20 Horror Movies for $5 Recap


I’m grading on a curve here — not good in the sense that I could have paid $11 to see it and walked away satisfied.  But certainly way ahead of the other movies in this collection.  And better than some movies I actually have paid $11 to watch.

Keepsake (2008) – Probably the best in the collection.  Maybe more than any of the others, it seemed like an effort by serious film-makers.  I just today discovered that I have owned this movie for years and did not realize it.  It was in another cheapo collection that I never finished because I didn’t have the voracious gaping maw of a blog to feed on a deadline.

Hell’s Highway (2002) – I’m not 100% positive if this was the 2nd best, or if I was just giddy because this was the last entry.  It is more that there were a few scenes I appreciated rather than sustained goodness.  Micro-budget, but not afraid for their reach to exceed their grasp, and show some seams.  I could imagine the crew scrambling and running in between takes to get it as right as possible.

Not Bad

“Not Bad” might literally be a synonym for “Good”, but I still have to hedge a little on these. 20 years ago, I could have imagined re-watching one of these on a rainy Saturday afternoon.  That standard is long gone with so many better movies available on demand, but it stills works as a metric.

White Zombie (1932) – I cut this a lot of slack based on the age.  Had this been part of the Universal Monster scene, it would not be in the public domain, would have been better preserved, and would be more highly regarded.  It’s an entertaining watch.

Wages of Sin (2006), In the Dead of Winter (1993) – Wow, I am already having a hard time remembering much about these except that I did get some moments of genuine enjoyment out of both of them.

Trancers (1985)Prom Night (1980)Puppet Master (1989) – These seem like a little bit of a cheat since they were actual theatrically released movies — or at least cult videos — with some recognizable faces.


I’m confident I could sit still and watch these again without being tied to a chair.  But I really can’t imagine voluntarily watching them again without such restraints.

Curtains (1983) – I’m giving this the benefit of the doubt.  The transfer was so terrible, it was tough to watch, but others seem to like it.  If I got a free Blu-Ray, I’d give it another chance.

King of the Zombies (1941) – Very dated, and probably raaaacist.  But make some allowances and it is not a torturous watch.

Inside (2006) – Very slow, but not in a bad way, with an intriguing premise and some good performances.

Cruel World (2005) – Really a train wreck that I am being very charitable to.  On another day, this could easily be in the next bracket down.  Whenever I have doubts that acting is actually a skill, I will remember Edward Furlong’s “performance.”

Grave Mistake (2008) – Kind of fun in its micro-budget silliness.

Nurse (1997) – In the Watchable category only because it doesn’t really do anything wrong.  It is just slow, melodramatic, and fails to adequately exploit an interesting concept.

The Gingerdead Man 3 (2011) – No effort at all was expended in the making of this film.  It is so shameless, however, that it is kind of likable.

Participation Trophies (i.e. Crap)

Night Shadow (1989)  – Man-childs, men-children?  Whatever, just embarrassing.  Infantile acting and a story that takes forever to go nowhere.

Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988) – Another slow start that seemed very slow to end also.

Teenage Zombies (1960) – I feel kind of sorry for this one.  It was clearly just some yahoos trying to make a quick buck in the old AIP days.  There is no pretense of art; but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch.

Shaded Places (2000) – Just awful.  Awful performances, unbearable score, leaden pace, and I am guessing a largely improvised script — not necessarily a bad thing, but there is not a Christopher Guest or Larry David in this bunch.

Awaken the Dead (2007) – Well, somebody had to be last.  From the original review:

  • Cinematography: Just dreadful.  I don’t even think it was incompetence or budget constraints; it was just terrible choices.
  • Acting: Mostly terrible.
  • Dialogue: Terrible.
  • Make-Up: Really looked more like Insane Clown Posse than zombies.
  • Story: Adequate.  You don’t really need much for a good zombie movie.
  • Sound: Not well-recorded.  Sound does not get enough respect — in this, and many low-budget movies, expectations are lowered upon hearing the first word of dialogue.


Despite the crap, I was actually surprised at how watchable most of the movies were.  I’ve seen worse blindly choosing on NetFlix.  And all of them were still more enjoyable than watching a movie on Hulu.

Hell’s Highway (2002)

hellshighway0220 horror movies for $5; what could possibly go wrong?  Part XX of XX. Free at last, free at least, thank God almighty, I’m free at last.

