Each month, we’ll take you on a trip down the proverbial video aisle to look at some of the latest and best indie horror releases you need to check out.
Remember last month when I said that August is loaded with a lot of great looking films? Well I spoke too soon, because September (aka October Eve) is overflowing with awesome looking content! We have 3 From Hell finally being released, Polaroid finally seeing the light of day, 2 exciting releases from filmmakers Jovanka Vuckovic and Chelsea Stardust, the latest Lauren Ashley Carter film, and still so much more! Not to mention a tiny sequel coming out September 6, I’m sure you’ve heard of it.
There’s lots to cover this month, so let’s get right to it and take our monthly venture down the video aisle!
Power of Grayskull: The Definitive History of He-Man
(Available 9/3 on digital and DVD)
What really stands out the most about Power of Grayskull are the interviews from the original team behind the creation of He-Man. But it’s not just the information these people discussed that I found compelling, it was the manner in which they discussed it. Every person looked back at He-Man and their part in it with a loving fondness that put a big smile on my face.
Some of what the Power of Grayskull delves into in regards to production and design of He-Man were very surprising details that I never thought a toy company would think of. From foot placement, the muscled, 3D look, and the included accessories, such as an ax, being inspired by the accessories that came with Barbie dolls. Who knew? While the creative and production process is told in great detail, the film also mentions the impact He-Man had on the minds of children. The popular catch phrase as He-Man lifts his sword, “I have the power,” was meant, quite literally, that kids had the power. It was a confidence building aspect of He-Man that was more psychological than anything.
There’s a fascinating segment on the creation of She-Ra, He-Man’s twin sister, as an alternative to Barbie and how she was developed. The backlash against the violence of He-Man also hindered the development of She-Ra. These behind the scenes insights are in great abundance throughout the film and give the creative journey of He-Man great depth. There’s also an awesome segment that works as a mini doc exploring the feature film, Masters of the Universe. Interviews with stars Frank Langella and Dolph Lundgren add great weight to this segment. It’s fascinating watching the effort and care that went into this film that is largely considered a cheesy mess.
Power of Grayskull worked extremely well in telling the story behind the He-Man phenomenon in a loving way with countless interviews and behind the scenes stories. But it also worked as an endearing tribute that made me want to go back in time to being a kid in the 1980’s so I can re-live and experience my love for He-Man all over again. That’s the best compliment I can think to give Power of Grayskull. After all, isn’t that what a documentary like this is supposed to do?
“The history of Mattel’s definitive action figure toy line.”
FIRST LOOK: THE TOP OF THE RELEASE PILE
Don’t worry, the spirit of the filmmakers are sitting next to you as you watch The VelociPastor winking and nudging and laughing the entire time. In other words, they’re in on the joke, and you should be too. The VelociPastor is as ridiculously fun as you’d hope it would be with a boyish, soft spoken priest (a perfectly cast Greg Cohan) obtaining the ability to turn into a vicious, flesh eating, and very corny looking dinosaur.
The film plays out like a Saturday morning cartoon meets Troma, which makes it the perfect midnight movie with some weed or beer. Alyssa Kempinski is so good as Carol, the hooker. It’s a limited role, but her performance is surprisingly very sweet and touching at times, and she shows some real talent here. Some of the many highlights include a workout montage featuring very short shorts, a ridiculous, multiple split screen love scene, a pimp with an epic comb over, a hilarious Vietnam War flashback, and ninjas. Just sit back and laugh, The VelociPastor is wonderfully dumb and very funny.
“After losing his parents, a priest travels to China, where he inherits a mysterious ability that allows him to turn into a dinosaur. At first horrified by this new power, a hooker convinces him to use it to fight crime. And ninjas.”
Danger God is a fascinating look at a life that is not often thought if let alone examined, that being the life of a 1950s and 60s, B movie stuntman. They did crazy things for “fifty bucks and a baloney sandwich.” Besides the obligatory scenes from several films, the production quality is pretty bare bones with interviews taking place in living rooms or offices and the audio varies in volume at times. But this approach suits the B movie content just fine, with the behind-the-scenes stories and examination of the filmmaking at the time ultimately being what matters here. And both offer fascinating and educational insights.
The segment that features the famed Spahn Ranch, the location used in a number of 1950s and 60s Westerns, is especially compelling. Kent talks about paying Charles Manson in advance to fix his broken down car. When Manson didn’t do it, Kent warned him that his friend John “Bud” Cardos would kick his ass if he didn’t. This is a very familiar scene for anyone whose seen Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Gary Kent is said to be one of the stuntmen of the time whom Tarantino based Brad Pitt’s character, Cliff Booth.
While the first half of the film largely focuses on Gary’s stunt work and film career, the second half wanders quite a bit and is a departure from the first half. It shifts to Gary’s modern day life with a lot of it being sad yet touching, but I can’t say all of the second half works as it feels like a completely separate film. B movies they may be, but stuntmen like Gary Kent and the filmmakers of these films loved movies and creating this entertainment for people. There’s definitely an art form to being a stuntman, and these people go largely unrecognized. Danger God is a nice love letter to the profession and B movie, drive-in hey day and is definitely worth a watch.
“Gary Kent was the king of B movies in the Sixties and Seventies, working for indie directors from Richard Rush to Ray Dennis Steckler to Al Adamson, but he’s tackled even larger real-life challenges.”
Let me start by saying that, based on the trailer and poster, I kind of thought this would be more of a tongue in cheek, icky spider killing romp. Instead, Itsy Bitsy feels like a spider slasher flick with a whole lot of family drama instead of teens scared in the woods. While it has its moments, the film suffers from simply not enough slashing. There’s hints, glimpses, quick cuts, and teases, but there just isn’t enough spider slashing happening here. The audience knows what is eventually coming, and that’s largely why we’re watching: we want to see this gross, huge spider poison and spider web cocoon people to death!
