Just released: Eternal Sunshine #111, the April 2016 Issue.
Included in this issue:
Round 6 of the new Eternal Sunshine List contest – The Best Albums of All Time (by decade) where we finish the 1980’s
A subzine from Jack McHugh
A subzine from Richard Weiss
A colume from Paul Milewski
A column from Larry Peery
The latest issue of Jim Burgess’ The Abyssinian Prince
The 9th round of the new Kendo Nagasaki game (join now!)
The 9th round of the new By Popular Demand game
a new game opening for Avalon Hill’s Civilization
and the usual crap.
Check it out in the Eternal Sunshine Yahoo group, the Fans of Eternal Sunshine Zine Facebook group, or the newly-redesigned Diplomacy section of my personal website at http://www.whiningkentpigs.com/DW/
Flesh for the Inferno is the latest film from Scorpio Film Releasing and the wonderful director Richard Griffin. Teaming up with screenwriter Michael Varrati again (The Sins of Dracula) and many of the terrific Scorpio Films regulars, I expected more of the usual comedy horror the troupe has entertained us with for years.
Only a few minutes in I was reminded that just as often Griffin has chosen to play it straight, with movies like Normal and Exhumed. Flesh for the Inferno is more of a cross between the two; some 80’s-style horror combined with the well-timed sarcasm and humor that elevate Scorpio Films from some of the other independent horror flicks out there. In the process, we get a tip of the hat to such varied chillers as A Cask of Amontillado and the original Evil Dead.
As is often the case, they waste no time and jump right into the fun. The great Michael Thurber brings his Catholic youth group to a run-down Catholic school, which years earlier had been the scene of both molestations and the cruel murder of a group of nuns. The teens are there to clean up some of the mess before construction crews arrive on a future date to begin renovations. Little do they know they are soon to encounter the vengeful nuns, who have pledged their souls to Satan in exchange for revenge.
Many of the Scorpio regulars appear. Jamie Lyn Bagley is Meredith, an over-pious snide group leader. Jamie Dufault is Noah, Michael Thurber’s nephew who happened to visit during church group weekend; lucky him. We even get appearances from Sarah Nicklin as a soap-opera-obsessed prostitute and Aaron Andrade as…well, as a rather evil individual.
The real powerhouse in this movie is Anna Rizzo as Kat. Granted, she gets some of the meatier scenes and best lines, but if she couldn’t handle them they’d be wasted. She quickly jumps back and forth between terror and sarcasm with ease. Jamie Lyn Bagley’s character also is fun to watch, and Michael Thurber beings the skills he always does. Thurber is truly a talent; whether he’s playing Dr. Frankenstein, Dracula, or a role that requires more nuances he always seems to hit the nail on the head. Here he walks the tightrope of friendly, upbeat, pious and throws in just a hint of uncomfortable creepiness. Too much of any of these ingredients would cause him to lose his balance and fall to the ground below, but as always he crosses safely. Scorpio is lucky to have him.
The effects are much gorier than many of Griffin’s films, and rather well done. I found the possessed character who bashed its head over and over into a window until the entire face was flattened to be deliciously gruesome and disturbing. Something else that happens with that body soon afterwards confirmed my suspicion that it may have been homage to The Evil Dead.
There are some of the usual running jokes I’ve grown to expect and enjoy in most of Griffin’s films. There’s a gag about whether one of the characters is gay, another about whether people are REALLY sure a corpse was dead, and there’s a character who spends half his time assuming every female wants to have sex with him and the other half fascinated with banging pots and pans together in the kitchen. Varrati keeps the humor tight and intelligent, but not to the point of taking himself (or the characters) too seriously.
Richard Griffin has managed to avoid the trap he set for himself when he built his reputation from early successes like Pretty Dead Things and the masterpiece Disco Exorcist. Instead of going Troma and making every film formulaic, he continues to vary his choices and experiment with different flavors. Like a great wine or a delicate perfume, his films have a variety of aromas and ingredients. He has his favorites which help identify his signature, but even they can be moved around to a new level within the finished product. I look forward to the upcoming Accidental Incest and Seven Dorms of Death to see what new concoctions he has cooked up.
The latest film on my list of supported projects on Kickstarter, Lake Eerie is less horror and more a mixture of suspense and sci-fi. It was written by Meredith Majors (who also stars) and directed by Chris Majors (the duo is currently working on a new film, Echo of Evil).
The plot of Lake Eerie is in some ways slow to develop, but a lot of that has to do with the deliberate choice to reveal things sparsely rather than poor pacing. Kate Ryan (Meredith Majors) is recovering from some personal losses and crisis and has moved from Idaho to the shores of Lake Erie for a new start. She chooses an old house, including all the aged furnishings and belongings of the prior owner. Although it has been taken care of, the home has been unoccupied since the 60’s. Soon she learns the prior owner was an archeologist who was investigating some curious artifacts. And quickly strange things begin to happen, leaving Kate to try and decide if her mental instability is rearing its ugly head, or if she is being confronted with forces she cannot explain.
The real gem in this film is without question Betsy Baker, who plays nosy and eccentric neighbor Eliza. Horror fans might recognize Betsy’s name, but if you don’t, her most famous role was as Ash’s girlfriend Linda in the original Evil Dead. Even to this day fans encourage her to thrill them with her “We’re gonna get you, we’re gonna get you, not another peep, time to go to sleep” chant. In Lake Eerie, Baker is a tour de force, savoring her scenes the way a wine aficionado enjoys a rare vintage. It helps that she and Meredith Majors have very good on-screen chemistry, dancing between friendly banter and strained frustration.
The great Lance Henriksen makes an appearance as Kate’s father, left back at the Idaho farm and worried about the well-being of his troubled daughter. He doesn’t get a lot of screen time, which is a disappointment. Henriksen is in many ways a next-generation Peter Cushing: he can play a range of characters and no matter how goofy the dialogue he might be given it sounds believable and powerful when it comes out of his mouth.
If I have quibbles with Lake Eerie, the first is in some of the supporting cast. Anne Leigh Cooper as Eliza’s niece Autumn has to jump between excited, upbeat college kid to serious researcher and she never really finds a comfortable middle ground between the two. Ben Furney, in his scenes as Kate’s former husband, seems like oil to Kate’s water; they simply don’t carry any believable emotion as a loving couple.
My other complaint would be the resolution of the story. Admittedly a portion of this is because they wanted to leave an opening for a possible sequel. So I can allow a partial pass for that transgression. Obviously I can’t give you a lot of detail, because I want to avoid any possible spoilers.
Lake Eerie isn’t Hellraiser or Poltergeist quality, but it didn’t have the budget or commercial backing for that kind of punch. But it is enjoyable, so if you get a chance to pick up the DVD or watch it on Amazon Video or some other On-Demand service I say go ahead.
Oh, and Victoria Johnstone as “The Countess” can visit my nightmares anytime.