Curtains (1983)

curtains0220 horror movies for $5; what could possibly go wrong?  Part XVI.

I actually had some hope for this one going in.  It is still in print as a stand-alone at Amazon, although I’m not sure what it means that the DVD cost $3 more than the Blu-Ray.  Usually it would be a case of supply and demand.  But is anyone really demanding this, in any format?

Unfortunately, the transfer is this collection is god-awful, making it impossible to properly evaluate the film.  It has quite a few decent reviews online — ranging form not half-bad to calling it a gem — so I’m willing to blame the transfer for my boredom.

It gets off to a cheesy start with Samantha Eggar holding a gun on an unseen man as she yaps on and on.  The credits roll over the scene like it is a TV episode.  The camera draw back to reveal that she is an actress on stage performing for John Vernon.

Vernon and Samantha go to see a doctor Pendleton.  During their meeting, she freaks out and tries to stab Vernon.  When alone, they laugh as this was a ruse to get her admitted to the sanitarium to research a role.  She is no R.P. McMurphy as the residents bring her down rather than her enlivening them.

Also unlike McMurphy, she escapes from the institution — after hearing that Vernon is auditioning other actresses for the role she is researching.  Six women are invited to Vernon’s house to audition.  Of course, they start getting picked off, even before they get there in one case.

curtains07Probably the best kill is of the aspiring actress who is supposed to be a pro ice skater.  She can skate, but her movements and tiny leaps make it clear that the director of this movie did not hire a pro ice skater as an actress.  An old hag, or maybe a hag wearing a hag mask, begins skating toward her with a scythe.

There are more auditions, dead bodies, a head in a toilet  The conclusion has an interesting wrinkle.  Really, though, my copy is so awful, it is hard to care.


  • Director Richard Ciupka asked to have his name removed from the credits.  The director credited on-screen is John Stryker — the name of John Vernon’s character.
  • Writer Robert Guza, Jr. shows up for the 2nd time in this collection (along with Prom Night).
  • Samantha Eggar was nominated for an Oscar, and won a Golden Globe for The Collector.
  • John Vernon was inexplicably snubbed by the Academy for his work as Dean Wormer in Animal House.

Puppetmaster (1989)

puppetmaser0220 horror movies for $5; what could possibly go wrong?  Part XV.

I guess a better man would have watched Amazon’s $4.71 DVD which has all 9 Puppetmaster films on it.  Thank God that ain’t me.

Puppetmaster (no The) immediately gets off to a good start.  It has a bouncy score that seems perfect for the puppetmaster’s workshop, but also maintains a dreamy slightly dark and dangerous vibe.

The fun-meter takes a dip when the first face we see is William Hickey who can be incredibly grating.  He is working in the Bodega Bay Inn in 1939, on his puppets, which already show signs of life.



We get a nice low-level puppet-POV tracking shot as one of his creations returns to his hotel to warn him that  Nazis were looking for him.  Much like Gingerdead Man, he seems to be able to roam around with impunity, none of the hotel guests noticing this 15 inch freak running around.  At least GD Man could turn 90 degrees, and be only 1/4 inch thick.  I don’t know what the puppet’s secret is.  Just before the Nazis bust in, Hickey hides his puppets in a secret compartment and kills himself.

Back in the present day, or at least 1989, professor Paul LeMat is having visions.  Although, being a professor at Yale, his grasp of reality was already tenuous at best.  Elsewhere, a carnival fortune-teller also begins experiencing visions.  Actually, she has a vision sitting right in front of her in the form of the lovely Barbara Crampton.  It is actually a pretty funny scene, well played by both.  Her mullet-headed boy-friend doesn’t contribute much, but the girls are great.  In a research lab, a Peter Stormare doppleganger and his hot assistant both get the visions.

Neil Gallagher has been researching Egyptian methods of giving life to inanimate objects.   His psychic outreach has summoned all of these people to the Bodega Inn where Hickey did his original puppet animation.  When they get there, he is already dead and they are welcomed by his wife Megan.    The puppets then begin picking off the psychics.

When Paul LeMat figures out what is going on, it turns out that Neil was only mostly dead, and has used the Egyptian secrets to give himself eternal life.  Two problems with that: I don’t see any ancient Egyptians walking around today, and he’ll be dead in a few minutes.

