanguard of a new microbudget horror movement, one that was making movies for peanuts and pubic hair.

After making a dynamic debut with The Dead Next Door, a unique take on the zombie genre that was partially funded by Sam Raimi, Bookwalter churned out a series of passionless no-budget quickies for producer David DeCoteau before turning his frustration with this thankless work into a goal – create a company that can do more with less.

Founded in 1991 during post-production on ‘Dead Next Door,’  Tempe Video’s ethos was simple; as Bookwalter told Michael Scrutchin of Flipside Movie Emporium, “Whatever some guy in his backyard comes up with will be infinitely more passionate and honest than the crap Hollywood churns out on a weekly basis! I say get out there and do it! Now there is no excuse.”

Tempe Entertainment wasn’t waiting for some hotshot honcho to stick millions of dollars in escrow and assign executives to lob a flurry of notes at Bookwalter’s scripts. Instead, the Tempe team were turning their backs on the silver screen machine and building the direct-to-video market into a prosperous new avenue for indie talent.

Over the ensuing three plus decades, that talent has brought us fabulous cheapy features like the batshit psychological drama Eddie Presley and the fiendishly funny Filthy McNasty quadrilogy, to say nothing of Bookwalter’s own brilliant drug scourge thriller Ozone. Their catalog reflects the full width and breadth of no-budget horror, warts and all.

A lot of their titles are excruciatingly bad, but their egregiousness is part of their charm. Like other indie houses, such as Troma Team Releasing and Full Moon, the videos of Tempe Video are either shockingly well-crafted or so poorly crafted that the fun is in imagining the filmmakers’ state of mind during production.

Recently J.R. Bookwalter took to social media to announce that the company would no longer be producing motion pictures. In a Facebook post, Bookwalter writes, “All good things must come to an end, which is why we’re announcing today that Tempe Entertainment will be packing our bags and heading to that great indie retirement home in the sky on January 1, 2019.”

The news was a blow to those of us who place importance on indie film distribution. With streaming platforms fast replacing traditional distribution paradigms, it is unnerving to see a legendary studio like Tempe turning out the lights.

Like Crystal Pepsi, Tempe Video may be back one day, but it will never be the same again.

It would be all too easy to say that this spells the end for indie horror, but Tempe Video has served as a guidepost for innumerable indie houses to sprout up all across the country and today horror production companies number in the hundreds.

Outfits like Blumhouse, Brain Damage, Breaking Glass Pictures, Darclight, Dark Sky Films, Glass Eye Pix and Unearthed Films are rolling out a king’s ransom of cool titles that stretch the boundaries of what is possible with the kitchen sink approach.

The last ten years have given us modern macabre classics like Chad Ferrin’s mindfuck slasher Someone’s Knocking at the Door (2009), Adam Wingard’s genre-bending DXM trip/ghost story Pop Skull (2008), the Trent Haaga-penned cumming-of-age flick Deadgirl (2008), Ti West’s old school Satanic panic film The House of the Devil (2009) and the slippery sci-fi cringer Honeymoon (2014).

We’ve also seen genre exercises like You’re Next propel directors like Wingard into the mainstream where they were given the opportunity to make exceptional genre films (The Guest, Blair Witch) with a slightly grander scope.

These videos and films owe much to the Tempe Video model of frugal, makeshift innovation. It’s hard to imagine directors like Kevin Smith (Red State, Tusk) being able to successfully stage movie road shows or directors like Rob Zombie (31) being able to raise post-production monies using crowdsourcing had it not been for companies like Tempe Video paving the way.

Many great filmmakers are shooting feature-length flicks in 30 days or less and finding creative solutions to problems that present themselves on the day. And there are a lot of little production houses out there who are able to write, produce, direct and release their own pictures on little more than a prayer.

But Tempe did it first and they did it the best. Indie horror—Esto Perpetua.