Charles Milles Manson was a notorious criminal and cult leader living a commune lifestyle in the peace and love era of the 1960’s. The Mason Family was his communal cult following that squatted in the outskirts of Californian desserts and self indulged in hallucinogens. Radicalized and dangerous, Manson exploited their unwavering loyalty to his radicalizing behavior of a hippie way of life. Filmmaker John Aes-Nihil, a collector and lionizer of all things Charles Manson, shoots a recreation of the daily activities of Mason’s cult members, filmed at infamous Manson locations that gave a taste of commune life while also providing shuddering atmospheric insights of kill spots. To Aes-Nihil, Charles Manson lived and breathed through interpretation of their, so called, home movies.
Filmed between 1974 to 1979, three years after Charles Manson was convicted of first degree murder, director John Aes-Nihil filmed his rather homage-life rendition of what he calls the “Manson Family Movies.” Not released until 1984, Aes-Nihil also brings legend to fruition of a rumor that Manson and his followers filmed much of their daily rituals and societal deviancies, giving “Manson Family Movies” more stigma to the already controversial obsession the filmmaker already made mania in such a short turnaround from Manson’s conviction finale. “Manson Family Movies” is also a silent film, a rarity for a late 70’s, early 80’s that was just in an industrial transitional point of visual special effects and larger than life performances; yet Aes-Nihil’s remains silent and crudely finesses his interpretative documentary with stage play performances and badly scrawled title cards that instill an engrossing affect of internal sliminess toward the already visceral nature.
The cast consists of many unknown faces who have come and gone even before “Manson Family Movies” was first viewed by the public. Their involvement begs the question of their pride for subject matter involving the brutal stabbing murder of a pregnant woman with the senseless and, almost, toying deaths of couple as their listed names are more than likely pseudonyms, credited as if themselves were a part of a hippie commune with names like Rick the Precious Dove as Charles Manson, Krista Meth (Crystal Meth?), Porn Michael, Miss Sheila Star, and Sister Audress just to name some of the more eye-catching credits. As aforesaid, performances are choreographed indiscriminately that much of the violence goes by the waist side, but as characters go, more than most look the part with the exception of some transvestism as some actors and actresses don multiple roles in the bottom of the money barrel feature. Other dime actors included Katie Lazarus, Knarly Dana, Mr. Jacquetta, Judy, Ms Mule, Danny, Lori, Miss Head, Ms Brad, Moka, Chucky, Rusty, King Mama, and The Cosmic Ray. Seriously…
Not much is first-rate about the “Manson Family Movies” aside from a couple of exceptions: 1) Cult Epics amazing two-disc re-release that’ll be covered later and 2) the fact that Aes-Nihil constructed home like movies using what looks like 8mm negative film complete with deterioration and defects, providing a desensitizing and demoralizing halo around the heavy material. “Manson Family Movies” won’t be many audiences cup of historical tea and many folks will probably point out that this is only an interpretation of events, but was the raid on “Pearl Harbor” accurately depicted by Jerry Bruckheimer or did James Cameron give every minute detail correct in “Titanic?” I think not. Not to compare apples to oranges to blue berries, but as base observation, Aes-Nihil did what any director would have more than likely done with an influential historical moment, a little embellished reenactment no different from the stud Hollywood filmmakers.
Cult Epics’ re-release of the “Manson Family Movies” is now presented in a region free, two-disc set complete with a slip illustrated with the same composited Charlie Manson head cover art by Brian Viveros and the same disc art by Charles Manson himself from the 2005 release. The film is presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio with the black bars on either side of the frame and, as previously mentioned, the image clarity is marked by scratches, flares, and dirt. Surely, for visual stimulation. Billed a silent film, the dual channel mix of the redux and remastered score is resoundingly poignant and strangely vibrant with Charlie Manson and his Manson Family recorded music as the soundtrack. Plus, there are actually less aesthetically audio tracks from Sloppy Titty Freaks, Beyond Joy and Evil, Glen Meadmore, and some sampling of the Beatles from, you guessed it, Helter Skelter. Special features include John Aes-Nihil commentary track, outtakes with director’s commentary, last interviews with Charles Manson, the original LADP crime and morgue photos, and the second disc contains Sharon Tate’s home movies without an audio track. After watching “Manson Family Movies,” John Aes-Nihil comes to suspicion as perhaps one of Charlie’s commune followers as he depicts a chilling look into the past, through a window of ghastly sovereignty over impressionable young people, and champions a real home movie approach that makes the entire package, along with a invigoratingly haunting score, a black gem.