Unfortunately it’s a bit of a slog sitting through the family drama that makes up a large portion of the film (almost all of it). That and the ancient mythology behind the spider’s existence just feels boring. Itsy Bitsy is well made with decent performances. But when you see a giant spider in act one, you’re really just waiting to see it go off in act three. And instead of a bang, Itsy Bitsy just shoots blanks.
“Based on the centuries old poem, a family moves into a secluded mansion where they soon find themselves being targeted by an entity taking the form of a giant spider.”
TO BE WATCHED: MORE GREAT HORROR
An evening on the job delivering pizza turns into a night of devil worship and sacrifices. That’s all the setup I need to want to check out the new film from Blumhouse alum Chelsea Stardust. Rebecca Romijn looks to be having a devilishly good time and Jerry O’Connell is effortlessly sleazing it up in what promises to be an outrageous and potentially gory good time.
“A pizza delivery girl at the end of her financial rope has to fight for her life – and her tips – when her last order of the night turns out to be high society Satanists in need of a virgin sacrifice.”
Artik combines 2 things that I love: a slice of life look into dark parts of the world and Lauren Ashley Carter. The film combines a dark mystery with a brutal depiction of the lives of some pretty shady people. Another thing I love about this trailer is it doesn’t give too much away and I have no idea where exactly this film is going. But I’ll say this, I’m excited to find out.
“A comic book obsessed serial killer teaches his son how to get away with a series of brutal murders until the boy befriends a mysterious man who threatens to expose everything.”
This is exactly the kind of film I would expect from filmmaker Jovanka Vuckovic: a rock n’ roll vision of a post apocalyptic world full of punk attitude and class warfare. What’s not to love!? Two things stand out to me with this trailer: Alexandre Bourgeois has River Phoenix vibe going on and Madison Iseman is an actress on the rise and I love that she has a badass looking film like Riot Girls on her resume. I’m really looking forward to this one!
“In an alternate 1995, a mysterious disease has wiped out all of the adults. In this new age, two gangs are pitted against each other in a brutal war for territory, resources and survival.”
More than simply a re-telling of the Frankenstein story, Depraved shows flashes of old-school horror style and hints at a story with some depth with PTSD working as a major theme in this new film. Indie horror icon Larry Fessenden takes on writing and directing duties here and his presence alone warrants the inclusion of Depraved on this list.
“A disillusioned field surgeon suffering from PTSD makes a man out of body parts and brings him to life in a Brooklyn loft.”
3 From Hell
The very short and to the point IMDb plot summary pretty much sums up all that needs to be said about 3 From Hell. Rob Zombie delivers another gritty, dirty, over the top, brutal blast of filth, and that’s always entertaining in my book! Say what you want about the guy, but Zombie has established a clear cut style for himself and everything he releases as a filmmaker is at least worthy of looking into. 3 From Hell looks wild!
“Sequel to The Devil’s Rejects.”
Reborn has the look and feel of a schlocky midnight movie, the kind of flick you throw on to pass the time but end up having a lot of fun with. Kayleigh Gilbert looks great in the lead and seems to hold her own against the always great Barbara Crampton.
“A stillborn baby girl is abducted by a morgue attendant and brought back to life by electrokinetic power. On her 16th birthday, she escapes captivity and sets out to find her birth mother, leaving a trail of destruction behind her.”
Polaroid has been kicking around for a while now, changing release dates several times. I’m glad to see it finally getting a release because it looks like a solid horror offering and reminds me of those teen slasher flicks from the late 90’s. I’m really digging the camera-as-slasher vibe and that Texas Chain Saw Massacre-esque camera whine. And how cool is it to see that Dimension Films logo flash on the screen?
“High school loner Bird Fitcher has no idea what dark secrets are tied to the mysterious Polaroid vintage camera she stumbles upon, but it doesn’t take long to discover that those who have their picture taken meet a tragic end.”
Happy Halloween, folks! Candy Corn offers a new horror villain for fans to get behind in this new flick set around everyone’s favorite holiday. The foggy and seemingly timeless atmosphere gives this movie a classic and attractive appeal and I’m pretty excited to check it out. We also get genre favorites Tony Todd, Courtney Gains, and P.J. Soles in the cast!
“It’s Halloween weekend and a group of bullies are planning their annual hazing on local outcast, Jacob Atkins. When they take things too far, he’s resurrected to seek revenge against those that wronged him.”
Writer and director Joe Begos looks to have made something pretty special with Bliss. I was a big fan of his previous film, The Mind’s Eye, and my impression here is of a filmmaker hitting his stride. Bliss looks as stunning as it does compelling and promises a knockout performance from Dora Madison. I simply cannot wait to watch this one!
“A brilliant painter facing the worst creative block of her life turns to anything she can to complete her masterpiece, spiraling into a hallucinatory hellscape of drugs, sex, and murder in the sleazy underbelly of Los Angeles.”
After a buzz worthy and award-winning festival run, Buckout Road is being released to the masses, and I’ve been looking forward to this! I’m loving the imagery being shown in this trailer and it looks like the filmmakers are really trying to establish a creepy mythology to work as a strong backbone to the story. Like Polaroid, I’m getting that late 90’s teen horror flick feel from this one and that’s just fine with me.
“A college class project on creation and destruction of modern myth, turns terrifying when a trio of young people come to realize the urban legends surrounding the famed Buckout Road may, in fact, be REAL.”