In the course of giving the standard Goldfinger / 007 exposition speech, he tosses aside one of the puppets.  That’s all it takes to drive them into a murderous rage.  Well, they were already killers, this just put a target on Gallagher’s ankles.

The puppets are excellent.  There is a cheese factor, but it only adds to the movie’s charms.  The transfer is so terrible on the disk, that screen-caps do not do them justice.  Google Tunneler, Pinhead, Jester and Leech Woman to see the great designs.

The human cast does not equal their wooden co-stars.  Paul LeMat always seems like a good guy, but he’s not much of an actor.  He has only one IMDb credit in the last 10 years, so I hope he is doing well.  Neil Gallagher’s wife who is set up to carry on the tradition in the sequel (but does not) is terribly miscast, having no screen presence at all.  not-Stormare just distracted me with his resemblance.  And I kept thinking that his assistant, while certainly cute, should have been played by Barbara Crampton.  Hickey’s role is small enough that he is tolerable.

2014-08-17_04-25-54xThe stand-out for me was Irene Miracle as Dana the fortune telling psychic.  Her scene with Crampton was charming, and she was intriguing throughout the film.  10 years before Puppetmaster, she won a Golden Globe for New Star of the Year in Midnight Express.  No idea how her career got derailed, but she deserved better — no IMDb credits after 1997.


  • I was disappointed to find I misread IMDb and Megan Gallagher was a character name, not the hot 80’s actress.
  • I see Paul LeMat has a few books available at Amazon.  Not many reviews, but suspiciously, every review is 5 stars.
  • Shockingly, he won 2 Golden Globes.  One was for New Star of the Year, same as Irene Miracle’s award.  This award must be like the Sports Illustrated Curse.  It was retired in 1983.
  • Story credit to Charles Band who was a producer on the Gingerdead Man movies.  He also directed Trancers, making him the 1st 3-peater in this ignominious collection.  On the plus side, he directed the movie with the best title in history, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn.

Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988)

Howling040220 Movies for $5; What could possibly go wrong?  Part XIV.

The opening credits say this is based on The Howling I, II, & III by Gary Brandner.  So, it took three books to create this masterpiece; as opposed to The Hobbit which is one book being made into three films.  So this film must be stuffed with great ideas, metaphor, action, rich characters — it must be nine times as good as The Hobbit!  Great, can’t wait!

Author and walking 80’s billboard Marie Adams (Romy Windsor) is riding up in an elevator to meet her agent.  A nun boards the elevator with her, but when she turns to speak to her, she has vanished.  She spots the nun again at lunch, but again she vanishes.  She has yet another vision — this one of a wolf — and this is the one that finally gets her hauled away.Howling0403

She is taken to a hospital, where she opens up a compact mirror and sees a vision of her face all bloody.  But in the director’s signature move, the shot is so quick — just a few frames — that it is barely perceptible on the first viewing (and WTH would anyone watch it a second time?).

The doctor and her husband Richard decide she needs a few weeks in the country to relax. Marie, her husband and their their preciously-named dog Pierre go to a rustic cottage in the country.  Rustic meaning there are wolf claw marks on the door.

During a walk in the woods, Pierre disappears.  Marie seems to think this is worthy of reporting to the sheriff.   The next day she thinks she sees the nun from the first scene, but it turns out to be a local in a black cape who will soon be banging her husband.  She points out a short-cut home to Marie which takes her past a cave.  Peeking inside, she sees Pierre’s severed head — identifiable only after replaying the scene three times, thanks to the director’s signature .5 second shot.

The next day, Richard goes to the cave to check out Marie’s story about Pierre.  Despite Marie specifically telling him Pierre was “in the cave,” he does not even peek in.  He finds an old doll several yards from the cave and tells her that’s what she must have seen, silly woman.

The story picks up slightly as a couple of New Yorkers are killed.  Sadly, it is all wolf-cam, so we see nothing.

yada yada.

Howling0405Finally about 80 minutes in, we get what we came for.  Richard, who was bitten in the 2nd yada, begins melting into a pile of viscous goo.  I still don’t understand how that is a step to becoming a wolf, but I was just happy to see anything finally happen in this film.

This attracts many other man-wolves most of whom look more like Nosferatu than wolves.  However, to average it out, they also present shots of red-eyed dogs running around that are supposed to be wolves.