In the wake of a tragedy that resulted in the loss of life, a small Argentinian funeral procession progresses in tandem with the court hearings of a supposedly corrupt politician, the governmental figurehead indirectly responsible for the deaths of innocents. When the verdict of not guilty surfaces over the news media waves, the grief-stricken family and friends, praying at a cemetery memorial, shrill in anguish their displeasure that becomes a calling for the undead to rise up and exact revenge toward the capital. In the midst of the resurrecting chaos, others simultaneously face terror in other forms such as exacting sadistic punishments in a backwards universe of role reversals, the elaborately ill-fated plan of swapping girlfriends on the streets of the city, a night of sordid carnalities at a hotel becomes a night of horrendous violence, and a group of candid friends indulge in a snuff film comfortably and safe inside an apartment, but an evil is slowly boiling to ahead right before their very unsuspecting eyes.
“Terror 5,” a title that one would assume on first thought that five horror icons team together for utter slaughter of hapless cheerleaders or, perhaps, clash in one epic villainous mêlée of monumental proportions, but the film is actually an Argentinian anthology of urges and terror and for the record, if “Terror 5” was a collection of the top five horror icons, this reviewer’s enlistment would include Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Pinhead, Predator, and Charles Lee Ray aka Chucky. Jason Voorhees is a bit of a mama’s boy, if you ask me! Let’s get back on the topic of the brothers Sebastian and Federico Rotstein’s helming of an interweaving, anthological horror film from 2016. The Buenos Aires born siblings collaborate with the “The Vampire Spider” writer, Nicholas Gueilburt, to construct five tales that plant the seed of danger from the sordid impulses that motivate impure, and sometimes supernatural, malevolencies. The five tales digs into the depths of quivering human interaction and the immorality of their choices that inevitably leads them toward their own gruesome destruction.
The complete South American cast will be more than likely unknown faces to audiences of the United States, unless broadening your film library is a must-do compulsion. In which case, Gaston Cocchiarate is a familiar face who had a supporting role in Gonzalo Calzada’s devilishly feministic empowering thriller, “Luciferina.” Cocchiarate’s character goes from being a naïve college kid in “Luciferina” to a bullied simpleton that gets pushed too far by his peers in “Terror 5.” Nicknamed Cherry for his plump figure and, more likely, his untapped virginity, Cocchiarate’s character seems like a nice enough guy, but powerful when provoked and Cocchiarate embraces the oppression punishment-to-maniacal psychosis well. Another fascinating actor to look for is Walter Cornas as the KISS-cladded Juan Carlos on a night of costumes, drugs, and booze during a small get-together. The dirt-bike riding jokester has a hard on for it all: booze, women, Cherry, and even snuff porn. The character is brutally charming like that one asshole guy who always manages to get with the girls no matter how much of a douchebag they are and the character is very relatable to us all because we all know someone like Juan Carlos. Under the black and white makeup and reckless cruelty is Walter Cornas whose versatile demo reel on IMDB.com and performance in “Terror 5” gives a great insight into his vibrant character performances that make him so enjoyable to behold. Cocchiarate and Cornas stand out with the better and most chilling performances amongst the remaining cast that includes Augusto Alvarez, Juan Barberini, Nai Awada, Magdalena Capobianco, Cecilia Cartasegna, Rafael Ferror, Lu Grasso, Flavia Marco, Jorge Prado, and Marcos Woinsky,.
As far as anthologies are concerned, “Terror 5” favors a string of scary stories to be strung together being each a cataclysm spun from the negativity produced by the outer story that includes blazingly blue-eyed revenge zombies and the result is, on the surface, quite convoluted. What doesn’t help “Terror 5’s” case either is that the Rosenstein brothers decided to interwoven all but one of the stories together, creating a multi-narrative mesh. Instead of individual chapters or title card introductions, the stories have a lattice blueprint and the audiences are forced to go back and forth between the dissimilar story lines that, on initial viewing, would be assumed that one story is a fraction to the other. The stories also didn’t have that killer kick in the pants that makes you go , “WTF!” Each tale ends rather abruptly, leaving morsels of the carnage to be further imagined rather than be digested in full and I’m sure, though couldn’t locate any background about it, that these tales are based in part of an Argentinian, or even in a broader South American sense, contemporary urban legends that are unfortunately not explored in detail. If approached positively, the human thirst for flesh, morbid curiosity, and unflinching corruption is well laced throughout and that’s the real terror behind the surface level macabre.
Artsploitatoin Films and Reel Suspects introduces Sebastian and Federico Rotstein’s “Terror 5” onto DVD home video presented in an anamorphic widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Director of photography Marcelo Lavintman works in the shadows with a very cloaked and dark alleyway approach. Some minor digital jumping in the blacks that’s underwhelming at best and in more lit scenes, clarity reigns with promising detail and natural coloring, despite not being variably hue heavy. The Spanish language 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound has prominent dialogue and a balanced, foreboding score by Pablo Borghi, but the tracks lack a range and a depth magnitude and, essentially, all the sound is right in front of you without the bulk of the surround sound too enhance the effect. English subtitles are available and though generally translated well, there were some slight typos. The only bonus material included is the trailer. As far as Argentinian horror anthologies go, “Terror 5” leads the pack with directors, Sebastian and Federico Rotstein, pulling from familiar filmic influences and gutter cravings with turnaround consequences and mortal coil tussles. Schematically, “Terror 5” has profound leap frogging narratives that challenge the conventional way we view anthologies or overall films, creating a bit of havoc on the tale or tales at hand.
Allex’s life is meaningless. Losing his wife spun a web of alcoholism that drained his motivation to live. But Allex is about to get a little help from a man in black; a rogue scientist looking to cure Allex’s addiction in the most radical of sense. When Allex wakes up after a black out binder, a stitched up incision is on his chest and a video that shows him on a murderous rampage. Allex doesn’t remember a thing. Being terrorized by a scientists who thirst to cure Allex of his alcoholism and stagnant life is nothing short of bitter sweet.
Lets start off this review with a positive. Brad Dourif will forever stand out among his fellow cast mates. Dourif has accumulated over the years the manners and the techniques to build a sinister villain even if the legendary “Chucky” voicing actor plays a character that lacks major cojones. In “Malignant,” Dourif is the rogue scientist playing havoc on Allex’s life and the subtle approach Dourif brings is exactly how I would have imagined it as his character is brilliantly spiteful and usually where there is brains, there is less braun.
“Malignant” drives a stake right through the heart of alcoholism subject matter. Most people flounder the way the main character Allex does when they’re under the spell of the drink. Director Brian Avenet-Bradley introduces a cruel and diabolical intervention where pro-choice to cure one’s self is non-existent. Now, the fix isn’t exactly quick and nor is it ethical and moral, but when you need to start living your life again, what better way than to slash the throats of the drunks around you?
With a good amount of positives for the film, “Malignant” certainly isn’t anything spectacular to where you desperately need to watch it right away. But I certainly encourage the message behind the film and can back good Dourif performance even if it’s not his best. Another positive is the lobotomy surgical scenes will have some eye lids squint with visual displeasure and I can contest that the effects are realistic and not at all cheesy.
What I can’t escape from is the main character’s poor choices. The screenplay holes are major because the character Allex makes too many poor choices driving my dislike for Allex high and hoping that he gets what he deserves, for being idiotic, in the end. Played by Gary Cairns, Allex’s woes with this loss of his wife, played by the smoking Sienna Farall only in flashbacks, are felt, but I felt like his life with alcohol could have been more depressing. Cairns portraying a depressed drunk certainly needed more boozing and loathing of life.
“Malignant” isn’t benign. This is a good solid DVD release by MVDvisual with great presentation and clarity that makes the surgical scenes that more fearing. Watching it for Brad Dourif alone if you’re a fan of his work or watch one night when the mood for a thriller takes you over. Test the waters as you may find this film evilly enticing.