Not a good sign that the only actor I’ve ever seen before is Ron Jeremy — not a good sign for me or the film.

We start off with a man driving through Death Valley.  Ahead, he spots a hitchhiker, and even at this distance, she is a hottie.  He discreetly covers a large knife with a newspaper.  I appreciate that the paper had a headline with the word “Killings” in it.  The director doesn’t jam it down our throat, but it is visible, giving me hope that this movie might actually have some nuance and thought behind it.

Lucinda, in denim shorts and a t-shirt, jumps in the car saying she and her boyfriend walked in different directions for help.  This stranger who has picked her up offers her some water which she gulps down.  Not blaming the victim here, but that’s 2 stupid moves by Lucinda.  She begins gagging.  The man pulls over and she runs into the hills.  She stumbles and he pulls out his knife and jams it into a really fake looking stomach.  But that’s OK — we’re obviously in micro-budget mode here, it was just a few frames, and the movie has already built up some goodwill with me.

hellshighway03The man gets his shovel from the car and puts on a preacher collar.  There is a nice bit of camera trickery as we cut from him giving her a final blow with the shovel to tapping the mound of dirt where she has been buried.  He sprinkles holy water on her grave from the same bottle she drank from.

As he is leaving, he hears her voice taunting him.  He looks around and sees nothing.  Once again, however, the director goes the extra mile and there is a nice reveal of Lucinda standing behind him as he turns, sporting some devilish painting on half her face.  Not that this is groundbreaking work, but after much of the crap in this collection, it is refreshing.  That’s the end of the Preacher.

This is mostly prologue to get us to the main story (and to keep the movie from being 60 minutes instead of 70).  Next we meet the group that we will follow for the rest of the movie.  More goodwill is accrued as Monique flashes the camera . . . then 30 seconds later does it again; sadly, we must wait another whole minute before she turns them loose again.

Chris is driving while Sarah and Eric occupy the backseat.  We see Lucinda hitchhiking ahead.  The group notices the huge number of crosses along the road and Lucinda tells them the story of The Devil’s Highway, which would have been a better title.  Lucinda claims she had earlier hitched a ride with Chris’ brother and killed everyone in the car.  Chris pulls over and demands that she get out of the car, then she points gun at Sarah.  After a struggle, they manage to pull a C. Thomas Howell on Lucinda and roll her ass out of the moving car.  Well, actually they rolled her ass out of the stopped car and cut to the car moving, but kudos to the director for making it work.

Clearly, she is supposed to be the devil.  She had the El Diablo face paint, her name is almost Lucifer, and she is evil.  But what’s with the gun?  The Devil needs a gun like God needs a starship.

That night, they pull over to zelten um Geld zu sparen (finally able to use that phrase from the high school German text).  Finally after 20 minutes, we get another look at Monique’s boobs.

The next day, they see Lucinda again hitchhiking.  She runs at the car, hurling a knife and swinging a shovel, but is no match for 2 tons of D-troit steel which mows her down, decapitating her.  Our heroes move her to the side of the road, and take off. No one notices that her entrails are still hooked to the car, so as they leave, they pull out 50 yards of intestines before dragging half her body behind the car.  Well played, Mr. Director!

hellshighway04Lucinda later shows up again with the El Diablo face paint.  And a chainsaw.  She does some damage before the gang can drive off.  Oh, for crying out loud, Lucinda shows up yet again the next day.  In fact, multiples of her show up.

Eventually all — or at least some — is explained.  It’s not a great movie, but there are enough signs that the makers actually cared that I am willing to go along for the ride.


  • Among director Jeff Leroy’s other joints: Dracula’s Sorority Sisters, Werewolf in a Women’s Prison.
  • Among Monique’s other credits: Stacked Racks from Mars, Busty Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Wages of Sin (2006)

wagesofsin0220 Horror Movies for $5; what could possibly go wrong?  Part XIX of XX.  Holy cow, I think he’s gonna make it!

The good news is that the first shot of the film looks like something Sam Raimi would have created.  The bad news is that it is just because it features an old land yacht that reminded me of Raimi’s Classic Delta 88 (30 seconds of research revealed not much similarity, so the film lost even that cheap thrill).

The Scooby gang is asleep in the car when a crazy preacher bangs on the window.  In a bizarrely egregious continuity error, the car which has been established to be parked in the middle of a huge field, is suddenly parked on a dirt road lined with trees.

wagesofsin08aThe lovely Sue wakes up the rest of the gang and they see the man watching them from far away. Truly, the 1 minute after the credits and up to this point gave me hope for another gem like Keepsake.  The cinematography was great, Sue is really beautiful and showcased in a 360 degree camera swirl, and the low humming score works.

They believe the figure to be their missing stoner friend who has gone out to spell his name in the road.  Sue rushes her lines a little, and her boyfriend’s teeth are blinding white.  Jane seems like someone’s sister visiting the set more than an actress, and the stoner is just an awful actor, looking and sounding like the stoner from Cabin in the Woods who nearly wrecked that movie for me.  But, other than the stoner, it is a likeable crew which places it ahead of most horror movie casts.

They are going to a house that adoptee Sue inherited from her biological family, and which is shown in a strange 2-second insert video shot of a photograph.  The stoner picks up the radio station from Children of the Corn and we get our title-check for “wages of sin.”

They stop at a gas station for supplies.  Sue goes into the disgusting bathroom and is approached by a wino assuring her that Jesus loves her.  She runs outside and yells at the stoner who was supposed to scout out the restroom.  He goes in, but there is no one there. They ask the gas station manager for directions to the house, but he tells them they don’t want to go there — just as in Cabin in the Woods, which was a parody of scenes in countless other films (including the aforementioned Children of the Corn).

They resume their journey and Sue resumes her hallucinations.  This time, she sees a little girl in a white dress on a swing.  The girl, now splattered with blood, then appears in the rear window in an interesting shot — then back on the swing.

Sue’s boyfriend Ron takes her out to the car and proposes, giving her a ring.  Unfortunately, he is left with a pretty big matzoh ball hanging out there. Maybe the reason is that he makes her sick to her stomach.  Back in the kitchen she starts yopping in the sink what looks like cranberry sauce — and not the good kind that comes in the can; the kind where you can see the actual berries.  She has another hallucination, but economically fits both the preacher and the little girl into the same vision.

Let us take a minute to give thanks for what is good.  Sue is still a hottie.  The little girl might be blankly reading her lines . . . or she might be a great little actress.  And when the Gary Busey-esque preacher speakers, smoke comes out of his mouth.  Smoke, or condensation like it is freezing.  I’m not sure either makes sense, but I did like the subtle effect.

After eating some 2 years old mystery meat, the gang sets up a Ouija board, again an . . . homage to countless other films.  Then Sue begins floating over her bed (The Exorcist).  The gang gets in the car and drives away, but arrives back where they started at the house.  After the obligatory crash, Sue sees the little girl again.

In one final extended “homage” we get a replay of The Shining, sometimes shot for shot.  as the stoner finds himself a maul and goes all Jack Torrance on Sue hiding in the bathroom with a knife like Shelly Duvall:

wagesofsin001wagesofsin002wagesofsin003wagesofsin004It was no Keepsake, but it was watchable.  Other than the stoner, the cast was competent.  The preacher in the hallucinations was a little over the top; which would have been OK if they had actually been able to afford Gary Busey.  The weakest point was the writing — the dialogue was sometimes cringe-worthy; and the hallucinations just didn’t seem to work for me.


  • Four credited writers to create this awful dialogue.
  • There are a freakish few seconds around the 58 minute mark where the aspect ratio seems to change, but they stretch out the picture to fill the screen.
  • The Wages of Sin is death.  It killed a good evening.
  • I’ve got a hankering for some corn.

Keepsake (2008)

keepsake0220 horror movies for $5; what could possibly go wrong?  Part XVIII of XX — home stretch.

Well this was unexpected.  Keepsake is actually a pretty good movie.  Had the run time been cut by tightening up the last half, the film’s other assets would have made this a solid film.

Sunny La Rose as Janine is pretty in a non-Hollywood way and is able to carry the movie.  The score is worked to great effect in several scenes.  The director mostly stays out of the way, but that’s not a bad thing.  There might have been one too many plot points which bogged the movie down along the way.  Ultimately, it is a torture / revenge movie and the baggage did not add anything.  It was well intentioned, though, and I found myself appreciating the effort.

Janine Burns is picking out a CD, and it is not clear what happens.  You can’t really see anything, but the windshield looks like a bird hit it — hardly her fault.  If it was a bird, why show the CDs?  Startled, she drives the car off the side of the road.  She is calling a tow truck, so something else must have been damaged.

She calls for a tow, although it is not clear where she got the number.  A couple of nice southern gentlemen in a pickup stop by and gallantly offer their services to a lady in distress.  OK, they were pretty scuzzy.  I can imagine that would be a threatening situation for a woman, but she handles it well, edging back to her truck, but not showing fear.

keepsake03The tow truck shows up soon driven by a mute man with no tongue.  He can’t speak, but his uniform says, “Earl.”  He is credited as TTD which I assume is Tow Truck Driver, or possibly Tongueless Towtruck Driver.  He puts her car on his rig and they leave.  She asks him a few questions, but he has a pad with a pre-written message that says to only ask him yes-or-no questions; a tactic I plan on adopting.

She looks for a pen to sign the bill, and in the glove compartment finds a drivers license with Earl’s picture, but he is a black man.  Realizing this couldn’t be the driver even in a DMV photo, she tries to get out of the truck and he slugs her.  When he stops at a gas station, she bolts from the truck.  He catches her and roughs her up

He throws her in the restroom, and handcuffs her to a urinal as a police car pulls into the station.  Somehow taking off her shirt enables her to disconnect the pipes.  I’m no plumber, but I’m not sure what happened there.  Mind you, I’m not complaining either.  Maybe if she took off the bra, she could have used the pipes as a radio.

TTD jumps the cop, takes his gun, shoot him, and just wails on him.  just as Janine escapes, TTD catches her and injects her with something to knock her out.

keepsake05Title card:  DAY 1

Janine wakes up and TTD puts a metal collar around her neck that he can use to send electrical shocks through her via a remote.  TTD finds something interesting in a notebook in her car which she tries to trade for her freedom, but we don’t learn more for another hour.  He throws her in a pit below the floor of the barn.

Now the hallucinations begin.  They start out promising, on a beach with a topless girl that seems to be Janine’s lover, but turns out to be her sister Alice.  Now to really make this interesting . . . er, but I digress.

She awakens to see dismembered and rotting corpses in the pit.  TTD goes down to check on her and she brains him with a 2 X 4 and tries to run.  He zaps her electric collar ring.

While unconscious, Alice tells her that everything they went through as kids was preparing Janine for this moment.

He gives her a note that says: “30 days.  Show me.”  Thus starts the 2nd series of hallucinations, this set featuring the rotting corpses reanimating.  Frankly, they could have cut out this recurring plot point (or at least have had better looking zombies).


He makes her strip, hoses her down naked.

DAY 15

Another hosing down.  He gives her an extended shock, and then a new dress.  She has another hallucination of the animated bodie, and another hallucination of her sister.  Apparently their father abused them as kids.

He takes her in the house where there is another girl.  they eat, she starts, he slaps her from not waiting for the prayer.  She says she won’t go back in the box, calls him a freak.  He beats her unconscious so she sees her sister again.  Alice is hitchihing and despite Janine’s protests, leaves Janine alone to face her ordeal.

TTD brings home another girl.  We now enter the torture porn portion of the show as he de-tongues her and slices her Achilles tendons.  Presumably so she won’t be running her mouth.  TTD kills her, launching Janine into another hallucination but at least she didn’t have to get knocked out for this one.

Of course, tables are turned, there is a twist, and not everyone lives happily ever after. They could have easily lost the zombie hallucinations and kept this in the real world; and closer to 90 minutes.  Otherwise, I have no complaints.  It looks good, it sounds good, the heroine is a real woman (not gorgeous or performing kung fu).  Easily the best of this collection.  I could imagine it being a hit on the festival circuit.


  • The title doesn’t really work.  I assume the titular keepsake is the photo Janine takes at the end.  But it is really introduced way too late for that to be used for the title.  Maybe the plural Keepsakes to refer to the entire photo album.
  • Not really sure what happens at the end.  Is that her own car she drives off in? Didn’t it require a tow 30 days earlier?  Did TTD thoughtfully fix it?  The tow truck uniform was stolen, so I am baffled by this.

In the Dead of Winter (1993)

20 horror movies for $5; what could possibly go wrong?  Part XVII of XX (ithinkicanithinkicanithinkican).

This is only the 2nd film in this collection wherein I have never seen a single actor in anything else.  This was not a good omen for Teenage Zombies, but at least that had the excuse of being 54 years old and uber-low budget (or is that unter-low budget).  And it still managed to have cover art online.