Eventually, Marie is able to kill the wolves in much the same way we saw in Night Shadow.  A car is launched toward a bell tower where they have been lured.  Then the car is blown up, consuming them all in the fire.  When the denouement of your film draws from the same concepts as a Kato Kaelin joint, you’re on thin cinematic ice.

Romy Windsor is very watchable with a very distinct look about her.  Sadly, she is not reason enough to endure this movie.  Some of the effects are fun and appear to be practical, but they are too few and far too late coming to be much help.

I rate this a I out of IV. Stoopid no-fraction-having Romans — it only deserves a .V out of IV.


Gingerdead Man 3 (2011)

gingerdeadman30220 horror movies for $5; what could possibly go wrong.  Part XIII.

To be fair, I did not see the original Gingerdead Man.  I also have not seen Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust. However, I propose a new Oscar category for Best Title to properly recognize that film’s achievement in motion picture arts & sciences.  Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, you had a good run.

The most shocking thing about this movie is that I didn’t hate it.  In fact, for the first 10 minutes, it was pretty great.  It starts out with a fun spoof of Silence of the Lambs.  Clarissa Darling has come to see the Gingerdead Man at the Institute for the Study of Homicidal Baked Goods.  After being taunted by a murderous baguette, pie, brownie and bagel, she reaches the glass cell of Gingerdead Man.  He is manacled to the wall, wearing a Hannibal Lector face-mask.

gingerdeadman304As she is interrogating him, the Institute is overrun by animal rights activists who seek to free the prisoners.  One of them, believing Gingerdead Man to be a shaved Capuchin monkey, sets him free.  Making his escape, he ducks into a door labeled Time Travel Studies (as all cutting edge physics is done on prison grounds).  After killing the 2 scientists who have discovered the secret to time travel, he uses their invention to escape back to 1976.

Unfortunately, being a low-budget film, we are stuck with a lot of generic, stock disco music.  And we get a LOT of it.  Just a little dose of Night Fever or Stayin’ Alive would have helped immensely.  If they made a star of John Travolta, they can do anything.  One bit that gets used several times sounds like the opening to Carwash only to cruelly dash our hopes for a tune each time.

Having dispensed with the Silence of the Lambs portion of our program, we now move into the Carrie phase.  Skateland owner Trixie announces that the disco will close due to back-taxes.  She introduces her shy niece Cherry Wright who is movie-ugly (i.e. hair is in face).  When someone shouts “nerd” she shorts out a few lights.  There is also a girl with a red baseball cap in case we don’t get the Carrie whole homage.  Sadly, the red hat homage was chosen over the equally iconic foggy, slo-mo high school locker room scene.

Expect a lot of this.

Expect a lot of this.

Three of the girls put on a car wash to save Trixie’s.  They even have a giant professionally-made color banner promoting the car wash despite the fact they only heard of Trixie’s tax problem 10 minutes ago.  Seeing the bikini babes, Gingerbread Man is feeling his oats, so hooks their hose up to a conveniently placed barrel of hydrochloric acid.  They melt down like the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Meanwhile, Cherry is going against her aunt’s wishes and skating with the guy who fumigates the rental skates; the guy who cleans the toilets apparently being out of her league.  Some of the other girls give her a makeover and decide to get her elected Roller Boogie Queen.

We take a brief side-trip into Porky’s for a take off on the scene of Balbricker with the tallywacker.  Which sounds funnier than it is.


Jacqui Holland

Gingerdead Man then offs 3 more people in a storage room using a nail gun that fires CGI nails like an Uzi.  As the girl to the right is is one of the victims, Gingerdead Man has squandered a considerable amount of goodwill from me.

The movie follows the Carrie template with the pig’s blood and subsequent murder of just about everyone in the disco.  These scenes are kind of fun even though most of the people seem oblivious to the lightning bolt mass murders happening 10 feet from them.

A couple of kids who had made off with Gingerbread Man’s time travel device earlier now reappear for the Bill & Ted segment.  They have rounded up Adolph Hitler, Charles Manson, Lizzie Borden and Jeffrey Dahmer because it takes 4 people to subdue an 18-inch killer made out of cake.  I don’t recall any of them being known for  the physical prowess.  In fact, I’m not sure 2 of them ever personally killed anyone.