After watching The Collector, I started to think about how potential horror icons of the 21st century seem to shrivel up, fizzle, and dissolve away into nothing halting a potentially worthy horror franchise into spit – yeah, spit. The franchise runners – Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13th, Michael Myers of Halloween, Freddy Kruger of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Leatherface of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Chucky of Child’s Play, Pinhead of Hellraiser – are good examples of horror icons and their franchise titles; yet the trend has seem to fade away, perhaps we are seeing the last of franchise horror icon and their time as reigning champs is on the way out. I like to think that this lack of a long hauling series is giving an opportunity for new blood, but the majority of horror movies the past decade don’t have the staying power nor do they have enough support to have a sequel every other year. I’d like to share with you my thoughts on current horror franchise icons and some possible contenders for the future.
Who is probably the face of franchise horror of the 2000s, Ghostface became a household horror name, easily becoming an icon without really trying. The simple use of black and white and an abstract of Edvard Munch’s portrait woven with the mind of Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson catapulted the franchise from the 1996 all the way to 2011. The icon has made it’s mark in the Halloween costume market, memorabilia shelves and was even homaged in an unofficial video game that pitted horror icon versus horror icon called Terrordome. The Ghostface killer can be anybody, can out swift anybody and can rise from the grave over and over again (much like his icon predecessors). However, Ghostface stays human and never has been backed by evil powers to contribute to his killing spree success (much unlike his icon predecessors).
Where Ghostface became the face of an horror icon of the millennium. Jigsaw most certainly was the presence that absorbed the rest of the icon persona of the 2000s. Ghostface had the healthy braun, Jigsaw had the killer mental capacity. The ailing killer engineer masterfully justified his kills by righting wrong by committing extreme self-judgments. Even after death, Jigsaw had a lasting impression upon his followers who carried out his deeds for him. For seven consecutive Halloweens, Jigsaw has made an appearance on the big screen. While most fans have probably had enough of Jigsaw for at least another seven years, there are some die hard Saw fans itching for more traps, more blood and more Jigsaw and his creepy doll.
Louisiana back-woods, swamp thing Victor Crowley is a deformed tortured soul that will never sleep until every single person who trespasses is ripped to bloody shreds with his bare hands or, of course, hatchet. Crowley came on the scene in 2006. Adam Green brought the slasher back. Green gave Crowley a tragic backstory much like Jason Voorhees. A boy who is teased to the point of his almost death only to rise again to embark on a murder crusade. Victor Crowley initial success might be his downfall. Much like how Wes Craven played out the Scream with sequel two (it was okay) and sequel three (damn near stank), Hatchet II was garbage in comparison. One could only hope Green took a step back and reviewed Crowley’s flaws to bounce the deranged maniac back to spilling more blood than ever.
Never have I really cared for Victor Silva, but his creation, The Creeper, has to be one of, if not the, best horror character icons ever. With intelligence, attitude and a knack for resurrection, The Creeper has it all. Two films are under this potential franchiser’s belt with a possible third movie continuously being hinted at and unlike perhaps Hatchet, the fans want the winged creature back and possible this year…so sources say. Lets all hope that The Creeper will piece himself back together, from the body parts of his future victims, and return to more rural terror!
The Collector had sparked this whole notion about more modern horror icons. With The Collection release, I’m anxious to see what kind of hobbies The Collector has in store. At first, I’ve brushed The Collector dismissing it as another run of the mill slasher flick. That is not the kind of horror blogger I strive to be, but one can get discouraged by most of the junk horror that surrounds us. I’m glad I have Jayson Kennedy in my life (or at least as a friend on my Facebook). I trust Jayson’s word so much that on his positive views of The Collector, I could not wait to get my hands on this interesting character. Marcus Dunstan’s and Patrick Melton’s icon has a bright future. Don’t get him mixed up with Jigsaw as The Collector is more of a perverse character whereas Jigsaw was a teacher of sorts. This is what makes The Collector an even more mysterious character.
Laid to Rest was a sleeper. Loved the viciousness and the tenacity in brutally murdering people and using a camera to relive the experience over and over. Must like Adam Green, Chromeskull is the one trick pony of Robert Hall which could hinder Chromeskull’s career as a franchise killer! If there was ever another sequel, the story and the effects would really have to blow us, and the critics, out of the water if Chromeskulll wishes to return and return and return from the grave. Chromeskull’s mysterious ways his frightening and his appearance is reminisce of an 90’s slasher, but unlike those decade slashers Chromeskull has the most potential in the 2000s.
Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, can you think of any other franchise or potentially franchise icons that sparked in the turn of the century?