Part of the problem with this collection — admittedly a small part of the problem — is the transfers.  The quality here is just as bad as with Curtains; and in both cases, the movies had some good qualities that were suffocated by it being such a chore to even look at.  Not to say the movies would have been good if better preserved; but certainly watchable.

The unlikely named G-Jo Reed plays Tucker, a convict getting out of prison today.  He comes out with that great American 2nd chance,  clean slate, never going back, cleaning up his act attitude — dressed in camo, flipping off a prison clerk, being met by some low-life pals driving a flatbed and getting a gat in his hands within 2 minutes of leaving the facility.

inthedead02His pal knows where the first stop will be.  Under the credits, we see some great images of the snowy Utah mountains as they drive.  Not that they are well-photographed, mind you.  It’s just that in certain areas like this or the Grand Canyon, it is so amazing, that it is almost impossible to take a bad picture.  See Adams, Ansel E.

They arrive at the home of Sheriff Steve — seriously, that’s how he credited — just as he is leaving for work.  Tucker puts 2 in the sheriff, causing blood to gush from his mouth.  He straddles the downed sheriff and puts 2 more in him at close range.  This is not going to look good at his parole hearing, especially with Sheriff’s Wife — seriously, that’s how she is credited — standing 2 feet away from him as a witness.

Just an aside — I don’t know if the ol’ “black stuff on the binoculars / telescope gag” has ever been once been pulled in real life, but it will always get a laugh out of me on-screen.

Next they encounter a couple in the classic wrong place at the wrong time whose truck has broken down on the highway.  This has a couple of fun shots of them driving off with the couple’s snowmobiles and leaving them tied up.  Not great, but there is a spark.

A yuppie couple’s ATV breaks down, and they trek to a cabin.  As in all movies, no one answers the door, so they just walk right in.  As in Axed, it turns out that the man has planned the whole thing and has a bottle of wine waiting for them.  Unlike Axed, he does not kill his wife.  However, like Axed, he does use an axe — but to chop wood.


Seriously, Utah in Winter? Wouldn’t this have required a backhoe?

Unfortunately, this was to be the gang’s hide-out.  They barge in and begin roughing up the couple until the man drives a knife through the foot of one of them.  They don’t see the humor and bury him up to his neck in the ground.

The wife manages to grab Tucker’s gun.  In a random act of violence equivalent to Vince Vega’s shooting of Marvin, she causes a snowmobile to run over her husband’s head.  Although, to Vince’s credit, he did not waste 4 bullets doing it.  The wife is distraught and points the pistol in her mouth.  It is admittedly funny when one of them ways, “Honey, don’t make a mortar of yourself.”  She pulls the trigger but those had been the last 4 bullets.  As they wrestle her to the ground, she accidentally falls on her own knife.

The gang takes off on the snowmobiles and quickly get lost.  If only snowmobiles left some sort of track that could be followed back.  As the brain-trust stops to assess the situation, a sniper begins firing at them.  The rest of the movie is the unknown sniper tracking the men across the Utah landscape.  Just as in First Blood or Southern Comfort, the men get picked off one by one.

Turns out the sniper — SPOILER– is the Sheriff who had been wearing a bullet-proof vest in the first scene.  Although I would have thought the blood gushing from his mouth indicated otherwise.  And I guess the off-screen 3rd and 4th shots were not head-shots.

I’m all for these vermin being exterminated, but it seems a little extreme.  He ain’t Josey Wales — they did not kill Sheriff’s Wife or Sheriff’s Son (as he is credited).  But it’s hard for me to care — good riddance. Plus, it was revealed that this guy was in jail for killing a dog.  Is that really motivation to murder the sheriff who busted you?

The ending is basically Sideshow Bob stepping on rakes.  Well, the logical end, not the actual end.  This movie is like Return of the King — it just won’t stop.  It goes on for about 7 minutes after it should have gone dark.

Definitely a low-budget joint, but probably watchable with a clean print.  I’m not going to be rewatching or recommending it to anyone, but it had it’s moments and the acting was not uniformly horrible.


  • Who is the girl snowboarding behind the car during the interminable ending?  It looks like the  yuppie girl, but her jacket is slightly different and that couple was on an ATV not a car.  Plus she is dead, and it is a different guy.  At first I thought it was an outtake, or behind-the-scenes footage, but then the movie continues.  Baffled.