They get Gingerdead Man stuffed back in the cookie jar — no, literally — that was the big plan.  The time-traveling kids send him back to the future, resurrect the dead disco crowd, and have the good sense to sneak a peek at a lottery drawing to win a million bucks.  HELLO, MCFLY!!!!

Would I recommend?  The banal music really does drag it down, and each scene is follow by an increasingly tiresome footage of the skaters.  I could see it being fun with a group enjoying adult beverages or state-approved medicinal ganj.



Why isn’t this woman a star?

Night Shadow (1989)

nightshadow0220 horror movies for $5; what could possibly go wrong.  Part XII.

Infobabe Alex Jung is shown leaving KLOF studios.  There is a KLOF in Wyoming, but this seems to be California.  Also, KLOF is a radio station.

Having been offered a big promotion, she is heading back to her hometown of Danford to mull it over.  Reaching the town, she sees a Mansonesque man on the side of the road beside a car.  She wisely drives on.  An old friend of hers stops to help and is killed for his friendliness.

In the next scene, we are introduced to Kato Kaelin, best known as a friend of OJ Simpson during his murder trial.  Sadly for him, it is impossible for anyone of a certain age not to make that association.  He doesn’t help himself here with the giant mullet, but it was the 80’s.

While he is making out with his girlfriend, a couple of guys burst through the front door.  One is wielding a rifle, the other is wearing a Freddy Krueger bladed glove, and both have stockings over their faces.  After briefly scaring the couple to death, the two reveal themselves to be Kato’s friends and they all have a good laugh . . .  at them peeking in at the couple making out; and eavesdropping; and breaking down the door; and pointing a rifle at them.  In the friend department, that Kato sure has a type.


Christ, if there were pasta in the fridge, they’d be going all Lady and the Tramp.

The scariest part is the er, camaraderie of the three guys.  For a bunch of 30 year old guys, they are they most giggly bunch of 12 year old girls I’ve ever seen.  By that age, my father had been in 2 wars.  I had been in no wars by 30, but did shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die.

The one minor spark of life in the entire movie is when they close the front door and it falls off the hinges.  That’s it.  That’s the high point.  Of the whole movie.

Alex meets her brother at the local diner.  For reasons unexplained, he is Chinese.  In a good movie, that might be an interesting quirk, even more-so if uncommented upon.  Here, it mostly annoyed me.  I suspect they hired a Chinese actor just because the role called for some chop-socky later.  Across the diner, Alex locks eyes with Manson-man again.  There is clearly some sort of connection because there are several seconds of their faces with lightning bolts appearing in front of them.

nightshadow06The Sheriff happens by and breaks the trance.  When Alex looks back at the bar, Manson-man is gone.

Three bodies have shown up in Danford bearing signs of an animal attack; although one of them animals what throws his leftovers in a dumpster or car trunk.  By this point, some sort of hint of what this movie is about is long overdue for the audience.  However, rather than any exposition or foreshadowing, we get another shot of Alex and Manson-man locking lightning eyes.

Finally at 58 minutes in, the film decides it is about a wolfman.  Kato Kaelin does an excruciating homage to Bill Murray from Caddyshack.  The wolfman then kills Kaelin by . . . slashing his jugular?  Biting a chunk out of his neck?  Disemboweling him with a razor-sharp claw?  No, the wolfman runs him through with a pipe.  Don’t get me wrong, I think we were all happy to see it, and it was long overdue.  It just doesn’t exactly play to the strengths of a wolfman-American.

Eventually the wolfman is pinned against a building by a police car.  Alex’s brother takes a few shots at the car, and is able cause the gas tank to burst into flames.  So we don’t even get a silver bullet for our 90 minutes.

Trying to be positive, Brenda Vance as Alex was very watchable; given some decent material, she could have had a solid career.  Beyond her, there is not much to like.  Not the script, not the infantile acting, not the effects.  This movie has pretty much gotten the resting place it deserves.


  • As long as the OJ trial was mentioned, I feel compelled to point out the role that Kim Kardashian’s father had in getting him acquitted.
  • I can’t find a single US city named Danford, which seems odd.
  • Stuart Quan had quite the career in acting and stunt work.  Sad that of this mediocre bunch, he was the one to die young.  At 43, he lost consciousness after snowboarding and died.
  • In retrospect, I might have hard that Reno thing in a song.
  • OK, this guy wasn’t bad: